Friday, August 9, 2013

I've moved.

I'm back in the States. Texas, to be exact, where the tea is sweeter and the sun is hotter and people don't look at you funny if you say "y'all."

My first stop was New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment and the Land Where I Grew Up.  I got to spend time with my family and read books in the sun. It was lovely.

O Fair New Mexico

Then I got a job in Texas, so I packed up all my stuff (again) and headed out to the Lone Star State.

Up before the sun and hitting the road.

That's where I am now. It's a weird mix of new and familiar, since it's close to where I went to school, but it's entirely different from where I've lived the past few years. Still, it's good. And I'm happy to finally be here. After all this moving, it's nice to finally stay put. 

At least for a while.

A new job and a new state calls for a new blog. So, from now on, you can find me here.

London, it was fun. You were wonderful, and I miss you already. 

Texas, let's do this.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women's Day.

It was dark.

As I was getting on the bus, he said, “You know, you could get off at Broomfield instead.”

Oh wait, let me explain. I was heading home. I usually time it so that I can catch another bus that will deposit me pretty much directly in front of my house. But I had missed that bus, which meant having to walk from King Charles Road – about 15 minutes from my house. Not that a fifteen minute walk is bad. In fact, I actually enjoy fifteen (and more) minute walks, and more often than not, I choose them over the bus.

But it was dark.

“It’s a bit shorter walk from there,” he said, knowing that I was wearing heels and wasn’t particularly looking forward to a long trek.

“Is it well lit?” Those were the first words out of my mouth. After dark was not the time to go exploring on my own.

It’s depressing that I even have to think about that, but it’s typically the aspect that holds the most weight when it comes to making a decision like this. Because when I say, “Is it well lit?” what I mean is, “I don’t feel safe.”

And I don’t. Why? Because I’m a girl.

No, I’ve never been approached by a threatening individual while walking home by myself, let alone attacked by one. But I know the numbers, and I don’t want to end up a statistic. So every time I get off that bus and it’s dark and I’m alone, I walk quickly, eyes straight ahead, ears alert, and praising the good Lord above for the streetlights that make me feel a little safer. My heart races when I hear a rustling behind me, and I cross the street if a group of scary-looking guys is coming my way. I go through imaginary situations in my head: determining how quickly I could dial the police; whether I’d knock on the door of the nearest house instead of leading him to where I live; where I’d run if I had to; how hard I’d fight if it came down to it.

I realize all of this is incredibly depressing, but I would find it hard to believe that I’m the only girl who has these thoughts.

Whenever some creepy guy honks at me or hollers as I walk by, it doesn’t give me an ego boost or help my self-esteem. No. Usually it makes me want to scream, “I’m not just here for you to look at! I’m a person too!” Other times I just want to curl up in a ball and hide, because I feel disgusting and ashamed…despite the fact that I haven’t done anything wrong. And then I read articles about rape t-shirts and erotisizing violence, and (of course) The Sun, and my chest tightens and my throat constricts in a swirl of anger and frustration and indignation and terrible, terrible sadness.

Because the truth is that, regardless of how far we’ve come as a society, there is still this pervasive idea that while mothers/sisters/daughters are worth loving, protecting, and even respecting, there’s a whole mess of other women – usually those with whom we have no personal connections – who are nothing more than boobs and butts. It might not always be explicit or conscious, but it’s certainly there, and it leaves its mark.

Look, I know that not all men are creepers and rapists. On the contrary, I am blessed beyond belief to have so many amazing, supportive, kind, and caring men in my life – men who believe in me and encourage me and remind me that I am valued for way more than just my looks. And I also know that women (myself included) are often just as guilty when it comes to judging worth solely on physical appearance.

It’s just that when I got online this morning, Google informed me that today is International Women’s Day. However, unlike so many other days honoring a particular group of individuals (e.g. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.), it seems that International Women's Day is not primarily celebratory. It is combative. The theme of today is not the celebration of women and their accomplishments, but rather the ending of the gender-based violence of which they are so often victims. Did you know that up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime? Or that there are over 600 million women who live in countries where domestic violence isn’t considered a crime? And before you start formulating images of far-off, distant, and culturally backward lands, consider that one in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
These statistics were still fresh in my mind when I saw a man reading The Sun on the bus to work this morning. Staring up at me was the Page 3 Girl, in all her topless glory, reminding me that despite my opinions and interests and my master’s degree; despite my right to drive and vote and run for office; despite my living in a ‘progressive’ and ‘egalitarian’ society, it’s apparently still entirely acceptable to reduce me to a pair of breasts. And not many people would even bat an eye. It got me thinking, Then it got me writing, which is how this long-winded post was born.

So while I’d much rather write about fluffy, sunshiney, chocolate-covered things, this is currently weighing heavy on my heart, and I needed to get it out. It ended up turning into a full-blown essay. If you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Playing tourist: View from the top.

It was sunny in London (what?), so we went on the Eye.

