Monday, August 9, 2010

An Ode to Self Pity, Unemployment and Graduation

I've been absent from the blogging world a while.

Two days after graduating college in May, I zipped off to Europe with my cousin for a month, equipped with a broken backpack, gummy bears and Rick Steves.

After spending a month downing Strongbow and Nutella crepes, I returned home, apprehensive to confront life decisions and normalcy. I realized the rest of the summer would not be full of beaches and Louvres and S-Bahns, but unemployment and uncertainty.

Graduating from college is a scary step. There is no next semester lined up, no trips to Target to buy throw pillows and Steno Notebooks. The future is a question mark, and it's up to you to choose where your life will head.

So naturally I've been reclining on the couch watching "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Gilmore Girls," eating pita chips, doing a little yoga and throwing in the towel at 5:00 p.m. I don't want to work too hard. Limbo never felt so comfortable.

I've talked to many other graduates who are in the same boat. Maybe September will bring a job offer or graduate school, but for now, it's all about eating off the fat of the lamb and wallowing in your parent's family room with no money.

So to spruce up the summer, add a little zest to limbo, and save myself from "Say Yes to the Dress" marathons, I've decided to begin blogging about fun, cheap things graduates can do in the area. Summer concerts, tasty, affordable restaurants and ice cream stores, scenic trails, rollerblading excursions and any Hugh Jackman sightings (He's renting a house in Franklin). After all, we're only young once, and everyone says to savor these times of joblessness and uncertainty. Carpe-a-diem.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

S'more Nutella, Please

While abroad last spring, I blogged about my nutella infatuation. I would put nutella on bread, carrots, pretzels, naan, fingers, anything I could get my paws on. 

Well, a year later, that love affair is still going strong, except this time, I've found some delectable nutella combinations that don't involve flesh. 

1. Trefoil Nutella Sandwiches. For those of you with Trefoils stacked in your room from your annoying neighborhood Girl Scout, smear some nutella in between two Trefoils and put those shortbreads to good use. Not exactly a jaw dropping taste, but it works as a snack. I recommend using as much nutella as possible. 

2. Nutella S'mores. A revolutionary idea, no? Screw Hershey's, rub some nutella on that graham cracker and you have a delicious feast. If you are really into the spreads, try it with Fluff. 

3. Vanilla ice cream, pretzels, brownie bits and my lover. This may seem stolen from Coldstone, but I'm just ahead of the trend. 

4. Your index finger. Ok, I lied. There will be flesh involved. Nothing beats scooping nutella out with your hand. I sound like a Violet from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

So eat up! And let me know what you think of these recipes, and if you have others to try. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day-Old Bread

Today I went to Jimmy John's to pick up some day-old bread that will pass as garlic bread for my roommate's orzo, feta, tomato, and parsley dinner tonight.

As I walked out with the loaf, wrapped in red and white checkered paper, I thought about baguettes.

I wished that my Jimmy John's 48-cents-day-old bread was a Parisian baguette. And I wished I could stroll into a local boulangerie, say "Bon jour!" to the shopkeeper like Julia Child, and prance back home to a red-checkered tablecloth of Chianti, brie and a warm, crusty baguette. Instead, I pranced out of Jimmy John's. 

The shopping trip reminded me of how people shop in Paris. If Parisians need soap, they go to the pharmacy on the corner, if it's cheese, the cheese shop down the street, baby clothes, they have way too many around, and toilet paper, well I'm sure they have a toilet paper shop too. 

Shopping for a meal in Paris is like a scene out of Julie and Julia (can you tell I just saw the movie?) A robust, rosy-cheeked Julia Child skips from orange vendor to meat vendor, huffing and puffing "Mmmm!" and "OhhhH!" at every stop. She can't keep her hands off that fruit.

If I were a street vendor, I'd probably tell her to stop sniffing my stuff and fondling it like it's her teenage boyfriend, but that's me.

At Marquette, if I want to grab some make shift items for dinner, I head first to Marquette Gyros, where 59-year-old Gus, the gray-bearded Greek owner, will hand me a warm pita wrapped in tin foil for free (He has since I wrote about him in our college newspaper. I try to pay every time, I swear). I'd consider Marquette Gyros my warped-college-lamb-scented boulangerie. 

