Real Fun Food

April 11, 2014
by realfunfood
1 Comment

hot cross buns

This might be the dumbest post I ever write, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world to have never eaten a hot cross bun or even realize it was something more than what you play on the recorder in fourth grade.

If you’re the only person in the world who hasn’t heard this, watch Angelika play. She isn’t very good, but she got some good YouTube comments.

“she stink u dont play right bich” I kind of have to agree. If you can’t play Hot Cross Buns on the recorder you are probably a bich.

“I’m 40 and I can’t play anything, that was fantastic.” He’s obviously a bich.

At work the other day we had a morning meeting and they provided coffee and plates full of pastries. I looked at the buns with crosses and furrowed my brow. Then everyone was asking why I was photographing hot cross buns.

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I guess I don’t pay attention to pastries, sweets that aren’t chocolate, or baked goods in general. I don’t really enjoy them and don’t frequent that area of the supermarket. I loved these buns though, and had three! One at the meeting, I saved (stole) one for later, then I had one the next day that my co-worker “saved.”

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Peace out, biches.

April 4, 2014
by realfunfood
2 Comments

dogs in boxes ride free

My life is not conducive to frequent blogging anymore. I just can’t handle writing a blog post that says, “Today I went home and ate Dominos leftovers from last weekend, in bed, while watching Gossip Girl.” I can barely stand to watch Gossip Girl, yet somehow that’s where I am in life right now. I’m almost done with Californication and Gilmore Girls, so I’ve started Gossip Girl for some reason. I still live in a house with a dark, dingy kitchen and broken oven so I try to make take-away last as long as possible, and I also make a lot of pasta in bulk with a bag of greens dumped in so I don’t feel too unhealthy. Luckily I work at a place with a really healthy restaurant in-house that is deeply discounted for staff!

That’s my day-to-day life, but since I’m living such an unbloggable daily life I have money to save and travel now, which is exciting!

Last month I booked a random weekend trip to Budapest. I didn’t know anything about Budapest, but it sounded exciting and the tickets were cheap.

We used Airbnb and got a great deal. Bright green studio flat in the center of the city!

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The highlights of Budapest:

-An outdoor thermal bath!!!
-Very clean and organized
-Food = amazing
-Food = cheap
-Overall incredibly cheap!

One of my favorite things I’ve ever done in Europe was go to this outdoor heated bath in Budapest. It cost only about £10 to get in, and it was just so fun going swimming in the winter. Granted it was in the 50s, so not too cold!

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We went on a wine tasting night cruise, which was funny because we were pretty sure they gave us 8 glasses of wine from the same bottle. It was meant to be a sample of Hungarian wines, but it was all super sweet whites. It didn’t matter because the views were incredible! This was their parliament:

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The food was GREAT, apart from the langos we got at the Great Market. This picture is of the sample, but we tried the plain version with just sour cream and cheese. Total mistake. I think if you’re going to try this traditional dish, go for the gold and get all the toppings.

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Great Market Hall was  … great! Mostly lots of touristy things and food stalls with traditional food, but worth a quick visit.

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You can also buy everyone you know Hungarian paprika with cute little bags and scoops!

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All the other food was fantastic and SO much cheaper than London. We ate in a wine cellar-type restaurant, which is why this photo of my apples filled with “cheese lava” is so dark. I’m not a fan of sweetish dishes or really of fruit, but I had to order something described as “cheese lava.”

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And the below picture was from a random restaurant we stopped in that was filled with pictures of naked women on the walls for some reason. I ordered meat pancakes, which sounded disgusting, but it was described as a traditional Hungarian dish so I went for it. Again, this picture does NOT do it justice and is potentially worse than the cheese lava apples picture, but it was one of my favorite food discoveries ever. It was basically like a pulled pork Mexican burrito … but Hungarian?? Amazing. And that’s a split tomato slice, not a mustache or lips or tongue. I couldn’t decide what it looked like, but split tomato wasn’t one of things I initially thought.

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We did a lot of walking around the city and lucked out with sunny weather. The city was so clean and I felt really safe the whole time, even when walking around at night.

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Their public transportation was super cute and I felt like I was in the 1940s. It was so nice to take public transportation that doesn’t smell like pee and isn’t full of angry people. When I took this picture my friend said it was misleading because people would see “Opera” and think Hungarian is a language where words are recognizable. They are not at all!!

