The time I fisted a turkey.

Since we’re so close to Valentine’s day I thought this would be the perfect time to recount my Christmas Holidays.

In the Christmas of 2012 I was worried about the Christmas spirit. Usually it’s thriving through our house with merry songs and childlike excitement, but this year… it had to work.
My Brother is the embodiment of Christmas Spirit and this was the first year he couldn’t make it to Hong Kong to be with the family: this upset me more than he must ever know.
*Sidenote: I just sent him a text asking him how many days until Christmas, I got an immediate response of 317 days, 2 hours, 15 minutes and 05 seconds. That’s how much he loves Christmas.

Now there’s something about Hong Kong, although it is an amazing place to be and everyone should jump at the chance to live or visit there… it gets traditional Christmas a little off, of course my image of traditional Christmas is Christian, Western and consumerist. They do have the consumerism side down though. On top of things my Mom wasn’t feeling all to well, which meant all in all Christmas was looking less Christmassy than usual. I decided that I would remedy this by being in the kitchen all the time.

This is the tale of my Christmas adventure: filled with deformed gingerbread men, a turkey that didn’t need fisting and the near loss of my sanity.

The Baking

I felt like I was holding the spirit of Christmas.
I felt like I was holding the spirit of Christmas.

So I began with the baking. My Mom always made the most amazing mince pies, better than any I’ve ever tasted anywhere else, and I was desperate to learn her ways. I found my own gingerbread man recipe as I thought it would be a cheerful accompaniment.

I like to get very involved with my baking...
I like to get very involved with my baking…

As you can see I was throwing myself head first into the task (hence the flour all over my face).

My mother taught me her traditional mince pies recipe. The gingerbread men were all my doing.
My mother taught me her traditional mince pies recipe. The gingerbread men were all my doing.

As you can see the mince pies and gingerbread men were a great success! Although there were a few casualties…

A moment for our fallen, but tasty, gingerman
A moment for our fallen, but tasty, gingerman

Some of the ginger men came out a little broken and disfigured. I worked it in.

The preparation process

As I know nothing of cooking traditional Christmas meals I turned to Nigella Lawson for inspiration. I chose her partially because her recipes sounded divine, and partially because I secretly hoped to look like her when cooking (or all the time).

This image may offend sensitive viewers.
This image may offend sensitive viewers.

I don’t think I really pulled it off: this is me fisting the turkey.

The gammon simmering in apple and cranberry juice and the turkey in brine... it's a beautiful thing.
The gammon simmering in apple and cranberry juice and the turkey in brine… it’s a beautiful thing.

After molesting the turkey it was time to soak it in Christmas and brine. Honestly, any smell you associate with Christmas went into this mix (sparing the old Christmas tree and ornament smell). I also had a gammon bubbling away in juices which made a very tasty, succulent gammon that was not salty at all.

Christmas Day

The turkey was basically the size of our tiny often, trying to guide that baby in without burning my hands was one the toughest things I've ever had to do.
The turkey was basically the size of our tiny often, trying to guide that baby in without burning my hands was one the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.

Come Christmas morning I was beginning to feel a little nervous about this task I had taken on. I still had all the trimmings to make and only a half the day to do it all as the guests were arriving for lunch. Yes, that’s right. My family invited guests for Christmas dinner and I had never cooked even a chicken before. (Actually I had cooked a chicken once but I forgot it in the oven, it was more like a small piece of charcoal than chicken by that point.)

From this point on there are no photos of me in the kitchen because I nearly killed every person that wanted to walk into the kitchen. It is a tiny kitchen and I had all four hobs on the go and I was desperately waiting for the oven to free up so I could stick the potatoes and parsnips in. I forgot to make the gravy the day before… or even that morning, I only remembered the gravy halfway through everything else. So then I thought I might have to just walk into the lounge and kill everyone then and there to spare them from the gravy-less dinner.
I over boiled the potatoes and then drowned them in too much goose fat and couldn’t understand why they weren’t browning.
I then sat on the floor and nearly burst into tears. Instead I manned up, walked out of the kitchen and very politely dragged the other two woman in the house to the kitchen to save my Christmas ass… funny enough the turkey was just fine though.
My Mon’s best friend was thankfully native to the land of traditional dinners and worked like a magically whirlwind around my kitchen fixing the gravy, the potatoes and even warming up the plates so people would have hot food. Amazing.

