After several years without a family WhatsApp group, atypical of a Nigerian family with access to the app, my sister decided last week that it would be a great idea to have us all in one e-space. She must have been bored the day she got that epiphany, this sister of mine who responds to WhatsApp messages after 7 business days and has her Read Receipts feature turned off. I’m cautious of people who have that setting turned off, by the way. Why do you want to hide the fact that you’re online, who are you owing money!? But I digress.
Anyway, in the week or so the group has been active it has been all roses and pleasantries. The occasional How Far, Happy Sunday (in my mom’s voice), and lighthearted teasing true to our family.
Then the inspirational forwarded messages from my dad, because there has to be that one person. Each inspirational message is followed by replies of ‘Thanks for sharing Daddy’ because the messages are quite inspirational and more importantly because we have to show the parents that we still have common sense and haven’t forgotten our home training.
Until Dad shared a forwarded message with the title ‘7 reasons why degree holders are poor’
Crickets. No one responded. I’m certain though that in the comfort of our homes, in true Nigerian style, everyone said to themselves “I shall not be poor in Jesus’ name.”
No one typed this on the group though, remember I told you we haven’t forgotten our home training.
Well, Mummy came online and put us out of misery, responding to her husband with a resounding “My children who are degree holders shall not be poor in Jesus’ name.”
One after the other we came out of hiding to type ‘Amen Mummy!’ 😅
Winter has got me reminiscing about warmer days and the understated luxury of T-shirt weather. What better way to beat the winter blues than a trip down memory lane, to sunnier times? My family took a trip to Ottawa in the summer of 2021, our first time there. The city made an impression on me in that quiet understated manner of a city that is beautiful without trying too hard. Come along with me as I recount the experience.
We got there by…
Train. We took the Via Rail train from Union Station in Toronto, making a few stops along the way, and disembarked at the Ottawa Via Rail station. Travel time is an average of 4 hours 30 minutes, but we spent nearly 6 hours on the train due to a one hour delay at Oshawa. Anyway, it was such a scenic route! I particularly enjoyed the picturesque beach views along Coburg.
We stayed at…
The Business Inn & Suites, downtown. My top priority for accommodation on this trip was proximity to the Nigeria High Commission, as we had business there. After checking out a few places online and reading more reviews than I care for, I settled on this place. It was nothing fancy, but I’ll rate it a 10/10 based on a few factors;
Firstly and most importantly for me, cleanliness! To know me is to know how squeamish I am about germs. At this hotel I felt truly comfortable with the level of cleanliness, a rarity for me. Secondly the layout. Just like the name, the target guests are business travelers looking to stay a few days and the layout reflects this. Each suite has a decent-sized kitchen, and an office setup equipped with a computer and printer at no extra charge! Breakfast was included, there were so many options and you could take as much as you wanted back to your room. The location was within a walking distance to the Parliament Hill and much of the downtown attractions. The price point was also right for my pocket, so win-win.
Out and about…
We got to our hotel at about 7pm and did not step out until the next morning. Our first point of call was the Nigeria High Commission to renew our passports. Not the best experience, but also not the worst. The queue to get in was long and a tad disorganized, but once you got in everything moved smoothly.
With business out of the way, up next was the fun part. What better way to begin a tour of Ottawa than a visit to the Parliament Hill? We explored the grounds, and the architect in me was delighted! The buildings and surroundings felt like something out of a charming European city. Renovations were ongoing and there were no guided tours of the buildings unfortunately.
The Parliament Hill overlooks the stunning Ottawa River, with views of Gatineau in the Province of Quebec. The sunset views were everything! The Escarpment Stairway connects the Hill with the River, and provides visitors with a stroll through a forest with up close views of the River. We didn’t take the stairway because we had our toddler in a stroller, but it’s definitely worth exploring.
We also visited a suburb in Kanata on the west side of the city. This was pretty uneventful, we just stayed at a neighbourhood park and let our son play.
On the morning of our return, we decided to cross over to the Quebec side and explore a bit of the French-speaking Province since Gatineau was only a short drive from the hotel. We checked out of the hotel and took an Uber to Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. The park was closed due to ongoing maintenance, but we visited a trail along the River with views of the Ottawa side.
What began as an uneventful visit to Gatineau turned into a nerve-wracking moment for me when I tried to book a taxi to the train station and realized ride-shares like Uber and Lyft are not permitted in Gatineau! With barely 30 minutes to our train’s departure time, we searched frantically for other options. We finally were able to call a taxi, not without explanation over the phone a few times that we do not speak French. I really should take my French lessons seriously.
We got to the train station just in time, and were one of the last people to board. I’m so glad we didn’t miss our train, as much as I enjoyed Ottawa I was excited to head home to the hustle and bustle of Toronto.
My thoughts about the city…
Ottawa has my heart! I didn’t spend enough time to explore much but I think the city is laid back in a way that suits my personality. Maybe it’s the busyness of Toronto that has me yearning for more calm, but even the air felt different there. It comes across as a pretty boring city if you’re all about that city life, but I can see why it would be a nature-lover’s paradise.
