How does it work, again???

how does it workThere was a time when I considered myself technology savvy.  In fact, I always remember my Gran in the 80’s confusing the attributes of a portable telephone handset with the TV remote control.  I’d arrive just in time to watch Coronation Street with her, to be greeted with the familiar comment, ‘you’ll have to look at the TV as it’s not working when I press the remote control again‘.  I’d smile and suggest maybe if she didn’t use the telephone to operate the TV we may be in with a chance ….. she would chuckle.  And repeat the same manoeuvre a few days later.

Grandma phonesAnother of her favourite mistakes was attempting to answer the phone with the TV remote control and wondering why it wouldn’t work.  Even when she remembered to use the telephone handset, she’d often hold it the wrong way up and wonder why everything was so quiet.  I’d be shouting down the line, ‘turn the handset the other way round, Gran‘, after which it would go silent for a few seconds before she’d come back on the line with a much clearer voice saying, ‘oh, that’s so much better‘.  She left us long ago, but the memories still make me chuckle to this day …..

30 years agoOnly 5 years ago, I’d be able to manipulate spreadsheets, construct eye-catching presentations, and merge documents using the latest tools and techniques.  These days, with each new version of Microsoft, I’m chunnering and grumbling when I can’t find the tools as they’ve been put in a more ‘user-friendly’ format.  User-friendly indeed.  I never thought I’d see the day when I’d start insisting they kept things the way they used to be.   It’s the kids that now come to my rescue and with the click of a button, and a look from them that says, ‘that was obvious‘, I certainly feel like technology has overtaken my capabilities.  Sign of the times, I guess.

wifi cartoonEven the oven is getting in on the gig these days.  Back in the UK, I had a traditional gas oven which required your physical presence to turn it on, ensure nothing was blown up during the cooking process, guarantee food wasn’t burnt to a cinder and that it had been physically turned off and the flame extinguished when finished. When we moved to Canada nearly two and a half years ago, the house we bought has a ‘modern’ electric double oven and a variety of switches that I’ve never known how to operate.  Trial and error in the early days saw me working out which switch turned each of the ovens on – and I haven’t deviated from this since.  I also quickly discovered that the term ‘broil’ means ‘grill’ – but there have been several occasions when my husband has attempted to cook a dish and wondered why it was burning on the top as he mistook the ‘broil’ setting for ‘bake’.  Subtle reactions I’ve made like raised eyebrows, deep sighs and constructive comments of, ‘if you cooked more often maybe these mistakes wouldn’t happen‘, have been blissfully disregarded by him – probably in the psychological hope that his chores will become redundant and I’ll assume all further accountability for the use of our kitchen appliances.cartoon on microwaveSo it was only when a good Canadian friend of mine visited for lunch last week and quizzically asked what the various switches and buttons did on my oven, that I had to admit I had absolutely no idea.  There wasn’t an instruction booklet left when we bought the house from the previous owners and (rather like being with my husband), I have stuck solidly to its’ basic capabilities – never once thinking that I’m sure there’s extra functionality that would make my life so much easier staring me straight in the face.

It was only the following morning, that I suddenly thought about my oven again (as you do).  Much like Aladdin’s golden lamp, I couldn’t help but feel that today’s equivalent of technological advances and the wonders of the modern-day ‘world-wide-web’, must hold the answer to my quest.  So with some degree of haste, I scribbled down the model and make, and typed it into a well-known search engine.  Literally seconds later, up popped the instruction manual and the ability to download it online.  I can’t believe it took me 2.5 years for even the idea to occur but like all good things, I get there in the end.  To say it has changed my life would be an understatement.  Whilst I still feel like a technology dinosaur, I now have an oven with tons of additional capabilities which I’ve been busily utilising ever since.

laughing catIt made me wonder how many other things there are that with just a few seconds on the internet and a fresh look at whether I’m using them to their full potential, I could vastly enhance how they’re utilised?  Will the same approach work on my husband, I wonder …….  ūüôā

 

 

Thanks goes to my ability to search on google images in an effective fashion to find pics for today’s blog!

