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. ❤


the front


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:


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!

heres and theres

I think I’m graduating to a higher level of cook. As last semester’s half share in the veggie co-op was good preparation, this semester I’ve been faced with the task of cooking food that is:

  1. Healthy
  2. Tasty
  3. Inexpensive
  4. Easy to reheat & freezable or speedy to make.

I’m also tasked with using up my weekly delivered box of veggies (online deal for half price!) before they wilt or go bad. It’s definitely a lot of work but for anyone who wants a challenge that will no doubt prepare them for adulthood, it’s worth it. I haven’t taken pictures, but I just wanna brag a little about what I’ve made recently. Ten seconds of humblebrag time starts NOW

  • Two roasted chickens
  • Shakshuka
  • Chard frittata
  • Squash bread
  • Swede and carrot soup (with homemade stock!)

Humblebrag rant end.

Last night I found a few webpages that tell you how to cook something without a recipe. It’s just like how school is supposed to ultimately teach you how to think versus memorize facts. Recipes are great sometimes but understanding the basics of cooking should come first, in my view. It reminds me of the wisdom that, in order to be successful, you must first learn the rules, then duly break them. Totally applies for ordinary college cooks.

Here are three pages that tell you how to make dishes without recipes:


Pea/Lentil Soup <– this guy has a lot of good info


Also, surprisingly (but also completely understandably), vegetables and comparatively unprocessed foods are pretty cheap sustenance. Last week I made 5 meals out of one roast chicken and lasted over a week on about $12 worth of veggies. It’s not hard to roast a chicken, I swear!

What is your favorite thing to cook? Or something you’re proud of having made? Or want to make?

Yesterday I went rambling around town, pretty lost and in the rain. I was unusually happy, though, and I think it might’ve been because of how friendly the people are. At least in the East End. I was traipsing around a random residential area trying to find the “community cabin” where a swishing event was occurring. Swishing is what they call a clothing swap. It was great- brought some clothes I intended to leave here and got a few staples to keep me going, for free! But back to the kind people: One man, speaking some broken English, walked me closer to the general vicinity on his way to the market. A few minutes later, he saw me again and pointed me even closer. A guy on the street looked up directions on his phone for me (this happened a couple weeks ago too.) And the people who are clueless are warmly apologetic.

A supermarket security guard cracked a joke, a wrap place gave me a free wrap even though my coupon was messed up, and my friend told me a story where after accidentally bumping into them at a bar, an older man apologized and then bought her and her pal drinks (then left.) East London may be lacking glitz but it’s certainly full of good people.

The chocolate here is a million times better than anything you can munch on that’s inside of an American Hershey’s wrapper. Heck, compared to British chocolate, you might as well just eat the wrapper.

Just watched a movie called “Ask Me Anything” that was pretty lame but had some ear-widening quotes at the end. Six second back story so you can contextualize: this girl blogs for a year while she figures out her life before college.

Can I do it? Just live without describing everything I do? Can I cancel my reality show and become a better person? -Katie, describing her intent to end her blog

Katie: “I’m not even proud that I have a blog.”
Bookstore guy: “I like that it’s creative, and that it’s verbal. What I don’t like is that it’s public. Your generation is addicted to attention.”
Katie: “I know. it’s like we all wanna be famous even though we’re not good at anything.”

Now I’m even more self-aware about the narcissism of blogging. Gah, not gonna dwell on it. I’ve swum too many mental miles of self-doubt and the meaning of it all to quit now.

And now for a most random finish, here are some pictures of pictures from an exhibit at the British Museum. It was called “Cradle to Grave” by Pharmacopoeia and was a centerpiece of the Living and Dying room. Very interesting. Pretty much, the middle was a big quilt of pills stitched together to represent the average Western way of medical treatment and on the borders of the glass case were pictures that displayed a man and woman’s life from birth to death. Like the exhibit in general, this installment did a great job at retaining an optimistic view on life and acceptance of death as a part of it. Here is the big pill quilt and some pictures I particularly enjoyed.


The average Brit is prescribed 14,000 drugs in their lifetime