I don’t think I have a favorite food. I have seasons when I obsess over a dish, but that quickly passes and I’m unto the next thing. I also have certain foods I hold dear, not for how they taste, but simply because they remind me of a certain time and place. Mangos are one of such, not just any mangos, Gboko mangos that my parents lovingly sent to me year in year out without fail, whenever they were in season.
Pancakes are another food that evokes feelings of nostalgia. I don’t remember who taught me to make them, but memories of my time at the University are incomplete without a mention of pancakes. They were my go-to food during my broke student days when I tried to stretch what was left of my little pocket money, and believe me I had lots of those periods. Choosing to study Architecture meant buying all manner of expensive paper and tools when my friends in other departments could get by with a simple pen and a couple of notebooks.
My monthly budget always began with my design supplies, followed by printing costs for my assignments, and by the time I got to foodstuff, there was little to throw around on anything fancy. Simple pancake ingredients it was. If you’re picturing nice fluffy pancakes with a drizzle of honey, please be informed my student budget couldn’t afford that. It was the basics. Flour was affordable and sold by the mudu. Sugar, which thankfully you could buy in small quantities. Eggs, if more than one got into my batter per time best believe I had just received bonus pocket money after a visit to my Aunt’s. Baking powder, the cheapest brand at Oga Emeka’s shop. Kulikuli oil which the villagers at Samaru market sold in anything from a full bottle to a quarter of a bottle. Milk was an occasional luxury. Butter? I laugh. That was the student equivalent of premium caviar.
School of Architecture in my day meant being plagued with endless design deadlines that saw us burning the idiomatic midnight oil. With all-nighters came hunger pangs, and what was my go-to ‘snack’? Pancakes. I remember my flatmate back in the day woke up to me frying pancakes at midnight and asked with so much concern in his eyes if all was alright with me.
Only last year, the third trimester of pregnancy saw me bingeing on pancakes once again. I went from not being able to keep anything down in the first trimester to a second trimester of moderate eating, and then a third trimester of carb cravings.
I hear it’s World Pancake Day today. My pancake recipe has definitely evolved as my pockets have gotten fatter. These days it is go fluffy or go home. To celebrate the day I made a pancake dinner for the husband and me. And because our baby is such a little foodie, he had his first taste of pancakes today.
I’ll share my Fluffy Pancake Recipe with you.
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
6 teaspoons of sugar (A little more sugar if you’re a sweet tooth)
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of butter (melted)
1 1/2 cups of milk (I use almond milk, dairy milk will do too)
Mix the dry ingredients. Beat in the egg. Add milk and butter. The milk should be lukewarm, you can melt the butter in the milk for a few seconds in the microwave oven.
Mix and fry in a lightly greased pan. I use a 1/4 cup scoop to get even sizes.
Except you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard the famous quote by Marc Anthony, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
On a morning like this, I beg to differ. I love to write and it comes naturally, but it’s felt like such a chore in the past few days to be honest. I’ve discarded draft after draft, feeling like I’m not putting out my best work. It doesn’t help that I’ve gotten less sleep lately, no thanks to my son’s new sleep pattern. I’m not sure who told him 2am is a good time to play. I’d rather be asleep then Son, please and thank you.
Sometimes you struggle even with what you love doing and that’s okay. I’m in no way excusing indiscipline, that’s an entirely different topic. This morning’s struggle was getting my workout done. It’s something I’ve enjoyed incorporating in my morning routine, made even more enjoyable since my husband gifted me an array of colorful gym clothes. Working out and looking fancy? Win-win I must say. I laugh when I remember how as teenagers in secondary school, we would do anything to escape the mandatory morning exercise. Fake an illness, fake menstrual cramps, hide under our bunk beds, just about anything to get away from a morning jog. Even fancy gym clothes wouldn’t have made it appealing. In retrospect it was actually a nice way to begin the day, I guess the school administration was also trying to get us to imbibe positive habits but you know what they say about teenagers and routines.
This morning I barely exercised for 10 minutes before rolling up the exercise mat and tucking it away. We live to try again another day.
“Beware of destination addiction, a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” – Robert Holden
Someone close to me recently bought a house. When I called to congratulate her she told me how gruelling a process it was, with hidden charges springing at her left, right, and centre. I asked why the charges weren’t explained at the time of making the initial down payment.
Her response was food for thought; “Ireally don’t know, but maybe it’s a good thing. If I knew every detail I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with the process.”
I’m such a planner by nature. I like to make plans ahead and know as much details as possible before embarking on a venture. I’ll read reviews and product descriptions before buying even the simplest things like diapers.
Today however I made a spontaneous purchase. It’s been a long day trying to figure out how to navigate the product I bought. The more I look at the features, the less I understand. Will I return it and go for a similar product with details that I fully understand? Time will tell.
Tell me, what’s your style? Do you go all in or like me test the waters with your feet first?
