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New Blog Title

I’m still kind of bouncing around the thought in my head of starting a new blog devoted to afternoon tea, scones, treats, and fun facts about afternoon tea, scones, and treats. It sounds like a fun little side project particularly since I’ve stopped doing my book review blog (just not enough traffic to really make the time writing reviews worth it). But the hardest part is coming up with a name. I have some ideas…

The Crumpet Strumpet
The Clotted Creamery
Tea and Crumpets
The Cream Tea Dream

Any thoughts? Any more ideas?

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Disneyland’s Fantasy Faire

It’s a well known element of the restaurant industry: you never have or really want a weekend free. Weekends are prime time for the rest of the world eating out, so we humble waiters accept that we will be spending our Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays by our customers’ sides and at their service, rather than with our friends or family.

Sometimes, however, something glorious will happen and a server will get a “weekend” midweek. I was lucky to have Tuesday and Wednesday off this past week and it felt like a true weekend. Immediately I called up Mom and asked the most important question any person ever asks another…

“Do you want to go to Disneyland?”

Answer: Duh.

Disneyland recently removed the Carnation Plaza Gardens, an area…a restaurant…a garden…a stage for not Disney sponsored entertainment…you know what, I’m not really sure what CPG was to begin with, but I know what it is now. It has become a mecca of Disney Royalty, the Fantasy Faire.

The area is so well-decorated and quaint that not only does it blend in perfectly with the neighboring castle and Fantasyland, but it feels like you are straight out of Tangled or Beauty and the Beast. Which is fitting since the shows are based on those movies, but more on that in a minute.

The square is dominated by a twenty foot stone maypole carved into Rapunzel’s tower. It’s definitely a picture spot, probably the best outdoor spot for a photo, but other than architecture it doesn’t really serve a purpose, yet. I think they are planning on adding some type of maypole show eventually, but it isn’t on the Fantasy Faire schedule yet. Behind the pole and up against a stone wall is a little framed bench, another great photo opportunity for kids who want to feel like the characters and couples who want to look all cutesy. Next to the bench, though, is what I thought was the highlight of Fantasy Faire’s exterior look: Clopin’s Music Box.

Clopin is the gypsy from Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the favorite Disney character of Fantasy Faire creative director Michel Den Dulk (well, he is French). His music box has a wonderful hidden surprise beyond the crank and dancing Clopin and gargoyles. The background of the crowd is all Disney characters from other films! See if you can name them all becomes a cute little distracting game for us older children when there isn’t a line of kids behind you waiting for their turn to crank the box.

There is also the requisite princess dress gift shop and a snack cart called Maurice’s Treats, presumably Belle’s father selling French pastries that are really just chocolate, strawberry, or cheddar twists. And some slushy juicy thingy.

The Royal Hall is to the right of the entrance, basically a covered queue to meet three of the Disney princesses at a time. Apparently the princesses stand inside this ballroom and little girls get to meet them and take pictures. It’s a good idea, except I know that if I had been a little girl I would’ve been upset not seeing the princesses I wanted and the princesses can sometimes change during the 45 minute wait.

The highlight is really the shows. Based on Tangled and Beauty and the Beast, the shows feature two characters from the movies and Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones narrating and playing the remaining supporting characters. There are actually a lot of funny “older” references that keep the adults laughing (more in the Tangled show which I felt was far better) and go straight over the kids’ heads. No worry. We all know they are just there to see Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, and Belle.

Mom and I went first thing to Fantasy Faire, and saw the first Tangled show, then walked around the Main Street shops and Downtown Disney before making it back for the Beauty and the Beast show. And then we left. We have passes after all and the whole point of going was to check out the new area. I may also have been more tired from my five straight days of waitressing than I had thought. At times it felt like I could barely move my feet!

Basically, you won’t spend a ton of time in Fantasy Faire unless you are waiting in line to see the princesses, but it is a must see destination on its quaint merits alone.

The Ranks of the Unemployed

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. If you’re a Dodger, you don’t seem to be able to hit one, but for the rest of us non-athletes, we need to be able to adapt and duck when one comes our way so that we won’t get hurt. Why this has any relevance to the rest of my post, I am not entirely sure. But I started the post with the aforewritten sentence and it just kind of seemed to follow from there. What baseball has to do with my being temporarily unemployed is a mystery to me. Maybe I’m just a little more than a little upset at the Dodger’s season this year and I needed to get that off my chest before I told you that I quit my job this week.

