Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy St. Andrew's Day!


Oh, the glory of this moment makes the entire month worth it. Is completing MyBloWriMo as good as NaNoWriMo? I like to think if you cram all my posts together, we'd have a REALLY rubbish novela, so I'm down to claim that.

NOW, today is TECHnically Poetry Monday, but I'm going to put it off for a week because the poem I want to share next is special and heartfelt and I don't want its poignant thunder lost in the nonsense parade that is today's post. Between this being the last day of November and also ST ANDREW'S DAY (GUYS IT'S SAINT ANDREW'S DAY), it's a HOLIDAY here!

I am OBViously celebrating St Andrews Day in true Scottish style - haggis is on the menu, a finger of whiskey may find itself swirled in a glass of cut crystal (just kidding, Grampa! I don't have any cut crystal!), and per Wikipedia - which we all know is a good source for facts - we should also take part in a ceilidh and possibly slaughter some animals. Winter is coming, and the Scots know how to ring it in.

Thank you so much for tuning in this past month - each of you that bothered to read all this performed a huge kindness and I can't thank you enough for giving your time to my words.

I look forward to seeing you in a week, and until then

Big hugs and lots of love,

Sunday, November 29, 2015

This should be illegal

OMGYOUGUYS. Only one day left of MyBloWriMo. I can't believe it's nearly over. What on earth will I do with all the freed-up hours come December?? Take up knitting? Read the classics? Start cooking through Hawksmoor at Home? Napping? THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

Speaking of endless possibilities, today I combined two of the best foods of America and Great Britain and made them EVEN BETTER. Biscuits and gravy and sausage rolls have officially gotten married and now we have sausage rolls and gravy to celebrate until the end of days. I wanted to complete their union with actual sausage gravy, courtesy of the suggestion of top chef Jimmy (a sausage roll! covered in sausage gravy!), but I ran out of sausage meat so I made bacon gravy instead. I like to think it's pretty much the same in the sense of delicious pork on top of more delicious pork, so still a win. And it was DELICIOUS. Sinful, and not to be done frequently unless diabeetus is on your to-do list, but DELICIOUS.

Don't judge me for this.

This indulgent breakfast was a requirement after yesterday's incredible Thanksgiving To End All Thanksgivings. There was too much goodness in that room and Wolf and I left there after eight hours absolutely high on life and duck and card games and pie and the joy of meeting new people, all of whom were so interesting that eight hours didn't feel like nearly enough time. Claire knows how to throw a FEAST, youguys. Waking up this morning felt like a call to arms (or at least to sausage and gravy).

After the joy of meat covered in meat, we went to meet the newest member of the Sporting Hackney Football Club. Meet Aurelia, firstborn child of Chris and Maria, a beautiful example of what happens when an Irishman and a Spaniard love each other and decide to make the world a better place: Aurelia is only three weeks old, and she's already propping her chin on her hand like some kind of Old World Philosopher, ready to hear about your problems:
Her eyes. They Know Things.

Between her being teeny and me having Giant Man Hands, this was a photo op begging to happen. I could palm HER ENTIRE HEAD. (Not that I did, Chris and Maria! At least not when you were in the room!)

Time to climb into the couch and call a night a night: the roaring wind outside has quickened our fire, causing the embers to rage and the flames to whip, and it must be appreciated. 

Big hugs and lots of love,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Let's get this day STARTED!

GOOD MORNING, YOUGUYS! Saturday, 9 a.m. here, and absolutely nothing new has happened since I've last seen you so who knows WHAT blog-puke is going to come out today.

So we've got this high-up tiny window in our bathroom that is too small for a curtain but too poorly placed to prevent our back neighbors from being able to see in, and this has caused Wolf some consternation. (I forget it's there; also, I'm shameless.) As a result, I ordered some frosted window film that I will attempt to cut and stick on there today. I'm not handy but I am OCD, so this is both the best and worst task I could ever assign myself. It's got all the elements of the perfect storm: cleaning, measuring, cleaning again, straightening edges, lining things up, cleaning again, getting rid of bubbles/that one random hair that came out of nowhere/dust - then stepping back and seeing it's not perfect and tearing it all down and starting the process over again. There may well be a lot of cursing in our bathroom today, and I am excited about it.

