Crafting cameras out of toast and other tales

When I heard about an event where the participants build sculptures out of bread, I found myself torn between feeling unbelievably excited and pondering my sanity. I mean, which 21-year-old would choose to make a glorified gingerbread house in the middle of March when they could be giving their livers a fine reason to fail? This girl.

Erica, Holly (another Venice trip friend) and I courageously entered the competition and ended up creating a glutinous replica of my camera. It was very detailed, with “Sony” written on an upper panel, a cord, a picture-taking-button (what’s it actually called?) that ROTATED, a lens, and a screen on the back with a (what else) cat on it. Erica was responsible for that masterpiece.

But seriously, this was no less than a full-blown competition. I can’t speak for my teammates, but I know that I felt more mature than half the adults clobbering each other in the dance off (can you guess who our team nominated?) and racing to their toasters for optimally burnt construction materials. We nabbed the Diva toaster, and ze did us proud. ❤

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the front

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the back (see the cat?!)

our workhorse

our workhorse

All in all, a terrifically random and fun experience. Here are more pictures of others’ artworks including Jesus on the cross, the Colosseum, Kevin Spacey on his house of cards, and the Titanic. This is why I love London! People actually FLOCK to crazy events like this!


The next day was the Chocolate and Wine & Cheese festival!! Main takeaways:

  1. When offered “water ganache”, ALWAYS SAY YES
  2. Sample until you drop (or, your ego does.) Then regroup and scope out overlooked venues for more delicious bits (after all, we did pay an entry fee.)
  3. End it with a trip past Ottolenghi (the restaurant whose master chef creator put out a cookbook which you literally read cover-to-cover) to window-shop and gaze at lustfully, then plant yourself at the world’s most wonder-ful reading room on earth and feel like a desert dweller because cheese is saltier than ocean water and you didn’t think to bring water. Then hydrate with a full pot of tea at home and find Community to be one of your favorite shows in a long time. (This one might be hard to orchestrate but I believe in you all!)

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Comical Professors and Van Morrison (!!!)

I’m not used to having classes that are so blatantly applicable to life! Examples: lectures on feminism and postmodernism in my European Culture and Society class, and the value of nature in a capitalist economy in Geographies of Nature. So REAL!

I’d like to tell you a quick story from my last Euro class. The scene: our professor is shooting out all these incredible facts about how we live in a postmodern world and what it means and what is everyone’s favorite Starbucks go-to and can we ever prove the eclipse happened and all of a sudden he springs

“You don’t even know if you exist unless you’ve taken a selfie that morning.”

Whoa. No wonder this guy has tenure! (In case I’m not being clear, this sentence was so powerful because it completely encapsulates the essence of postmodernism and simultaneously couldn’t resonate more with our mostly eighteen years old millennial class. And it’s funny.) Man, the professors here are just full of goodness.

Which brings me back to our old friend placenta prof! Today he added another moment to his “greatest hits” collection.

So, we’re learning about the precursors to humans, namely Homo australopithicus and Homo habilis. He keeps reiterating the important advances that eventually led to our species, like the use of tools and having bigger brains. Yada yada. Excitement level is unwavering at zero. That is, until he reaches for his baby and pelvis props, announcing, “I will attempt to give birth this morning!”

The entire class explodes with laughter. Even the “manly” men couldn’t help but giggle. (Overall, England seems much more patriarchal than the US, and that’s reflected in the sociology of the sexes here quite noticeably. But that’s for another time.)

So he takes his pelvis model and a baby doll and actually shows us how much trouble it is for a baby to traverse the birth canal because of our ginormous brains! Now that’s LEARNING!

He also told us that hominins (a type of ancient humans) have gained “two tablespoons of grey matter every 100,000 years”. Chew on that unexpected measurement of intelligence! (Sorry for that unsavory pun. <– but not for that one! 🙂 )


I’m going to a CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL on Friday!! And, as they’re conjoined, a Cheese and Wine affair too! As my funny father quipped, I’ll probably regain the ten pounds I gave for a ticket after a day’s sampling of chocolates and cheeses. (Get it? Go punny papa!)


On Wednesday, Van Morrison and I decided to meet at the Royal Albert Hall and have a conversation. We talked of many things: New Orleans, gypsy souls, dancing in the moonlight. But the subject matter wasn’t the main takeaway, no. As I wasn’t the only one involved in this meeting of friends, I’ll let the grown man sitting in back of me explain what we were all feeling after the conversation had ended:

“YAY!”

