Tag: beer

Sigue Buscando!

That means, “keep searching” in Spanish….

The other day was my birthday. I am 30, and I am HAPPY.

It is a bit crazy to think back, but this time last year I was on the beach (!!) in Redcar eating lemon tops with the Chapmen, with Miri and Nyx in pushchairs waiting patiently outside the tattoo shop. The year before that, I was trying not to freeze in my very new cafe in Darlington. Before that I was throwing up a lot with Miranda-related morning sickness and probably commuting to Sheffield on the train. February 2009, I was on a boat crossing Lago Nicaragua on route to the coffee lands of Costa Rica. Four Years…. gees!

My birthday, 2009, in Picoteo cafe, Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The sign says “Sigue buscando” – keep looking.
(with Andie Reynolds, Emma Navarro and my personal one-man mariachi band! )

I did once write a sort of bucket list, or rather a “30 Things to do before I am 30” list. I do still have it, and I am not going to publish it on here (to protect the guilty) but I can say that it contained things like opening a cafe, getting published, having a baby, and moving to Canada. In fact, I’ve completed 28 of the 30 things. The missing two were “Visit Laos and Belarus because they have funky names” and “learn Welsh or Finnish”.

For my thirtieth, much beer was involved as usual, only mainly homebrewed stuff! We saw some friends, Miranda proved herself a hardcore party girl and stayed up until 12.40am and I learned a lot of weird and wonderful things. For example, over here, heather (as in, the plant) is an exotic, hard to come by luxury; “nh bashtr sardyn” is “no more omelettes” in Farsi (Persian); I know somebody geeky enough to have programmed a Raspberry Pi to accurately measure and adjust the alcohol content of his homebrew beer, and that talking microwaves not only make great flatmates but also keen babysitters. Just the normal sort of conversations then…

It got down to -49 degrees celcius (with windchill) the other week. When I posted this online, I was instantly set upon by a friend calling it INSANE and therefore I must be insane for *wanting* to move here. Well, it was a bit cold, I admit. But I get into work every day feeling very proud of myself for having survived walking in it. In all seriousness though, I couldn’t be happier here.

My mood was lift greatly (yep, it was possible) by having gotten myself a new job of sorts. I took great pleasure in quitting the restaurant as soon as I was able (work permit renewals allowing!). Keen readers may well have read between the lines of this blog, or at least, read meaning into some conspicuous absences. I have not written much about my job here for good reason: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. That place will not get any more free publicity from me, negative or otherwise, so I won’t go into too many details. Suffice to say, one of the sillier conversations recently was about co-authoring a book with a friend who endured a similar situation, called “Vampire Jobs: Sucking the Life out of Employees”! But now, I am back behind a fantastic espresso machine in a proper coffee shop, and also starting a little venture into self-employment again. See link in my blogroll>>>

So, life is generally brilliant, and Regina is definitely cathartic (*snigger*). But even though I am now thirty and therefore OLD and my list is complete, ‘yo seguiré buscando‘. Life is good, but it is not over! I will continue searching… This is just the start. Who knows what I’ll find next?

[The following song is included for relevance and to fulfill your daily CanCon requirements!]

Good ol’ nekkid Alanis!


Whitby Gothic Style and many more eccentricities that I miss!

Yesterday my good friend, Kayhem Maus posted this:

In my opinion, it is nothing less than THE BEST THING ON THE INTERWEB!

Gangnam style is so annoying that even the numerous parodies are now loathsome, but Goths being Very Silly and laughing at themselves is the essence of Whitby Goth Weekend, and I miss it all a great deal! Can’t sing, can’t dance, can survive in heels on cobbles. Perfect.
Other random things I miss: (not a long list!)

  • Greggs pasties
  • Corsets-uk.com
  • Waterstones (yeah, there are better bookshops, but I miss the ubiquity of having one in every town! There’s only one new bookshop in the whole of Regina and it involves a 20 min bus ride)
  • The concept of a “high street” that you can wander around on foot.
  • Ultra cheap places like Primark, Netto and Wetherspoons. (sure the quality is a lot better everywhere else but there is definitely a market for Cheap Crap here!)
  • Hills and the sea.
  • I say this every time, but Supermarket Booze.

