I’m crafty and I know it!

I love looking for pretty things and I love buying pretty things. However, I don’t like to buy pretty things if they’re a bit on the pricey side. That’s when the creative (or frugal, whatever you want to call it) part of me kicks in and I push my imagination to see what it can do to make my pretty dreams a reality.

This is what happened when I went to visit a dear friend (nicknamed Anne-imal). She saw this gorgeous bracelet at Club Monaco:

Club Monaco Baby Bonnie bracelet

but at $35.50 it pushed the wallet’s limits. I wanted to test my bracelet-making skills (it’s been so long since I’ve made a decent piece of jewellery!) so off to Camden Market we went in search of finding all the materials needed to make this bracelet.

After 2 hrs of material-hunting we trekked back home, pulled out our new purchases (leather string, fish wire, beads, pearls, and my beautiful anchor) and went to work…for the next 3 hrs. After searching unsuccessfully on YouTube for DIY videos we just did a whole lot of trial and errors and eventually the bracelet started to shape up. It seemed like a never-ending process and we only stopped 10 minutes to scarf down dinner quickly but here’s what I ended up with:

My Baby Bonnie bracelet

Isn’t it pretty!? The more I wear it the more in love I fall with it and my favourite aspect is that I could tailor it to whatever I wanted. The anchor I chose to end off the bracelet is sterling silver and I love the combination of the dark brown leather with the bronze beads and pale pink pearls.

Onto the next project- any ideas? Suggest some pretty things and I’ll see if I can make them. Challenge…accepted!

It’s time for Drivers Ed. UK edition

I’d like to make a statement: I am a good driver.

I’d like to amend my previous statement: I am a good driver in Canada.

I finally picked up the courage to do something I’ve been putting off ever since moving to England. The ever feared DRIVING ON THE OTHER (aka WRONG) SIDE OF THE ROAD. I didn’t enter the situation with arrogance or overconfidence. I was honest with both myself and M in stating to expect some pretty shit driving. And shit driving we got. I fit all the stereotypes of a female driver. And not only that, but a female Asian driver…stereotypically (bolding is necessary so I don’t have people biting my head off) a deadly combination. The rental car was returned with a chip and scratch that wasn’t initially there, but since my psychic skills predicted this happening I made sure to get full comprehensive insurance. *Whew* That saved some sweat under the armpits.

Anyhow, I believe I have the potential to be a…decent…driver here but there are definitely a few things I need to brush up on:

1. Figure out how to read traffic lights. This isn’t a joke. This may be a problem that lays solely with the City of Bath, but the traffic lights here can only be deciphered by geniuses. I mean….I’ve been to Vietnam. I know crazy traffic.

Driving in Vietnam

The insanity of the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City doesn’t compare anywhere near to the insanity experienced in Bath. I mean, take a look at this:

I spy with my little eye...7 traffic lights

How do you know which lights to follow??? There are 6 lights you need to focus on. So my dilemma was how to go straight-ish and then bear right. I had no idea which light to follow…either the green light with the straight arrow or the red light. Since I was going right-ish I didn’t want to assume that the straight green arrow was meant for me. My pride did not show itself in the slightest when I asked M which traffic light it was I was supposed to follow. I did experience some relief when he himself admitted he had no idea. Since I was the first in line I decided to just stay put. I figured I’d rather have cars honk at me for not moving than to go and a) get a ticket for running a red light b) get t-boned by a car. Would you have done the same? Take a wild guess whether I made the wrong or right move. Come on…50/50 chance of getting it correct. Ok, I did the wrong thing, which was evidently made, without haste, when the line of cars behind me blared their horns. Oops!

2. Learn the road signs. There’s signage here I’ve never seen in my life! The UK does a lot to keep its drivers on their toes, such as having incoming and oncoming traffic merge into ONE lane. If you see a car heading your way you stop, unless you want to experience a head-on collision. To my non-UK (and non-Australian…non-HK) readers, would you know what to do here?

Hmm...what to do, what to do...