His exclamation resounded with a pure sense of joy… a vulnerable, raw display of genuine human happiness. It was especially unique because of my location in London, a part of the world known for its reserved residents. That’s the magic of Van Morrison: his music zeros in on the part of you that’s grown numb to the spirit of life and taps it awake. His music is interwoven with spirit and soul. I left that theatre feeling renewed with motivation for life. That’s big stuff right there. Other reactions blurted out seconds after the last chord ended included “Brilliant!” and “Utterly brilliant!”

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It wasn’t til the last half hour of the show that the magic really started for me- the first hour was him playing his lesser-known music and duets with “friends” that I didn’t recognize (but will post pics in case anyone can solve the mystery.) But after he played “Days Like This”, the audience knew what was coming next. He really saved his allure for the end, in my opinion, letting loose his legendary voice and leaving me feeling awed, thinking, “he’s still got it.” “Brown Eyed Girl” was a pleasure to behold, “Into the Mystic” sent waves of relaxation and good feeling about the entire concert hall. There was no way to avoid the goodness he poured over the crowd, even if you were in the limited legroom, obstructed view seat you bought for 50 pounds four days before the concert.

So yeah, Van’s the man!

Glad-I’m-not-an-English-major week

Extremely concise revelation from studying abroad for just over 2 months:

I’ve learned more about myself in those two months than I did one year at Wes. At the very least.


This week I’ve written two essays and have one more due next week, totalling about 6500 words. That’s about 26 pages of double-spaced, 12-font words. As a science major, that’s way out of the ordinary and has been a big challenge. In case anyone cares, I wrote one essay about Perissodactyla, an order of ungulates whose members include tapirs, rhinos, horses, and the largest mammal to ever live; my second essay is about how museums appeal to emotion in order to educate visitors, using three examples of London museums; the last has an undecided thesis, but may be about colonialism and Jose Saramago’s “The Tale of the Unknown Island”. One more 4000 word beast due in April too. So yeah, words don’t come cheap this week!

Instead, I’ll share some pictures. Below are some pics of street art around Brick Lane, very unusual stores at a krazy-kool pop-up mall in Shoreditch, a lovely event celebrating International Happiness Day where I received free hand and back massages, candy, and a daffodil (and a pic with a bellboy host with whom I unintentionally cuddled up to because I had endorphins falling out of my ears, I was so happy), and a crazy haircut to top it all off. Long story short, I was a hair model for an academy and got a free haircut (would’ve cost about 60 pounds normally at this place!) that in the end turned out quite nice after I washed out all the mousse but for the rest of the day left me looking like orphan Annie’s stunt double. It’s straight now, but I have about half the hair I did before!

And one last thing- spontaneously bought tickets to see VAN MORRISON at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday! I’m so freaking excited!!!!

TODAY WAS AWESOME. And Tips for Not Getting Run Over by London Pedestrians!

It’s eleven o’clock, your half-interesting biology lecture about rodents has just let out, and you’re on your way across campus to a comfy study area. A novice would break out the internal sunshine, but a seasoned walker would know to resist giving in to so soon. Indeed, that stroll will be no walk in the park: it will demand agility, instantaneous decision-making, and something between assertion and aggression. What am I talking about? What it takes to simply walk somewhere in London!

It’s strange, for sure, but the thing is, here, nobody respects any logical rule of staying to one side of the sidewalk. Oddly, they do hug escalator flanks like magnets, but that’s the one exception. So, what you see when walking pretty much anywhere is a horde of people coming at you from every longitude of pavement. But fear not: from a little over two months’ practice, I’ve figured out how to survive unscathed and now you can too!

Behold: the Boston driver trick. If you don’t make eye contact, keep your eyes on a focal point, and bluff as to discourage anyone from trying to alter your pathway, you can silently command the walkway! This doesn’t always work, especially when there are big, lumbering man personalities involved, but it is pretty effective. So there you have it: act as if you refuse to change your walking path and others will accommodate you. Sweet.

It sounds sort of arrogant. But to live in a city, sometimes you have to be ruthless. Especially if you don’t want to expend half your latte’s energy before you even get to work simply by dodging people!


That was this morning. What happened in the hours afterwards was just… a combination of serendipity and good fortune and London magic, I think.

First was lunch: a shockingly delicious chicken and rice soup that I’d made, frozen, and forgotten about. I was rushing to explore London before class, but this soup stopped me in my tracks! It forcefully proved how integral is genuine chicken stock in a soup. The rice, chopped leeks, and a little roasted chicken commanded me to sit down and enjoy. I may have found my go-to recipe! How exciting!