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Their public transport was also very orderly. Upon arrival in Budapest we were given a booklet with the rules, which we were also reminded of all over the trains. You are to put your dog in a box if you want it to ride for free, otherwise he needs a ticket, too! All the rules made me feel really happy because there was no chaos and everything was great. Budapest is an example of how nice things can be if everyone just followed the rules.

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In conclusion: visit Budapest, but don’t bring your dog.

Also, check out my latest post on Food Network UK: Is it Okay to Eat McDonald’s on Holiday?

February 24, 2014
by realfunfood
2 Comments

the human fund.

teen-beat

Remember JTT?! In fifth grade my friends and I all ordered JTT calendars, and he was the only reason I bought teen mags.  I remember when I bought the Lion King soundtrack and heard him singing as Simba I set the CD down, looked at some of my Teen Beats and sighed, wondering if I’d ever meet a guy as amazing as JTT.

To date, he has been the only real celeb crush I’ve ever had. I flirted with Ryan Gosling for a while, but it didn’t last. JTT was my first love. (It’s too bad those articles aren’t archived online; I’d really like to read about how he took his finals in a cave.)

My friend Polis had a 90s-themed birthday party Friday night, and let me tell you – 90s clothes are COMFORTABLE. Baggy jeans, flannel, neon tennis shoes.

pbday

We put up little posters all over the house. Slappy the dummy!

posters

slappy

There was food! Including some very interesting sweets that are apparently well-known in England. Those little discs just above the cake taste like cardboard, then it melts in your mouth and you find a fruity gel. [shudder]

There were also lots of Quorn vegetarian cocktail sausages, which are amazingly wonderful. I’m a pretty big fan of Quorn products, although I’d generally say I don’t like meat replacements.

food

Then there was the music. There was a playlist that had EIGHT HOURS of 90s songs (including Salt-N-Pepa’s Shoop, our favorite), but somehow he didn’t manage to put a single Will Smith tune on there (Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It, Will2K, Wild Wild West, Just The Two Of Us, Miami – nothing.) As an avid fan of Will Smith’s music, you can understand how that was upsetting. I have to give him credit, however, for remembering to put Tina Arena on the list.

ALSO – No one in my office understands why I keep laughing about this, but I have to go to a meeting with the Humanitarian Fund today, and I was calling it the Human Fund.

February 18, 2014
by realfunfood
2 Comments

first day in kenya

I didn’t realize until after it happened, but our trip to Kenya took 26 hours.

We took a 3-hour Turkish Airlines flight from London to Istanbul on Tuesday, and then a 6-hour overnight flight to Nairobi. (Turkish Airlines was so much better than any American flights I’ve had!! I loved how each flight started with a Turkish Delight, and then they hand you a little menu of the food you’ll be served later in the flight. I felt special.)

One thing I was not expecting was how excited I was. I get excited about a lot of things in life, and of course I was really looking forward to this safari. But when we were getting close to Nairobi I realized we were 100% over Africa and I felt excitement I haven’t felt since I used to believe in Santa and was awaiting his arrival on Christmas Eve. Africa was always some far away place I saw on a map, but it seemed so far away I never had any imagination of actually going there.

When we landed, everything I saw was exciting – and let me tell you, the Nairobi airport is nothing to get excited about. Their immigration center is in a converted parking garage – a visibly converted parking garage. But still, we saw a cat and it was like, “Omg look! A Kenyan cat!!”

Our safari camp had organized a cab to pick us up at 4 am. The first thing I noticed about Kenya was that everything was in English, and everyone speaks English. It was definitely obvious that we were in a different country, though. Immediately outside the airport there was a homeless person who had made a big bonfire in the median of the road, and it wasn’t uncommon to see security guards with big machine guns just hanging around. Our driver told us he really wanted to show us the city, but at night it was too risky because the street boys could attack the car and steal all our stuff.

