Wednesday, February 29

Try new things: skiing

Last month I spent a week with Dave's family in Val d'isere, a lovely ski resort / village in France. Never having skied before, I slipped and slided through five days of lessons with a no-nonsense, middle-aged French instructor. Above you'll find the only photo of me on skis.  On day four, Dave came down off the super hard scary black diamond slopes and patiently did a few baby runs with me. His presence made me really nervous and I fell over more that afternoon than all the other days combined... and soon I suggested we get hot chocolate and go for a swim instead. But overall, I wasn't too bad. At the end of the week my class went up the real ski lifts and tried a couple of proper slopes. Scary. But I survived!

There were several impressive snow sculptures scattered about Val d'isere, The nativity scene was my favorite. Even if the wise men look kind of creepy.

We stayed at the Hotel Val d'isere where we enjoyed all our meals, plus afternoon tea (hot soup and homemade cakes every single day... I go skiing for the food). Except on Thursday night when we went to a local restaurant for fondue. There were a couple of DJs, bands, and food stalls set up along the main street. Of course Dave and I busted some moves and found the free mulled wine stall on our way to dinner. How we roll.

After dinner each night, we'd read or hope for movies in English on TV or play board games. Here, Dave, Richard (his younger brother), and me were in the middle of an intense Articulate! round... so much shouting.

One afternoon, the whole gang went snowshoeing!  This was more up my alley. It required no skill, just perseverance. I loved the exercise and seeing more of the valley. We even saw a couple goat / deer creatures!  Certainly not as exciting as moose or bears but wildlife nonetheless.

In terms of actual skiing, the jury's still out. It wasn't love at first sight (ski boots are a pain to put on, for one thing). But I didn't hate it either.  Time will tell if it becomes one of my things. But the holiday itself was beautiful (cold!) with plenty of good food and company :) Val d'isere is about a three hour drive from Geneva and close to Italy, too... maybe I can convince my newly relocated folks to meet me in France in the spring?

It's leap day!  Make it count.

Monday, February 27

24 Things I Loved About My 24th Birthday Week

Black Keys concert, a few days before my birthday

Oh goodness, today felt like a Monday. I'm about to drink a big glass of water and go to bed. But before I do, here's some things I loved about my birthday week.

* cooking with fresh bay leaves
* mixing mojitos with fresh mint 
* red beans and rice simmering for three hours and looking like legit cajun food
* two good workouts
* wonderful, honest discussion about prayer at home group
* wonderful, honest prayer at home group
* yummy lasagna cooked by Anna at home group
* sleepy time blended herbal tea
* hearing the voices of my parents, Grandaddy, and briefly, Pop-Pop
* a pretty birthday card from Dave's mom, Caroline
* my new stick-free frying pan

* a postcard from Amy from the Australian outback, where she's smooshing cane toads and planning community gardens
* seeing my friend Heidi's band, Cloud Control, perform in Camden… they have fans who know all their lyrics... it's so cool!  Plus the band went to school with Amy's boyfriend, James, in the Blue Mountains... small world.
* bright red fingernail polish
* women's breakfast at church: pancakes!  bright yellow flowers! girls to talk to!
* emails from Hannah and Shelley
* sausage and mash and taco skillet cooked by Dave
* my flannel shirt that kept me warm
* cathartic crying
* Sunday morning breakfast club

* truly thoughtful gifts and cards from parents, grandparents, and friends
* a clean bedroom and kitchen
* hearing the London Symphony Orchestra perform Copland's Appalachian Spring 

* post-concert cinnamon toast with Dave

Happy Monday night,

Wednesday, February 22

23 Things I Learned When I Was 23

I learned that...

1. Having a tan looks and feels good. I thought I'd embraced my whiteness. Then this summer I got a real tan. And it looked good. And I miss it.

2. Minnesota is a beautiful state.

3. Driving solo for eighteen hours is not a good idea.

4. Pleurisy is the inflammation of the lining surrounding the lungs. Pleurisy burns and hurts a lot.

5. New Orleans jazz is groovy. 

6. Mardi Gras is gross and awful, especially when I'm desperately searching for a taxi at 4am.

7. Alabama has all sorts of funky homegrown festivals that I haven't discovered. 

8. I love bike rides in Grand Teton National Park. Okay, so I love most things in Grand Teton National Park, but I didn't go on a bike ride until my last week. It was one of my favorite afternoons of the summer. We discovered a hidden country store with free gingersnap cookies hot out of the wood-burning oven!

9. If I don't ask, I probably won't receive.

10. Being brutally honest to the right person relieves guilt and makes problems more manageable.

11. Blackberry produces mediocre phones. I'm sorry I cheated on you, Apple.

12. Extra exercise gives me more energy than extra sleep.

13. Six-foot live Christmas trees smell nice, but they're a pain in the ass to get rid of.

14. The City of London is its own separate city; it even has its own police force and tax code. 

15. I may prefer the countryside to city life. But I reserve the right to change my mind always.

16. I'm high maintenance, just like my dad said I was. I thought he was very wrong, but then in the middle of a serious relationship, I discovered he was very right.

17. It's almost always a good idea to meet up with friends I haven't seen in years, even if I think it might be awkward.

I learned how...
18. To skip a rock (sort of).
19. To ski (sort of).
20. To use London's bus system.
21. To crush garlic cloves so that they're easier to peel.

And why…
22. Grown ups don't do extracurriculars... 9-5s make you tired.

And what…
23. P&L, ETD, OTC, and CDS stand for… profit & loss, exchange traded derivatives, over the counter trading, and… I can't remember CDS, actually. I'll get back to you on that one.