Yes, I no longer work at Sake Bistro and Sushi as of last night. I’m not going to go into the reasons why I quit because that is unethical and honestly unimportant, but I am sure that I made the right decision. It was actually really difficult to do. My coworkers are the most amazing people and I hate feeling like I am disappointing people, yet how could I pass up these other opportunities coming my way? Maybe that’s what I meant by life throwing us curveballs. We really have no idea what is in store for us; just when we think we are aiming at a fast ball, the ball falls away to the right and we have to adjust our plan.

Oh yeah, I just got deep with you 😉

And now I get the luxury to think: what will I do with all my time off??? I can bake, I can scrapbook, I can sketch, I can travel, I can…start memorizing the information for my new job that I start training for on Tuesday night. So much for time off! But I have to save money for grad school and traveling (as always, donations are greatly appreciated).

But despite all the week’s focus on my job, that isn’t really what I was planning on talking about. I wanted to talk about dance. Shocker right? Jenna talks about dance. It should make the national papers it’s such a rarity. Anyways, I’ve been training at this new place by the Westfield mall (anyone else annoyed that Westfield literally owns nearly every mall in the country?) for some intensive ballroom and latin lessons. And oh my god is it intense. I’m pretty sure that we spent the first two weeks only working on Rumba walks. But it is AWESOME. I absolutely love being back in a studio and getting to move my body in a way that isn’t walking to and from tables carrying food. We’ve been working on Rumba technique as well as general ballroom technique. Last lesson we started samba. Just when I felt like I had a handle on this latin stuff, Todd throws this crazy Brazilian dance with psycho hip actions and bent knees and my brain literally leaks out my ears with contrasting information. It’s nuts: Brazil nuts in fact. Regardless I am having a great time 🙂

Yet ballroom and latin are not the only kinds of dancing I’ve been doing lately. Laura and I head out to Thousand Oaks every Wednesday night to go country line dancing at Borderline Bar and Grill. Let me tell you, it is SO MUCH FUN!!!! It’s wholesome and every one is super nice and friendly and so willing to help you learn the dances. I’ve been about 8 times and Laura’s been 5, so we are officially regulars and we are picking up the dances pretty quickly I think. It’s so awesome to get all cowgirled up (yes we both own real cowboy boots now), dance our little hearts out to “Blown Away” “Footloose” and “Stuck Like Glue”, and spend a ton of time in awesome best friend bonding over good music. We might be a little addicted…but only a little I swear!

So those are the basic updates for the moment. There are a few really cool things in the works right now, but I am not ready to share those yet so you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Over and out!

A Long Long Time Ago…

I used to blog consistently. Now, it seems that nearly a month has passed and no one has heard a word from me (unless you are my friend on Facebook or in person frequently, which seems to be rare as well). I will admit, I went through a phase where I questioned whether or not to continue. After all, I’m back from Oxford for the foreseeable future and when I say that nothing of interest ever happens in my hometown, I’m not exaggerating. So who would want to read about my day to day, the grindstone of being a waitress or the battles of lacking motivation on my days off? Highly doubtful that it would be entertaining, hence I dropped off the blogging world to question yet another thing I was doing in my life.

Sorry if that sounds melodramatic, but since I’m writing a post right now, it obviously has a happy ending!

I realized something the other day, however. Yeah my hometown may be small and often the only thing to do for fun is grab a cup of coffee or leave, but then shouldn’t the responsibility to entertain my readers be a really good excuse to take advantage of those days off and go do something? Okay so this responsibility may only be made up in my head, but if an imaginary duty helps me find interesting things to experience, then I’d be silly not to milk it for everything its worth. Which is how today’s reappearance blog came to be! I won’t give up! I’ll keep detailing randomness and making up travels and sharing the moments of clumsiness with all of you…just maybe not as daily updated as it was while I was in Oxford.

So what was on yesterday’s Day Off agenda? History of the distant and recent time. Whoa, sounds deep doesn’t it? Sounds philosophical? Sounds like…mini golf?

The California Science Center, near that Other College in Los Angeles that no one of importance cares about, is hosting a traveling exhibition on Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt. Two archaeologists dredged up over 150 artifacts and pieces from the edge of the modern city of Alexandria that came from Cleopatra’s Alexandria and two temples in neighboring cities.  Being a sucker for anything ancient and with a whole morning to call my own, I blasted out on Facebook if anyone was interested in joining me on my own explorations.

No affirmative responses. Sadness.