We went to a beautiful local hotel for breakfast, and as with most places it seemed, you had to go through airport-like security checks to enter. At first I played it safe with coffee, corn flakes and tinned peaches – no milk.

nairobi-breakfast

But then they brought a full buffet that included curries, potatoes and wimbi porridge, which was the only breakfast food up there! Apparently it’s a traditional Kenyan porridge made from millet. I put a little sugar in and it was good! It reminded me a bit of chocolate instant oatmeal.

wimbi-porridge

After breakfast we started the 5-6 hour drive from Nairobi to Masai Mara. Shortly after leaving Nairobi we came to the Great Rift Valley just as the sun was rising.

rift-valley

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I was so tired, but too excited to sleep much in the car. I didn’t want to miss one detail of Kenya! In the long drive to Masai Mara we passed many villages, and almost all of the buildings were made of simple concrete or sheet metal and every sign was hand-painted. One odd thing we noticed was that Coca-Cola has a very heavy advertising presence in Kenya! There were so many buildings painted completely red with Coke images. One random building was painted entirely green and had a Wrigley’s gum logo on it. It was hard to get pictures, but I managed to get one non-blurred image that is pretty typical of what every town looked like.

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About an hour or two outside of the camp the road was no longer paved so it was an extremely bumpy ride, but fun! We saw zebras and baboons before we were technically in the reserve.

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When we finally pulled up to the reserve gates the local villagers immediately came to the windows trying to sell us beaded jewelry and other goods. They were so forceful that they would drop things through the windows onto our laps and ask for the money, so while our driver was talking to the guards we were constantly picking things up off our laps and shoving them back through the window (we later bought a load of gifts from the local villages).

We were welcomed to our gorgeous safari camp with a fruity non-alcoholic cocktail. I’d read repeated warnings not to eat fruit in Africa, but this drink looked so good I decided to risk it. (I later found out it was totally safe to eat anything in this camp.)

sara

We got settled in our tent (video and pictures to come!) and had a quick lunch before we went out on our first game drive, where I saw my first giraffe!

The is the view from our tent, which was spectacular. I fretted a lot about what to wear on this safari. I ended up bringing long dresses for around camp and a few long-sleeved, loose fitting button up shirts to wear on the drives or tied around dresses. I also bought three different hats! One nice one (pictured below) for the wedding or meals at camp, one for drives, and then a safari visor that didn’t work out.

safari-dress

The weather the whole time we were there was in the low 70s, but once we got out on the drive it started to get a bit chilly. We spotted a cheetah and her cub sitting out in the open, but in no time at all a massive storm blew through. All of a sudden it started hailing and pouring. We put up all the windows and wrapped ourselves in Masai blankets.

It was so funny because the cheetahs didn’t even blink an eye when they were getting hit with chunks of ice. They sat there like nothing was happening. We watched them for a while, then went back to the camp for dinner.

Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of dinner most nights because it was just too dark in the tent to get a good shot. I got a few good ones of lunch and breakfast, though, so I’ll do a separate food post later!

February 11, 2014
by realfunfood
4 Comments

africa: the big cats

I’m posting the cats first because I’m saving the best for last! Even though I’m a huge cat lover, the big cats weren’t even in the top three of my favorite animals we saw on safari.

On our second day we went on a long game drive and stopped in an open space to have a picnic.

picnic

The camp was great, because they packed us a gorgeous lunch both times we were out more than a couple hours. I’ll do a full post later on our safari camp – which was perfect. Like literally every single moment was happiness so it can only be described as perfect.

I stayed away from salads and non-cooked foods, although everyone in the camp ate them and no one got sick. Our camp used purified, clean water for everything so it was totally safe, but I still didn’t risk it at any point while in Kenya because I know how easily I get sick!

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Except I spaced out and took a sandwich and didn’t realize until halfway through that it had raw vegetables! But as I said, Entumoto was perfection and there wasn’t a risk of getting sick with the food they prepared so I was fine.

The pasta salad was something we had a lot – just a light dressing and vegetables. Yum! The bright blanket was actually a Masai blanket that the locals wear. They all wear similar bright red blankets so they can easily see each other from a distance and also to scare away animals.

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We ate, and toward the end of the meal we noticed there were a few lions in the distance. We packed up quickly and drove up right next to them.

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They weren’t my favorite because although they are cute and mighty creatures, it wasn’t exactly fascinating to watch them sit in grass and occasionally bathe. I watch my own cats do this at home, but at least with them you can go poke them and play with them!