Would you just go? Or would you sit and ponder for a bit and see whether it’s safe/legal to go? Well, just in case you’re ever faced with this dilemma here’s what you need to know. If you find yourself facing a sign with a big black arrow (that so happens to say “Give way to oncoming cars”) that means you need to hang tight and let the other cars go first. If you see it empty like this then you’re free to go. If, on the other hand, you find yourself facing this:

Sit back and wait

Then you have to hang tight until the coast is clear. The signs appear and alternate frequently. You know you have the right of way if the red arrow is big and bold.

3. Gage my distance properly. I incurred some perception problems when I got behind the wheel which I’m attributing either to old age or lack of experience. I’m hoping it’s the latter but only time will tell. I drove a typical North American sized car (Toyota Auris FYI It’s a pretty sweet ride and I vouch the hybrid), which would’ve been fine if I drove on typical North American sized roads. I swear, the roads here are fit for Power Wheels, not adult cars. There were a few times where I found myself PRE-TTY close to cars in the incoming lane (to my right) so I went more to the left to slow down my racing heart. Sometimes when I moved to the left I found the car scraping things it shouldn’t be scraping. Just…hedges and stuff…I would never hit scrape a car and drive away…

4. 2 in 1 roads. Usually I’m a big fan of 2 for 1’s. This doesn’t apply when it comes to roads. In the countryside they often converge 2 lanes (I’m guessing because there aren’t enough drivers to justify making 2 lanes??) into one and every so often there will be more of an open space to pull over in case you find yourself facing an oncoming car. If/when you find yourself face-to-face with a car you’re supposed to play a game of chicken and see who moves first. I’m not sure what the courtesy rule is but basically, one car needs to back all the way up to the nearest open space, pull over, and let the other car (aka the winner) pass by. I think whoever has one closer to them is supposed to back up but some people can be pretty stubborn and refuse to back up. M’s aunt had a showcase showdown with a driver once…things got nasty. Someone had to get out of the car to “exchange some words”. M’s aunt ended up losing L I was told that someone actually petitioned to have a sign put up saying “Only enter if you are capable of reversing” on some of the roads but it didn’t pass. I actually think that would’ve been a good idea because reversing on those kinds of roads is definitely a mandatory skill. The picture below is an attempt to capture the size of the road but dark and rainy conditions prevented me from taking a decent picture. At this point I pulled off to the open space/pull over area to let a car pass, but do you get a sense of how narrow it is?

A nightmare of a drive

Well, one thing’s for sure, I’ll never take my wide Canadian roads for granted ever again! Let’s just say that driving on Fischer-Hallman is to UK roads what 1200-thread count Egyptian cotton is to…sandpaper.

Everyday I’m angle-ing angle-ing!

After being away from Broadwindsor for far too long (it had been over 2 months since our last visit!) we decided to pay a trip to the beautiful English coast for what I was expecting to be a relaxing weekend. I figured I was due for a well-deserved sleep-in after such an intense and busy vacation (please note the sarcasm) but as Friday evening came to an end and I prepared myself for a good night’s slumber I was brutally surprised with the following statement: “We’re getting up at 6:30am tomorrow morning. We need to leave the house by 7.” Um, excuse me?

It turns out M had booked a deep sea fishing excursion for us the following day. This activity was originally supposed to be my birthday present back in August but as is often the case, the English weather was uncooperative and my birthday extravaganza  was cancelled due to poor weather. *Grr* Bah Humbug :@ Oh wait….wrong holiday. I suppose after hearing me say for the umpteenth time “I can’t believe you didn’t do anything for my birthday” M just about had enough and rescheduled a trip at the earliest opportunity to shut me up. I guess it worked! I no longer have nothing to whine about 😉

So how was deep sea fishing? Hmm how can I describe it? Well…it’s definitely not glamorous. It’s not for the faint of heart. Your upper body and arms will ache for days to come (if you’re a weakling, like me). But it’s also AMAZING!

