26 July 2010

If my 18-year-old self were here now...

If my 18-year-old self were here now, she would be disgusted at some of the things I eat!

I've never been a hugely picky eater, but there are a few staple foods I rejected my whole life: bell peppers, carrots, peas, melon, & mustard.

But for some reason, somehow, this has all changed. It all started with honey mustard in my senior year of high school. (Have you ever dipped pretzels in it?! Oh my goodness, it's heaven.) Slowly I realized that I could handle regular mustard as well, and even Dijon in the right situation. In fact, I looove mustard and slather it on my sandwiches, fries, etc!

Raw red peppers, especially with cream cheese, are a staple in my diet. And carrots go in most roast meals, stir fries, and salads. Peas go in everything above plus pastas.

And just this past week, my housemate Michael bought a canteloupe, which would previously not have been welcome in my tummy, and... guess what: I loved it! I bought two on Saturday and have already eaten one.

I find it so strange that all of the foods I used to despise, and some of which would actually make me gag if chewed, are now some of my favorite items. Isn't it bizarre how our tastes can change as we get older.

In fact, the only thing I would refuse to eat is rollmop:

I just can't wrap my mind around pickled fish...

I wonder if I can convince my sister that she can like mushrooms & onions?


20 July 2010

Random Tuesday: Organized


Somehow I managed to organize Random Tuesday. Oops!

* Random Letter:
Dear Mr Thirsty,
You chose the wrong person to gulp next to in the library.
Sincerely annoyed,
P.S. If I can hear you swallow through my headphones, it's time to see a doctor.

* Random Thought:
I realized I haven't been having scary nightmares as often. I occasionally have a bad dream, but it's the sort about making a stupid decision, not about being chased/kidnapped. That's good.

* Random Illustration:
(How I'm feeling today)

* Random Optimism:
At least my friend Nora is arriving in Bristol this evening. She'll be staying with me, & she's cheerful, so hopefully my spirits will lift.

* Random song:
I randomly thought of this last night in bed & couldn't fall asleep until I have found it & listened to it. Oh how I miss the 90s.

* Random quote:
"You're a gigantic parody of yourself & you don't even know it." --Tara, True Blood


19 July 2010

Questions Asked, Questions Answered: Melanie from 'you are my fave'

Melanie from you are my fave has graciously let me ask her all the questions I ever wanted to ask lots of questions about her & her blog. She probably doesn't need much introducing, since she's so lovely that everyone knows about her fun-loving style and attitude. And if you haven't come in contact with her blog, check it out now. Her blog was one of the first I ever started following, so I'm very delighted to have been in contact with her & to present some of her charm on my blog!

In her e-mail, she told me, "Whenever it comes to choosing my absolute fave of one thing, I have the hardest time. I'm better at the top ten lists of things. So these are the faves that come to mind but can change at any time."

Book: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life
Word: crisp, cheeky, chello, meet cute
TV series: 30 Rock
Film: Oceans 11
City: Rome
Color: sea blue
Dance move: various takes on the shimmy
Quote: "The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly."  - Julia Child

Most embarrassing fave?
I like Lauren Conrad.

You tell us about your faves all the time on your blog. What are some things that you aren't a fan of?

dress shoes with jeans, when animals destroy food in movies, rats, John Mayer, the NBA tattoo situation, necklaces on guys, Walmart, used bandaids

How are your dancing skills?
As far as coordinated and technical dancing, not so much. But I've been known to put on a show when the iPod is set to random or the 30 Rock theme song comes on. There's a lot of circular arm movements involved.

You throw amazing parties. If you could organize a party for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? What would the party be like?

I would throw a celebration for my sister and her husband when a child finally gets placed with them through adoption. It would be a lovely outdoor affair with long tables, crisp linens and strings of lights. My entire family would be there

Here on [scattered thoughts by breenuh], I sometimes post Steps to Simple Happiness. Do you have one to share?
Every once in a while take the time to make a really big and delicious breakfast and share it with someone you like.

What is the best thing about blogging?
the fan club

Any blogger advice?

Post what you love without worrying if anybody else loves it.

Thanks, Melanie, for humoring me. It's been really fun getting to know you better!


18 July 2010

Running Letters

Dear shin splints,
Painfully yours,

Dear new running route,
Thank you for having a very small decline for me to rest a bit & a larger incline to kick my butt into gear. Also, I like that you go by the zoo.
With love & motivation,

Dear clouds,
Thanks for mercifully letting down a tiny little sprinkly mist for me on the way home. It was cool & calming to my warm skin.

