On School Spirit and Attending My First Rugby Match

Tailgates in the parking lot, every seat in the bleachers filled with students wearing matching colors, and not a single face in the crowd without a smear of war-paint. 

To me, this is what college game-day is all about. At least, that's what I can see from the snapchats and instagrams of my friends. 

This weekend, I went to my first university sports game here in Edinburgh. I know what you're thinking- it's been a year, and you haven't witnessed one of the most quintessential college experiences ever?  

Every university (whether in America or not) is vastly different in their "sports culture." City-centric schools seem to have little interest in their sports teams, while larger, more campus-oriented schools often take intense pride in their sports. And by "intense" I'm talking an endless sea of bright school colors, massive pre-game parties, and pretty much every student attending the game. 

That time we tried to be super-spirited back in high school.

But see, Edinburgh has two things working against it in terms of school spirit. For one thing, it's located in a big city, so we don't depend on school-sanctioned events to entertain us on the weekends (though sometimes I wish people were more into university events here!). And in another sense, I always have to keep in mind that this simply isn't America. I'd say that as a whole, American's are more into college sports than they are in the UK (or probably even Europe as a whole). I mean, March Madness is literally almost as exciting as any championship for professional sports. It's hard to believe that the players in these high stakes games are my age! 

So, what sports match did I eagerly (hah) watch this weekend? Well, of course it would have to be one of the most typically British sports out there- rugby! The University of Edinburgh was playing St. Andrew's University in two matches (both women's and men's) at Murrayfield- Scotland's largest stadium. I was chatting to the cab driver on my way over to Murrayfield, and he asked me if this was going to be my first rugby match (to which I replied "yes," no doubt). Surprisingly, he said that he had never been to a rugby match before either, as he found the sport too "aggressive." To be quite honest, that's the impression I had prior to watching the game as well. 

Don't know much about rugby? Here's how I'd describe it in a sentence: a bunch of muscular guys in short-shorts throwing the ball backwards and running forwards attempting to score "tries." So clearly I'm not the right person to ask on this subject (but that's what Google searches are for ;) ) 

While I'm no expert on rugby, you better believe that I've been to a fairly decent number of sports games before (both professional and amateur level). I mean, I have three older brothers so if I wasn't attending a sports game, the TV was always tuned to ESPN or NESN on the weekends.

Much like any other sports game, the rugby match consisted of lots of (overpriced) beer, uncomfortable seating, and a few boisterous chants for the home team. 

But what made this match different from a weekend college game back in America? Well, school colors weren't exactly a thing (Edinburgh's are red and blue, but the players wore green because that's the color of our sports union), and the stadium was hardly filled- even for a free game! Murrayfield's capacity is around 67,000, and the venue was far more empty than it was full. Still, the section that we sat in was buzzing with energy, and we all had loads of fun, so that's really all that mattered. 

I actually never envisioned myself going to one of those "rah rah" colleges, even if I had gone to school back in America. While I enjoy sports enough, it's not what I would want to be doing every (or even most) weekends of the semester. But still, I think we all need a little bit of school spirit every now and then- whether it's a packed stadium at a homecoming football game, or an equally excited, but substantially smaller, group of enthusiastic students at a rugby match.     




What's Cookin': The struggles and successes of not having a meal plan

Growing up with a mother who is an incredible cook is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, there was a tasty, home-cooked meal on the dinner table every night. On the other hand, any time I asked if I could cook an entire meal, my mom was hesitant because she always wanted to be the one to make dinner (and make it quickly, for that matter).

It's not like I had never touched a stove prior to coming to university, it's just that I am far more used to getting my hands dirty with the KitchenAid mixer and a pound of butter than I am cooking meat to the right doneness.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to bake. In fact, one of my classmates from freshman year physics remembered me for the remainder of high school as "the girl who makes really good red velvet cupcakes" (of which, I recall, he ate seven of).

I'm literally a walking bake sale.

Unfortunately, I can't live off of cookies, cupcakes, and brownies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (but I sure wish I could!). So where does that leave me? With a flat full of mismatched food items stuffed into a tiny fridge, an electric stove that scares the bejeezus out of me (I'm more used to gas), and a strong affinity for putting an avocado into every dish.

As much as I'd like to think I'm the next Giada De Laurentiis, I most certainly am not. That being said, learning to cook for myself (and sometimes my flatmates) has been a huge learning experience- even after just two weeks.

Fangirling over that one time I met Giada. She even told me my name was "beautiful" (!!!)

What I cook really depends on what I have in the fridge and how much time I have, rather than what I'm really craving. I'm also generally one of those people who likes to follow a recipe to a T, rather than improvising on the fly. But I've definitely had to learn how to trust my culinary instincts more, and how to "make do, and do without" as my mom likes to say.