You know that proud feeling you get the first time you successfully bake a cake? Actually, bad example, seeing as I’ve never successfully baked a cake. Ok, remember the first step you took as a toddler? The day you felt your way around the sharp edged coffee table (this was back in the day before parents went OTT on baby-proofing the entire house) and finally had the courage to let go and WOOSH, there you went scampering across the living room floor? Well, lemme tell ya, catching my first fish while deep sea fishing was equivalent to the proud feeling I experienced when I took my first steps at the tender age of… 4.

Let’s start from the beginning…I really had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that our boat’s name was Dawn Mist and there was a slight chance I’d be trapped on a boat for 8 hrs with no toilet. Awe-some. As I stepped onboard familiar memories came flooding back to me. Feelings of being an outsider who just didn’t belong. Like when I went on a cross-country roadtrip across the USA and found myself at a family diner in a small Wisconsin town with all eyes on me as I walked through the door. Or the time when I was invited to a party thrown by Chinese people in first year of university. I went because I knew the food would be fantasmic, but soon felt myself shunned as people learned of my CBC (Chinese born Canadian) background. I wasn’t fresh off the boat like the rest of the REAL Chinese people there and I and my empty stomach didn’t waste much time in getting myself out of there. Anyway, that’s how I felt when I stepped onboard and found 8 weathered and burly men looking my direction. There I was, wearing my Converse’s, Superdry jacket, and a cute hat, while they were decked out in full fisherman gear – rubber coveralls, heavy duty rainboots, and a sharp gutting knife tucked in their belt. Oh ya, DEFINITELY out of place.

"Girl, you're not going to last more than 5 minutes..."

But I wanted to prove myself and show them I wasn’t a typical girly girl. So I cut my own bait (calamari), hooked it all on and began my deep sea diving experience. My girly-girlness came out pretty quickly when I caught my first fish and squealed, yes SQUEALED, in delight.  Nothing but ecstasy can describe dropping your line in and feeling the gentle tug of fish biting your bait. I just felt so accomplished when I reeled in my first catch – a beautiful Dogfish about 1.5 ft long. Their pseudo name is Rock Salmon (don’t ask me why) and I believe they’re part of the shark family. None of the other passengers partook in my excitement and while I wouldn’t say the looks I received were patronizing, they weren’t exactly endearing either.

First catch of the day!

Over the next few hours our fish bucket started to fill up. M and I had a competition going on but after he hit the 25+ mark while I was still hovering at 10+ my motivation started to dwindle a bit and my aching body begged for a break. You wouldn’t think fishing would be a tiring activity but I promise you it’s a great full body workout. The weight on the rod is fairly heavy…I’d say roughly 2-3 pounds, which doesn’t sound like a lot but the thing is, you need to carry that rod in your hand ALL DAY. Not only that but the act of reeling in a struggling fish when your line’s about 20 metres long is basically guaranteed to leave you in a state of exhaustion by the end of the day.

I also had an issue with lack of food and beverage:

  1. This is also where my girly-ness may have emerged somewhat. While I don’t have an issue with touching and slicing up fish and worms, what I do have an issue with is not being able to clean my hands properly prior to eating. There’s just something really repulsive about bringing a cheese sandwich up to your mouth with your slimy, unwashed hands and smelling fish on your fingers. Anyhow, point is, I was a little deterred from eating a lot. The experienced fishermen, on the other hand, did not appear to be too phased by it. They seemed to have a methodical rhythm going on, gutting one catch, taking a bite of their sandwich…gutting another one, taking another bite. I didn’t turn green from getting seasick, I turned green from seeing fish guts and blood going into their mouth.
  2. Although tea and coffee was offered all day long, which would normally be welcome on such a chilly day, the fact that the ‘toilet’ was merely a hole in a room put me off from taking in more liquids than was necessary. I think that if it were all men on the boat they would have been just as fine peeing off the side of the boat and they were simply being respectful of my female presence. Or maybe I’m being a presumptuous snob, in which case I apologize. However…thinking back now I don’t actually recall a single one of them actually going to the washroom, which makes me think they’ve probably developed some kind of fisherman’s bladder where they’ve been able to master the technique of drinking 2 litres of liquids in an 8 hr span and being capable of holding it all in. Now that’s a technique I wouldn’t mind learning.