Then of course it will be Casserole Prep Time, then Get on Train with Casserole time, then PARTY WITH CASSEROLE TIME! I'm super good at parties because I am really awkward initially and then as soon as I'm comfortable I lose my filter which makes everybody else awkward and then I try to recover the situation by changing the subject and I'm pretty sure it always works.

Time to win the day!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Friday, November 27, 2015

Nothing black about THIS Friday

HAPPY DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING, YOUGUYS! This day is almost as good as Turkey Day itself. Back in Merka, this was the day Christmas decorations made their way up (versus here, where I think there's a rule - or like a law or something - that Christmas decorations can't go up before the 1st of December), and there's leftover turkey (currently substituted by macaroni and cheese) and if you actually leave the house, it's to go see the release of whatever Christmas blockbuster is much-hyped-about (we've got Netflix so that's sorted).

You know what's even more exciting? Tomorrow we get REAL Thanksgiving, at the home of an expat friend who apparently throws the most NOTORIOUS of Thanksgiving meals. Like the tastiest, most innovative mains and sides EVER. I cannot be more excited. You couldn't cater in the likes of what I've heard she's prepping. I'm sure I will bore you with a million photos of it tomorrow. I'm personally in charge of the green bean casserole, mostly because it's my favourite Thanksgiving side but also because I grew up in a place where most food came out of combinations of cans so I don't shudder when I see the ingredients (for those of you who may not know, it's basically two cans of green beans stirred up with a can of cream of mushroom soup - all American casseroles must include a cream-of-something soup - stirred, then baked with a covering of cheddar and fried onions). I suspect making such a thing would hurt my friend's culinary soul and so I will protect her kitchen integrity and do all the stirring here. I will admit I am making a fresher version - fresh green beans, real mushrooms and cream - but French's fried onions will have to make an appearance and also All That Cheddar. Fresh doesn't have to mean healthy, after all. Where there's a will, there's a way.

I'm going to leave you now with this cosy picture taken from the kitchen window of our French house, back when it was still lush and green. We're going back there in December to see how it looks when it's all dead and brown. Can't wait!

Big hugs and lots of love!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

How to celebrate Thanksgiving on your own

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, YOUGUYS! I am loving this day so far. Thanksgiving may very well be my favourite holiday. It's so HEART-warming. And even though I am celebrating on my own today because everybody else is working, I am doing it in STYLE. I cleared my to-do list of all but the necessities (you don't even want to know what tomorrow's list looks like now) and I am determined to luxuriate and celebrate with glorious slothfulness. I'm going to light the fire, take a bubble bath, read my book, and as a special treat, I think I just may forgo the seventeen kilos of veg clamouring in my fridge and have some macaroni and cheese for lunch. USA! USA!

Ah, who am I kidding? I am buried in gourds, I have to eat one of them. The last thing my Thanksgiving needs is to be tainted by Gourd Guilt . . . Maybe I'll compromise and make a squash mac n cheese, like some combination between this one and this one . . .

Okay, it is HAPpening. Some sort of squash (why so many VARIETIES, England??) is roasting away in the oven while onions caramelise on the stove and soon it will all get put together in a creamy cheesey frenzy. . .YEAH, holiday!

GUYS. My squash mac is done. And it is AMAZING. Just LOOK at this gooey gourdy goodness!

I felt guilty at the lack of greens so I threw in some green chilis and parsley and now it's totally healthy.

Now for my day's gratitude before I leave you to stuff my face and then roll my engorged self into the bath tub:

I'm thankful for having the Wolf.

I'm thankful for good friends and a growing community.

I'm thankful for having enough food, and a sweet home, and a roaring fire, and lots of blankets, and all the cosy things that make winter seem like the warmest season of all.

Big hugs and I hope your day is full of love,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Because Sundays are made for long, happy meals

OMGYOUGUYS. Have you heard of the terrific concept called a Cookbook Club? I first heard about it through my foodie friend Claire, who read about it here. The premise is this: you and your friends pick a cookbook, everyone cooks a dish from it, and then you bring all of it together for a potluck-style meal. Amazing, right??

