Tag Archives: expat

My latest addiction

4 Sep

I have a problem. I am addicted to mobile live trivia games and it’s kinda sorta ruining my life.

It started innocently enough. My brother’s girlfriend introduced us to HQ Trivia. We were sitting around the kitchen table at my parents’ house a few months ago when her phone pinged at 2:58pm.

“Hey, it’s almost 3pm, we can play HQ Trivia!” she exclaimed.

We gathered around her phone as Scott Rogowsky asked us 12 multiple choice questions. The live aspect of it was appealing — playing against people all around the world in the moment. But the prospect of winning real live money was even more appealing. However many winners there are split the prize pot, which is usually $5,000 or £1,000, and on Sunday nights is $25,000 or £8,000.

After my brother and his girlfriend went home, both my parents and I downloaded the HQ app onto our phones. Because I have a UK phone number, I could only play the UK game. The US game (which apparently everyone in the world can play except for those in the UK) airs at 3pm and 9pm EST on weekdays and only 9pm on weekends, while the UK game has the same schedule only in BST. Which means when I was in the US I was playing 4 HQ games a day — the UK 3pm game at 10am EST, helping my mom with the US 3pm game on her phone, playing the UK 9pm game at 4pm EST, then at 9pm EST my parents and I would stop whatever we were doing to play HQ.

It was fun at first. It brought us together and gave us a chance to show off our random knowledge. On the Sunday night big prize games, UK players can play the US version, presuming they can stay awake until 2am, but it worked out well for me when I was in Kentucky. Each game each day brought a new thrill — maybe this time would be our Slumdog Millionaire moment, when each question relates to our own life experiences and expertise and we win big!

That’s part of why it started to become a problem. If any show could be my winning show, missing a show became difficult. I had to revolve my life around being on my phone at 10am, 3pm, 4pm, and 9pm. One night we thought about going to see a movie in the evening, but decided against it because we wouldn’t be able to play the special NBA Finals $400,000 prize game.

I thought things would be different once I got back to the UK and could only play twice a day. But then I discovered HQ isn’t the only mobile live trivia game. So I started playing Q Live at 1pm, HQ at 3pm, Q Live again at 8pm, Cash Show at 8:30pm, and HQ at 9pm. I had to plan my run or errands so they would fit between 1:15pm when Q Live ended and 3pm when HQ started.

“Maybe we’ll stop playing once we win,” my mom said a few weeks into our HQ obsession.

But then she and my dad both won on the same night — a whole 17 cents each. Because that’s the thing — if the questions are easy enough for you to win, they’re easy enough for a lot of people to win. The thrill of winning was sweet, but fleeting — we wanted to win a bigger prize.

I won my first UK game on August 1st. I was especially proud because the UK show is harder for me as an American — a lot of the questions are about UK history, football or TV shows I’m not familiar with. I won £2.65, which is $3.47. I was elated. But I didn’t stop playing.

HQ had a special 3-show night to celebrate its 1-year birthday on Sunday, August 26th. The first show started at 8pm EST, which was 1am BST, around my bedtime. But I stayed up to play. I got out on the 8th question, but my dad ended up winning — 40 cents! Then Scott said the next show would be at 8:30pm, 1:30am for me, but it was only 15 minutes away, so I decided to play. And I won! $7.22!

hq trivia win

There were questions about Chinese culture and ancient Greek language — it was my Slumdog Millionaire moment! I should have gone to bed after winning, but there was another show in 15 minutes, and with my adrenaline pumping there was no way I’d be able to go to sleep before 2am anyway. So I played and lost.

Since my big win I’ve been trying to ween myself off. But they recently added a new feature that rewards you with an extra life (an ability to rejoin the game if you get 1 question wrong) if you play 5 days in a row. Way to reel people in, HQ. Besides, if I don’t play, I can’t win, and who’s to say the next game won’t be my biggest win yet?

Send help. And extra lives.

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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!