Speaking of which, I get really offended when I pet my cats and they immediately start licking their fur, like I’m the smelly one! :)

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Don’t get me wrong – it was amazing seeing lions. But every time we saw one I was thinking, “It’s so cool that I get to have a mini lion at home.” When I saw giraffes or elephants, they were so incredible that I was wishing we could have mini giraffes running around the house instead of mini lions! (Sorry, Harris!)

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This was an older lion we saw earlier in the day. Their manes are darker and fuller when they’re older.

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This was a very young male lion, and the most exciting that lion-viewing got. He was sitting in the grass when we pulled up, and after a few minutes he decided to go sit on the other side of the car by his brothers. For a moment it was really scary because he walked straight toward the car and came within a couple feet. People kind of freaked out and said we should drive away, but our guide said it was fine and that he wouldn’t jump in the car!

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And he didn’t. He went to the other side and sat down.

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When he decided to leave again someone didn’t want him to go …

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The cheetahs were more interesting because I realized I didn’t know much about them before. For example, I couldn’t have told you the difference between a cheetah and a leopard. The cheetah has solid spots, and two black lines coming down from each eye. The cheetah can easily be found out in the open because it uses its speed to catch food, while the leopard hides because it catches food by stalking. We never found the leopard, but we did find one of its kills hanging from a tree. The leopard was kind of scary because I was always wondering if it was sitting in the shadows watching us.

The whole time on safari I never felt in danger, but I always had this mysterious leopard on the back of my mind!

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Yawn.

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Lick.

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Our guide told us we could tell how hungry the animal was based on the size of its stomach. This cheetah hadn’t eaten in 3-4 days because her stomach is very sunken in, as you can see in the top picture. Her cub’s stomach wasn’t quite as small, so he said it looked like the cub had eaten more recently. He said perhaps the mother caught something that was too small to share, so the cub ate it.

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The cub was a lot more active, and was constantly rolling around and yawning.

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I want one!!

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Each time we saw the hungry cheetahs they’d look at us and slowly blink, which made me think about how Harris goes into the kitchen, sits by his food dish and starts blinking at us to say he’s hungry.

February 10, 2014
by realfunfood
6 Comments

back from africa

I got back from Kenya last night, and although I was excited to go and had been planning it for months, I had no idea that I’d love it so much I wanted to cry when we left.

I won’t have my photos for a few days because I took almost 700 so it will take me a while to go through them. I can’t wait to write all about it, so today I’ll post a few pictures and videos I took on my iPhone.

One day during lunch (we ate under the tree on the left in the background) we realized there were a few lions a short distance away. We packed up quickly and drove over. None of the lions cared that we were literally five feet away from them. Generally they just looked at us and blinked a lot, and then went back to doing nothing.

This particular lion, however, decided to get up to go sit next to his brothers, who were on the other side of our Land Cruiser. We all got really scared (especially the men!) because he walked directly toward us, but I got an amazing shot on my other camera of him walking and looking straight at me from only a couple feet away. Scary!!

lion

On the last day before lunch we went to the Tanzania border, although we didn’t go in. It was extremely cool to have lunch while overlooking the Serengeti.

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No matter how many times we saw giraffes I couldn’t get over the fact that they were right in front of me. Their color was so vibrant that the contrast with the green always made them look like I Photoshopped them into the pictures!

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This is my first attempt at taking videos and using Vimeo. Doesn’t look as good as the quality on my iPhone, but it’s a start! Several times we drove right in the middle of a herd of elephants and just sat there watching them eat and play.

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Of course I took tons of food pictures, and I don’t know where to start with that because everything was so fresh and wonderful. I didn’t get sick at all – which I was totally expecting to considering all the warnings about what not to eat. The camp we stayed at was incredible, and most of the food we ate was prepared by them. This was only a selection of what was available for breakfast one day:

breakfast

I have so much to say about my week in Kenya that’s it’s very hard to stop now, but I want to save all the stories for the good photos!

February 4, 2014
by realfunfood
6 Comments

first malaria dream?

Malaria pils are famous for causing all sorts of reactions, from stomach sickness to crazy dreams and hallucinations. I strongly considered not taking them, especially after taking typhoid pills and feeling really nauseated for two days.

But, I decided to risk it!