We had to do it. We chose Ottolenghi's Jerusalem (because obviously) and came together last Sunday for a FEAST. And it was SOMUCHFUNYOUGUYS. Like, there are not words for how wonderful it was. It was good friends, it was being crammed around a folding table set up in our living room, it was gorgeous food, and warmth, and so much laughing and so much eating and then food comas and then the revival that comes with a cheese board and then more food comas and then everyone piling up in our den under blankets and binge-watching Master of None and the whole day was an expression of joy and sharing, a sort of rejoicing in Togetherness, and we had our fill.

So much sharing. So much caring.

And because one can't have a dinner party blog post without the obligatory looking-down-at-table food shot:
From left to right: roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar, hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce, zhoug, and roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs with goat's cheese.

I KNOW. Make them quit.

I'm off to the premier of a documentary tonight - so excited, made by friends, starring friends, what's not to like? - and look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Keepin' it real in London-town

OMGYOUGUYS. You know how if you don't pay attention to something for a while you're like, oh, that's not a thing that's happening any more, problem solved, and then you open your cupboards and there's another chewed up bag and you're like, no, wait, it's definitely still a thing, that didn't go away just because I've been pretending otherwise. That's like my daily journey right now. Denial is by far my best mental handicap, second only to the dementia.

Exciting* day ahead! Going to visit my local library (mostly because my book is due and I couldn't renew it because someone ELSE has reserved it, ugh, what a jerk) and then I'm off to hit accounts in the Deep Dark South of the River, where I NEVER go, because SOUTH OF THE RIVER, and it should be wonderfully freezing and wet so I am really looking forward to it*.

I'm going to pause the post here because I am pretty sure I will have some grim photos of The South to share when I return this evening, and photos of London just make every post shine so I don't want to deprive you of that.

YOUGUYS. I'm back. My time in Clapham was just FULL of all the wet and green and grey I could handle.

One in the afternoon, AGAIN. By three it's like midnight over here. 

General prettiness, because it exists, because Clapham does have really lovely bits.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, and if you have any requests for Things I Should Talk About, feel free to throw them down in the comments! After all, I've got like a WHOLE WEEK LEFT of this madness.

Big hugs and lots of love,


Monday, November 23, 2015

So many reasons to love today

OMGYOUGUYS. I'm currently sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the fire, the washing machine is humming, all the dishes from yesterday's dinner party have been cleaned and put away, and on this cold, cold night, all things conspire toward lovely lovely loveliness. And on top of that, it's POETRY MONDAY!

Today's featured poet is a good friend of mine from back in my San Francisco days, Annelies Zijderveld. She has the gift of knowing the heart and soul of things, and time with her is always fulfilling and bountiful. She also happens to be the author of one of my favourite cookbooks:

It's this one, youguys.

Two of her main loves - food and poetry - come together often in her blog, which you should definitely check out - and also in today's poem. So without further ado...

To the Next Superfood, by Annelies Zijderveld
To whom it may concern
and who has ears to learn,
what passes the test one
day will fall out of favor.
Even now, I try and savor
my name in newsprint,
the widespread popularity,
my far-reaching availability,
and the rich talking points
that come with this gig each day:
high in iron! Vitamin C, A and K!
Carotenoids! Flavonoids! Iron!
I can’t shake that while it’s all true
why you buy me is because I’m “new.”
Ask acai or broccoli, salmon or spinach.
Every superhero has its moment
to be eclipsed by what’s current.
I will still be as valuable when I’m
no longer en vogue. Just look at
my role in the Middle Ages, what
a supplement I played in WW II.
So even when you say you’re through
with my curly green edges or you’ve
tired of crisping me into cheesy chips,
I will keep growing and begin to regale
because nothing not even turmeric
can take on brassica oleracea, the mighty kale!

Isn't that terrific? The wit, the insight, the loving tribute! *happy sigh* She always makes me hungry.

