Saturday, June 11, 2016

Life back in the States

It has been almost a year since my last blog post. There is so much to catch you up on! To keep things manageable, I will update in monthly increments (as per usual with my posts).

I hope you will enjoy following along in my new New York life!

In between our Brighton and New York lives, Ben and I were lucky enough to stay with family in the UK while waiting for the visa to come through. The interim period was strange. I had 3.5 years of hard work and research, followed by almost half a year of crazy and obsessive thesis writing. Thesis writing occurred largely at home, but my mind was full of science and worry the whole time. And abruptly, after the viva, it was over. I no longer had to purge every neuroscience fact I have ever known at the whim of my examiners. I had a job offer waiting for me in the US. We were just waiting on the visa. An empty-minded period of waiting. And I had no idea what to do with myself.
Luckily, friends and family helped me to figure out what I would do with my life during this time. My brain was too fatigued to work on its own after thesis and viva times.
My mother-in-law took me on a nice day trip around East Sussex to really enjoy the top sights of the area I had called home for 4 years. I was happy that I finally managed to go on a nature walk around the Long Man of Willmington, one of my favorite sights of East Sussex.
In between the fun times, there was a lot of ennui. A LOT of ennui. I would find myself drinking some wine and meandering the aisles of Asda (British WalMart, the closest establishment to where we were staying) for dinner, questioning my philosophical approach to life. You know, the big questions that one asks when half drunk in a place you really don't want to be.
But the interim was soon to end. And life in the UK quickly transitioned to new life in New York.

Ben and I upgraded to business class, since it was our travel together to start our new life. And I have to say, Virgin Atlantic Business class was amazing. Atlantic travel isn't particularly enjoyable (any travel sucks in my opinion), but the upgraded seats definitely helped. Still, by the time we got into the city, we were exhausted. We had booked an AirBnB one block from our new apartment and all we wanted to do was eat something and go to sleep, and wake up for move-in day! We have stayed at many an AirBnB and always had a pleasant experience. But the one we stayed in at NYC was terrible. Dirty beyond belief, the host was useless, and I was genuinely worried we may start our life in the city with bedbugs. Luckily, we did not get bedbugs. Or staph, or an STD. These are the highlights of that stay. I think this really primed us for the excitement of moving into our apartment. An apartment we had already paid a deposit for and the first months rent without seeing even pictures. Luckily, we loved it. And we still love it, 11 months on.

We had 9 days before I started my new job and so we explored our new city as much as possible! Our first introduction to NYC food started at Hungarian Pastry Shop. The pastries were great and, in the middle of August with no air conditioning, the restaurant gave a little bit of forgiveness to the overwhelming humidity and heat of the city. The coffee, however, was terrible. Our first coffee outside of Europe and we became quickly aware just how spoiled we had been. This would be the first cup of many disappointing coffees in NYC, and helped to spur on our interest in finding the best coffee in town.
We also had our first dirty New York slice experience. I would like to point out how much larger the pizza is than the average-sized plate it is sitting on:
Night time walks around central park, the discovery of a great tea place (Culture Tea Bar), and finding a local roof-top bar. We were doing it right.
We also went on A TON of walking tours around the city and managed a lot of sight-seeing. And on two food-based walking tours. Here are some of the highlights:

We managed to find an amazing coffee place, Brooklyn Roasting Company:

And we were introduced to one of the truly amazing aspects of the city- even though it is crazy and hectic and dirty, there are wonderful little pockets of community all over.

Things I loved to eat:
Crunchy spring salad with dill dressing

Rhubarb prosecco sparkler

Green goddess sandwiches. If you have never had green goddess dressing, you need to. Like now. Truly.

Chicken club lettuce wraps

Eggplant caponata sandwich

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July and good bye Brighton

July has been an absolutely insane month, but also extremely slow moving. SO much has happened, but in between those moments, there has been just SO much waiting. And that waiting drags on and on and on.