And of course, my daft, vaguely goth friends!

CVAF Day 6: the fastest shot in the west!!

Bedlam. Utter bedlam!

Undoubtedly, “Team 13” rock!!

We were all warned that today would be “a zoo”, but most of the staff at the coffee house were not working there this time last year, and have never experienced the last day of the arts festival before. Given the day was pretty overcast and cold again, we all trooped in and got organised early, but didn’t really expect to be hit with that many customers so quickly and so ceaselessly!!

The entirety of the Cathedral end of 13th Avenue was closed to traffic, to make way for a street fair with loads of stalls all selling things that could be classed as “arts and crafts” – and then burger vans, doughnuts, various Woo Merchants (by which I mean the “copper bracelets for rheumatism and panpipe/whale song CDs” type of stall), the beer tent and someone trying to flog sunglasses ironically. Everyone was frantically setting up around 8am, including us, as we had a tent outside serving up cookies and filter coffee whilst inside was reserved for food and espresso. I was wondering if we were going to cut down the menu or just do take out or something, but noooooooo, the poor kitchen team were trying to do everything they usually do, but at twice the speed for six times the number of customers! The coffee alone was madness, so I have the utmost respect for Mike, Ally, Arun, Rachel and above all, Ashten for coping with all the food orders.

Tanneille had ground up several kilos of coffee for the filter pots and I’d weighed it all out, filling four boxes and three tubs with enough for at least 40 filter pots. We ran out within the two hours!!! Unfortunately the perculator takes 8 minutes to brew one canister of coffee, and we ended up with one person just refilling the damn pots one after the other monotonously, until we really couldn’t keep up any longer and Emma had the bright idea of filling the two litre pots with Americano – because apparently me making up huge buckets of espresso shots and boiling the kettle was quicker than waiting 8 minutes for it to filter. And, as Ashten so assertively put it, “Americano is just espresso watered down so it tastes like coffee.”  I despair.

By lunchtime we’d developed a system whereby someone manned the till taking orders and money, sending food orders to print in the kitchen electronically, but handwriting thousands of post-it notes with coffee orders on, which she lined up on the espresso machine, and yours truly just pulled shot after shot after shot after shot and steamed cow-fuls of milk. The post-its got more and more illegible until I was trying to make a “log calm slim late n mad lord fag” [large caramel latte with skimmed milk and a medium London Fog] In a way, I got the easy job because I didn’t actually have to talk to anyone!! If I’d been on the till, we’d have been there all night whilst people tried to figure out my accent or while I forgot soups or poisoned coeliacs with glutenous tofu or something!! The espresso machine doesn’t answer back. Nowadays, it usually does what it is told, but it certainly got a good workout today!! from 1pm to gone 3, I didn’t actually move from the square metre of space surrounding the espresso machine, and after that, it was only to put the pile of milk cartons in the recycling, and grab more cups from the shed. I even asked someone to pass me a bottle of water from the fridge two feet away at one point! I know this sounds ridiculous but I was in my element – I just completely zoned out to everything else around me and concentrated exclusively on coffee – and the day zoomed passed!! I finally noticed the time about 20 minutes before I was supposed to fetch Miranda, and panicked trying to find someone to take over…. We used over 7lb of coffee in four hours, and that was just the espresso, let alone the filter pots outside!

I got some lovely compliments from the boss afterwards, if “you are not human” should be taken as compliment! I do think we all did brilliantly. Better still, Miri had a fun day with Teenage Babysitter, and apparently was no trouble at all, even when they took her round the festival. We had poutine and huge burgers and beers (well, milk) to celebrate afterwards, and when I had a shower, there was coffee grounds in the bottom of the tub – I was literally sweating the stuff from every pore!!

So, top score for my first ever Cathedral Arts Festival – thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I did miss the Monday. Love this neighbourhood!!

