Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Copyright Infringement at its Best

Pop rocks, featuring Thumper on acid... oh the fantastic things that can be found in Central Europe!

Friday, December 16, 2011

How beautiful is Budapest?

This is the famous Lanchid, the Chain bridge.  It's a ten minute walk from my flat, and I go through the square (that is actually a circle) twice everyday on my way out and in to my home. I snapped this one on my phone on the way home Wednesday, with the twilight all purple and the twinkling lights.  Love it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A late Thanksgiving...

... or an early Christmas.  Tonight I had Anna's family over for dinner.  I made free-range chicken breasts sauteed in organic goose fat, green bean casserole, stuffing, gravy, and sweet potato pie.  Anna made sweet potatoes with apples and cranberry sauce.  And we ate and ate and drank wine and it was lots of fun.  Anna's family has been so kind to me, both when I lived here before but especially now.  They have me over for meals all the time, bought me a chocolate Santa for St. Nick's day, look after me, and so on.  It was nice to make them something in return.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Butter Normal-Cookie-Shapes

Every Christmas my grandmother used to make butter balls.  Essentially the Polish version of Mexican wedding cookies, these little treasures involve tons of butter, walnuts, and powdered sugar.  And they are awesome.  I've made a batch once before, for Christmas two years ago, and they were a big hit.  I'm pretty short on time this year so I won't be able to spend hours and hours making and decorating sugar cookies, so I decided to just make butter balls.

When I told my mom this, she asked me to bring her some back for Christmas.  I guess it makes perfect sense now.  My sister had been helping Grandma the last several years, but she is in Arizona now.  Nobody can make the butter balls.  So I spent the last four hours mixing, rolling, baking, and powdering.  The tips of my fingers are bright pink and my hands are soft from all the butter.  The last batch is in the oven now.  I made about 140 butter balls.  Or, since they wound up not-so-round, 140 butter normal-cookie-shapes.

Some of them will make the journey with me across the Atlantic to Pennsylvania, as their forebears so often made the trip to wherever we were living from Pennsylvania.  I like how traditions change, but still continue on.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Scotland, the food!

Now, because my visit to Scotland was also a visit to Lyla, a lot of our time involved sitting around, drinking a pint, catching up, and eating.  And we ate SO MUCH delicious, really just amazing food.  I managed to take pictures of most of it.  Om nom nom.
tamarind-scented sweet curry pork with thai naan
spring rolls and chicken puffs
rhubarb pie with clotted cream and a cappucino
pitas with chili cheese dip, green pea and wasabi dip, and homemade pesto
burger with sweet potato fries and garlic mayo... perfect after the big night that was Halloween!
meat pies
seafood chowder, complete with fish, smoked fish, and clams
one half kilo of mussels in herbed butter, and easily the freshest and sweetest mussels I've ever had... plus they were only like 8 pounds (12 dollars) and still had bits of kelp sticking to them!
fish and chips (this was the second time we had fish and chips!)
mussel carnage
miso soup, edamame, and dumplings
sushi and stir-fried udon with veggies
manzanilla wine with lemonade
tapas sampler: honeyed eggplant, breaded cheese, paella, patatas bravas, setas al ajillo, pollo al ajillo, and salad
Not pictured: the first serving of fish and chips, the sausages we cooked at the hostel, the second awesome burger we ate before I had to leave on Friday, a big bowl of French onion soup, the couscous salad we made at the hostel another evening, an order of baked canelloni, ginger beers, ciders, ales, or any of our breakfasts (which were generally toast, to be fair).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Edinburgh, Part Two