That time I was in the The Daily Show audience

13 Jun

The last time (read: one and only time) I was in a live studio audience it was a rather disappointing experience. It was for a show I didn’t watch with guests I wasn’t familiar with and they never even showed the audience on TV. I needed to have another, better, experience with a show I actually watch. So when I decided to go to New York for a few days to meet up with Stephen, I immediately booked a ticket for The Daily Show. I’ve watched The Daily Show on a daily basis for years now, ever since it popped up on Sky on demand. I went from being someone who was completely apathetic about politics and news to someone who can’t get enough of it. Obviously, as a trained journalist I get my news from multiple sources, but the Daily Show does a good job of highlighting the headlines with humor (and a little left-leaning bias). I was excited to witness how the proverbial sausage was made.

abandon news.png

This sign is hanging above the door to the studio

Because I booked the ticket about 3 weeks in advance, the guaranteed tickets were sold out, which meant I got a non-guaranteed ticket. Which meant I had to queue. As an honorary Brit and day seat connoisseur, I am no stranger to standing in line outside of theaters. I just had to figure out the all-important question: what time to arrive? Because the only thing worse than showing up an hour earlier than needed is showing up 5 minutes too late. The ticket said I had to arrive by 5pm, but online comments suggested I get there by 4pm. I played it safe and arrived around 3:35pm. There was a decent amount of people ahead of me — perhaps around 30? — and by the time 5pm arrived, there were at least 50 people behind me. When it got close to 5pm, a producer came out and explained the process. Once they determined how many seats they had available and how many guaranteed ticket holders showed up, they’d start allowing us in. “In” being into the next queue, of course. Then we’d go through airport-like security before going into the studio. A little after 5pm they let a big group of people at the front of the line move forward, which of course meant they cut the line 3 people in front of me. I was going to be so mad if I came that close to going in! Fortunately as the guaranteed ticket holders made their way into the studio, they let a second group of unguaranteed in. A producer with an iPad came around and took our names to verify our reservations and handed us numbered tickets.

daily show ticket.png

“You needed to book a ticket online? I thought it was free!” The guy three people ahead of me said. The producer was as nice as she could have been about it, but she couldn’t let him in without a booking. He waited almost two hours for nothing! As much as it sucks, I’m glad they stick to their rules. A couple girls with guaranteed tickets showed up at 5:05pm, but since they missed the 5pm cut off, they were sent to the very back of the unguaranteed line. Around 5:15pm another producer came out and told us it was our last chance to use the restroom before going into the studio, as once we were seated, we couldn’t leave until filming was over. The guy behind me went nuts, complaining about how you can’t do that to people — not let them pee for two hours! — some people have medical conditions! But as far as I know, he survived. I went down to the bathroom in the basement before rejoining my place in the queue outside. Eventually I made it through security and was escorted into the theater. It’s a bit of a cliche, but it was indeed surreal walking across the set of The Daily Show to find my seat. I was lucky to be seated close to the center instead of on the very end of the row.

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Once all the seats were filled, they played a little safety video starring all of the correspondents, with cheeky tips like “if a joke is made about a black person, look to your nearest black person and only laugh if they’re laughing.” Everyone laughed at that. One thing The Daily Show did differently than The Jonathan Ross Show did in London was that they allowed us to take photos and use our phones up until the taping began. This made it much more enjoyable to kill time, plus everyone knows “pics or it didn’t happen,” so a selfie with the set in the background is necessary. Around 6pm, the warmup comedian came out to get everyone hyped up. Instead of making us do embarrassing dance moves like Johnathan Ross’s guy did, he mostly did crowd work, asking people where they were from and what they did for work and riffing on that. He was really funny and got everyone laughing, clapping and whooping. I expected there to be more instructions — indications to applaud, etc, but they basically just told us to “lose our sh*t.” A little after 6:30pm the main producer came out, which the comedian said was a sign the show was going to start soon.

“How much longer?” the comedian asked. I figured he would say “5 minutes.”

“30 seconds!” he said. Then suddenly the intro theme song started playing and all of us rose to our feet, clapping and cheering. Even though I had already waited 3 hours for this 30-min taping, it felt like it was all happening so soon. When Trevor came out the audience truly did “lose their sh*t.” He sat down, looked directly at the camera, then jumped right into the show. When the commercial break came, a bevy of I’m assuming writers and producers rushed the stage to talk to Trevor. When they left he finally acknowledged us, which, of course, made everyone “lose their sh*t.” I had read in reviews of the taping that Trevor likes to interact with the audience during the commercial breaks, but I have to admit, a lot of his interaction felt scripted. Like he was using the material written for him that got cut from the show. He continued to rip on how cheap EPA chief Scott Pruitt is, which was the main story of the first half of the show. When the show resumed, it was interesting to watch what Trevor did when the news clips or taped pieces were playing. A lot of times he laughed along, or just stared straight ahead into the camera, working on the correct facial expression to have when the camera turned back to him. The guest that night was actress Regina King. I was expecting the interview to go long like on The Johnathan Ross Show and they’d edit together the best bits, but what they filmed was what aired. I’m still glad I went to the taping, but the audience members don’t get to see anything extra that the audience at home misses out on. (Except maybe Trevor’s killer dance moves while he’s standing up waiting to introduce the moment of zen at the end!) When the taping ended, Trevor thanked us all once again, then rushed back to the green room. Row by row we were escorted out of the studio.