Let me back track. I submitted my thesis in May and so I was waiting for my viva, which was in early July. Besides the obvious desire to finally get my PhD, my viva outcome also decided when I could start my job and thus when we would move to New York. That wait was brutal.
However, I'm glad to say that my viva went very well indeed! And I was able to turn around a final, corrected version within a week. The University is currently sorting through all of the necessary paperwork, but for all intents and purposes, I AM DONE!!!! And as far as my future job is concerned (which, one cannot be hired without a PhD), I am a doctor. So I'm going to go ahead and say, I'm a doctor now!
The viva experience was definitely not what I expected. I was expecting an amazing catharsis at the end of my viva, but really I was just a little shell-shocked and felt it hard to believe that I was finally done. With the viva being the final hurdle to jump, after my entire educated life leading up to this moment, it just didn't live up to my expectations. However, I'm happy its over so I will definitely not be complaining.
In celebration, there was much drinking, multiple parties, burrito eating, and Ben made a fantastic dinner:

We've also been extremely busy with internationally moving. We had to plan over a month in advance for the International movers to collect what we were shipping overseas. There was actually A LOT of planning that went into this, more than I realized. To start, we couldn't afford to move everything and much of our larger items are more easily/affordably replaced for new as opposed to shipping. BUT, we have personal items and a few furniture items that we certainly wanted to take. So we basically had to go through every single thing that we owned and decide if it would be: sold, donated, thrown away, shipped with movers, or flown in our airplane baggage. I have never been so grateful for our minimalist living lifestyle. A week after the movers were in, we were finishing up packing and cleaning our flat because our lease was coming to an end. Saying good bye to our Brighton flat was hard; I loved living there. We decided to stay in Brighton for part of our remaining UK days and so moved to a teeny tiny AirBnB place in Hove. The location is great, the price was right, and really the size hasn't been an issue thus far. After our move out of our main flat, we headed to Robin Hood to recreate the night from when we first moved into our Brighton flat. Before, we headed to the first pub we could find for some beer and food. It only felt right leaving our flat with the same experience.
Tomorrow we move to Eastbourne, and mid-August we move to NYC. I'm looking forward to the end of our moving process (which will have been over an entire month) and to not have to live out of suitcases anymore.

We've also been making slow but steady progress in Ben's visa, which has been ongoing since February. The visa process is notorious for being slow and painful, and it was no different for us. We will be flying to NYC literally as soon as his visa comes through in the mail.

In between the BIG life events, we have been keeping busy with a lot of other events.
On 4th July, we headed to the Royal Albert Hall to see Back to the Future on the big screen while an orchestra played live alongside. It was so cool, as shows at Albert Hall always are.

We managed to fit in a weekend trip up to York! And wow, was it worth it! Not only is York extremely interesting, but the surrounding countryside is breathtaking. For future York travellers, York can be accomplished in a day (especially if you don't go into any attractions). And this is good, because it would be an absolute shame to go all the way to York and not visit the North York Moors.

I really enjoyed York, but to be honest, the North York Moors put it to shame. We were only able to do one hike due to time restrictions, but it was still amazing.

The town where Hogsmeade train station (from Harry Potter) was filmed is in the middle of the moors. And its pretty awesome.

On the way back to Brighton, we detoured to get 2015's top rated Fish and Chips in England. However, the best fish and chips I've eaten in this country was from a roach coach at a campsite we were staying at in Cornwall. So no Mister C's, you are not the best fish and chips (in my opinion).

As I'm sure most of you know, the amazing Harper Lee has released a prequel to her famous To Kill a Mockingbird. Since Brighton is awesome, one of the local theaters held a midnight showing of To Kill a Mockingbird on the night of Go Set a Watchman's release. With the book purchase, I also received a Harper Lee tote bag and a small popcorn. It was a fantastic night and oh so literature-nerdy!

Throughout the month, we have been to an insane amount of leaving parties. There are quite a few people finishing degrees, retiring, and generally moving on at the moment. And while its sad to see people go, leaving parties are always epic.

Things I loved to eat this month:
Smoked turkey sausages with sauerkraut

Polenta skillet eggs with chorizo. I'm pretty sure I've already written about my love for eggs. I like them so much that Ben often teases me about how much I like eggs. Well, this combined with chorizo (which is smoked paprika-y, fatty goodness) and polenta (which is quickly becoming my life blood as I become more intolerant to wheat) makes for an amazing meal.

