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I caved and joined a gym

23 Jan

I resisted for a while. “Why should I pay to run on a treadmill when running in London’s gorgeous parks is free?” I always thought. But the one thing I didn’t think about when I signed up for a half marathon in March is that my training would take place in January and February, the coldest months of the year. While London’s “cold” is nowhere near Midwest and East Coast America cold, I still didn’t want to do my long runs in 30-degree weather. That, and we are finally starting renovations on the master bedroom next week (something we’ve been talking about for more than 2 years now), and I don’t want to run and shower while the builder is here, and don’t want to run when it’s dark after he leaves.

So I joined a gym.

I chose the gym nearest to me, which also happens to be the cheapest. It’s cheap because it’s no frills — there’s no pool or sauna, there’s not even someone to check you in. When you sign up online they email you a code, and you type that code into a keypad before you enter the glass chamber that permits you entrance to The Gym. That wasn’t a Trumpsque bout of random capitalization syndrome, that’s its actual name — The Gym.

I made my first visit to The Gym yesterday as a bit of a trial run before my 8-mile long run today. I am in week 5 of the Hidgon Half Marathon plan, which means my long run this week needs to be 8 miles. I didn’t want to just hop on a treadmill and bang it out, I wanted to ease myself into treadmill running, so I thought I’d knock off the easy 3-mile run in this week’s plan. I successfully entered The Gym through the almost claustrophobic chamber and immediately hopped on the first treadmill I saw. I didn’t want to be seen wandering with that newbie look in my eyes, I wanted it to seem like I belonged there. I started walking as a warmup and put on my new favorite podcast to run to, My Favorite Murder. It got me through last week’s 7-mile long run, so I figured it would make these 3 miles blow by.

I didn’t want my walking time to affect my distance and pace measurements, so I started a new session when I was ready to run. I figured I’d start at a 10-min mile pace, then slowly increase and bang out these 3 miles in less than 30 minutes. I set the distance to miles and the pace to 6. I started running, allowing Karen and Georgia to regale me with the tale of Rebecca Zahau’s murder… except it wasn’t working.

I watched the boxing class happening in front of me. I watched the people walking by outside through the window. But mostly I just watched the numbers on the screen in front of me.

Has it really only been 2 minutes? I wondered.

Then my thoughts began to wander. I needed to pick up mushrooms at the store on my way home. Maybe I should get broccoli too. I wonder who convinced the sheriff that Rebecca Zahau’s death was a suicide when she was so clearly murdered? Why do people tamper with dead bodies instead of immediately calling the police? I bet broccoli would be good in my new air fryer. I bet it’s been at least 5 minutes now.

14 seconds had passed.

I had forgotten how mind-numbly boring treadmill running was. Outside it was so easy to escape into my podcast or music and Pokemon Go, but here I couldn’t stop obsessing over the time and distance. Which, by the way, I realized suddenly wasn’t adding up. 10 minutes had passed and I hadn’t run 1 mile yet — not even close. I slowly increased my speed of 6 to 8.5. It said my pace was 7 something. “I am really flying!” I thought. “Treadmill running is easier than I thought! Now the miles will really fly by!”

Except they didn’t. I was still running slower than a 10-min mile pace. I googled treadmill pace cheat sheets and couldn’t figure out why my numbers weren’t lining up. What unit of measurement was 6 or 8.5 if not mph? Just “speed”?

30 speed

I could think of only one reason why the distance wasn’t displaying correctly — the treadmill was broken! It was a cheap gym with cheap machines that were obviously not calibrated correctly. After the treadmill clock hit 30 minutes I started the cool down. I had probably run 3 miles even if the display didn’t show it. I hopped off and decided to explore downstairs, which I just discovered existed.

It was a lot more crowded than the upstairs, so I reasoned that was where the good machines were. I would do my 8 miles on a treadmill down here tomorrow.