I finally had a good live studio audience experience! That night I watched the show with the sole purpose of looking for myself in the audience. After the interview with Regina King, if you paused in the right moment and squinted, you could almost see me!

Daily Show audience

Which is more than I can say about The Jonathan Ross Show. Since it involved so much waiting around, I probably wouldn’t go to a taping every time I’m in New York City, but I’m really glad I went this time!

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.

That time I ate so much nutritional yeast I got a rash

26 Apr

nutritional yeastAre you familiar with nutritional yeast? If you’re not a vegan, vegetarian or health nut, you probably aren’t. I remember I went in search of it 6 year ago(!) when my health nut phase was just beginning and no one in the UK had ever heard of it. In fact, they sold me brewer’s yeast, which is absolutely not the same thing. (I wrote about it in this post, where I also marveled at the concept of almond butter. Funny how quickly things change, almond butter is all over the US and UK now and while still expensive, it’s way cheaper than £11!)

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is grown on molasses. It has a nutty, almost cheese-like flavor, which is why it’s popular with vegans. It’s also popular because it’s high in B vitamins and often fortified with B12, which is normally only available through animal products. I’ve been enjoying it for years now, sprinkling it on pasta, soup and sweet potatoes, but ever since I went pescetarian 6 months ago, I’ve been eating it even more.

A few days ago I was making one of my favorite dinners — lentil and chickpea pasta with kale, mushrooms and pesto, and got out the container of nutritional yeast so I would remember to stir some into the pasta at the end. All of a sudden it hit me how hungry I was, and there was no way I could wait 9 minutes for the pasta to be done. I needed to eat immediately. So I got out some stale rice crackers and sprinkled them with the nutritional yeast (or “nooch” as those in the food blog community often call it). When I finished the rice crackers, I grabbed a pinch of just nutritional yeast and sprinkled it into my mouth. Then suddenly I had a spoon in my hand and was shoveling the nooch into my mouth like it was cereal. This was not a proud moment, but I convinced myself it was better than binging on nut butter, and nutritional yeast was nutritional — it has it right there in the name! I wasn’t keeping track of how much I was eating, but considering a serving size is 5g, I probably ate at least 50g, maybe even 100g. Did I mention I’m not proud of this?

I finally cut myself off and got to prepping the vegetables. I boiled water for corn and reached my arm across the hot pasta burner to get the corn pot. I didn’t think much of it, but a few minutes later my arm started to burn.

“I didn’t get that close to the burner, there’s no way I burned myself!” I thought. I looked down at my arm. It was red. Really red. In fact, both arms were. They were covered in hives like I was having some kind of allergic reaction, but there was nothing around for me to be allergic to. My skin was hot and itchy like I had a sunburn. I ran to the mirror and saw that my face and ears were also red.

“What is happening to me?!” I said out loud.

I ate my pasta with one hand, the other hand imputing my symptoms into Google on my phone. The only culprit I could think of was the nutritional yeast, even though I’d eaten it hundreds of times before. There was no way I could be allergic to it!

I searched nutritional yeast and hives until finally I got an answer.

Niacin.

Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins, one of which is niacin. I remembered reading about niacin as a possible cholesterol lowering supplement, but when I asked my doctor about it, he said it’s not usually recommended anymore because of the flush.

The flush.

I was having a niacin flush. I had consumed so much nutritional yeast I gave myself a niacin flush.

I looked at the nutritional label of the nooch. A 5g serving has 17mg of niacin, which is already 107% of the recommended daily amount. If I ate 50g of nooch, that would be 170mg of niacin, and I probably ate more than 50g of nooch. Google tells me that consuming 100mg or more of niacin can trigger a flush, so that had to be what I was experiencing.

I was relieved to find the cause of my reaction and embarrassed that my binging had such immediate physical results. It was definitely a wake up call that just because something is healthy doesn’t mean you should consume spoonfuls of it. Even water can be toxic in extreme amounts!

I laid off the nooch for a few days, but I’m happy to report that I had some on my pasta tonight with no adverse effects. There’s nothing like a good red, hot rash all over your body to make you conscientious of recommended serving sizes!

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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