Friday, September 30, 2011


I love this touch of red

During my most recent trip to London a few friends and I ventured to Bloomsbury in search of the Charles Dickens Museum.  The house was unexpectedly closed.  I had fortunately been through the literary site over Christmas (I still need to share those pics) so my disappointment was minimal.  It was still great to walk through this charming London neighborhood on a warm day.  With streets of Georgian townhomes and verdant parks, Bloomsbury has a wonderful atmosphere.  

 For those who don't know, this borough of London is particularly well known for the Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers and intellectuals who gathered in the neighborhood to discuss...whatever it is intellectual clubs discuss.  I've never been part of one so I couldn't really say.  Does anybody fancy establishing one with me? :)  In any case, its most famous members include Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster.  If you're ever in the area, Bloomsbury is a bit of London worth exploring. 

This little Scottish Terrier is adorable
I couldn't help but laugh at the name of this establishment
A quaint little park
Amanda, Liz and Ana navigate the streets
I would quite gladly take possession of either of these townhouses
Standing at Charles Dickens's door
He apparently wasn't at home

British Bites: Cranberry Cheese

I was not the least bit adventurous in the dairy department before I lived in Leeds.  I would eat cheddar, a limited selection of Italian cheeses and there my list would end.  While I wouldn't say I am now a cheese guru by any means, I have tried -- and enjoyed -- a wider variety of cheeses over the past year: goat's cheese, pecorino, brie and feta to name the highlights.  One of my recent discoveries has been Wensleydale cheese with cranberries.  This probably isn't specific to Britain, but it is where I discovered said culinary gem.  And let me tell you, it is addicting.

A large slice of cranberry cheese on buttered toast really hits the spot.  In fact, I could do with some right now.  Unfortunately, it is there while I am here.  Hmm....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mad Hatters

 The Four Weddings and a Funeral look

Not too long ago Ana and I popped into TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the States).  Before we knew it we were donning every hat their selection could offer us.   Needless to say, we got a bit carried away.

 I never thought I looked that great in hats.  Surely my oddly-shaped head just didn't know what to do with them.  But then I came across this winner and my mind will be forever changed.

What would life be without goofy moments like these or good friends to contribute to said goofiness?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Snippets from My Last Weekend in England

Dear England,

I haven't even left yet, but I already miss you like crazy.  See you soon. xx

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Double Decker

I do occasionally have an unpleasant experience on public transport, but overall I have loved utilizing buses over the past year.  I will definitely regret not having the convenience of England's transport system at my fingertips.  Cars guzzle gas (or petrol in Britspeak) as well as money.  Besides, there's something about sitting at the top of a double decker and watching the life on the streets below you. 

A view from the top is the way to go. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Rainy Day on Campus

I love rain.  Strangely enough, it's one of my favourite things about living in England.  As long as you don't get caught in a downpour, it's quite pleasant.  I also love how green the area is as a result.  One day I emerged from the student union to find that it had rained.  For some reason, this made everything on campus seem more beautiful than it already was.  I think my university campus is simply charming.  I hope you think so too.

I am obviously not the best photographer, but these were taken with love.   

Downton Abbey Returns

The second series of Downton Abbey began this past Sunday, and I am already feeling impatient for the next installments.  The only problem is that I am due to fly back to the States before the series concludes.  Discordant release dates for various films and miniseries often interfere with my viewing schedule. 

I don't want to give anything away, but so far far there have been plot developments I've liked while others have annoyed me.  Maggie Smith is genius as always.  I was so thrilled she received an Emmy for her work on the show.  As time goes on, I find myself increasingly smitten with this fellow:

I'm also eager to visit Downton Abbey, or Highclere Castle as it's known in 'real life.' Did you know that the current Lord and Lady Carnarvon still reside there, although it is at times open to the public?  Can you imagine waking up every day to this?

Finally, I want Mary's dresses.  All of them. 

Are you watching Downton Abbey?  Will you be watching? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

David Copperfield; Or, To Birth a Book

I harbour a propensity of treating books like living, breathing creatures.  In short, they are my babies.  (As is my dog, but that's a whole other story.)  Sometimes my obsession becomes so acute, I feel the need to have myself photographed with my books.  Observe:

Aren't these beautiful?

However, this 'books as babies' mentality reached new heights of ridiculousness when I emailed a few of my friends.  I had written to proudly inform them that I had finished reading David Copperfield, and suddenly a birthing metaphor spun out of control faster than one can say Dickens.  I think it's funny though, even if one is laughing at me and not with me.  So, with some slight editing, I will share this evidence of my psychosis. 

