We have decided to end the blog.

Because we’re clearly awful at actually blogging.

I Natalie have decided to go it alone.

If you’re into it, which you better be, you can find my new blog (along with some big news) right over here:

That’s all for now!

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I have once again restored and fully refreshed my blogging willpower, and I have, surprisingly Encounters with Canada to thank. A few weeks ago I was asked to speak in front of a group of Canadian High School Students about my experiences this summer and *boom* creativity was once again flowin’.

This morning I gave a talk with two other former Veterans Affairs employees about how Vimy/BH shaped how we remember and commemorate. After thinking long and hard I came to many different conclusions, but all-in-all it brought back a sea of this summer’s memories.

The internet at the Vauban house was partly to blame for this hiatus. Partly because it would take literally four hours to upload pictures, then after waiting for so long I had no drive to format or even write.

As Remembrance Day is almost upon us, I hope this doesn’t come across as too preachy or too cheesey, but it’s so important for every citizen to play a part in remembering. It doesn’t matter if you don’t support past or current governments, or that you’re a staunch pacifist or that you have to procrastinate from that essay you’re supposed to be writing. What does matter is that there were people who were Canadians that were killed, wounded, and fought. And for that they deserve even just one minute of commemoration.

In preparation for my presentation I thought back to what helped me connect with remembering. For me it was linking it back to my home of Winnipeg, and our story of Valour Road.

This Friday, just take even 30 seconds to stop and think about how incredibly and unfathomably lucky we are to live in a country that has never really faced any war of vast proportions. Thankful that you don’t live in a country with mandatory military training. Thankful that you can waste time on facebook or reddit. In general, take a few seconds to just say thanks.


*Next time I promise to have a more lighthearted post, but trust me they’re coming!!

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The Oprah Pizza

So, this blog is in NO WAY a food blog. I just wanted to make that clear before I posted an entire post about a VERY delicious pizza I made and urge everyone else to run out and make their own Oprah Pizza.

First of all, you may be thinking, “Why is it called the Oprah Pizza? Did Oprah help you make it or something?”

No, Oprah, unfortunately Oprah and I are not pizza buddies and very rarely get together on Monday nights to create delicious dinners. I got the name because on this pizza is all of my favourite things!  (Get it? Favourite things, like Oprah’s favourite things.)

I started off this delicious culinary adventure by making the dough, which is a recipe I stole from Hilary‘s blog.

Pizza dough:
– 1 tablespoon yeast
– 1 cup of warm water
– 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
– 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 teaspoon salt (except we are actually COMPLETELY out of salt at our place, so I left this guy out. I’m sure it will be better included though…)

First I put the warm water in a bowl and added the yeast. Have you ever actually just watched yeast grow? It’s surprisingly fun, it just expands like an alien colony until it is one giant uniform lump of warm, gooey, mess. Pretty cool. To get really good alien yeast, wait about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry stuff together and when the yeast/water mixture looks nice and gross add it to the dry goods and mix it all up. I just sort of dove in with my hands, partly because I was too lazy to want to wash another spoon later and partly because I genuinely like beating up dough. I added half the oil into the dough and then sprinkled the rest of it in a giant bowl.

Once the dough was all together and thoroughly kneaded (actually quite an important step, don’t skimp on the kneading) put it in the oiled bowl and let it chill out for about half an hour while it grows to twice it’s size.

Yeah, you see two different types of cheese...

While the dough was rising, I decided what was going to be on my perfect pizza. I went with spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, prosciutto, goat cheese, mozzarella, and fried onions and garlic (not pictured).

I chopped everything up carefully and once the dough was ready, I splatted it on a pizza pan and started building my masterpiece.

I call this the Everest shot.


I loving layered all of my favourite foods one on top of another until I actually couldn’t possibly fit any more on one pizza.

I started with the tomato paste, then added the spinach, mushrooms and zucchini, then came the mozza, followed by prosciutto and onions and garlic and topped off with herbed goat cheese!

Once I was satisfied that there could physically be no more toppings added, I popped the little devil into the oven at 350 until he was done. I think it took about 20-25 minutes to cook all the way through because it was such a low temperature, but I really didn’t want it to burn.

The finished product:

What can I say? I'm Italian. I can make pizza and pasta.

Gooey. Drippy. Delicious.


Here ends my foray into food-blogging. If I decide to do this more often, I promise I will invest in a good thesaurus to find better words for delicious, because I feel like it was slightly overused in this little post…

-Ariel out.

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What’s Oh-She-AH-Ga?

I know that I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the past month and a bit. I promise it was not intentional, this is just how things work out, you know what with work, and life and all that.