The art of confusion …

mass confusion

I’ve got to admit that one of the really appealing aspects about living in Canada, is that everyone is extremely friendly, always say ‘hello’ and are keen to engage in conversation anytime, anywhere. ¬†In fact, my kids roll their eyes when we’re out shopping as without fail, the shop assistants will always initiate a conversation and as true as night follows day, my kids will be required¬†to step in and translate the odd phrase or word that I’ve uttered which¬†has created a look of complete bewilderment on the other person’s face. ¬†It’s one of my natural abilities …. to create total confusion. ¬†It’s even become a weekly sport that upon entering a ‘Tim Horton’s drive-through’ (other coffee shops are readily available), I’ll place an order through the speaker only to be given something completely different at the pick-up window. ¬†In the words of Forrest Gump, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’……. and in typical ‘british’ style, I’ll accept it and pretend it’s exactly what I wanted at the very beginning.

box of chocolates

But it’s not just in placing orders that I have an innate ability to create complete confusion and havoc. ¬†I’m from the north of England so will always refer to midday snacks as ‘dinner’ and our¬†evening meal as ‘tea’. ¬†As it is. ¬†This has baffled many Canadian friends who assume we’re having a brew rather than food¬†and are impressed that I sit down with my kids and we all enjoy a hot beverage together in an evening. ¬†I have tried to explain ….breakfast dinner and tea

And following a similar pattern to ‘tea’ being a meal, whilst also the¬†national drink – attempting to explain the concept of ‘pudding’ as a meal course rather than a specific item on a¬†sweet trolley. ¬†Not only that, factor in british food items which are referred to as ‘puddings’ – such as¬†steak pudding, black pudding, yorkshire pudding and syrup pudding;¬†along with¬†their¬†respective traditional accompaniments being chips, bacon, gravy and custard – all of which I strongly advise not getting mixed up. ¬†To the uninformed, it can be a minefield to navigate and upon attempting to explain the various nuances to Canadian friends, I’ve received some strange looks. ¬†Maybe that’s why nobody has ever taken me up on our offer of coming over for evening tea?????surpriseNow, I can talk the hind legs off a donkey and as such, carry on regardless. ¬†After 2 years in Canada, I can distinguish the look of despair and panic on someone’s face who is clearly struggling to¬†understand¬†both my accent let alone the words I’m uttering. ¬†So imagine my utter delight on a recent whistle-stop tour back to the UK where upon arrival at Heathrow Airport we were whisked to the car hire place by a ‘cockney’ bus driver – both of us engaged in conversational banter for a full 15 minutes with complete¬†comprehension of what the other was saying. ¬†It was bliss. ¬†My kids still rolled their eyes in despair and¬†chunnered, ‘she’s off again’, but¬†at least they were redundant in their need to translate on my behalf. ¬†Charming.speaking englishNever was it more apparent than when we were placing a food order in a local English pub. ¬†With each dish ordered, the waitress enquired if we wanted ‘chips’ with that. ¬†And the proper sort too – ‘fries’ for those reading this in another country, not crisps. ¬†Oh yes. ¬†There’s nothing quite like being back home again. ¬†It was short-lived and a welcome brief respite, before returning to the chilly snowy surroundings of western Canada.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are equally phrases and words used over this side of the pond that take some deciphering for us Brits – and even some Americans….¬†a ‘donair’ is a beef pita or wrap; ‘eavestroughs’ are ‘gutters’; ‘garburator’ is a garbage disposal unit; ‘loonie’ is one Canadian dollar whereas a ‘toonie’ is a two Canadian dollar coin; ‘fountain soda’ is a fizzy drink like cola or lemonade; and the phrase, ‘for sure’ is often uttered to mean ‘definitely’ or ‘absolutely’. ¬†One thing I refuse to say upon pain of death is ‘awesome’. ¬†Used in common parlance here to describe almost any situation that is better than moderately okay. ¬†I’m making it my mission to seek out and use as many alternative adjectives which convey the same meaning as something which is extremely impressive, excellent or inspires awe …¬†awesome

Life is full of¬†idiosyncracies, and the world would certainly be a boring place if we didn’t inject a degree of confusion, variation and contrast. ¬†I like to think I can singlehandedly contribute to all 3 …..