But the fun didn’t stop there. I’d heard rave reviews about this gelato place called Gelupo, so I sought it out and let me tell you– no wait, I sort of can’t, because it transcended language- how delicious this gelato was. I started conversing with the gelatoista (?) about the five-star reviews that had brought me there, and she, in her thick cat-eye makeup and blooming flower balanced above her ear, warmly offered me rapid-fire samples of every single flavor before I could even finish a mind-sentence about how incredible the last flavor was. It’s a pretty nice position to be in, should you ever find yourself practically being force-fed otherworldly desserts on tiny shovel-shaped spoons.

In this instance, I was sold from the first sample: Ricotta and Sour Cherry. I paid four pounds for my treat- a princely sum for a rather petite scoop. But never did I doubt its worth, for soon after I dove into my dairy dream, my mind unconsciously raced through its thesaurus of tasting superlatives until it settled upon the thought of praying to the cherry swirl. I kid you not. I may have had an out-of-body experience today. There were no witnesses, so we’ll never be sure!

I might name my first child "Gelupo"

I might name my first child “Gelupo”

Also around this area of Piccadilly Circus was a fantastically cheeky clothing shop called Lazy Oaf. I’d found it online a while ago, but being in the physical store was a million times more fun! In true Sophie fashion, I tried on the most garish thing there and took a series of embarrassing/YOLO-y pictures. Here’s the least nutty one:

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I felt like a kid in wearing a candy store.

Next was my Museums of London class’ trip to the Saatchi Gallery. I went previously with my mamacita a few weeks ago, but since then they’d changed up their art and displayed some exceptionally exciting art:

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And one last fun day stop:

A tea shop! Ironically, I’d just purchased two cartons of tea at a shop a few minutes before, so upon the sighting of this much cooler shop, I was disappointed. However, after elevating my mood by sampling a trio of cocoa-tinged teas, I told my saga to the sales associate (after asking her what it was like to work at a tea shop; she replied that she is never stressed, gets to give people relief after a long day’s work in (healthy) liquid form, and hears loads of great stories) and she generously gave me a lightning tea lesson and three loose-leaf samples along with a make-your-own-teabag teabag! All for free!

London, you’re the best.


On Monday, Matthew and his friend Forest visited after their trip to Scotland. We had a great time catching up and walking around the city! I was proud to show them Queen Mary, my beloved hot salt beef bagel shop and Brick Lane, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St. Martin in the Fields and its Crypt Cafe, and they explored Buckingham Palace and St. James’ Park on their own. As with Michelle, it was deeply enjoyable to spend time with another Wes pal and reflect on our adventures together. And exchanging severe dad jokes and puns that make every other person cringe (but not us!) 🙂

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Oxford + ALL the parks

What comes to mind when you picture the scenery of “Pride and Prejudice”? Softly swaying weeping willow trees bending over a peaceful pond? With swans? How about luscious green grass running into the horizon with ancient beige buildings hugging its edges? This image could probably be from a Jane Austen novel or a bevy of other Victorian classics. Instead, I’m describing Oxford.

Even in the middle of March, Michelle’s study abroad college shone with magic that could easily inspire a novel such as PP. I’m telling you, it was amazing.

I saw about half the green when I visited. But yes, people live a minute’s walk from this paradise! (From Quaint Living blog, link in picture)

Here’s a good photographer who succeeded in documenting its beauty. My pictures can’t measure up but I’ll offer them nonetheless:

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It was a special kind of relaxing/fun to walk around the campus and town with Michelle, a good Wes pal. In addition to its health benefits, walking is also a great way to get creative thoughts flowing and stimulates great conversation. Less pressure to focus on faces and interpret body language (not a strong point for me.) Just gaze at nature and converse to a delightful friend. Glorious.

(On a tangent, I realized I’ll have taken four three-hour-long walks with five people in six days by Monday! I’m seeing a trend in how I like to spend time and initiate intriguing conversation…) And on the seventh day she rested. lol jk she wrote all of her essays and wished she were outside. Essays here sneak up so quickly!!

The second walk was around Regents Park, an impressively large park with beautiful scenery. That was with a friend I met on the Venice trip. Today, I went on a long walk in search of deer at Richmond Park (to our dismay, it was rainy, so no deer appeared) with the friend I met at the Staves concert. Tomorrow, I’ll be with Matthew and his friend touring London! By the time I return to the states, I’ll be fit enough to walk back to the UK! (wait, what?)


Some Richmond Park and market pics:

I might be attending a Pignic

Yes, you read that correctly. PIG-NIC! Let’s hope my odds of being picked aren’t slop or else I’ll try to make myself feel better by bacon all day and hogging the cookies.