I fell asleep immediately last night but woke up with a start a short while later. I had a very short dream that my boyfriend lifted up his laptop to pack it and discovered 5-6 pieces of sliced ham that I’d hidden underneath. When he’d moved the laptop he tore them and some got smashed in the vents.

He looked at me and asked why I put ham under his laptop, and I immediately woke up thinking, “Why did I put ham under his computer??”

January 31, 2014
by realfunfood
2 Comments

single-serving friends

I used to hate cab drivers. I had to take a lot of cabs when I worked at my last job, and at the end of my late night shift I’d feel so God-awful depressed and dead to the world that the last thing I wanted was to have to speak to a stranger. Then one day I realized cab drivers are a gold mine of stories because they’re from all over the world and have driven people from all over the world.

Last weekend I had a driver who happened to be from Kenya, so I had lots of questions for him since I’m going on a safari soon!

My boyfriend, his friend and I all took a class in the city to learn how to make focaccia and Irish soda bread, then decided to get a cab home. Our driver commented on all the bread and asked if we were at a bakery. He started telling us how much he loves a good bakery, and how they are totally worth traveling to once you find the perfect one.

“You know when you find that perfect bakery and you say to your friends, ‘I’ll be back in a couple hours. I’m going … to the bakery.’”

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I’m not sure the driver and I were talking about the same thing, but his bakery sounds infinitely more exciting.

I then asked him if he could recommend any Kenyan restaurants in London, and he got really excited, telling me that if I didn’t have any plans he could take me straight there because it was only a 30 minute drive back to East London.

I was confused by this, wondering if it was a “just friends” type of affair, which meant I wouldn’t have to pay him for the hour round-trip journey, and if the two guys I was with were also invited to go to the restaurant. Sadly, I had to decline his offer, but he did give me lots of good tips on Kenyan food to look out for during my trip.

And on that note, here are a few thoughts about my safari preparations!

The camp

Looks amazing. I didn’t choose the place, and in fact never thought I’d get to go on a safari. Here are three photos from their site:

view-from-the-tent

camp1

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Food

I am nervous!! Unfortunately, I am easily sickened by foods. I want to try as much as possible, and I’m sure the food in our camp will be safe, but just in case I have packed a whole bag full of LÄRABARs and Nakd bars. It’s recommended for everyone to bring anti-diarrhea tablets, so we bought about six packs!

Clothing

What to wear was the biggest issue. Not in terms of fashion, but in terms of being comfortable and safe. I wanted to balance being cool (temps about 80F) with being mostly covered to help protect from insect bites. I bought a lot of super light-weight shirts, pants (most are looser than this picture), and three hats. We are going for a wedding, and I still have no clue what I am going to wear so I have packed several options.

safari

Memory-keeping

I bought a disposable camera because I thought it would be fun to get photos developed from such a special trip. You never know what you are going to get with film, and it’s so exciting. I also am bringing my DSLR and iPhone 5. I figure I can take my DSLR around my neck, and keep my iPhone and disposable camera in my fanny pack. So my safari should be well documented!!

Vaccinations

Every time I had to get a vaccination I got really angry. I saved up for this safari for *six* months, and then when I thought I had it paid off I realized one shot at a time that the cost was NOT finished. I had to get Hepatitis A, Diphtheria, Polio, Tetanus, Yellow Fever, Typhoid tablets, Malaria tablets – all of which cost me about £200/$320. The malaria tablets are the worst because the side effects are apparently horrible. Listed among the side effects are things like psychotic reactions and sleep disturbances, and then at the bottom of this list it says hallucinations, but includes a note to say those are rare. Which means the others aren’t?! Not looking forward to taking them. I talked to three people who went to Africa and said they skipped the malaria tablets altogether.

In England they don’t say “shots,” they say “jabs,” so I have had fun saying things like, “Well, I’m off to get my jabs!”

One more thing! I have written a few things on Food Network UK, and you can see my profile here.

January 15, 2014
by realfunfood
6 Comments

Christmas in Ohio

Something that’s never happened to me in England: walking outside and realizing every single hair in my nose has immediately frozen. It was my first Christmas at home in five years, and I definitely forgot how cold it gets in the Midwest!

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The past four Christmases in England I usually tried to make some sort of proper dinner, but it was nothing special. We had a full Christmas dinner this year, with an addition of home-made green bean casserole at my request (although I insisted on store-bought French fried onions).

