Otterly Adorable Elephant Squee-ls: Cute Animal Special!

I like cute fluffy things. I get a bit overexcited when I see cute fluffy things. I also suffer from cute aggression which is totally a real thing (maybe)… So M was very brave to take me to San Diego Zoo and Monterey Aquarium and to see the elephant seals in San Simeon.

*CUTENESS ALERT!!!*

We saw so many things at the zoo, I can’t list them all, or indeed remember them all! But here’s three of my favourite photos from the visit. There are tonnes more and they’re all so adorable so I’ll try to share some more in the near future.

Huggy Giraffes!

Huggy Giraffes!

Elephant :)

Elephant 🙂

Roly-Poly Polar Bear

Roly-Poly Polar Bear

There’s this place called San Simeon that M has been to twice. This trip, we actually stayed there one night. The town is fairly… how can I put this nicely? ‘Sleepy’. But it’s famous for elephant seals! I don’t know why and there was no one to ask, but these gorgeous, blubbery, big-nosed squish-piles of fat and whiskers flock to one section of the coast. They don’t do much, just lie there soaking up the sun and occasionally gathering the energy to move a metre or two before resting again. They’re like the sloths of the sea.

Look how many there are piled into one small area! This isn't even all of them!

Look how many there are piled into one small area! This isn’t even all of them!

Close-up of Sir Blubber McFlubberson, Sr.

Close-up of Sir Blubber McFlubberson, Sr.

And… For the grand cute overload finale… SEA OTTERS!

Monterey has five female sea otters that earn their keep by adopting bubelah (that’s baby, for the uninitiated) otters that have been abandoned or rejected by their real mummies, or little orphan otters 😦 We saw four of them, because the fifth was in the back looking after her newest ward.

I took an awesome video of them playing (if I do say so myself):

Watch til the end for Surprise Otter!

Hope you enjoyed the animal special and didn’t explode from the cuteness 🙂

Bonus penguin:

Dim-witted penguin...

Dim-witted penguin…

San Francisco

I frickin’ LOVE this city. The architecture is beautiful, the bay is stunning, the people are really nice (shop assistants don’t seem to want to murder you like they do in New York) and… Oh. I just love this place so much even though we only spent 3 days here.

The views, the views, the views!

The views, the views, the views!

And (BONUS!) San Fran is the setting for the best film of all time, and a close runner up.

Princess Diaries

Princess Diaries

Mrs Doubtfire

Mrs Doubtfire

So, what did we do with our three days?!

We went to Pier 39 which was really fun. A bit Disneyesque in terms of kitschness (ey, two made-up words in one sentence!) but cool. We bought a few souvenirs and I hugged a big seal because it asked nicely to wear my hat.

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We did quite a lot of shopping and I ate too much chocolate ice cream and felt a bit sick afterwards but it was worth it. We also visited M’s friend at his office. Not only do they have sofas, Lego, and an old phone box, but there are SWINGS in the office. It’s like a playground. I love it. I wonder if I can find a law firm with a slide in it… Actually there was a law office right on the bay, address Pier 9. Now that would be a cool place to work. One can dream, as they say!

We spent a morning being big kids at the Exploratorium, which is a big science museum with all interactive exhibits. It was really fun and interesting until I got shrunk whilst sitting on a totally normal sized chair. Then I was turned into a giant next to a totally normal sized bridge.
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I ate at my first Cheesecake Factory but there was so much food I didn’t have room for cheesecake. American portion sizes are reeeeeedonkulous!

The only thing we didn’t do that we had planned was to cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge. My knee is healing beautifully but the accident (sustained when I fell off a bike) knocked my confidence a lot more than I realised, and the fear of falling off again and having to go again to three A&E’s/health centres sadly was more powerful than my desire to do the activity. Oh well; gotta leave something for next time!

 

First Leg in Pics: New York

First, we went to an electronics superstore and M discovered heaven-on-earth

B&H = Bliss & Headphones, clearly

B&H = Bliss & Headphones, clearly

From there, we went to Central Park to play chess, which was an odd activity choice considering I can’t actually play! But M is a good teacher and my ‘Chess Faces’ are something to behold:

We saw the Rockefeller in the flesh AND in Lego! (Guess which one I preferred)

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So many stunning views!