The next day (today), I headed straight downstairs. I knew podcasts and music weren’t going to cut it for essentially an hour and 20 minutes of running in place, so I came armed with my iPad loaded with Netflix shows. I hopped on a treadmill that reeked slightly of body odor, so it had been used recently and at least wasn’t broken, and decided to do a little experiment. This thought occurred to me yesterday while I was running, but it didn’t seem right so I didn’t test it out. What if the distance was in miles, but the speed was actually in kilometers? So if I wanted to run 6 mph, I had to set the speed to 10 kmph. I tried it for 10 minutes, and sure enough my distance was 1 mile. Which meant that whole time I thought I was running fast yesterday, I was actually running really slowly. I knew it felt a little too easy, but I chalked it up to all my training. I settled in at 10 kmph, which is slower than I was hoping to run the half, yet still somehow felt strenuous. Man, I hate treadmill running. My iPad at least covered the screen so I couldn’t watch the time and miles tick by, even though I lifted it up to check every 5 or 2 minutes. I watched the first episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which I was hoping could become my new favorite running show, but I didn’t love the musical aspect of it (and I love Broadway and West End musicals, I know). It helped me kill 45 minutes though, and then I switched to The Great British Bake Off. I’m still deciding if watching a show about delicious desserts while you’re burning calories is the best or worst idea ever, but it helped distract me so I could power through. I ate Jelly Babies for fuel at miles 5 and 7 and pretended they were made of Victoria Sponge and not just cornstarch-dusted glucose. And I did it. I ran 8 miles on a treadmill!

The iPad definitely helped, but I still think treadmill running is the worst, especially on a treadmill that measures distance in miles and speed in kmph. Next week the long run on the schedule is only 6 miles, which I’ll be doing outdoors racing the London Winter Run. I run a 10K on Thanksgiving in Cincinnati every year, but I’ve never actually raced a 10K in London. I’m actually a little excited for it and pray the weather holds up. There’s no iPad and treadmill option for races!

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How not to make peanut butter in a Vitamix

14 Jan

Longtime readers will know I have longed for a Vitamix blender since I became obsessed with smoothies at least 10 years ago. Who can forget the famous blender blowout of 2013?

blender explosion

I almost pulled the Vitamix trigger back then, but just couldn’t justify the expense. Instead I found a cheaper high-powered blender, which served me well… until it broke. And then I found another high-powered blender, this one claiming to be on par with Vitamix for 25% of the price. I even wrote a glowing review it here on the blog.  But lately I could tell it was starting to struggle to blend my smoothies, especially when I used melon or other large chunks of fruit. So when Stephen asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him I didn’t need any more shoes, purses or clothes.

I needed a Vitamix.

I ordered a certified reconditioned model on Boxing Day, so I got a great deal on it. I read reviews that said certified reconditioned models are often unopened returns, so they’re basically brand new. Plus if anything were to go wrong, it comes with a 5-year warranty.

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when it was delivered, and made a delicious smoothie that day. I could immediately tell there was something about Vitamix that sets it apart from other high-speed blenders, especially my old Electriq iQMix. I could add ice to my smoothies again without worry! I even used it to make soup. But there was one thing I was particularly excited to try: making peanut butter.

I have a borderline obsession with nut butter. For a while I was buying it in individual portions because I couldn’t be trusted not to eat an entire container in two days. I’m trying to work on eating it in moderation, though, for my health, but also because good, pure nut butter is expensive! And according to the internet, homemade tastes even better.

I bought a kilo of raw peanuts in Chinatown and toasted them myself. I obsessively read recipes and blogs about how to make nut butter in your Vitamix. The top tips were to toast your nuts, which releases their oils, thus making them turn into peanut butter instead of peanut flour, and to allow them to cool fully before blending, as blending will heat them up as well and you don’t want to melt your Vitamix container. (Yes, apparently that can happen!)

