When you’re a blonde flying solo abroad

29 Dec

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img_1096It’s pretty poor travelogue form to document a trip four-ish months late. But, my blonde moments within a European context cannot go unpublished! Graduate school afforded me the opportunity to give a talk at the 2016 International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) conference in Dublin, Ireland. I couldn’t resist using all free moments to sight see, the highlights of which pursuit included a musical pub crawl, a bus trip to Malahide Castle, a walk through Christ Church Cathedral and, the ultimate, a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. You can probably do some google research on your own to figure out the gist of each of these activities. And besides, I wouldn’t want to spoil your next visit to Dublin with TMI on some of its finest attractions. So instead, I’ll share with you what should have been an unremarkable (exempting the terrible plumbing) stay at Trinity College’s dormitories. That is, everyone was having a perfectly ordinary time, until I nearly burnt down my dorm and possibly the connecting buildings.

After conferencing in the morning, I had purchased a sandwich from SPAR, that img_1075Dutch,  quasi 7-Eleven-meets-Whole-Foods which has permeated most of Europe. The bread was a bit grainy, and so I decided to toast the sandwich in the kitchenette’s oven upon returning to my dorm lodgings. I’ve never gotten the hang of degrees Celsius, despite being surrounded by international students for nearly the past two years, and must have left that sandwich to really swelter. When I returned to the kitchenette to retrieve said sandwich, having accidentally gotten caught-up in excessive phone checking and thumb twiddling, opening the oven yielded a blinding fog of smoke. It stung my eyes to the point that I could not keep them open. And, of course, the fire alarm started blaring, at a seemingly much louder volume than do fire alarms go off at in the states. Everyone was forced outside, from both my building and the surrounding ones. There was a daycare on the floor below me, and clusters of cowering children and their less anxious teachers also streamed onto the sidewalk. I was ashamed and guilt-ridden, to say the least. Two security guards reported to the crime scene, and I immediately confessed to being the culprit.

I was sure of a fine. I mean, in Ireland it could cost you 150 euros just for littering a measly wad of chewing gum. Much to my surprise and relief, however, both security guards were utterly unbothered and found the situation hilarious. They merely needed to report the incident, no charges would be pressed!  One guard, in his thick brogue, offered me cooking lessons with Gordon Ramsey, and suggested I can the ‘wich and instead grab lunch at a nearby restaurant.

img_1061Oh, there’s so much more I’d like to say, to remember, to ponder about my trip. It’s so freeing to be elsewhere, to temporarily suspend everyday life’s responsibilities and rhythms. Here’s to Ed, the bus tour guide who cautioned us tourists ‘not to wave to the locals; it will only encourage them.’ And to the guitarist and banjo player who led me through Temple Bar and did justice to ‘Danny Boy.’ To all the bald men, especially the ones who call you ‘love,’ to the unflappable security guards, the well-versed tour guides, and to Arthur Guinness for bestowing on Ireland a deep source of national pride. To the fierce elbowing that substituted for ‘excuse me’ when pushing through crowds; and to Nespresso instant coffee, and beautifully tiled cathedral floors, and visually stunning brewery museums. To finding the ‘Dolan’ crest, and getting hopelessly lost on Grafton and Nassau Street, and maybe on Grand Canal Pl, too. Thank you, Dublin, for your beauty and grace, intertwined with that stiff upper lip.

If you’ll recall, I began the year with oatmeal recipes. So why not bookend it with more of the same? My new oatmeal kick is detailed below, and features canned pumpkin and egg whites (protein!!!). 2016, you will be missed.

PUMPKIN SPICE OATMEAL

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 serving):

1/3 cup rolled oats

dash of cinnamon

dash of salt

dash of vanilla

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

3 Tbs. egg whites

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1 Tbs. raisins

1-2 packets Equal or other artificial sweetener

DIRECTIONS: Combine oats with 1/2 to 1 cup water. Microwave for 1.5-2 minutes. Remove from microwave; add cinnamon, salt, vanilla, pumpkin, egg whites, and milk. Microwave for an additional 1.5-2 minutes. Be careful to not let oatmeal mixture bubble over/explode out of the bowl (this has happened to me more times than I care to remember). Finally, incorporate the raisins and Equal or artificial sweetener of your choice, to the sweetness level desired. Enjoy!

CALORIES: 210

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