my new life.

I’m back, and I have big things to tell! In summary, I’m a bourbon-drinking, black-cat-owning, downtown Dayton dweller with a brand new “Little Sister.”

samantha-me

By “back” I don’t mean back to blogging – I don’t want to be one of the many bloggers who starts every post with, “Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately …”

I’m not sorry. Sometimes I don’t like blogging. I went through a rough time from approximately February 2014 until November … OK, December. I also moved my whole life from London to Dayton, which I thought would be super easy but was in fact quite difficult (emotionally, not logistically – I don’t have possessions.)

No possessions? No religion, too? Oh wait, John Lennon wasn’t describing me …

I’m back in the sense that I finally feel like myself again and I’m really happy with how everything in my life is going. For such a long time I was so stressed about a relationship that I became a person I didn’t even recognize – or like. I am the kind of person who is easily excited by little things, and I was no longer excited by anything for the better part of last year. I stopped feeling anything and I thought I was broken, which sounds very dramatic like Bella on Twilight.

Recently I was looking for a dentist that would be covered by my insurance and found Kim Dong-Il. Last year I wouldn’t have even smiled. But in 2015 I’m pretty much back to being the teenage boy I’ve always proudly been and giggled about it all day. Life is good now! Everything is funny again. I sometimes feel a little sad thinking about last year, but I’d say I’m 95% normal again.

I’ve also been having all kinds of fun exploring bourbon, which turns out is the PERFECT DRINK. No more breaking of seals and having to pee all night, it’s the best alcohol I’ve ever tasted, and you can sip it and not get drunk! I live near an awesome bourbon bar and I’ve learned so much in the past couple months. I’ve tried more than 40 (!) so far, and what I can say definitively is that Maker’s Mark is so average and a little sweet, but Booker’s is where it’s at. I sometimes describe Booker’s as a punch in the face. It will make your lip go numb. But it’s sooo goood. Here’s a picture from the bar’s site, but actually the picture doesn’t do it justice because you feel like you’re back in time in there. They play old-fashioned music and all the tables are bourbon barrels.

possible-background1

This summer I’m going on the bourbon trail in Kentucky! Last year I tried Scotch in Scotland, but I didn’t really know what was happening. In any case, I’ve tried a few and honestly I like bourbon a lot more.  I can’t wait for this trip.

Since I last posted I got a wonderful job … back in November, so it’s been a while! I still miss my last job, but I got very lucky in Dayton. I have a big office all to myself, I’m the only person on my team AND it’s in healthcare, which I wanted!

As soon as I moved to Dayton I applied to be in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program and last month I got a Little Sister! I don’t want to say anything about her specifically out of respect for her privacy, but it’s such a wonderful program and I feel like I’m making a difference to her and the community. We hang out on weekends, go to the gym, have dinner, play video games, and just be friends. She’s had a pretty tough life without many people to count on so she’s always super excited when I actually show up on time, every time.

I also adopted two black cats that I named Samantha Jones and Alan. Black cats have a hard time getting adopted because people think they are unlucky, but they have so much love to give! It was the saddest thing going through the shelters and seeing loads of black cats.

Alan loves chevron bow ties and bourbon.
Alan loves chevron bow ties and bourbon.

Alan is 8 years old. In addition to people not wanting black cats, they also want kittens or very young cats so the older ones have a rough time finding a home. Alan has more love in him than any cat I’ve ever met, and I figured even if I have him for only a few years, that’s a few years of love for us both! He basically jumped into my arms at the shelter and demanded to be held like a baby. <3

He loves to cuddle at night and loves being on his back and having his belly rubbed. His love has no boundaries – he loves everyone he meets and he gets along beautifully with other cats. He’s a model citizen!

Thus, I am thinking about applying for us to be a pet therapy team. Mostly I think it’s dogs because they’re easily trained and cats are … well, you know. But Alan is close to perfect and I think it would be so nice to take him to nursing homes so he can love on all the old people while I have a chat with them! Working with older people is something I’ve always wanted to do because I love them, but also I didn’t realize how depressing loneliness can be until I was all alone in London last summer. It was one of the hardest things to spend so much time alone, and I LIKE my alone time. I love “me” dates!! Kenny Chesney sing-a-longs can only happen when you’re alone!