One of the hardest parts of cooking so far has actually been navigating the grocery stores. At home, I know Whole Foods like the back of my hand. My mom wants me to grab that really specific ingredient, that just has to be a certain brand? I'm on it in about 30 seconds (except, for some reason, I can never find the bag of lemons).

But here in Edinburgh it's different. Because I'm living in a major city that's not in America, the stores are much smaller and the type of food they sell is actually surprisingly different from what I can find in the US. My local Sainsbury's didn't have the light brown sugar that I needed to make Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies the other day, so I panic-texted my mom asking her if I could use demara sugar (which I had never heard of before) instead. While the alternative worked in a pinch, it definitely gave my cookies a crunchier texture and a more "soggy bottom" (as they would say on the Great British Bake Off).

Bake-off innuendo game strong.

So now that you know a little bit about how I've struggled as I learn to cook for myself, I might as well share a few of my relative successes in the kitchen. 

One day I decided to make way too much couscous and ended up eating it with different flavor combinations for basically every meal. Couscous is great because it's a more unusual base for culinary creativity than pasta, but still fills you up. I love to keep feta in the fridge at all times because it takes weeks before it finally goes bad. Cucumbers and tomatoes keep this couscous salad fresh, and a squeeze of lemon on top adds flavor without the countless calories of a store-bought dressing. 

I always complain to my mom when we have pesto at home, because I think it's too boring. But since she sent me over here with a little mason jar filled with her homemade pesto, I've definitely changed my tune. I added a little bit of chicken to this dish for some more protein, and then heated the tomatoes in the oil and butter that the chicken was cooking in to add even more flavor. It was delightful. 

And while having homemade meals seven days a week would be lovely, it's not particularly realistic. Not only are leftovers a constant presence in my life, but there are some nights when I nix cooking all together, break out some bread and cheese, and pop open a bottle of rosé. It may not be fancy or time intensive (especially given that I'm mostly likely drinking a screw-cap bottle of wine), but it certainly does the trick. 



Little Girl, Big Apartment: A Quick Tour of Our New Flat!

We all know that being at University can be tough. Especially when after hours of classes, study sessions, and sports practices all you have to come home to is a lightless room that's about the size of a shoe box. Luckily, I don't have to deal with that lack of comfort (and space!) anymore. 

Even after spending just five days in my new flat, I'm really starting to feel at ease with my surroundings. Of course, there are far more responsibilities that come with living in non-university housing to go along with all the excitement- from cooking dinners on the reg to cleaning the bathrooms. But I'd say that having the freedom to eat what and when I please, and having a room that can fit all of my stuff (and then some) is well worth the work we have to put into maintaining the property. 

For those of you who don't know, I'm currently living in a flat with three other girls in a very student-friendly neighborhood in Edinburgh called Marchmont. If you want to know more about the process we went through when deciding on our flat and its location, you can read about that here.  

Now, onto some photos of our flat!

The second you walk in to our new home, you'll enter a very spacious entry hall with blue and white walls, and massively high ceilings. While I love having a large entryway in the flat, I think some of it is just dead space. 

The next common space in our flat is the living room. While I'm not too crazy about the wall and carpet color combination (seriously- who thought yellow and blue was a good idea?), I think the feel of the space is growing on me as a whole. It's definitely a lot cozier than it was when we originally moved in since we rearranged the furniture. But those couches? I don't think they'll ever grow on me. While the look of them is acceptable, they are the least comfy couches I've ever sat on.  

Our living room also has a fireplace and a TV. But get this- the TV doesn't even work! We don't have a license for it, so we don't get any channels. We're planning on purchasing some cables to be able to hook up our laptops so we can watch Netflix, though. Problem solved!

Our dining table and chairs used to be where the couches currently are and I'm so glad we moved them to this little nook. It makes the dining space very intimate and a lot more homey. And the sunflowers on the table? Courtesy of my mom! I was surprised to see how well the yellow flowers went with the yellow walls- they totally don't clash (at least, in my opinion). 

Now I just had to share this photo that one of my flatmates took of our first proper dinner together. I made a simple pasta alla vodka, and of course we had to break out a bottle of wine. 

This little dinky coffee table is kind of in a random spot in our living room, but it's a great way to display some cute books and magazines! The book on the left was a Christmas gift of mine that has some really beautiful old pictures of Edinburgh in it. 

In my book, the kitchen is an absolutely crucial part of the flat. I love to bake and cook so I end up spending a lot of time in here. My initial impression of the kitchen was that it's very small- but after cooking up a few meals in here, I've found it to be a very manageable space. But let me tell you about the real struggle for a sec: there's no dishwasher or dryer. So not only do we have to wash each individual dish, but our wet clothes need to be dried on drying racks and heaters. You know, I watch enough House Hunters International that I really should've seen this coming. 