And now for an extremely random picture that was inspired by my search for pig pictures and the realization that I’d recently snapped a sort of applicable photo to go along with an especially divine porker:

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don’t ask. just glam.

Shoutout to Cristina for all the pig mentions. Miss you, girl.


In other news…

So much has happened over the past week! Another reason why I really love living in London. I’m thinking that, until I get older and tired (perhaps 30), a city might be the best place for me to live. I’ve awakened a greedy, culture-hungry piece of myself that is generously assuaged by London’s never-ending stream of activities and goings-on. Like…

-The Columbia Road Flower Market! Located in the ever-hipster area of Shoreditch, this flower market was bursting with flowers, fun ditty shops, and people who near gridlocked the passageways. I wasn’t able to traverse the market through the middle path because I get too impatient with slow walkers I can’t circumnavigate, so my pictures aren’t full of florals but they’ll do.

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so spunky. can’t call them ugly because they’re just too proud of their over-denimnity (say that 5 times fast)

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Yellow!

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some fun singers at the market

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good one!

And speaking of Shoreditch, I was able to finally make a visit to the CAT CAFE!!!
(intentionally filling the next 5 scroll-down-blog-seconds filled with cats so y’all can freak out and know that this is a safe space. K GO!)

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Ok, now for the cat cafe pics!

I went with my friend Rebecca and we had a good time. I was sad to see most of the cats sleeping or laying around, seemingly empty of energy. When we left, a waitress took a laser pointer and that cat went to town. However, overall it was an experience shaped by the calmness of the music and animals, the obvious glee of all the cat-lovers present, and the hilarity of how worked-up everyone got as soon as a feline so much as moved their paw. It was absolutely a cat-lover’s sanctuary. (I’m not much of a cat lover but I can appreciate them as much as the next person with a soul and like for pretty furry things.)

and two of my favorites…

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Bubble wrap cat!!!

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the cat waited expectantly at the door, which read “Staff Only”. Once a waitress opened the door, the cat scurried in, proudly asserting its position as “staff”.


Finally, yesterday I went with my Museums of London class to the Tate Modern. My group analyzed an exhibit about dreams and poetry, which focused on surrealism as a jumping-off point. Super interesting. Before that, a trip to Borough Market, an indoor food playground (not actually. I wish), brought me to some delicious Dutch redcurrants for snacking and cheese for an upcoming frittata. A giggle-inducing picture ends the post, and a snap of the Globe theater for my Auntie J precedes it! Next post will feature my trip to Oxford (BEAUTIFUL) and other surprises!

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The Globe Theatre

love it.

love it.

Venezia!

veniceThis 26-hour trip was organized by the fantastic QM Travel Society, a small group of third-years with lovely personalities. They were so welcoming and funny, a perfect combination for our “mothers and fathers” who led us around all day. Not to mention good-looking! I was so impressed by how BEAUTIFUL the group was, overall! Not just outwardly, but also (yes, brace yourself for the cliche) inwardly 🙂

yup, I went there.

But for real, these kids were a treasure chest of loveliness. I was so glad that they were my companions for the day. The lack of sleep and magic of the trip allowed us to all talk to one another freely, connecting in ways that I usually feel after multiple hang-outs or a semester of club meetings.

A challenge of Venice was the unfortunate lack of respect from others who slowed down the group by taking triple the time allotted for lunch and getting lost without good cell service. Maybe that’s why my opinion of Venice isn’t shiny and happy; I didn’t get to see too much, the usual structure of my trips. Yes, I love talking with people, but when I’m in Venice, I’m there to SEE it, not hang around tacky souvenir stands while waiting for all 30 of us to finish whatever and move on.

So yeah, Venice didn’t blow my mind. Having recently departed from Amsterdam, perhaps I was still used to the widespread waterways that mystified everyone else. Didn’t get to check out some of the major sites either, only getting to the Rialto bridge (not that great), pizza and gelato (the latter severely disappointing), and a gondola ride (WORTH IT!) We did a lot of walking, which was great, but the group was slow and complained a lot towards the end.

A schedule of the trip:

Midnight-2 am: “Social”

2-6:30: Transport to and in the airport

6:30-8:30ish: Flight to Trevisio

8:30-11ish: Getting to Venice

11ish-7: In Venice

7-8: Bus to airport

8-midnight: Waiting for and being on flight back

midnight to 1:15ish: Waiting at immigration

1:15ish-2: Bus back to campus

Yes, it was QUITE the long day!

And now, the moment you’ve been awaiting: Photos!

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And because you can’t see it too well in the slideshow, this artwork gets extra attention because it’s just AWESOME

LOVE THIS SIGN

LOVE THIS SIGN!