Pinterest, Booze and Cupcakes

31 May

If you’re anything like me, you are probably wildly addicted to the time suck machine that is Pinterest.  I’ve spent many a ridiculous hour pouring over and then re-pinning pins from other internet whores who do the same.  Which, until now hasn’t really struck me as an exercise in futility, but there it is.  In the time that I’ll never get back, I’ve amassed a fairly large collection of boards with such gems as this:

Really?  So I should troll the internet for platitudes and ways to update anything with chalkboard paint?  Alright, if I must, I must. *Dramatic sigh*

Ok, so my point, you ask?  My point is that I’ve also amassed several boards of food porn, including recipes for Toffee Crunch Cupcakes and Smores Cupcakes, so when we decided to host a spring BBQ last week, I whipped out the list and started polling the attendees for what they’d like to eat.  The result?  Malibu Pina Colada Cupcakes with Lime Cream Cheese Frosting (booze wins out every time in my house).  As per my usual inability to follow rules, I used the recipe as more of a guideline – I skipped the lime in the frosting, opting for a sprinkle of coconut instead.  I skipped the glaze in the middle and I added about 3 times the amount crushed pineapple to the batter.  They turned out pretty good, but I’m thinking next time the Toffee Crunch will win out.  I just need to figure out a way to incorporate some booze!

The finished cupcakes


Weekend Inspiration: Connecting the Dots

26 May

Every so often, I find myself sucked into the TED Talks website or YouTube, watching video after video at 2am.  Mostly I wind up watching videos with adorable animals, like this one.  But every so often, I stumble onto a profound or really inspiring video that I’d really like to share.  This is one of those videos.  It’s a commencement address to a Stanford class given by Steve Jobs in 2005, and honestly, it’s just as true today as it was then.  Enjoy!

“You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future” – Steve Jobs

Stay on the damned train!

16 Oct

Have you ever heard the phrase life will keep giving you the same test until you pass it? Well, I think I’ve got the message universe!

Folks, let me share this little lesson I’ve learned today with you. Perhaps some day it may come in handy. Follow your gut instincts. And for the love of god, if you are on a train bound for Siena and the stop for Toritta di Siena comes up, for the love of all that is holy, stay in your damned seat. This is not the town you are looking for!!

Let me tell you, Toritta di Siena is not a place you want to be stuck in. For one thing, it smells. Bad. I can’t even place it but I feel like I’m going to need a shower when I get to Siena. Except I couldn’t find a hostel in Siena, so I still have to go on to Pisa afterwards. Three cheers for the only trip that as ever given me this much grief.

Bottom line, if you think that you should keep on going despite the little Italian sign that makes it seem like you should go down the stairs, go straight. If you think that you could skip the Vatican and still be complete, skip it!! And if you think that this stop is not the one for you? Stay on the damned train!!

My first night in Italy

16 Oct

So my first night in Italy wasn’t what I expected. After leaving work early and rushing to make sure I didn’t miss my flight, I got to the airport in plenty of time (2 1/2 hours from departure). My plane, however, was nowhere to be found. It was delayed. Not just a little delayed either, it was delayed so much that the departures board basically mocked me with “relax & shop.” I’m not kidding. Here’s a quick recap of the night:

Flight delayed by 2.5 hours: a little stress
Bus ticket from airport purchased before reading schedule: €6
Cab fare from airport after realizing the bus stopped running: €16
Original train ticket to Rome: €10
Last minute 5am ticket to Rome: €38
Falling asleep on my backpack in a room of snoring old men with questionable Italian heritage: €0
Drifting back into consciousness to find said men staring at me: a little uncomfortable
Realizing they are either staring because I am also snoring or because I have a velcro crease across my cheek from my jacket: minor embarrassment
Watching the sunrise in Italy: priceless

Italy here I come!

Disclaimer: I didn’t actually watch the sunrise so much as drift in and out of consciousness while the sun rose.

Arrivederci Roma!

15 Oct

As soon as this train leaves the station I will breathe a sigh of relief that I’ve managed to survive Rome. Which will only be followed by the anxiety that I’m on the wrong train. Seriously who ever thought it was a good idea not to include a notice of stops (or which freaking train to get on on the ticket of said train?? I missed my first train to Siena this morning by about 3 minutes. I wasn’t running late, I just couldn’t find any signage to indicate where the hell bin 2ES was, let alone which direction was east. And that’s after I pieced together that to go to Siena I need to get on the train to Florence. So after figuring out the general direction and half limping, being led astray by totally unclear signage not once but twice.. I arrived on the platform to watch the train pull away. The train I’m on now is for Milan and I’m really only about 70% sure that this train will get me to my connecting train in Chiusi. Alas, I’ll just have to deal with the fallout if it is not.

Where to start with Rome? It’s such an epic city, with so much to see. I’ve come to think of Rome as a Where’s Waldo puzzle. Regardless of which fountain, piazza, monument or museum you are looking for, you can be assured that as soon as you have that aha moment of recognition, you will realize that this piazza/fountain/monument is not the one you were looking for, but another one of possibly equal or greater beauty and you’ll need to press on to find Waldo. On the bright side, you don’t feel quite as wronged looking at a random fountain or piazza than you do realizing you have found an imposter Waldo.