It was such a beautiful (albeit cold) day out on the sea that I probably spent more time than I should have with my camera in hand. We putted around Dorset, departing from West Bay and made our way close to Weymouth. The seaside scenery in England is gorgeous…rolling holls, dramatic cliffs, luscious green fields dotted with white sheep. It’s such a tranquil looking backdrop it’s just completely unreal.

English backdrop

 

Calm sea

By 4:15pm we were back where we started with three bags filled with fish. I wish I could remember the names but my short term memory has enabled me only to remember catching Sea Bream. And Whiting. One of the best parts of the whole day was bringing back our winnings to M’s grandparents’ place and seeing the absolute look of delight on his nan’s face when we presented her with our day’s catch. A kid on Christmas Day, I tell ya!!!

Someone's excited!

There’s enough fish to last a whole year but I’m thinking that by December I’ll be ready to go on another expedition. I’ll just need to make sure I’ve got a pair of Hunter’s by then so I can fit in with the rest of the fishermen!

PROST to a fantastic time in Germany!

I’ve just returned from a MAGNIFICENT (and that’s putting it lightly) trip around Germany. I’ve been to Germany before but the reason for going this time was a little more special than just a regular ‘ol sight-seeing trip around Europe. Have you heard of Oktoberfest? Lemme tell you a little something about Oktoberfest. It is one of my most FAVOURITE times of the year. Better than birthday time, better than New Year’s, and definitely better than Valentine’s Day! Why? Because it’s a period of no expectations (i.e. no presents and reasons to make the day “special” like you  need to do for the aforementioned days). It’s just a period in October where you get together with friends, wear whatever the heck you wanna wear (God knows I can’t be bothered to dress up and do the whole make-up bit) and dance, sing, and eat to your heart’s desire. It’s the one time of the year I can stand drinking beer (something I’m working on since this appears to be a problem with the Brits) and my love for frankfurters and schnitzels grows to overwhelming heights.

So you may be asking why someone like me enjoys this German festival so much. Even if you’re not I’ll tell you why. You see, I come from a small(ish) town called Waterloo. Conjoined with our neighbouring city, Kitchener, we make up the KW twin cities. Due to the large German settlement in KW we celebrate Oktoberfest like none other. None other than the actual Germans themselves, that is. According to Wikipedia, the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany is Canada. And not just Canada, but KW!!! So just picture the excitement that electrified my body when I found out I’d be able to attend the REAL thing. After 10 years of Oktoberfesting in KW I’d finally be able to hit up the real thing, bier stein in one hand, frankfurter in the other, in Bavaria.

So off to Munich I went and let me tell ya, my expectations DID NOT disappoint! The weather wasn’t too cooperative but did that dampen our spirits? Of course bloody not! Back in Canada the only way you can get into Oktoberfest events is if you purchase a ticket beforehand. At the real Oktoberfest it’s every man for themself and entrance works on a first-come-first-serve basis. I was with my ex-roommate, an experienced Oktoberfester, and her efficient German ways got me out of bed at 8AM and into the beer tents by 10AM. In Munich Oktoberfest takes place on fair grounds and there are 10 tents you can choose from, each offering their own kind of beer (e.g. Paulaner, Augustiner, Löwenbrau). Even at 10AM the tents were already packed with Oktoberfesters and I looked around, awed and wide-eyed, at the scene that lay before me. Fortunately for us, we were two cute girls, adorning darling dirndls so grabbing two seats at a table didn’t prove to be TOO problematic 😉

Stein holding competition. My trembling, weak arms couldn't take it. I lost :(

I had my first “maß” (pronounced by combining mass and moss together), a 1 litre beer stein, in hand by 10:30AM. My roommate taught me how to hold my stein properly to avoid looking like a tourist (in case my lack of German didn’t already give that away) and I sipped that baby for a good 2.5 hrs to avoid getting the rosy cheeks I’ve become notorious for and to also avoid passing out on the table in fatigue. Good plan, no?

Right hand=right way. Left hand= no-no!