Thursday wound up being the most beautiful day, full of sunshine and puffy white clouds.  So we walked around for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine before heading over to our original plan of visiting the newly renovated Scottish Museum.  The museum is totally free, takes up two distinct buildings, and includes a ton of stuff, so I can really recommend it to anyone.  It's definitely one of those fun museums that doesn't get boring.
the Scots Monument
the view of the city from the rooftop of the Scottish Museum
another lion statue for the photo collection
Lyla and I played this game where we had to try to repopulate Scotland with wolves while keeping them from harassing farmers.  We won!  Whoo!
Because nothing says Scotland like a stegosaurus.
Apparently hippos are very closely related to whales, so floating in the sky with all the sea life was this hippo.
a house, with a Lyla for scale
Ahhhh!!!  I've been stabbed!!!
Dolly, the cloned sheep
Friday morning we had just enough time to do some quick souvenir shopping before I had to catch the airport bus.  And there was also this bus stop ad of a crazy moose.
A thank-you to Scottish soldier from the USA for their help in WWI.
Me and the castle again...  Goodbye Scotland!  It was really awesome and you are sooooo pretty and classy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Highlights of the Scottish Highlands

On the Wednesday of my trip to Scotland, Lyla and I piled into a little van full of other tourists and headed out on a highlands tour.  We took the "Oban, West Highland Lochs, and Castles" tour offered by Timberbush.  (Seriously, click on that link, because I saw that and their camera is so much better than mine, but I saw that!)  Our guide was an extremely talkative lady who regaled us with stories about the sights we passed, Scottish history, and nothing as we drove along, through the highlands and out to the western coast.  This is the field where William Wallace won his first battle against the English, and that little tower on the smaller (left) hill is the national monument to him.
We stopped to admire the rolling fields and this statue, to the founder of something to do with the RAF.
This is Doune Castle, where all the castle scenes in Monty Python's The Quest for the Holy Grail were filmed.
This is me, galloping in front of the same castle, making clopping sounds with imaginary coconuts.  I think this picture sums up how excited I was to just stumble upon this place.
pretty fall colors
meat pies
We stopped in the little town of Kilmahog for pies and a break.  The river was flooding and the ducks kept zooming by, looking mildly alarmed by their own speed.  As soon as we sat down, though, the ducks all swarmed us and looked pathetic until they got some pie crust, while Lyla freaked out about her distaste for water fowl.
We continued through the highlands, learning about various clans and battles, until we reached Oban on the coast.  I heard people speaking Gaelic!  And I thought Hungarian was weird...
This is McCaig's Folly, which was intended to be a museum but wound up being an unfinished monument some rich businessman built for himself.
More of pretty little Oban and its bay.  I also ate a pound of mussels here.  Nam.
Also, there were lochs.
Then we traveled to Dunstaffnage Castle, this one built on top of an enormous f-off rock.  I guess when nature's given you an enormous rock in the middle of a field next to a loch, you build a castle on it.
loch self-portrait
We backtracked a bit and got to see some magnificent sky.
loch + castle + mountain + fog = Scotland
I think we're just a little bit too excited about the whole thing!  Seriously, it was a great day.   It's not a coincidence that this particular place is called Loch Awe.  The castle is Kilchurn.  Not pictured because I couldn't get a decent picture from the van, we also saw elk, deer, enormous black cows, hairy highland cows, waterfalls, and even more gorgeous mountains, castles, ruins, and sky-scapes.
Our final stop was the Inveraray Castle, which was closed for the winter.  Luckily, our guide was a crazy person and essentially broke us onto the grounds by driving us over ditches and up sidewalks through the back.  It was awesome, because while the other castles we saw were tough and Scottish-looking, this one looks like something out of a Disney movie.  Even cooler was that we got caught sneaking in!  We got to jump out and take pictures until security came and chased us back to the van, whooping and laughing.  By then it was dark, so we didn't get to see much of bonny Loch Lomond, so I just listened to our guide's stories for the rest of the way home.  It was a fantastic day for sure and I'm so glad I managed to get out Edinburgh and see a bit of the rest of Scotland!  It was so, so beautiful, and it was also great fun to learn about all the crazy things these different clans have done and had done to them.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Power of Eyeliner

Recently, every little thing has been irritating me.  Students.  Colleagues.  The weather.  The destructive little demon kitten.  Inefficiency.  Immigration.  The bag my flatmate keeps her cleats on.  The blue dust that comes out of our radiator.  The fact that someone stole the tail light off of my bike.  Everything.