But when all you have are me dates … not so fun. For the first time in my life, even Kenny’s music couldn’t make me happy.

Normally I easily meet lots of people, but London is a place where you can easily find yourself with no one. I had close friends that I loved, who loved me, and were incredibly kind to me, but I was a FRIEND. I wasn’t anyone’s significant other or family member, so that meant I spent a lot of time alone.

I am glad all of this happened though, because it gave me perspective into my own life and those of others. I was in a temporary lonely situation, and even though I knew it was temporary it was so awful. I couldn’t help thinking about some elderly people who truly have no one and often have severe limitations in making their situation better. I completely recognize that I (like most everyone I know) am a privileged, young, healthy American. It was easy for me to fix everything in my life that wasn’t working and move half way across the world, and I am ever appreciative for all of the opportunities and experiences that have afforded me such ability. But what about if you’re disabled, lacking financial resources, have no where to go, or whatever? I can’t stand the thought of a person feeling lonely, like no one cares, and being stuck in that feeling.

alan

So that’s why I’m hoping to get Alan registered as a pet therapist and we will be a team! I hope that if I’m old and lonely some young person will bring in their adorable black kitty and have fun talking to me and hearing all of my crazy stories! And maybe bring me some fried pickles. I can’t imagine nursing homes have rockin’ food.

Because of my having no feelings I didn’t do any traveling in the later part of 2014, but this year I already went to Florida and had a blast! (I also have three Kenny Chesney concerts planned in Louisville, Dallas and Indianapolis this summer, as well as the Bourbon Trail and a couple hiking trips in Kentucky)

We stayed with my favorite cousins in Orlando and over the weekend went to Siesta Key – apparently the nation’s #1 beach! Let me tell you. Sunny beach > crunching around on Ohio ice. I went for a run on the beach one morning.

Siesta Key

Orlando is such a cool city. One night we went out to a bar that has vintage video games and I spent an hour playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out with a random Puerto Rican guy I met there. That game is racist!! The second person you fight is named Piston Honda, and all he says is “Sushi! Ichiban! Kamikaze!”

Oh! I turned 30 since my last post. I thought I’d freak out, but not at all. So far 30 has been happy, positive and pretty calm! My 30s are already different from my 20s in that I have a clear direction in life career-wise, a cat(!!), great friendships, family, and a good idea of what I want in a relationship.

birthday

Now I’m hoping that some day I can get back to cooking real food and stop eating Hot Pockets. I am so. unhealthy. Not that eating Hot Pockets is bad. Everything in moderation, right? But I like … only eat Hot Pockets. And Jimmy Johns.

hello from ohio!

Hello! It’s been exactly one month from today that I moved my whole life from England to Ohio. In between I took my mom to Switzerland and Italy, but more on that later!

My last day in London couldn’t have been better. I spent the day with my mom and Kelly, going for a drink at the Shard with views over London and then afternoon tea at Claridges.

london last day

We met all my friends at a pub in Bloomsbury and the hardcore stayed out until the last trains.

last day

I don’t like leaving places or people on a bad note, so in some ways it made it easier to leave London because I loved my friends and job so much. I definitely hated living in London and was ready to leave, but I was so happy on the friend/work front that I was confident I was leaving because I was truly ready to leave and not because I had a crappy job or stupid friends.

Thus, I was so excited about my decision to move to Dayton! A lot of people don’t understand at all why someone would move to Ohio over London, but for pretty much every reason Dayton is a really good option for me at the moment. And I am LOVING the standard of living here. For the first time in my life I actually have an entire apartment that I feel at home in, and our loft is just so nice. I also have cats now!! As you can see I finally have an ice machine, which means unlimited iced coffee!

rue

The best part is that I live right downtown, so I still get the European feeling of being able to walk to bars and restaurants. And hopefully a job soon, too!

