Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin, spice... and everything nice!

I love Halloween. Specifically I love the weather around Halloween. Its crispy cold, but with the sun still being able to warm the days. It's also fun to trudge thru the fall leaves and sit outside warming your hands with some Gingerbread Lattes.

I would of said pumpkin lattes... but that does not exist here in England.

Well pumpkin -does- exist, but not in the mass quantities available in the States. Pumpkin muffin? No. Pumpkin doughnut? Ermm, no. Pumpkin coffee? Definitely not. PUMPKIN ICE CREAM?! No... but we have tea!

Sad panda.
Luckily with the Halloween season one can go out and buy field pumpkins and (finally) be able to cook with this veritable vegetable.

Tom and I will be making pumpkin soup thanks to seeing this recipe featured on Saturday Morning Kitchen today. I love the idea of serving the soup in the pumpkin itself. Clever.

We will not be doing that this time though-- no no. Mr. Pumpkin is destined for a carving not serving-ware.

Tablet Talk Travel Blog: I recently subscribed to this blog after salivating... er, I mean reading about eating ones way through Portland. They seem to have a lot of interesting articles about destinations all over the world, with the latest being Copenhagen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birthday: Update!

First off I want to thank everyone for the well wishes. I had some from as far away as Japan and Hawaii. Arigato/mahalo!! It's fun having friends all over the world.

I think birthdays are a natural time to reflect on life. This year is no different. I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin so now I want to set all sorts of goals... so off we go!

Do you guys out there have any goals? What are they? Do you think its better to have open ended goals or time specific?

 Not too shabby, I got plantar facitis on my right heel and it is really starting to hurt my running. Well, to be fair I spent all last week in Buffalo noshing on chicken wings, beer, and pizza... so I do not think that helped either! My uncle gave me some exercises to do and I have been doing (most of) them. Plantar facitis is this awesome thing which causes your heel some pain, and its worst in the morning/when your body has been at rest. It's tricky because it really 'goes away' during a run so you feel great, only to get hit after you step out of the shower. (more info on the cause/treatments here)

  • Run a half-marathon by Spring 2012 (this is actually quite attainable, but with my job I do not know my schedule yet)
  • Start spinning 1-2x/week (now that I have a UK debit card)
I got a job! Its official as I got my VISA! I will be working for Foundstone as a Senior Consultant. What does that entail? Well quite a gambit-- forensics/malware/IR/teaching/pen testing. It's a bit overwhelming but I hope once I get settled it will be good fun! I would love to teach the wifi hacking in Switzerland in November-- fingers crossed!

  • Breathe-- don't drown! I have been 'out of the field' for 6 months now so getting back in will feel daunting. I just have to have faith in my skills and put forth the effort!
  • Learn a scripting language -- I have decided on perl, I learned a bit of Java but I think scripting is more for my needs in the field
Evan - July 2011 
Anya - July 2011
My family is amazing, especially my niece and nephew. They are growing so fast, and I am not home a lot I am so worried they will forget about me! My parents are supportive and accomadating of my quirks. My dad even tried a halloumi burger-- and said he liked it! I love my family and I know that even though I am a few (*cough*) miles away they are there for me.

Mr. Tom is a bit stressed right now, and I am trying to be accommodating to it. He has a lot of stuff on his plate and I want it to go smoothly for him, thus making it easier on me! I love living with him though, something which at first I was apprehensive about, but turned out so much more than alright ;)

  • Try to talk to family more often (Skype is my friend here!)
  • Try not to snap at Tom... it just stresses things out more
I think this is a bit where I am lacking. Tom and I have a lot of mutual friends, but I have only a few of 'my friends' here in England. My travels do not help that-- although I meet amazing people that way too! I think I could do a bit more on this side, I may again have to wait until the job/moving thing calms down....

  • Join a running club --AND STICK TO IT--
  • Attend at least 1 meetup event a week
So this section is all about me... well so were the others... never mind. These are things I want to do for me, for no other reason because I want to.

  • Keep up with German (Rosetta Stone, listening to German Radio, buy a book in German, watch a movie in German)
  • Take more photos 
  • Go With the Flow -- remind myself that all the fun about life is getting thru it. After that-- well, you're dead.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Beaches and Beaches

Did you know St.Ives has 7 beaches within a 3 miles radius of it? Pretty nifty, and considering the path between them has some of the most breathtaking coastlines, it's no big deal to have to get to another one.

Today I was supposed to do a 2 hour surf session, but there was literally NO waves, so I had the day to wander around the St.Ives area.

Another joy of English beach towns is that cream teas and fish and chippy shops are never too far away. There is a "huge" debate whether the best clotted cream comes from Cornwall or Devon. There is also a formidable debate about if cream should be applied on the scone before jam, or the other way around. Here in Cornwall it is jam first, and I did not want to be an upstart. After a decent day of walking it sounds strange to have a cup of tea (especially on a nice warm day as this one), but there is something strangely soothing about it.

Knill Monument

I also traversed away from the beach in Corbis Bay to the Knill Monument high atop Worvas Hill. This was meant to be a mausoleum for John Knill (who kindly built it for himself), the Mayor of St.Ives in 1767. Ironically enough, he is not buried here at all, rather in London. Hilarious. Still, it has impressive views of the Bay below so it was definitely worth a look see.

Figuring that I was at one of the western most points in England, it would be good to take in a sunset. Unfortunately without some cloud a sunset is a bit lacking in colour, however I think it was a fine one indeed.

Food: Porthminster Beach Bar - black bean burger
          Portmeor Beach Bar - fish n chippy
Beer: St.Ive's Brewery - Broiler Ale

Perfect End to the Day

St Ives- Day One (from Yesterday)

St Nicolas Church in St. Ives

Some people are born to love the water. Others could spend their entire lives without stepping foot in the stuff (luckily for the rest of us personal hygiene wins out enough for a shower).

Me? I realized I was the former when I first stepped into the warm waters of the Pacific. From then I was hooked. Something about its organized chaos (we already know the next 300 years of tides), its raw power, its enveloping embrace. It's addicting.

So I swapped the warm waters of the Pacific for the (much) colder waters of England. However, the water still leaves me in awe, and England's varying coastline leaves no one wanting.

I rolled into St. Ives by train. St. Ives is a town in Western Cornwall, which got its start in fishing and mining. It was because of mining that the famous Cornish Pasty was born. Basically the miner needed some way to eat hearty meals without worrying about getting soot and other nasty stuff on their food. The answer was to nestle meat and veg in a thick savoury pasty crust. This was the miners could easily grasp the food (and not worry about food rolling away of falling off a plate) and keep the innards away from soot. I know I have to get the real thing on my trip!

I am staying at The Queens Hotel, and for a mere 60GBP a night a get an ensuite room, wifi (questionable, I am writing this offline as we speak), and breakfast. The best part? Sub 5 minute stroll to the coastline.

Tropical Paradise? No, England!
The waters of St. Ive's do not disappoint. When the sun hits I am rewarded with azure and turquoise colours, undulating in an endless dance. The water is surprisingly clear... a very far cry from the Thames. It reminds me of Poole/Sandbanks in Dorset on the Jurassic coast. Who says England is dreary?

Anyways, I checked in and immediately (well after cursing at the wifi) went for a jog. I am now a firm believer in jogging to get to know a town better and see the sights. I jogged around the harbour, watching people soaking up the last rays of sunlight before it dipped over the town. The Harbour is lined with fish and chip shops and pasty shops-- I make mental notes as I jog by.

I suppose the downside of coast line is the, hmmm... varying elevation? I hug the coastline and start huffing uphill to the National Coastwatch Institution. These guys got one of the best views in St. Ives but for good reason. They are on the lookout for ships/boats/surfers/kayakers in distress in the coastal waters.

The NCI shares this amazing view with St Nicolas Church, which arguably may have one of the best views as far as churches go. Perched overlooking Porthmeor Beach, even I would not mind attending a sermon here. Luckily there was none going on, so on I went.

After literally running thru sand in Porthmeor Beach, I caught up again with the South West Coastal Path. This is a National Trust trail which, as the name suggests, hugs the Cornwall Coastline, amassing an impressive 600+ miles. I did not feel up to that daunting task, however went for a few miles on it, stopping every few minutes to snap some photos and simply soak up the coastline. I thought of my Coast to Coast walk, and wondered if I would ever muster the courage to try a walk 300% longer.

Halloumi Burger
Maybe another trip.

Food: Blas Burgerworks – Man up try the vegan burger. Made with halloumi cheese, roasted red peppers, and mushrooms, it is a behemoth to behold and eat. 

Drink: Skinners SkinDog – a great light accompaniment to the burger. Would be great on the beach watching a sunset.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fill Er Up... and Empty Your Wallet

Tom and I recently rented a car to drive down to the Southern coast of England this last weekend. When it was my turn to drive we had to stop and get some petrol (that's gas to us Americans). What a shock I received... a Vauxhall diesel automatic cost me 50 quid to fill. And that was only 3/4 tank!

So the Vauxhall Meriva  takes about 54 liters (about 14.25 gallons) of fuel. The Automobile Association (think: AAA) said in August diesel petrol prices rose to 139.7p/per liter. So doing the math(s) that would be a fill up would cost 75.44GBP. has the dollar at 1.557 to the Pound, so the US equivalent is $117.45.

How about in the good ol USA? How much would to cost to fill up the Vauxhall Meriva? The issue is that every states levies its own tax rate on gas prices, so its a bit harder to break down. I am using this website, which has average gas prices from as recent at September 2011. I am from New York, so that is what I will use, $3.779/gallon.

$3.779 * 14.25 =  $53.85.... 34.59GBP.

Wow what a difference! About a 45/46% difference.  

There is also a difference in fuel price breakdown. The US one is here, and the UK one is here.

The interesting bits are these:
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, here's an approximation of where each dollar you spend on gas goes:
  • Taxes: 13 cents
  • Distribution and Marketing: 8 cents
  • Refining: 14 cents
  • Crude oil: 65 cents
This breakdown of the price of petrol is based on the assumption of a £1 per litre of petrol. 
  • Petrol Fuel Duty - 48.35p
  • VAT (17.5%) - 14.9p
  • Refinery Petrol Costs - 31.75p
  • Forecourt Costs - 3p
  • Forecourt Profit - 2p
So taking into account the 3.785 liter/gallon, if you add the UK taxes up, that equals 2.40GBP/gallon in taxes, which in USD is $3.73/gallon. If we make life easier for me and say gas is $4/gallon, that means we pay $0.52/gallon in taxes.

I know I know this varies by states, but the next time you complain when filling up, just think of people in the UK. Now I understand why road trips are kept to a minimum!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Your Local Library... in an eReader

I am one of those people. I own a Kindle. I know some people think that a Kindle is the death of text, and is the death-knell for libraries everywhere. This article is not about how I disagree with that (I am currently reading, In Defence of the Realm does not come in Kindle format, and I wish it did. It is over 1000 pages and weighs 3.8 pounds!).

Engadget posted an article about how public libraries across the US are now offering more books in eReader format thanks to a application called Overdrive. The thing which caught my eye was now it allowed for Kindle Readers. Now, my home library in Buffalo had some books available for the Nook, but not for Kindle. So this was definitely good news for me, now thousands of miles away in England.

Now this does not mean you can keep the ebook forever.... no no this is a library remember? So this means you can check out a ebook for a specified period of time (no you can't renew right now, but you can check it out again) and never worry about late fees!

The process is (relatively) simple, although it makes you log into both your library and Amazon account:

How do I get library eBooks for Kindle? (taken from Overdrive website)
  • Browse and check out a Kindle Book from an OverDrive-powered digital library site.
  • Click the 'Get for Kindle' button. This opens the website. You may be required to sign in with your account if you are not already logged in.
  • Select a Kindle device or Kindle reading app. Click the 'Get library book' button and sync your device or app to download the book, or choose to send it to your device via USB.
  • An active Wi-Fi connection is required for wireless delivery to a Kindle device.
  • If your Kindle is not Wi-Fi capable or you do not have an active Wi-Fi connection, read Amazon's instructions for transferring files via USB.
So, what happens if you find a book in EPub format, something not supported by Kindle? Well no worry there is a fix for that, but it does require another software download. I found the solution in this MediaBistro article which talks about a program called Calibre. This program allows you to convert book formats to other ones which are supported by your eReader. You can download it for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even as a portable app!
So this is being rolled out across 11,000 libraries across the US, but when I checked the libraries in Buffalo and in Arlington,VA had this now.... so dig out that library card and start supporting them by downloading! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

For those with a Sweet Tooth

So lately I have been able to make desserts, pretty much some of my favorite things to make. So much creativity can be put into one dish. Below are a few of the desserts I made recently:

Lemon-Lime Mousse: Served these at a dinner party where the main dish was Chinese. We wanted something a bit lighter and citrus-y. I spooned the mousse into wine glasses and added a lime wedge for garnish. Looked (and tasted) very tasty!

Blackberry Cobbler: After heading out for a dinner some people came round for tea and this cobbler for dessert. Served warm with vanilla ice cream it made quite a treat!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For the Love of Food

If I could I would spend my entire days cooking and baking. Except on really nice days, where I would go hiking to burn off all the food I just digested. I have been sniffing around the internet and I found some tasty recipes. Just wanted to share!

Paula Deen's Salsa: So in the UK (where I am right now) they are not too keen on chunky salsa. As I was perusing the aisles of Tesco's, all I saw were the more soupy tomato salsas. So I decided to find a decent salsa recipe and go from there. Now from the base I added the juice from a lime and lotsa cilantro(coriander). I do not understand how Paula does not add cilantro to be honest- it makes or breaks a salsa. I liked the suggestions though, especially the mango :)

Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa: This sounds perfect to have with my salsa. It is actually cooking right now in the flat and it smells heavenly (roll on 7pm!). I already made a slight mistake as I bought the wrong cut of beef and it didn't shred very well. So, I simply cut the beef into strips (a la fajita style) and continued on with the recipe.

Baked French Toast Casserole: One thing Paula Deen is great for is having recipes that are sinfully delicious. This is no exception. I think this recipe would be great for a Sunday morning with friends, paired with a big glass of OJ. Then maybe a 10 mile run.

Don't forget August 10 is National (US) Smore's Day!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Cotswolds Than You Can Shake a Stick At...

The Cotswold Way is roughly 102 miles long stretching from the un-assuming Chipping Camden to the ever famous city of Bath. The Cotswolds are a series of hills in the Western Midlands, covering 90 miles north to south and 25 miles east to west. These are not the Alps (the highest point is 1,083 feet) however you will get some of the best views in all of England, with the picturesque green meadows, stone walls, and (quite) a few sheep here and there. Those who love thatch-roofed cottages and pubs with pints and views will LOVE the Cotswold Way.

To be fair, I have not done the entire Way. I have gone from Leckhampton Hill to Winchcombe, however I have been blown away by the scenery which that portion provided. So I decided to take the 606 as far as it could (Broadway) and hike to Winchcombe.

Below are some pictures from my travels and a Google Map of my route. I highlighted the town of Stanton- the quintessential English village, and Hailey Abbey. The Abbey's remaining structure (nothing more but footing) is both a historical and photographic gem.

View of Broadway from Burhill Farm. Broadway was so named due to its wide street. Which, in American standards is still quite small (I would love to see two oncoming Humvee's duke it out) but for England well consider it a 4-lane highway. It used to be the main road between London and Worcester before some M# came along.
Broadway offers plenty of pubs and of course the Broadway Tower looming in the distance.

Stanton is a tiny town along the 12 mile route, but its so cute you have to stop and look around. Thatched-roof cottages are the norm rather than the exception, and you know villagers take pride in their little slice of England. I suggest stopping in for a drink at The Mount Inn, soaking in the views in summer or warming up the fireplace in winter. There are a few B&Bs here and with plenty of trails around this would be a good base camp for weekend walks. Or, the 606 bus comes daily with stops in Winchombe and Cheltenham, so if you got the time there is no excuse to stop in for the day.

About an hour walk from Winchcombe is Hailes Abbey. Built in the 13th century, it is not short of historical happenings, and was even a bit gruesome (many there died with the Black Death in 1361) at some points. Not too far away is the Hayles Fruit Farm and Restaurant, which offers tasty snacks and meals to those who make the journey. They also are one of the few places on the Cotswold Way where hikers can camp.

Winchcombe is a fairly large town with many of amenities for walkers and tourists alike. They just recently opened up their own 42-mile walk around the Northern Cotswolds. You see some of their blazes (yellow with footprints) along this section of the Cotswold Way. To reward yourself for a walk well done, you can treat yourself to Juri's Tea Rooms or if you fancy a pint try the White Hart Inn or The Fish Bar just off the High Street if some fish and chips is more your celebratory style :) Sudeley Castle a quick walk away, and if you are continuing the Cotswold Way Walk or are up to the uphill huffing and puffing, the burial mound Belas Knap is an hours walk.

The GPS of this route is from I added my own pushpins to show my start/finish, and other highlights of the walk.

View Cotswold Way in a larger map,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lentils and their Suprising Aswesomeness

I have a new love. Lentils. I recently posted a spicy carrot and red lentil soup. It blew my mind, discovering something awesome (which I previously held as disgusting) for the first time. So EatingWell magazine had a bunch of recipes focusing solely on the mighty lentil, and I had to repost some.

Sharing the (healthy) love.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Running out of breath...

Remember how I said I was going to do a 10-mile run? Well I didn't. No. I decided an 8 mile hike would be more fun (and less beer so healthier) for me. And I will admit I thoroughly enjoyed my hike in the Adirondacks, doing a loop at Rondaxe Fire Tower then heading to the Vista Trail. It was great to be trouncing thru the forest with amongst the tall pines and being delighted once in a while with a calm serene lake. I emerged from the trail sweaty and feeling good... some elevation gains and drops, all rounded off with some amazing views (well it WAS called the Vista Trail right?)

However my nagging guilt at not doing the race still looms heavy on my mind. I went for a run yesterday, nothing huge, a 2-miler. I had pains on my sides but I did not feel like I had to stop. So, now I am committed to running ten-miles because I am annoyed that I didn't at the Boilermaker.

So, now that 'vacation' is over, I am eating healthier and I already feel better because of that. However, I am going to try and run 3x a week. I plan to start 2-4/miles a go, and then progressively getting a tad longer each week. If I join a gym I may swap out some spin classes because, I like spinning much more than running, and doing one can improve my time/speed in the other.

Anyways, some links to help beginner (or returning) runners get back in the game:

Core Exercises for Runners: Like I said above, doing one exercise can help in performing another. The key to good fitness is trying to work everything using cardio and strength techniques (safely and effectively)

Food to help burn more during workouts: You are going to run, might as well make the most of it and possibly burn 55% more fat than others who don't eat these superfoods prior to workouts

You are breathing wrong... trust me: Its amazing how breathing really impacts our activities. I noticed this with SCUBA diving. Once I started paying more attention to breathing underwater I significantly increased my dive times as I could use the O2 better. I am sure the same goes for running.

Improve Your Pace
: To get to be a better runner, you need to strengthen your legs and feet. This helps! (I will probably be doing this and the core exercises today as it is raining)

Positive Thoughts equal Results: So you had to take a breather during a run... so you had to walk up the rest of the hill. Rome was not built in a day. Make realistic goals and suddenly its all quite achievable.

No matter what exercise you prefer: cycling, hiking (me!), or running... stick with it and challenge yourself!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Made in Buffalo... Part 2

Places to Go/See:

I just want to point out this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but some highlights from the area!Link
  • Niagara Falls: Getting this one out of the way early. Everyone knows about it, and its about a 30 minute drive from Buffalo. See one of the Wonders of the World, go behind the Falls with Cave of the Winds, or ride the Maid of the Mist to get up close and personal with this deadly and awe inspiring beauty. Want to get a bit closer but don't feel like dropping a lot of cash? The Observation Tower costs $1/person and gets you within soaking range of the behemoth waterfall. Eventually due to erosion Niagara Falls will one day become simply rapids... do you want to be the poor sop who did not see them as the Falls? (This, granted, won't happen for a LONG time... but never mind!)
  • And... while you are in the area, why don't you partake of the 14.5 mile of trails making up the Niagara Gorge area? Stop over to Goat Island or Devil's Hole for a picnic lunch, or take the Gorge Rim Trail and get away from the tourist buses to soak in the solitude, where sometimes the only sound you hear is that of the river.
  • Architecture is another interesting draw to Buffalo. Frank Lloyd Wright built a few buildings in the area, to include the Darwin Martin house. I am not sure if this list is exhaustive, but a few Google searches should put you on your way. If you just love buildings, my suggestion is to start downtown on Delaware Ave right at City Hall (see right), in Niagara Square, continue down to experience "Millionaire's Row" which has some very impressive mansions, a shout out to Buffalo's heyday. You can even stay in one while visiting! Rates vary based on time of the year. Then maybe head over to Allentown for more photo ops... and maybe a bite to eat and a tasty brew. Or swing over to Elmwood for its hipster stores and tasty restaurants. Also on Elmwood is the Albright Knox on one side, which spills into the huge Delaware Park, and on the other side Buffalo State College and the now empty Buffalo Psychiatric Center, a beautiful building with a quasi-creepy past.
  • Buffalo Zoo: Because animals are cute. Animal rights activists protest all you want, but during Buffalo winters I wish I could stay in a temperature regulated environment every day!
  • Buffalo Science Center: Relive childhood memories of blowing your eyebrows off or encourage your kids to embrace their own mad scientist (but maybe steer them away from the eyebrow blowing off bit... those therapy bills were not cheap!) Plus.. the building the museum itself is sweet looking.
  • Garden Walks: Now I am not into gardens, nor am I interested in seeing others. Especially because it would inspire me to drop a ton of money in a project I will never complete or do complete and it will look no where as awesome as the one that I wanted to duplicate. Lack of green thumb aside, I know many people are interested in these types of things. If anything its a great focus for photographers who have a penchant for macro mode or aesthetic design.
  • Roycroft: OK, this is NOT in Buffalo. Its in East Aurora. However it is completely worth the drive. For starters its the largest building complex which evolved from 'guilds' (not really like those things on World of Warcraft, real guilds focused on a certain trade or craft). There are classes year round, fun events to keep the little ones busy, and is even open for special occasions and meals. Believe me, with the Roycroft as the backdrop, it makes an already special day almost perfect. Plus, stop down on Main Street to Vidlers, an honest to goodness Five and Dime Store. Remember those? Me neither, but as a kid Vidlers was the best, so I am sure it still stands for kids today.
  • Forest Lawn Cemetary: Me- "Wow that grass is so green and pretty, it would be a great place to have a picnic" My Sister- "Melissa that is a cemetary, you are so stupid" ::cue more hurtful comments and teasing:: OK so it maybe wasn't that bad, but Forest Lawn is a pretty amazing place. The gravestones and mausoleums as well as the tranquil green space is a poets or photographers dream come true. We even have some famous residents there: Rick James and former president Millard Fillmore. See the list of more (or less) famous(ish) people here. Tours are available as well.
  • Buffalo Turkey Trot: After listing all the tasty foods available here, you are pretty much going to need to run off some calories. Do it the morning of Thanksgiving at the Turkey Trot, America's longest consecutive running race (116 years and running- ha!). Its not too long, 8k, and a perfect reason to feel justified having another slice of pie.

Made in Buffalo... with pride

I used to cringe when people would ask me where I was from. After muttering the pariah term "Buffalo" I was generally met with phrases such as 'wide right', 'no goal', 'rust belt' or worse yet, 'is that near New York City?'

However now I am hearing a bit of a different tune. I still get those comments, however its from people who have never even been to the Buffalo area. Those people who have actually been to 'The Queen City' or the 'City of Lights' are quite amicable towards it... they even enjoyed it!

I knew it was just a matter of time before I felt the same. You can take the girl out of Buffalo, but you can't take the Buffalo out of the girl. In the next few blogs I will post some of the things and places in Buffalo which made me fall in love with my hometown all over again.


  • Buffalo Bisons Game: I am going to say first- I do not really like baseball at all. I like the hot dogs and the peanuts. However, unlike MLB tickets which may cost your children their college education, these tickets can be as little as $9.50. They also have entertaining things going on between innings (I personally like wing vs celery vs bleu cheese) and if you on Fridays, you get post-game fireworks! And with the money you saved on tickets, there is plenty of money to go to the bars later!
  • Shakespeare in Delaware Park: Situated very close to the famous Albright Knox Gallery and the Elmwood strip, this is always a great (and free!) way to spend a summer evening in Buffalo. Only New York City has a larger Shakespeare in the program. And I can guarantee you Buffalo is a bit lighter on the wallet!
  • LinkThursday in the Square: Where can you see the Goo Goo Dolls (also a Buffalo institution along with Ani DiFranco) for free? Or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones? This is also a great place to find new and upcoming talent in the opening acts. One of my friends bands (The Pillagers) opened up for Blues Traveler!
  • Taste of Buffalo: Most people know about the food from Buffalo (if not read on!) however you can sample those and many more diverse and eclectic foods all in one location. Right in downtown Buffalo- its a great location and a great way to spend the afternoon.
I know I know I know... its summer. What can possibly be going in Buffalo in the winter?! Well with all that snow, we got tons of winter sports! Downhill/cross country skiing, ice skating (indoor or outdoor), hockey games (Go Sabres), and the ever beautiful Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls. Well that one is on the Canadian side... but I heard rumours it might get started up again on the US side....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Snobbery Buffalo Style

Some people are wine snobs. They sniff and swirl their wine glass and scoff at two buck chuck. There are also car snobs who will argue to the death of why standards are better than automatics, and will always remind you while driving (usually them somewhere).

Then there are Buffalonians: We are wing snobs :)

I mean this in the nicest way possible because I am one myself. Yes, even after years of living outside the All-American city I consider myself a wing snob.

I sneer when I see 'Buffalo chicken wings' on the menu. Please do not make laugh. If you have to specify they are 'Buffalo' style they probably are not.

We do sniff, we want to smell the sauce before the wing touches our lips. If you can't smell the sauce: you don't have enough sauce or it's weak sauce. Please take it away.

We evaluate the integrity of the wing. Can you see bone where meat is supposed to be? Do the double bones (known as the wing) hold their own or do they break easily? No one wants a weak infrastructure on their wing. We want meat on them bones.

Speaking of meat: we don't like tiny chicken wings either. We don't want the drumsticks from Cornish Game Hens. No. We like genetically enhanced mega chicken wings. OK maybe not that big... But seriously it should take me more than one go to get the meat off the bone.

Sauce. This is where it gets tricky. Trust me though, pineapple teriyaki is NOT a Buffalo style chicken wing. Hot, medium, or mild. BBQ MAYBE- but don't press your luck.

Blue cheese. You use ranch you say? No. Just no. And it has to have chunks, it can't be runny either. I suggest Marie's but that can be hard to procure depending on the area. Don't use Blue Cheese? :: sigh :: Fine, just don't use Ranch. Believe me I love Ranch dressing, but on wings it's just a no no.

Also, celery and/or carrots MUST be included. Do not charge extra- this is an integral part of the dish. How better to slather the blue cheese on your wing than with a stick of celery? OR, tell yourself your meal had veggies- and is therefore healthy?

Of course there is proper cooking method. There is only one: deep fry. Don't try to cut calories on this dish or it will end in tears (and sow seeds of contempt with your Buffalonian friends)

Amazingly this seemingly simple dish is actually a work of art, and we take pride in having the best. We generally do not order wings outside the area. When we do (hey, there are always exceptions) we are scrutinzing to a fault, and we end up wishing we didn't order it after all.

Monday, June 20, 2011


So its been a little over a week since I finished my Coast to Coast. My feet feel great, my back loves me again, and its strange to wake up each morning and NOT have to face at least 8 miles of walking.

I do however, wake up around the same time though, which makes Tom happy because I usually have the kettle on whilst he is in the shower getting ready for work. For all the ladies out there: key to a British boy's heart: the teapot :)

I even spent the last weekend in Poole, meaning in three weeks I have visited England's three coastlines. I am amazed how diverse they all are from each other, with rolling beaches to staggering cliff lines. All of them though are breathtakingly gorgeous.

My favorite part of the Coast to Coast: The Lake District

I am sure this is most people's favorite part of the walk. It is just full of huffing and puffing and your reward is exhilarating views of Fells (hills) and Tarns (lakes). Most of the towns were tiny and of course everyone friendly. If I did the walk again I would spend more days in the Lake District, ticking off a bit more peaks like Helvellyn and Scarfell Pike.

My worst part of the Coast to Coast: The flats

I hate to say the 'worst' because I found the entire walk enjoyable. However the Vales of Mowbray were just so... flat. And after the Lake District I thought the flats would be a welcome change. However, my feet did NOT enjoy the monotony of it, and therefore made it the most painful part. It also got a bit tedious seeing nothing but fields of wheat and whatnot.

My suggestions:

  • Be talkative - There were so many different varieties of people on the walk. Retired people, singles, couples, large groups, young students on holiday. See the walk from another person's perspective!
  • Go local - go to the local pub rather than a chain restaurant, and be sure to try a beer you never would have seen if not for being in the area. Also the pubs source food from the local area, like Cumbrian Sausages, or Yorkshire Chicken Parmesan (nothing like its Italian cousin!)
  • Be respectful - If the sign says do not traipse on the Moors, don't do it. These areas are home to lotsa critters, be nice to mother earth, just this once :) Also, don't be loud and obnoxious, especially if staying in a hostel, your fellow bunk mates will appreciate it
  • Check your map! - Do not trust the people walking ahead of you to be going the right way! Near Kidsty Pike a lot of walkers got lost as they went on the High Road (old Roman Road) which eventually got a walker near the end of the Haweswater Resevoir, however it was not obvious at some junctions. Without a map, people got lost and frustrated, and many ended up turning around and going the Kidtsy Pike route (which they DID have mapped)
  • That being said, I strongly suggest having a map with the surrounding area and contour lines as well as having a guide book. This way if you get a bit sidetracked, you can still figure out where you are and then which way you need to go to get back on track
  • Compass. Duh.
  • Keep it in perspective - Try not to think about the 20 miler you gotta do, think of it in sections. Take a lunch break at 8 or 10 miles in, giving you and your feet a well needed rest.
  • Think happy thoughts - It IS a long trip, sometimes after walking in the rain or after stepping in a bog its hard to keep positive outlook every moment of the walk. However, it is worth every penny in terms of memories and experiences for next trip. Also, it is always great to commiserate with other walkers at the pub in the evening :)

Saturday: Glaisdale to ROBIN HOOD'S BAY

Miles: 19

DONE. Wow. It is so strange to say that.

When I saw Whitby Abbey (of Count Dracula fame) I just put pedal to the metal. I finally could see boats on the sea. I thought I was going to cry I was so excited. I probably did not give Little Beck the look around it deserved, however I did stop at Falling Foss for lunch-- but I was just so excited to finally get to the sea.

I also walked thru Grosmont, home of the North York Moors Railway. This train was made famous in Harry Potter, however it has always been a hotspot for train enthusiasts.

Getting to the Coast was-- one of the greatest moment of my life. To finally step out onto the coast line to feel the wind on my face was exhilarating. And, what a coast line!

Wainwright, the cheeky bastard he is, gave us about a 2 mile victory entry into Robin Hood's Bay, with the destination not even in sight until the very end. I was so nervous about getting there I refused to trust my compass and asked people multiple times if I was going the right way.

As promised, when I hit the High Street which ends at the Sea, I turned on the Indiana Jones Theme Tune on my iPod and took the headphones off. I am sure passerbys thought I was a bit mad, but all the walkers I have seen a long the way who finished completely understood my jubilation and congratulated me.

Tom and Laura were at the bottom to greet me. Poor Laura was made to run to the bottom as Tom was worried I was going to beat them (that being said I got in around 2:30-3, I blazed 19 miles). After hugs and kisses, I went to dip my boots into the North Sea and chuck my stone, which made the sometimes arduous, but always breath-taking trip with me into its new home in the Sea.....

My Coast to Coast Walk. Done.

Friday: Chop Gate to Glaisdale

Miles: 20
Beer: The Captain Cook Brewery - Slipway

Another flat day of flat walking mostly. My feet were so unhappy today- I even (finally) got a blister (which went away after the bath)! The Wain Stones and Chop Gate because it was a bit of climb, but then to Blakey Ridge it was all flat. If the heather would be in bloom it would have been absolutely beautiful. Sadly this was not the case so it was a bit bleak along the Moors. The saving grace was The White Lion.

Perched alone on the top of the Moors on Blakey Ridge, it is the 4th highest pub in England (the highest being Tan Hill Inn near Keld). I (finally) had my packed lunch from Osmotherley as well as a pint of Theakston's Old Peculiar.

After that though it was back to the road walking. At least the sun popped its head out for a bit to say hello.

Staying at the Red House Farm today. The lady convinced me to stay for a 0730 breakfast so I guess I am heading off at 0800. Another 19 miler into Robin Hood's Bay and I am hoping to get in by 4pm, we shall see!

Its kind of bittersweet to almost be done with with this walk. Its been almost 2 weeks, and now its so close to the end. I have had such great adventures, I do not know if I am happy to be finished or sad my trip is coming to a close.

Thursday: Osmotherley to Chop Gate

Miles Traveled: 8

Man! It was a great day for walking! Was a shame it was again a short day. Blue skies, puffy (happy) clouds, NO RAIN, and best of all... it was clear enough to see the North Sea! Destination in sight!

Today also brought the return of uphill, which was lovely after walking flat bits for so long. The North Yorkshire Moors are covered in Heather. I bet in August when they are in bloom is beautiful. There is a walk here called the Cleveland Way, which is 100 miles which winds throughout the Moors, I bet that is quite a sight!

Scarth Wood Moor, Carlton Moor and Cringle Moor were crossed today. Amazing views of nearby Moors as well as the villages below. Also got a nice view of the iconic Roseberry Topping, the Matterhorn of England!

Tomorrow is about 20 miles, to include the Wain Stones, the 4th highest pub in Britain, and a couple more Moors before I find myself to Glaisdale for my last B&B. Then onto Robin Hood's Bay!

Tonight I am at BeakHill Farm, which to be honest from the outside kind of scared me, but inside it painted quite a different picture. The hosts are really nice and lovely, but it is a working farm so its a bit rough around the edges. However, any ill thoughts are dispelled with the warm cuppa poured for you and the great conversation from the farmer and his great wife. The dinner (which was included) definitely hit the spot, and a nice change from pub grub. Beef, peas, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower... and ice cream for dessert! Pure heaven let me tell you.

The other people staying here are good fun as well, played Gin Rummy and a game called Sevens with them... and some chatting continuing onto late in the evening. I have never seen them doing the walk until today, which is quite strange. I am very glad to have met them!

No beer tonight, but I did try Dandelion & Burdock Soda at lunch. Apparently the drink has been imbibed since the 13th Century!

Wednesday: Danby Wiske to Osmotherley

Miles Traveled: 8

Another easy day today. Not as tedious yesterday thankfully! Got to use my calves for a bit, a nice reprieve from all that flat walking! Once again today was farmland. It was nice that some people left out food for walkers via an honesty box. I grabbed a banana from a farm for 30p!

I am in Osmotherely tonight staying at 4 Belle Vue Cottages . Christine is here as well, so thats nice. Went to dinner at 3 Tuns, where I had an asparagus and pea mint soup and a small portion of linguine. Of course I had a local ale: Wells County Town Brewery- Summer Gold (so local I could not find a web page). Lovely!

Crossing A19 was not nearly as exciting as I'd hoped, but it was a bit of fun to dash across!

Tomorrow is the return of the hills as I enter the Yorkshire Moors. If I am lucky I may see the North Sea tomorrow!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tuesday: Richmond to Danby Wiske

Miles Traveled: 15.5
Food: Pizza :)

Well today was a weird weather day. Rain, sun, clouds, and hail! It would rain for like 5 minutes then be super sunny. No rainbows sadly.

I am not sure what Wainwright was thinking on the route today, passing by a swear plant and then walking on about 10 miles of road. A humdrum photo day to be sure.

Staying at Lovesome Hill Farm outside Danby Wiske, seems ok. A bit strange because I got in early and no one was ready for us. We have to do some mountaineering to get up to the rooms, but now we are in a cosy (after I turned the heater on), waiting for our rooms to be ready. The lady when she came back brought in fresh fruit bread for us and milk for our tea. Lovely :)

I think tomorrow is blissfully short ( less than 10 miles) so it will make the road walking a bit more tolerable.

Getting a takeaway with two girls who are also staying here for the night. They were going to camp but after seeing the hail decided against it. This is their THIRD time doing the Coast to Coast, and they just turned 21. Amazing!

Monday: Reeth to Richmond

Miles Traveled: 12
Food: Amantola Tandoori
Beer: Matfen Magic

Today might have been the best walking day weather wise on the trip so far. Sunny with some clouds and breeze, good short's and long sleeve weather.

The journey out of Reeth was not hard and in fact not once did I use my compass! Traveled thru more fields and over some fields and we even got a nice wooded area (White Cliffe Wood). And what was our reward for the days hike? Richmond. The largest city we go thru on the Coast to Coast.

I had a hard time waiting for 5pm to show up so I could eat at the Amantola Tandoori restaurant. Glad I did though, joined two other Coast to Coasters in there and had some lamb Rogan Josh. Perfect meal in preparation for the longish walking day tomorrow to Danby Wiske. I also had a mango ice cream... two ice creams in one day!

I am staying at the Old Brewery and it seems pleasant enough. I spend the rest of my day around town, checking out the castle, contemplating the waterfalls whilst having an ice cream cone, as well as taking a snooze soaking up the the last few rays of the sun :)

After that we went to the Georgian Theater for 'Pints & Poetry'. Was a bit strange but there were some interesting presenters, including one very old man who read a poem... but kept telling stories. He definitely went on rambling for about 5 minutes, hilarious and awkward at the same time.

Sunday: Keld to Reeth

Miles Traveled: 12
Beer Consumed: Ringwood Brewery Boondoggle
Pub: Bridge Inn

Another wet day. I took the Valley route instead of going up to the lead mines above Keld. Although it was nice, was still chilly-- wonder what it was like up top!

Got lost (again) around Kearton. Luckily I got down to the B6270 to get into Healaugh, getting me back on track. One of the joys of valley walks I suppose-- if you start going up you are probably going the wrong way :)

The river Swale was the focus of the walk today. It was a good point of reference for the entire walk, as it meandered around the valley. Plenty of farmland around, with fat and happy sheep in abundance.

Staying at Dales Bike Center right outside Reeth in Fremington, I have the room to myself and did a bit of washing as well. I need to figure out breakfast, the guy was gone when I headed down to check. Luckily another bunch of guys staying helped to sort me out. They are mountain bikers enjoying a long weekend in the Dales. Got a quick jaunt to Richmond tomorrow, 12 miles.

Apparently there is a concert going on so the pub I am eating at is very busy. I think I need to investigate.

:: time passes ::

Ok there is an Elizabethan concert at St. Andrew's Church (right across the street). I guess I am heading there after this.

:: more time passes ::

So I just came back from the concert, it was again another random event. I walked over and a queue (a line to my American friends) had already formed. I asked the people at the end of the line what the deal was, ie do we need tickets etc. They replied yes you do need tickets, and they so happened to have an extra ticket! Sehr glucklich!

So the group was called Fretwork (a viol group: stringed musical instruments from the 15th century), with guests Iestyn Davies (singer) and Jacob Heringman (lute-- and an American to boot!). The music they played was from Byrd, Dowland, and Purcell. It was all part of the Swaledale Festival which was I think a 2 week long festival along the Yorkshire Dales.

If you like classical music, I highly suggest you give the Fretworks a go... you can go to their jukebox and listen. I recommend Purcell's One Fantazia in One Part. Just magnificent.

A great evening for sure!

church pic from:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday: Kirkby Stephen to Keld

Miles walked: 11

What a day of differences! Yesterday I would have killed for some wind-- today that was almost all I got. It was brutal heading up to Nine Standards today, so windy it was hard to move in any direction! It was sad because it would have been nice to stay up there and photograph, but the weather was just so brutal I could not be bothered.

The neat thing about Nine Standards, like most ancient structures, the actual intent of its creation is still unknown. Some think it was part of an old boundary line, or it was supposed to look like a camp to invading groups. Thats half the interest in them.

Another really exciting thing about passing the Nine Standards is that I crossed the watershed of Britain. This means all rivers and lakes I pass empty out to the North Sea instead of the Irish Sea. 95 miles! Hooray! It is a great accomplishment and I am quite proud of myself.

Since the last two days were so dry, the moors were not so bad. We have been very lucky with the weather, not too bad but not always too good either.

The Three Musketeers are done (they were only doing half) which I found sad-they are three good guys and always good for a laugh. Have to head back to the pub after dinner for a goodbye pint.

I am staying at the Keld Bunkhouse, which is very nice. I am sharing a room with someone I know, I am eating Quorn chili, which will be good for tomorrow, something to stick to my bones to the 12 mile journey ahead.

Friday: Shap to Kirkby Stephen

Miles Traveled: 22
Beer: Shandy (too hot for an ale)

Hot. That is how I describe today. It was hard to really enjoy the scenery when you feel your skin baking away. Sometimes you felt on the moon with just moorland as far as the eye can see (and no tree in sight!)

I did however get to stop at Scar Side Bed & Breakfast at Margaret's suggestion for some cold lemonade and have my lunch. The owner was very friendly and the shade felt lovely.

I was only supposed to do 20 miles today, but I went to Orton by mistake. Which is fine except it was an extra 2 miles on an already long day! My feet are a bit worse for wear but I bought some ibuprofen and I am sure that is a god send.

Kirkby Stephen hostel is definitely not as nice as the other hostels. It's overly warm and there are blankets and towels strewn about. Its a place to stay though, so that works.

I went with Kristine (she is doing the walk for charity) to The Kings Arms for dinner. For starter I had a black pudding tower, which was three of the puddings covered in a peppercorn sauce. For a main I went for Hawaiian Salmon, which besides for the pineapple I do not know was Hawaiian about it but it was fantastic. The fish was moist and paired lovely with the fruit (surprisingly)

Tomorrow is luckily at 14.5 miles- should be a breeze after today!

Thursday: Patterdale to Shap

Angle Tarn
Miles Traveled: 17
Beer: Derwent Brewery - Springtime

What a lovely day! Not once did I don my raincoat and waterproof pants. I actually wore my tank top and switched to shorts! A perfect walking day. I think I even got a SUNBURN!

Angle Tarn has to be one of the loveliest lakes I have ever seen. It was nestled on Angle Tarn Pike with an amazing view overlooking the Lake District. Was not too much wind so you could get a reflection in the waters. With only hints of clouds and a bright blue sky-- it made for quite a picture.

Around Satura Crag I had a mishap, one foot got fully submerged in boggy mud. I quickly switched socks for fear of too much moisture causing blisters. Still- was pretty funny! Good thing a I had an extra pair of socks.

It was bittersweet leaving the Lakes, but I knew I must press on. This next bit seems a bit nice and flat, a change of pace for sure. Some people may take that as 'boring' but when you are doing high mileage days you welcome flats.

Kidsty Pike was a nice easy clamber (for a change!) with lovely views leading down to Haweswater. The reservoir was actually more difficult than I imagined, but lunch was quite lovely along the lake.

Margaret at Brookfield House is lovely. I got offered scones and tea when I first arrived. However as soon as I saw the bath I knew that was first on the agenda! After a lovely soak I had a cuppa with the other people staying in the B&B. A large group of people walking, using Sherpa Vans to lug their stuff (I wish I thought of that!). Seemed very friendly-- actually everyone I met has been!

I am eating at The Greyhound and I must say, this is the best dinner yet! Warm goat cheese salad with roasted red pepper tossed in a lovely vinaigrette. Then fresh out of the oven lasagna with toasted garlic bread. Washed down with another local ale-- and thats all she wrote!

20 miles tomorrow... ugh! I have breakfast at 0730 and I hope to be out by 0800, arriving in Kirkby (pronounced Kirby) Stephen by 5pm.

120 miles to go!

Wednesday: Grasmere to Patterdale

Miles Traveled: 7.5

Blah. I woke up having such high hopes for today. mistyIt was obvious as soon as I set foot outside Helvellyn was not really an option. The weather report said 50mph gusts on summits... ick! Still I was hoping the clouds would lift enough to tackle St. Sunday crag. I huffed and puffed up Great Tongue only to see... more clouds :(

Looking up at St. Sunday I knew there was no way I'd get the killer views like I wanted. Deflated, I chose the Grisdale Valley route, deciding not to waste my energy wandering thru a cloud and seeing nothing. I kept stopping, hoping the clouds would break like they have done most days. No such luck. That did not stop some people from making their own way up Helvellyn, avoiding Striding Edge (they are stupid, but not idiotic!)

I even contemplated going back up St. Sunday via Patterdale, sans pack. The YH is always openn, so I could check in, drop off all unessential stuff, then head up-- such a cinch! However, as I got to the hostel, reception still only opens at 5pm... and I do not feel comfortable leaving my bag for such a long time in an open (and unlocked) area. :: sigh :: I suppose its laundry day for me.

Probably eating at White Lion tonight, I got a 16-miler tomorrow as my swan song to the Lake District, so I better be ready!

What I have learned so far:

  • Call your bank (ahem... BofA) to let them know you are traveling, thus to avoid a 40 minute phone call from a public telephone booth which slightly smells of piss
  • Waterproof eq GODSEND
  • iPhone GPS & compass will die. Go the old fashioned way
  • Have a detailed map, so when you do get lost you can compare with someone elses to figure out where it all went wrong
  • People are friendly... sometimes sheep are not
  • Stop and enjoy the view- be it from a high peak or a low valley

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tuesday: Honister to Grasmere

Miles Traveled: 11
Beer Consumed: Hawkshead Lakeland Gold

The Lakes keep continuing to surprise me. Today I got proper lost. I went too far south from Lining Crag, completely missing Greenup Edge and ending up on High Raise. Luckily I had my other maps with me (see previous post:) and with the help from some passerby I was well back on my way to at least getting to Grasmere by nightfall. I got to a fell with Easdale Tarn at the bottom-- now all I needed to do was get down... I forged my own way and was triumphant in the end, however I suffered a major casualty. I lost my Trailblazer Coast to Coast Book. It was quite a crazy day and I managed to get into town and buy another one so it was not too much of a setback. Still quite funny, as that is my 1st navigation guide and my OS maps second. So if you are ever hiking up in the Fells and see a Coast to Coast book in a location which is not even mentioned on the route itself... well now you know how it got there :)

Bangry sheepefore all that nonsense, I am pretty sure I got chased by angry sheep in Rosthwaite. I was just moseying thru a field (like you are allowed to) and suddenly I hear this angry bleating. I turn to my right and there is this big sheep, who looks angry.... or as angry as a sheep can possibly make themselves. So I say "Hallo sheep. Just passing thru!" and keep moving. I turn around and its still bleating and following me. I go a bit faster... it starts going faster. Then it gets the whole gang involved and when I turn around again right before hitting the gate there are like 7 sheep after me! It might of been a proper lynching!

Unlike the other hostels the one in Grasmere is quite busy and I have others in my room. Most are older ladies, and one who is shocked and in awe with women hiking alone. Me and other girl are doing just that-- she is from Poland studying in London. She was very bubbly and friendly and we got along just fine talking about school holidays and where we have hiked,.

I wanted to eat at The Jumble Room, but of course it is closed on Tuesdays. So right now I am at The Rowan Tree having antipasti and a salmon penne in a creme sauce. And of course a local beer!
Dove Cottage Dove Cottage
Grasmere seems to be known for three things: Wordsworth, gingerbread, and tourists. I swear they just stand there in the middle of the pavement to you have to walk in the road... move! I can't wait to get to a smaller town, although on the plus side there are more food choices rather than just hostel food. The gingerbread, I must say, was pretty delicious, with like a sugary brown sugar topping. It almost melted in your mouth and had a bit of a brownie-like texture. For someone who does not like gingerbread, I would say it was pretty tasty!

Tonight there is a storyteller hour at the hostel, where people will weave their lyrical masterpieces to wow the crowds and win their hearts with spoken adventures. Or something like that. Its free-- there's tea. I am there.

So in theory I failed the Coast to Coast, about half of today was ad libbed, still I saw some beautiful stuff so I think in the end Wainwright would have been OK with it.