It was definitely worth my time and effort to explore, and if I wind up back in Rome in the future I won’t be displeased. If only I could say the same about Vatican City, which was almost a completely a waste of my time and money.

Here’s hoping that Tuscany is all it’s cracked up to be!

Travel gems

26 Aug

You know how sometimes when you are in an awkward situation and you try to make the least noise possible so as not to disturb someone? That’s me, right now. And honestly, EVERYTHING I DO sounds so loud. I’m not kidding. Even my fingers tapping the iPad seem really really loud.

Here’s some background: I hopped an early morning train up to Inverness today for a four day trip in which I’m hoping to explore the highlands more. And I waited so long to book my hostel that I had a really difficult time finding someplace with an availability for the while trip and that wasn’t superbly expensive. So I ended up booking a mixed dorm, and I really don’t like mixed dorms. And before you start giving me the stink eye and telling me to grow up, I will tell you that I have stayed in them, Im not scared of men, i just prefer to stay in all female dorms.

Anyways, a few hours ago I got into my room for the first time and there’d just one guy in the room; an older guy and clearly a long term-er. I mean, I’ve lived in a hostel for long term, and we were horrifically messy, but this guy isn’t like that. Everything is super neat and tidy but his stuff takes up all the space. He even has a desktop computer here. It’s not like a tiny tower either, it’s like an old school fat tower with a wide, flat screen monitor and a little desk. There is a rack for hanging your clothes, and it is full of his stuff. He even has a kettle amongst a variety of juices, instant coffee and assorted personal hygiene items neatly laid out on the window ledge. Suffice it to say he seems well and truly at home here in this dingy little hostel.

But that’s not the weird part. The thing I find most weird/intriguing is not his full personal computer setup (I mean who does that?!) – it’s that he hasn’t moved since I came in hours ago. Full disclosure: that may or may not be true as I left for a few hours, but it certainly appears true! He is standing up and working on a laptop that is shielded by view with a makeshift curtain. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t move, he just stands, staring at that laptop. When I first came into the room, I asked him a quick question about the beds, and without looking at me he gave me a one word response. And then it was awkward silence while I set up my bed, made some plans for tomorrow, repacked, and then finally decided to venture back out into Inverness. I left him standing up, pin drop silence (minus the occasional key strokes), focusing intently on that laptop.

And that’s exactly how I found him when I came back. So I proceeded to be as quiet as i could while trying to reorganize and munch on the food I bought. And after about twenty minutes or so I decided to break the silence and asked him how long he’s been living here. I still have no idea what the answer is because he mumbled it as again he didn’t even look up. Which completely ended my attempts to engage my new roommate (at least for the next few days). And now it’s just the sound of me crunching my carrots.

Tonight’s gonna be a good night…

Charlotte ain’t got nothin on you

17 Aug

Ok, if you moved to a new country, one like say, Scotland, where you wouldn’t assume they have giant spiders, and it turns out they DO have giant spiders, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you??  Of course you would!!  It’s just common courtesy really.  But nope, no one warned me.

So there I was, alone in the flat.  Just me and the trust guard cat who patrols the garden like he’s a member of the Swiss-freaking-guard when we’re having a BBQ.  I assumed I was safe and secure, chillin’ on the sofa,  when out of the corner of my eye, something glided across the floor.  I was alarmed for a few seconds, thinking it was a mouse.  But it wasn’t solid enough to be a mouse I argued; it must have been a giant wad of cat hair.  I relaxed and sat back, chuckling at my alarm.

And then I realised: there’s NO WIND IN HERE!!!  WTF was it!??!

I glanced over at Archie (Swiss Guard) who was blissfully sleeping.  Normally he’s all about killing anything that moves or flies, so that gave me some comfort.  And I sat there, unsure of what to do for a couple of minutes.  Finally, I stood up, took a giant step over to see whatever it was… and FROZE.  I’m not even sure that I can convey the panic that swept over me.  I just stood there, clutching my hands together, most likely pale pale white, thinking F*CK F*CK F*CK F*CK F*CK!!!!  

There was no one to call!  The Flatmate was away.  I even Skype called folks in Canada.  Irrational?  Yes, it was irrational, but I don’t think I can really make you understand the kind of state I was in.  I should probably clarify by now, that it was a Scottish house spider – not that I knew that at the time.  All I knew was there was a huge (by normal spider standards), horrific looking spider just hanging out in my kitchen.  Under the overhang of the cupboards, so my first instinct of throwing a bowl of some sort over it was out.  And this thing was 3-4 inches easy.  With big fricken legs.  I just stood there staring at it, starting to cry (yes, I may cry when panicked).  I’d like to say the spider and I had a stand off, but honestly, the thing didn’t even notice me.  Even when I crossed the floor to get the vacuum…

Yes, I sucked the beast up.  Normally, I’m much more relaxed about these things.  I have this “I really really don’t like you, and don’t want you anywhere near me, but I won’t kill you” attitude.  I’ll try to relocate things as much as possible.  But that spider, that spider had to die.