Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Making Beautiful Art, Making a Community Grow: Wood Street Walls, E17

Sunday afternoon was beautiful: the perfect, warm fall day. John had just jetted off to Chicago for the first part of his crazy business trip (something like 4 different states in 5 days, on opposite coasts - nope, I don't know how he does it either) and I didn't want to stay inside moping around all afternoon, so I grabbed his SLR (my poor Olympus Pen is on its way to the repair shop) and headed out to find Wood Street Walls' murals dotted around Walthamstow.

Problem is, I'm directionally challenged, so I walked past about three of them to begin with (including one at the end of my own street), but with the help of Google Maps, I persevered - and was rewarding by some really cool street art sightings, like these sweet foxes near the Rose & Crown by Irony & Boe.

Founded by Mark Clack in 2014 and with a team of artists and contributors behind it, Wood Street Walls began as an informal group of Walthamstow residents and artists who were committed to bringing art into the community. As of today, Wood Street Walls has brought 17 murals by different artists to Wood Street and the surrounding area, plus they've just been awarded a grant of £18,000 to convert a disused space into affordable art studios for local artists - which will translate into free workshops for local charities, school children, and residents. How amazing is that?

Art should be enjoyed by everyone. As their website so eloquently puts it, Wood Street Walls seeks to "create beautiful and accessible public art for the enjoyment of the community." And, indeed, it's thrilling to stumble upon something so unexpectedly beautiful in a random parking lot (I love these birds by ATM) or while walking past a pub (the dog chasing after the mallard ducks by Teddy Baden is one of my favorites).

Or to do a double-take at this colorful contribution from Toasters en route to Homebase (where we spend most of our time lately - sad, I know!):

Something I also realized while taking the photos (and pretending to be all professional, when in reality I kept forgetting to manual focus and locking my lens in place when I wasn't using the camera. So. Not. Cool.) was that the people around me would also do a double-take; as if it was the first time they'd noticed this incredible artwork right on their doorstep (like I said, I missed the one at the end of my own street!).

There's something more to Wood Street Walls than simply prettifying the place we live in; there's a mission, an ethos, a determination to build community behind it. As one of the founders, Mark Clack, told me, according to the Warwick Commission Report, the number of arts teachers in schools has fallen by 11% since 2010. Wood Street Studios could provide a positive alternative to kids who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to participate in art projects.

More importantly, Wood Street Walls reminds us all to find beauty in our surroundings; to look around us. I mean, really look.

Outside of the grant I mentioned above, the new community hub that Wood Street Walls is trying to develop (Wood Street Studios) is completely crowd-funded. Wood Street Walls will be selling prints of selected walls to contribute to the crowd-funding efforts - I don't know about you, but I'm definitely in!

If you're interested in learning more, donating to Wood Street Walls, or doing the Wood Street Walls walk yourself (the weather's perfect for it!), head over to their website here. They've even made a handy map to help you navigate and find all the walls here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Fish Finger Reinvented: One-O-One Restaurant, Knightsbridge

I don't venture to Knightsbridge often, but returning to One-O-One Restaurant at The Park Tower Knightsbridge was like seeing an old friend; after all, it was where John and I first met Udita's now-husband, Karim, and I have terrific memories of us chatting the night away over a delicious multi-course menu.

Last Friday was no different: John and I had been graciously invited to sample One-O-One Head Chef Pascal Proyart's 5-course tasting menu, created to celebrate the 60th anniversary of British favorite, the fish finger. And believe me - the menu was as far from the type of fish finger you'd commonly find in the frozen food aisle as you could get!

And, One-O-One was just as I had remembered it: the same gracious service in the same timeless, elegant setting. Inside, the roar of Ferraris and Porches and the customers stumbling out of Harvey Nichols and Harrods with bagfuls of designer goods dangling from their arms is completely forgotten as the restaurant's lovely setting promotes a tranquil, calm atmosphere. It's one of those restaurants that I'd go to for a celebration or an anniversary (fitting then, as we were celebrating the fish finger!).

