I toured ALL of Europe in half a day!

This is a crazy crazy story, and some of you won’t believe me. But that’s okay too.

Story-Time

I bussed to Brussels from London, about 9 hours. On the bus, I sat next to a woman who was raised in Brussels and now lives in London. We got to chatting of course. She was so sweet, but slightly secretive.

I asked her about what she does, and she got rather shy. This intrigued me of course, but I didn’t want to push it. I moved on to different topics of conversation. We discussed the reason we were going to Brussels, and she informed me that her sister and mother were still living there and she was visiting them for the weekend. She said, “Now that Halloween is over, I have time to go see them.”

I wondered why Halloween was so busy for her, but I hesitated to ask, especially after she wouldn’t answer my question about her line of work. She cleared her throat *ahEM* and changed the subject as if she had read my mind and still didn’t want to answer.

“Are you meeting anyone in Brussels?” she asked me.
“My friend is coming from Madrid to meet me here today.”
“Do you know when she is coming?”
“Yeah we are meeting around noon!” I replied confidently.
Her smile faltered. “But… the bus is getting in at 6 am, what are you going to do until then?”
“Well, I’m going to have a look at the city and see what there is to see, of course!”
“But you are so small, and there are dangerous forces in the world. Let me help you.”
“No no, you are meeting your family. Don’t put that on hold for me. I am confident I can stay safe. I have done my research, and I am sticking to the well trafficked areas.”
Her face broke into a wise smile. “I am glad you have prepared, but I can help without compromising my family time. What if I told you that I had some special powers?”

My face begged her for clarity.

“It’s true. I can’t get specific about it, but it’s true. I want to help you by, erm let me think… I can make you at least a bit bigger for the day. Just for the day. Would you be okay with that?”

I stared back in a confounded silence. What on earth was she talking about.

“Okay I’ll take that as a yes! Magna wellgna, diem salutem puella! There! now you will grow to be large enough to keep you safe! Just for the day, don’t worry I wouldn’t make it permanent. Unless that’s what you want?”
“Umm, I don’t think so?”

At this point I was convinced she was just a little strange. I let it slide because I was stuck next to her for another few hours and I didn’t want to make her mad.

Fast forward to Brussels. I arrived as expected, nothing unusual. I said my goodbyes to my funny bus friend and made my way to my first couple of sights. As I walked, everything started to shrink. And shrink. And shrink and SHRINK. I was mortified! What on earth was happening to me?! Her words rang in my head… Magna wellgna, diem salutem puella! You will grow to be large enough to keep you safe! 

Uh oh. Here I was. Growing (for the first time in my life really). But also not STOPPING. The buildings shrunk to knee height. I started to panic. What could I do?? I had never been tall before, let alone GIANT. This was how big I had to be to stay safe? I sat and despaired. I despaired for my own monstrosity and the danger of the world I lived in.

After these sobering thoughts, I began to look around. I realized something very special. I could see all the way across Europe. Everything in Brussels was a few steps away. The Eiffel Tower was visible, and seemed only a few minutes stroll through the country. Why on earth was I sitting and moping when I could be over in Budapest in 20 minutes? I began to understand that I should take advantage of such a huge opportunity (pun intended). So I did. Everywhere from Sweden to Portugal to to Italy to Lithuania.

The time came, of course, when I had to meet Alicia, my friend from Madrid. So I headed back to Brussels to see her plane arrive. As we met, I shrunk back down. I’m assuming this is because now I had a friend to look after me and to look after myself, but your guess is as good as mine. I don’t know how this woman’s magic worked, and I don’t think I want to. I am just grateful for the incredible day I had!

How-To: Find the Perfect Brighton Rock

As I walked down the street heading towards the beach, my anticipation built quickly and steadily. The never ending expanse of the ocean, the sweeping winds, the crash of the waves. It was all exciting and entrancing. One thing I do tend to dread about the beach though: sand.

Coarse grains getting…. well – everywhere. Often it even finds it’s way into the crevices of my teeth, leaving me with that awful terrible cringey feeling that my tooth is going to break in half because of one tiny particle. Upon getting to the beach, I looked over the ocean, I breathed in the sea air, I looked down to where I would soon walk… and there was no sand!

Rocks! Big Rocks! Brighton Beach, I now know, is known for this rock. I danced down to the beach to take a closer look. Beautiful rocks! The variety and color and shapes and textures were worth exploring. I quickly decided I must have one for my own. But which one?