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Manhattan skyline from 100th floor of new WTC building; Chrysler Building (my fave in the whole city, if not the world) from the street

Manhattan skyline from 100th floor of new WTC building; Chrysler Building (my fave in the whole city, if not the world) from the street

I was (quite literally) star-struck at MOMA by Van Gogh’s Starry Night, but M wasn’t so impressed: “I don’t think much of the cafe here,” he says, pointing to a single wax apple inexplicably placed on a glass podium in the Yoko Ono gallery…

It's so beautiful, especially up close

It’s so beautiful, especially up close

We also played with Lego on the Highline, went to the Blue Note (a world-famous jazz club)…

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… and I rode the subway, with just a few bags.

*muffled speech*

*muffled speech*

Next stop, San Francisco, California!

Ground Zero

We visited the 9/11 memorial on Saturday. It was… difficult.

On holiday in Israel aged 16, my parents took me to Yad Vashem, a holocaust memorial museum. I didn’t want to go. I walked through the centre speedily and avoided all the exhibits. I am educated; I know what happened during WW2. But somehow, I cannot deal with the sadness, the tragedy, the grief and anger that makes me feel violently sick, at these memorials. I’m just not mentally equipped to deal with it.

At that visit, I caught sight of one thing only. A still, monochrome, grainy image on a small screen. I won’t say what it depicted, but it was harrowing.

I can see it crystal clear right now. I always can. It comes to mind often and never deliberately. Thinking about it creates a painful knot in my chest. That image will stay with me forever and ever. Imagine if I had seen the entire museum…

The new WTC building

The new WTC building

The above wasn’t totally off-point. As I said before, I am educated. I know as well as anyone what occurred on 9/11, 2001. It terrifies and horrifies and saddens me. I am always mindful to avoid another Yad Vashem incident, but I’m 22 – an adult! – and in New York. I wanted to see the memorial and the new World Trade Centre towers.

It was… difficult.

Paved and planted with green-leafed trees, signs directing visitors, kiosks with advisors and hundreds of tourists in shorts and sun hats, it could be any plaza anywhere in the world. A green oasis surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers in one of the world’s busiest cities. But it’s not, sadly.

Where each twin tower stood, there is a ‘pool’. Let me try to describe them to you in the way I immediately saw them.

A vast square, carved deep into the ground and in the middle, a smaller square that goes far deeper: the antithesis of the huge skyscrapers that once stood there.
Around the edge, carved into black stone in large lettering, the name of every victim.

Of course, they are called pools because of the water they contain. From below the wall that displays the names, individual shoots of water flow vertically down the walls of the outer square. They are separate entities until they tumble all at once into a shallow pool and thence into the central square. From a visitor’s view, this pool is bottomless. It is a dark, gaping cavern that never ends. The water, once so defined, falls and falls in an unidentifiable mass into the depths of the ghost of the twin towers, never to be seen again. Gone to a dark, unknown, terrifying place no one else can go.

The individual strands of water are the victims.
One person, one jet.
Bursting forth with innocent gusto to just-another-day.
But the people are falling with no escape route. There is no way other than down. Down. Down. Down.
Suddenly the people, these unique individuals with lives as vivid as yours or mine, become nameless in the great mass.
There is only way to go from there. Just as water is governed by gravity, people are governed by fate.
So in they go, falling twisted together into an unavoidable death: the central, smaller pool.
Into the darkness and the unknown ‘Other Side’.
And as suddenly as it started, the people are gone. The water vanishes from view. There is nothing for us to do but stare powerlessly into the abyss.

Watching the water and reading the names simultaneously was powerful. In sharp contrast to my last harrowing experience, I was fixated! I didn’t want to look away!

It’s a beautiful and emotional and poignant and hugely symbolic (to me at least) memorial of the tragedy of 9/11.

And I’d go back again to stare at it all day and take moments for everyone who lost their lives in tragedy in a heartbeat.

NYC NY USA E*

The plane ride to New York isn’t that long, but having had a total of 7 hours’ sleep in the 48 hours before, on-and-off napping during the flight and odd food at odd times, I had no concept of time when we arrived. But, we’re young and supposedly full of energy so went from the hotel to Macy’s, then to a bar with Mark’s brother, then to dinner in Times Square… And then to bed!!!

Some of you may know about the ‘gash’ on my left knee that has been described as gory, gruesome, disgusting, and (my favourite): “Oooooaaarrrrreurghputitawayeeee!!!” (Daddy Ross, 2015). Walking around with an open wound is not fun. I wanted it to scab over in the heat but ended up checking it for microscopic specks of dust every millisecond. And then it got wet in the rain and started oozing again. ICK.