I don't want to ruin the surprise for you in case you venture to One-O-One to try the menu for yourself (and you should!), but here were a few of the highlights:

We began with the fish finger amuse bouche du jour, a crispy shrimp cake, which did just the trick in warming up our palates for the main course(s).

The first course was my favorite, and one that I lingered over: yellowfin tuna tartar with oyster and caviar, plus seaweed potato mash and tartare sauce on the side. I'm a huge fan of tuna tartar, but was bowled over by the presentation - the glittering speckles of caviar resembled the sea floor, complete with green "plants" growing out of the "bed"!

The éclair of lobster boudin, topped with scallop with autumn truffle, creamed leek and sauce cardinal was another creative take on the fish finger and resembled a mini hot dog - reminding me of a seaside resort or a fun fair at the end of Brighton pier. The addition of truffle slivers made it fancy (although the fact that it was lobster already impressed), but the shape added a bit of irreverence - some tongue-in-cheek fun.

Another favorite of mine was the salmon bon bon with wasabi mushy peas and sweet chilli and mint sauce - missing from this photo was the soy sauce pipette, which added just the right amount of salty goodness to this crispy, Asian-inspired dish. 

The plating of this particular dish was nothing short of creative: the little "tails" of salmon parcels stood from the plate, resembling whales or fish diving into the sea of mushy peas (which were delicious, by the way) and the garnish formed a perfect arc - how's that for detail?!

Unfortunately, at this point I began to feel very full and as a result, hardly touched the next course of battered royal king crab and cod and chips, though it was also one of the highlights of the meal. 

By the time dessert arrived, we were full and clutching our stomachs (a word of advice: skip lunch and arrive very, very hungry!). But it was so beautiful, we couldn't resist tucking in anyway: éclair of pineapple with coconut & vanilla Chantilly and rum pina colada sorbet.

A spoonful of that pina colada sorbet was like dipping our toes into the ocean during a beach holiday: the combination of pineapple and coconut always screams "Vacation!" to me, and this dessert seemed like the only fitting final bow to an exemplary, fish-focused menu.

During dessert, a celebrity guest arrived (though I had no idea): Pelé, perhaps the best known football (AKA soccer) star of all time. He remained unnoticed to me, settling in with a group of friends at the opposite table, until John turned around to go to the bathroom and nearly fainted from excitement. 

Of course, the staff were discreet and hosted their celebrity guest with the quiet professionalism they do best, but it didn't stop the couple next to us pretending to take photos of their meal, only to capture Pelé in the background. I did stifle a laugh however, when I overheard a staff member introducing the fish finger tasting menu to him which evoked the confused response, "What is this, 'fish finger'?"

Our bellies full and having had a wonderful evening, we strolled out into enjoy the last bit of warmth in evening air while John wistfully craned his neck to get one last glimpse of his football hero through One-O-One's windows.

Celebrity-sighting or not, One-O-One's celebratory fish finger menu is one for the memory books: innovative, beautifully presented, and downright delicious.

Special thanks to One-O-One Restaurant in Knightsbridge and Starwood PR for graciously hosting us! All opinions are my own. One-O-One Restaurant's Fish Finger Tasting Menu is available to book until 17 October 2015; to place your reservation and read more about the menu, click here. The menu is also available as a 2- or 3- course lunch and dinner menu.

One O One - The Park Tower Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 25, 2015

Have a Mindful Weekend

Friends, I hope you have a peaceful, mindful weekend. What are you up to?

I'm looking forward to trying the new fish-finger menu (yes, really) at One-O-One restaurant in Knightsbridge tonight and taking part in our neighborhood jumble sale (goodbye, old clothes and furniture!) tomorrow.