To know my Dad is to know that he likes to take his time. In doing things, in making decisions, it’s even seen in his easy gait, sauntering into a room with that quiet confidence of his.
As children if our schedule for the day involved going out with Daddy, we knew to start asking early enough what his plans were.
“Daddy what time are we heading out?”
Right away could mean after he had a long relaxing bath, enjoyed a good breakfast, watched the morning news, and entertained the never-ending stream of visitors while having his leisurely cup of tea.
If it wasn’t an emergency, there was no rushing him. It even became a joke amongst us, “I’ll get to it right away!” became a response my siblings and I gave each other when we didn’t want to be hurried.
The events of the past year have got me acting like my Dad. Prior to March 2020 early mornings used to be a blur; wake, pray hurriedly, rush to shower, get dressed so fast you’ll think it was an Olympic sport, pack my bags, head to work, and if at all breakfast featured it would be eaten while responding to emails.
These days it feels so good to have a more relaxed routine, more time to pray and meditate, workout, prepare a healthy breakfast, and even have a leisurely cup of tea like Daddy.
If we do go back to working fully from the office I hope I find a way to strike a balance and remember to enjoy the little pleasures of the morning, Daddy-style.
Years ago I uploaded a photo of myself on Facebook, and someone commented ‘watch your weight.’ I don’t even remember the photo but I remember that comment clearly. This isn’t someone I’m friends with. I hadn’t seen or spoken to this person in ages, we once sang in the same choir in university and that was it. (I know, I know! I should tell you guys all about this chorister side of me, and how my music career packed up before it even begun.)
I was surprised at the audacity and irritated by his rudeness. If BMI is anything to go by mine was borderline underweight at the time, so I wondered what it was about the photo that made him post that comment. I guess I’ll never know.
I don’t know what it is about the New Year that makes people resolve to lose a few pounds and jump on every weight loss challenge out there. In my opinion you’ll see longer lasting results by building healthy habits over time, rather than jumping on a fad. Good health after all is beyond the figures on a scale.
If weight loss is one of your goals this year, go for it! If it’s not, just as well. Either way, do you and let others be. Also remember “You have put on weight” is not an appropriate greeting. You’re welcome.
As we usher in the new year, a trend I’ve observed is everyone and their cat listing their accomplishments despite all that the year 2020 threw at us.
Ours is a generation of serial entrepreneurs and multiple streams of income, and while that’s great I think hustling is overglorified. Social media doesn’t help, an anthill ends up looking like a mountain when all the filters are applied.
I’ve had to cut off from a lot of content on social media as I’ve found myself questioning my choices and making comparisons instead of being thankful for my wins. My time is precious, I’m intentional about focusing on the right things.
If like me you find yourself getting inundated by this lavish display of achievements, please take a breather.
I’m all for going after your goals, but even if your only success in 2020 was learning the phrase ‘unprecedented times’, you did well.
If like me you had a typical Nigerian childhood, Christmas didn’t feature Santa. Maybe his distant cousin, Father Christmas, with that questionable outfit that scared children rather than endeared him to them. My Christmas memories were family visiting from far and near, sometimes over 20 of us packed in our small 4 bedroom home at the time. It was the excitement in the air as our aunts arrived bearing gifts, and embracing cousins we hadn’t seen all year. It was the smell of fried chin chin and meats, and of my brother and I tiptoeing to the kitchen to have our fill of Coke and fried beef after everyone had gone to bed.
Christmas wasn’t just the 25th, it was the days leading to that day and the days after that. It was the traditions built around things that now seem trivial, but meant the world to us as kids. It was getting our clothes back from the tailor and making several trips to Baba Tailor’s shop behind the house to have the clothes amended. It was the hours spent painting our nails in preparation for Christmas Service in church, as if those nails wouldn’t be chipped by all the chopping and stirring as we prepared the day’s dishes.
The week prior to Christmas was spent on my mom’s farm, and prepping for Christmas brought respite from all the farm work. I’ll write about this farm someday, Mommy’s farm that was no respecter of age or education. It didn’t matter if you had just bagged a Master’s degree, were preparing for your wedding, or just got home from your studies abroad, if you were home in December you found yourself on that farm, no questions asked. But I digress.
The week after Christmas was an anti climax of some sort. As we ushered in the new year, dancing and singing in church, we were also reminded that soon we would be saying our goodbyes. It was off to school, or back to work, or back to whatever else we occupied ourselves with all year, till another Christmas season beckoned us home.
Now that we’ve all left the nest, it’s time to make memories for our kids, and begin new Christmas traditions. I haven’t begun any in my home, it doesn’t help that my husband carries on like it’s any other day. Every year I tell myself I’ll buy and decorate a Christmas tree but I always have a good excuse not to; this year I don’t have enough storage space to put the tree when the festivities are over. Last year I was pregnant and constantly nauseous, setting up a tree was the last thing on my mind. The year before that… I can’t remember but it was a valid excuse, honestly it was.
Whatever your Christmas traditions are, I hope you’re having a good one and beyond the traditions, I pray the Love of God fills your hearts and homes.