This is Rue enjoying our scenery. I got kind of jealous because I was like, sure, I have an awesome couch by the giant window, but what I really need is a hammock so I can chill like Rue.

rue1

Also, downtown Dayton is shockingly clean. It’s no London, obviously, but I used to think Dayton was a wasteland when it’s really not. They keep the downtown clean and there’s always something fun happening. I also love that the riverside is a nice little park with flowers, trees and swinging benches.

Lots of random parks and peaceful spots around the city.

hills dales

There are so many positive things about Dayton that I can’t wait to blog about it all so people will stop making fun of this city (confession: until two months ago I used to regularly question who would voluntarily live in Dayton).

I’m doing so many things I either couldn’t do in London, or didn’t want to do because of all the people. I ran the Air Force Marathon 10K my first weekend back, and I’ve signed up for a haunted 5K downtown next week. My sister and I are running in costume. We thought and thought about what we could do that would double as a good running outfit, then we came up with the perfect idea – Beavis & Butt-Head! We got the outfits already and I can’t wait for the race!

I was dead set on moving to Orlando, but I’m glad I chose Ohio because it’s good for so many reasons I don’t even have time to discuss.

Come visit me!

 

‘You can hug me goodbye but only one kiss on the cheek’

Likes coffee but drinks at Starbucks.
Loves country music but is a Kenny Chesney fan.
Goes to the boozer all the time but barely drinks.
Is American but believes in universal healthcare.
Social media expert, refuses to send emails or answer phones.
My friend S.

sara buda

Our friendship has been an adventure. Our first trip to Budapest nearly didn’t happen when Sara put her ‘other’ name on her flight booking. Who is this girl with two names?  Several phonecalls later this was remedied and I mused it’s a mistake she’ll never make again. It was the fourth time.
Paris was my turn to be weird. I took us to a closed-down restaurant and locked our Air bnb host out of his apartment.
Sardinia was smoother. Hours spent on golden sand, pasta on clifftops, Italians screaming from windows.

yum

We’re just getting this travel buddy thing sorted.
One of my favourite things about  S is her street smarts. In a sauna one day, three blokes decide to hit on her by complimenting her accent (?!) Sara promptly closes the wooing down by carefully explaining that saunas don’t actually help the body to release many toxins, and you may as well go and have a poo.
Also, ‘photographer’.

photo-3

This friendship is very good for diplomatic ties. It teaches tolerance of two of the worst accents in the word. It encourages wider use of handy words such as togs, jandles, sunnies and fanny pack.
We are united in our disdain at some-things-English: bad teeth, passive-aggressiveness, grey, tube people, small flats, the English.
Anywho, you know things about me no one in the world does. You’re like no one I’ve met before and I will miss you terribly.
On a brighter note, in the immortal words of the Carpenters: we’ve only just begun.
Love you S

conquering the three peaks

Last year I hiked Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, and I only did that because I had NO idea what I was getting myself into and was totally unprepared.

bennevis summit

However, I loved it so much that in April I went to Wales to try Snowdon, the highest peak outside Scotland. That was far easier because it wasn’t as long (5.5 hours vs 8.5), I was fully prepared and in better shape.

Obviously, I had to do the highest in England so I could say I’ve done the three peaks. My two friends were extremely kind and drove me to the Lake District and climbed the mountain with me!

Climbing Ben Nevis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was actually planning out what my tombstone was likely to say about me. When I told people I was climbing Scafell Pike this weekend many people kind of laughed and said England doesn’t have mountains. Clearly they’ve never tried to climb Scafell Pike!

We started out in good spirits because what we thought was Scafell Pike in the distance was definitely not the summit. The summit was completely hidden by clouds so we remained in ignorance for the first three hours, which was probably a good thing.

We later looked back on this picture and laughed at how innocent we looked. We didn’t look like this seven hours later!

scafell pike 2

The last hour was rough. It was so tough that although it wasn’t harder than Ben Nevis, it absolutely was a tougher mountain to climb than Snowdon. Steep, unstable rocks, mist so thick we could barely see where we were going, and it was freezing toward the top. On the way back down it was so steep that I ended up having to kneel and just slide down for about 10 minutes. My hands were completely numb from the cold and I was seriously doubting why I thought tackling this mountain was a good idea. But, that’s part of the fun of it!

scafell pike

About 90 minutes from the top it was all boulders, and the mist started getting so dense it was tough to see the next cairn to show us where to go. Unlike Nevis and Snowdon, there weren’t all that many people on the trail so for long stretches of time we didn’t see anyone else.