So, wounds and jetlag aside, New York has been great so far, and the next day it got soooo much better…

Read on! 🙂

*Earth

Mother Knows Best!

I’ve been thinking about this blog a lot lately, and how I totally abandoned it after the culmination of the Thyme-Travelling Chef. I genuinely blame it on uni commitments; a three-years-crammed-into-one law degree is MUCH more demanding than a geography degree (warning: make a dumb-ass colouring in joke and I punish you). I gave up a lot of hobbies temporarily but now it’s summer and I have time again…

My point? Well, this wasn’t my idea, as can be guessed by the post title. Mummy Ross suggests that while I slowly get back into writing stories, I use this blog to journal my holiday in America with Boyfriend. So I will. And will aim to make it funny and actually interesting. And maybe I’ll even post a few short stories if anything springs to mind (but no promises).

Yeeee-haaaw! Watch this space 😎 🇺🇸

What Next?

Hello Readers!

I really enjoyed writing the Thyme-Travelling Chef and I hope you enjoyed reading it! I’m currently reading over the online draft and perfecting the story so I have a plea…

FEEDBACK PLEASE! 🙂

What did you like or dislike about the plot, style, etc.

Let me know in the comments.

EHR xxx

The Thyme-Travelling Chef: FINAL PART!

A bittersweet post – this is the last instalment of my dream-inspired short story about Jason, a chef with the ability to time travel. ‘Behind-the-scenes’ type posts to follow, plus lots of other writings and ramblings. 🙂

 

In another room, Miles and Weston were stage-whispering dramatic phrases and rhetorical questions to each other, like “but has she got what it takes?” And ”is his talent going to burn out?” – lots of meaningless cathchphrases for the cameras’ benefit. But behind the facade, they already knew exactly which two contestants were going through to the next round.

It was Miles’ job to inform the director who they had chosen to qualify, and he approved the choices. The contestants were then ushered back into the studio, where they stood awkwardly in a crooked line in front of the judges, trying not to look anyone in the eye.

The air was thick with nerves and the smell of washing-up liquid.

Jason stuck his tongue out the corner of his mouth to catch a bead of sweat.

“We are now going to announce who has qualified for the next round, and who we are sending home,” Miles said gravely.

“Jackie, Luke, please step forward,” Weston said, “Jackie, you have a great palette, but no eye for presentation. You’re going home, I’m sorry.” Jackie bowed her head, managed a meek smile, and stepped back. “Luke, you showed a lot of promise, but I’m afraid you’re not going through to the next round either.” Luke burst into tears, much to everyone’s surprise, and had to be dragged back by Jason and Sylvia. The director decided to leave the scene in the final cut because it was, “Funny”.

“Stephen, please step forward. We admire your love of the classics, with a twist. You might be qualifying.”

Jason gasped. Stephen, qualifying, really?!

“Sylvia, your flavour combinations were very brave, but too outlandish for us. You’re not going through.”

Angela, Jason and Stephen looked at each other nervously. They were the final three!

“So, half gone, one more to go,” Miles said. “Now then, Angela, we were concerned about you at the start of the competition but then we tried your dish, and we think you have a lot of talent, which we want to see! Angela… congratulations, you’re going through!”

“Whoo-ee!” Angela cried, twirling on the spot and throwing her arms in the air maniacally. The judges shared a look. The truth of the matter was, they’d only put her through to avoid being cursed. Miles was very superstitious… and cowardly.

“And now we come to Jason. Jason, your Beef Wellington blew us away. There’s no doubt about it: you are going through! Congratulations!”

Jason jumped for joy and ran to embrace the judges while Stephen swore, ripped off his apron and stomped on it before leaving the room.

“Congratulations, Jason and Angela!”

“Thank you!” they chorused.

“Right, let’s get the cameras off and some champagne out to celebrate,” Weston declared to a lot of cheering.

Jason and Angela simply stood there grinning… until Weston returned with a bottle in each hand. “Erm,” he said, and his tone sent shivers down Jason’s spine. “Erm, there’s something weird going on in the wine fridge.”

“What do you mean?” Miles asked.

Weston swiveled the bottles to reveal their labels. “There are, like, typos on all the bottles!” True enough, one bottle declared that the contents were from 1817, the other from 2044.

Jason and Angela gulped.

Then they both realised that the other person was as jumpy as them.

“Do you know something about me?” Jason asked Angela.

“Do you know something about me?” Angela retorted.