Zucchini boats

Polenta with italian beef, wine-sauteed mushrooms, and braised kale. I WILL make this for a dinner party at some point in my life. Also... and I know this is lame... But that huge wooden serving board in the post!!!!!!! Need.

Banana and peanut butter ice cream. This is ACTUALLY just frozen banana and peanut butter blitzed until completely smooth. Which means, its healthy. I love bananas, but often in the summertime they go brown within a day or two of buying them. So we always throw them in the freezer for later use in baking. However, when we moved out of our big flat into our teeny AirBnB, there wasn't enough freezer space for the bananas. So we made this "ice cream" and I fell in love.

Steak and grilled vegetable salad

Grilled shrimp and veggie bowl

Things I loved to listen to this month:
Science Friday. Recently, Science Friday (a public radio science podcast) had my future boss Dr. Eric Kandel on to talk about some of his recently published work. When I start work in his lab, this is the project that I will be joining. So if you are interested (don't worry, you don't have to be a scientist to understand! This program is geared toward curious non-scientists), give it a listen!

Mau Mau, by Radiolab. Radiolab is fantastic at punching me right in the feels. Mau Mau is particularly intense, uncovering the truth about some of the horrible things that went on in Africa under British rule. I 100% believe that journalism like this is extremely important.

Gray's Donation, by Radiolab. I was actually tearing up by the end of this one. So much life came out of one family's sadness.

Things I loved to read this month:
These are both multi-part (series) stories posted on to Reddit. With my recent free time, I've become really obsessed with a lot of the story-related subreddits. Particularly /nosleep, which both of the above stories are from. What has really drawn me in is the quality of writing coming from amateurs. The writing in the above stories are better than many published pieces of work I've read and so I would highly recommend both stories. A word of caution- /nosleep is meant for horror stories, written as if they were true (some of them are true). Which means that both stories have scary elements, and I have been disturbed by certain sections. But really, they are fantastic reads.

Today is our final day in Brighton. And that makes me sad. But at the same time- I'M READY FOR NEW YORK, LET'S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 17, 2015

June: Our last full month in Brighton

It's been a little while, I know, but I have A LOT to catch you up on.

Every year, original Mini Cooper's from all over the UK (and sometimes from even as far as Europe) drive down to Brighton Seafront. Its always nice to go out to see all of the cars.

I've also been trying to see as much of the country as possible before we leave for NYC. Of course, Oxford is considered day trip worthy and since it is in such close proximity to Brighton, I headed out. It was such a sunny day, that most of my pictures didn't turn out well (I'm not complaining!). I hit a few central colleges, the main architectural sights, and the Pitts River Museum, which has shrunken heads and samurai swords. I ended up spending more time travelling than actually in Oxford, but I am very happy that I was able to make a trip to Oxford before leaving.

Ben had his Stag (read: Bachelor Party) in June and his friends dressed him as Uncle Sam for the festivities. In my opinion, he looked fantastic.

We also headed up to Norfolk for the annual summertime Delorean Motor Club meet up. So. Many. Deloreans (including one painted black).

Since we rented a car for the weekend to go up to Norfolk, we spent our Sunday more locally by going to Ashdown Forest. A.A. Milne was inspired by Ashdown when writing Winnie the Pooh and is considered the "real life" 100 Aker Woods. Along the way, we went to Pooh Bridge and played Pooh Sticks (Ben won), Pooh Corner, the Enchanted Place, Heffalump Trap, Milne and Shepard Memorial, Roo's Sandy Pit, North Pole, Eeyore's Gloomy Place, and 100 Aker Woods.

Here's the walk we followed.