There were enough people that I wasn’t scared of us getting lost and going all Donner party, but the sense of not knowing exactly where we were going wasn’t something I’d experienced with the previous two mountains and it was a bit unnerving!

scafell-pike-1

We finally made it after four hours! You can really see here how thick the cloud was.

summit-scafell

Boulders and freezing hands aside, most of the trek was beautiful. A couple hours of the hike were spent walking along a river and waterfall after waterfall. Every time we looked back we could see miles of the valley.

scafell pike valley

lake district

After the hike we went to Lake Windermere to have dinner, then off to our Airbnb cottage for the night. This was actually the second time I’ve been to Windermere and I’d forgotten how much fun I had the last time I was there, and how much I loved that part of England.

windermere

We rented rooms in a 300 year old cottage – another great Airbnb experience! It was in perfect condition, the host was so nice and it was just such a pleasant experience in a quaint little English village. Only £25 ($40) a night!

cottage

I’m so glad I did this hike on one of my last weekends in the country and got to spend some quality time with two of my favorite people in England, as well as see some of the best views England has to offer!

 

my top 5 travel destinations

Perhaps the best thing about living in London has been having the option to travel so (mostly) cheaply and easily. It’s going to be a really tough adjustment knowing there won’t be any more random weekends in Italy, or wherever!

Most of my traveling has been done in the past three years, and I’ve appreciated these trips so much because when I first moved to London I could barely afford to eat – my mom had to buy me groceries online a couple times! Some of the trips it took me months to save up for, while others were super cheap.

In order to save and still travel I’ve lived in an illegal house for the past year, paying cash for rent into a safe deposit box in a communal closet. The floor space in my room is literally no bigger than a suitcase. People lived in the house’s shed and attic, and every other room in the house (although honestly this doesn’t even compare to the time I lived in a house with 14 people). I thought I should mention these things because I don’t want people to think I’m some privileged rich kid with no concept of money. I’ve worked hard and lived in some pretty bad places over the years to fund my travels, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had these opportunities!

I tried to keep my list short, but two of my picks (Kenya/Canary Islands) are so long because I couldn’t sum them up in a couple sentences!

Lisbon

I went to Lisbon for three days by myself and had an unintended Eat, Pray, Love adventure. During dinner the first night I met the Fado musician in the restaurant and we talked for hours in between his songs while I drank Portuguese wine and listened along. The next day I met Ricardo in the city and he gave me a walking tour, took me to have the best hot chocolate in the world, the best pastel de nata in the world, then drove me all over the city in his little Smart car. I know it sounds dangerous, but the city was so crowded that I felt confident I could eject myself from the car if he started getting creepy. It was romantic and exciting, and I’d never have seen so much of Lisbon if I hadn’t met a fun local to show me everything.

lisbon

Canary Islands

I never expected to go here (and in fact hadn’t previously known it was a small chain of islands off the coast of Africa, not Spain!), but I can’t imagine this ever falling off my list. When I told people I was going to the Canary Islands people’s reaction was exclusively concern that it was going to be a crappy British tourist destination, filled with chip shops, pubs, and drunk British people (it was mostly old Germans and us). Perhaps the island of Tenerife is Brit territory but we went to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, and it was such an absolute adventure that I’ll never forget it in my entire life.

camel-canary-islands

On Lanzarote we rented an entire yacht through Airbnb (I’m never staying in a hotel again!), so even if we never left the boat it would have been a fabulous time. But we ended up renting a car on the host’s recommendation and had an adventure I never could have imagined.

