Effective the 5th of December, I will have been in the UK for ten months and after all of the ranting and raving and outright righteous rage (lot of Rs there, girl…) I have been exploding all over the interwebz (because we’re l33+ and nerdy, and I have no shame) I need a change of pace. So, today, we’re going to talk about something else.
What are we going to talk about? Let’s talk about communication. Before I start, I have to disclose that I am giving an opinion about product/services that I have used of my own volition – I have not been paid to promote any of these, nor do I receive any kind of “kickback.” So now that I have fully established that I have nothing to gain from sharing what little I know, let’s get right into it:
Keeping in contact with family abroad and vice versa is not an easy task. You have time zone differences ( to say nothing of the added joy of daylight savings time springing forward/falling back at different points in the year for different countries), bad phone/internet connections and mail by post that you swear, SWEAR, takes longer to get there than it honestly should (honest!).
For all of the frustrations that come with the above, about the only things I can recommend is a healthy sense of humour and patience with your service provider/family/yourself. Even Generation Ys, who were basically nursed on the teat of technology at our fingertips will fumble and flub occasionally. Sorry to say this, but it’s normal.
When I was still dating my husband, Skype was the main communication tool of choice, followed by Gmail’s Video Chat feature when Skype would, for whatever odd reason, stop working and drive us up the ever-loving wall. Of course, between these video conversations, we had e-mail, snail mail (mostly for gifts and cards), Internet Messaging and phone conversations that more than once overran my monthly minute-limit (oops).
A lot of people use pre-paid phone cards for phone conversations, which work fine if you don’t mind punching in (in my not-so-humble opinion) 7,000 some-odd numbers to complete one phone call. For my husband and I, even now, we use a service called Rebtel which will give you a local number that will connect to the long-distance one. One minor caveat, though (and this may be a tad obvious, but I’ll say it anyway) sending text messages through your phone will still cost the international rate (in the States, when I used it, this was $1.19 per text). Through their website, there is an option to send a text that way at the discounted rate, but to be honest I was never a texting type of person (hey, don’t revoke my Gen. Y membership card!) and at the point where I was typing a message on the computer to send to someone’s phone, I figured I was better off just using an Instant Messenger service (I use Trillian but that is only because I speak with people on multiple IM platforms and it just makes it easier to have one program open instead of five) or that aforementioned e-mail. 😡
Dating, the biggest laugh/frustration my husband and I had was when technology failed us. The internet would be slow, my computer would be on the fritz, the phone connection would be choppy or calls would phantom/drop completely.
I am not going to lie to you: there were times where we would just have to give up for the day/night and laughingly announce that we weren’t speaking to each other. It was either find the humour in it or possibly throw whatever electronic device out the window. For being accustomed to having near-instant gratification/reward, patience is not always as easy to pick up.
It cannot be denied, I’m from a very different generation from the ones in the ages before such luxuries as telephone and internet; I harp on about my experiences, but I have to think of how rough it must have been when they weren’t joking when they said, “No news is good news.” As it stands, from here to my family a package or letter will take about a week to arrive and said letter starts off at about £1.18 for postage; my great-great-grandparents and even my great-grandparents likely would have remarked on how fast/cheap that is relative to today’s costs and inflation (I, having a brilliant mind – HA! – of course assume that my ancestors would be just as savvy).
One can empathise, or even sympathise, but unless they’ve actually lived it I highly doubt that they could fully appreciate how spoilt we are now for options and choice. That said, some of those options have narrowed with the privatisation of Royal Mail (starting to notice a pattern here…) there have been some changes to what they allow to ship. This does not mean I am defeated! Nope, it just means that they’ve lost my business this holiday season, since their list of Prohibited Goods tells me that they can’t do the job and because of which, for my shipping needs my family will be using UK Mail. Of course, they are private company as well, but at least I don’t feel like I need to perform ritual cleansing after using their service (yet).
So I suppose, if I want to tie in a holiday message, I have options and that means that it could be a lot worse, otherwise – that’s something for which to be thankful. It’s right up there with dry socks (and those of you who just spent the day in wet socks know exactly what I mean) and not having your heater stop working when the temperature drops.
Beyond that, what do you do when you can’t keep contact? While we would (*sporfle*) love to be within easy reach all the time, to always be an arm-stretch or phone call away, it doesn’t always happen. Especially when it’s 3AM in one time zone and, short of someone being dead (knock on wood, for those of you who are superstitious), that isn’t a good time for anything or anyone.
For me, I suppose it’s ironic in a sense, it’s embracing nostalgia that helps. If I miss something, I try to recreate it in some fashion. Most of the time, I’m successful. It’s also good to remember that it is okay to be upset or homesick; that comes and goes and when I face it head on instead of denying it, I think that helps.
Today, as an example, I realised that I hadn’t made american biscuits in a very, very long time. I could go years in the states and not even think about drop biscuits, the fact that they do not exist in the UK probably has more to do with this than any actual desire to have them. But a hankering I had, and so I attempted to fulfil it.
Now, any purist will tell you, when it comes to biscuits, the best way to prepare them is with COLD butter worked into the flour first, use buttermilk, and do not overwork the dough. The less you mess around with it the better.
But I’m not a purist. So I used olive oil instead of butter and normal milk. The only thing I did do was not mess with the dough much once the milk was added – moved it about just enough to get incorporated and then heaped it onto a lightly greased pan and put it into the oven at 200C/390F.
Why not use butter? Because I’m the only Coeliac to speak of in the household and keeping things like butter and other condiments from being cross-contaminated is a nightmare. So rather than get into a tizzy over it, I just adapt to work around it. Why use normal milk? It isn’t because we can’t get buttermilk here, I assure you, it’s just easier/more cost effective not to bother with special ingredients anymore than necessary. I already have to shell out for special flours.
They turned out pretty good (I ate some four of them to check. 9_9 don’t judge me…). The basic recipe I used was adapted from here I used a GF flour instead of a regular flour and used 1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter; there is a conversion chart at this website. They’re soft on the inside, though I think they might have been in the oven for a little too long as the crust felt a little thick, but clearly it isn’t enough to damper my enthusiasm to chomp into them.
With most things, I’ll have to let my husband try them to see what he thinks. It’s definitely a savoury recipe and he tends to like sweet things, so I’ll have to take that into consideration. If someone wanted to turn this into a dairy-free food, skip the cheese – it’s there basically just for flavour anyway – and I could see using a soy or nut milk instead of normal/buttermilk. Maybe add a little bit of lemon or vinegar to give the bicarbonate of soda something to react with, but otherwise, I would think the results wound be similar if not the same. Another side note: the biscuit recipe is naturally egg-free, though if I’m wrong about that cheese, you might need to throw an egg in as a binder. Give it a try and let me know in the comments. 😀