ANYWAY. My (hopefully, although probably not) triumphant return to the blogosphere is here now and I am blogging about:

For those of you unfamiliar with Osheaga, it is a 3-day music festival in Montreal over the August long-weekend. (Fun fact: August long-weekend in Ontario is just called, Civic Holiday, whereas in BC, it’s BC Day. I think everyone should just call it BC Day and spend the whole day pretending they live on the West and climb imaginary mountains and swim in imaginary oceans. Or, I suppose if real mountains and oceans are accessible to people, those can be used as well…)
Back to my original thought: Osheaga was REALLY fun. I went with the very fun Miss Julie and spent all of Sunday chilling with thousands of other people who just wanted to be outside listening to music.

This was one of the stages. The weird rainbow thing lit up during the Flaming Lips and was pretty cool. Plus I gotta love a giant mirror ball...

First on the agenda was Frightened Rabbit. We got to the concert grounds just as the very first act, the Sheepdogs (who, incidently, were really great. Watching them is like being transported back in time. Pretty sure no one has told these guys that it’s not actually 1976, and I don’t really want anyone to) were finishing and as soon as they left the stage, we squirreled up to the very front so we were actually in the VERY front row. Not bad eh? So we chilled waiting for Frightened Rabbit to go on and watched Typhoon on the other stage. (I want it on the record, that I genuinely enjoyed Typhoon, but they sort of brought it upon themselves to be slightly mocked by myself, Julie and some random guy also waiting for Frightened Rabbit, by having more than half the band up on stage in plaid shirts, all the boys had moustaches – including the ones who played trumpets, which I am pretty sure my high school band teacher always advised against – and one girl literally just jumping around the stage contributing nothing except that she was holding a maraca in one hand. Once again, they were ACTUALLY good, but it was like they looked up “indie band” on Wikipedia and just followed those instructions to a T. They were asking to be mocked. Just sayin’)
Once Frightened Rabbit goes on, I was in full-on concert tunnel-vision where all I do is dance around like a crazy person yelling the lyrics to the song and basically pretending I am in a music video. This tunnel-vision was interrupted by some guy with a fire hose (nope, not a euphemism, I promise) spraying down the whole crowd. Enter drowned-rat-version-of-Ariel for the next 25 minutes.

We had a little time to kill in between Frightened Rabbit and Beirut, the next band we really wanted to see, so we just lounged around and invented the Official Osheaga Drinking Game (note: it is in no way Official, and it can most likely be adapted to fit almost any summer music festival)

Rules of Official Osheaga Drinking Game:

Drink when you see a girl in high-waisted jean shorts.
That’s it. There’s really only that rule. But it’s REALLY fun.

There were THE MOST people there. Seriously, when we first got there, the hill was totally empty and by about 9 it was like this.

Unfortunately, there were far more people when we wanted to see Beirut so we didn’t get as close as we did with Frightened Rabbit, but we were still pretty gosh-darned close. And naturally Beirut put on an UNREAL show. They had a few technical difficulties, but it just made the show that much better because they just sort of played what they wanted. Once again, the fire hose came and we got doused, but there is something so great about being drenched with water on a hot summer day while dancing to a truly great band. Something akin to seeing a great band in the rain. Trust. It’s good.

Everyone loves a trumpet. My high school band teacher would approve, I'm sure. PS. Blue shirt security guard could not be less

Next, we were going to check out either the Tragically Hip or White Lies, but instead got lost in our drinking game once more and then started to follow 4/5 of Frightened Rabbit around trying to think of what you say to a band that you genuinely like as if they are real people (which I understand that they are, but bear in mind we are several rounds of OODG in…)

Grade 10 me was REALLY excited to see Death Cab for Cutie. They were hundred percent my favourite band when I was 15, about the same time I decided that Seth Cohen and myself were soul mates. We lucked out at Death Cab and managed to be standing right in front of the biggest Death Cab fanboy EVER. You know how I said Death Cab was my favourite band when I was 15, well Death Cab has been this guy’s favourite band SINCE he was 15. Boy is now 22. At several points in the concert he would shriek “BENNNNN” and once hugged me so hard and yelled in my ear, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH FOR LOVING DEATH CAB.” Serious fanboy. Fanboy experience aside, Death Cab played all the songs that 15-year-old me still knows all the words to, and not going to lie, when “Soul meets body” started, there may have been some shrieking coming from me as well. NOT my fault. Grade 10-Ariel took over.

We ended the night at MSTRKRFT, which was nothing short of an outdoor rave, complete with blue glowsticks, too many sweaty people and enough alcohol-induced bad dancing to make even Kevin Bacon slightly embarrassed. (Bonus blog points if you got that.)

GLOW STICKS. Julie and I spent forever trying to get a bunch, and after giving up and dancing off our sorrows, we got pelted in the back of the head by a huge wad of them.