Now I leave you with this photo taken earlier this afternoon at Leadenhall Market, which, like the rest of this glorious country, is in full Christmas Twinkle Delight. The magic, the way the heart skips this time of year in London. (It's probably what makes January such a miserable affair.)

Big hugs and lots of love,

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mavericks Praetorium

OMGYOUGUYS. Best night ever, in the form of friends, food, and all the home comforts associated with such.

That said, last night - in the course of that insane Alice in Wonderland exhibit - Wolf, Hall, Katie and I watched a 3D 'experimental' - read, 'INSANE' - film and the resulting photo from the moment was so perfect I had to dust off my Master Skilz in Photoshop to play with it. So here you are: Wolf and Hall, Maverick Cops:

Great, right?? These guys.

See you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Oh yeahhhhh Saturday. Oh yeahhhhhh.

OMGYOUGUYS. It SNOWED this morning! I SAW it! It was the best ten-minute blizzard ever. Ferocious snow-blasting and then *nothing to see here.* Totally makes being up before 8 almost worth it. Also, is it too early to light the day's fire? I am feeling very primitive, very old world, wanting to make porridge on the cast iron wood-burner's top and pull a woolly wrap around my shoulders and scatter corn for the chickens, disregarding that I have none of these things. I am Ancient, I am standing on England's Rich Green Island, It Has Snowed.

Speaking of ancient, Wolf is on a call right now with a bunch of other business-y types and they're working on an MBA project together and just now they are discussing social media strategy and it's all the lolz. OLD GUYS, AMIRITE. The five seconds they just spent on the topic included the words 'expansion' and 'robust.' Then they quickly returned to the finance sets and supplier networks that they love. DUNZO.

Every time I listen to these guys talk, I realise I could never run my own business. I'd spend all my time working on my 'brand' and no time making actual money. But MAN, how satisfied I'd be with my website's font choice. 'Looking SLICK, champ,' I'd tell myself every day, not even worried about financial viability.

Today is going to be excellent: I'm going to catch up on laundry, get my read on, maybe take a bubble bath, and then tonight Wolf and I are going to join a couple of friends at the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library as part of their Late Night series. It's Fairy Tales and Wonderlands, youguys. FAIRY TALES AND WONDERLANDS. A live Mad Hatter tea! Hand-made book art fascinators! Hidden corners of the Library in which they've created magical immersive tales! EEEEE!

Now if you'll excuse me, it's nearly breakfast time and I should get cracking - this fire isn't going to light itself!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday spirits

HEY CHICKLETS! It is Friday, blessed Friday at long, gorgeous last! My house is a mess, my cardigan is nobbly, and I have a conference call in an hour, but BABIES WE ARE IN THE HOMESTRETCH. When I'm off of that call (my input: 'Sounds good. Yup. Sounds good. No, don't mind me, just eating a cookie. Yup. Sounds good') I'm going to tidy up, move the bags of firewood - currently stacked three deep and neck high in the living room - to the garden shed, boil some cinnamon on the stove so it smells like I've been cooking, then act entirely natural when our visitors arrive at 8, swanning my hand, 'Oh, this old place, it's always like this, thank you for noticing!'

My friend Annelies is doing a month of gratitude and each day on Facebook she posts three things she's thankful for and every time I read them, it makes my heart warm. Conscious gratitude is such a lovely thing. I would like to do something similar today, because there is so much to appreciate:

1. That it's Friday, and there is a weekend ahead with just the right amounts of quiet in and social out.

2. The friendship of a beautiful set of women and a Thursday night together, complete with Chinese takeaway and period dramas involving codpieces, ruffles, and (our) laughter.

3. The first truly cold weekend of the winter ahead, and a warm fireplace to get us through it.

Let's pretend this is our place instead of a lodge in the Argentinian rainforest.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pretty sure it's Thursday

OMGYOUGUYS. I have exactly half an hour to post before I am gone until late tonight - and as we've all seen, late night posts are NOT my strong suit. I have a very exciting day planned - brunch at Borough Market with the ever-fine Anna, an afternoon hitting accounts, an early evening birthday party, and then last but not least, a Tudor Splooshfest with the girls. I am wearing my fuzziest socks in celebration.