I went into my peanut butter-making experience knowing all this… but I was also impatient. I decided to start the process less than an hour before I was scheduled to Facetime with my mom. I let the nuts cool on the tray, then put them in the refrigerator for a few minutes. They weren’t by any means hot anymore, but they weren’t chilled, which was another tip I had read — use chilled, toasted nuts. I was running out of time, though, so I decided the nuts were cool enough. I put the nuts into my blender, slowly increased the speed, then flipped the switch to high. The Vitamix started making noises as the blogs warned me it would, and I used the tamper stick to constantly push the nuts down the sides and into the blades. One blog said the whole process would take 1 minute, so when I didn’t have smooth peanut butter after a minute, I worried something was wrong. I stopped the blender and checked on the peanuts. They were more the consistency of cookie dough, not smooth peanut butter. They were also certainly hot, but my container didn’t feel like it was melting, so I went back to blending. And blending. And blending. Something felt wrong. The almighty Vitamix should not be struggling like it was, I thought. I opened the container once again and noticed some black specks in my peanut “dough,” almost like chocolate chips. But I definitely didn’t add any chocolate chips. Then I pulled out the tamper and was about to lick the end of it, when I saw this:

melted vitamix tamper.png

“Oh no!” I thought. I had done it. I had melted my tamper stick by not using chilled nuts. I poured my peanut dough into a bowl and starting picking out the chunks of plastic.

peanut butter plastic chunks.png

I texted my Vitamix-loving friend to show her what I had done. She told me to email Vitamix customer service since there’s no way that should happen.

I left the kitchen in a state of chaos, lamented to my mom about my peanut butter catastrophe, then spent the night sifting out pieces of plastic because there was no way I was just going to throw out an entire batch of what could be — might be! Should be! — perfectly good peanut butter.

Then I sat down to email Vitamix. But as I was writing about how there was no way the damage to the tamper could have been caused by the blade because the tamper can’t touch the blade when the lid is on, a thought occurred to me: I did briefly run the blender with the lid off. And I used the tamper. I thought the hole in the lid was somehow restricting the movement of my tamper.

That’s when I had a proverbial face palm moment. My peanut butter disaster wasn’t Vitamix’s fault. It was mine.

Looking back at the photos, it’s obvious the damage was caused by a blade and not by heat. I guess I just didn’t want to admit it at the time.

damaged vitamix tamper.png

As embarrassed and frustrated with myself as I was, the good news was that my Vitamix wasn’t broken. And because my old blender was a Vitamix wannabe, its tamper is a perfect fit. I put my peanut dough in the fridge overnight and gave homemade peanut butter another go the next day.

And it worked!

vitamix peanut butter

peanut butter vitamiix

I made delicious, homemade peanut butter, completely smooth save for the odd black plastic speck. Now that I know what to do (and what NOT to do!), I can’t wait to experiment with other nut combinations!

A look back on 2018

7 Jan

It’s that time of year again, friends. That time when I reflect on the past year and completely ignore the fact that I’ve neglected the blog for the majority of it.

As an adult I’ve come to realize days, weeks, months, and years all tend to melt together, but I have to say 2018 was a pretty great year. I kept two of my resolutions — I didn’t eat meat at all in 2018 (aside from fish) and I learned calligraphy. I didn’t manage to run a half marathon in 2018, but I just registered for a half marathon in March, so that’s my 2018 resolution sorted in 2019.

A look back on 2018:

-We renovated our living room, a project we’d been talking about for over a year and finally got done. It took approximately three months even though it was supposed to take 2 weeks, but we feel like we’re living in a palace now.
-I fell head over heels in love with calligraphy, particularly brush lettering and pointed pen. I amassed over 1,200 followers on my calligraphy Instagram account. I am by no means a calligraphy master, but my work looks a lot better than it did on day one!
-I got to visit my friends in Chicago and Milwaukee not once, but twice!
-I attended Milwaukee Pug Fest with my best friend
-I got really into skincare and spent a small fortune on it, but I was able to reduce some of the sun damage on my face caused by running outside. Always wear sunscreen, kids! Even in England in the winter.
-I ran a 5K race with Cherry in 90+ degree heat (well, I ran it, she walked it)
-I voted in my first U.S. primary and midterm elections and vowed to never not vote again
-I went to New York City and saw two Broadway shows (Come From Away and The Donna Summer Musical)
-I was in the studio audience for a taping of The Daily Show
-I survived the worst heat wave in UK history, but not without complaining every 5 minutes about it
-I reached level 40 on Pokemon Go, which is the highest level. I wish I could say I quit the game then, but I still play daily, though not as obsessively
-We traveled to Croatia, where we fed wild peacocks and bunnies, explored Game of Thrones filming locations, and learned the hard way that we are not cut out for sea kayaking
-I went home for Halloween and made Cherry a Wonder Bread costume
-I got a 10K personal best in the Thanksgiving Day Race
-We traveled to Tenerife in the Canary Islands where we fed monkeys and guinea pigs, saw dolphins and whales, and went on an epic buggy safari through Teide National Park
-I got a Vitamix blender for my birthday, something I should have done years ago
-I saw 9 West End shows, which was not a record, but still an impressive and enjoyable feat