ūüôā

 

 

Thanks as ever to google images for the pics in today’s blog …

Life in a freezer

Christmas goatDid you know the best temperature to maintain your home freezer is between -18 and -23C? It certainly comes to something when we’ve been living in temperatures below that for the last few weeks and our home freezer is warmer than it is outside …. how bizarre is that?  We’ve been sat with the freezer door open just to take the chill off!  There again, this is Edmonton – the most northerly city in North America.  It’s to be expected, I guess.

For those wondering what -25 and below feels like, its best described as uncomfortably cold. When it hits below -30, the outside air is so cold that each time you take a breath and breathe in, your chest hurts as your body isn’t able to warm the air up quickly enough before the cold blast of oxygen hits your lungs. Any drops of water quickly turn to solid ice – so much so, that moisture in your nose instantly crisps up, your eyes feel grainy and any skin left exposed to the elements starts to painfully throb. Frostbite is certainly a reality and you need to treat the weather with respect in what you wear, how long you’re outside for, and how many layers you’ve got on in order to maintain your core body temperature. My kids do a lot of swimming, and within the 90 seconds it takes them to get from the entrance of the Recreation Centre and into the car, any strands of hair outside the obligatory woolly hat has instantly frozen on their heads, and their wet mesh bags turn to solid ice and can stand upright without assistance. It’s like a reality scene from the film with the same title …. ‘Frozen’.  As I say …. bizarre.

temperature snoopy

There are some saving graces.  Thank goodness for the ability to remotely start my truck which can be nicely warming up before we reach it in the car park (or the garage come to that) – complete with automatic heated seats and steering wheel (mmmm….. toasty).  Talking of the car, if it’s left outside for long periods then the advice is to plug-in the block heater if the temperature gets below -15 to protect the engine and other components from freezing solid.  I’ve never done this as yet – my mechanical knowledge isn’t that great – I’ve no idea which switch to flip to open the bonnet let alone have the ability to plug-in a ‘block heater’ (a what?)  I know, I know …. a typical female stereotype – but to my credit, at least I can reverse and park with ease …..

Cute_Funny_Animals-05

On a more practical note, there are some basic aspects which require consideration that I felt would be useful to bring to your attention and will be alien to those residing in warmer climes.

Supermarket shopping.  Or even, just a trip to the bakery.  There’s a delicate balance between how long you can leave newly purchased perishable goods in your car and take the opportunity to call in at other retail outlets on the way home, before everything has frozen solid and needs to be defrosted.  Milk, yoghurt, bread ……. On the plus side, the garbage which we store in the garage ready for the refuse collectors to call and collect on a weekly basis, becomes frozen so at least the pungent aroma of rotting food is mitigated significantly …..

hand warmersI don’t mind a bit of a chill, but my survival instincts are tested to the extreme when we dip below -20.  So much so, I’ve purchased mini sachets of hand warmers which when activated, will retain their warmth for upto 6 hrs.  I’ve even expanded my arsenal and to this year’s collection have supplemented these with some toe warmers and even body warmers. Quite frankly I don’t care where they need sticking – I’ll put them anywhere as long as they keep me warm!

It’s all relative.  This week has seen a massive swing and we’ve gone positively tropical for the last few days with a massive swing of 25 degrees – up to 0C.   Boy, does it feel warm and bearable in comparison. Even the local weather network reporting on the daily weather describes it as ‘warm for the next few days’ which made me stifle a chuckle, before we’re due to plummet back into arctic conditions just in time for Christmas Day.  Oh joy!canada nativityThank goodness Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. I can’t help but feel the Christmas story would’ve been a different affair if Mary and Joseph had found themselves in Edmonton seeking respite.  Just the thought of residing in a stable with the minimum of shelter, sub-zero temperatures, and only a cradle in a manger would have, I strongly suspect, most pregnant women thinking twice.  Not only that, any nearby animals would be scarce on the ground, sensing they’d be used for food, heat and clothing.  The shepherds with their flocks of sheep would be safely nestled in their small-holding (if they had any sense), plus the 3 kings would have been noticeable in their absence, opting to remain in their palaces where it was warm and luxurious.  Oh, how different the Christmas story would have been ….

