Back in the day at UConn, in between turning over cars to celebrate winning championships and scaring off all the frat boys by talking about genocide education, I used to enjoy having a glass of wine in bed while watching a TV show in the evenings. It was a nice, relaxing way to end the day, and invariably let me sleep like a rock for eight hours. I also used to have dark colored bedding, which was a good choice on my part, because my bed may have weathered a few spills when I got a bit excited about whatever was happening on the TV.
While men all over the world are proudly growing caterpillars on their faces and the barristas and designers over on Brick Lane are temporarily having to find something other than their lumberjack facial hair to make themselves different from the rest of western society, I’ve taken on my own form of self-punishment this month. Having successfully completely Dry January earlier this year (depending on how you define ‘successfully’), and still not having quite regained my tolerance back to its previous form, cutting out sweets (including chocolate) seemed like a good plan knowing that a pile of Austrian cookies and multiple rounds of Glühwein are in my imminent future.
It is now Day 5, and this still doesn’t seem like it was a good plan. I may have started the weekend by cheating with a chocolate croissant, because Halloween weekend and croissants aren’t sweets anyways? Also … actually, I have no excuse, it was a weak start to No-Sweets November. But I think I sweat out most of it in the sauna last night (including the half of a cinnamon bun I ate afterwards, because Nordic pastries in wintertime are worth the shame).
The good news is, I have a box of Mozartkugeln and a bag of chocolate in my desk, and I haven’t been tempted once, so my success rate isn’t completely through the floor. Best of luck to all of the men out there who have so kindly given up their dating lives in the pursuit of a cure for testicular and prostate cancer.
At this time in the first term (called Michaelmas, because Cambridge is a bizarre place), I was operating on about 6 hours of sleep per night, drinking coffee by the bathtub, and reached the point of giggling out of context that my course supervisor couldn’t even keep a straight face at our end-of-term group dinner.
I was a mess.
It wasn’t just the workload, to be honest. It was a huge combination of things, both social and academic, that more or less turned me into a caffeinated lump on the floor. The UK’s idea of winter didn’t really help the matter. Luckily, all problems were solved after term with several bottles of wine and what was affectionately referred to as “the cookie tree.”
Basically, what it came down to was constantly being around constant stimulation and not enough structure. No, I don’t know of a synonym for “constant” off the top of my head. I live in an apartment complex with ~150 people. Basically, I live within crawling distance of my best friends in Cambridge, which is uhmazing. Obviously. It’s also really, really tiring. There’s always people going out, people going for dinner, people playing foozball. It’s hard to stay focused. So last term, I may have possibly procrastinated a touch more than I should have, and found myself preaching the benefits of bacon-chocolate while injecting myself with an IV of coffee and writing an essay about the global evaluation of education.
Don’t do drugs, kids.
This term (called Lent Term, because the members of the Old Boy’s club were sooper dooper creative when they designed this place) has improved. It might be because I’ve knocked a routine into myself (more or less). It might be because I’ve gotten used to being around 150 of my nearest and dearest. It might be because we’ve gone to the same damn pubs SO MANY TIMES that, frankly, it’s not as exciting anymore as it was. It could be because I’m rowing this term, starting to look at job applications (SOMEONE PLEASE HIRE ME), writing an essay, doing preparation work for my thesis, and training for a half marathon.
tl;dr: My schedule is really, really full.
Regardless of what it is, I’m keeping it (somewhat) together this term. I’m still a coffee addict, and I still have more chocolate (with and without bacon) in my cabinet, but at least I’m fairly verbal and competent now and not in a mess on the floor. A friend of mine has always told me that I kind of fall apart when I have too much free time; apparently it’s true.
I’ll be leaving Cambridge for about a month in ~2 weeks (but not before handing in an essay, finishing my research prep work, going to a concert in London, going to two formals, going to the Girton Spring Ball, and taking a French exam) to go back to NYC for about three weeks and then to Vienna for another week, which should be a beautiful, eloquent reminder of how fantabulous I am with German grammar. It’ll be good, but weird, to leave, especially since I’m pretty sure it’ll still be snowing in NYC when I land on March 22nd (it’s currently 55F/13C in Cambridge and I’m about to go running in shorts). But it should be a good mental reset to prepare for the final three months of laying out in the sun, going to May Balls, going punting, and eating scones under a tree in an orchard.