I also just wanted to share that I'm struggling at the moment with some really sad news about a very close friend of mine who just passed away. I have been searching for the words to tell you how I feel about this - and how I felt about her - all week.

And they have all been so inadequate.

So I'll wait until the right ones come.

Until then, I have woken, crying, from dreams where I've been searching for her - more times than I can count this week.

My heart hurts so much right now and I keep looking up at the sky for answers. Those pink streaks of clouds don't bring me closer to any, but they do bring me some peace. They're a salve on a very much stinging, very open wound.

Be well, and keep each other close.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TimeOut London

Happy Tuesday! I had a nice surprise on my way in to work today when I saw my piece on Cadogan Hall (as well as a little blurb about my "perfect weekend" in London!) in TimeOut London's Reader Takeover Issue. It's fun to see my words published in print, and even more fun to see people reading it!

If you don't get a chance to grab a (free) copy today, the article's also published online here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Conversation About "Home" With My Dad (The Original Expat)

When I was five or so, my dad and I had a Sunday ritual: I'd sit on a little step ladder in the kitchen and watch him make breakfast for us. Scrambled eggs, a piece of ham, and two pieces of cinnamon toast. He still makes the same breakfast for me when I go back for visits.

Now we have a new Sunday ritual: I call him on FaceTime while he's making breakfast and I'm making dinner. We talk about his work, my work, the news, our new house ... I show him things like our new carpet or the mosaic lamp we bought in Singapore. Once in a while, he'll interrupt with, "What are you making? Is it any good? That chicken is going to be too dry like that. I guarantee it."

This time, our conversation turned to my grandma's Happy Valley apartment, which was sold to the highest bidder last week after she passed away this summer. Apparently, the sale made Hong Kong papers.  I clicked through photos of the emptied flat on my cousin's Facebook page, feeling a hollow sadness as I remembered the sound of the door opening and my grandma's face lighting up on the other side as she greeted us with our suitcases in tow.

"You know, I'm rootless now. I have no connection to Hong Kong anymore," my dad declared between bites of toast."I have no home!"

"But wait," I said. "Don't you feel like our home in Washington is your home?" 

His answer surprised me. Without pausing, he answered: "No. I've never felt like this was my home. I mean, it's where you kids grew up, but those are all the memories I have of this house. The Happy Valley apartment was my home, when Mar Mar was around." 

This made me equally sad and curious at the same time. I'd never heard my dad define "home" like that. I decided to investigate further.

"But don't you feel like where you started your own family was your home?" I asked. 

"No," he said with his mouth full. "I always felt like, you know, if anything happened - and I mean, anything - if it all went wrong, I could go back to Mar Mar's place and everything would be fine." And he dissolved into fits of laughter, as if it was the silliest thought in the world.

But it wasn't. Because I've often thought the very same thing. And I wish it were different. I wish I could say with certainty that this new house that John and I have bought together is my "home".

Maybe one day it will be.

But after having this conversation with my dad last night, I'm beginning to think it might never really feel like that - and that scares me. I'm beginning to think that my home will always be that house in the Puget Sound that overlooks the treetops with a view of Mount Rainier; that house with the strange, hilly hairpin driveway that I can (probably still) manoeuvre out of with one hand on the steering wheel; that house with a small bedroom that still has my high school awards mounted on the wall and probably always will.

That house I know.

It scares me because I knew exactly what my dad meant about "if it all went wrong". Because secretly? I've always felt like that about my childhood home. I've tried to wean myself off of calling it my "home" ('I'm going back to my parents' house for Christmas' vs. 'I'm going home for Christmas') for a while, but it feels wrong. The words feel strange in my mouth, or even when I form them in my head.

It scares me because it makes me feel guilty; like I'm betraying John or my decision to live here in London by calling somewhere else my "home". It also scares me because I dread the day that I say to someone, between bites of toast, "I'm totally rootless!"