Dear self,
Next time, remember the route right so you run 2, instead of 1.5, miles. Silly girl.
Yours truly,


17 July 2010

Scattered {Saturday} Thoughts

Happy Saturday! I haven't written any scattered thoughts in a while. It might be worthwhile to throw down the info swirling around in my brain.

* Since I now have next week off work, I've been looking at last minute mini trips. I haven't found anything particularly cheap, but... I'm thinking that in a couple of weeks (after I get paid) I'll pack a bag & just show up at the airport! I hear standby flights are very cheap, & it would be such a fun adventure not to know where I'm headed till a few hours before my flight :.)

* I got a little care package in the mail from my mom last night! It contained: some of our family's favorite Trader Joe's coffee, two books to help with my dissertation, colorful hair-ties, & some fancy earrings (cute but where will I ever wear these?). I really love getting things in the mail!

* I've already made a cup of Trader Joe's Seattle Style Dark Roast, & I'm enjoying it with some fresh bread & cheese that I just bought at the farmer's market. Yum! Writing about coffee made me think of one of my fave Will & Grace scenes:

* Quite often, things that happen in real life remind me of something that happened in Will & Grace. I'm mildly addicted to the show. I have all of the seasons on DVD, & I watch it while I fall asleep most nights that I sleep by myself. I have the same life-TV parallel with Veronica Mars & The Office. (That's really all the TV I ever watch these days, except some occasional Curb Your Enthusiasm with Jonty & then whatever show we're on at the moment - currently The Wire.)

* I finally found a used copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. Anyone want to Book Club it??

* Speaking of used books, I've decided I'm not buying any new books for a year! (With the slight exception of hugely necessary & unfindable dissertation-related books.)

* Huge news!!! On Monday, I'll be starting a new interview series. The first interview I'll be putting up is with one of my very favorite bloggers! She's well-loved in the blogging community, & I'm so so excited that she's going to be on here.

Any guesses as to who will be the first interviewee?! The first person to guess correctly just might get a little surprise in the mail... :.)


16 July 2010

Pesto Salmon & Pasta

I'm all about fish lately, & I've been trying to branch out a bit more in regards to cooking with it. The other day, Jonty & I stumbled upon a recipe for pesto salmon & pasta. Upon seeing the recipe made on This Morning in our B&B room a few weekends ago,* I knew it would be amazing. And I wasn't wrong.

Pesto Salmon & Pasta adapted from Dean's Salmon with pesto

Serves: 2

2 180g skinless salmon fillets
50g cream cheese
Large handful fresh basil
1/2 clove garlic
50g toasted pine nuts
30g parmesan
Lemon juice to taste
Olive oil
Black pepper
1 tsp sugar

1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until they take on some colour, remove from pan and set aside 20g of them. Add the rest to a blender along with the basil, garlic and pulse while adding olive oil, adding the parmesan to taste and season with black pepper and lemon juice.
2. In a bowl mix the cream cheese with a tablespoon of pesto and the reserved pine nuts, spoon the mixture on top of the salmon fillets and bake in an oven set at 200c for around 7-8 mins.
4. Cook the pasta to the packets instructions, drain then dress with the pesto.
Serve with fresh cherry tomatoes (mozzarella optional). Enjoy!

* I really only watch/browse TV in hotel/B&B rooms.


15 July 2010

Travel Thursday: Kenya {Mombasa}

The view from our hotel lobby!

When we were in Kenya, Jonty & I went on a little weekend adventure to Mombasa, the country's popular beach side town. We took an overnight train, which was an adventure in itself (I'll tell you about it next week). When our taxi dropped us at our hotel, we were in for a bit of a surprise. The hotel receptionist informed us that, since we're not Kenyan residents, our room rate (already not cheap) was higher than we were quoted. (This is because Syano's sister's friend - a Kenyan resident - got the rates for us.) Isn't it bizarre that there are different rates for residents & non-residents? It's just like at Nairobi National Park. Well, at least they're honest about it rather than trying to swindle more money of of people. We waited in the lobby, hot & tired after a long night on the train, not to mention mildly annoyed that we were wasting the little time we had in Mombasa, for an hour while the receptionist talked to the travel agency, then to the manager, and so on. Thankfully, we were given our original rate.