Luckily a superhero, aka Mom, graciously agreed to accompany me despite her not really caring about the exhibit. Once again, I owe her one. Especially as we got lost on our way there (that would NEVER happen around UCLA, I’m just saying…) and the exhibition didn’t end up living up to my unfairly high expectations. I don’t know a lot about Cleopatra’s story, because it was so long ago and so many historical records were destroyed by the Roman invaders most of the world doesn’t know either, but I do remember her having a fascinating minority before coming to the throne at age 17. But the exhibit completely passed over that, focusing instead on her reign and her relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. I did learn a lot of interesting facts that I faithfully wrote down (once a student always a student), but I still felt that the exhibit was lacking in some key entertainment value.

And the worst part? The gift shop. One of my favorite things about museum exhibitions are the book portions of the gift shops. I just recently picked up a gigantic biography of Walt Disney at the D23 Archive exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library, and was looking forward to perusing similarly thorough titles here. Alas, nothing. Not a single book about her, her life, Egypt in general; nothing except the official exhibition guide book. I feel cheated. That alone took the exhibition’s total possible awesome score from a maximum of 10 points on a scale down to 6. Meaning the exhibit ended at a 5. So sad. But at least we found our way home without getting lost!

So that was the ancient history. For the foray into more recent history, I turned to a new friend. A waiter I met from a different sushi restaurant booked up my night with the promise of shenanigans. Unfortunately, I am a sucker for shenanigans, and luckily for me, shenanigans were delivered in full swing.

I mean swing literally as well; we went miniature golfing!!! And I’m embarrassed yet proud to admit that…I suck at mini golf. And not just a little sucky, but epicly sucky. I scored an 11…on a single whole…at mini golf. Children don’t even do that! At least we had a ton of laughs. We skipped around like children, talking about everything under the sun as well as trying our darndest to not humiliate ourselves in front of any children playing ahead of us. It was a total flashback to childhood, and so much fun.

Overall, a successful and satisfying day off from waitressing, but that isn’t what really motivated me to return to blogging. No, that distinction goes to…cookies. Fall deliciousness all the way. Oatmeal cookies, with an added boost from vanilla bean and white chocolate chips, surrounding a Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kiss. They. Are. So. Good. I’ll post the recipe next post once I’ve worked out some of the kinks (this recipe is completely my own so kinks are an unavoidable part of the recipe building process). But trust me, go to your nearest Target and buy at least two bags of these seasonal kisses. Your friends would be requesting them all the time if any of them ever get to try them. Unfortunately, you’ll probably eat them all yourself so no one else will get that opportunity! Talk to you soon!!!

Certainty of death? Small chance of success? What are we waiting for?

Exactly, my dear Gimli. What were we (and by we I mean Aisha and myself) waiting for before embarking on our epic quest? Not much thankfully, just the third member of our little Fellowship to arrive. While we were waiting for his arrival on a black horse I mean car, we may not have been sitting in the beautifully woodsy Rivendell, but we were certainly eagerly anticipating setting out towards our goal. And what goal was so lofty and ambitious that it required three of us to complete? None other than the Holy Grail of our generation’s Hollywood Epic Trilogy Challenges: the viewing of all three Lord of the Rings movies–extended editions of course–straight through in one day.

What’s the big deal about a triple feature day, you may ask. Well, let me put it into a bit of perspective for those of you who haven’t attempted to conquer this feat. There are three movies (hence, the trilogy) based on classic literature. No big deal? Not until you learn the total running time, a meager 11 hours and 23 minutes. Psh, easy peasy? NOT. With almost 12 hours of footage, more than 7 of those being battle scenes with vile looking Orcs and the remaining 5 hours being walking around or running around or riding horses chasing after something,  one must be prepared with a steely attention span. Thankfully the landscapes of New Zealand are stunning or else the constant traveling shots would burn holes where your eyes should be.

Yet every true fan of the Lord of the Rings movies has done the marathon viewing at least once in his life, and the three of us were no exception. Once, however, is rarely enough and we decided on Friday to all join together on our one common day off from our respective jobs and indulge our inner nerds. Provisions were laid, timing was set, ground rules were made.

1. Begin The Fellowship of the Ring at 9:30, 9:45 at the absolute latest.

2. Have extra pillows on hand since we were watching in our loft and thus were spending the whole day lying on the ground.

3. No pausing the movie for bathroom breaks, phone calls, ab workouts, water runs.  The only acceptable pausing is for the dinner hour and letting the adorable dog outside to eat and pee.