2015-12-06 20.04.14

Christmas is a time for giving.  For family.  For being thankful, for joy and for peace.  For all its frigid nature, life in a freezer at this time of year certainly injects the feel of Christmas.  There are sparkly lights on the outside of all the houses, Christmas objects in gardens lit up and twinkling, the temperatures so cold that the frost glimmers in the air, and along with the fairly light dusting of snow we’ve had so far, it all serves to create a magic that is hard to replicate.  In the words of that well-known song ….. it’s a wonderful time of the year, with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, be of good cheer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas ‚ĚĄÔłŹūüéĄūüėä

 

Thanks as ever to google images for the majority of pics in today’s festive blog …

Christmas comes but once a year …

What song do you sing at a snowman’s birthday party? …… Freeze a jolly good fellow.

What carol is sung in the desert at Christmas? …. O camel ye faithful.

santa and sleighI know, I know. ¬†I couldn’t resist. ¬†We’re getting close to the height of the madness associated with the ¬†Christmas season and my¬†kids have been busy rehearsing for their School Christmas Concert. ¬†It’s a serious affair. ¬†My middle kid is in Grade 5 who have the honour of performing this year’s coveted christmas play, entitled, ‘A Pirate’s Christmas’,¬†during the concert. ¬†Rehearsals have been underway for the last month or so and it’s at times like this that¬†I’m always reminded of the scene from the Richard Curtis film, Love Actually, when Emma Thompson’s daughter arrives home from school to announce she’s got a part in the School Christmas play….. ¬†love actually

Karen: So what’s this big news, then?
Daisy: [excited] We’ve been given our parts in the nativity play. And I’m the lobster.
Karen: The lobster?
Daisy: Yeah!
Karen: In the nativity play?
Daisy: [beaming] Yeah, *first* lobster.
Karen: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?

This always makes me chuckle. ¬†In my day, school nativity plays were pure and simple. ¬†There was Mary, Joseph, a ‘tiny tears’ baby doll, 3 Kings, couple of Shepherds, the ‘Angel Gabriel’ (always the second most popular choice after the part of Mary & Joseph was awarded), Innkeeper (and wife), with¬†the rest of the class making up the stable¬†‘animals’. ¬†The standard ‘tunes’ were customary¬†– ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘O Little Star of Bethlehem’ ….. and by the time you were in the ‘top class’ in primary school, you never needed to learn any of the parts as you’d seen it rehearsed and performed so many times¬†since the age of 4, that you knew it off by heart. ¬†Oh, how times have changed …..

nativityBack to recent school events, and there has been quite an intense process of auditioning for parts and judging from the daily ‘feedback’ from my middle kid, there’s clearly a perceived hierarchy associated to the roles awarded – she was desperate to be ‘Prancer’ or “Dancer’ as these were ‘talking’ reindeers. ¬†Auditions mustn’t have gone¬†to plan as she was relegated to being ‘a non-talking reindeer’ – the irony of the part not being lost on us, as the challenge for my middle kid to remain silent for any longer than 30 seconds only usually occurs when she’s fast asleep.

reindeersWhilst a smidgen of disappointment was apparent, she accepted the role with good grace. ¬†We had instructions to source brown tops and bottoms (for reindeers, obviously), and were kindly informed that antlers would be provided. ¬†In the meantime, my youngest kid has been learning all the songs as ‘Grade 2’ are to be the accompanying ‘choral’ voices. ¬†She’s been taking this very seriously, insisting her older sister acts out the play whilst she sings along – and rather like a mini-Simon Cowell, woe betide my middle kid if she doesn’t perform to the youngest’s exacting standards. ¬†My role during all this is rather akin to the UN Peace Talks¬†…..