But maybe "home" is actually a feeling. Or a belief. For me, my "home" is the last place I remember feeling completely and utterly safe; protected. Like a force-field had been drawn around it, deflecting anything or anyone bad who tried to enter that bubble. And that, to me, will always remain my family home. It's something I've struggled to admit in the last few years, but hearing my dad say it was a relief.

Of course, he shrugged off this rare glimpse of sentimentality by taking another bite of toast and asking, "So. When will your dinner be ready? And are you going to have wine or what?"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Getting Hammy With Zomato @ Camino Bankside

I loved the tapas at the newly opened Camino Bankside when John, Joe, Jodi, and I (yes, we're the awful "J"-named friends) went for the soft launch a couple of months ago. So when Zomato asked me if I'd like to try a jamon-carving masterclass, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from Camino's highly-skilled and knowledgeable Chef Nacho del Campo (sidenote: AMAZING name, no?).

After chatting over a glass of chilled cava, we all had a chance to carve our own slices of jamon under Chef Nacho del Campo's watchful eye and, as predicted, I was embarrasingly bad at it. (Let's just say that I definitely shouldn't quit my day job in publishing to become a professional jamon carver ... that is, unless I felt like, super passionate about it or something.)

It was really challenging to achieve the perfect, wafer-thin slices that Chef Nacho deftly produced, despite his insistence that I simply, "lightly drag the knife through with a back and forth motion - it requires no effort!" My "slices" more resembled wedges, much to the amusement of the other chef at my elbow. "I'll have that one, thanks," he joked, as my face turned red.

Eventually, I received a helping hand (literally) by Chef Nacho ... massive fail. But it was interesting to learn all about the different cuts and areas of the leg, as well as how the pigs are bred and which regions of Spain they come from. We also received a quick lesson about the difference between Italian parma ham and Spanish jamon (hint: they are not the same!).

During the evening, we sampled four delicious different types of ham:
  • Jamon Teruel DO (aged for 20 months), a white ham
  • Jamon Iberico Cebo (aged for 24 months), the ham you see me carving above
  • Jamon Iberico Bellota Etiqueta Roja (aged for 32 months), a ham with a red label
  • Jamon Iberico Bellota Etiqueta Negra, Cinco Jotas (aged for 36 months), the "Rolls Royce" of hams, which carries a black label
Needless to say, the last one was my favorite and, as Chef Nacho demonstrated, if you tore off a little piece of fat and rolled it between your fingers, it simply melted. 

While others took turns carving the jamon, the rest of us grazed on delicious tapas like chipirones a la andaluza (the most delicious baby squid served with aioli and lemon), padron peppers, and pan con tomate (my personal favorite: crispy bread, garlic, tomato pimenton, and EVOO).

Might not be the ideal event for vegetarians and vegans (try the delicious vegetarian tapas options instead!), but for anyone who's a jamon fan, I think the masterclass would make a terrific present. I'm already thinking of treating my dad to this when he comes over for Christmas!

Huge thanks to Zomato and Camino Bankside for hosting me at this awesome event! Jamon-carving masterclasses with Chef Nacho del Campo are available to book at £30 per person. For more details, including instructions on how to book, visit Camino Bankside's website here.

Camino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Notice Anything Different?

Last time I felt like this was when I got a super short hair cut after having had hair past my shoulders for 17 years (I'd just quit ballet and finally didn't need it to be "bun" length!). If you're reading this in a browser and glance up at the web address, you'll notice that I've dropped "blogspot" from my domain name ... that's because I finally own angloyankophile.com, which is super duper exciting!

When I started this blog five years ago, I didn't think about getting my own domain - simply because I didn't think my blog was big enough or important enough or "worth it" (and also because catch-phrases like SEO, DA, etc. were not in my vocabulary!). But in the last two years, my readership has grown, my audience has evolved, and I'm beginning to think that maybe what I do on here actually ... matters.

