Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Truly *typically* Canadian

Over the last few days, I've been talking with my friends about things to do with "Typically English" people. In this case, the people being discussed were British English,  as opposed to any other English person. Respectfully, I described a "typical" Canadian and things that are "typically Canadian". Examples included: watching or playing hockey; living in houses with backyards; speaking English and/or French; eating poutine-



*blank stare*

"You know, fries, cheese, gravy..."

And so, with every dicussion, I would get into the story of poutine, and describe the wonderful flavours. Poutine, for those of you who don't know, was created in Quebec by a man named Fernand Lechance in 1957. It is:
-patatas frites (french fries- preferably deep fried in lard, apparently that makes them taste better)
-queso (cheese curds/ or whatever cheese you can find that's delicious)

Now, I had already been aware that gravy mixes are not to be found in Barcelona, but being that this is a meat-eating country, I figured maybe it was where I was looking in the grocery stores, or that they all have unique family recipes that go back hundreds of years and that their gravy is so perfected that they don't need mixes. Quite the opposite is true in fact, they don't know what gravy is. They don't even have a word for it! I had to call it *gasp* "meat sauce"! (As one of my friends described it: "Sacrilegious!") Yes, I know, I was quite astonished myself, actually.

So being that I had a week of talking about poutine, dripping with delicious gravy and melty cheese, I decided to attempt to quench the craving that was building over the last few days.

It started on Saturday when I bought some meat. Beef. I didn't want to buy a whole roast, so I purchased the type of chopped up beef that you'd use to make stew. I figured it would be much the same, and the gravy would essentially taste like beef, which is what I wanted (don't get me wrong, I like roast beef, but that wasn't what my intention was when I purchased the beef)

Monday night, I finally had the energy to start the creation. I chopped onions, potatoes, and carrots and put them in two pots (small pots) with the beef and a whole lot of water. I couldn't put them in the oven, so I had to keep replenishing the water so that it wouldn't all boil off. I added salt and pepper to taste and kept it all cooking for almost 2 hours. By this time it was 11 at night and I was tired, so I sampled my roast beef and decided it was okay for now. I don't have a microwave, so either way, I'd be re-heating my leftovers in a pot, so there's no harm if its not fully roasted in the sense of how I used to do my roasts in a crock pot (on low for 8 hours, it basically melts in your mouth!)

Tuesday: Operation Poutine took its final step.

Fries went into the oven.

Pre-gravy went into the pot. Flour and "milk" were added (I use quotations because it's not milk to me.. they don't keep it in refrigerators until its opened and it doesn't quite taste right). Thickening begins.

Cheese gets opened.

Fries go on the plate. (I was trying not to over-indulge)




So now, a message for all my Canadian friends: please go have some authentic Canadian poutine and think of me! (The chip truck by Nathan Phillip Square is quite acceptable, as is SkalBar- they make it with Brie cheese and homemade gravy!)

*factual information on poutine found at:

Monday, January 9, 2012

5 Things I Cannot Live Without

In a previous blog, I mentioned that there are only 5 things I cannot live without. Truthfully, there are only 2 things any human being cannot live without, and they are of course, food and water. These aside, I had to actually think of 5 things I cannot live without. You see, I will admit that when I first wrote the blog that this concept was written in, I did not have 5 things in mind. I only knew that of all the things I have, there can't be more than 5 things that I actually need. I've gone without alot of the comforts of home since being in Spain. That isn't to say that I'm living in a shack or don't have running water.. I have a home and running water, and a gas heater to heat that water. But also know that I could live in a shack, if I had to. Even living in a shack (or a tent, or cave in the mountains) however, there are things I cannot live without.

I'll explain as I list, simply because I'd like to, and this is my blog and I can write what I want :)

#1 A Place to Lay My Head (and access to it).
It doesn't have to be fancy, and it doesn't have to be particularily warm (or cool), I just need somewhere to rest my head at the end of the day. Preferrably clean. And I need to be able to access it. Last year I lost my keys and ended up sleeping on a friend's couch one night. My friend lived across the hall, and thankfully, I got my keys back the next day!But it made me think about how thankful I am to have a place to go to, somewhere to sleep, and how important it is to be able to get to that place.