Dearest Friends,

Today at approximately 14.05 I welcomed a new addition to my I've-Read-It List.  Name: David Copperfield.  Length: 855 pages.  Weight: enough to render my bag uncomfortably heavy.   

Considering I was in labour with young Davy for several tiring weeks, I am quite thrilled to welcome him to my list.  I have added other offspring of Charles Dickens to my list before David's arrival: Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol and (most recently) Oliver Twist.  But David is by far the weightiest of his siblings, and so it is with great pride that he is added to my expanding brood of books.

I have intended to read one of Dickens's notoriously lengthy novels for some time now.  I made the attempt about two years ago with Little Dorrit; but alas, that effort was aborted in the midst of multiple stressors.  Have any of you succeed in carrying an epic-length Dickens to full term?  If so, how did you find the experience?  For me it was a great effort.  Yet it's true what they say:you immediately forget the labour and you immediately want to have/read another (where is this metaphor going?!).  It will have to wait a while;  David, after all, is still a newborn on The List.  But I'm thinking Nicholas Nickleby or Dombey and Son.  Or Our Mutual Friend.  In short, I cannot decide.  Any suggestions?

Your eccentric,
                      but well-meaning friend,

In all seriousness, I would highly suggest you pick up David Copperfield if you find yourself in the mood for a novel by Old Charlie.  It's been a favourite of mine in a year full of reading, and it features some of the most memorable characters Dickens ever created: letter-writer-extraordinaire Mr. Micawber, spunky and donkey-phobic Aunt Trotwood, and the slimy villain Uriah Heep (pictured above).  Uriah is repeatedly described as snakelike and cadaverous.  I think the illustrator managed to capture both characteristics in this depiction.  Are you sensing his cadaverousness?  Which Dickens novel would you recommend, or would you avoid him altogether? 

MA in Top Modeling

I have a confession to make.  I always get a kick out of America's Next Top Model and have faithfully watched it for years.  There, I said it.  I like to pretend that I have refined tastes, but I am a tv reality junkie.  I think it has something to do with the fact that my brain craves some mindless entertainment after a full day of reading Victorian novels and literary criticism.  The endless instances of Tyra's pure insanity along with the profound intelligence of the models themselves is just the sort of mindlessness I need.

Not too long ago, the conversation at the pub turned to this shining specimen of American brilliance.  The next thing you know, we were conducting our own photo shoot in the style of Top Model.  So much for the pursuit of mental improvement.  I was so amused by our 'fierce' photos I felt inclined to share the joy.  Please note these were taken with the intent of satirizing the show, and I wouldn't wish anyone to think we were taking ourselves seriously.  So without further ado, here are our best shots...

The shot where we try to look sophisticated
by covering the majority of our faces with our hands
'Smizing' (aka, smiling with your eyes)
The group shot
in which contestants pretend to be team players
while hogging the spotlight
Making use of props

There they are.  I will now allow you time to deliberate before deciding whether or not we will survive elimination and make it to next week's photo shoot. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Marvelous Mates: Ana

I am a lucky girl.  I have been particularly lucky in having acquired many wonderful friends over the years; some old, some new; some nearby and some from afar.  I thought it would be fun to interview a mate now and then, because I kinda feel awful about keeping their brilliance all to myself. 

Since I am currently crashing with my buddy Ana, I naturally harrassed her to help me out.  She agreed with just one stipulation, and this is a direct quote: 'As long as you don't go all Rita Skeeter on me.'  Fair enough.

Where are you from?  Portugal, the awesome province of Spain to those who don't know. 

What is your favourite food from home?  That is a difficult question since I like food in general, but I might go with octopus just to be weird.

If you had to wear one colour for the rest of your life what would it be?  To fit in with my old lady complex I'd say tweed, but since I'm fully aware that's not a colour I might go with black.

What is your favourite city?  Hmm...Tough question.  I think at the moment I might have to go with York, since we saw those amazing houses there last time we went. 

What has been your favourite holiday destination thus far?  Hate to be obvious, but it has to be London.  The trip impressed my 11-year-old self in so many ways.  It was probably what determined me to come [to England]. 

Which vacation spot is at the top of your travel list?  Well, I apparently don't aim that high as I'd have to say Yorkshire, but if I need to be specific Allerton Park.

Can you share a memorable travel moment?  To vary a bit from my gushing about London and England, I can actually share a memory from when I went to the States.  I didn't see much as I went to visit my aunt in Massachusetts and was too young to go out much, but I remember distinctly waking up really early and witnessing my aunt making an amazing breakfast.  Oh the joys of a full table first thing in the morning... Eggs, bacon, pancakes; that was all new to me and I was quite taken by the bear-shaped honey jar.  Also, it was the first time I ever saw a house fully carpeted!  Carpets aren't something we need much in Portugal's climate, it has to be said. 

