Recipes,  Travel

Christmas Abroad Begins and Broccoli Stilton Soup

So it’s finally happening. I’m officially on vacation/working abroad. With my husband. For a month. 🙂  The two weeks prior to leaving were, let’s say full; both at home (packing, etc) and at work with all the corporate holiday chaos and working my tail off to finish everything before I left.  And I only got partly through my holiday baking. Baking and yoga are my de-stressers, and full out yoga has been out lately because of my shoulder. So not having time to do all my holiday baking was a bit of a letdown. But you know what? I’m on holiday/working abroad now. Yay!!!! We are now in Edinburgh after a week in Napoli and I have copious amounts of photos and notes to sift through. And so, on today’s lunch break, I attempt round one.

The 48 hours before leaving were hectic. In short: 

Thursday: Calendaring, client Christmas gifts, and more work related things that needed to get done that day and before I got on a plane.  The most important event of the day? The staff holiday party. Sean wore his suit – he cleans up very nicely, my handsome husband does. I wore my new sparkly dress. We socialized, we danced (well, I danced a lot and Sean danced the mandatory one song with me and then retreated to his new friends – the other husbands), we ate, we drank – Sean was never without a glass of wine thanks to my boss’s husband. It was a great night. Friday: Slept in a bit in our beautiful room at the Pan Pacific (party host venue) – my favourite hotel in Vancouver. And then, work (where even working the next day at the airport, I only got maybe only 90% of everything done – but I think I’m being a bit hard on myself), and a detour to the Coliseum to see a Giants game with Sean, Alison, and Rebecca. It was Teddy Bear Toss night, which is my favourite game of the season – I used to do game night promo work for the Vancouver Giants. When the home team scores their first goal, people throw teddy bears, stuffed toys, other toys (ideally SOFT toys) on the ice. The staff and players gather them all up and they all go to a children’s charity. Because I was at work later than I planned, I hopped in a taxi and got there just as the goal horn sounded.  Needless to say, I ran into the arena. And then it rained teddy bears. It’s a beautiful thing to watch – at least for me.

(Side note: I got a blast from my music industry years at the game when I ran into the wonderful wife and children of a Canadian musician named Colin James. My old boss used to be his manager when I worked at his company and Colin and his crew/band/family/etc. were a big part of my work life. Awesome people and so nice to run into the lovely Heather. It’s funny because Colin’s Little Big Band Christmas CD was the last thing I worked on before leaving for the corporate world and I hear it all day long on the local radio station that plays Christmas music 24/7 in December. It’s snappy stuff and I am so proud to have been part of it. But I digress…) DAY 1/2: YVR/Heathrow/Basingtstoke:  After a bit of chaos on Saturday morning, we got on the train to go the airport. They have Subway in the airport now. Maybe they always did but I only noticed this time round. I’ve always maintained that if there is a Subway and/or a Starbucks, everything is right in the world (if there are no other options). I sat down to finish some last minute work things and Sean was basically glued to the window watching the planes. Flight wasn’t delayed, which means we boarded and left on time, so we were super happy. Dinner on the plane was, as one of the executives at work would say “special” (meaning worth eating all of) and they served wine with dinner which was lovely. I didn’t really sleep much on the plane but was kept entertained by “Glee” and a great rom-com called “Crazy Stupid Love” with Steve Carrell, Emma Stone, and Ryan Gosling (hello abs!).  Air Canada has a nice touchscreen entertainment system when it is actually working – which it did. 🙂 Customs was a breeze and we sat around waiting for a bus to take us to Sean’s cousin Rhonda’s house in Basingstoke. When we got to Basingstoke, we tried to buy a pay as you go phone but the shopping centre was closing. We did get some advice on where to buy though, so not a total waste of time. Rhonda picked us up at the bus station and we managed to stay awake for awesome mince bolgnese pasta and to give early Christmas gifts of Canada mittens for everyone and a Christmas stocking (made by my maman) for the youngest boy, Patrick. And then we slept. For 15 hours. DAY 3 – Basingstoke/Heathrow: I had set an alarm for 12:15pm – just in case. We woke up when it went off and didn’t actually “wake up” until about 45 minutes later. (Have you ever nocticed how wonderful it is the just stay in bed when you’ve been going non-stop for quite some time?) We left the house to go back to the shopping centre we were at yesterday to buy a pay as you go phone. (It’s the cheapest way (phones are super cheap) to do it and we will definitely use the phone each time we come back across the Atlantic.) When we figured out which way we were meant to be going on the bus (much to the amusement of the store owner across the street who had been watching us look at the bus schedule on the pole before I came in to ask which was the right way), we were off to our second mall adventure. As previously mentioned, we had tried the  day before to get a phone. On this day we were successful (mostly because the store was not about to close) and after looking at all the pay as you go options, we chose a small, black touch screen phone for £24.95. Upon opening the box to put the O2 sim card in, we find out that the phone is not black like the display phone, but fuchsia (read PINK). I’m delighted and Sean not so much but by then it was too late. 🙂 We caused some controversy when neither of our credit cards was working. As it turns out, they were entering our card member start dates instead of the proper expiry dates. With that solved, we made sure the phone was working and off we went.

Rhonda made a lovely and very delicious broccoli Stilton soup for dinner. It seemed like a very British thing to make, so I documented and took some notes. Recipe below. After dinner we hopped in the car and got dropped off at the train station for the journey back to Heathrow to catch our flight to Naples. After a rainy train and bus trip to Heathrow Terminal 4, we settled with tea and snacks at the Caffe Nero for the 7 hour wait til our 7am flight to Naples. And did we sleep? Nope. The people behind us did. It was quite amusing to see them curled/sprawled in the surprisingly comfy Caffe Nero leather chairs. (One of my first thoughts was that Nero was the dude who played the fiddle before and/or Rome burned to the ground, and why woud they name a coffee house chain after him? And then common sense prevailed and reminded me that nero is Italian for black. Can you tell I was tired?)

The terminal was basically empty so I decided that then was as good a time as any to do my physio mandated shoulder stretches and strengthening exercises. If there is CCTV in the women’s washroom, whoever was on shift must have thought I was nuts. But the washroom had perfect mirrors and lots of space – and it was all mine. So there I am with my flex band doing my reps, and in walks this random (and suddenly very confused) guy. Me: “This is the women’s washroom…” Random Man: “Oh…” (he backs out and then pops back in) “Sorry!” (disappears again). It’s always fun when people don’t read signs.

A few chapters into the Steve Jobs bio on my e-reader and it was finally time to check our bags and find breakfast. That’s when I discovered that Starbucks in the UK has way more selection and they actually have ketchup. Because what is a breakfast sandwich without ketchup, I ask?? I was in takeaway breakfast heaven.

Napoli adventures/pictures to be posted at some point soon.

Rhonda Lee’s Broccoli Stilton Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large potato , peeled and cubed
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 1 head broccoli , about 300g, roughly chopped
  • blue cheese, such as Stilton or roquefort, about 100g, crumbled

Method: Cook the onion in 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the potato and stock and simmer until the potato is tender (about 10 minutes). Add the broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes until just tender but still bright green. Add half the cheese and whizz to a smooth soup in a blender. Season then serve with the rest of the cheese crumbled over. Goes very well with a crusty baguette or garlic toast. Enjoy!

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