Here’s some funky pictures from the week:

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CVAF – Day 2, Poetry Slam

Tonight I went to this:

Poetry Slam at Mercury Cafe

This improved my opinion of the arts festival no end, and also cheered me up after another pretty bad day. It seems you can travel the world and still never escape petty work politics. Gah. Anyway, in desperate need of the company of people in possession of some social skills, we headed out to this poetry slam, which was in much the same vein as the Babel Open Mic Nights in Darlington. Basically, turn up, have a beer, write something very quickly under pressure, read it out in public. Potentially win more beer or social affirmation. How could I resist??

This was my poem, scribbled in precisely four minutes, after a pint of Grasshopper lager, whilst simultaneously trying to stop Miri drinking ketchup out the bottle/ pouring salt on the table/ pulling her own jeans off in public / face-painting with gravy-laden poutine / spilling my Death Mints everywhere. We had to use the theme of “rain or shine” and incorporate a phrase from a random page of a book left on our table. My phrase from page 87 was “where did you learn his language?”

“So, it’s pretty wet oot there, eh?

Says Friendly Guy as I made his latte.

I agree, having just got drenched.

He continues to moan about the rain,

His thirst for conversation not yet quenched

Then he asks, “where’s that accent from?”

Jolly old England. “you been here long?”

Six weeks. Not long enough to complain!

“Check you oot, chatting with the locals,” says my friend

Where did you learn his language?

Well, talking about the weather is a global trend…

I actually did pretty well, considering how bad that is in hindsight. The top three places were awarded to Serious Poets who obviously spent a bit more time on it with fewer distractions – and they really were very good indeed. I do think I got points for a.) my accent, b.) bringing cute Miranda onto stage with me, and c.) wearing my “I’m not on Facebook” t-shirt rather than the poem, but hey, never mind. At Babel i got points for writing whilst tipsy, wearing a corset and riding a tricycle to the event. Even if I can’t rhyme well, at least I can be Interesting!!

Tomorrow night is a tough call between story telling or a bit of theatre called “Rubiks Cube.” Hmm.

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!

Of Loonies and Toonies and Bear Brok

Things I am enjoying about Regina and Canada in general:

Dollar coins are called Loonies, because they have a bird on them, which is also called a Loonie. But you now get a two-dollar coin too, so they call it a Toonie. Logical, no? It did lead to the bizarre request this morning from a fellow hostel inhabitant wanting coffee out the vending machine: “Have you got 2 loonies for a toonie?” But then two dollar coins are of course, double- loonies, and so therefore, dub-loonies surely?

There is quite a lot of beer from Round Here, mainly because there is a lot of grain and wheat and so on. Tonight we tried both Cracked Canoe and a very local one called Bear Brok. Bear Brok was incredibly good! Cracked Canoe though, claimed to be a “light beer”. Only 3.5% alcohol, but presumably as a unique selling point, they’d bothered to do a full nutritional breakdown on the label. Cracked Canoe is only 90 calories a bottle! Wow! And there is 0g of fat! Therefore it must be really healthy and good for you and we should drink loads.

the national dish is macaroni and cheese, and comes in cardboard packets for 84 cents.

There are no roundabouts anywhere in the city.

The city centre has its own Globe Theatre and some Twin Towers. (not very big ones).

Traffic lights appear to work on actual clockwork and tick ominously when you press the button to cross.

On that note, I cannot get used to 2 lanes of traffic actually stopping for us (without lights) if we stand at the side of the road and look hopeful.

“Christianmingle.com” – toe curlingly, cringe-makingly excrutiatingly awful dating site, advertised every 15 minutes on TV, because God is telling single people to make the move today!

Family Guy has explicit-content warnings before, after and during the show, and apparantly is not suitable for under-14s.


Cool places include:

  • Roca Jacks coffee roasters,
  • Atlantis coffee for doing baby hot chocolates and having baristas who look about 12 yrs old,
  • The Cathedral Free House for nice beers (but its closed on Sundays??? WTF?)
  • Royal Saskatchewan museum for being free and very kid friendly, with robotic dinosaurs and a Paleo Pit
  • Turgeon Hostel with the most interesting approximation to “working stove” ever encountered.