The beach was spectacular. White sands & warm water: it doesn't get much better than that!

And there were camels!!!

However, along with the camels came camel ride salesmen. And boat trip salesmen. And shop salesmen. The beach was lined with people trying to sell us stuff. On our walk down the beach & back, we were approached at least five times. To be fair to these guys, (a) it was off-peak, so they probably weren't making much & (b) most people traveling to Mombasa are actually wealthy enough to spend money like that.

We did actually book a snorkeling outing with one guy for the next morning. After deciding to book, he told us that the price he quoted (2500 Kenyan shillings, about £25/$37) was actually for each person, not for the entire outing. After haggling & practically fighting & eventually just getting up to leave, we got our price. The outing was really nice. We left around 8:00 in the morning, when the air was fresh. The sea was warm & the boat ride to the snorkeling spot was very relaxing. No sea turtles or sharks showed up, but we had fun snorkeling nevertheless. My favorite part was watching the tiny crabs crawling around in the boat while I let one foot trail in the water and breathed in the ocean air.

On the way back to the beach, I chatted with one of the two guys on our boat. He told me that he can drink four (big) bottles of beer, & that the local favorite is coconut wine, made only in the village. The boat we were in was made by his grandfather! He's from one of the eleven coastal tribes. Their tribal dishes mostly consist of freshly caught fish and vegetables. The fishing boat comes in every morning at 11 o'clock. Kenya, according to him, is the most corrupt country in Africa. (I begged to differ, but what do I know?) What struck me the hardest was how bitter he was about the Haves (versus the Have-nots) in Kenya, & in a way I couldn't blame him.

Our hotel room left a lot to be desired, especially considering the price. For example, TV wasn't plugged in, & when we tried to remedy that ourselves, we found that it didn't even have a Kenyan plug! But at least we had a mosquito net. And this oh-so-amazing view:

On our second, & last, day in Mombasa, we mostly hung out by the pool. (We didn't go to the beach because we were tired of being hassled.) It was really hot outside, & mellow (but not cold) in the pool. We read books, listened to music, & drank/ate fresh coconut (omg yum!). It was suuuch a nice day!

The evening before, we took a walk to Nakumat (aka Wal-Mart) & bought some fresh bananas & oranges. I actually will never be able to fully enjoy a banana here ever again. The ones in Kenya were so sweet & flavorful. Mmmm... I'm salivating just thinking about them.

We walked into the town but didn't see much because (silly us) we chose to go in on a Sunday, when everything is closed. I'd love to go back & explore a bit more.

Some general thoughts on Mombasa: Quite touristy. Very dusty. (It was a colonial town.) Big Muslim population. Friendly people, but usually trying to get money from you somehow. Very hot.

Oh yeah, & the mosquitos there are ninjas! I got bit by lots of them (especially at the train station), but by the time I looked the little guy was gone.


I can't wait to tell you about our epic train journey.
You. Will. Die.


14 July 2010

Jonty's Graduation Day

Jonty was lucky enough to graduate in what was probably the most beautiful week so far in England. Except, possibly, for the fact that he had to wear a big, hot robe on said warm day.

Anyway, we had to be at the university quite early in the morning. After getting tickets & robe, we grabbed some coffee & a full English breakfast. Then, we headed into the graduation ceremony. It was a nice ceremony, & Jonty looked very handsome.

Afterward, we had lunch with his parents at The Trout, a lovely pub in Wolvercote, a small town near Oxford. (Jonty also took me there for lunch on my birthday last September.) I had pasta with artichokes, olives, tomatoes, rocket & goats cheese. Jonty, of course, had the fish & chips. We weren't stalked by a peacock like last time; this time it was a duck.

After lunch, Jony & I went on a stroll along the river to The Perch.

At The Perch, I obsessed over the decor for a while, & then we had a cup of tea.

How effing beautiful is this place???

Jonty graduated with a BSc in Business - Marketing & Communications, with First Honours. He worked hard to achieve his degree, & I'm so proud of him. Well done, & congrats!


13 July 2010

Book Swapping!

Reasons To Join a Book Swap
1. It's cheap. You only have to pay for postage.
2. It's convenient: a new read straight to your door.
3. It's greener. New books mean cutting down trees.
4. It will help de-clutter your house & your life. You don't have to add book upon book to your list of possessions. Instead, just read & swap for new ones.