Give me a book recommendation.  Now.  [Take note of my patience.]  At the risk of becoming a broken record, Wuthering Heights!  But as that is not everyone's cup of tea, I'd also say Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.  It is an amazing fantasy series that marked my childhood. 

Give me a movie recommendation.  Now.  The Secret Garden, and I won't even apologise for that.  It is pure brilliance, and that is a fact!

What television show can you not get enough of?  Sherlock!  But that might just be because I have been living under the suspicion that Benedict Cumberbatch might be my soulmate.  Other than that, I'll watch almost any panel show in existence. 

What is your guilty pleasure?  Until recently I never fully realized the extent of my problem, but I'd say watching odd tv such as a documentary on Edwardian farming.  Just give me landscape, antiques, or something of the sort, and I'll watch it.

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party who would be on your guest list?  Another tough one.  I mean, that would depend on whether I wanted a successful dinner party or not.  Assuming I didn't, I'd have to say Emily Bronte.  Though I would fully expect her not to show up, I had to mention her...  However, in order for me to actually have a party that lives up to its name, maybe Oscar Wilde to compensate for Emily's lack of social interaction, and because he would be a brilliant addition to any party.  And Stephen Fry, because he is basically Wilde's reincarnation.

Can you share a favourite quote?  'I cannot give the reasons, I only sing the tunes: the sadness of the seasons, the madness of the moons.'  --Mervyn Peake

The following question I posed to Ana as a joke.  Nevertheless, she provided a full paragraph in response that just touched my heart in spite of her lamentations that I kept vexing her with reminders to answer my questions with alacrity.  I won't bore you with the details, but I had to share one hilarious tidbit.

What is the most awesome thing about Diana [please narrow down to three]?  She introduced me to The Princess Bride and to Cary Elwes's glasses, surely there's enough credit in that. 

Ana, thank you for being a marvelous mate!  You're the best!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just Like a Woman

A friend recently sent a fantastic article my way from the Los Angeles Review of Books.  It proved to be a fascinating read.  Concerned with Jane Austen's status as an author in contemporary academia and pop culture, it raises some interesting questions about male versus female writing content.  Why do Austen fans feel the need to apologize for their adoration of an acclaimed author?  What can men learn from reading her novels?  It was very engrossing, and I'd highly recommend it for those seeking some brain fodder. 

I, for one, am proud to proclaim myself an Austenite.  Because Pride and Prejudice was the first so-called classic I read, in many ways I feel I owe my love of literature and subsequent extensive education to her.  I can't fathom what my life would be had I not been introduced to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy as a young teen.  In fact, I firmly believe that a young reader in possession of a good imagination must be in want of an Austen novel.   

In true Mr. Bennet fashion I shall conclude this post with the following: 'If anyone needs me I'll be in my study, not to be disturbed.'

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I previously took it for granted that every individual in the entire universe recognized that The Princess Bride is one of the best films of all time.  No exaggeration.  It seems to me, however, that this movie's supreme brilliance is not fully acknowledged outside of America.  This became a matter of some confusion for friends who failed to see the allusions I often made to this glorious script.  My friends Ana and Ragini, for instance, had never seen Rob Reiner's masterpiece.  I found their ignorance of The Princess Bride to be rather...well, inconceivable.  Fortunately, Liz bestowed the DVD upon Ana as a gift, and I was lucky enough to be there when both Ana and Ragini viewed for the very first time.

Watching this childhood favourite with first timers helped me see the movie with fresh eyes.  Both Ana and Ragini, interestingly enough, lamented that they had not grown up with The Princess Bride.  It made me think back to the time when I was absolutely terrified of the shrieking eels and the rodents of unusual size; how, as a pre-teen, I fell in love with Westley; and how, as an adult, I'm still in love with Westley.  He remains my favourite character after all these years.  I guess you could call it true love.  So, in reverse order, I am sharing my three favourite Westley lines.

3. Life is pain, highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.

2. [In reference to the Fire Swamp] I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely. 

1. Death cannot stop true love.  All it can do is delay it for a while.  

In closing, I would like to give a piece of advice to any of my friends who have been so dreadfully cursed as to not have seen this film before:  watch it!  Now!  Immediately!  If you feel wary about it, please watch one of the movie's most memorable scenes.  If you aren't convinced after viewing the following clip, then you can't be helped.