4. Carrots in ample supply. Thank the Costco gods for bulk quantities of this eventually stomachache inducing orange veggie.

5. Other sustenance must include peanut butter and Wheat Thins in some form. A peanut butter with cinnamon, raisins, granola, and peanut chunks is doubly appreciated.

6. Talking during the movie is allowed, especially for conversations regarding the severity of spider fears, gymnastic techniques and skills, deciding which character you would most want to be, where in Middle Earth you are going to live, and what creature you want as a pet. (Answer to that by the way: Aisha wants an Ent, Pej wants an Eagle, and I called dibs on Shadowfax.)

7. A picture must be taken with Hercules and all of the movie cases to commemorate the achievement.

8. It is completely appropriate to quote the movie to nauseating detail. Embrace the nerdiness of the entire day!

With us all being college graduates, we are definitely not accustom to failing, and we never fell afoul of these rules. And probably the most amazing part was how on schedule we stayed! We took exactly 12 and a half hours from starting The Fellowship to ending Return of the King. Last time I did this marathon with friends, I’m pretty sure we started at 8 am and only finished around midnight. Hence the creation of the ground rules from all of our previous experiences.

Sometimes there is nothing better than a lazy day with good friends and great movies. You can talk when you want to, or you can stay silent and just rest. What you want out of the day is entirely up to you and perfectly within your ability to do. Everything went completely according to plan and made for an awesome end to a very hectic and sometimes very stressful week. But after 12 hours of laying around, curling up in a ball, or sitting cross legged on a floor, I am looking forward to being active tomorrow and crossing my fingers that I’m not super stiff.  Still it was so totally worth it! Long live Middle Earth!!!

Viva Las Vegas!

What do you do when you finish a really long and busy term in college? Provided you are 21 of course…you go to Vegas! Yeah it’s a stereotypical young adult weekend, but without a ton of time to travel, a two day jaunt to the Strip is kind of one of your only options to blow off some steam. And continuing in the honesty thread, Vegas would be pretty boring alone, so I begged, pleaded, implored, and practically dragged Aisha along with me (yeah right, she totally came willingly and without hesitation!). Two girls (and Mom) off to Vegas the morning after final exams, definitely a recipe for awesomeness.

Mom and I picked Aisha up mid morning for the 5 and a half hour drive into Vegas. The peak of the drive’s excitement was entering San Bernadino and Fransicquito Road. Of course, the only ones who were excited by that were Aisha and me, but that day was a truly a defining moment for us, so to relive it was a great kick off to the weekend. The rest of the drive was The Aisha and Jenna Sing Along Spectacular! courtesy of “Hairspray”, Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, and a smattering of Adele. Poor Mom. Aisha can sing, but I certainly can’t.

We made it in at around 3 pm, and our first stop was M&M World!

M&M World Wall of M&Ms

I was super excited to re-experience this place that was always a highlight of my childhood Vegas trips, and we only went there because of how much I remember loving it as a kid. But if it’s the same now as it was then, then I must have been an easily amused child.  All it was was 4 floors of every kind of M&M merchandise they could think of. I felt bad for taking Aisha there because it was so awfully lame and we were tired from the drive. M&Ms took away from valuable nap time.

We went to our hotel (The Mirage, my first time staying there) and barely walked in the door when a club promoter gave us coupons for discounted drinks. And remember Aisha was in her boot cast! One would think that two grimy girls, one only a few weeks out of surgery, would not be targets for club promoters, but one would apparently be wrong. After we checked in, we got ready for the evening and headed over to the Venetian to kill some time before seeing Phantom of the Opera.

Venetian

There really isn’t much else to do in Vegas apart from walk around the hotels if you aren’t gambling or clubbing, so that is exactly what we did. And we made a stop in the food court for a snack and leg ice-down (on Aisha’s part with that one).

No weird looks at all…

Phantom was great! Even though it was an abridged version, I think I actually liked it better than when I saw it on the West End.  Some of my favorite songs were cut short though which was unfortunate, but at least the Phantom didn’t crawl around the stage like Gollum. After the show, we went to dinner at the Italian place in the Venetian that my family always eats at. We had a blast “drunk people” watching which can be infinitely more entertaining than “sober people” watching. It makes me really never want to get drunk again though. Especially knowing that we were not the only table watching people, who wants to open themselves up to that? Though I guess Laura and I probably will be when we go to Vegas at the end of the month.

