Friday, 23 November 2012

The Lake District

Sheep are ridiculously hard to catch. They seem all fluffy and tame, like giant cotton balls resting in the grass. But they have this habit of letting me get a foot away from them, and then running like there’s a crazed American chasing them across the field.


I tell you this not to discourage you from chasing sheep. By all means, do so, because it’s a helluva good time. I tell you this to illustrate why I love the English Lake District.

Last weekend, I attended a Nature in American Writing seminar, which focused mainly on Emerson and Thoreau. I loved it, but it kept reminding me of the Lake poets, whom I love even more. Then it occurred to me that I never wrote about the Lake District, which is a shame because it’s one of my favorite parts of England.

The Lake District is in the northwest section of the country. Gorgeous landscapes full of mountains, waterfalls, and of course, lakes.

Overlooking Grasmere

I first traveled up there to research a paper I was writing on the Lake Poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey). We spent several days touring the countryside while visiting Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount. I got all the material I needed, as well as an 1889 8-volume set of Wordsworth’s complete works. I was one happy camper.

We returned to the Lake District because we loved everything about the area and wanted to see it one more time before returning home to the states. My favorite part of the area is Dora’s field, which you can visit via Rydal Mount. I can’t help but cry when I look at it, because I find it heart wrenchingly beautiful that her parents (while in their 70’s) planted a sea of daffodils in her memory after her death in 1847.

If you’re not a Lake Poet fanatic, you can still find lots to do. It’s the perfect area for rambling, and there’s plenty to do on the water. There’s also a fantastic falconry center, if you’re into birds of prey. The people of the Lake District were very accommodating, and we spent several days wandering around Grasmere, Ambleside, and Windermere.

Their sheep aren’t nearly as accommodating. You’ll inevitably have to pass through a sheep field if you’re going to explore the Lake District on foot. At some point while crossing the fields and taking pictures of the sheep, I got it into my head that I needed to pet one. I never succeeded in my goal, but I can say with good faith that I gave it my all. Next time I’m taking my Velcro gloves.

Turkey Day

Yesterday marked one of the greatest Thanksgivings in history for us. It started out rather stressful, but resulted in sweet, sweet victory. Winning tastes even better than homemade apple pie.

We agreed to be at the Thanksgiving party at 3 pm, but first we had to stop by HB’s house to 1) make the food and 2) bring HB and said food to the party. We needed to bring rolls, a green bean casserole, a pumpkin roll, and an apple pie. Simple. At 1:45 HB texted and asked us to bring a rolling pin and an apple corer. K immediately texted back, “You haven’t started baking anything yet?”

Then began a frenzied panic of buying groceries and assembling dishes. We made it to the party at 3:15, because we are awesome.

We celebrated Thanksgiving by mowing through an ungodly amount of food with some close friends. This was quickly followed by making shrinky dinks with the kids, and then watching some Family Guy while the kids were distracted with their new toys.

Still amused by the afternoon’s cooking session, we restarted a Words with Friends game with HB. K informed me that we were down by about 70 points. “Well,” I said, “there’s only one thing we can do. We’re going to cheat our asses off.” Sixteen hours and 300 points later, we were the clear victors.

This year I’m thankful for great friends, wonderful food, and Scrabble apps that let you enter in the best word combinations to crush your friends. I don’t even know what half these words mean, but I know I played one on a triple word score and it was glorious. Happy Turkey Day!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Into the Woods

Some people assume that I watch a lot of TV since I’m at home during the day. Seeing as I don’t have cable, that would get boring pretty quick. The truth is that I spend an inordinate amount of time in the forest. Granted, most of my day is spent at my computer (just like everyone else) but I’m drawn to the woods like a moth to a flame. I value my solitude more than most and I don’t typically get lonely. I enjoy the company of others, but I prefer to seek it out myself.

This photo is from my favorite spot in the forest. The city is just close enough to see it, but not close enough to hear. Perfect.

Although I don’t typically see many people in the forest, the woods themselves are full of activity. I can’t remember a time when I went into the woods and didn’t see an animal. Normally I run into deer, squirrels, snakes, and turkeys. They’ll disappear if they hear you, but if you sit long enough, they all come out in their own time. If you don’t move, the deer are especially tame. They’ll stare at you long enough to determine you’re not a threat, and then they’ll wander closer.

I’ve always enjoyed being outside by myself. The thing I like best about going home is being completely alone in the fields. I could spend hours out there, just walking and thinking. There are points on I-94 where you can park your car at night and not see a single light, from any car or house. It’s a little eerie, but absolutely awesome. Bonus points if you’re parked on a night with some Northern Lights.

I think everyone has a secret back up plan, should everything go completely awry. That fantasy where you pack everything up and move to the beach. My backup plan has always been to simply retire into the mountains of Colorado with my books.

The weirdest part about going back to working with other people will be the lack of privacy and time to just be alone. I might miss that more than not having to wear dress clothes. So no, I can’t tell you the first thing about daytime TV, but I can tell you everything about the woods.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Drive-Thru Won

My adventure partner and I decided that the best place for lunch today would be Don & Millie’s. We actually agreed on Chick-fil-A but their drive-thru was backing up traffic for two blocks, so I set aside my need for a hate sandwich and a Christian side hug. I’m kidding—I wanted a spicy chicken sandwich with no pickles, because pickles are nasty.

At any rate, I decided to get the Cheese Frenchee at Don & Millie’s, because I’ve lived here for years and never tried one. Essentially, it’s a deep-fried cheese sandwich, which checks every box on my must-try list.


As you can see from the picture, I went with the combo meal because really, if you’re going to eat a deep-fried cheese sandwich, why not get the fries too? It tastes exactly like you would expect. It’s brilliant in theory but awful in practice. I only made it 3/4 of the way through, and I like all kinds of weird food. I’ve been known to crave Easy Cheese on spicy pork rinds. One of my favorite meals is haggis followed by a deep-fried Mars bar (I love you, Scotland!) but the Cheese Frenchee won this battle.

The bread absorbs a lot of oil, so it tastes like a slice of American cheese (yum) layered between everything else they’ve fried that day (ew). As the cheese makes up comparatively little of the sandwich, there’s no way it can compensate.
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