Mrs A

No country British home is complete without its Mrs A. She cooks, helps with the laundry, and—most importantly my first few days here—keeps everyone warm.

“You just don’t see these in the States,” I said my first day, cozying up to her with a cup of tea.
“Not even in the countryside?” the other WWOOFer here asked, aghast.

Alas, no. My friends, allow me to introduce Mrs A.

(A is for Aga.)

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Trial By Fire

Clearly by my last post, you all know I certainly felt in over my head upon arrival. And it was undoubtedly difficult, especially as someone who doesn’t know how to pace herself or when to quit. I had also forgotten I can experience things like homesickness and loneliness, for all my big talk about about traveling solo. Despite all that, after getting to know my host and hostess better—and realizing just how kind they are—I’ve hit my pace and am well-poised to enjoy the rest of this experience.

And what an experience it is! The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Fest is taking place this weekend, and my hostess and I went to a ceilidh to celebrate. I feel like Lydia Bennet when I say I danced every dance!

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Observations Along the Mon

Today, my BeFF went to Pittsburgh to pick up a new saxophone, and she invited me to tag along. I was up for a trip, and she has the Hamilton soundtrack, so I took her up on the offer.

This isn’t a narrative, just a few oddities and curiosities I snapped on my phone while we were out along the Monongahela. Enjoy.

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Hey readers, I’ve been up to the usual since last writing—prepping my packing list, giving my bike its spring checkup, surprising my brother on his birthday, and teaching friends how to knit—but today I have one simple thing to share:

This is my lunch today, and it is amazing. Eating healthy is a blast.

What’s in it?

  • Romaine
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Red pepper
  • Black beans
  • Shredded cheddar
  • Cilantro
  • Salsa

Excuse me; I need to get back to this.

3/13/2016 Update: I more or less followed this recipe on PopSugar, but instead of making the cilantro-lime dressing (which I’ve had before, and which is amazing), I decided to use some Trader Joe’s salsa hanging out in my cabinet. Both versions are delicious and beautiful!



Field Trip to Asia

Back when I lived in Madison, I drove past several Asian grocery stores on my way home from work each day, and thanks to friends in the know, I got hooked on certain products from their mysterious and inviting shelves. I thought I’d be fine when I moved back to PA, but no. Inevitably, I began feeling the need for sweet red bean paste, citron tea, and glutinous rice flour, none of which are available in my little town.


Enter Penn State University. Thanks to the international student body, the town of State College can sustain several Asian grocery stores, and on Monday, I took a field trip to stock up on supplies.

At first I thought I wanted to go by myself, and then I started to picture my grandma in these stores and invited her to come along. At 90 years old, my grandma loves grocery shopping, and she was thrilled to join me and my mom for an all-new grocery store experience.

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Making Myself Hungry (more recipes!)

My BFF recently shared this conversation between herself and her 4-year-old daughter, E:

BFF: We’re having stir fry tonight.
E: Did you learn it from Aunt Becca?
BFF: No, why?
E: Well, you learn a lot from her.

E, I promise I’ve learned more from your mom than she has from me, but get ready for a few more Aunt Becca inspirations. Maybe I haven’t been writing about food lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating it. And despite all this, I have also been losing weight, albeit far, far more slowly than I was before autumn arrived and, with it, my taste for warm, heavy foods full of cheese (the other food of my people).

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Wining, Whining, Garlic, and a Head Cold

Mom: Man, I haven’t had a grape pie from Naples in a while, and now is the season for them.
Me: Let’s go to Naples next week and get a pie.
Mom: I have to stop saying these things.

And that’s how we ended up going to Naples, NY, for a grape pie.

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Somerset Mountain Craft Days

I’ve been hearing about Mountain Craft Days for years. My BeFF‘s family has a long-standing joke about how the event doesn’t actually exist, thanks to her mom driving the kids around for hours trying to find it a few years in a row. With that background going through my head, I was sure I’d have trouble finding it, but the signage was excellent and I made it in good time.

I’m gonna interrupt myself here to say how much I missed driving these mountain roads when I was living in Wisconsin! It’s so cool to have your ears popping when driving up and down steep hills—a sensation I’ve until recently only been able to experience in an airplane. What a great aspect of the state!

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Local Travels

Get excited, people! I’m going to the Somerset County Mountain Craft Days this weekend! Don’t let the photo on the homepage of the bonnetted lady fool you—well, actually, that’s exactly what it’ll be like. So it’s lucky for me that I like learning about how they did things in Ye Olde Pennsylvania.

But primarily, I’m just excited to see local artisans and craftspeople. It was at this time last year that my mom met her bobbin lace teacher, and as an avid knitter, I love to browse the local fare. My mom says there are metalworks, too, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love watching an ironsmith make sparks on an anvil?

I’ll let you know what it’s like once I’ve gone, but this is the first real travely thing I’ve done since driving here from Wisconsin. Rest assured: I have a few more things planned over the next few weeks and will be sure to post about them as they go.

In health news: I’m two pounds and one inch down over the past two weeks! We had a rainstorm last night that’s really made the temperature drop, so I’ve upped my hot tea consumption. Some might call it an addiction. When can I get back to Scotland? 🙂


Getting Fishy

I love bread.

One of the best things about learning German was that I got to go to Germany where they love bread. In German Cooking, by Marianna Olszeweska Heberle, she writes:

A woman is leaning over her backyard fence, discussing her son’s career choice with a neighbor. “Well,” she says, “Manfred just couldn’t pass his baker’s exams, so he’s taking up brain surgery.”

While she admits it’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s still true that Germans love bread.

It’s so obvious I’m German.

And so obvious that Wisconsin is peopled with expat Germans. In my 3 1/2 years there, I got to the point when some sort of bread was the focus of every meal. Bread, crackers, Panera Rapid Pick-Up, pasta, desserts—you name it, I probably craved it. And consequently overate it.

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