Also, although I’m from Florida and no stranger to beaches, I’ve never been on a proper beach holiday before so every time I looked at the coast here I was blown away.

playa blanca

The car rental came with a map and an audio CD, and we drove around the entire island in one day, stopping at many of the sites along the way. We saw black beaches, went on a tour through the volcano national park (where we had chicken cooked from the heat of the Earth!), went to a gorgeous look-out point to another island and white beaches below, into a cave system made by lava flow, then on to a beautiful secluded beach.

lanzarote

As if that wasn’t adventure enough, we did the same thing once we got to Fuerteventura. We rented a car from the same company (CICAR) and drove around the whole island the entire day before our evening flight.

beach of dead

We saw more postcard beaches, more black beaches, caves, small Spanish towns, mountains – my heart is beating faster just thinking about how exciting this holiday was. I feel like I’m not a good enough writer to fully express the feeling of discovery and unexpected adventure I had as I was driving around the islands.

beach of the dead

Kenya

I got incredibly lucky early this year in being invited to a safari wedding and having the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time. It took me six months to save up for this trip, but it was totally worth it. When we were flying from Istanbul to Nairobi and I realized we were finally over Africa I felt an excitement I haven’t felt since the Christmas Eves of my childhood when I believed in Santa Claus. I seriously couldn’t believe I’d somehow managed to go to Africa!

_DSC0347

The camp had a driver pick us up in Nairobi to drive us the six hours to Masai Mara, so we got to go through the Great Rift Valley and a lot of towns and villages along the way. It was a long drive, especially after two long overnight flights from London, but I’m glad we did this because we saw so much of the country. Two things that stood out: people running EVERYWHERE and Coca-Cola advertisements painted on EVERYTHING. We commented on all the people running along the side of the road (everyone from school kids to older people) and our driver said people run everywhere and that’s why Kenyans are the best. Side note: every single person we met in Kenya was ridiculously friendly and wanted to tell us all about everything to do with the country (and they also all loved Obama). I loved Kenya so much!!

This is me in a Masai warrior blanket at the camp after the wedding.

entumoto

The actual safari was incredible and I’d highly recommend Entumoto if you’re considering a safari. We had the BEST guide, and we’re friends on Facebook now! Every thing there was to know about Masai Mara – he knew it. He took us out at night once, and it was a completely different experience than the drives during the day – total silence and darkness like I’ve never known, and an entirely different world of nocturnal animals. We watched a hyena as he ran around with a bloody chunk of meat in his mouth (yes, they are just as scary as they are portrayed on the Lion King) and heard more of them screaming in the distance.

We drove slowly along and it was the most incredible thing to all of a sudden see a giant giraffe staring at us in the headlights. Giraffes were the only animals that didn’t seem to care for our presence. Night or day, they’d look at us and slowly walk away. They weren’t scared, but they acted like they preferred if we didn’t pollute their gaze. Maybe giraffes are kind of snobby, like how a lot of cats are snobby. I could go on and on about Kenya. The elephants, big cats, picnics overlooking the Serengeti – time of my life.

giraffe-masai-mara

cheetah

Budapest

Budapest is such a fun memory because it was totally on a whim. I got an itch to travel so I looked at Ryanair’s flight list and booked this trip because it was somewhere I knew nothing about, and it turned out my friend K was able to come with me! The whole city was wonderful, clean, cheap, great food, but the highlight was the thermal bath we went to. It was in the low 50s out, but the water was so hot and felt amazing. I also felt like I was in another time!

Budapest-bath

Rome

I went to Rome with my mom three years ago, and this was our first trip so it was when we realized how much fun traveling is when there are no men to throw off your groove. One day we bought nail polish and painted our nails purple in the middle of an ancient Roman square. Guys can be great, of course, but sometimes you need only girl time!

I’m not sure why, but the top memory of this trip is coming out of the metro station and seeing the Colosseum towering right in front of us.

rome-1

We stayed at what was said to be the smallest legal hotel in Rome, and that was an experience in itself. It was very nice, but took us a while to find because there was only a buzzer – no sign. The guy running the place was so friendly, and said his biggest piece of advice for us was simply to get lost in the city. I loved this so much!