Palazzo

Then we walked over to the Volcano show outside the Mirage. It was cool because I’m a closet pyro, but the heat from the fire was nearly unbearable. On our way back into he hotel, two more promoters stopped us and gave us VIP passes for both of the Mirage’s club/bar lounges, so we figured what the hell, we are only in Vegas together once. We ended up at King Ink (the lounge). $10 cover and unlimited free drinks? Of course it was the cheap drinks like a vodka cranberry or a gin and soda, so not really worth it unless you are really taking advantage of the free alcohol which of course we weren’t. One vodka cranberry each and we were both back in bed, sleeping like babies.

We actually slept in until 9:30, something neither of us have done in I don’t know how long! By the time we finally made it through the madhouse line at Starbucks and over to the Paris Hotel, it was past 10:30. As I said, about one of the only things to do around Vegas is walk around the hotels and window shop. We went from Paris to the Bellagio and then through Caesar’s casino into the Forum Shops. In that casino, we ticked off one more thing in the “typical Vegas experience” checklist: gambling! We each played $5 in a slot machine, and I won $20! And then I immediately cashed out and we moved on to the Forum. We didn’t last long. A bit of walking around and then sushi was all we needed before we were totally ready to go lounge by the pool at the Mirage. We were in massive need of relaxation and sun! Not that getting sun in Vegas is a challenge, but tan lines get really uneven when you are just walking around and although neither of us are all that appearance oriented, anyone from Southern California understands how awful awkward tan lines are.

Now here is where the irony of all ironies came into the weekend. We were lounging, aka baking in the million degree heat, drinking our Pina Coladas and being rained on (just like in the song!) when I found out that I knew one of the cute British guys in the lounge chairs in front of us! He was a fresher at Teddy Hall this last year. He and his brother were traveling though North America with their family. Of all the people and all the places, the coincidence is just incredible. ANd completely awesome. We four hung out for a few hours before we had to get ready for O at the Bellagio (which was absolutely breathtaking and inspired Aisha’s newfound calling for a career once she is out of rehab). Once the show was over, Aisha and I ran or rather hobbled across the street from the Mirage to Harrah’s to buy Bailey’s and joined up with the guys for drinks and the Olympics in their room. We ended up talking and hanging out until 2 am when we left because I had another 5 and a half hour drive home to look forward to in the morning.

Bellagio

It was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend with my dear friend and mom 🙂 The only regret is that there was no tiger in our bathroom at the end of it.

Quick! Call the Doctor!

Somebody take my temperature and get me some Advil because I have Olympic fever! It’s not really surprising since I am a full blown Anglophile and consider England my second home, so I’m kind of bursting with “national pride” as the city I love hosts these games. But I’m taking this year’s Olympic viewing to extreme levels compared to what I normally watch.

Usually the summer games have only three big draws: American swimming, women’s diving, and women’s gymnastics. That makes me seem like I am feminist and American supremacist, but hey during Olympic season we call that nationalism. This year (okay granted it is only three days into them) I have already watched swimming qualifiers and finals, men’s and women’s gymnastics qualifiers including those heats that did not include the USA team, diving, a little bit of volleyball, and the men’s and women’s road races. Seriously, the road races! And those road race coverages are not like snippets of the races interspersed with other events; we are talking four to six straight hours of nonstop cycling through London and Box Hill. I’ve never even heard of this event and yet was so utterly engrossed with my mom and brother trying to figure out the etiquette of cycling and why teams would help out each other and where on earth they came up with the name of peloton for the massive pack of riders behind the leaders. I was actually rooting for the Brits in those races, but watching a 38-year old man win was pretty cool as well.

And don’t even get me started on my swimming and gymnastics obsessions.

I sat here on my couch late last night, trying with all my might to figure out why I suddenly found all of the Olympic events and interviews engrossing. Was it my love of the country and “homesickness” for anything relating to England? Was it a newfound national pride in American athletes? Was it my improved understanding of the sport of gymnastics since my best friend is an Olympic level gymnast? Was it all the giant guys in swimsuits?

Conclusion: It’s finals week.

Yup it’s my last week (hopefully) of UCLA classes, which means two final exams and two presentations and a whole lot of procrastination. Who wouldn’t use the Olympics as an excuse to not stare at information on gladiators or gender psychology? Um no one!

Can I get my finals waived with a doctor’s note for Olympic Fever? Highly dangerous and contagious illness!