America, Animals, Canada, Family, Funny, Travel

Bear With Me

Can we just gloss over the fact that I haven’t written in what seems like forever? Can we also skip over the part where I wrote a post about our fishing excursion to Canada that we took in September, and then I promptly did not post it when we got home? Okay, good, moving forward, here’s my synopsis.

Never have I thought of so many good names for a post. Brittney and the Bear, Hodge Podge Lodge (my personal favorite), Dish Soap Daze, or What’s That Noise on my Front Porch? (never really in the running, but it does pull you in a bit, doesn’t it?)

Did you know that you can use Dawn dish soap as shampoo? Did you also know that packing for a trip is not really my forte’?

You can, in fact, use dish soap as shampoo. I know my mother is cringing to read this, but I also know that this will come as no surprise to her.

I never really pack any sort of toiletries when I travel. There are two reasons for this: 1) everyone always packs toiletries (except for, apparently, my dad) so I feel like it’s a waste to not just share 2) generally where I end up at, there will be some toiletries provided.

At a fish camp, the provision included only dish soap. Which was sitting by the kitchen sink and totally only assumed for such a use. However, for me, it’s doubling as shampoo.

Actually, ladies, it really is not half bad.

I feel like I am most in my element at a fish camp. I pretty much started fishing as soon as I could hold a fishing pole. There’s a precious picture of me and my grandpa when I was about 4 years old, down at our farm creek, and I’d caught* a little fish. (*I’m not sure if it counts as catching if someone else baits your hook, casts for you, gets the fish on the line, and lets you reel it in, but I was proud of my trophy, nonetheless). I also feel like I may have written about this before, so if I have and it’s somewhere back in the archives, I do apologize. I try hard not to repeat my stories, so if I ever do this in person, just tell me to tell you a different story and I can move on to something new. But, since I’m writing, you can’t tell me that, so you’ll just have to bear with me.

Speaking of bears, we met a couple on our 15 hour drive up to Canada that had hit an 80 lb bear cub that was precariously trying to cross the road. So, in case you were wondering what Canada is like, yes, it’s everything you’re imagining. Bears, pines, lakes, the whole nine yards.

My dad and I have been known for seeing wildlife while we’ve been in Canada the past few summers. We’ve seen moose and bears, but mostly just along the roads on the drive up there. We’ve never seen anything up close.

Until now.

On our final night in camp, we had a visitor. I woke up to a loud noise in the main room of our cabin and yelled at my dad in the next room to wake up. I was fairly certain someone was trying to break in and wasn’t sure what to do. But, my dad yelled back that it was probably just a bear. He went out to see what the commotion was and looked out the front window, on to the deck that overlooked the lake.

As it was the middle of the night and obviously dark, he couldn’t see anything and turned on the porch light, assuming that the noise maker would scurry as soon as the light came on. Little did he know, upon turning on the light, he would be standing face to face with a wild bear, who had clawed through the window screen and had its nose on the window glass, wanting to be let in.

He did run off, after my dad banged on the front door to scare him. Subsequently also scaring me. And making me want to run off. Never a dull moment with me and thanks to the dish soap, never a dull complexion. I may adopt dish soap into my daily routine after all.

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America, Art, Canada, Culture, Family, Funny, Outdoors, Summer, Travel

For Hire

I’m not quite sure how we ended up in Toronto of all places, but we’re here. I assumed we’d fly through Chicago then north into Canada from there. That seems the most direct route. But, we were routed through Houston, then had a direct 4 hour flight from there.


Have you ever been bumped up from an economy flight to first class? Yeah, me either. 

But, apparently, if this happens to you, when they scan your economy ticket at the gate, the screen lights up and it makes a happy little sound and you know you’ve hit the jackpot. The reason I know this is because it happened to Jake, who was standing in line in front of me.

 I hoped my ticket would make that happy little sound too, but it made the regular scanning noise, sealing my fate for my cramped little seat at the back of the plane and a lukewarm coffee, if I was lucky. 

Jake politely reveled in his win of the day, while the Frenchman behind me tried to talk him into trading seats. But, two minutes later when we boarded the plane, the Frenchman and I decided economy wasn’t so bad after all. 

Jake happened to have won a seat right next to a screaming infant. The Frenchman and I bid him adieu and made our own jokes about how he had to sit by the be’be.  

As usual, I was seated on the last row of the plane. And as I took my seat, I could still hear the little guy next to Jake yelling. 

Some people might not expect this of me, but I’m not really great with kids. Kids are okay, I don’t dislike them. And they don’t dislike me. We generally get along. They smile at me and I smile back. We make small talk with each other. They hold my hand and look at my bracelets. But, I just don’t really know what to do with them. 