I should probably write my thesis also.
Note: I am furious. I had a brilliantly witty post mostly typed-out in the car on the way back from The Place Where Style Goes To Die this weekend. But since my tiny hands have fat finger syndrome, it no longer exists. This is my best attempt to resurrect it from the ashes.
The German and I faced a conundrum this weekend. The German Senior was celebrating his birthday, and while I already had two large, potent bottles of not-legal-to-be-sold-as-beer-in-Germany beer as presents, The German did not. Because forethought is overrated. So The German and I decided that a joint project might be useful, but had to deal with the following constraints: a man who just really doesn’t love dessert, and a kitchen from the last ice age with no numbers on the oven dial. We decided to approach this problem with a bit of an American strategy. What sort of birthday food should be made for a man who is known for going to the market on Saturdays and bring come half of a pig in a varying array of smokiness and rawness?
That’s right, this nice little Jewish girl went to market and brought home some piggy, which I then fried and threw into some cookie batter. With the help of The German, of course, since my momma taught me everything in life except for how to fly a fighter jet, what to do in case of a dinosaur attack, and how to fry bacon. Also because these were supposed to be a joint present, because I wasn’t supposed to show up The German at The German Senior’s birthday party. And then these happened:
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Brown butter-bacon-dark chocolate chunk cookies (recipe here). Apparently these cookies were good enough to win a stamp of approval from two Italian girls who have certainly grown up with a culinary culture that turns its nose up at the idea of combining bacon and chocolate. Now I have to admit, I originally suggested these as a joke when told that The German Senior is not big on dessert. I actually have had bacon only once or twice in my life, and despite hearing otherwise from The German and The Other Half numerous times, I remain unconvinced that fried, salty fat can really be considered a food of the gods. But alas, someone took my joke seriously, and next thing I knew, these things were coming out of my over. And guess what?
The German Senior approved. In all fairness, the two bottles of 9% beer from State/Canadaside and the eleven bottles of wine apparently consumed at the party by around a dozen people probably helped to smooth out that decision. But a win is a win.
Other things going on that I haven’t written about since last time:
1. I survived Munich. I had an awesome host who was kind enough to tone down his accent for me, and it only took me 6.5 hours to get there by ICE because I’m a bit clueless at times and did a complete Runde Deutschland.
2. As it turns out, spring is a real season in Germany. It exists and it has arrived. And dare I say that I have already sprouted my first freckle of the season!
3. On a completely serious note: my deepest condolences to Boston, the runners, the city inhabitants, and anyone else affected by the tragedy. On that note: this is not the time for people to start becoming experts on Chechnya’s messy history and the demographics and religion of the people living there. It might, however, be time for the Boston PD to start training the NYPD and the LAPD. Just a thought.
Okay, it has been proven. Traveling = writing a lot. At least for me. I’m now at nine days since the last time I wrote, which is a personal HIGH.
For this website. I know, I used to go for half of a year with nothing. But improvement comes.
Anyways, here I am, with my tea, candles, glasses, and my first Braunschweiger hangover. Fortunately this is Germany and not Sweden, so an entire night of drinks and party cost me less than one entrance to, oh I don’t know, BERNS.
Also, there was a full stuff deer in the bar. Like, grown male with antlers. In the bar. In the middle of the bar. Because, uh, Germany?
I’ve made a somewhat important discovery. Maybe I’m a bit late to the party with this one, but technical schools are full of plaid-wearing men. Completely full. These men, of course, fill up bars in hunt of the approximate 2% of the population that consists of attractive, socially competent, aged 20-27 women.
Especially at bars with AN ENTIRE STUFFED DEER. If that doesn’t scream for beer-drinking, plaid shirt wearing, German engineering students, I don’t know what does.
So, moral of the story: there were too many men at this place, cheap beer is good beer, and Germany does not enforce a total smoking ban in bars.
I’m trying to avoid socializing for the next 24 hours because honestly, I don’t want to wash my hair. Also, my jacket smells like an ashtray. Oh Europe.
