Direct to Dallas

– my very aptly named playlist – blared loudly from my car speakers as I made the 4 hour journey to my new home. 310 miles in 240 minutes…it seems too short an amount of time to enact so colossal a change in my life. But yes, it’s true – as of 2 days ago, I am officially a resident of Dallas, Texas! During this upcoming year off, I’ll be living with my fabulous sister, writing (hopefully a lot), working (the bare minimum), traveling (I know! Haven’t I had my fill yet?), and generally creating a ruckus. My parents, I’m sure, are absolutely thrilled. No, really, I know how extremely blessed I am to be able to take a year off, and I intend to make full use of it.

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Homeward Bound

Is there a place you always visit when you go home? Perhaps a park, or a restaurant, or just a spot in town that reminds you of a special moment in time.

For me, it’s the library. I have a routine. One month before I’m scheduled to go home, I go onto the Wichita Public Library website, search for all of the books that I’ve been wanting to read, and add myself to the waiting list so that I’ll (hopefully) be at the top of the list when I arrive. Seriously.

Being incredibly indecisive, though, I do have more than one home “must-see.” Well, okay, it’s actually more like a list. And, not surprisingly, besides the Rockwell Public Library and the Barnes & Noble Booksellers, all of the places serve food. Braum’s for a chocolate soft serve or cookies n’ cream (or, better yet, both!) waffle cone. Dog n’ Shake for chicken rings and a 50/50. Freddy’s for frozen custard and fries. QuikTrip for a diet vanilla coke. Mega yum. I think I just drooled.

But anyway. It seems that I’ve also managed to develop a few favorites in Oxford, which I’ve been fortunate enough to seek out in the past couple of days. Here’s the rundown:

Number 1: Ben’s Cookies.

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Eating Like the Queen

I like to indulge myself. Perhaps you already noticed this, as I did manage to plan an entire trip solely around eating and baking. But, just in case you haven’t, I’m freely willing to admit it: I enjoy life’s luxuries…probably more than I should. Pedicures, for instance. A perfect hour in a massage chair, warm water bubbling around my feet, flipping through magazines…you get the idea. Or, the $8 bucket of popcorn at the movie theatre with a free refill (because, really, one just isn’t enough), topped with 50 cents of real butter. One of my very favorite indulgences, though, surpassing even movie theatre popcorn, is high tea.

High tea. Ahh…even the name just sounds so posh (sorry, had to throw that word in somewhere). It conjures up images of long-plumed feathers sticking out of ostentatious hats, dainty heels and spacious gardens, and of course, the tea itself! Towers of tiny cucumber sandwiches and scones with clotted cream, pots of earl grey accompanied by sugar cubes, miniature forks for dainty fruit tarts. The truth of the matter is, though, that reality could never live up to the expectation because, well…I don’t own a fancy hat. But, not to worry, the food is just as imagined. This particular trip, in order to provide ample material for you lovely readers – and because my relatives are amazing and know my weakness for high tea – I had the opportunity to go to tea twice!

Yesterday, we went to tea at Old Bank Hotel in Oxford. The afternoon tea came with little cakes and cookies (including a macaron!), sandwiches, and my favorite, scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream!

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Blackcurrant macaron, coffee éclair, sugar cookie, and a mini layered cake! The macaron wasn’t exactly my favorite (it actually took me about a minute to find the macaron flavor), but still quite enjoyable. Continue reading

As the Future Becomes the Present

4 days ago, I wrote this post on an airplane:

34,000 feet in the air, and for once, I’m speechless. As much as I hate flying, I must admit that the experience is unparalleled. The roaring of the engines and feel of an invisible hand pushing you back in your seat upon takeoff, then soaring over the deep blue sea, passing swiftly through the clouds, but always wondering if the blanket of them could support you on the way down. More than actually being in the air, though, the idea of flying and airplanes always strikes a chord with me. A plane can take you home, or to a location far, far, away. Flying, then, can represent a return to the life you know, or a major life change.

Dallas –> Paris in 9 hours. Chicago –> Hong Kong in 16. It’s unbelievable how quickly life can change. For me, right now, it’s Athens –> London in 4. When I arrive, I’ll be heading to Oxford to visit my Aunt and Uncle for 10 days, and then back to the States, where more life transitions await. Santorini was technically the last stop on my Goliard pastry tour, which hopefully explains my ruminating (though perhaps you’re thinking it’s incessant droning) about feelings of transition.

I took a break in writing this post as my plane touched down, but haven’t been able to finish it since. It could be that my newfound addiction to Downton Abbey (seriously so good, plus I’m hoping to pick up a British accent) and the two-day drama of the French Open final (helloooo Rafa “Muscles” Nadal) have prevented me from sitting down to write. Another truth, though, is that I’ve been rather conflicted. What could I possibly say to sum up such an incredible journey? What should become of my blog? And, perhaps the largest conundrum of all: What should become of me? Continue reading

“Wait…there’s more food after this?”

These words were uttered as we looked on in dismay (ok, and in my case, not a small amount of excitement) at the feast already laid out in front of us: hot, freshly fried tomato fritters, bowls heaped with classic Greek salad, a fava dip accompanied by thick slices of fresh bread, and chilled white wine to wash it all down. That hunger would be conquered tonight was not a question on anyone’s mind. After we had sufficiently gorged ourselves on the “appetizers,” we returned to cook our entrées for the evening. That’s right…cook. Because today, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a Greek cooking class!

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Santorini, I Think I’ll Stay

This post is dedicated to my grandfather, Yat-Kwong Ho, who passed away today in Hong Kong at the age of 96. Thank you so much for raising such a remarkable son, and for giving me all the opportunities in the world. May you rest in peace in the presence of God.

There’s something so special about seeing a town at its sleepiest. That time when the sun is just peeking out, but the cool of night still remains in the air, along with the anticipation and promise of the coming morning. You see the preparation for day that often falls unnoticed into the background…owners arriving at their stores, waiters shaking out restaurant cushions before the breakfast rush. As you cross paths with other early risers and acknowledge each other with a slight smile, you feel like you’re part of a secret club eluding those still warm in their beds. Silence feels sacred in the air, broken only occasionally by a passing car, a bird chirp, or the jingle of a donkey bell.

Or rather, a whole host of donkey bells. Yes, this morning I arrived on the gorgeous island of Santorini, renowned for its gleaming white houses, volcanic rock beaches, and cliff stair-stepping donkeys.

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The Hunt for Souvlaki Row

When I first introduced my dad on this blog a few days ago, I mentioned his giant sweet tooth…but I left two key things out.

1) I inherited at least half of my love of food/eating prowess from him. You can take this to mean that he really, really likes food.
2) One of his favorite foods in the world is the venerated souvlaki.

Now, this last bit may not normally be relevant…but today, we arrived safely and soundly in Athens, Greece!

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