Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Year, New Post!

Happy New Year!

I cannot believe it's been two months since my last post but I guess things have been pretty busy and I've been 'outta town' for a large chunk of time.

The run up to Christmas was really very enjoyable with a number of special treats and enjoyable get togethers. I had a great night out at the theatre and sang my heart out to the tunes of Mary Poppins. My favourite bit of Disney magic was when Bert the chimney sweep tap-danced his way around the proscenium arch. If you haven't had chance to see this musical, I recommend it highly!

I also spent a lot of time experimenting on the baking front as I'd been invited to my first ever cookie exchange. Whereas in the UK mince pies are the baked treat offered at Christmas, in Canada cookies are the treat of the season. How a cookie exchange works is that each invited guest bakes a large quantity (in my case it was 6 dozen) of one type of cookie. You then take your cookies along to a party and share your cookies with others who in turn give you theirs. The nice thing is that you come away with a huge tin full of delicious and varied homemade cookies. We also shared the recipes and so next year my cookie repertoire may well be broader than it was before! I made Double Maple Walnut Cookies and they were OK but top marks went to Alicja, Visnja, Ortensia, Jesse, Liza and Tina for their tasty delights!

Mid-December I flew back to the UK and my feet had hardly touched the ground long enough to admire the renovations at my parent's house post-flood before I was off again for a quick Euro-city break to Madrid in Spain.

Five friends and I hit the Spanish capital for a few days exploring. Although we did take in some sights including the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza galleries, our exploring mainly centred around touring the many tapas bars Madrid has to offer. Booze o'clock came early and we quickly learnt the pleasures of sampling the cañas or "Kanye's", as we nicknamed the small glasses of beer, along with the various tapas bites we were offered free of charge. We never had the same tapas twice and they varied from manchego cheese to olives to cured ham to the most divine chicken cooked in pesto. Some of my favorite moments though were drinking beer in a butcher's shop, seeing Billy tackle the pint of rum and coke he was served, watching Phil experience the heaven that is 'churros y chocolate' for the first time, trying to work out the rationale behind the Christmas Goat, and being served a cocktail on the top of a bin as we walked down the street!

Although I've been to Spain many times, I'd never experienced a true Spanish night out before i.e. where the party only starts after midnight. We were lucky and had an excellent local guide in the form of Jaime, who took us on a few, true Madrileños nights out. I can now testify to the fact that there are more Madrileños on the street at 4:30am than at 4:30pm! The Spanish really do know how to have a good time.

I went back to England and promptly caught an awful cold, no doubt a result of burning the candle at both ends and lack of sleep due partly to the partying but also to the jet-lag! It was nice to have some of my mum's home-cooking though and be able to lie in and chill out over the Christmas break. Having said that it was really quite a busy time and I didn't really stop as I tried to catch up with both family and friends.

It was great to see: Mum, Dad, Charlotte, Phil, Simon, Kirsty, Billy, Granny, Bee, Edie, Fred, Helen C, Anne, Lynne, Graham Br, Lou, Jess, Nick, Sean, Richard, Chris D, Jo, Ian, Eva, Felix, Val F, Mike, Savi, Stephen, Mandy, Pat, Bill, Jack, Annie, Jon, Alex, Olly, Rose, Chris W, Kate, Christine, Helen J, Paul, Rhiannon, Simon, Sophie, Freddie, Milly, George, Bertie, Dave, Ais, Sam H, Amber, Deborah, Darren, Isaac, Lexie, Ethel, Elkan, Judith H, Helen S, Joanne, Judith G, Guy, Zoe, Mabel, Jason, Kate, Stephie, Frankie, Mark, Alex, David R, Ruth, Graham Bo, David B, Jo, Leo, Seth, Sam B, Daniel, Val S and Graham S. To everyone I wasn't able to catch up with, apologies and I hope we can meet up next time.

The weather in England was remarkably mild and I was amazed to see cherry blossom on the December! Despite the weather being grey and rainy much of the time, I had a lovely time and enjoyed a few trips to the theatre and around my home county of Yorkshire as well as the Cotswolds. The musical 'Annie' was a highlight and brought back memories of my childhood when I tormented my mother with the phrase "I love you Miss Hannigan!" I also ventured to the new Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield along with my favourite Yorkshire cafe, Bettys, in Harrogate.

Polar Bear from Nomad on Vimeo.

In my former home village of Saltaire, I checked out Salt's Mill and fell in love with the sleeping polar bear they had in the bookshop. I was also interested to see the Living Advent Calendar the village was exhibiting. Saltaire is a World Heritage Site and volunteers who live and work in the listed properties had decorated windows which gradually lit up during the advent period.

I returned to Toronto just after New Year and although winter had been very mild here up to that point was rather shocked to be faced with -27 degrees centigrade on my first day back at work. Yesterday, we had a balmy +8 degrees so it's kind of hard to predict whether it's going to be a mild or harsh winter this year. Whatever happens, I wish you all the very best for a happy and prosperous 2012!