Which is how we got to this point…

I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. I needed medicating.
I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. I needed medicating.

I immediately asked for a refill after I downed the glass… I now realise that I would have been far more relaxed and productive if I just drank my way through the whole cooking process.
That’s my Father laughing at me by the way. Although that could also be his pride face… He was very proud of my accomplishment.
These are my test subjects A.K.A guests (and Mom).

*no peoples were harmed in the testing of this meal
*no peoples were harmed in the testing of this meal

And this is the final result of all my hardships!

Proof is in the pudding
Proof is in the pudding

I present to you: Traditional Christmas Turkey stuffed with citrus, cranberry and cornbread stuffing (I even baked the cornbread myself) and Cranberry glazed gammon with a side of chestnut and allspice Brussels sprouts, ‘roast’ potatoes and honey parsnips. WITH GRAVY!
I am pleased to say it was a very tasty success and we feasted on left overs for the rest of the week.

I hope you enjoyed my Christmas Kitchen Tale and I hope that you all have a very wonderful Valentine’s day.

“Everybody knows a little place like Kokomo.” – The Beach Boys.

Everyone should know this song, and the feel good vibes it sends through you. However you’ve never truly understood the meaning of the song until you’ve lived it. I have been fortunate enough to know several places that give you that ‘Kokomo’ feeling.

Today I’ll be talking about my latest paradise destination. Koh Samui is a little island in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s about 25 km at its widest point. There’s a single 51 km road that circles most the island, connecting the lowland areas as the centre of the island has an almost uninhabitable jungle mountain, Khao Pom, peaking at 635 m.

Coming into land you’ll see a sparkling turquoise sea and lush green islands dotted around the water. It’s the kind of view that makes you want to jump out of the plane there and then so you can splash into beautiful world beneath you. (I recommend you resist this urge until after you land.)

When you land you’re welcomed by an airport that looks more like a resort than a hotel. So you get that holiday vibe as soon as your feet touch the ground! You also become aware that this place is different. This place is special.

If you usually hate airports than Samui airport will bring a welcome change, it’s a small privately owned airport that has few incoming and outgoing flights so there’s never masses of people running about or long lines to passport control. It’s more like a giant wardrobe, and Koh Samui is a tropical Narnia. (If you remove the ice queens, talking lions and such.)

Walking away from the cute little airport and we’re greeted by the driver that the hotel has sent us. This seems common here, there were queues of hotel cars and mini buses waiting to pick up the waiting tourists. The alternative is to take a tuk tuk, taxi, or for the adventurous – the motorbike taxi.

Almost everyone in Koh Samui gets around by motorbike or scooter, they’re also readily hired to tourists… although that doesn’t always end well for the tourist. (frequent accidents occur from silly shenanigans involving drunken tourists and motorbikes.) On my way to the resort I saw a whole love scene unfold in front of me as a young man tries to court a girl riding on the back of a motorbike. He pulls up next her, smiling. She giggles bashfully and waves him away but he persists, convincing her to meet him tonight for a drink. Then our drive honks his horn to remind them that this is the open road, not a dating service… They ignored us completely.

Such is Love. Such is Koh Samui.

More about Koh Samui in my next post.

The Dark side – Kowloon

That’s right, I’ve been to the dark side and no there were no cookies. Kowloon is an urban area in Hong Kong, it’s also the less touristy, less international side of Hong Kong and so is called by the expats the “dark side”. My Mother and I ventured there yesterday to go to the Jade market and maybe have a look around the night market as well. I have to we have cookies - lolcatsadmit that I was a little uneasy when I got there, just because it looked dodgy, strange smelling back streets and run down shops, that sort of thing. I have to remind myself that Hong Kong is actually one of the safest cities I’ve ever been and that strange smelling back streets don’t always equate to hoodlums wanting my money or my life…. As it turns out, Kowloon was absolutely fine, I felt just as comfortable there as I was in Time square, once I got used to the new sights and smells that is.