Used book stores are a great way to get some of the above benefits, plus you're supporting a local business & are being green by doing less shipping. But if you don't have a good one near you, or can't be bothered, a book swap is the way to go.

Check out this Guardian article for more info and for a few popular book swap sites.

I don't know if I've ever expressed this to you guys, but I love love love books. I'm thinking of starting up a small book swap on my blog, where everyone throws in a good book they've read & we pass them around to each other. This would be fun because we'll get little literary surprises in the mail! And we could write a blog post, or a blurb in a journal we pass around, for each book we read. Let me know if you're interested :.)


12 July 2010

Happy people are better workers.

An article in The Observer yesterday talked about a recent study on the relationship between happiness & productivity. The finds? When people are happy, they are most efficient. So, while you refill your coffee cup this morning, consider that you will get more done (hello raise?) if you perk up & get happy. Another way of looking at it is: When you come back from lunch 20 minutes late, point your boss to the newspaper article & tell him that you're happy to have gotten some fresh air & good food & will now be a diligent little worker bee. Well, maybe avoid the latter of the two. But I do think the article is interesting.

I actually find that being productive makes me more productive. When I work in the morning, & I get a lot done, then I feel more productive (schoolwork-wise) in the afternoon after I leave work. Okay, well, I say this, but it hasn't really been happening lately. I just can't get back into the dissertation groove. It's a new week, though, & I feel good about it!

Actually, I think I have been productive, but just with other things. I've started getting my Etsy shop together, and (as you can see) I'm revamping my blog. My favorite part so far is the white border on all the photos. It's not done yet, though. I have a banner to put up & will probably do a bit more tweaking. Oh, but I do have to ask: Is my new layout too wide? I like wide, but for netbook users etc I'm not sure if it's too much. Let me know if it is.

What makes you more productive?

Happy Monday! (Literally.)


09 July 2010

Paul the Octopus!

For those of you who are not obsessing over the World Cup, Paul the Octopus is a supposedly psychic octopus who has been predicting the outcome of the World Cup matches, mostly involving Germany. For each game, he is presented with two boxes, one with each team's flag, and he then chooses food out of the box of the team that he thinks will win. He hasn't been wrong so far in this World Cup.

Well, apparently, some Argentineans have gotten angry at Paul the Octopus, blaming him for their loss in the quarter finals. (I assume this is because they think either (a) that he has some kind of power over the outcomes of soccer matches or (b) that he is giving the team he chooses the psychological advantage.) Anyway, these angry South Americans have threatened to EAT PAUL! A local newspaper even gave a recipe for preparing Paul Paella. Whoa guys, let's take it easy. He's just an octopus.

To put even more pressure on Paul, a new (supposedly) psychic animal, Mani the Parakeet, has been presented to the world by his 80-year-old fortune teller owner. Paul has predicted that Spain will win against the Netherlands in the final on Sunday, and Mani has chosen the Netherlands. So I guess Sunday will be a telling day.

The world is a ridiculous place.


[image via]

07 July 2010

Sleep Talkin' Man

Good morning! I've just arrived at work, coffee-deprived, & the first thing I do (after checking my calendar & work e-mails of course) is take a quick little look at Blogger. My day is always brightened by my new favorite blog. It's so amusing that I feel obliged to share it with you!

It's called Sleep Talkin' Man. The blogger, Karen, is married to a British guy who has a bit of a sleep talking problem. He does it practically every single night. After giving up on trying to write down his mumblings in the dark in the middle of the night, she bought a voice-activated recorder. And now, she posts his sleep talking every day. (Yes, he knows about it.)

He says the most ridiculous things in his sleep. Here are a few of my faves:

"Where are all the sleep sheep? Everyone's got a sleep sheep. My sleep sheep's not here. Oh. How am I meant to sleep without my sleep sheep? Sleep sheeeeeep... Wait, you've got two, you bastard! I'm taking that one. He's so soft. Ah, sleep sheep. Don't leave me again. Baaaaaaahhhh."

"I've got a horrible urge to catch tuna in your stockings. Sustainably, of course."

"Shhh. I can smell you. I hear through my nose."

"You speak your mind, I punch your face. I think it's a fair exchange. We'll both be hurting."

"That's it! That's the last fucking time we're ever going on holiday with beavers. Can't take their chattering. Always chattering!"