Jason narrowed his eyes at her. Angela tutted.

“While you were gallivanting around saving your beef, I was here saving your bacon!”

“Yeah, well, you can’t fix this with a fake gas leak!”

“Does anyone know anything about this?” Miles asked. He was trying to convince himself that it was a silly prank but there was a tremble in his voice.

“Ha, so, funny story…!” Jason began, and he closed his eyes. Tight.

 

Who wants a sequel?! What was your favourite and least favourite part? Tell me in the comments 🙂

The Thyme-Travelling Chef: Part 6

An incredibly overdue update of my short story. Apologies for the delay (I’ve been busy!) 

 

But meanwhile, with Jason hurtling down the corridors, the atmosphere in the conference was surprisingly calm.

“Seven across, ‘Strange box on Naps Road – don’t open it!'” Stephen – 67 – read out from the newspaper.

“Pandora’s,” Miles Boren told him wearily, “Next?”

“You’re very good at these,” Stephen said, almost scoldingly.

“They say the sign that you have truly learnt a language is when you can solve its cryptic crosswords,” Filsan piped up in fluent, exquisitely pronounced English.

“Your English is very good, Filsan, I must say. Especially for someone who only started learning at 13, was it?” Miles said.

“15.”

Miles was probably about to reply when there came an almighty thud from the door. There was the unmistakable sound of a man’s belt being released from two metal door handles, and then the doors swung open to reveal Jason, who was now brandishing the belt and looking rather disheveled. He grinned at the sight of everyone.

“Jason!” exclaimed several people, “Thank God!”

He made a bee-line for Filsan and threw his arms around her. “Filsan! Say something in English! Anything!”

“Er… I really need a wee,” she replied.

“That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard!” Jason kissed her on the cheek and ran towards Tia.

“Tia! You’re all grown-up!”

He approached Stephen: “So are you!”

“I beg your pardon?!” Stephen replied.

“Can we resume filming now?” the director asked, “Have they fixed the gas leak?”

“Gas leak?”

“Yes, the gas leak. The reason we had to suddenly abandon the kitchen!”

“Gas leak…” Jason repeated. Clearly, while he’d been away, a fictional gas leak had been created as a rationale for why everyone was locked in a conference room. Where the rumour had started, Jason didn’t know, but it certainly made his job a lot easier. “Yes, it’s all fixed and we’re 100% safe to return to the kitchens. Come on then!”

They all filed out and quickly resumed their places in the kitchen and backstage area. After a quick, hushed discussion with Miles and Weston, the director called “Action!” and filming resumed.

“Your time is up in three…two…one!” Miles declared.

“Stop cooking!” Weston exclaimed, “Step away from your plates. First we want to call up Sylvia to the judging table.”

Sylvia squealed happily and skipped to the front counter with her beautifully presented duck, brie and cinnamon pie. Once Miles and Weston had finished sampling the dish and saying “Ooh, aah, mmm!” they called up Stephen, then Angela then the other contestants, each time making suitably delighted noises for the camera whilst simultaneously seeming quite overwhelmed. They disliked Stephen’s spice combination and brought Sylvia to tears by calling her pastry “slightly dry”. Someone else had undercooked their meat and Angela’s salmon was “salty”.

Jason was the last to be called up and his excitement and fear built with every second.

He carried his blue casserole dish to the table with shaking hands and grinned as he placed the Beef Wellington in front of the judges. He was worried that after five dishes already, Miles and Weston wouldn’t be hungry for his offering, but they were both salivating. The camera zoomed in on the Beef Wellington and then flicked between the judges’ delighted faces.

“I have to say, before we tuck in, this is the most exquisite looking pastry I have ever seen,” Weston said, jabbing it with his fork, “Just look at that golden colour, and it’s so crisp and light.” Miles murmured in agreement. He didn’t care about the presentation – he just wanted to scoop a forkful of meat into his slobbering mouth.

“Shall we have a taste then?” He asked pointedly, glaring at Weston. Weston smiled and cut into the pastry. Gravy and beef and mushroom spilled out in a cloud of steam and gorgeous scent. They each took a dainty bite, resisting the urge to scoop it up.

“Mmmmmmmmm!” they said.

“This is exquisite, Jason. Well done,” Weston told him.

Miles added, “I just think it’s incredible that you managed to make this and cook it so perfectly even with the commotion of the gas leak–”

“Cut!!!” The director’s scream ricocheted across the room.