One of my favorite things were the collard greens tossed in a honey + Tabasco sauce. I got this idea from a Southern restaurant in London, and my dad decided to try it on greens. It was a hit!

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I think it’s mostly a British thing, but my parents also made Yorkshire puddings, which I love!

I don’t really drink alcohol anymore (more on that later), so I had diet coke with ice in a mason jar. I started drinking out of Mason jars ironically, to make fun of hipsters, but then I started doing it so much that it wasn’t really a joke anymore. I’ve always liked using unusual glasses for regular drinks. When I was little I always wanted to drink chocolate milk out of wine glasses, and even today I still use wine glasses for non-alcohol drinks!

xmas-dinner

Grandma got tired.

grandma

Over Christmas I got to know a new addition to the family: Rue. She’s wearing a sweater because it was -6F out and my mom was worried if the car broke down that her tiny kitten body would freeze to death in the car. After the picture she also got wrapped in a blanket!

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Rue and her older “sister,” Maya, are my sister’s cats so they were staying with my parents over the holidays. Maya likes to chill out by the fireplace and sleep on laps.

maya-fireplace

We played a lot of board games, specifically Ticket to Ride. I also had a plate of Totino’s pizza rolls!!! I don’t care how unhealthy they are. I miss pizza rolls! I love everything about them, even the way they make you think they’ve cooled, but then you bite into them and pizza lava shoots into your mouth.

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I also did a lot of shopping while I was back home because I knew I’d score big time at the after Christmas sales. December 26 is a holiday in the UK, but not in the US so while I imagine a lot of people still take the day off, the shops weren’t crowded. I mostly went to Banana Republic and LOFT, where much of the selections were already on sale, and then an additional 50% of sale prices. I got a suitcase full of shirts and dresses for around $10 each! Of course, I also shopped Goodwill big time and got so many essentially brand-new things from the same sorts of stores.

To save more money I did tricks like buying gift cards to get more money off. Example: at BR on Dec 26 if you bought a $100 gift card, they would give you a $20 gift card for free. So I bought the $100 gift card, got the $20 gift card and then used both immediately. We also did this trick in a local restaurant doing the same sort of deal, although obviously not $100! I have to thank my mom for thinking of this!

I was so happy to be home for Christmas finally, but I wasn’t depressed at all to be back in England like I  normally am because I have a really good job now full of co-workers who aren’t depressed and hating life. It makes a huge difference! I’m also pretty excited because I’m going on a safari in Kenya in a couple of weeks, and since it’s so close it’s finally seeming like a reality. I checked the weather and it’s currently 80F and sunny, 0% chance of rain every single day. I have all my food (a stockpile of Lara Bars) and clothes and hats and cameras (digital and disposable!) all picked out and ready to be packed. If anyone has been on a safari, e-mail me because I’d love to hear all about it and I have so many questions!

 

December 5, 2013
by realfunfood
6 Comments

Edinburgh

Ever since I arrived in the UK I’ve had people telling me I MUST go to Edinburgh. At the risk of offending my manager (who is Scottish), I was never that interested in Scotland because I thought it was just an extension of the same stuff you see in England. Thus, I always thought it’d be a waste of money to travel to Scotland when I could go somewhere totally different and exciting in Europe. But! After my trip to Ben Nevis in August and after this trip, I want to live in Scotland!

As soon as we stepped out of the train station I kept thinking I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT. Definitely love at first sight.

Instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to try out Airbnb. We had a whole apartment literally right next to the castle. All we had to do was step out our door and walk up some steps to the castle, which is right in the center of the city.

me-castle

We didn’t actually go into the castle, because we just went to Dover Castle a couple weeks ago and were kind of castle-d out. So instead, we admired the outside and headed off to explore the rest of the city.

castle-night

Much to my pleasure, the Christmas markets were in full swing!

markets

Much to my disdain, they weren’t properly German. I still loved the market, but I was a bit disappointed in the food! Our Currywurst wasn’t chopped or the proper kind of sausage, but it was still good.

me-market

On the first day we went on a full-day tour of the surrounding countryside that included a tour of a Scotch whisky distillery. It was so fun because we stopped multiple places on the way to the distillery so we got to see little towns and hike through the woods.