Then I'd go to Open Pantry, a haven for...Miller, Tostidos, unripe bananas and Stride gum. After picking up the necessities (Digiorno), my shopping trip is complete. 

Only I have a multi-patterned, beer-stained tablecloth to come home to, month-old Busch Lights and day-old bread.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Job Hunting

After frivilously frolicking around Europe for five months, buying too many nutella crepes and Strongbow liters, I've returned to the cold dark world of unemployment. 

I knew I had to find a job quickly, after amassing a massive debt to my parents, as well as those lovely little overdraft fees from the superb U.S. Bank (383.33 dollars worth).  

I assumed finding a job in GM-ravaged Detroit would be too hard, so I set my sights on Milwaukee. 

I spent one day filing out applications on Water St., a street lined with college bars like Tequila Rita's and Buffalo Wild Wings. 

I stumbled upon an Italian gangster bar/restaurant called Capone's, where I convinced the owner that while my serving experience consisted of selling smoothies to anorexic, constipated 40-year-olds and hostessing, I could learn quickly.

He bought it. When I asked him what I should wear, he told me he likes the waitresses to dress "gangsta-like." Hmm. Ah ... 50-cent style? I don't own baggy pants and Flava Flav pizza clocks. 

And if it's Al Capone style, which it is, I refuse to don pin stripe pants and vests like the other waitresses. I'm just not investing in my gangster future, I guess. 

Over the past couple weeks of working at Capone's, I've been told that I have a "rump," one that "guys would wanna bump up against in da club." Also, Bobo, a 58-year-old hand many at Capone's, drunkenly bought me a Miller High Life, which he hid in his "briefcase," tucked securely next to his revolver named Debbie.

After that night and following nights of making diddlysquat, I half-heartedly tried to job search some more.

I just went to a group-interview at Anthropologie. I showed up in a Banana Republic pink jersey dress, next to girls in white lace Anthropologie-esque dresses and vintage bowling shoes, who were "sign language majors," teaching art therapy to students at Wellsley, or studying psychology and fashion merchandising. So much for a journalism major.

When we were asked how to describe Anthropologie's style, one girl replied, "I think it's very pastoral, very natural, with the threads..." I haven't used the word pastoral outside of a William Wordsworth essay. I went with, "Ah, I think it's really classic, and uh, can appeal to a wide range of ages..."

The worst was when the managers asked us who our style icons were. Shit. Style? I mean, I like Jcrew's style, I like Anthropologie's style, I often shop at Gap and Old Navy...
Lacy white dress pulled out Natalie Portman and another one said Zooey Deschanel for "the way her style oozes into her music." 

"Ah, Grace Kelly?" I said. Safe. You can't debate it. 

I left confident I would return to my gangster clothes while Wellesley college would don her bowling shoes with Anthropologie tailored blouses. 

Still waiting on that call...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to America

Study abroad advisors prepare students for the three phases of study abroad: One, honeymoon stage, "Oh how cute they drive on the other side of the road!" Two, bitterness and anger: "WTF, why do they do everything wrong and drive on the wrong side?" Three, acceptance, "I don't know why they do it, but I'll learn to look left...bloody hell." What they don't prepare you for is the last stage, the culture shock you experience in your home country.

I didn't think I'd have much of a problem adjusting to life in good ole' Detroit. I consider myself a pretty adaptable person. The trip home though set me straight.

The 12-hour plane ride from London to Chicago to Detroit wasn't a comfortable, reclining chair affair. I was sitting in my un-cushioned, blue chair that seemed to bend more forward than backward, with Vanity Fair and a pile of Cadbury eggs on my lap, trying to reason myself that going home to Detroit would be Ok and that London sucks, when Little Miss Alma College Sweatshirt with the worst Michigan accent I've ever heard hovers over me.

"You're gonna haave to move. I need to sit there," she said haughtily. 