How to Pick your Rock

 

Someday you may come across the same conundrum. Picking a Brighton rock out for your very own. Never fear, you won’t have the same challenges that I did because here I am to provide you with a quick, concise, how-to on choosing a Brighton rock.

Let’s start with color: what do you want this rock to embody? There is a ton of research about color psychology, and I will now break it down quickly and simply here for you – rocky colors only:

 

Now onto texture. This category is a little bit trickier, and a lot of it depends on the use. Are you using your rock as a rubbing stone to cope with stress? Pick a smoother texture. Are you fascinated with the nooks and crannies? Rough. Check out the patterning that the textures create. Which one intrigues you?

Size. Pick an appropriately sized rock. Yes, there are some that will barely fit in your hand, but is that practical? Do you want to lug a huge rock around all day? Maybe the answer is yes and you are making a statement about the emotional weight of the objects we choose to keep (that sounds familiar). But more likely, you want something that will fit nicely in your hand. Feel the ergonomics of the shape. Is there an uncomfortable bugle in a particular spot? Find another one. Don’t settle.

Final question: Do you want an edible rock? If you are answering yes to this question, then there is a specific place for you to look. You should leave the beach area, head to the pier, and pick up some Brighton Rock from one of the many (cash-only) candy shops. Heads up: there are many different flavors to choose from, but that is a “How To” for another day.

The quiches of my labor…

Today I’m going to explore a theory that I concocted in my kitchen. Last week I came to the conclusion that any unsettled feeling I had about moving to another country, starting a new job, etc was manifesting itself in my diet.

Read 'The quiches of my labor'

I noticed that what I was eating was low-effort food. I got cereal for breakfast. Pre-baked scones, yogurt and fruit, and peanut butter on celery was my lunch. Dinner I would up just snacking on whatever other ready-made things that I had bought when I went grocery shopping.

In the rest of my life I felt pretty comfortable, but not necessarily motivated. Whenever I got home I immediately felt like crashing in bed and not getting up. I’d work on my computer or watch Netflix. Keep it simple. But at the end of last week, I realized I’m running out of time. This past weekend was one of the last ones I will spend fully in London, so I started thinking about ways to keep exploring the city without the convenience of a weekend. Naturally, going out after work was the answer. But how was I supposed to do that if my body was begging for my bed at 18:00 on the dot?

I came to the food conclusion when I texted my dad about feeling melancholy (read below). There were too many unknowns that made me anxious. If I wanted to cook something, would Tesco have the proper ingredients? Would I have the proper cooking gear to make what I wanted to? Would I be in the way of my roommates? I felt scared of getting halfway through a recipe and realizing I needed something I didn’t have (ingredients, cookware, time, etc).

This weekend, I took some risks. I researched some recipes and I decided to commit myself to them. I was interested in using pastry, so I catered some flexible recipes to that. I decided on quiche and stir-fry that I could turn into little savory pies by filling the pastry with them. I knew I didn’t want to make my own pastry. The thing about moving every 3 months is it becomes really difficult to buy bulk ingredients like flour, sugar, etc because you won’t necessarily be able to move it to your next place. It gets very wasteful very quickly. So I bought pre-made shortcrust pastry that just needs to be baked.

The stir fry turned out to be really easy because Tesco has a lot of pre-cut veggie packs and noodles specifically for it. All I had to do was cook the chicken and stir it all together. I put much more effort into my quiche. I chopped everything myself, I made my own baking tins, I concocted my own recipe, which you can find below.

My final conclusion is that cooking is an extraordinary creative outlet and a fabulous way to familiarize yourself with your space. Cooking a bunch will really truly help you settle into a new life because you get used to your own apartment, the surrounding grocery stores, and your own capabilities. You control what you eat, and you can make sure it’s food that is going to make you feel good (tastebuds and the rest of you, too). I am feeling more confident and energized since this weekend of cooking, and I am looking forward to what I may scrummy up in the future.

The Recipe + Process Pics

*NOTES: 1. apologies for sloppy handwriting, 2. the shortcrust should be BLIND-BAKED before you add the filling, my crust wasn’t quite done when the egg concoction was, 3. TO GET FLAVOR, put your flavor filling in the crust first (to the TOP) and pour egg + cream over top (if you mix it with the egg there won’t be enough to get serious flavor and the egg will overwhelm.. I think. I will test and share updates)