Hunting for sticks
Pooh Bridge

 Pooh Corner 
 Milne and Shepard Memorial
 Heffalump Trap
The Enchanted Place

I have a tale of tragedy to tell as well. One day, Ben woke up and found that a pigeon had used our planter as a nest.
We were very excited, and named it Eggbert. A few days later, a second egg was laid. And thus, Eggelyn existed. Every time we entered our kitchen and walked by the window, we tried to be careful so to keep from scaring Eggbert and Eggelyn's parents. After a week or so, I had to spring clean our kitchen. This included cleaning the window from the inside. The male pigeon was on the eggs at this time and, not surprisingly, flew away when I approached the window. However, when he flew back to the nest, he perched on the edge of the planter box and tipped it to its doom. Eggbert and Eggelyn fell out. The male pigeon flew off, but when the female approached she freaked out and started trying to fly into our window. By the time the pigeons eventually left, we had to remove the planter boxes to keep from any future tragedy. Eggbert was never able to become Herbert. Eggelyn was never able to become Evelyn. A sadder story than Romeo and Juliet, surely.

June was an odd month. Clearly, we kept busy. However, I had submitted my thesis in May and was waiting for my Viva, which is in early July. To keep myself sane, I didn't bother preparing for the Viva until the end of June. So, much of June was an unsettling feeling of ennui. Piled on top of my mini existential crisis, we were also waiting for Ben's visa to come through and more news on my future job and our NYC living situation to come through. It was an unfortunate period of waiting, June. And now, in the middle of July, I'm happy to say much of the waiting is over. And we are crazy-busy instead.

Things I've loved this month:

The Breakfast Club Brighton. Coming from the States, especially California, which has amazing brunch options, I've been particularly bummed by the lack of decent breakfast options in this country. You can only have so many sub par English Breakfasts before you want to give up at time. But then The Breakfast Club opened and glory was returned to breakfast.

We Need to Talk About Kevin. This book. THIS BOOK. Go read it now, really. The story is great and beautifully honest. It is from the perspective of the mother of a killer, written in the form of letters to her husband/ the killer's father. So many people still to this day are unwilling to be honest about what its like to be a parent, which in my opinion is the most important decision individuals make in their lives. The honesty of parenthood, even before her child becomes a killer, is refreshing even though it is clearly hyperbolic to typical parenthood.

Gone Girl. I had seen this movie on one of my trans-Atlantic flights before reading it, but a friend gave me the audiobook to listen to. The story is fantastic; if nothing else, read it for the plot. Books are always better than movies. But really, they have Ben Affleck as the lead male role and he seriously is terrible at acting. I don't know how he is successful at obtaining acting jobs. So to keep yourself from disappointment, read the book instead. You will be highly entertained.


Orchiette with Kale and Sausage. We didn't bother making the gremolata and it was still amazing.

Wine-y peaches and cream

Shrimp pad thai. I find it really difficult to find a good pad thai recipe. Many of them don't even include tamarind paste, YOU KIDDING?!?!?! This one, however, takes the cake.

Cuban Sandwich. The perfect option when you are eating through your fridge and realize you need to consume those pickles!

Vietnamese Summer Roll Salad. This remains one of my favorite recipes of all time. I'm sharing it again because it is simply THAT GOOD

Chocolate Rice Pudding

Flax meal pizza crust

Pumpkin pie spice flax oatmeal pancakes. The above picture was from our actual meal! With the gluten free flour we currently have in the pantry, these pancakes were way too runny. So they didn't turn our aesthetically pleasing. But they tasted great.

Potato Rafts. Its all about potato rafts.

Honey walnut salad

Tom kha gai

Asian salmon bowls. I'd eat these every day

Curried red lentil, kale, and sweet potato soup

Polenta skillet eggs with chorizo

Tomato and burrata salad. I know I've spoken before about my extreme love for burrata. I've probably posted this recipe before as well. Also, the above picture is ours! Its obviously all about the cheese.

Phenomenal green chicken. Best grilled chicken I've ever eaten.

Corn salad

Green bean salad

Trio of crostini. Have you eaten kale pesto before? Its the greatest.

Cinnamon cake with blackberry and cream filling

Devil's Dyke to Ditchling Beacon

Of course, June was the end of SCOTUS season and I was so pleased to see that they maintained Affordable Healthcare for all and passed marriage equality in all 50 states!