And while I am doing all that, my favourite handyman will be here, hammering boards over all the gaps in the backs of the cabinets so that our mouse can't keep getting in them. My sanity is in his hands; the scritching in the walls and the constant sanitising of the cupboards is doing my head in. I hope he nails it. (See what I did there?)

Before I go, here is a picture of the Gherkin from last night. I swear it looks like he's craning to see over the edge of the building:

Lolz, Gherkin. Peek-a-boo!

Big hugs and lots of love to you all, and stay tuned for Friday Shenanigans*!

*In which I have a conference call and then spend the rest of the day cleaning because friends are coming over. You don't want to miss this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On a desert road trip, the Salinas Grandes, and 'adventure travel'

OMGYOUGUYS. It's time for a travel tale. Do youguys remember last winter, when we went to Argentina to visit delightful friends (the ones who sent me that gorgeous diary yesterday) and cruised the countryside for a while? SURELY YOU MUST. Anyway, you may or may not also remember that there was a bit of a gap in content between Cafayate and our return to Buenos Aires. In that time we cruised Salta and Iguazu Falls and things got Super Real. Super Awesome, to be sure, but Real, nonetheless. This was no urban, hipster portion of our holiday, where we ate fancy food and watched dancers do the tango, or cruised vineyards and poolsides and ate our weight in empanadas. No, Salta was none of these things. It was cowboy country, close to the borders of Bolivia and Chile, a gorgeously wild, rocky countryside, full of llamas and gauchos and wool and stew and folk music and grit.

I don't know if you know this, but Wolf and I aren't super gritty.

Our day out of Salta began with a drive north to Purmamarca to see the Cierro de Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colours). We intended from that point on to continue our drive north to Humahuaca to see More Colourful Hills and Rocks before turning around and trekking back south. It would be a long day on the road - about three hours each way - but THOSE VIEWS, right! That LANDSCAPE! IT MUST BE DONE IT IS WHY WE ARE IN SALTA.

It all started according to plan: we made it to Purmamarca by 10:30 in the morning - after a drive through rolling hills covered in fog, very Northern-California - and got to see this:

I'm pretty sure this is where unicorns are born.

Purmamarca was the sweetest little village nestled in the crook of a rainbow: it had a charming market square filled with dusty pottery and llama wool blankets and a whopping total of about five little shops packed with mate gourds, bombillas, and wooden carvings of animals. It was EXACTLY what you wanted it to be.

Taste the rainbow.

Our plan from this point was to make it to Humahuaca by lunch, take some more photos of pretty rocks, maybe take a walk, and then head back to Salta for dinnertime.

It was in the tiny Purmamarca tourism office - if you can call a single room containing nothing but a giant yellowed wall map a tourism office - that our path changed. 'You MUST go to Salinas Grandes,' the tourism-girl/map monitor assured us. 'It is MUCH nicer than Humahuaca. Also closer. Drive is very nice.' We consulted Wall Map, squinted at her one faded brochure from 1994 that showed giant salt plains and a bunch of fluorescent nerds jumping around, looked at Wall Map again, and saw that it was indeed a closer dot. And - unlike Humahuaca - we could loop back to Salta via a local highway so we wouldn't be backtracking and taking the same road up and down the country. All new territory! And halfway through this loop was a town that - going by the size of its dot - was pretty good-size, and the brochure said that tourism buses bound for the Salinas Grandes used this town as its halfway point for a break, and that it also had a train station because it was on the track of the Train to the Clouds or Heavens or whatever. So it must contain at least a charming square of some sort and possibly an empanada or two! Who needs Humahuaca and its dozens of cafes? We're sold. Caution to the wind - me feeling very proud that for once I wasn't following a carefully-planned itinerary, I am so spontaneous and exciting - we hit the road.

And the girl didn't lie: the approach to the Salt Plains was BEAUTIFUL. Mountains and switchbacks and views in every direction:

'Look at those rock formations!' we exclaimed, convinced these were at LEAST as nice as those of Humahuaca, if not BETTER.