I went to blogger meet-ups and workshops and heard all about why owning your own domain is important (blogger Jasmin Charlotte writes a great post about it here) - which I always knew was true in the back of my head. But there was still that doubtful voice that said, "Why bother? Your blog isn't anything special! It's so not worth it." Yet, I always felt a little unsettled that I didn't "own" my own site and that my blog ended in "blogspot.com" rather than just ".com".

It wasn't until one of my all-time favorite bloggers and blogging icons, Joanna Goddard, switched over from blogspot to her own domain, that I started thinking seriously about the change. And you know what? It feels good to "own" it. In every sense of the word.

Thank you x a million for reading!


Monday, September 14, 2015

Help Me Decide! Bazaar Velvet Rugs

Choosing an area rug for our living room has been one of the trickiest things to shop for; they're either not big enough (or too big) or too ... boring. It's kind of like shopping for jeans: they might fit nicely around the legs, but gape at the waist. So frustrating! 

Someone suggested I take a look at Bazaar Velvet's luxurious hand-knotted rugs and they're stunning. Definitely more up my alley than the ho-hum boring ones we've seen so far from John Lewis or IKEA. 

I'm also impressed by Bazaar Velvet's commitment to ethical trade standards. As a partner of GoodWeave, the non-profit organization that works to end illegal child labor in the rug industry, Bazaar Velvet works with Tibetan weavers to produce their exquisite, hand-knotted rugs. I complain a lot about how much good quality rugs cost, but seeing the craftsmanship and artistry involved in the set of behind-the-scenes photos on Bazaar Velvet's website made me realize just how much time and effort goes into creating these beautiful works of art.

Trouble is, I can't decide what style to go with ... so I've created my short-list of contenders below and would love it if you helped me choose! I've paired them with items we already own, plus items that we'd maybe like to buy ...

I love the irregularity of this gorgeous Moroccan Berber rug and its grey, ombre effect. I think this would look great with copper accessories like the Made Amelia clock which we just purchased, and minimalist, Scandinavian furniture similar to the design of Swoon Edition's Clayton media unit (which would be perfect for the new TV we got a few weekends ago!). I'm also a fan of this copper table lamp from Heal's - I couldn't take my eyes off it during our last trip to the store!

But I'm also a fan of the faded, mismatched pattern of this Anatolian patchwork rug and I think it could be really striking in our living room. I'd let it sing by pairing it with simple, white and brass accents, like this side table from Zara and the West Elm lamp. It's also got a terrific travel-inspired feel and most of the artwork we've collected so far has a travel-theme, like this print by Amy Victoria Marsh, depicting people she observed on her trip to Morocco.

Look #3: The Zaide I

And then I saw the Zaide I. The geometric grey-and-white pattern of this rug really conveys a sense of high-end luxury to me ... it's something I could see in the suite of one of my favorite boutique hotels, or the way I've always imagined wanting my living room to look like! I'm not entirely sure that it's 100% "me", but if I went for it, I'd go all-out luxe with the rest of the room by adding a creamy armchair in a thick, luxe fabric, a gold sunburst mirror, and a colorful vase to offset the neutral palette.

Look #4: The Ethos VC3

Finally ... this is a wool and silk rug. As in, anyone who'd ever step on it with "outside" shoes on would definitely get whacked in the head by yours truly (actually, anyone who steps on my current IKEA rug with outside shoes on already gets some serious side-eye from me: most recently, the salesman from security alarm company ADT). But it's oh-so-beautiful. There's something so striking and bohemian about intricate pattern which makes me think of airy, New York-style lofts and - again - our travels. It would work wonderfully well with the ladder shelf we bought from The Futon Company, as well as the colorful Kilim cushion I've had my eye on for ages at Yonder Living, and this amazing pouf from Anthropologie.

So, what do you think? Which "look" is your favorite? Thanks in advance for helping me pick!