#2 Something to write on/with
When I was in grade 11, my cinema theory teacher told me that I could be a writer. I didn't believe him. Now, I do. I need to be able to write my thoughts, to express what I'm thinking and feeling; to communicate. I write more often in the day then most people do in a week. My BlackBerry has sufficed at times as a place to put my thoughts, as my best friend can attest to (I've sent her many facebook messages with blogs from my BB in order to get them onto my computer without re-typing them!) Writing eases my mind. If I had nothing to write with, I'm afraid I would end up like The Marquis de Sade (if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch Quills- directed by Philip Kaufman) and by that I mean I would have to result to his choice of ink, not his content.

#3 Water.
I know I already mentioned this as something that no human can live without, but I feel my needs for water extend past the needs of staying hydrated. I like to be clean. Very clean. Hot, running water is definitely a preference in my life (and currently I'm dealing with little more than a trickle of it out of my shower head, but its hot, so I'm okay with it). I also like to drink a fair deal more of it than just to stay hydrated. When I was a child, my drink preference was milk. Now it is water. Beyond the everyday personal uses of water however, I feel I should explain that I need to be near water, sources of water that is. Lakes, oceans, rivers, streams, seas... whatever the water source, I need it. For some reason, seeing water in nature coming and going and existing in unquantifiable amounts is calming to my soul. Looking out over the sea in these last few months makes me realize how small a part of existance I am. I look at the sea and I realize that there is an entire world under the water full of life and existance. It makes my problems smaller than they actually seem. Smelling the fresh salty air also brings a refreshing change from the carbon-poluted air in the city.

#4 Clothes/Shoes
As many people in my life can attest to, I don´t actually like wearing clothes (or shoes really), but the need to cover up and not be ¨indecent¨ in our society is necessary. I don´t have to wear the most fancy clothes, or be the most stylish person, in fact, I think that would be outside of my personality- I like to be stylish, but I get enough attention without wearing the latest fashions. I also like to be warm. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I bought slippers and a heater for my room. I bought them for a reason: warmth. In my old apartment in Toronto, I liked to have naked days (yes, my roommates were aware, no they were not home during them, and yes we´d text each other to warn each other to put on pants!). I believe that if I were to have naked days in public, it would cause quite the disturbance. So for this reason, clothes are something I cannot live without. 

#5 My toothbrush
As I mentioned earlier, I like to be clean. I´m sure my dentist would like me to write that I would like floss and mouthwash as well as my toothbrush, but truthfullly, I see those as something extra that I like, but aren´t absolutely necessary to my life. If I don´t have a clean mouth, I can´t smile and talk to people. If I can´t talk to people, I can´t have a life. Hence, toothbrushs are necessary.

Now I´d like to extend the challenge to you: what are the 5 things you cannot live without?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

At Moments Like This

I wrote this poem today while sitting in my new favourite place in this city (besides the beach, which was a bit chilly yesterday, but well worth it!). I wrote this poem from Castell de Montjuic, over-looking the harbour below. The gardens, also featured in some of my photos, are quite expansive, extending from the coast, to the other side of my neighbourhood, up the hill. It has been a long time since I've shared my poetry publicly. It's been a long time since I've written any, really, so please, be gentle with it.


At Moments Like This

It's at moments like this 
That I wish I were a sailboat.
I wish I could sail away,
On a perfect day-
Take to the sea with a sail and a crew;
Float through the steely cold water, 
Slice the waves,
And create my own ripples. 

It's at moments like this
That I wish I had wings.
I could fly and soar 
In the sun like a bird. 
I could glide through the air, 
Swoop and dive.
I could ride the wind up high,
Only to come down when I tire of the view.  

It’s at moments like this
That I wish I were a fish.
Just cause.