'Have you ever SEEN such beauty??' we thrill. 

'Oh yeah. We made the right choice.'

It took us about an hour to get to the Salt Plains, and we are psyched. We got to drive through SO MUCH PRETTINESS and now we're going to see SALT PLAINS. We're thirsty, and starting to feel peckish - it's noon, after all, time for first lunch - so we decide we will pop in to the Salt Plains Visitor Centre and buy a bottle of water and an overpriced cookie or something to tide us over until we get to that Halfway Town.

Except we get there, and there is only this:

Salt Plains, as advertised.

That's okay! How naive of us to assume that all national parks would have visitor centres! This isn't the UK or America, after all. We've travelled the world, we should've known better! And we aren't sissies, we can wait until Halfway Town to eat or drink. We jump around like nerds because the brochure seemed to indicate that was the number one activity here, and then we continue on our Fun Times Road Trip.

We took the car back to a painted arrow we remembered seeing a few minutes before: 101km to San Antonio de los Cobres *that way*. Excellent! In about two hours we'll have a break and a bite. Sure, we hadn't eaten since 7 that morning and now we were looking at two in the afternoon, but a little hunger builds character. WE ARE NOT SISSIES. Onwards!

Things are still looking good as we head back to the arrow. And then: Where is the road?

Is it that dirt track?


We're momentarily alarmed before realising that it must only be dirt for a short time before becoming a normal road again, because Wall Map showed this road as a thick yellow line like all the other roads we had been on before and none of THEM were made out of sand. Let's not worry too much, we must get on with things, lunch awaits and it's this or return to Purmamarca.

We take the turn.

This is what it looks like when donkeys are laughing their *sses off.

We ignored the warning, the hilarity, in his eyes.

We start driving. And driving. This is all we see for the first half hour: 

Eff you, Salt Plain horizon.

And this is all we see for the NEXT THREE HOURS:

At this point, the road is so rough that Alan's struggling to keep our tiny tin-can rental car in our 'lane' (insert delirious laughter here. There are no lanes. There are no other cars). The constantly shifting sand, the buffeting wind, the rocks - everything conspires to push our vehicle into the path of nature. His knuckles are white on the wheel and every time we hear a pebble ping against the side of the car - which is every two seconds - we flinch and regret not taking out the insurance policy, because surely by the end of this, our car will be as pocked as the surface of the moon. We can't roll down the windows, because within seconds the wind pushes so much dirt into the car we are covered head-to-toe in a fine red dust.

Eventually, having driven for over two hours without seeing a single other vehicle, Alan relaxes his grip and gives up and drives down the middle of the road, where the car appears to be (more) content. Any approaching vehicle we'd see coming days in advance. So, you know, bright side?


This is where they bury the bodies of all the tourists who take this road.

And then - finally, finally, oh thank God we've made it - San Antonio de los Cobres! We made it! Civilisation! We made it! There will be water! Food! Gas! WATER WATER OMG WATER WE ARE DYING OF THIRST AND HUNGER WATER. It's now 3:30 in the afternoon, we are low on gas, and it's been over 8 hours since the last time we had anything to eat or drink. Our hanger has led us to bottomless depths of silence and all we can think of is putting ANYthing in our face, ANYthing AT ALL, and not running out of gas because we still have A BILLION MORE KILOMETERS to get to Salta. This was HALFWAY, YOUGUYS. HALFWAY THROUGH THE JOURNEY. But it's a town! Salvation is upon us.


Just let that sink in a minute.

Maybe that's the convenience store?

It is at this point we begin to despair. This was our goal, it's what kept us going through over three hours of driving through a deserted wasteland. We panic in a silent way, because we are too worn down to panic in our usual scream-to-the-gods way, my preferred method of supplication. Our focus narrows immediately. GAS. WE MUST GET GAS. Forget dreams of food and water, forget white-washed churches and leafy town squares, IF WE DON'T GET GAS WE ARE STRANDED HERE. And we are pretty sure the only place to sleep is that graveyard we passed an hour before. 