You really must take a look. Enjoy!


06 July 2010

How to Throw a Fantastic Cocktail Party

Step 1: Make lots of homemade nibbles.

Roasted red pepper bruschetta, caramelized onion hummus, pesto hummus, & pita bread were all made from scratch by me. My housemate Nell made the lemon fairy cakes, jam tarts, & spicy cheese pinwheels.

Step 2: Buy lots of mixers & fruit, & some of the usual liquors, & invite your friends to bring their favorite cocktail ingredient to add to the mix. Pre-making a delicious punch is a plus!

Step 3: Make a classy cocktail party playlist, & switch to some dancing tunes once the party has been in motion for a while.

Step 4: Enjoy a night to remember with the wonderful people you live with & your amazing friends.

The Flat 11 crew.

My Aussie friend Sarah, who I lived with in Oxford. She's in the
UK/Europe for the summer & came to visit me last weekend!


05 July 2010

Simple Happiness Tip #7

Cook enough to have leftovers. It takes very little extra effort to double the ingredients in your dinner. And then you can save it for lunch or, better, for some night later in the week when you are exhausted & can't find the energy to cook. You'll have a more relaxed night without ordering greasy Chinese takeout or snacking all night.


West Wedding

Wedding party on the left, me & Jonty on the right.

Hi guys! I've been a been lazy about blogging lately, aside from my Kenya posts, so I hope to fill you in about all the lovely things I've been doing lately. Last weekend (as in a bit over a week ago), I went down to Portsmouth for my friend Denise's wedding. It was on a gorgeous, sunny, warm summer day at an amazing location: Stansted Park, outside of the small town of Rowlands Castle in southern England.

The wedding was in a small, ridiculously old, & incredibly beautiful chapel.

Afterward, we headed outside for a couple hours of photos, chat, canapes, & PIMM'S.*

Dinner was served inside the historic Stansted House.

The groom picked these centerpieces out! Impressive, right?

Since we were down near the ocean, we stayed at a B&B near the wedding & took the opportunity to check out some seaside towns & beaches.



We all were lucky to have such a fun-filled weekend planned while the sun was gracing us with her presence!


* For those unfamiliar with PIMM'S, it a British liquor that is popular in the summertime & served with ice, lemonade (aka lemon-lime sode without the lime), & lots of cut up fruit.

01 July 2010

Travel Thursday: Kenya {Safari}

Okay, to be honest, I don't know if what we did counts as a safari, but our friend Syano's dad hired a car for us (and I should point out how appreciative we are that he did that for us!) and we drove around Nairobi National Park looking for/at animals for an afternoon.

Nairobi National Park is pretty close to Syano's family's house (where we were staying). Syano and the driver paid in Kenyan shillings, but Jonty and I had to pay in US dollars! Isn't that bizarre?

We got there mid-afternoon after running around town getting dollars and whatever else.

Right upon driving in, a bunch of baboons (a congress of baboons, to be technical) was blocking our way.

They took their sweet time moving out of the road. But we didn't mind because we loved watching this little one.

I was snapping photos right and left.

Our next obstacle was a couple of giraffes having an afternoon meal. We were able to get very close to watch them because they were definitely not scared of us.

Giraffes are such beautiful animals. I loved watching their bodies move as they walked.

We saw loads of giraffes, no doubt more than any other animals. They were everywhere, usually in small groups. Of course, they are the easiest to spot!

The park is only 7 kilometres from the city! Some of our shots had high-rise buildings in the background, and airplanes from the nearby airport flew overhead. (These are waterbucks. They tended to shy away from us.)

A few hippos were out for a swim in this pond. Our driver told us that hippos are quite dangerous, since they're strong and, contrary to appearances, can run very fast (up to 20 miles per hour; they can run at the bottom of a pond too!). We stuck around for a while, hoping they'd do something exciting (and ready to drive away like hell if they tried to involve us in the excitement!). They yelled at us a few times, but didn't do anything else all that interesting. And they were a bit too far away to really take proper photos.

We then saw some male ostriches get into a little squabble over a high maintenance female.

There was a rhino sighted by others in the park, and we could see it in the distance, but we could never find a road that would get close to it. We started a bit too late in the day to see everything we wanted, but we did get to see a few amazing animals and have a little adventure. I did just discover this blog though, which has some more exciting pictures and stories in Nairobi National Park. And the sunset at the end was worth it.