All in all a solid BC Day long-weekend.

I promise to be more Internet-involved from now on.

Ariel out.

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Amsterdam – 4 Girls – 3 Countries – 2 Hours – 1 Helluva Time

Wow Natalie, get better at blogging. So this trip I’m about to describe happened over a month ago so please bare with. Del, Gen, Rosalie and myself all decided to rent a car and make our way over to the Netherlands. Instead of leaving the Tuesday morning, we left Monday night after Rosalie managed to coax us to rent a cabin half an hour outside of Amsterdam. IT WAS SO NICE. JUST LOOK.

Getting there was a whole other story. Which involved us rapidly, quickly, and frantically driving through Belgium basically just avoid that whole mess of a country. Instead we managed to get right from Arras to the border of the Netherlands in t minus 2 hours. That’s when things took a wee little detour when we missed four of our exits, only to find ourselves on our way to The Hague instead of Amsterdam. Yea. So we found a Shell Gas Station – filled with lizards and truckers a plenty. The Shell attendant sold us a map and it turns out because The Netherlands takes like 45 minutes to drive across so we managed to get on track fairly quickly. Then, once we a literally 3 minutes away from our destination BAM the bridge getting us into the park is just none existent. Yep, government just decided to up and close that bad boy. So again, we were confused, I was frustrated, we stopped at a hotel to get directions and it worked! Huzzah for locals! We found our way finally! It was gorgeous! Reminded me of being at the cottage or on a family road trip, so lovely. Played some Hearts, drank some beer, and slept in!

The next morning we slowly made our way over to the car, then off to Amsterdam! Because Europe just decides that it’s too good for street signs, we – again – got lost. No problems because everything in The Netherlands is the size of a pinky finger and we grabbed a parking spot then walked to our hostel! The Flying Pig! Even though we ended up splitting two Queen-Sized Bunks they were the most comfortable beds and comforters ever. But more on that later.

We decided to just play it by ear, walk around, and all in all just enjoy the city.

At one point, after so much good food, we found a nice quite canal to sit near and enjoy the fact that it wasn’t raining. (Believe me, if this summer has taught me anything it’s how much one appreciates sunlight when one has not seen it for weeks).

We settled in and found that a bird family had also decided to settle in and boom build a nest. Strangest looking birds ever, n’est pas? (More on these birds later…)

After what felt like hours, but was in reality only 20 minutes, we got spooked by the couple sitting across the canal from us, way too involved with each other if you catch my drift, and we decided to … big surprise … get more food. This time pie, cheesecake and tea. The thing that I will never be able to forgive France for is their tea selection. It is just pitiful so now I have to take advantage of tea wherever I can, Amsterdam being one of them. While we were eating we were wonderfully serenaded by a musician in a boat in a canal. It was like a four way honeymoon. Cute.

We dragged our tired selves all through the Western area of central Amsterdam and more or less just soaked up the atmosphere. Holy crap, fell in love with this country. Minus their overtly racist laws. They take bikes everywhere, decorate them however they like, and put whatever they like in them. Like a whole bunch of cheese!

That night we ended up just staying put at the Flying Pig, taking full advantage of their beer specials and the deck of cards we brought. The one thing both Gen and I really wanted to do was go to Anne Frank House, so the next morning we dragged our butts outta bed and all (minus sleepy badger Del) trudged over to Anne Frank’s.

Anne Frank’s room I think of all of the museum really had the most impact out of any of it I think. And after all that, we decided to grab a nice big breakfast of BAGELS. Again, France step your game up and get some bagels, or even anything remotely bagel-esque.

Afterward, we all decided since we really hadn’t seen too much of the city that we’d take a New Europe Walking Tour. Now I’d already done the one in Prague (which was fabulous), so we figured we’d take the Amsterdam one. SUCH A GOOD IDEA. This is us all ready and raring to go for our tour.

Picture dedicated to our wee little Drébies.

Probably the best tour guide ever, Geert (yes that was his name), showed us all around the city. This is the best creeper shot I could get, so here’s Geert in all his glory at the head offices of the Dutch East Indies Trading Company.

Needless to say we were fairly giddy off of caffeine and love.

More reason to love Geert: He managed to score us free 10 year?month? (can’t remember) old goat cheese. FANTASTIC. Yea I had seconds when no one else did.

The full day of walking and exploring we were all tuckered out and decided that we would have dinner in Belgium – Ghent to be exact. Mama Rosa just couldn’t contain her excitement apparently…

With a full two days spent in a car or steadily walking around, we decided just to eat at the first place we found. Ending it all up with beer and waffles surrounded by a castle and a moat. Not too shabby.