“What?!”

“We decided not to mention the, uh, incident,” the director said. “Let’s try that again… Action!”

“Isn’t it incredible that you managed to cook this so perfectly even with the time limits and the stress of the competition – I am blown away by this dish, honestly,” Miles repeated.

“My only tiny criticism would be that you could have used some more thyme,” Weston said.

“Believe me, I used plenty of time,” Jason replied through gritted teeth.

“OK, cut, we’ve got enough now. Thanks everyone,” the director said. The camera crew began to shuffle. “Contestants go and take a break and make-up will fix you up. Let’s go film the decision sequence. Remember, only two people are going through to the next round.”

And that was that! Jason had done all he could now he just had to wait. As he walked back towards the makeup room, where he had started his adventure, his pulse was quickening and his hands shaking.

 

Check back SOON (I promise…) for the next instalment. I think it will be the final part. Who do you think will qualify?

The Thyme-Travelling Chef: Part 5

Look, an update! 😀

The tone of Jason’s voice silenced everyone in the kitchen. About forty faces of all ages gazed at him in awe. Jason gulped. These people respected him. They were ready, he realized, to follow all his orders. They viewed Jason as their saviour – his plan would send them back to wherever they had come from.
But Jason didn’t have a plan. Now he had to think on his feet, which was exactly what had got him into the mess in the first place.
“Follow me,” he said shakily, and everyone lined up behind him. The most sensible thing to do, he decided, was to get everyone out of the kitchen. On his way in to the studios, Jason had walked past a large conference room with many comfy chairs and a water cooler. He figured that the MustardChef participants would all be safe in there for however long it took Jason to get things back to normal.
They strolled down the corridors in silent single file. They were an odd bunch, all wearing the clothes of whatever past generation they’d been swept up from. Only Stephen, in true old-man style, remained wearing almost the same outfit as his present day self: a suit that looked as if had been stored in a 1950s time capsule. Weirdly, it was Jason, in his crisp white apron, who stood out.
“Right, here we are,” he declared, stopping in front of the double doors to the conference room. “I’m going to have to ask everyone to wait inside this room for a while, for your own safety. I trust you’ll find it comfortable enough. Please, whatever you do, do not leave the room… or else…”
There was a synchronised “Ooh, aah” as Jason left the room and tied together the door handles with his belt. He didn’t trust several of them not to try to get out.
“Right,” he muttered to himself, strolling down the corridors, “think Jason, think!”
He had to coordinate a lot of factors. The kitchen was the present-day version so that had to stay constant, as did the exact time – to the millisecond – to stop the Beef Wellington from burning (again). The age variation of the contestants and crew had been restored, Jason assumed, but everyone had been plucked from the past, hopefully the same year! Jason figured though that it was good enough to go ahead and just age everyone a bit.
But how? Time travel was not an exact science. It was, to quote Jason’s favourite TV character, ‘wibbly-wobbly’. Sure, Jason could choose how far back or forward he wished to go, but he always changed everything. This time, he had to leave the universe at the current millisecond whilst aging a room full of people.
He returned to the kitchen and wandered around for a bit, his mind wondering too. Head in his hands, slumped against the fridge, almost ready to give up, the invigorating scent of Beef Wellington, Salmon En Croute, Steak and Ale Pie and Stephen’s ‘Posh Pasties’ invaded his nostrils. Jason breathed deeply, inhaling the rich aromas of meat and pastry. It was heavenly. It was homely. It was all the inspiration he needed.
Jason fired into action, running through the corridors of the big studio building, examining every office, every person, every dated picture on the walls and every second hand of every clock. He was determined to achieve the same perfection with time travel as he had with his dish.
Eventually, Jason found a comfy sofa facing a clock to sit on while he did his work. He shut his eyes tight and watched as sparks of rainbow light crept into the blackness. The sparks turned into majestic fireworks, swirling and exploding and soaring through his mind in every colour imaginable. It was an awe-inspiring sight. Jason squeezed his eyes tighter and the lights and colours intensified. Then, the image began to fizzle out. The fireworks collapsed in on themselves and slowly faded to white, grey, black until they were no longer there. At this point Jason opened his eyes.
He blinked several times, readjusting to reality.
Then he peeked at the clock, which displayed the exact time he had left at. Jason smiled, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. He felt sick with excitement and anticipation as he began to roam the corridors, increasing in speed as his hurry to check on the MustardChef people grew.

 

Next (last?) part coming soon!