Keeping positive

A recent horoscope advised “Rid yourself of toxic people…”

It made me laugh, but it also made me think a lot. Maybe my horoscope was right? Like a festering sore, negative people get under your skin, eating away at your self-confidence, leaving you insecure and unsettled – exactly the emotions you don’t need after relocating.

But for every negative person you meet, there are about five positive ones out there, all happy to have a chat.

A recent family reunion bore testament to that. Although we arrived late due to karate lessons because of an imminent grading, we got there in the end and I’m so glad we did. We’ve normally missed these sort of gatherings and my kids barely know anyone on Mum’s side of the family.

 

I find people fascinating and everyone has a story to tell. One cousin had run a pub, another runs her own business. One found romance after a chance meeting with an old acquaintance at a party a few years ago and yet another owns a bob-cat and a tip truck!

Cousin J rounded up the troops along with paper and pens and before long, they’d drafted up a family tree. It was a brilliant idea, generating much discussion and laughter as they tried to figure out who went where. But I think the most interesting…or rather, disturbing…stories came from the cousin with the voodoo doll and its uses.

I managed to persuade another cousin to stay for a drink and a chat after most people had gone for the evening. We’d gone to school together and it was really nice to reconnect after such a long time. She’d lived in the west for a time and knew exactly what it was like to relocate.

We had a lovely afternoon and I hope that there’ll be another gathering in the not-too-distant future.

A BBQ back at home with close friends capped off weekend – and my new resolution. Listen,  empathise – but be positive! I want my glass to stay half-full (well, full, actually, but that’s another story.)

Life’s too short. Be true to yourself.

 

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Random conversations

Today I had to have some tests done. As the radiologist flicked through the pile of previous scans from various countries, she finally asked me where the most recent one was.

Good question – I have no idea. I’m sure it was packed but where it is now is anyone’s guess. I explained we’d been out of the country for quite a while and she became quite excited when I told her where.

“Me too!” she whispered, like it was a dirty little secret. And it struck me again how difficult it can be to talk about your former life lest you sound like you’re bragging. But what else have I got to say?

Sometimes, I must admit, I feel lost in conversations because I can’t relate to what people are talking about. Half the time I’ve got no idea what area, what group or which child they mean. The only experiences I can contribute see me starting a sentence with “in Singapore…” and each time I do that, I inwardly cringe.

I know it’s probably just my paranoia making me self-conscious and most likely people don’t notice, but in the early stages of friendship, I don’t want to come across as brash or overbearing by scattering snippets of our overseas existence into conversations.

So it was quite nice to have a chat with someone who had, as it turned out, a surprisingly similar experience to me. Same length of time away, we’d lived in the same country and her feelings of displacement when they first repatriated were exactly what I am experiencing now.

Basically, her husband had had enough after 10 years and wanted to return home. By that stage, they were living in Singapore and she was happy there but home they came. She said it took her approximately two years to assimilate and that she still missed the expat life. Despite enjoying her life in Australia now, she’s holding out hope that one day they’ll relocate again.

I wonder if the wanderlust ever leaves you?

Back to basics

I’d been looking forward to doing a proper supermarket shop here for years. How fantastic to have everything I needed finally under one roof! So after we’d survived the first few days on the basics, I snuck away from the family, intent on filling my trolley with absolutely everything on my list, and then some.

But what I didn’t factor in was H’s peanut allergy. Very quickly I discovered that just about everything I touched contained a standard warning of “May be present – peanuts.” With a groan, I realised that the entire freshly-baked section was off-limits, cooking supplies such as chocolate chips, tahini – even the sprinkles to decorate her birthday cake – were a no-go zone.

I tried another supermarket – same result. I tried an independent supermarket. No good. So I wrote to a major supermarket as well as two chocolate manufacturers explaining my predicament. I asked them what, if anything, was available for peanut allergy suffers. The short answer was “nothing.” What did become clear though and quite worrying, was that the companies I contacted didn’t understand the difference between a tree nut and a ground nut (peanut). Peanuts are a legume, not a nut and I thought a chocolate factory would be well-educated on that fact.

But what baffles me is that I could buy the same products from the same manufacturers in Europe and in Singapore without any mention of “traces of peanuts”, but we can’t buy them here? None of the companies contacted could provide an answer and I doubt I’ll ever get one from them.  So, we’re heading back to basics – and my old habits of shopping with iHerb and lots of internet research.

I wondered whether chocolate is hard to make from scratch and to my surprise, it’s not. On the weekend, I discovered a recipe for home-made chocolate chips (or rather, chunks, as they turned out for me) and the crazy thing was, they were really quick and very easy to make. So I went a step further, baked some vanilla muffins and included the choc-chunks in the recipe. I then used the kids as guinea pigs and waited, with interest, for their reaction.

“Could be a bit more chocolate-y,” was H’s only comment.

Easy fixed, I’ll add more cocoa in the next batch. T just asked for another one.

When we were a bit more settled, I’d planned to source local suppliers for fresh fruit and veg, but after losing faith in the major supermarkets, I rather quickly discovered a market close to home. I dealt with an extremely friendly lady who was very sympathetic to my cause and she was more than willing to try and source peanut-free products for me. Fantastic!

So armed with my KitchenAid, new role as a chocolatier and a lot of networking ahead of me, I feel very grateful that we live in a country where fresh produce is abundant and I don’t have to be reliant on supermarkets for all the family’s needs. The dream of a one-stop-shop is gone, but I suspect we’ll all be a lot healthier for it.

If anyone has any tips, tricks or chocolate-y recipes they’d like to share, please contact me. I’d be very happy to hear from you!

https://www.facebook.com/Pellegrinos-Fresh-Fruits-117162151787419/timeline/

http://www.unrefinedkitchen.com/2011/08/11/homemade-dark-chocolate-chips/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanut