a wednesday

weather: cloudy with a threat of rain
alertness: on the precipice of emerging out of jetlaggy haze
agenda: hang out, eat well, be amused, and learn new tricks

yesterday was spent largely in the company of my aunt and uncle who live just outside of the city. i dare not call it a suburb for fear of evoking images of sprawl, vast amounts of ill-used space, strip malls, and an endless supply of sport utility vehicles. no, this is a lovely little town where they have lived for close to 40 years, in the same house, which was just an image in a photograph for most of my childhood. (another favorite photo featured by older cousin dressed in his school uniform, which included bright red knee socks, standing begrudgingly next to the front door.)

my aunt met us at one of the gates to kew gardens, the well known botanical gardens just a stone’s throw from their home. thus our visit began with a walk and conversation and occasional discussion about various types of holly — was i the only one who assumed all holly was the same? — and the installation of the japanese garden a decade earlier and a few choice bits about the history of the gardens. we spoke about our respective experiences returning to french class after significant time had passed since our introductions to the language; this among the various other things we discussed stood out to me as a hallmark of what it means to continue to live and be present in the world. both my aunt and uncle are retired for more than a few years now and they lead lives that, to the occasional observer, are full of experiences in which they continue to place themselves as learner. and perhaps this is key.

the rest of the day progressed much like most other days i’ve spent with them. afternoon tea and homemade german pastries, talking for hours around the table — in the summer it might have been some snacks alongside a pimms and peach nectar cocktail, my uncle’s specialty, while seated outside in my aunt’s meticulous (but unfussy) garden — followed by a tour of their recent travels as told through the informative yet uncluttered photobooks that my aunt creates after each trip, then more conversation, some dinner prep, and then more conversation over dinner. while there, i snapped this photo of a painting that hangs near the entrance to their kitchen that captured much of what i feel when i’m visiting their home, and even just in their presence — unhurried but purposeful:

i also learned the following two food tricks:
a) you can cook rice from scratch in the microwave. again, am i the only one who didn’t know this? either way, good news for me because i have yet to figure out the indecipherable cooktop in my micro-kitchen (exhibit a below)

b) a simple pumpkin sautee (with some tomatoes — canned or fresh — popped mustard seeds, green chilies, and a handful of spices) that is easily frozen can be transformed, upon defrosting on the stove in a saucepan over low heat, into a saucy concoction that can accompany rice and various other grains with the smallest addition of yogurt.  (i definitely need to tell my friend at little brooklyn kitchen about these choice tips!)

unhurried but purposeful. to aim for that will be my goal these next few months, and longer if i can remember to remember.

while you were sleeping

jet lag is a strange thing. your body fights it, tries to trick its power, and ultimately falls hard under its spell. the result: walking zombies. in this zombie-like state, attempting to ward off Jette Lag — likened in my mind to a nefariously comical villain from an 80s-style spy movie — we went on a stroll last night that took us to the the south bank via the waterloo bridge. the video below was taken at dusk, as the busy london workforce rushed over the bridge to one or other tube stop. just behind the bridge to the southeast, is the ever-turning london eye all lit up in electric blue.

after a bit more walking and overuse of the tube daily travelcard purchased by mistake — and therefore one must get full use of it, even if it is just to go one tube stop while fully absorbed by the human crush that is london rush hour — the penultimate stop on this delay-JL walk was the nearby Sainsbury’s supermarket; not a Sainsbury super as the internet had promised, but just a Sainbury’s local. the plastic, blue shopping basket was full of an inexplicable collection of odds and ends including frozen meals created by the Quorn company* — fantastic news for a soy-free vegetarian! at the self-checkout the computer politely asked if we would like to register our Nectar card. what is this Nectar card, so full of the promise of untold bounties and joy — implied, perhaps, by the very word nectar. a store helper heard me muse this out loud and asked whether i’d like to join this “national loyalty program” and not being one to shy away from a program that accrues points for purchases i’d make anyway (case in point: my love of fatwallet.com), i agreed, we swiped, and we were on our way!

nectar card info packet

the evening was a blur that included a simple but surprisingly delicious meal (me: green salad with steamed broccoli and roasted cashews and the Quorn tikka masala and basmati rice). prepared, by the way, in the micro-flat’s micro-kitchen that is par for the course in london abodes — well, maybe not quite so micro. more flat pics to be unveiled as time passes (and as i find clever ways to photograph its unique features).

the micro-kitchen - a model of efficiency

post-dinner: setting up a temporary, unlocked mobile phone and taking in some BBC news before passing out at a respectable 8:00pm local time.

all in all, not a bad way to start getting situated in this town. today’s mission (other than finishing up a few lingering Stateside todos): take the long, meandering, city-exploring walk i usually like to do upon first arriving in a new place, regardless of how familiar it already is. it’s my way of getting a lay of the land so that i end my map-reliance sooner rather than later. and of course, find a good cafe or two 😉

*in the States, a completely different and much more limited assortment of Quorn products can be found in select grocery stores.