I’m fine with little babies, they pretty much just eat and sleep. If they’re crying, you have about three options for what they need. They’re pretty predictable.

But, from around 1 on to about 7, kids kinda baffle me. They can almost take care of themselves, but not really. They’ve got strong little personalities they’re developing. They don’t like coffee, they generally don’t like vegetables, they’re just not really that compatible with me. 

Jake, on the other hand, loves kids. He knows exactly what they want, he knows how to talk to them on their level, he can engage them, and they love it. If there is a kid in the room, they naturally gravitate towards him. 

I settled into the flight, talking to my new French friend, and putting on my headphones to watch a movie. As the flight attendant came to ask me what I wanted to drink, I took my headphones off and noticed that the be’be had finally quieted down. 

I resumed my movie, until something caught my attention. 


Jake. Walking up and down the aisle, carrying the now content, be’be, also known as Peter. 

Apparently, Peter’s mom couldn’t get him to calm down, so she handed him off to Jake. Peter’s dad and older sister were sitting in economy and as Jake walked by carrying Peter, the dad thanked him for helping out with the boy. 

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Peter had been throwing a fit in first class, in the seat between Jake and his mother. His mom had tried calming him to no avail, but Jake grabbed him up, set him on his lap, and he became content. “Peter likes you, Jacob” was the mother’s consent, and thus, Jacob and Peter were a pair. 

The family was Nigerian, and from what I could tell, the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” is used in the most literal terms there. 

Upon getting off the plane, Jake told me that he had been commended by the flight crew for making that flight enjoyable for them and the other passengers around him. He also informed me that he had been invited to Nigeria, in case we ever wanted to visit. 

I don’t think we’ll be going anytime soon, but I am having him add Nigerian Nanny to his list of job experiences on his resume’. I’d hire him any day. 

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America, Animals, Canada, Culture, Family, Food, Funny, Outdoors, Summer, Travel

Drenched

Guess who fell into the lake? In full rain gear. They say that stuff is waterproof. Which is true. As long as you don’t accidentally fully submerge yourself in said water. 

The soon to be drenched clothing (with an added rainjacket)

I have this patented Brittney move when we come in to dock. I step out of the boat, holding the rope in my hand, onto the dock with one foot, then pull the boat (with the rope and my other foot) snug to the dock to tie it. This works okay (although now going over it in my mind, it’s really not the smartest move, but it made sense to me when I was doing it) as long as you have the rope in your hand, to anchor yourself and keep control of the boat, which your other foot is still in. If you are distracted, and forget to grab the rope, there is a slight possibility that the boat will come out from underneath you and dump you into the 60 degree lake water. Which is what happened. 

The water was not that deep, seeing as how we were right at the dock. But, somehow, I managed not to catch myself at all and went completely under, thoroughly soaking every single thing I had on. Which was three layers of clothing. A wool pullover, which has yet to dry out, a long sleeve shirt, the aforementioned rain pants and jacket, even my ballcap was dripping. 

I wasn’t wearing a lifejacket either. See, I have this theory. My dad got me a ground blind for deer hunting a few years ago for Christmas. I think it was a gift partially for me, partially for himself. It’s essentially a camo tent he can sit me in, out in the woods. There are a few benefits to it. He can go off to his tree stand, with full assurance that he hasn’t set me in a tree stand that I could potentially fall out of. Although, why he’d ever be nervous about me falling out of something is beyond me. And he knows that by putting me in a ground blind, I am less likely to distract a potential target with the flipping of my book pages, as I’m reading and patiently waiting for something to walk by. 

So, he got me the ground blind for Christmas, and we took it out for its inaugural hunt the day after Christmas. There’s a short, few days rifle hunt right after the holiday to complete the year. So, he put me in my blind and trailed off through the woods, with the promise that if I shot (which would be a rare occurrence), he’d come find me. Sure enough, right at dark, a doe walked out, and I shot. It wasn’t my best shot, as demonstrated by the hour long tracing of a tiny blood trail down a steep hill. But, I got it, and the guys found it, hauled it up and we deemed my ground blind a perfect gift. 

A few weeks ago, my brother insisted on buying me a bike helmet because he thought it might hurt if I fell off, going 20 mph down the dirt road. Again, I don’t have any idea why he’d think I’d be injury prone. So, he got me one, and I begrudgingly wear it. But, I was 100% sure that on my first ride wearing it, I’d have a wreck. I didn’t, but still. 

The bike helmet proponent himself

So, my dad nearly insisted on getting me a fancy life jacket that automatically inflates the moment you hit the water. And, I didn’t let him, because I knew if I did, I’d fall out. 

Looks like that logic worked out well for me. 