I said nothing, moved, and gritted my teeth as Miss Alma pushed her way in, plopping her big behind right next to me and her Coach purse against my ankles. Here's America, ladies and gentlemen. I sat back in my forward chair, popped a Cadbury egg and turned on my iPod. Simon and Garfunkel's "America" came on. I tried not to cry, but an overwhelming desire to sob and punch Miss Alma came over me. America here I come.

The rest of the trip was spent playing Evil Eye Tag with Miss Alma as she didn't have any concept of personal space and would bonk, shove and elbow me the entire trip. I huddled to the edge of my uncomfortable chair for eight hours, in between defiantly taking over her arm rest.

I believe I cried 10 times on that trip. Three times during Bridewars, The Office episode when Jim finally asks Karen out on a date and in He's Just Not That Into You, because he just wasn't into got pathetic.

I felt removed from where I was going, apprehensive of landing and wishing I was back with Big Ben. 

Over the past week things have gotten much better, and I haven't cried during The Office since. Still, things are different. Being around Midwestern accents and Bob Evans is a bit jarring after hearing Colin Firth talkers for five months. 

Here are a few things I miss about the UK:

1. "Cheers." I miss hearing this after I bag my own groceries, pay for something, trip, wink, eat, whatever. It has such a nice ring to it.

2. Pounds. I don't miss the conversion rate, but I miss how regal their money looks. It's thick, unmistakably British, and you feel like a Brit carrying them around. 

3. Cadbury eggs. I love them. I think they are now appearing like tumors all over my body, but they taste good.

4. Public transportation. Double decker buses, efficient trains, cleanliness...ahh...

5. Cajun Squirrel Potato Chips, Chili and Chocolate Potato Chips and my favorite, Crispy Duck & Hoisin Flavour Potato Chips. Just kidding. But they are a great representative of English food. What will they think of next?

6. Strongbow. Hello, my name is Rosemary Lane and I am, addicted to Strongbow. It's amazing. Strongbow is a cheap, hard cider that tastes like apple juice and champagne combined. I just found it by my house and I think I almost slapped the salesman out of joy.

7. Iranian-Kurdish-Swedish roommate hacking up phlegm every morning. Enough said.

8. Taxis. The taxis look like elegant, black Volkeswagens. I feel like James Bond every time I ride in them...and they don't have enough money pay...

9. The drinking age. God bless that drinking age. And taking two classes. And having a month and a half off to study for one final. And the drinking age. Amazing.

10. The people. Cheesy to end with that one on No. 10, but I met awesome roommates and friends that I'll keep in touch with. You get to know people fast when traveling, and I'll never forgot my time there. 

Things I won't miss (short list):

1. English food. I still don't understand "mushy peas" (literally, mashed up peas), why chicken has to taste like my stale flat and why there are no preservatives in bread.

2. Bad teeth. It's true.

3. Driving on the wrong side of the road. 

4. My Iranian-Kurdish-Swedish roommate hacking up phlegm every morning.

5. Bagging your own bags at Tesco and then paying for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Taste of English Exams

The University of Kent in Canterbury give its students the entire month of April off to study. All of April off. Hear that American schools? Which means English kids dutifully head to the library every day to "revise" and American kids go on European grand "backpacking" tours to Barcelona, Brussels and Santorini. Living the life.

I'm not excepted from this either. From April 1st, I left the UK and headed to the Eiffel Tower, the Ponte Vecchio, the Grand Canal, the Berlin Wall and the gyro capital of the world/slightly dangerous protest city/Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants set (Athens and Santorini).

When I returned, I spent the end of April doing nothing and most of May doing nothing, while English kids scurried off to "revise," English for study. On the day before my exam, I finally picked up my books and made my one trip to the library for a hellish day of I Told You Rosemary You Should Have Been Studying All Of April And All Of May Instead of Watching The Hills Every Day reminders to myself.

My grades don't count, so I wasn't that worried for exam day, but English kids were. They clumped outside the exam hall an hour before, smoking, heads bent over notes, quizzing each other on the answers, "Marketing, Premium...what's the other one? Bloody hell what's the other one?... Oh, enterprise!" (Those probably aren't the exact words).