2019 is already starting on the right foot. We spent New Year’s Day stripping wallpaper in preparation for our bedroom renovation. I pray once we get the builders in the job really does only take two weeks! Then maybe we can focus on the kitchen, which started as “Let’s just repaint and add some more cupboards” but has evolved to “let’s just completely gut it!” Gulp. Meanwhile I just finished week 2 of my half marathon training plan and crushed my 5-mile “long run,” so at least that’s going well. Ask me again once the long runs get longer than 6 miles though! I’m also still working on my calligraphy and want to try new things like iPad digital art with Procreate and making process videos. Maybe this will be the year I get off the proverbial bench and start selling my work and services(!). Addressing all 30 of our Christmas cards made me think I might be able to do envelopes and place cards for a wedding one day… a small wedding, at least!

doug the pug 2019

Image courtesy Doug the Pug

Here’s to 2019!

The heatwave that never ends

26 Jul

When does a heatwave stop being a heatwave and just become the weather? This is the fifth week of this heatwave. Is this oppressive heat just what English summer is now?

English summer used to be 2 or 3 days — it didn’t even have to occur during the proper summer, it could happen in April, July, or October. The sun would come out, the temperatures would soar into the 80s, half of the population would flock to the park or beach to sunbathe, and the other half of us closed the curtains, cranked up the fan, and got on social media to complain about their face melting. Then it went back to 60s or low 70s and overcast and all was well.

I miss that summer! I do not like this new summer one bit. It is 96 out there right now. 96! That’s 36C. Someone posted this on Reddit:

london summer heatwave

Yesterday I went to see a matinee solely because I wanted to sit in an air conditioned theatre for two hours. But I got so sweaty walking to and from the theatre that it all felt in vain (except, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, Fun Home). This weather is taking a toll on me both mentally and physically. I hate everyone and everything and have no energy to do anything. After weeks of suffering in my unairconditioned flat, I have come up with a solution: water. Not drinking it or swimming it, but covering myself with it. The minute my hair starts to dry after I take a shower, I wet it again. Whenever I wash my hands, I splash water on my arms and neck. I look ridiculous, but working from home has its perks. Then I sit 6 inches from the fan and wait for this whole heatwave to blow over.

wait for this to blow over gif

Except it’s not, because this isn’t a heatwave, this is summer now, and deargodimgoingtodiecanistartsummeringiniceland?sdajfksdja kldsfjaksldfjaklsd

Cincinnati to London Wow Air review

16 Jul

I remember when they first announced that Wow Air was going to offer low-cost flights from Cincinnati to Europe. According to my mom, everyone was talking about it.

“Do you think all the American riff-raff will go to Europe now that it’s cheap?” my mom asked.

“Have you been to Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Street?” I replied. “The American riff-raff is already here.”

Wow Air describes itself as low-cost, which we all know means no-frills and this:

homer add ons.gif

“It’ll be like riding Easyjet or Ryanair long-haul!” I said. “Do I really want to fly for six hours with no food or movies?”

The answer, I soon found out, was “maybe… when I have no other options.” Because last month I had no other options.

I had planned to fly to London using United miles, but it turns out Saver awards are hard to come by in the summer, especially when you wait until the last minute. BA and Virgin also had no mileage flights, so I decided to give Wow Air a go.

wow air cincinnati to london

These prices are for another date, I just wanted to show the different ticket categories

My one-way ticket from Cincinnati to London Gatwick cost $378. I opted for the Wow Plus ticket because it came with a personal item, carry on bag, and checked bag, plus I got to select my seat. Had I chosen Wow Basic I think I would have paid something like $269, which is stupidly cheap, but it comes with only an under-the-seat personal item. So if you’re one of those people who backpack around Europe with an actual school backpack that fits under an airplane seat, you can really get a deal with Wow!