This post was sponsored by Bazaar Velvet. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Four New Favorite Homeware Buys

Hi. Hi, hi, hi, hi, HI. This has been such a crazy two weeks for me. I'm so happy to be so busy, BUT ... it's kind of driving me insane. I've been editing posts from our trip to Singapore and working on lots of new content for this blog, but I'm also super excited to be contributing to Time Out London's Reader Takeover Issue, which launches soon. Yay, but (deep breath): AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!


We have some new, pretty additions to our house that I wanted to share with you.

1. Watering can vase from Columbia Road Flower Market

I took Justine to Columbia Road Flower Market when she was visiting us a few weekends ago and had so much fun buying all the flowers and wistfully eyeing up antiques and homeware items in the adjacent stores. I'd just bought some "everlasting" flowers (they were so not everlasting, btw) and saw this galvanized steel watering can which I thought would work perfectly well together (I've also started a little vase collection at home, because: flowers).

2. Antique French chest of drawers from Maison & Mirrors

John and I love the French antiques store near us, Maison & Mirrors, and have made several purchases there already. Unfortunately, they've now moved! But before they did, they had a moving sale and discounted several of their items. Again, I wasn't sure about this chest when I saw it in store, but - once again - John insisted, and it works beautifully well in the alcove in one of our guest bedrooms. It came with a bright red velvet and glass top, as well as the original marble - it's been fun to play around with the two for different looks!

3. Rug from Joss & Main

Heal's is the ultimate destination for furniture and homeware. I mean, I know this. I also don't have a spare £5,956 to drop on a corner sofa, so you know. While browsing Heal's for interiors inspo, I fell in love with a rug that looked very similar to the one above - priced at £660. We picked ours up at Joss & Main for £103, so yeah. I had to wait a while for it to be delivered due to a mix-up at the shop it was shipping from in Italy, but, £103.

4. "The Happy Marriage" print from V&A Gift Shop

So, after my little flu/cold incident, where I basically laid in bed for about four days with a fever while feeling miserable (and John looming over me saying, "You're not that sick, you've got a cold! Same as I had."), I was rewarded with a wonderful sinus/tooth infection which made me nearly cry with pain every time I accidentally chewed something on the right side of my mouth. Even soft things, like bread.

On my way back from the dentist (who was like, "Yeah ... I think you're going to have a re-root canal ... and I think you should go see a private endodontist") and armed with a prescription for antibiotics, I quickly dropped into the V&A Gift Shop and picked up this print, which has endearing inscriptions on marriage like, "What Sweat, what Care, what Trouble and what Toil, Are not repay'd by an Engaging Smile."

I'll work on that engaging smile next time my husband tells me I'm not "really that sick".


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Three Great Eats in E17

E17 is my new hood. It's way out East, foxes poop on my doorstep (literally), and my commute's on the tube, but I live next to a forest (with lakes and stuff), I'm in Central London within 40 minutes, and my local grocery store sells Burt's Bees and Kooky Bakes cupcakes.

So, we're okay.

In the meantime, I've been patiently seeking out the best foodie spots in Walthamstow, having been previously convinced that there aren't any.

But I was wrong.

Here are three great eats in E17:

Orford Saloon Tapas Bar, Orford Road

I'm skeptical of tapas unless it's served in Spain. Nevertheless, we stopped by Orford Saloon on a balmy summer's evening (i.e. that one day we had like three weeks ago where it was actually t-shirt weather and not t-shirt-with-a-sweater-and-possible-jacket-weather) before heading to the theater for an impromptu date night (we saw Mission Impossible; it was awful).

We ordered these eggplant (SORRY, "AUBERGINE") baton things drizzled with honey and it was like, lip-smackingly wonderful. And not just because our lips were sticky with honey by the time we'd demolished the plate, but because they were served poker hot and had a melt-in-your-mouth quality that I've never tasted in eggplant before.

The next week, we returned with Justine in tow and shared the paella, which was a little disappointing (the rice was slightly undercooked and the flavours lacking), but the tapas were still amaze.