I had a conversation with him during one of our boat rides about whether or not he felt that I could drink the lake water without getting some sort of terrible disease. He said I probably could, but he didn’t want me to try it. I wanted to try it. 

Looks clean and blue and beautiful, right?

Well, when I fell in, I got the chance. Because I accidentally gulped a good amount down. And not the deep, middle of the lake water that I was wanting to try. No, the grimy, shoreline, dock variety. The possibility of illness remains to be seen. 

Luckily, I hauled myself up, laughing. I was slightly terrified because our float plane pilot had told me not to put my feet in the water, for the chance that the pike might bite my toes off, mistaking my bright orange toenail polish for bait. I’m still not sure if he was kidding or not, but I didn’t want to take any chances. 

The pike, however, weren’t interested in my toes. So, I dried off, went back out, and tried a less dangerous boat maneuver, and a more natural colored bait. Which they fell for. Hook, line, and sinker. 

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Culture, Food, Travel

Recipe Rethink

I’ve been lied to my whole life. Apparently, perch are not perch. I hope this is coming as a shock to everyone else too. What we call perch in the South are technically sunfish (I think. You might want to fact check me on that. Actually, just make a mental note now, you should always fact check me on everything I say.) So, upon discovering this, I felt I needed to take a picture with my first ever actual perch. Look at how cute this little guy was!

Note that I am wearing three layers. In June.

Note that I am wearing three layers. In June.

I’ve decided there should be a section on every recipe that gives you directions for cooking in less than ideal conditions. Sometimes, they’ll include directions for cooking at high altitudes, but how often do you make macaroni and cheese on a mountain? One time. I have done that one time. Which I was excited about because I got to use the special high altitude directions.

I’m not high maintenance. I can make do in a lot of situations. I think it’s more that I’m not very ingenuitive. Is that a word? As you can imagine, in a fish camp, the kitchens aren’t as fully equipped. Which isn’t usually a big deal because I don’t cook much on these trips. My dad is easy to please, so pretty much any sustenance will do. In fact, I think both of us could dine on only fish all week and be perfectly content. But, I bring a few easy things to throw together. And some vegetables, we can’t forget the veggies.

This year, I decided to get a little more inventive. Before we left, my brother asked if I wanted to take the mandolin (which I did consider, even though I’ve never used it before) or a cutting knife. But, I declined. If you know my track record with kitchen clumsiness, you’ll know why I declined.

I had a couple recipes I intended to make and at home, they seemed like no big deal. Unfortunately, I didn’t think things all the way through.

For banana pudding, you were supposed to whisk until smooth. No whisk? Use every utensil in the kitchen looking for the best fix and end up just using a fork. I’m pretty sure even the pioneer women had whisks. (By the way, is that word looking weird to anyone besides me?) I’ll fast forward and tell you that the fork method doesn’t really work all that well and that the pudding was definitely not smooth. The directions also said I needed to crush the cookies to sprinkle on the pudding. Luckily, the kind people at United Airlines took care of that step for me. Food processor? Completely unnecessary.

Crushed cookies

Crushed cookies

Steaming broccoli: all you need is some boiling water, right? Wrong. I forgot that a steamer basket would be needed for this task. My solution? A colander over boiling water, with a misfit lid. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think this was going to work. I thought I might end up with a new dish called broccoli a la plastic. But, it worked really well actually. Ya’ll make a note of this one, in case you are ever in a broccoli steaming pinch.

Quality engineering

Quality engineering

No pie plates? No problem. Use a cast iron skillet. It’s rustic. It should also be noted that the handle is super hot coming out of the oven and almost caused a second hand burning episode. (If you missed out on the first episode, read back a few posts and you’ll be all caught up). Luckily, my hand was saved the burning and no other major injuries were incurred. #success.

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Culture, Food, Travel

Clean Cut

I think it should be noted that I’m writing this standing in front of the open oven door, seeing as how it is currently colder in our cabin than it is outside. 44 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. Which doesn’t seem that cold to anyone else, apparently. But, I won’t see temperatures like these til Fall. I don’t know how one place can go from freezing cold to hot in such a short amount of time. I wake up in the morning and I’m camping out in front of the oven, eating cereal, in sweats and a hoodie. I come in for the afternoon and camp out on the front porch, in shorts and a t-shirt, because it’s warm and stuffy in the cabin. I’ve noticed that layers seem to be the key here.

Layered up in rain gear

Layered up in rain gear

Being in a fish camp is so funny. Everyone wants to know where everyone else has been, what they’ve seen, what they’ve caught. How deep? How many? What bait? What did the water look like? What direction was the wind blowing? Weeds? No weeds?

I let the guys talk those things over, while I go through my list of concerns. Do we have enough coffee to last us through the morning? Will I need two jackets or will one be okay? Do I want an apple or a banana as a snack today? You know, the truly important things.