Also, Karneval was last week, which means that these men were out in full-force, dressed like lobsters and ninja turtles, day drinking and fighting little kids for the candy thrown from the floats during the parade. Lovely.
In other news, I am perpetually late. I realize that this is not a new discovery for anyone, but I’m pretty sure that living across the street from my office really perpetuates the problem. I mean, I can literally roll out of bed and into work. It’s a two minute walk if I crawl. But I am somehow ALWAYS late. And the worst part is that I can NEVER blame it on external factors, like weather or public transport. It’s just me being late. Always. I operate in a vacuum of lateness.
So to all Germans and Dutchies out there, I apologize in advance. Just know that if you make a date with me, there is a 15 minute window before you can start getting annoyed with me. Just be patient.
Oh, also, if anyone wants some chocolate, please come over. I may have overindulged at the supermarket when I found 43% milk chocolate AND my favorite variety of Ritter Sport. And then there were a few Valentine’s Day presents, because I have an awesome roommate (who studies aerospace engineering and is therefore too smart for me) and The German knows the straight line to my heart. And a belated Christmas present from The German’s aunt. So, uh, come one, come all. Chocolate feast, my place.
Please, seriously. Don’t make me eat this by myself.
Because I will.
I was going to write this post from a small café tomorrow on some side street with a canal view in my current Amsterdam, but in light of my last post, I have decided to hit up a photography museum called FOAM.
Update: no, I lied. I went to the museum, and now I find myself canal-side in a café with about five tables and wallpaper covered in various string instruments that I wish I had the skill to play. All with good intentions.
Since we last spoke, I survived Belgium. A fine accomplishment by any standards. I went from Maastricht into Liege, and from there into Bruges (which includes passing through Brussels) with no delays. Perhaps I had the luck of the French-speaking Irish on my side (thanks M). I even drank a hot coffee on the train and didn’t spill it all over myself, which I assumed would be the next best thing to a two hour delay between stations with a R. Haar paper due the next day. But nope, nothing. I made it to Bruges in one piece, and proceeded to spend about 24 hours walking around, being charmed by everything I saw, drinking beer, and eating fine chocolate, lace cookies, and ribs. More or less in that order.
In other words, life was good. Twenty-four hours of bliss. Bruges is possibly the most charming place on earth (and I say that having already lived in Granada and Maastricht). It’s just completely full of crooked houses, canals, cobbled streets, and, well, bridges.
And the ever-charming Flemish-speaking drunk 18 year olds yelling at 2 AM. But alas, nothing gold can stay, and Belgium yet again went back to its old ways with a small delay on my train to Roosendaal that led to me almost miss my connection to Amsterdam, which would have obviously led to an hour of eating frietjes with no mayo, thank you very much. But because unlike a turtle, I am very skilled at awkwardly running with a shell on my back, I did make it onto the train.
Belgium, I win this time.
I have since landed in Amsterdam, where it has snowed, rained, and sunned all in a span of twenty four hours. Because Holland. K has taught me the art of picking tourists out of a crowd based on their apparent love for the AMSTERDAM hats sold only at the tackiest of tourist shops. I have also been learning an appreciation for mayonnaise. As it turns out, frietjes speciaal makes a fantastic drunk snack.
Please don’t make me repeat that, please. It hurt my soul even to put it in writing.
True to my old ways, I have successfully scraped the mayo off of every sandwich I’ve had here. Old habits die hard.
Preluding this late-night snack was a trip to an impressive whiskey bar, where I proceeded to drink only beer. When asked why, I had to recount the story of a particular night when two of my favorite people on earth managed to give me an incredible distaste for whiskey. My life has not been the same since then. Thanks L and M, you guys are great.
In a few hours I will head to Rotterdam to visit the original Dutchie in my life, followed by a trip to Utrecht to visit one of the tallest people to ever grace Poland with his presence. Obviously very little logic went into this route planning; thankfully with more than an hour in any direction I will be swimming in the ocean or speaking German, so my journey will be short regardless of the fact that I am making a complete Ronde van Nederland.
Hopefully by the next time I write, someone will have talked me out of moving to Amsterdam, where I will undoubtedly be the shortest person on record and will probably never learn to speak Dutch.