There was definitely a lot of walking, so we spent lots of time in cafes eating and drinking! Apparently giant artichokes are a thing in Rome. I partook.

rome

She’s visiting me again next week and I’m taking her to Florence, Switzerland and the Black Forest. Maybe I should have waited to write this list because one of those two could top Rome!

I wanted to put places like Venice in the mix because it was so stunning. At least for me, Venice got old pretty quickly. I wouldn’t spend more than a day there. Somewhere like Rome, however, you could wander for days. I also wanted to include Nice, simply for the fact that you can take the most amazing train ride along the coast for only a few Euros. We went to Italy, Monaco, Nice and Cannes in one day, and the whole ride was along the Mediterranean coast. Other than that, Nice was just OK so I couldn’t put it on the list. Even though I didn’t include any German cities on my list, Germany is definitely my favorite country! I’ve been to Christmas markets in Munich and Cologne – magical. I’ve also been to Berlin twice and various other cities.

Longest blog post ever.

big changes!

I’m finally leaving London! One thing I love about life is you never know how much things can change in even a short time.

Two weeks ago a series of events unexpectedly took me to Ohio, where in the space of a day I went from being dead set on moving to Orlando to realizing moving back to Ohio was the perfect decision for me. I NEVER thought I would move back to the Midwest, but now I couldn’t be more excited!!

I paid a deposit on a really cool loft right downtown. No matter how long I stayed in London I would never (like Taylor Swift Never, Ever, Ever) be able to afford to live in anything like what I’m getting in Dayton (yes, I know Dayton is not considered one of the world’s greatest cities). For one thing, it just doesn’t exist in London. A big apartment with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows? Yeah right! I have air conditioning, a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, a real refrigerator, a freezer, and a personal washer and dryer – all things that generally don’t exist in London residences and I’m getting all this for less than I’m paying for my closet room. My loft building also has a private relaxation room for yoga, a cool gym and a patio area with grills for BBQs! It’s also close to a cute Farmers’ market in an old train station.

Dayton-2nd-Street

2ndStreet-flowers

I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!

I still really want to live in Orlando! But I am committed to making smart financial decisions now, and although I’m pretty sure I’d be fine in Orlando I know that moving to Dayton is a really smart decision and would probably make me happier because the things that are important to me are easier to get in Ohio, and that’s where my family is.

maya

There are many reasons why Ohio is perfect at the moment, but the top reason is that I’ve spent five years away from my family and at times couldn’t see them for a year and a half. That’s too long! I can’t cram seeing everyone into two weeks once a year. Some members of my extended family I get to spend only a day or two with a year. With the exception of last Christmas, for the past five years I’ve missed every single holiday, every birthday, every family reunion, everything.

The other big reason Ohio is good is because I’ve come to hate super big city life so much and I just can’t take it anymore. Riding to work a couple weeks ago sandwiched into someone’s back sweat patch was the last straw for me. There are no more pieces left of my soul to die, and I’d like to feel like I have a soul again.

I’m tired of never being able to do anything because 8 million people are already doing it, or having to pay a premium for everything simply because it’s London. I’m also tired of having to travel at least an hour to see any of my friends. In Dayton, you don’t have to worry about anything being packed or things being overpriced, and living downtown means everyone in the city will be 20 minutes away or less. Dayton’s not a bad city, but it’s also not what I’d call exciting or cool. It’s just a pretty average Midwestern city, although it has a surprisingly good food scene! I don’t want an “exciting” city right now. I want to be able to see my family, live a good life, and eat good food.

This was definitely good food. Thin crust Italian pizza and a watermelon martini at Serendipity Bistro in downtown Dayton.

Serendipity-pizza

watermelon-martini-serendipity

I’ll really miss my friends in London and I’ll definitely miss my job! I have such a great job and I love my colleagues. I also love having 28 days of vacation per year. Every job I look at in the US is advertised as having a “generous” vacation allowance, and then they say something like 10-12 days. I don’t know why Americans insist on working to death. People are so much happier and work more efficiently when they’re well-rested and happy! Also, every single American I talk to is super jealous of my six weeks of vacation per year (plus all the public holidays as well, so it’s something like 35 days).