santa sleighDramatic events transpired during rehearsals earlier this week and¬†the role performed by the reindeers in pulling the sleigh across the stage transporting Santa to his final destination. ¬†Apparently, only ‘Prancer’ and ‘Dancer’ (you’ll remember these as being the ‘talking’ parts), were asked to pull the sleigh whilst all ‘other’ reindeers would follow behind. ¬†This provoked outrage in the muted reindeer community who insisted that Santa would always have all¬†reindeers pulling his sleigh and wouldn’t invoke favouritism. ¬†It’s clearly been a bone of contention. ¬†I didn’t like to point out that¬†the¬†opening scene of a reindeer ‘dancing’ with a beach ball was slightly out of character …..

reindeer protestAll in all, it’s definitely Christmas. ¬†I wouldn’t have it any other way. ¬†Christmas tree is up, sparkly lights are switched on and there’s an accompanying Christmas moose (the size of a Great Dane) lit up on our decking. ¬†Snow has fallen, temperatures are below -20 and I’ve got the heating on full blast. ¬†It’s certainly a Canadian Christmas. ¬†Ho ho ho ……

ūüôā

Thanks to google images for the pics in today’s blog

Slip sliding away ….

Roller skatingWhen I was a teenager, the biggest draw on a Saturday afternoon was to the roller skating rinks in either Rochdale or Bolton – a good 30 minutes drive away from where we used to live in North-West England.  They were popular hotspots, with the latest 80’s music blaring out through worn-out speakers and dimly lit rinks illuminated with flashing disco lights.  We’d attempt to look proficient and adept on wheels, always believing we were more ‘hip and trendy’ than we actually probably looked.  Roll forward 30 years, and as I’d always been ‘competent’ on roller skates, (i.e. could stand and move forward in an upright position), it was with an air of self-confidence and blind optimism that I felt my ability to adapt to moving on ice would be a seamless transition.  How wrong I was.  For those who remember our first Winter in Canada just over 2 years ago, my inaugural attempt to ice-skate ended within the first 2 minutes and resulted in broken bones and a trip to the local A&E.  Ice skating is clearly harder than it looks ……

Screen-shot-2013-12-07-at-5.00.34-PMGiven my newfound admiration for anyone who can demonstrate the ability to remain vertical on ice whilst wearing ice skates (or any type of footwear to be honest), I was in complete awe when we went to watch our very first ice hockey match between the Edmonton Oil Kings and Saskatoon Blades last week.  Edmonton has just splashed out $600m on a new world-class arena, Rogers Place, which only opened in September after 3 years in development, and is sited in the heart of downtown.  It’s an impressive building and will act as the new home to the Edmonton ‘Oilers’ as well as playing host as a major concert venue for touring acts – we get some big names appearing up here in the freezing North, you know ūüôā

Rogers PlaceI’ll admit here and now, that my knowledge of ice hockey is absolutely zilch other than it’s split into 3 periods of 20 minutes, with a 15 minute break separating each one.  I don’t know about the players, but I needed a break to recover after watching each period.  You can’t fail to be impressed with the speed by which the players move around the ice along with their short reaction times chasing a ‘puck’ which seemingly moves at the speed of light.  By the time I’d spotted where the puck had gone, it was then down the other side of the rink – and I got the decided impression that I was consistently 3 or 4 seconds behind where the game was upto throughout the entire duration of the match (my husband would probably argue there’s usually a few seconds delay in me with most things in life ;-).

And it’s violent too.  You can see why they need so much protection gear as the speed and ferocity with which they bash each other against the sides of the rink prompted an audible gasp from the audience and made me wince on several occasions.  Clearly tensions were running high as at various junctures, a fight broke out between players who would then throw their headgear off and chuck a punch (or 2) at each other before the referees stepped in and sentenced them to the ‘sin bin’.  Clearly there are rules and guidelines of which I know nothing, but it makes for engrossing watching when it’s happening right in front of you.  Much better than watching it on the tv …..