This is what we saw:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Strawberry Banana Pancakes

Do you know what's frustrating? Being nostalgic for the present. Inadvertently anticipating the inevitable. A kind of pre-sentimental sentimentality. That's where I keep finding myself lately. I haven't even left yet, and somehow I already miss London.
It's like I'm acutely aware that these moments are fleeting and that when they are gone, I will miss them terribly. So I jump the gun and end up feeling all sentimental about the eventual absence of people and places and things that are still right in front of me.
It is perfectly fine to mourn the end of an era...but only at the end of that era. I'm still here. This is silly. This is no way to live. This calls for comfort food. Specifically, pancakes.
The amount of time it takes to make and eat pancakes is pretty much the perfect amount of time to allow myself to sit in this too-soon sentimentality. It's okay to be a little sad. But don't stay there. Make yourself some pancakes. Then eat up, man up, and move on.
Let's save the tears for the plane ride back, shall we? It's always more fun to cry in a cramped public space anyway, right? Riiiiiiight... 
Strawberry Banana Pancakes 

3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
just over 1/2 cup milk
1/4 stick (28 g) melted butter
1 egg
A dash of vanilla
1 banana, thinly sliced
handful of strawberries, thinly sliced

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk together milk, butter, egg and vanilla in a smaller bowl. Make sure the milk isn't cold or it will cause the butter to re-solidify (is that a word?) and make life and whisking very frustrating. I usually just melt the butter with the milk and let it cool a bit before adding the egg and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. 

Heat a pan over medium heat. Grease before spooning the batter into it. Add banana and strawberry slices as you see fit, making sure to press them down into the batter a bit so they stay tucked into the pancake when it's flipped. Once bubbles start to form and burst in the middle of the pancake, you'll know it's time to turn it. It'll only take about half as long to cook on the other side. 

Stack sky high and serve warm with plenty of butter and cinnamon. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Simply perfect (and perfectly simple) brownies.

Sometimes situations go awry, and no amount of plan B's or C's or LMNOP's can make things work out the way you'd like. It's just part of life, I suppose. People will tell you not to let it get to you -- that there's something better coming and everything will be okay and just wait and see. 
Easier said than done, right?
Waiting and seeing is really hard. I’m more comfortable with movement, so sitting still in the tension of not knowing isn’t exactly my cup of tea. In fact, it stresses me out. 
In times like these, I fight back with butter and sugar. All this waiting and seeing may mean that I'm not able to make plans or move forward, but at least I can make brownies. And while that might not actually solve any of my problems, it certainly helps soothe them.
Bring it on, life. I've got chocolate chips, and I know how to use them.

Simply perfect (and perfectly simple) brownies
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cups (75g) butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips, separated
1 tsp vanilla  
2 eggs 
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Then grease and flour (I use cocoa instead) an 8x8 inch pan. If you want super easy removal and cleanup, line the pan with parchment paper. It's a wonderful invention.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. 
In a large saucepan, melt butter with the sugar and water. Bring just to a boil and then remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips. Add vanilla extract and allow to cool till it's only just warm.
Whisk in the eggs one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Stir in the flour mixture, and then add the remaining ½ cup of chocolate chips and the nuts.

Pour into a greased 8x8 pan, and bake for 25-35 minutes. Check them at around 20 to make sure you don't overbake -- dry brownies are a tragedy. Then remove from oven and cool before serving.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Playing tourist: Day trip

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and one day.

Windsor Castle is the Queen's residence. It's gigantic, old, and lovely. And it has some of the most crazy beautiful interior decorating I've ever seen. Unfortunately, it also has a strict no photo policy inside the castle, so you don't get to see any of that. But the exterior is nice too.

As our tour guide said, "When we get to Stonehenge, some of you will be having deep and profound thoughts, while others of you shiver and drink coffee. It means different things to different people."

Bath is such a pretty little town. And we were lucky enough to see it in the sunshine. It's famous for its hot springs (and the Roman baths that made use of them), but I was probably most enamored with the impressive stone architecture.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Heathrow cancelled almost 400 flights, trains were delayed, and panic ensued this weekend, as London was crippled by a fierce snowstorm that brought the city its first snow this year.

Now, based on the chaos it caused, you might be picturing something like this:
Notice that the ground floor apartments are barely visible...

But you would be wrong. That picture is the entrance to my apartment complex in Illinois after the Snowpocalypse that hit our area and surrounding states a couple of years ago. We got a foot of snow in one afternoon, and I still went to work the next day.

No, this was the snowfall that wreaked havoc throughout London over the weekend:

A whopping several inches. Enough snow to make a footprint, and yet somehow enough to cause Europe’s busiest airport to grind to a halt.

Still, snow does make London look particularly picturesque. My parents were in town, and we decided to brave the “blizzard” and play tourist while the rest of the city hid indoors. 

I’m glad we did, because this is what we saw:

Isn't it lovely? It certainly makes winter feel worthwhile.