Oh!  And the first thing I learned when I was twenty four:  how to make amazing lentil burgers.

Happy Lent(il)...

Monday, February 20

London Breakfast Club: Camden Passage Part 2

The Breakfast Club continues to make its way down Camden Passage in Angel! Here are two other places we've tried…

The Breakfast Club

Not to be confused with my breakfast club, this restaurant is trendy indie Angel at its best. 

The décor is colorful and funky, like a wacky American diner, with retro appliances and kitschy trinkets all over. It's cozy, bright, and so hot right now. On weekends, you'll find a line out the door after 10am, no exceptions. And you'll say 'I don't think so' and swiftly move on to another Camden Passage breakfast gem. This happened to me several times last fall. 

Finally this January Australian Hannah and I managed to beat the crowd one Saturday morning. The atmosphere didn't disappoint, but the food did. My french toast was dry and the coffee was only okay. Hannah enjoyed her eggs benedict even though they weren't as good as Gus's (a yummy café in Canberra). And Dave's portobello mushrooms were soggy. Oh no!  

I mean, the food wasn't terrible. But given all the fuss and London prices, I expected yummier. Maybe the cooks were having a bad morning.

The Breakfast Club has several locations around the city and they serve lunch, dinner, and drinks, too. On my birthday last Friday (yes indeed, I'm twenty four!) Dave and I tried the one in Spitalfields. I got a burger with applesmoked cheddar and portobello mushrooms (not soggy this time, hurray!). We had a couple of beers and Dave tried the chilli… all in all, pretty tasty, but nothing mind blowing.

I would go back for the atmosphere. I've heard that at least one location has a secret bar tucked away somewhere, too. Patrons must provide a secret code before entering. All I know is that during dinner people kept disappearing into a 1960s refrigerator… I'll go exploring and report back soon.

Med Kitchen

You can find Med Kitchen in several locations around London. One of Dave's friends reckons they have the best breakfast in London. We beg to differ. You'll have a good breakfast, and it might be better than waiting an hour for a table at Elk in the Woods or Kipferl or The Breakfast Club, but it's not incredible. Unless you're starving and desperate for food, like I was this weekend. Then it's incredible. Does that make sense?  

The menu covers all the English breakfast basics. A couple months ago I had eggs benedict and they tasted vinegary. On Sunday I had scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast; no complaints, very satisfied. The six boys at my table ordered full English breakfasts and got a lot of food for their buck. And we were all happy with our fresh and blended juices. A couple months ago the coffee was pretty bad, and on Saturday I tasted Dave's cappuccino and it was pretty bad again. 

To sum up: if you go to Med Kitchen, go hungry and stick to eggs, toast, and your juice of choice.

Cray cray (Taken with instagram)
This photo is totally unrelated to breakfast. It just makes me laugh.

Tomorrow is Pancake Day in the UK!  Apparently this is the British version of Fat Tuesday. I whole heartedly approve as pancakes are my favorite comfort food of all time. I'm considering getting up super early and going out for blueberry pancakes before work...

Posts to come this week: 23 things I learned when I was 23; 23 things I loved about my birthday week; skiing photos; and plans for Lent.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, February 7

London Breakfast Club: Camden Passage Part 1

So back in Wyoming, some friends and I started Signal Breakfast Club.

This entailed dragging ourselves out of bed once or twice a week and going out for breakfast together. My favorite place was a cafe at Heart Six, a ranch fifteen minutes outside Grand Teton National Park.

Oh, those views. Oh, their biscuits and gravy.

Then I moved to London, where the urban landscape is only okay and the people don't do white sausage gravy.

But I'm happy to report that I've continued Breakfast Club... because no matter where I go, breakfast is my favorite.

Late breakfast (Taken with Instagram at The Deco Lounge)

There's a trendy little street in Angel called Camden Passage with loads of cafes and vintage shops. Here are two places in Camden Passage I've breakfast clubbed at so far...

Elk in the Woods

Elk in the Woods is woodsy and rustic (in a trendy not-actually-rustic way) and my latte was good. The breakfast menu is inventive without being too bizarre. I had some fancy pancakes with an unusual fruit compote - they were different and really delicious. Dave had this baked egg and potato thing... frittata, perhaps?  It too was yummy (and healthy). Zara had a traditional English fry up and got the best value for money, in my opinion. The other two dishes were just enough... and just enough is not enough if you like to overeat at breakfast like me.  I would go back, but not if I was starving.



I love their website homepage. But that's beside the point.

Kipferl is a self-described Austrian/Viennese place.  The space is open and cool but nothing special. The coffee was good... it might've been very good, but I can no longer remember. They serve breakfast all day long, but you might be tempted by the lunch menu like I was (though I tried my friend's apple saucy french toast - mmmm).  I had a bowl of beefy brothy soup with pumpernickel bread - very nice - and then this: 

STEIRISCHER BACKHENDLSALAT [try pronouncing that one]
Styrian style salad with strips of breaded chicken with pumpkin seed oil 
dressing and roasted pumpkin seeds 

Absolutely delicious. The chicken was tender, the greens fresh with lots of flavor,  and all the pumpkin ingredients, perfect. I almost always prefer breakfast foods to lunch/dinner options, but I had no regrets here. I would definitely go back. And I would probably order the same thing.  Plus apple strudel.

And here's London Breakfast Club: Camden Passage Part 2.

I went skiing last week!  And I didn't die!  Hurray!  Photos and commentary to be shared shortly.