2016-11-10-18-45-06I’m a convert.  Audience participation is encouraged throughout – plus the obligatory food stands selling hot dog and fries are a must.  We loved it.   It was a great night out and we’d definitely go and watch another game.  It’s a far cry from roller skating in Rochdale all those years ago.  Mind you, the outdoor ice rinks are starting to open here for the winter season and I’m sure with a bit more practice I can stay on my feet for at least 5 minutes this year!  Better get those skates on and start slip sliding away …. ūüôā

Thanks as ever to the majority of pics in today’s blog taken from google images …

Making magic happen …. literally …

Magic in the makingDon’t you just love it when 5 minutes before the kids leave for school on Monday morning, the youngest produces¬†a bedraggled piece of paper from out of her bag and attempting to ‘iron’ it flat again with her hand announces, ‘oh, I forgot about this – it’s for you, Mum’. ¬†Monday was Halloween, and as a result, we’d been up since the crack of dawn amassing¬†the costumes and vast array of accessories ready for each kid to wear to school.

I’m always up first, and on a ‘normal school day’, there’s usually a high degree of reluctance to move from under the bedsheets by each of the kids, and my vocal chords get a daily battering – constantly imploring all to move with a pace quicker than that of a senile snail, and get ready for school. ¬†Even my ageing cat who witnesses this morning ritual seems to roll her eyes with the inevitability of what’s to unfold, deploying her caterwauling as a counter-measure to the heated arguments that rapidly re-ignite upstairs – each kid aggravating the other in a move to create as much distraction and blockage to the morning process as humanly possible.

I, on the other hand, just turn on the kitchen radio (BBC Radio 2 – ‘Steve Wright in the Afternoon’ acting as our daily breakfast show given the 7 hours time difference), and switch the kettle on for a brew. ¬†The volume and urgency escalates until all 3 kids appear in the kitchen – and proceed to¬†stare aimlessly at the breakfast goods on offer – as though awaiting a¬†fairy godmother to¬†appear and morph them into something delicious. ¬†Each morning without fail, there’s a stunned surprise as I suggest they do it themselves ….witchesHowever, Halloween morning is unlike any other morning in the school year. ¬†Bounding out of bed like puppies desperate for attention, they hastily put on their attire and rapidly move to constructing and demolishing their breakfasts, jovially making conversation with one another incorporating¬†even the odd chuckle and giggle as they do so. ¬†Slightly stunned with surprise, and wondering why there isn’t the same level of cooperation¬†every other day of the school week, I get on with my usual chores and with plenty of time to spare, everyone is ready and waiting to leave the house – on time.

So imagine my dismay, when the youngest reached into her bag with 5 minutes to spare and showed me a letter from her teacher. ¬†They were having a Halloween party in their class that¬†afternoon and each child had been selected to bring specific items as contributions towards the Halloween feast. ¬†Looking for her name on the list, I discovered she had been asked to bring ‘baked goods’ as dessert for her and 20 fellow classmates.Halloween sign‘Happy Halloween’ was not one of the few choice words which immediately sprung to mind – let alone the fact that this had been festering in her bag for the entire weekend without so much as an acknowledgement. ¬†To say this went down like a lead balloon was¬†an understatement, and she was left in no doubt that this news hadn’t been well-received. ¬†I have been known to produce the odd miracle every now and again, and whilst it¬†was¬†Halloween – and yes, I do have a black cat and a broomstick on my wall – the ability to concoct something both appetising and fit for human consumption in the space of 30 seconds, has even me domestically challenged. ¬†Tears welled in her eyes as she realised the true horror of not having something to take in for her classmates later that day.

Frantically looking in the larder and feeling like a contestant on the Canadian cooking programme,¬†‘Chopped’ – minus the major $10,000 incentive; I focused on the few key ingredients I had to hand and rapidly attempted¬†to recollect my back catalogue of cooking treats. ¬† My youngest went off to school dressed as a vampire witch (as you do), and the confidence¬†that something would arrive in the next 20 minutes.Magic happens

How on earth I then pulled off ‘Rocky Road’ in the space of 20 minutes was sheer brilliance – even if I do say so. ¬†It was like making magic happen ….. literally. ¬† Let’s hope next Halloween is less eventful, I could do with no sudden surprises …..