Speaking of six weeks, only six more weeks in London! My mom is coming to visit for my last two weeks, and I’m taking her to Florence and Pisa, and then we’re going on a second trip to Switzerland where we’re renting a car and also driving up into the Black Forest in Germany.

Just before she visits I’m going with two friends to the Lake District because I really want to climb Scafell Pike so I’ll have hiked the three highest mountains in the UK! Last year I climbed Ben Nevis, in April I did Snowdon, and now Scafell Pike! I’m so excited!

snowdon

My friends are trying to help me think of an England bucket list. I had started making one, but the only thing that was on it was “try Ribena,” which I did.

first breakfast in portland

This morning I woke up at 6 and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was so excited about all the things to discover in Portland today. I went to a random coffee shop for breakfast and it was heaven! I had an iced hemp milk pumpkin spice latte. I didn’t even have to ask for extra ice. I fit right in here! I can order any kind of coffee I want and it’s totally normal in Portland. Portland is the kind of place where you order food and they say “thank you,” but I’m like, “No, thank you!”

This weekend at another place I asked if they made iced coffee, and she said of course! The woman ended up making me an iced Americano with a coconut syrup-caramel syrup mix (her idea). Just when I thought coconut coffee couldn’t get any better someone goes and adds caramel!

This morning I asked if they had breakfast and it turned out all they make is Kolache (Kolaches??). My dad makes things like these and they are so fun! Little buns filled with breakfast. My dad makes them filled with sausage gravy, so it’s like portable biscuits and gravy. I had a sausage, egg & cheese and a roast beef with spicy cheese sauce.

kolache

As soon as I finished eating I got sad and tried to think of ways I could get hungry again. I thought about maybe going running so I’d be ready sooner for my next meal. When I was training for a marathon I didn’t have to wait long until I was ready for another meal. I feel like if I lived here I’d definitely start training for a marathon again so I would be able to eat six meals a day and discover everything Portland has to offer, food-wise.

I really want to go back to this cafe but there’s too much good food to discover in Portland so I’m in a pickle!!

I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest so this trip is very exciting! I absolutely love that the city is surrounded by mountains and there are trees everywhere. The England-like weather can go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks and die (it is so cold here!!), but so far everything else is delightful!

s and k spotted in sardinia

K and I have been watching a lot of Gossip Girl (we’re on season 4), so we call each other S and K now and text each other where we’ve been spotted.

sandk

alghero-sardinia

We went to Sardinia over the July 4th weekend and on the first night found a little Italian alley restaurant with outdoor seating so we could enjoy dinner in the sun. We both agreed that was what life is meant to be like – not dark and depressing like England. You pretty much can’t sit outside even when it’s nice in England, because if there’s anything worth doing in London (such as sitting at a cafe on a sunny day), 8 million people are already doing it.

In Sardinia, it’s normal for it to be sunny so both nights we got outdoor seating with no problem! I ordered “tipical Sardinian pasta” and wine. We asked for a wine list and were told “no!” We were given a choice of red or white, so we chose red, which turned out to be good! We asked for wine lists at a couple restaurants and were simply told no, and brought whatever wine they wanted to give us. Always good though!

My tipical Sardinian pasta came looking like this:

sardinian-pasta

My immediate reaction was that it looked like a pile of grubs, but it tasted so good! I had to have a conversation with myself to convince myself that it wasn’t grubs, but ultimately it hampered my enjoyment of the meal a little. K agreed that it was a pile of grubs!

We stayed in a cute little B&B with a wrap-around balcony to have breakfast on each morning. The hotel was hard to find and not in a very nice area – it appeared to be just a couple condos owned by a couple who accepted cash-only payments (which resulted in an hour and a half walk Sunday to try to find the island’s only ATM). Other than that, it was so nice and friendly!

photo1

We stayed a couple miles from the Alghero old town because we wanted to be close to Maria Pia beach – much nicer than the beaches closer to town although the town was cute too!