dunkeld

Just before the distillery we stopped off at Queen’s View.

queens-view

I don’t remember the name of this place, but one of our breaks was a 40-minute round-trip hike up to a waterfall, where we also saw some of the UK’s tallest trees.

river

I was so thankful the fall colors didn’t arrive in the UK until the past couple of weeks, because I loved the contrast of the bright oranges and greens surrounding us on the crazy branches.

branches

The next day we wandered around the city and went to the Scotch Whisky Museum/tour, which I thought was touristy but super fun because you get to ride in a big barrel through the first part while you learn about how whisky is produced. Then they take you into a room where a guide explains the different types of whisky in Scotland (and there’s even a scratch-and-sniff card!), and you then get to choose one and sample it in the room holding the world’s largest whisky collection.

Here is only one wall:

whisk-room

This being my second instructional whisky tasting in two days, I felt like a certified expert. (Prior to becoming an expert I was referring to Scotch as “Scottish whisky.” What a dumbo.)

Growing up my family lived a few places out West, and as a result we got to see a lot of National Parks. This was great because each park would have a set of learning activities you could complete to receive an honorary park ranger badge. They’re titles I’ll proudly hold with me for the rest of my life. If someone mentions say, South Dakota, I can start conversations with, “Yeah? Well, I know from my days as an honorary park ranger at Badlands National Park …”

At the Scotch Whisky Experience there was no badge or physical certification at the end, but when Ian the tour guide looked me in the eye, I knew. I was certified.

I just wrote a post about why it’s silly for it to be acceptable to eat meat from one animal and not another, and I think the same logic applies to one body part but not another. I couldn’t even stop this feeling in myself, and I don’t think my Someone could either. Neither of us was keen try haggis, even though in any mentions of Scotland haggis is in the cloud of associated terms and we definitely wanted to immerse ourselves in this cloud!

We did, however, try Cullen skink, and at the Scotch Whisky Experience restaurant we tried vegetarian haggis in the form of Scottish Dim Sum.

dimsum

The first night we couldn’t get a table ANYWHERE, and I very nearly had a hunger breakdown. Luckily I had an emergency banana, and that held me over until we were able to find Bar Frizzante, which just so happened to be next to Bottoms Up Show Bar. I was not enthused about eating here at first, because I had envisioned us being in Edinburgh having a super romantic meal in a cute restaurant, and how romantic can a meal be when you know someone’s butt cheeks are clapping together next door?

I don’t mean to sound puritanical – I fully support Bottoms Up as an establishment. I’m just not sure butts = romance.

I was SO wrong in my concern. This place was great!! The food was really good, the service was excellent, and they were playing Dean Martin’s greatest hits on repeat, so I was 100% pleased and felt guilty for judging. I didn’t think about the butts next door one time. We shared a pizza, creamed spinach and tiramisu.

photo (41)

The last night we went to a cute little French restaurant by our apartment called Petit Paris. It was good! We usually share plates and each eat half of whatever we ordered then trade, so that way we can try lots more. It’s a great system, although I feel it’s getting into dangerous territory. I love having couple-y things like this, but I’m wary of eventually turning into the kind of person who walks around in a matching track suit. Like, where did that begin? Am I already on that road?

petit-paris

We also had Scottish beef and Scottish smoked salmon. And, of course, Scotch whisky! I have to admit that I always think smoked salmon is a good idea, but when I start eating it I get sick of it after about two bites. I definitely don’t like it unless it’s mixed with something, like scrambled eggs.

salmon

Overall, everyone in Scotland was just so ridiculously friendly. Living among the deadened souls of London, it was incredibly delightful to be surrounded by enthusiastic, happy people. Our tour guide of the historic underground vaults was so over-the-top that even if the tour had been boring (which it wasn’t), it would have been worth it just to see her.

On the tour we also went to the graveyard where Adam Smith is buried. Although I’ve never read The Wealth of Nations, I’ve read about it so I had enough familiarity of his work to channel Buddy from Elf and mentally shout, “ADAM SMITH? I KNOW HIM!”

buddy-the-elf

Speaking of Buddy and Christmastime, it’s almost time for me to finally go back to the US! I haven’t been home since September 2012, and this is the first time in five years I haven’t been stuck in England for Christmas. I CAN’T WAIT.

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