It wasn’t just about the beer though. We explored the fair grounds and I made sure to try all the specialty Oktoberfest foods as well.

Some of my favourites include:

Kartoffelknödel- German potato dumplings

Weißwurst- Traditional Bavarian white sausage that tastes amazing with sweet mustard and pretzel

Spätzle – Traditional noodles/pasta that’s usually eaten with meat

I think I had bratwurst every single day I was in Munich and I’ve gotta admit, nothing beats a good German sausage. But I think I’m all sausaged out until…next October.

You’d think that with the huge international attendance I would’ve wanted to meet travellers from all over the globe, but as the day went on I found myself craving North Americans! More specifically, Canadians, but they were so far and few that I was even willing to settle for Americans. I discovered that Europeans really aren’t that friendly! I met Germans, Swiss, Italians and they were so exclusive and into themselves. I mean…it’s Oktoberfest! I’m used to cheer and open-arms, dancing and switching partners but I didn’t get any of that with them. I made it my mission to find some friendly drinking companions and we finally accomplished our mission by the time we hit up the last tent. A table filled with Americans, Canadians, South Africans, and Australians. *sigh* it was marvelous 😀 My day started at 10:30AM.  12 hrs and 3.5 litres of beer later, I found my life slightly more complete. I took out my notepad and crossed off item 36 – Oktoberfesting in Munich – off my bucket list.

But you’ll be happy to hear that there was more to the trip than just beer drinking. Munich, in case you’ve never been, is a beautiful city, rich with history and culture. It’s one of my favourite European cities (I think I say that about every place I visit, but I really mean it this time) because it has maintained its feel of authenticity. I took a tour around Munich and learned everything you need to know about Munich in just 3 hrs 😉 Here are some highlights…

Frauenkirche cathedral– The tallest structure in Old City Munich. No other building can surpass the towers of the cathedral, making it a beautiful landmark and symbol of the Bavarian capital city.

Marienplatz

The New Town Hall in Marienplatz

 

this is the central square in Munich and where you can find the gorgeous New Town Hall, complete with the Glockenspiel, a carillon that chimes at 11AM and noon, everyday. Well, it’s supposed to…I think the clock’s a little out of whack and is a few minutes off so don’t count on it on being a reliable source of telling time. Just around the corner from Marienplatz is the AWESOME…

 

 

Viktualienmarkt – I went to this market every single day to eat…drumroll…yup, that’s right, bratwurst!!! This market is amazing for getting yummy fresh Bavarian food. I bought cheese, chocolate, and different kinds of sausage. Going there just to browse proved to be very difficult and temptation got the best of me. I ended up buying something each time I went L The vendors there are very persuasive and they did a good job luring me in with samples and guilting me into buying their products. I’m a vendor’s dream come true…damn me and my inability to resist samples!

BMW Police cars – Policemen get to drive around in BMWs in Munich! The BMW HQ is located in Munich and apparently they’ve struck up some kind of deal or partnership. Pretty sweet deal huh? I mean, the Ford Taurus the Canadian police get to drive around is obviously pretty swanky too, but it ain’t no BMW…

BMW Police cars

Hofbräuhaus (pronounced Hofbroyhouse) –

Inside Hofbrauhaus

Ok every tourist gets told to come here, but there’s a reason why! It’s one of Munich’s oldest beer halls and was originally founded as the brewery to the old Royal Residence. Just to give you a glimpse of just how important beer is to Bavarian history, let me share a story with you. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden invaded Bavaria during the thirty years’ war in 1632 and threatened to burn the entire city of Munich. The citizens of Munich tried to bargain with the King and offered gold, but that wasn’t good enough. You know what type of bribery worked? Yup, beer! The King agreed to leave the city in peace in exchange for 600 000 barrels of Hofbräuhaus beer. The hall is now used for massive, massive, MASSIVE feasting and I guarantee you will indulge in some fine Bavarian bevies and munchies upon entrance.