And it’s at moments like this
That I’m glad to be human.
I’m glad for the warmth
Of the sun on my skin,
And the breeze gently wisping my hair.
I’m glad for the fresh smell
Of the sea and the trees.

I’m glad for the feel
Of the solid wood beneath me.
All of these things
Make me feel alive.

I know if I fall,
I will feel pain.
I know if I jump,
I will come back down again.
I know if I run,
I will eventually have to stop.
If I pinch myself,
I’ll know I’m awake.


I’m not a doll,
Or a yo-yo.
I’m not a toy or a truck or a rock.
You can’t play make-believe
With me or without me
(I have to be an active participant)

I won’t come when you call,
Because I’m not a dog.
I can make my own decisions.

It’s at moments like this
I know I’m a woman.
I’m a child of God
And I’m free.
He made it so.

You can read my words
But you won’t know my thoughts.
They run deeper than these pages can contain.
My emotions are vast and indescribable.
I am human.
I am woman.


It’s at moments like this,
I wish to be understood.

More pictures from Montjuic to come later :)

Buenos Noches!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year, An Old Tradition

Every year around this time, people begin to reflect back over the last year and look ahead to the year unknown. They look over the days and months gone by and think: Did I use my time wisely? Did I spend correctly? Did I make good choices? Did I move forward? To all of these, I feel I can say yes. 2011 was a year of taking chances for me. It began as a year of tough decisions, panic, at times, desperation. My soul ached for a new path. Then, something happened that forced everything to change. That something was the day before my birthday last year. Few people know this, but last year, right before my birthday, a lawyer I had been working for flipped out on me. He told me I had ruined his presentation (those of you who know the whole story know that I ruined nothing for anyone that has been online for more than a year). After this experience something in me broke. I knew at that point that if a person I had been willing to call friend could make me feel that way in my workplace, that I would never be the same in that workplace again. I had known for some time that was not the job for me, but in this moment it became evident that the time I would spend in that position was coming to an end. It was that, or I would be devoured by it.

I decided that the change I had been mulling over and telling people I was thinking about doing was an imperative change. This became the new focus; the new goal and something to look forward to. It gave a timeline to the rest of my time at the firm, which made it bearable to continue pushing forward every day. My friends at work who knew (and they were few) were very supportive. They would ask how plans were coming along, and what the progress was on all the aspects. They all thought good thoughts for me for the week I spent with my parents at camp, knowing that was the week I'd be telling them that their baby girl was going to really fly away. I had everything set by that point, including a departure date, a plan for moving my belongings and 10 days in between to spend with the people I love in Southern Ontario. The change, of course, was moving to Spain to become a TEFL Certified Teacher. At no time have I felt like teaching is really the purpose for this, or the challenge in it. I know I can teach- I've done it before. The challenge for me was to start a new path, have some adventures, meet some new people, to shake things up and really be comfortable in myself in an unfamiliar place. I needed a change in culture to appreciate my own. I have a list, with my best friend, of Things To Do Before I Die. The purpose of this trip is to make some of those wishes come true. No one in life is going to make anything happen for you, but you.

Earning a (second) Certificate or degree - check
Live in another country for at least 3 months- check
Visit Paris-check
Have Only 5 Things I Can't Live Without- check
Visit Spain- check
Learn Spanish- working on it

There are other small accomplishments I've achieved since being here, but they cannot be refelcted upon in the same manner as the things already mentioned here. They are the changes of my spirit and soul, the growth of courage and perserverance.

I have no idea what is to come in 2012, but I can say that I would like to take what I have learned and accomplished in 2011 and push forward into the future. I am by no means in a place of understanding what my life is going to look like in the coming months and years. If anything, things are murkier than before, but I have faith that whatever is coming will only help me to be a better, stronger, more successful, understanding person. I have hopes of being able to give my time to help other people again in the future, so hopefully this year will be another step towards that.

Happy New Year to all my loved ones around the world, new and old. I wish you health, happiness and adventure this year!