The Chequers, High Street 

Sure, you have to push your way through throngs of people at the longest outdoor market in Europe (!!!) to get to it, but once inside, The Chequers nourishes your soul with comfort food and darn good vintage interiors.

My BBQ pulled pork burger was a tad bit on the sweet side for me, but the chips were fantastic (and I don't even like British chips) and the bites I stole from Cristy's mac 'n cheese dish were excellent: creamy, al dente pasta that you'll only need a few forkfuls of (go for the starter size, not the main - it's enough, I promise). Tom's ribeye steak looked amazing too, and I didn't hear any complaints from him as he slathered it in bearnaise.

The pub's spacious enough to find a decent table, and it's child-friendly too, which meant our little niece Dorothy could make friends with a fellow not-quite-baby-not-quite-toddler, who decided to chill out by sprawling out on a step because: baby behavior.

Trattoria La Ruga, Orford Road

Back to Orford Road again, but it's got a great little selection of restaurants, pubs, and cafés.

Situated directly across from Orford Saloon, Trattoria La Ruga offers a simple and classic Italian menu done to a high standard, with mains like swordfish steak and calves liver, plus a fantastic pasta and side salad deal for £10 (excluding Fridays and Saturdays).

Like the other restaurants I've tried in Walthamstow so far, I went without any expectations, but my goodness - the prawn, garlic, chilli, and sundried tomato linguine was phenomenal. So very, very good.

Service was excellent (they swiftly moved us indoors when sitting outside proved too much a challenge in late August in England) and I wouldn't hesitate taking any friends or family (in fact, we took my mother-in-law for a belated birthday celebration when she came to stay with us last weekend) there.

So, Walthamstow: new foodie destination? Could be, could be.

Watch this space.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Travel Link-Up: I Left My Heart in the Pacific Northwest

I used to say this really stupid thing.

When people asked me where I was from, I'd say, "Washington state." Then hastily add, "But I lived on the East Coast for four years while I was going to college." Like being from Washington was deficient in some way. Or detrimental. It made me feel embarrassed. Less than.

To my younger self, the East Coast was sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and almost European (which, as a high school student, was where I desperately wanted to escape to).

Where I grew up? Not so much. I was raised in a suburb 40 minutes south of Seattle; a suburb with a mall, a few convenience stores, lots of trees, a perfect view of Mount Rainier ... and not a whole lot else. The "look" was all about polarfleece jackets and bootcut jeans (often worn with actual cowboy boots). When neighbors and family friends heard that I was heading to Massachusetts for college, they'd say, with admiration in their voices (or perhaps this was imagined), "You're going back East?"

But then, something changed.

Well, I changed.

In 2013, I went back to Seattle for our wedding reception (one of two transatlantic receptions after we had eloped the year before!) and - reunited with college and family friends that I hadn't seen for years, and with the sun beating down on us as we toured the beautiful Tacoma and Seattle waterfronts - I saw Washington in a new light.

It was stunning. Resplendent, even. The Puget Sound shimmered in Tacoma where I grabbed a milkshake and burger with my brother as we reminisced about our youth symphony rehearsals and my ballet classes in the area. Later, as we drove up north, the Seattle skyline emerged proudly before us, with a handful of Washington's beautiful islands just visible in the distance. 

How had I not seen it like this before? How did I miss this, when it'd been in front of me (literally - I ate my breakfast facing the mountain every morning) the whole time?

I'd been so blinded by my urgency to escape, to run and never look back - that I could only truly appreciate it once I'd left.

I knew this. But it still hurt.

That summer, I returned to London, listened to Neko Case on repeat, and longed for Washington in a way that I'd never had before. 