On Saturday I was invited to a party by someone I barely know.  I went by myself, danced, talked to strangers all night, and had a merry time.  Sometimes it's just good to be alone, free of everyone who knows you and has expectations of you, and dance like an idiot.  Sparkly eyeliner also helps.

Edinburgh, Part One

During Fall Break, I headed to Edinburgh to visit Lyla.  Lyla has been staying with her grandmother there since she finished her masters program in September.  Her whole dad's side is from Edinburgh, and her dad grew up there as well, so Lyla has been there to visit several times and knows it pretty well.  I left Budapest on Saturday evening, just in time for an amazing sunset over the clouds.  After running to make my connection in Amsterdam, I arrived to Scotland with no problems.  Lyla and her cousin picked me up at the airport, and I spent Saturday evening chatting with Lyla's grandma and watching British TV.
On Sunday I chatted with Lyla's grandma some more, and then we headed into Edinburgh and checked into our hostel.  We relaxed for a bit, then took a walk around the city and finally wound up going to get some pub food.  I had fish and chips, cider, and even ginger beer.  It was awesome.  After that, we decided to catch a movie and went to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was a rather slow spy movie.  Oddly enough, though, a lot of the action took place in Hungary and there was a whole lot of Hungarian being spoken throughout the film.  It's a small world!

Monday we woke up for sight-seeing in earnest.  It's worth mentioning that I was blessed with some uncharacteristically awesome weather for Scotland in the last few days of October and first few days of November.  It only rained on my last day, and even then only when I was waiting for the bus to the airport, and it was actually quite warm.  I only had to wear my heavy coat on a few occasions, otherwise my jacket was plenty.  Anyway, here is the old town of Edinburgh atop the hill.
Me with the castle in the background.  The castle was built on a f-off big old rock so that it was only accessible from one direction and thus extremely defendable.  Lyla and I made quite a few boiling oil jokes on the way up the hill, because we are both nerds currently reading A Song of Ice and Fire.
It was a long walk up the hill, but so green and pretty!
Once we got up the hill and realized they were charging 12 entire pounds to just go in and walk around the castle, we were offended and decided to skip it.  As you all know, Lyla and I have seen plenty of castles.  We did go around the outside a bit, though, and check out the views.
me, all my enormous hair, and the castle gate
just two girls with flowers in their hair
After playing around the castle, we wandered on down the royal mile and checked out the architecture.  This is the Saint Giles' Cathedral, which we also went inside.
the back of the cathedral, with Adam Smith
I actually did not try any whisky while in Scotland, but I did bring a bottle home with me.  I took this picture because THIRTY POUNDS (about 45 dollars) for a nip of whiskey!  Eep!
This is one of my favorite streets, because it curves and all the buildings are so similar and lovely and old-timey looking.
I love this!  It's a tartan-wearing stuffed tiger also sporting highland fluffy cow slippers.  Awesome.  Mo is so jealous.
A cute tote bag covered in little Loch Ness monsters, each displaying a different emotion such as "Happy Ness" or "Sleepy Ness."  I love puns.
This is the new Scottish Parliament.  I did not love the building.
Monday night was also Halloween, so Lyla and I dressed up and headed out for a night of crazy fun.  It was awesome.
The next morning we somehow drug ourselves out of bed and headed for our tour of the Mary King's Close.  This is a tour of one of the old streets of Edinburgh, similar to the underground tour in Seattle.  Essentially Edinburgh has been built on top of itself a few times, and one of the old streets was somehow preserved.  Now you can go down with a tour guide "from the 1600s" in traditional garb and learn about life at the time, the plague, and other such things.  It was really cool and delightfully cheesy.
Here is a perfect example of how Edinburgh was built atop itself.  On the level we're on are a bunch of shops, and above them there is a road and more buildings.
Well, thank you Mr. Seal!  We saw this fellow on the way back from seeing Contagion, the creepy new plague movie.  So between the Close and the movie, Tuesday was basically classified as Plague Day.  Which might not have been the best choice before spending Wednesday on a tour bus full of people with colds!  On Wednesday we headed out for our Highlands tour, which will be in the next blog post.  Stay tuned!