We drive down the road. We find a dirt track that leads to another gravel road. We drive down that road. There is still nothing. We internally panic some more as the car's tank trickles down. We stop and ask two men walking down the road who are so covered in that pervasive white dirt you can't see the brown skin beneath and their insides must be white and cracked as well, and when we asked them for directions, their Spanish was not my Spanish and we can only understand their gestures and confusion. 

We finally find it: a tank. A man. A hose. GAS. We are so incredibly thankful we don't care that there's no shop attached, still no sustenance. We pass a house with a table in front and there's evidence of a parrilla that smells torturously of roasted meat, but this semblance of a place that sells food is already shut, they shut at three. Our Spanish is not your Spanish, so we cannot feed you, we are shut, you see our gestures? 

We get back on the road. We're slightly less terrified than before - at least now we have a full tank so we can die farther down the road - but now we are hell-bent on getting back to Salta. 

The road is still rough, but it's smoother, it's cleaner, we are moving faster, scenery is rising again: 

What is beauty in the face of the end of times? 


And then youguys, it happened. THE ROAD BECAME PAVED.

THE ROAD BECAME PAVED! You would not believe our shrieks of joy, the way we bounced in our seats and attempted the radio again and then gave up and sang our own songs. It didn't matter that we still had two hours of driving ahead of us, that we are now going on ten hours with no food or water. IT WAS PAVED, YOUGUYS.

You wouldn't believe how quickly two hours can pass when you can drive at a million miles per hour without swerving off a dirt path. As soon as we got back to Salta, we squealed to a halt in front of the first street food vendor we saw, not caring what he was selling, how authentic or local or charming it was, whether it had been reviewed by Tripadvisor or Yelp or Travel & Leisure, and we ate the best cheeseburgers of our lives and drank cokes so fast we nearly choked. Propped up on his stools, shovelling it all in, crusty and wild-eyed, the guy must've thought that we were absolutely insane.

We were. INSANE FOR THIS BURGER. I'm pretty sure my hand was trembling in this photo.

Eventually we made it back to our tiny hotel and showered and went out to Real Dinner - because OBVIOUSLY I still had a plan and a list of places we had to eat and no Burger Starter was going to stop that - before we at long last stumbled back to our room. We slept for ten straight hours that night, as heavily as the dead buried in the middle of the God-forsaken Argentinian desert.

The next day: Iguazu Falls. AKA 'Water.' It had better be good.

Big hugs and lots of love,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Charming, London

OMGYOUGUYS. I don't know if you know this, but London goes bonkers at Christmas time. And unlike in the U.S. of A., they don't have Thanksgiving as a buffer so they can pretty much start setting the mood immediately after Guy Fawkes. A lot of it may be practical - the twinkly lights strung over the streets certainly help you see your way when the sun starts to set in the middle of the afternoon - but I'm convinced a good amount is just sheer love of celebration and things that make you feel warm as the darkness sets earlier and earlier.

After all, this photo was taken at 1:15 this afternoon:

Who needs the sun when you have neon?

Or tinfoil stars?

Or Europeans ignoring GIANT DISCO BALLS?

This street wasn't even trying to be creative about it. I can hear the installation guy now: 'Giant light bulbs? Like Christmas tree baubles? Or glass balloons?' 'No. Just giant light bulbs.' 

I got to cover this gorgeous turf with a simpatica girlfriend who has the same job I do, and we spent a significant portion of our time gazing into the illuminated windows of perfumeries and woolly-clothing-shops as the rain drenched us thoroughly.

 I can't imagine why I've had the same head cold for three straight weeks.

And then I get home, three short, ram-packed rush hour trains later, and there's this waiting for me, sent all the way from Buenos Aires from one of my favourite people on this earth:


YOUGUYS LOOK WHAT WAS INSIDE. Vik DESIGNED this. She ILLUSTRATED it. She CREATED it. This beautiful, beautiful diary that I cannot wait to use:

Honestly, she's so gifted I don't even know why we're friends.

I should go now - I've got leek and potato soup coming up for dinner and it's not going to puree itself - but lots of holiday affection to you, and see you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,