And it wasn't even that I wanted to live there - it was more that I wanted to preserve that specific summer in my memory. The sensation of the warm sun on our backs as we ate Top Pot donuts and went for late night drinks at a hipster bar in Belltown; the memory of driving through winding, evergreen tree-lined roads (how I miss those trees!) toward Mount Rainier with my mother-in-law, who'd never been. The memory of sitting outside on our newly refurbished deck at home with my mom, dad, and brother until the sun set and it became dark - the memory of our togetherness.

And so much love.

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Instagram, when my thumb stopped at a photo of three women smiling in a selfie, with Rainier in the background. "Hiking through Mount Rainier!" the caption said.

And you know what? The emotion I felt wasn't happiness or nostalgia or joy - it was envy. And the feeling of being left out. Which was silly, of course, but that photo made me miss the beautiful, scenic environment that I'd grown up in - which, ironically, I didn't even like until a few years ago.

The other day, I got into an Uber in central London and the driver, making friendly conversation, said, "You've got an American accent. What part of America are you from?" And I answered, "Near Seattle. The Pacific Northwest."

"Ooh - I've never been, but I heard that it's nice out there," he said.

"Yes, it is," I said, staring out the window at the concrete jungle around me. "It's absolutely beautiful. You should go sometime."

This month's travel link-up is about a place you can't get out of your head. What's yours? Let me know in the comments and head over to Rebecca's, Emma's, Kelly's, and Liz's blogs to read more fantastic posts in September's link-up!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Have a Tasty Weekend

Hey! Happy Friday. I hope you have a great weekend. And if you're in the US, then I hope you have a terrific Labor Day long weekend - we've had our extended weekend already, so I can't complain!

Last week, I won an Instagram prize draw (yay!) and received these beautiful Dawn Biscuits from The Whisk and Spoon - a bakery based in Twickenham that makes the most stunning hand-painted (!) biscuits and baked goods. Check them out - some of their designs are incredible! I especially love these gold-flecked Dawn Biscuits, which remind me of the early morning sunrise I caught at Duck & Waffle a few days ago.

Be well, and take care.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Are You A Picky Eater?

The other day (i.e. right now), I was procrastinating and I took this Buzzfeed quiz (as you do when you're hard core procrastinating) about how much of a picky eater you are. It wasn't a huge surprise, but I'm not a very picky eater (I don't eat Marmite, blue cheese, kidneys or liver, if you're interested), but I know quite a lot of people who are.

Since I eat pretty much anything that's placed in front of me (except for Marmite, blue cheese, kidneys, liver and probably things like brain, etc.) it's hard for me to understand why so many people don't eat things like ... tomatoes, for example. Or eggs.

I once had a friend who could eat eggs, but couldn't bear to break them open or cook with them. I had another friend who could eat tomatoes cooked, but not raw, and only if it had been pulverized into a mushy consistency or a sauce.

John doesn't eat cheese (legend has it that he once fainted during a school field trip to a cheese factory - he was five) or foods with a lot of cream or dairy. But that's mostly because he's lactose intolerant (and a bit of a baby, if you ask me).

As a child, my parents tried to make me eat pork liver (which is popular in Chinese cuisine) and I hated it. So much so that I'd gag or retch at the table, but my mom kept insisting, "You don't know if you like it if you don't try it!" Which is probably true for the first time you try any new food, but the fact of the matter was that I "tried" pork liver about 25 times and still hated it.

I've tried explaining that, while I'll eat almost anything, it doesn't mean I'll necessarily enjoy it. For example, I don't love cooked bell peppers. But I wouldn't pick them out or refuse to eat something if bell peppers featured in the recipe. And, I don't love having seeds or nuts in my salads or food in general (except for cake, of course - cake is always an exception!). But I wouldn't go out of my way to avoid a toasted pumpkin-seed and fennel salad, for example, or refuse to eat something that had chopped hazelnuts sprinkled on top.

So: are you a picky eater? I'd love to know! I've been asking a few people recently and have been fascinated by their answers. What wouldn't you eat if it was placed in front of you?
© angloyankophile

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