The best of the talk happens in what I refer to as the fish house. Jesse, the expert fish cleaner, was in there with piles of perfectly cut fillets. So, I decided rather than stand around and talk about the walleye spawn, I’d watch and learn something relevant. While observing, I learned what instrumentation was, heard about a Canadian cattle farmer who cut his thumb off with a saw, threw it in the trash, wrapped it and kept on going, talked about bungee jumping vs. skydiving, scars from childhood games of falling out of trees (Canadians seem like a tough bunch to me), the difference between Canadian and American Netflix (did you know there was a difference or am I the only one out of the loop on this?) and our similar taste in music (my favorite Johnny Cash song just happened to be playing while I was there). There, of course, were guys who came in to talk fishing and I made some mental notes about maps and bays and such. But, talking about life stories seems so much more interesting to me than depths and maps and figures.

Jesse making fish cleaning look easy

Jesse making fish cleaning look easy

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I was inspired and thought it would be fun to learn to properly clean a fish. This is a true Canadian experience, right? What made me decide this, I have no idea. The opportunity just presented itself. There is nothing in my current skill set that lends to the fact that I would be good at this. Unless you count the 3 million watermelon I’ve cut up in my lifetime. Which is a total exaggeration. And, which is nothing like cutting up a fish.

Jesse agreed to teach me (I would say he had no idea what he was getting himself into, but he actually probably did) and since he hadn’t cleaned my catch yet, he methodically went through all the cuts and showed me what to do on one of my fish, then let me try on the second one. As you can imagine, I was half paying attention, half chit-chatting. which, I know, is coming as a huge surprise to anyone who knows me.

I made the appropriate cuts and was very proud at the end of that venture. Mine looked a little rough, but nothing too terrible. It came up a huge storm and started pouring buckets with the loudest thunder that echoed off the water, so I got a little distracted while Jesse finished up.

Let me interpret this for you: I missed all the important steps at the end.

Stormy skies

Stormy skies

After this venture, I realized I had no pictures to document the proof of my newly established fish cleaning capabilities. I decided that I needed to clean one more in order to document it, plus I was absolutely sure I’d be better at it the second time around. This poor fish, he had no idea what was in store for him.

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(Let me make a side note that in the taking of this picture, I nearly fell out of the boat, then dropped the fish on my yellow rain jacket, covering it and me and the book I was reading, and everything else in my near vicinity in a layer of slimy mud.)
As I was walking to the fish house with him, my dad asked if I was going to cut the bones out. (Northern Pike have a row of Y bones that have to be cut out.) Only then did I realize that I hadn’t been privy to that lesson the day before and that I was going to need some “guidance”, at which Jesse walked up at the perfect moment for. So, I did filet the fish expertly (in my own opinion, probably not in anyone else’s), remembering everything he taught me, step by step from the day before.

Here’s the steps:

#1: whack it in the head. I’m not sure if this is an official step or not, but it seems necessary.

#2: cut right behind the gills, underneath the first fin, down until you hit the back bone. I was nervous about cutting through too far, but you actually have to push pretty hard because traction is difficult on a slimy fish.

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#3: cut down his backbone making tiny, almost feathery motions, until you come to the end. You would think guys who cut up fish all day would be rough, but it’s a more delicate skill than it’s given credit for.

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#4: at the end, stick your knife all the way through to its lower back fin and cut off through the tail. Do this on both sides and you’ll have your filets.

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See, this is where I thought the process stopped. But, it was after this that the train completely derailed. So there are about 25 other steps and cuts after this, but I’ll shorten my experience for you.

#5: make a lot of really terrible cuts and effectively butcher it all to pieces.

Jesse was making me laugh at my awful cutting

Laughing at my awful cutting

You know, I thought fish cleaning was something you could be naturally inclined for. (I actually think this about a lot of things so I like to try everything because what if I’m naturally inclined for something random that I’ve never discovered before? Like playing the harmonica or something? You could go your whole life without knowing you’re excellent at something, and what a waste that would be, right?) But, no doubt, it is a skill, learned and honed by practice. I think it would take me 100 fish to learn to do one properly. Jesse even had this cool way to clean around the bones and get even more meat off the fish, which was impressive for my “waste not, want not” personality. He showed me the “easy” way. I wasn’t good at most of it (really any of it) but, I was good at skinning it. (He told me I was better at the whole process than most guys he had seen try to learn it, so I’m counting that as win, although I’m sure he was just being nice.)

I will say one thing about my fish cleaning escapade. You never learn anything if you don’t try and a willingness to learn new things will take you far in life. I just don’t think it’s gonna take me anywhere near a filet knife again.

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