Once we arrived at the Jade market there were many other tourists wandering around and bargaining. It was an amazing sight, rows of stalls full of different trinkets usually with strings of jade, agate and pearls hanging from them. There were good luck charms, antique stalls, lots and lots of jewelry (some exquisite and others very cheap.) It’s easy to find a bargain here and although most of the items in the stalls are priced you can bargain them down. I received a small lesson in the different qualities of jade and agate from a woman in the first stall we visited, she showed how you can tell the difference between jade and agate by looking at the pattern in the gem through the light. The different sounds the bangles make depending the stone. It was very educational, after 15 minutes she also managed to convince my Mother and I to buy matching bracelets…

A pipe my Mom thought my Dad might enjoy

my Mother’s broke on the way home. I had my first experience in bargaining when I came across a fake antique Omega pocket watch, although I was aware it was a fake, I found it pretty but I was unwilling to pay the 150 dollars it was going for so I started to walk away. The owner of the stall stopped me and offered it for 130 but by this point I had decided that I really didn’t need a watch I wouldn’t wear so I politely declined. He was having none of it and offered an even lower price so I explained that I just didn’t want the watch, so he lowered his price even more, this back on fourth went on for about 5 minutes. I finally thought he’d gotten the message as I walked away until he groaned and called out “50 dollars!” I laughed and decided that after all that I had to buy the watch as a keepsake of the trip. I handed him the money to the now beaming man and went off to show my Mom the watch I got for a third of its original price.

The Jade market is a must for any visitor to Hong Kong, it’s an experience as well as a great shopping destination and the people

The rows of beads

are very friendly (not to mention very persuasive). Since you’re at the Jade market it would be well worth your while to pay a visit to the Night market, as it’s only open from 4pm to midnight we arrived just as they were setting up. The night market has amazingly diverse selections of inexpensive items, we only walked through half of the market and found handbags, suitcases, clothes, electronics, Jewelry, souvenirs and more. There are also some shops open along the sides of the street that have some higher quality (and more expensive) goods. I definitely plan to go back there again, you could find a present for every single person you know in that market. We would have stayed longer if it hadn’t rained on our parade.

So if you’re ever in Hong Kong, be sure to give the markets a go, you’ll be sorry you missed it.

9740 km

Some of my most prominent memories of childhood take place in the airport , I remember squirming with impatience in the arrivals hall, my mother gripping my hand while craned my neck, searching the crowd of strangers for the hero of my story to appear, the moment I caught sight of him I would break free of my mother’s grip and go sprinting to his open arms and be lifted up into the air. He would then continue his stroll over to my mother to give her a big kiss before pulling my brother into a hug, this was my Father. Sometimes he would bring presents for us from the places he’d been, the best time was when I could see him coming down the steps of the plane through the massive airport window, I noticed him carrying something that must have been too big to fit into his small suitcase, it felt like forever, waiting for him to get through passport control and into the arrivals hall, but when he did I was ready for him. There in his arms was the a big brown bear, dressed in brown leather jacket with a sheepskin collar and big flying goggles on his head. My very own pilot bear.

Father daughter scene

In my head, my father was gone for months as opposed to the few days and occasionally, few weeks that he actually was. I’m now aware of how lucky I was that this was the case and that there are many others whose fathers were away more often than they were home, and some fathers who are never there at all. Still, I’d secretly sulk every time he had to go and wonder what he did while he was away, what awesome adventures he was up to and of course, how important he was that there were people on the other side of the world that needed him to be there. So, as if I had a choice, I’d let my Father go when they called.

In those days my world was small and seemingly perfect. I lived in a beautiful cottage and got to go on holiday to the coast to see my Mémé et Pépé, the first time we went there by plane was a momentous experience for me. I’d finally be able to know what happened after my Father walked through the departures hall for myself. Although I don’t remember the details I do remember the feeling, it was like magic. I loved every moment of that plane ride.

Me and Dad
My Dad and I 10 years later

Thirteen years older and the idea of flying now makes me cringe, all I can think about are the cues at Heathrow, the cramped seat I’ll be strapped to for the next 12 hours, the rude flight attendant and of course flying 9740 km across the globe to see my parents in Hong Kong. I’m sure that somewhere in this world there is a frequent flyer (pilots aside) that still loves a plane journey as much as they did the first time they flew – this person probably needs to get their head checked. Call me spoilt, call me jaded, I just can’t get excited the way I used to. However the moment my feet touch ground in that foreign country that is now called home, I remember how amazing my life is, and how lucky I am to have experienced so much already. This blog is all about my life as the daughter of an expat. From that first move that changed my life forever to the present day. From horror stories to the experiences that films are made about. I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences as much as I’ve enjoyed living them.