Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Online Shopping Drag

The Internet is supposed to have opened up the marketplace.  You can now (theoretically) order anything from around the world (so long as you're willing to pay for postage and duty, taxes, etc.).  I say theoretically because it often ends up being the case that you can't.

My cousin is visiting from the UK in a couple weeks.  She's agreed to bring back some things for me.  So I've been shopping - online shopping.  The best kind - the kind where you don't have to leave the comfort of your own home.  So here I am, sipping my tea, clicking away.  My basket is full.  I've enjoyed the experience.  I'm a little excited.  Got some pyjamas for the girls, trousers for the little guy, along with socks and a pair of swim goggles.  All from a reputable store (rhymes with Text) - I know their sizes, the quality is good and I'm thrilled with my purchases.  I can have it all delivered to the store nearest to her house and she'll pick it up.  All is good until it's time to check out.

That's when I hit my first hurdle.  I have to register and I can't register with my Canadian address.  No worries, I've got her address and phone number.  But then when I enter my credit card number it won't approve it because it doesn't match the billing address.  It's a little irritating but I can pretty much buy everything I need here.  Except for the swim goggles.  They're nice looking swim goggles and perfect for my younger two.

Ever resourceful I go to the website of the company that manufactures them.  They deliver worldwide and Unless you live in the UK, USA or Japan, you can shop from their international website.  Cool.  Until I realise that they won't deliver to Canada or anywhere else in North America.  So then I go to the American site.  I must really want these goggles.  I'm going to the States next week, I can have them delivered to my hotel.  Yay.  But they don't carry the same products.  Same company (well known swimsuit company founded in Australia), different products - go figure.

So I'm left wondering why.  Why can't I get what I want to get if I'm willing to pay for it?  Why can't I (the consumer) order the same items from a UK site or a US site?  Even Amazon (that usually has everything) doesn't have these particular goggles.  And since I'm on the topic, why is it, that I can get something at half the price on an American site than the same company in Canada?  And I'm not allowed to buy it on the American site because of course, they won't deliver it here.

So my message is - open it up.  Let me buy what I want, where I want to buy it.  Give the postal workers something - they're losing money these days you know.  I'm happy to pay the duty and taxes if I have to.  Right now I feel like the kid outside the candy store looking in through the window with money burning a hole in my pocket.  But they won't let me in the door.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Let them eat cake - Part two

It's October and there's another birthday around the corner.  I have to say I lucked out in the birthday department.  In our family our birthdays are somewhat spread out so that there's a bit of a break between the festivities.  In addition, we don't have any winter babies which helps in that I don't have to plan any snow related birthdays.

We're away just before birthday comes so I'm not sure he'll get a party though he will get cake.  Probably this one - which I found on the internet here.  I have to say she's a genius.  The cake tastes good, is always moist, and easy carve into fun birthday cake shapes - all good things in my book!

Here you go:

Basic Yellow Cake (a really moist vanilla cake)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (do not sift the flour or sift AFTER measuring)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons Vegetable oil
  • 1 stick butter (not margarine), softened
  • 1-tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs 
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Cut wax paper to fit the bottom of (3) 9 x 1 1/2-inch round pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray, place the wax paper in the pans and spray the paper.  (I never do this - I usually just grease the pan and hope for the best)
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, mixing well
  4. Measure the 1-1/4 cups of milk in a 2 cup measuring cup….then add enough vegetable oil to bring the liquid up to 1-1/3 cups (it works out to be about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  5. Add the milk/vegetable oil mixture, butter and vanilla to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed for 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed
  6. Add the eggs and continue beating an additional 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans
  7. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center of cake comes out clean, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center
  8. Cool cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely.
Makes 24 cupcakes, 2 9x1.5 inch pans or 1 9x13 oblong cake

My Notes:
  1. The recipe says it takes 20 - 25 minutes to bake but that's because she made it in three cake pans.  I usually put the timer on for 20 minutes and then keep adding 10 minutes.  Next time I make the cake I'll take note of how long it takes and update this.
  2. In my experience the cupcakes take 20 minutes.
  3. My kids and I love a lemony flavour so I sometimes add the rind of 1 lemon, and a tablespoon of lemon juice.  If you do that also add 1/4 tsp baking soda (to counter the acidity of the lemon - I am not a baking guru but can pretend to be one with the help of the internet).  You can reduce the amount of vanilla or not, depending on your taste.
  4. I usually make a buttercream icing to ice them.  I use this recipe - though I sometimes substitute lemon juice for the vanilla (or go half and half).  They ask for unsalted butter but I never have any so I always use the salted kind.
Sorry I didn't have any photos again.  I do take a lot of pictures they're just on my computer not at all organised and very difficult to find.  Have to fix that!

If you do make these, do let me know how they turn out.  Bon Appetit!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

On grief

Last year, around this time, my friend lost her father.

As is customary, I went to her house to pay my respects a few days after his death (I had missed the funeral).

My dad had just flown back into town and he too had missed the funeral.  I remember seeing him at her house.

"Hi Dad" I might have said.  "How are you?"
He would have smiled and said hello.

The gathering would have been divided - women on one side, men on the other so there wouldn't have been much opportunity for us to interact.  Plus we were there for someone else.  His friend.  My friend's father.

I had carpooled with my cousin.  I thought, as we left, that I could catch a ride with him.  But it would have been out of his way so I didn't.

I think I took him for granted.  Do all children take their parents for granted?  I regret every day that I ignored him.  I regret every time that I got upset at him.  And the times that I upset him - the man who rarely got upset.

We didn't know that within a few months it would be my friend who would be condoling me at his funeral.  "I have nothing to say except that I know," she said as she hugged me.  If we had known would it have been different?  Don't we know that death is inevitable?  Don't we know that it can claim anyone, anytime, any day?  Why don't we behave like we know this?  Why do we forget? 

When he died we got accounts from all kinds of people who told us the impact he'd had on their lives.  As I listened to them I wondered how I, who lived with him, did not see this side of him.  What is it about family dynamics that skews our perceptions of each other?

Grief hits you when it's least expected.  And I have been finding these past few weeks particularly difficult.  I have felt that I don't deserve to cry for him.  That somehow had I behaved differently I would then be allowed to cry.  I don't deal with confrontation well.  I don't show my emotions easily.  Well I do, it's just not the ones that count.  I can make all the excuses in the world but it doesn't change the fact that I don't think I treated my dad the way he deserved to be treated.  I'm not sure where to say it so I'm saying it here.  I can't actually speak the words.  

But I did love him.  And it was the last thing I said to him.  He was a beautiful man.  He was my father.  The memories are filling me up.  And I still can't believe that he's gone.

Grief.  It's a crazy weird process.  I'm still trying to figure my way around it.

I hope that I am not exploiting his memory by revealing this here.  Just that this is cheaper than therapy.