Saturday, November 17, 2012

Take 16 - One-Year Anniversary

A year ago today, I was arriving in California on Air Canada and saying "hello" to my adoptive Country and coveted State. So far and for the most part, life has been great here. So now I have put together a list of  a few things I've learned, in no particular order and bearing no degree of importance.

A) don't hand over your credit/debit card at the store when it's time to pay....... .no one will take it anyway. You slide it into the slot yourself and enter your info.

B) if you see something you like in a store, buy it!  It will not be there when you decide to return for it and you will hate yourself. Besides, stores here have unbelievable return policies and you will be refunded almost everywhere. So go ahead and shop ! Also, there are tons of coupons for all stores in newspapers, in the mail and online. Competition is fierce here and every store works hard to get your money and they will do what it takes to get you to come back.

C) you can grow fruit bearing trees in containers on your balcony in San Jose. Lemons, oranges, figs and olives.  I even cured my own olives. Yes, it is probably the smallest production in the world but right now they are curing and resting. We will taste the fruit of my labor at the end of January. As for the lemons and oranges ? It will be a while but still, it's terribly exciting !

D) in a medical emergency, you call your physician who meets you at the hospital. Here, differently than in Canada, you get your physician's phone number. The relationship is a more personal one.

E) in the US, there are only two days in the year when everything comes to a grinding halt and those days are Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Make sure you have everything you need or go without until the next day, when things return to normal. However, this year, some stores are talking about tagging on Thursday evening to Black Friday. Who will win this one, the employees who would rather have the complete day off or the big chain stores who want to up their Holiday Season sales ?

F) here in the USA, there is mail delivery 6 days a week .... a little luxury we have quickly taken for granted. Yes it's a costly luxury for the country to maintain this extra day of mail service and one day it will end but meanwhile we are enjoying it immensely.

G) in Vancouver, we hardly used our car. I had to go down in the underground parking, start our car and drive around the block  2 or 3 times to make sure it would start when needed. Here, no need for that little exercise. There is nothing we can buy or pick up within walking distance. Our 12 year old car is growing up at warp speed. When we left Vancouver, the odometer showed the equivalent of 50,000 miles. Now, we use it every day and sometimes several times a day. In an average family where there are two or three children of driving age, you often see 3-4 cars. Life can be really nightmarish here without a car.

H) in California, hair stylists are graduates of a trade school, differently from in British Columbia where the stylists are taught and expected to practice for a number of hours and then they are done.  The difference is quite apparent. The ones I have met are  highly experienced, creative and extremely responsible. I love the results.

I) Need to go to the DMV, make an appointment. You will save yourself half a day. Those people mean well but they are short staffed and often have to deal with people of all kinds, which can take a long time per individual.

I could go on, but I won't. Vacationing in a place and living in it permanently are two completely different things. On vacation, we tend to see life through rose colored glasses and why not ? Vacation is a time to indulge in fantasies. Every day life can be seen through clear lenses and as most of it is great a small part of it can be downright daunting. All this being said, California is a great place to live and after one year, I am still thrilled to be here.

Here is comfort food at its best.

Gingerbread Cake

1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg
2-1/2 cup of flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup molasses
1 cup hot water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg.
2. Stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.
3. Combine molasses and water and add to butter mixture alternately with flour mixture. Beat until creamy.
4. Grease or line 8 inch square pan with wax paper. Pour in batter and bake 50-60 minutes. Serve plain or with toppings like whipped cream or applesauce. I serve it with applesauce because I love the contrast of the two flavors.

Enjoy !


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