Englischer Garten (English Garden) – This park is located in Munich and apparently it’s even bigger than Central Park! It’s so pretty and serene and a perfect place to jog, read, hit up a beer tent or even surf on the Eisbach. The Eisbach (meaning “ice brook”) is a man-made river located in the park and a man-made wave was created in one section where surfers can go for a quick thrill. Bring your board, bring your wetsuit, and bring your skills because it’s in a pretty public area and you’ll definitely have people gawking at you as you do your thang.

Surfing the waves in the Eisbach

Viscardigasse

Remembering the Resistance

The Nazi movement initially started in Bavaria so I learned a lot about the rise of Hitler, a truly eye-opening experience. Viscardigasse is a little alley behind a big square called Odeonsplatz. In the square is a monument called “Feldherrnhalle”. During the rise of Hitler, he ordered that everyone passing the Feldherrnhalle had to give the Nazi salute as they walked by. Many people practiced a passive resistance by avoiding the walk past the monument and taking a detour through Viscardigasse instead. Needless to say, Nazi officials were not happy with this and anyone who took the detour without a legitimate excuse had their names recorded and would be punished accordingly. In the mid-90’s a gold wavy strip of pavement stones was placed in Viscardigasse to commemorate the civil resistance. Pretty cool huh?

There’s soooo much more to talk about but I’m an avid believer in maintaining reader interest so for your benefit I shall stop.

I did manage a few days in Frankfurt but truth be told, after seeing such nice sights in Munich it’s hard to find anything nice to say about Frankfurt. My time there was spent catching up with the old French crew and it was more of a hangout session than a sight-seeing tour. So instead, I leave you with some travel tips!

  1. If you need to get from Munich to Frankfurt I highly recommend taking the bus. Deinbus is great for those looking for a economical (aka cheap) way of travelling from one city to another, as long as you’re not too tight on time. You’ll be on a large comfortable coach bus, but prepare yourself for a 5.5 hr journey (or more if there’s traffic).
  2. When you get to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) you can count on getting lost. Very lost. You can also count on no one helping you out. You’d think people at the information desk would be willing to assist a young damsel in distress but the people I encountered were less than eager to give me any information or point me in the right direction. They were downright assholes. Maybe I should’ve offered them a pretzel. Anyway, if you need to get anywhere in the city go DOWNSTAIRS for the U-Bahn. All the trains upstairs are to take you to other national destinations and it’s downstairs you need to go to for the local metro. I bought a ticket but anyone can get on the train and ticket checkers are far and few …just sayin…
  3. PROST needs to be part of your everyday lingo. If you’re only capable of memorizing one German word let it be PROST!
  4. RyanAir offers great flight deals but be aware that their airports are often extremely far from the city centre and you’ll need to allow yourself a good 2 hrs of travel time to get into the city. i.e. I flew into “Memmingen (Munich West) Airport”. This is nowhere near Munich and the tiny airport is located in a small village about 110 km away (1.5 hrs by train). I flew out of “Frankfurt Hahn” which again, is nowhere near Frankfurt. 150 km away and a 1h 45 min bus ride away. Take the Bohr bus from Hauptbahnhof for €14 (you have to pay the driver, you can’t buy your ticket in advance) but make sure you get there at least a half an hour early to ensure a seat on the bus. I got there 10 minutes before the bus was due to depart and the bus was packed. Fortunately, there were enough of us waiting to warrant them calling in another bus, otherwise I would’ve had to wait 2 hrs for the next one!
  5. Food and drinks in Germany is dirt cheap. If you’re anything like me you will look at everything with greedy eyes and buy everything in sight without a second thought. So here’s my last tip to you – bring baggy clothes. You may not need it at first but you can bet a maß you’ll be wearing the baggy clothing in relief as you see the first signs of a beer belly starting to protrude.

That’s all folks! So until my next travel adventure…CIAO! (Germans stole it from the Italians and say it all the time)

Ah wait, one more thing…I just tweeted this little piece of advice and should probably share it with you as well: FYI “double fisting” means something different in the UK than it does in Canada. Don’t use it to answer how you spent your week in Germany.

Check out Urban Dictionary for the meaning in case you don’t already know. I meant definition #1. Definition #3 is what’s used in the UK.