The Wow Air flight from Cincinnati to Reykjavik leaves at 12:50am, which is tricky, because it means you have to head to the airport the date before your flight. Wow sends multiple text messages and emails to remind you of this. CVG airport is an eerie place at 11 at night — everything is shut down except McDonalds. I mean everything — even the machines that whisk your luggage away at check-in, so they were just stacking the bags up and a guy was loading them onto a cart to take them to the plane.

Even though the airport was dead, Wow check-in was busy. They only have one flight a day, so we were all on the same flight. I read online that they weigh your carry-on and hand luggage, which made packing a stressful experience for me. My carry-on was exactly at the allowed 12kg/26lb and my checked bag was really riding the line of the 20kg/44lb limit. They did not ask me to weigh my wheeled carry on, but they did make me put it in the size gauge, which made me nervous, because I knew it was a half inch off the 22x18x10in limit. It fit, but barely — it actually got stuck and I knocked the entire gauge guide over when I tried to remove it. I placed my checked bag on the scale and it weighed in at 20.8kg. Perhaps because she was nice, or because the queue was so long she wanted to get me through, or because it’s not technically overweight until it hits 21kg, the check-in lady didn’t say anything and merely slapped a tag on it. Wow Air’s policy is to charge an extra $19 per kilo that your bag is overweight, which is better than United’s flat $100 for an overweight bag, but I’m still happy I didn’t have to pay it.

I got to the gate only to find the flight was delayed. This was not a surprise to me, as I had checked flightradar24.com before I left and saw that the flight had not left on time all week. I had a 4-hour layover in Reykjavik so I was in no rush. The plane finally arrived, we boarded relatively quickly, and were off the ground about an hour after they said we would be.

wow air cincinnati to reykjavik seating.png

The seating arrangement is three by three with no TV screens

Normally I can’t sleep sitting up, especially on planes, but because it was two hours past my bedtime already, I immediately passed out and faded in and out of consciousness the entire 6-hour flight. It was by no means good sleep — I kept waking up because my neck hurt or because I could feel my mouth drooping open, but it made the time go by quickly, which was great considering there are no TV screens or free food or beverages.  I didn’t even hear the cart come by with food for purchase or duty free items. When I did get up to go to the bathroom, all the flight attendants were in the back giggling amongst themselves and speaking Icelandic. The red-eye must be an easy flight for them!

When we touched down at Keflavik Airport, the signs pointing towards passport control weren’t very clear, so I ended up queuing at a gate and almost boarded a flight to Edinburgh, but other than that, the arrival process was easy. I got an Iceland stamp in my passport even though I was only there for 4 hours.

That is one of the downsides of taking Wow Air from Cincinnati to London — you have to kill 4 hours at Keflavik Airport. Though as far as airports go, it’s one of the nicest I’ve ever been to. The whole place has a Nordic vibe like it was designed by IKEA (which of course means most of the seating looks nice but isn’t very comfortable). I got a vegan sandwich from Mathus along with a cup of skyr Icelandic yogurt. As much as I’m trying to reduce my dairy consumption, I couldn’t come to Iceland and not try authentic skyr! And I’m so glad I did, it was 10 times better than the Arla brand skyr I used to buy in the UK. I grabbed a table and used the free WiFi to get some work done.

Keflavik airport food.png

Keflavik airport skyr.png

icelandic horse doo doo.png

I wish I had bought this candy!

Another perk of Keflavik Airport — the best-tasting tap water I’ve ever had!

Keflavik airport glacier water.png

The time actually went by pretty quickly and before I knew it, it was time to board my flight to London Gatwick. The flight from Reykjavik to London Gatwick takes about 3 hours, and goes by quickly if you pass out, listen to good music, and play on your iPad. I did a combination of the three. We landed around 8pm, but by the time I got through immigration, took the Gatwick Express to Victoria, then took a bus to my flat, I got home around 10pm London time.