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Perks of the Job

Paid visits to the French Headquarters of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Attending the Menin Gate Ceremony in Ypres Belgium.

Working with this rag-tag team.

Getting paid to stumble into random cathedrals.

Field trips to the Ypres Salient:

Sao-Mai presenting the Indian Cemetery

Australian Cobbers Memorial

Passchendaele Museum

Visits from family.

Photoshoots with the family.

Starting the day off to this.

Nights in the park.

Best of all, these guys.

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Madrid or Where the Shopping’s Good, the Beer’s Great, and the Food is ….

My lovely cousin, Colleen, had been living in Madrid since May 22nd so I decided that since EasyJet flies pretty cheaply to Madrid, why not visit some family? Allison, April and myself all had the 7th and 8th off so we went all together as a gang. The first night we stayed in Paris, grabbing some beers at the Great Canadian Pub (which about a week later would become our home for the night, getting drunk and unsuccessfully cheering for the Canucks). We crashed in our hostel for a couple of hours then grabbed a cab to the airport. Tried and exhausted we passed out hard on that flight, and after about two hours we landed in not-so-sunny-or-warm Madrid.

Unreal zucchini breakfast sandwich.

We made our way along the beautiful, fabulous, clean metro to the girls’ hostel, “Cat’s Hostel”. It was in an old palace; the courtyard looked right out of Morocco.

I don’t have too many pictures from the first half of this trip because we were too busy shopping. Holy. The shopping. I’m drooling about how good it was as I type. I forgot what it was like…

I did find a really cute garden accessory store in the middle of an alleyway though.

I also found a protest.

And a gentleman looking at old maps.

By 1:30, Colleen had finished her class and found her way to the hostel! Yay for cousin reunions! We decided to get her to show us around, so we walked/ran (in the pouring rain) towards tapas.

Beer and Tapaaas!

After a very successful tapas excursion we walked over to the Royal Palace to see what’s up, but we of course picked the one day when a royal event was going on so we couldn’t go in. Instead, we took this opportunity to have a photoshoot with the guards, police officers, and snipers.

If you look at the top of the building behind, you'll see a black speck. Yep that's a sniper we were antagonizing for way too long. Also, cousin reunion!

We hung around the castle for a long while, but it paid off because we got to see what we believed to be the royal cars driving off with the king and queen of Spain. What up.

By this time we were getting that shopping bug again so we walked over to a random district I can’t remember the name of (Colleen help me out here…) for more shopping, this time vintage! Hallelujah!

On the way there, Colleen found a random box next to the garbage and claimed it as her own. I love our family.

We had another photoshoot around some really cool graffiti only to have a man kindly come up to us and let us know that we should be hanging out along that particular street because there were prostitutes working along it. Low and behold, yep, there was just along the next intersection, fish nets, garish lipstick and all… Sorry, but I wasn’t brave enough to take a picture. I don’t think I could have handled fighting off a 50 year old Spanish prostitute.

More and more shopping left all of us with a gaping hole in our stomachs so we popped into a quirky little cafe Colleen knew of and subsequently slipped into a sugar coma.

That night we decided to split up, with Allison and April heading back to their hostel and me and Colleen heading over to her place to nap and eat. After some April and Allison shenanigans involving lost maps, oversleeping and a slow metro ride, we finally me up and make our way over to a small little bar by Colleen friend Milena’s house.
This picture is the best one out of 7. Well done April. Well done.

I thought Sepia was a good choice for the rest of the night. I blame the beer.

The next morning, Colleen and I did our own thing in order to bond and speak in our own language. Breakfast was had in a less touristy area in town, so delicious and so well priced.


Some sort of Communication Palace. It’s pretty, it’s big, it’s famous, I took an awkward tourist picture next to it. There.

We wandered around the Museum district (glorious), didn’t go in the Prado but met a nice old many feeding birds and painting pictures to make money.

My main goal was to see Picasso’s Guernica. Mission accomplished. We walked over to the Renia Sofia Museum where it’s held and – one final nail on the coffin solidifying my love for Madrid – it was free. Yes. One thing, couldn’t take pictures, but there was another really cool pop art exhibit going on where you could take pictures a plenty.

We were starving so we grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant near by. Worst idea ever. We both didn’t know what to order so we got the soup… the egg, ham, bread, fish sauce soup. It is so much worse than it sounds. Only Colleen was brave enough to take pictures of it. But I’ll use some other pictures to illustrate it’s awfulness.

It looked like this:

This is also from that pop art exhibit.

and it tasted like this:

Our trip ended successfully though, with some more beer and tapas and good chats. After a 45 minute metro ride to the airport, I was off, back to France, back to Arras, back home.

– N

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