You aren't allowed to bring anything into the exam hall except writing utensils, ID, a cell phone turned off and a jacket. One girl had a few extra items in a zip locked bag as if she were going through security at the airport.

My exam was in the Sports Centre. About 200 desks covered the basketball court in an orderly fashion. I had an assigned seat and my test was already propped on my desk. I felt like I was taking the SAT all over again as kids sat quietly with their hands folded, a sense of anxiety pervading the hall. Then a loud speaker out of Star Wars or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World booms "There will be no smoking." Duh. Then other directions. Then, "It is now 9:30. Begin." Woah! I'm used to starting at your leisure. But it was the SAT; people picked up their pencils and began.

Proctors prowl the aisles like stormtroopers in Star Wars during the entire three hour exam. Five minutes in one stormtrooper told me my jacket had to be under desk, not on the back of my chair. I'm sorry but I don't know how to tuck an entire essay in my thin, Old Navy throw that I would wear to the beach. Chill, stormtrooper.

I left the hall an hour before the 200 other kids taking exams, which is a little worrisome. But I strolled home excited to watch The Hills, maybe eat a pie and continue doing diddlysquat.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Canterbury Checklist

For the past three weeks, I've been doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. And it feels wonderful. I have nowhere to go, no grimy backpack to lug, no train to Potsdam to catch, no impending shower to take (well, maybe yes to the last one).

I've enjoyed getting up at 12:45, lounging in moccasins and a College t-shirt all day, watching endless rounds of The Hills, Gossip Girl and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Add in cheese and crackers and a pot of nutella? Heaven. 

But as my time in Canterbury dwindles, I'm realizing I still have a ton I need to see. Screw The Hills, I have a English checklist to complete.

Here is the checklist, checked and unchecked.

1. Afternoon Tea at Harrods. Check. 

I half expected to run into Queen Elizabeth or Joan Rivers. For a 
21 pound tea (yikes), we
 were served salmon and cucumber finger sandwiches, raison scones and miniature fruit pies. Our waiter introduced our tea like a wine coinoisseur, describing the Georgian tea's "oakey" taste as he elegantly poured it from the sparkling silver kettle. Plus, the meal was all you can eat (I later had to unbutton my pants during the meal).  

Afterwards, we scoured Harrods' bajillion floors, gawked at the glass-caged, 1,000 pound Lady and the Tramp puppies (who are "socialized" every hour), supervised by the Pet Concierge, then checked out
 Armani jackets for two-year-olds and sprayed Harrods perfumes all over our bodies. When at Harrods...

2. Mousetrap. Check

No, we do not have mice in our house (just creepy worm-like creatures with suction cups that like to attach to my computer cord and don't move until my Swedish-Kuridsh-Iranian roommate, who was in the middle of waxing his upper arms, forcefully removed it). 
I'm talking about the play. The longest running play in England. Fifty-seven years. A murder mystery. And it's by Agatha Christie. I thought it had to be good.

Wrong. Unfortunately the Mousetrap's writing seems to be stuck in Pleasantville, 1950. And the suspense? The murder? Letdown. But I can't say more, the murderer told the audience to "intertwine the secret in our hearts." 

3. Camden Market, London. Check.
My roommates and I hit up where People magazine often captures Mischa Barton strolling. The giant market is full of tattoo parlors, leather shops, knock-off Ray Ban sunglass stands, Indian food, and headbands with giant white birds attached to them. 

We grabbed Styrofoam plates of chicken tikka marsala and lay down in nearby Regents Park to settle our hung-over stomachs. Always a good cure. Mischa probably does it too.

4. Run to Whitstable. Check.

Today I ran the five and a half, six or seven miles to Whitstable, a nearby seaside town. All the mile makers and the Internet report different distances from Canterbury to Whitstable, so I'll just go with seven miles.  Along the way, I found convenient excuses to walk, like, "a bug just flew up my nose!" or "my phone just dropped!" or "look at this view!" But I made it, bug and all.

5. Oxford. No check.

This is absolutely necessary. My roommate says if I die on this trip, she'll carry my ashes to Oxford. A little morbid, I know. But I'm longing to see Harry Potter's lunch room, mingle with Dumbledore and feel smart for the day.