Now that I wrote entirely way too much, I’ll try to sum it up with some pros and cons:

Pros:
-It’s the cheapest way to fly to Europe
-You arrive in London in the evening so you can immediately pass out. Most other airlines’ flights arrive early in the morning so you have to struggle the whole day to stay awake (or take a 4-hour nap like I usually do and be jetlagged for a week)
-The Icelandic flight crew are very friendly and begin every announcement with “Dear guests,” which while proper English, always sounds funny. They’re also good looking, or at least they were on my flights, if that kind of thing is important to you
-If you have to have a layover, Keflavik Airport is a nice airport to spend time in, with free WiFi and lots of healthy food options
-My flight from Cincinnati to Reykjavik had a power outlet so I could charge my phone (though there wasn’t one on the flight to London)
-The tap water at Keflavik Airport comes from a glacier and is the best tasting water you’ll ever have
-Wow Air has a sense of humor!
wow air sick bag.png

Cons:
-No free food — you have to pay for everything, even drinks
-No movies or entertainment. This may not be a problem with the Cincinnati to Reykjavik red-eye, but could be on the return trip, which leaves London at 11:40am
-Your flight is probably going to be delayed
-The seats barely recline and you don’t have much leg room
-Bags cost extra, only an under-seat bag is free
-Checked bag weight limit is 20kg/44lb, while every other airline is 23kg/50lb
-You have to kill 4 hours at the airport if you’re traveling on to London
-The flight might be cheap, but Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit
-You waste an entire day of traveling, though that’s hard to avoid since there are no direct trans-Atlantic flights out of Cincinnati

Now the important question: would I take it again?

Maybe. While I had a good experience, the bag weight limit could be a deal breaker. I did not go crazy shopping this visit and thought I did not have much stuff, but I was still slightly over the limit. In the winter when I have heavier clothing and am carrying Christmas presents, getting my bag under 44 lbs would be nearly impossible. I’m glad Wow Air is an option, though, and I really would like to actually see Reykjavik beyond its airport sometime!

iceland penis museum.png

Seen in the in-flight magazine. All the reason to visit Iceland!

3 things that are surprisingly more expensive in the US than in London

30 May

homer that sounds expensive.gif

London is expensive. That’s often the first thing people mention when I tell them I live there. Things like housing, petrol/gas, and movie theatre tickets cost way more than they do in Chicago or New York, yet alone suburban Kentucky. But on this recent visit back to the states, I’ve realized there are three things that are surprisingly expensive in America compared to London.

Groceries, especially produce

I first went to Aldi in the UK a few years ago. Produce is generally cheap at Tesco (a major supermarket chain), but produce at Aldi is a whole ‘nother level of cheap. I raved about Aldi so much I inspired my mom to check out the Aldi in northern Kentucky. She agreed that the produce deals couldn’t be beat. But it was only when I went to the Kentucky Aldi that I realized we had different definitions of “cheap produce.” For example, a stalk of broccoli at Aldi UK costs 39p, approximately 50 cents. At Aldi KY it’s $1.99. At Tesco I can get organic mushrooms for £1 ($1.33). At Kroger that would be $3.99. At Tesco a red bell pepper is 55p (73 cents). At Kroger it’s $1.50. The U.S. prices don’t even include sales tax, so they’re actually even higher! I’m comparing the most expensive city in the UK to one of the cheaper cities in the U.S., too. I recently read an article on Business Insider comparing London supermarkets with New York.  London’s Tesco Express won by a landslide! Who would have thought Tesco would be one thing I’d miss when I’m back in the U.S.?