ūüôā

Thanks as ever to Google images for the pics in today’s blog

Time flies when you’re having fun …

Time fliesWow!  I’m always staggered how time seems to fly by, and the older I get, the faster it disappears.  Well today is a pretty significant day at our end – it’s 2 years since we boarded the flight from Manchester and touched down here in Edmonton.  Doesn’t feel like 2 years, that’s for sure.  Just goes to show how quickly time flies when you’re having fun …..

As if to mark the event, some of my Canadian appliances are starting to play up.  I always remember my Gran saying that modern appliances never seem to last half as long as they used to – I think she never did replace the original oven that had been put in her house in 1954, and as for the vacuum – it was probably one of the original models of ‘Hoover’ ever manufactured and even outlived her.  It would have been of archeological significance had she still been alive today – she sadly left us in 2000.  And now I find myself sounding just like her.  Let’s hope her penchant for ‘Baileys’ (other irish liqueurs are also readily available), and the copious quantities she actually consumed, aren’t as contagious.  Mind you, I am noticing a tendency to stock up on toilet rolls (just in case we ever run out), which was another thing she was renowned for.  At this rate, I’ll be able to support the whole of south-west Edmonton for at least 72 hours should there be a national shortage ….BaileysAnyhow.  It’s the kettle.  It’s not been well for a few weeks and has suddenly given up the ghost, despite no end of coaxing and cajoling into operation.  It’s probably taken umbrage from excessive use, and now refuses to even turn on.  Now I know for a fact, that I had to buy it after we arrived on Canadian soil – so less than 2 years usage doesn’t sound that much to me.  Mind you, I’m a Brit, and I take my tea-making very seriously – and the poor appliance has probably given up from overwork.  My husband would no doubt empathise ……

So I thought I’d treat myself and upgrade to a newer model (the kettle, not my husband).  My list of requirements isn’t long.  It’s a kettle.  I just want it to reach boiling point as quickly as possible – so I can focus on the really important aspect of steeping the tea leaves for the required duration to produce the perfect brew.  It’s an art form.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.Canadian TireOff I trotted to the local Canadian Tire emporium, trying to stifle the excitement of obtaining an appliance which can rapid-boil in the least amount of time.   Life in the fast lane when you’re in your 40’s, eh!

Imagine then my horror and utter confusion upon entering the store and facing a shelf-full of kettles, to find none of them ‘advertising’ the rapid-boil facility.  In fact, I struggled to find anything remotely referencing this key attribute.  Top of the list as the feature of choice was a ‘variable temperature’ option – some of which declared you could programme up to 6 different settings into the kettle.  I must admit I was bemused.  It’s a kettle.  The last time I was in school doing science, the boiling point of water was 100C and to the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t changed since.UK TeasMy tea drinking has largely centred around black teas – moving over the years from Typhoo (you only get an ‘OO’) to Tetley, then Yorkshire Tea, and now mostly Earl Grey (for the more discerning palate). All of which the perfect brewing temperature is 100C – it’s the ‘steeping’ time which is the more variable element.  So completely flummoxed as to the need for variable temperatures in a kettle – and programmable ones at that – I grabbed the boxes from the shelves hoping for some enlightenment.  Now I know it’s probably not news to you, but it was certainly news to me, to discover that correctly brewing more delicate types of tea – especially green tea – requires lower water temperatures.  Who knew?  I didn’t.  Not only that, but brewing delicate teas in too-hot water can create a bitter taste. If you frequently brew green and white teas, investing in an electric kettle with variable temperature control saves you the bothersome process of first boiling water, then waiting for it to cool to the correct temperature.  My (flippant) answer would be, to drink black teas and then you’d never have to wait …..Variable kettleNeeds must when the devil drives – and a replacement had to be procured quickly for me to maintain my ‘black’ tea drinking frequency.  I went for the simplest version with no additional features other than the ability to boil water.  It’s marginally faster than my previous one – but who’ve guessed that procuring a kettle would provide a cultural insight into the boiling requirements of Canadian consumers.  We may be two years in, but I’m still learning new things every day.

List of attributesLet’s hope the next appliance to fail isn’t my husband.  My list of desired attributes may be unattainable …..

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Thanks as ever to google images for the pics in today’s blog