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

What Kind of Traveler are You?

Everyone’s got one – a traveling style, that is. Maybe you’re all museums, all the time. Or, one museum until boredom strikes, then onward to more exciting ventures. Perhaps, you tend towards beaches and sun, or crave the big city lights. Or, hey, maybe you’re about to stop reading this, because you hate traveling – but that’s a style too.

I never really thought about how I prefer to travel before this trip. I’ve always traveled with a group, and most of the time, my activities are already decided, or recommendations made, upon arrival. When given options, I usually choose to shop or eat (my two main talents). By this point, you’re probably wondering why I’m babbling on about this subject. Continue reading

Running after Trains in Italy

Picture this: A twenty-one year old girl in Florence, Italy, wind blowing through her hair as she…

…frantically runs through the train station, weighed down by an enormous handbag and backpack, lugging a 50-pound suitcase behind her, sweating rivers down her forehead and back.

Fast forward 2 hours.

The same girl, now in La Spezia train station…again runs (really, struggles would be a more accurate term) up and down staircases, swearing that she will never again pack more than 20 pounds…or perhaps 10. Oh yes, that girl was me, sprinting to make trains today on 2 separate occasions after our first train was delayed 85 minutes in Bologna, Italy.

Unfortunately, the source of the delay was a tragic earthquake in Bologna, one in an ongoing series set off by a large earthquake 10 days ago. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected.

I feel really blessed that I wasn’t in the region yesterday, since I was actually there just last week. And, frankly, all the delays in the world would’ve been worth it to see this slice of paradise.

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Of Canals and Cars

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You may be wondering why I’m posting a picture of birdseed.

But, it’s not birdseed, it’s actually…Choc-X!

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And I realize I just sounded like an infomercial lady. My apologies. I just love finding dessert masquerading as a meal. See? “The crisp roasted Swiss muesli with chocolate” – or, in other (my) words, chocolate with a few granola pieces thrown in. Love it. I found it at my hotel breakfast this morning, and tossed it in my bag to eat while waiting for my train (to Venice!!!). I just wish I had found it sooner. Guess my hotel caught a lucky break there.

Anyway, as stated earlier, today I arrived in Venice…and so did my dad! Continue reading

What would you do with $2500?

Maybe you’re thinking of the student loans you could pay, the rent you could cover, or the i-something you could own. But, what if someone gave you this $2500 to travel anywhere in the world, do whatever you wanted, to see all the sights (or maybe only one), to pay for lodging (whether in the form of a hotel or a canoe)? This is the premise of the Goliard scholarship at Rice University, started years ago by group of men from Sid Richardson College.

When I sat down and thought about my proposal for the Goliard scholarship, I decided to do some introspective work and really examine my strengths and weaknesses, passions and dislikes. Thinking about something that would fall under both “strength” and “passion,” one thing immediately came to mind: Eating. When I first triumped over 10 slices of pizza at the Pizza Hut buffet (around age 8), I knew that food would be one of my lifelong passions. Recently, though, my love of food has transformed itself into my passion for baking. Peanut butter cup-stuffed chocolate chip cookies, sea salt caramel thumbprint cookies, chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes…I find such a joy in the entire creative process of baking. I even co-taught a baking class this past semester with my friend Erika!

So, I proposed a pastry eating and baking tour all around Europe – baking classes in Paris, sampling tiramisu in Italy, exploring baklava in Greece. Even though I knew it was a long shot, I had such a great time putting together my proposal (with pictures of food, of course, acting as the highlight). And then, somehow…I got a scholarship to eat and bake in Europe. I really cannot express how excited and grateful I am for this opportunity. This journey marks the beginning of my year off, a time for me to really explore and see if law school next year will stay at Plan A, or if a Plan B (baking…?) could possibly come to the forefront. Either way, I could not be more excited.

So, sitting at the airport in Dallas, minutes away from boarding my flight to Paris, all I have to say is…Watch out, Europe! I’m coming to eat ALL the pastries!