Toilet paper

I never realized I was a toilet paper snob until now. In London there aren’t many options, so I just buy Tesco Luxury Soft Toilet Tissue, which always seems to be on sale 2 for £6 (that’s two nine-roll packs for £6, so 18 rolls for $8). It’s generic for Andrex, which is British for Cottonelle. But it turns out that even though they both use cute puppies in their ads, British Cottonelle is very different from American Cottonelle, which I recently discovered is the worst toilet paper ever created. My mom bought it because it was on sale and she had coupons, and even then it wasn’t that cheap. Without any coupons, a 6-roll pack of Cottonelle costs $8! In the UK, I get 3 times as much TP for that, and it is not the worst toilet paper ever created. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to buy my own toilet paper when I’m visiting my parents, which is probably why I forgot how much American toilet paper costs, but I hated the Cottonelle so much I decided to buy my own 4-pack of a different brand, thinking it’d be like $2, since a 4-pack in London is £1.75. A 6-pack of Charmin still set me back $5 (it was on sale too and I had a $1 off coupon – normally that 6-pack would be $9.49!) and it’s only marginally better than the Cottonelle. I’d still prefer the generic Tesco tissue. Considering Americans are known for their horrible eating habits which inevitably leads to horrible bowel issues, you’d think they’d have the toilet paper game down. Or maybe that’s exactly why it costs so much. All I know is I’m tempted to throw a 9-pack of Tesco TP in my suitcase for my next visit!

Theatre tickets

I’m going to New York next week to meet up with Stephen. While he’s in meetings, I figured I’d take in a Broadway show. So I started looking at shows on the TodayTix app to decide which one I wanted to see, and I realized something: Broadway shows are freaking expensive! That should seem obvious (it’s Broadway!) but I’m so used to seeing West End shows for so cheap. Thanks to day seats and the TodayTix app, I rarely pay more than £25 ($33) for a ticket. TodayTix seems to function differently in New York and has way less lotteries and rush tickets than they do in London. They mostly just give 30 to 50% off, which means the tickets usually still cost more than $100. I’d really like to see Come From Away, a musical about the small Newfoundland town that took in 7,000 stranded passengers on 9/11, but a matinee ticket on TodayTix is $227. I could try the TKTS booth when I get there, which is what every tourist seems to do, but there’s a chance they won’t have that show, and even if they do, a ticket will likely still set me back more than $100. It’s not just Broadway shows that are pricy, either. Part of the reason I think I wasn’t enamored with Hamilton when I saw it in Chicago last year was because I kept thinking about how expensive it was (and we got the cheapest seats possible!). Even seeing the Nutcracker in Milwaukee set me back more than a West End show. London theatre scene, you’ve truly spoiled me!

Despite my papercuts (cheeky Hello Internet reference there!), I’m having a lovely time visiting friends and family back home. It’s oppressively hot which has made running and basically everything else outdoors miserable, but I’m trying to keep my weather-related complaints to a minimum of 8 times a day.

Love at first ink dip

4 Apr

Remember how I said I’d like to focus on lettering and calligraphy in 2018?

I have been. Perhaps even a little too much.

I started with basic brush lettering. I didn’t really know what I was doing and my work was pretty sloppy, but I made an Instagram account and started posting photos of my work. I was inspired by all the great stuff posted by other hand lettering artists and calligraphers, and tried to copy some of their styles.

Then this idea popped into my head: I should take a class. As an anti-social introvert, this was a big deal. I always wanted to learn pointed pen calligraphy, so I signed up for a class at Quill London, a little modern calligraphy shop near Angel. I was nervous —  more about the social aspect of the class than the calligraphy — but the instructor and fellow students were all welcoming and lovely. And the minute I dipped my nib into the ink for the first time, I fell in love. Pointed pen was what was missing from my life. I was able to achieve those distinct thin and thick lines I had been trying for with brush pens. The class consisted of a little instruction, but mostly it was just dedicated practice time. The instructor walked around and corrected our form and answered our questions. Honestly, I should have taken advantage of her more, but I was entranced. I wrote out the alphabet repeatedly, then tried a few words. By the end of the three hours my hand was cramping and sore, but I was riding an inexplicable high.

It’s hard to explain the thrill I get from what is essentially fancified handwriting. There’s something calming about the repetitive movements and the sound of the nib scratching on paper. And of course there’s the Instagram likes. I try not to do it just for that, but when the likes and follows start to flow in from Internet strangers, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. For now it’s just a hobby, and I’ve told myself I’ll keep doing it as long as it brings me joy. The minute I feel like I “have to” create and post something instead of I “get to” or “want to,” then I know it’s time to stop.

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