Alghero-sardinia-alley

One night we had such a nice dinner and walk along the water, then we walk by this house and two Italians are screaming at each other with the windows open for everyone to hear.

alghero-yellow

Sardinia-alghero

We both had pasta for dinner again – I went for salmon penne! Definitely should have shared a dish. Grilled, chilled eggplant and zucchini on the side.

salmon-penne-alghero

Gelato as an appetizer during our two mile walk to town Saturday night.

gelato-alghero

Aaaand the beach!

maria-pia-beachsardinia

sardinia1

It was pretty sad to go back to England after this, but now I’m in Portland (Oregon) so things are brighter again!

ringing freedom in italy

The past two years I’ve had a Fourth of July party at my house in London. Last year’s was great. We spent three days making red, white & blue Jell-O shots, and they looked amazing but tasted awful because we forgot to put in sugar! My friend also made a cool cake, but it kind of melted. It tasted great, though!

shots

cake

This year there isn’t really space for any friends in my new house and my tiny yard is filled with snails, so I can’t have a party.

I couldn’t stand the thought of a big American holiday all by myself so I booked a trip with a friend to Sardinia for the weekend! The weather is set to be upper 80s, 0% chance of rain.

Alghero Sardinia

(source)

I am excited and feel lucky that I finally have a friend who is able to go on random trips with me. I asked my friend Kelly to go to Sardinia and we booked it that day! I can’t imagine having many more times in my life where I can randomly say, “Let’s go here!” and also having a friend able to do the same, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts!

We went to Budapest and Paris together earlier this year. We also work together, so it was really cool to leave work, walk across the street and get on a train straight to Paris.

paris

paris-1

I kind of wish I was going to France instead so I could have freedom fries IN France ON the Fourth of July. Could there be any better way to let freedom ring? (I am so sick of still automatically saying “be” in a Chanandelor Bong voice.)

lessons learned in yorkshire

This week I was in Yorkshire again for another work conference. The conference was great, but the salient facts are these:

1) In Yorkshire, you make your own air conditioning. Also, you will not be given more than one power outlet, and it certainly won’t be located anywhere near your bed. Need to charge your phone overnight but need it by your bed because it’s also your alarm? Too bad.

English-aircon

2) On work trips you get room service. Steak and ale pie, garlic cheese bread + Fresh Prince of Bel Air on the “telly.”

room-service

I have never had room service before because I always go out when I travel, so I didn’t know what to do. Do you tip? I envisioned a really awkward situation like in Beavis & Butt-Head Do America. A man helps them to their hotel room and then stands there with his hand out, expecting a tip. Butt-Head looks at him and says something like, “Uhhh, can you like, not stand there anymore?” I didn’t want that to be me, so I asked ahead of time and people said don’t tip!

3) I love old people. I had a conversation with a retired gentleman when I was managing the “connect” area of the conference (where we talked about social media, etc.)

He asked about the sign that said “Join thousands of people …” so I asked if he was on Twitter (because that’s what it was about.)

Him: “I don’t have a computer.”

Me: “That’s no problem. Do you have a smartphone?”

Him: “I have a landline.”

Me: “Would you be interested in getting a computer?”

Him: “No. I’m 84.”

Me: “That’s not that old.”  (My grandma has a good seven years on this dude so I wasn’t impressed.)

Him: “I have other interests.”

Me: “Like what?”

Him: “I write articles.”

Then he walked away. A few months ago I was having a conversation with my grandma and I told her she should try online dating. She said no, because “there’s nothing out there. Trust me, I’ve looked.” Perhaps grandma’s experience was with people like this man. At least my grandma knows about Twitter, even if she calls it “The Critter.” (She also once asked if Instagram was “that porno site.”)

4) This isn’t related to anything in Yorkshire, but I ordered a Kenny Chesney iPhone cover and I’m really excited about it. I don’t care if everyone in the whole world hates it and thinks it looks like I “stole a teenager’s phone,” as someone said.

kenny-chesney-iphone

In the spirit of keeping up the references to 90s comedy, I REALLY want someone to need a phone so I can be like Romy and say, “If anybody needs to make a call, I’ve got a phone!”

I desperately want reasons to show off my phone.