Friday, May 27, 2011

Dim the Lights

I've desperately missed having a television. I hadn't realized how often I turned it on for background while cooking or puttering around until I didn't have one anymore. Unfortunately, my limited bank account didn't offer up the funds for both a new television and the tv license here (seriously, I still don't understand why I have to purchase a license in addition to the tv here just to watch...).

Which means, I have to stream it. Or find more creative ways of getting my television that only involves me and my laptop. Or a friend's laptop, if there are more than one of us since I have a small screen on mine.

The poor grad student's home theatre.

Luckily, the internet provides options not just for shows where I am (how much do I love Doctor Who? I'm still hoping to walk down the street and find a TARDIS chilling somewhere) but also for shows I miss at home. Such as Justified, which my friend Sarah and I make an event out of.

Well, as much of an event as you can make out of such an... impressive... home theatre system...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When in Doubt, Add Butter. And Bacon.

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.
~John Gunther

I'm not a breakfast person.

I take that back -- I love breakfast, but I am a confirmed night owl and I just am rarely up early enough to make a difference between breakfast and lunch. And I'm not usually hungry right after I wake up, so maximizing sleep before rushing out the door to work when I was working make breakfast near an impossibility.

But today, today I celebrate. For the past few weeks, I've had the darnedest time sleeping. When I get stressed, sleep eludes me, and then I'm up in the middle of the night and it's so quiet and calm, it's a shame to waste that island of calm in the middle of the storm with sleep, so everything gets off kilter and I feel even worse. And I don't get hungry. So sleep and hunger goes... not a sustainable method of living, huh?

But last night, I slept. 7.5 hours of blissful sleep -- while it was dark. At a normal sleep time. Of course, that means I woke up at 6:30 this morning, which oy, who's up at 6:30? My flatmate, but I digress. On the other hand, we have such thin walls, and she has such a pleasant alarm...

But I was up after sleeping and I decided -- I want breakfast. But not cold cereal and milk 'borrowed' from my flatmates. No, I want breakfast.

I want eggs cooked in real butter. I want bacon cooked to crispy -- or as close as I can get to crispy with the thicker cut bacon here. Seriously, streaky bacon is close to American bacon, but still cut too thick. And I want grits, that lovely taste of home. A croissant to mop up the runny egg and a delivery system for more butter.

Oh, and tea with a splash of milk. Hey, I'm in the UK -- I've developed a few British habits after all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

50 Questions Meme, Part 4

Next installment of the 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind (questions 10-13)

10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
11. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?
12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
13. Would you break the law to save a loved one?

Friday, May 6, 2011


Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
~Berthold Auerbach

The St Andrews Chorus is a lovely refuge on Friday nights. No matter how bad or stressful or long the week has been, Friday night I get to sing. And I've realized it's something my soul desperately needs.

And many times I'll wonder what would've happened and what direction I would've gone if I'd studied music and tried to go professional. Different roads and all.

But this semester we are doing Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. It's rare that we come on a piece that I haven't at least heard of in passing, but this was a new one on me. And I've determined from the recordings that I've been able to find that it's much more popular in Britain and Australia as a performance piece than in the US. Which is a shame -- the work is intricate and powerful and one that is worth a listen if people get the chance.

Break in Younger Hall, waiting for the rehearsal to start back up.

And tomorrow we'll perform it. Saturday afternoon is blocked off for the dress rehearsal and Saturday night is performance.

I love performance.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

One of the banes of my existence has been the lack of good Mexican food here in St Andrews. And I feel like I can use that to speak for the UK in general. If you want Indian, the UK is great. Apparently Mexico is too far away (and what with it never being colonized by the Brits) to get good (or even adequate) Mexican food here.

But, with it being Cinco de Mayo, the most American of Mexican holidays, many of us here take it upon ourselves to do the best we can and recreate the flavors so many of us Americans are craving.

It's funny what you miss when you're half way around the world, isn't it?

Sarah and Kate making food. Mmm, homemade guacamole...

Guacamole, nachos, shrimp, black beans that were finishing up on the stove so not in the picture, and the always classic Cinco de Mayo staple -- Corona. The classiest of beers.

The bright idea to make churros. It's apparently a three person job to fill the ziploc aka piping bag.

They didn't come out quite churro shaped... but still tasty.

I could've eaten an entire bowl of Kate's guacamole. Seriously, just give me a spoon and I'd be set.

Actually, maybe I should just make that for dinner tomorrow night. No shame in doing that if no one's watching, right?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Dip

One of the traditions here at St Andrews is the May Dip. At dawn on the morning of 1 May, students gather on a beach and run out into the North Sea. They've usually stayed up the night before, bonfires on the beach, and then stripping down and running into very cold water.

Some say it's in honour of John Honey who over a hundred years ago dove into the sea to rescue five persons who would've drowned after their boat capsized out at sea. Others say that it's the only way to remove the curse placed on undergrads if they step on the cursed PH stones on North Street. Others just think that it's a really good idea.

My intention was to stay up to do it. The reality was that I had climbed a mountain the day before and I was TIRED.

So, instead of 4:30am when everyone else was doing it, my friend Kate and I decided to wait till the more sane hour of 7am to go down to East Sands and walk into the sea. Sure, it wasn't technically right, but... sleep was good.

North Sea from East Sands on May Day.

Looking out towards the town and the Fife Coastal Path.

And honestly, I think this view was better. The sun was brilliant overhead, even at 7am. It amazes me how early the sun rises here now that we're on summer time. The water sparkled like crystal, the beach was empty save for the few other people who were doing the same thing we were, and we got the experience of the North Sea in May.

Which, if you couldn't guess, is... COLD. Seriously, there needs to be a better word than cold because it was further than cold. And I've been polar bearing in the Chesapeake Bay in December. That was cold. This was COLD. I got into the water up to mid-calf before the cold burned so much that I had to get out. I don't know how some of my friends dove in head first at 4am, although I'm gathering that alcohol, lack of sleep, and peer pressure all played pretty significant roles in that decision.

Me? I think I'll appreciate the uncrowded beach and the sunshine in my own version of the tradition.