And here's a not-so crucial part of our flat: the bathroom. It's nice enough with a rather large shower. But now since we're paying for our own heating and electric, we have to be mindful of how long and hot our showers are. Man, I really miss abusing the shower privileges at halls. 

The last room I'm going to mention in this post is the most important, obviously- my room! Honestly, all of the rooms in this flat are bigger than the one I have at home (I'm the youngest so of course I was stuck with the smallest room in the house). But my room in this flat is absolutely ginormous. And my favorite part? My big bay window! It's just something I've always dreamed about having. The room receives so much light from the window (you know, when it's sunny out about once a week), but it sometimes feels like I don't have much privacy when the curtains are open.  

This is the view out my window, giving you a good idea what the Marchmont area looks like. It seems pretty residential but it's actually full of university students! There are definitely lots of families around as well, so it's a good mix that doesn't get too loud and crazy. The only downside to our location is that our flat is not only right next to a secondary school (meaning there are loud teenagers walking about), but that there's another school building being constructed at the moment.   

I love how much storage my room has. But I especially like having this big glass cabinet to have some stuff stored away but also on display! 

Each of the four bedrooms is fitted with a fireplace. While they're non-functioning fireplaces, I think it's a really nice touch that makes the room very cozy. It's also a great focal point to display pictures! As you can see, not all of my pictures are up yet- I have some pictures that I had printed just before I left being sent to me so they'll be up soon enough!

It's so nice to be able to lay out all of my makeup and jewelry in one place. At home, I don't have this little luxury. Also, storing some of my makeup in mason jars has been an absolute lifesaver! 

The bed is arguably the most important piece of furniture in a college students' life- from Netflix binges to lazy study sessions, we spend a lot of time here. It's really important to me that my bed remind me of home every time I curl up under the blankets, so that's why I like to keep a few special items on it. My Nana made me the "quillow" (a quilt that can be folded up into a pillow) at the foot of my bed before I went off to university, and I decided on the rest of my bedding around what would go with it. These two pillows were both fantastic gifts from my mom- the green butterfly one was from a local store in my hometown, while the 02459 one is a custom pillow from Etsy that features Newton's zip code and seal. 

Before I end this lengthy, photo-heavy post, I'd just like to share a few of my favorite design details of my room! The molding on the ceilings is just stunning, adding instant charm to the room. And the doorknob? Well, I think it's a little bit too ornate for just a college student's room. 

But I guess I can live with it ;)  


I'm Back in Scotland! (And here's what I've been up to...)

One of the many benefits of posting photos on my blog is that, unlike when I post photos to Facebook, I have the luxury of being able to provide both context and a short narrative to each of my photos.  While I essentially could do this with each photo I upload to Facebook, just trust me when I say that would seem to be a bit much.

Anyway, this is my chance to share a few (or a little more than a few) photos from my past four days transitioning back to Scotland with you, my lovely readers.

This was my first time flying from Boston to New York City, and then to Edinburgh. And while the timing of the flights went off without a hitch,  I was a little bit disappointed with the in-flight entertainment (or, really, lack thereof). It was nice to be able to arrive in Edinburgh straight away and go through immigration control there, though!

When we arrived at our hotel at 9AM on Friday, our room was, unfortunately, not ready- and wouldn’t end up being ready until about four hours later. Despite our extreme feeling of jet lag, my parents and I decided to spend some time at the National Museum of Scotland - a beautifully curated museum of both history and culture.

Once our room was ready, we basically slept until dinner. And even though we were still tired, that night’s dinner was definitely something we didn’t want to sleep through! Mother India has to be one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I first went to this Indian tapas-style restaurant with my friends, and from then on I’ve been hooked! The butter chicken and peshwari naan (a sweet, coco-nutty  bread) are addictive!

Our food-adventures continued the next day with a little lunch trip to Peter’s Yard. This Swedish bakery and café features homemade breads and strong coffee. It’s definitely not to be missed if you’re ever in Edinburgh.

Our second day was also my move-in day! The prospect of living in a flat this year- not at all affiliated with the school (meaning no meal plan)- has been very nerve-wracking. But all most of those fears went away when I finally was able to see our flat! It’s absolutely gorgeous and a lot bigger than I remember. I’ll definitely get around to doing a “flat tour” post once we’re all settled in- but for now, here’s a snap of the view from my room!

That night, we indulged in some major pizza cravings at Civerino's- a sourghdough pizza restaurant just off of the Royal Mile. Despite it's location, it definitely didn't have a touristy vibe. The homemade pasta was incredibly fresh, and the frozen aperol cocktail brought me back to being in Italy last summer! 

The next day (my dad's last day in town) was spent exploring Rosslyn Chapel, a very worthwhile site just a short bus trip from the city center. Rosslyn Chapel gained fame from being mentioned in the DaVinci Code novel and featured as a site in the movie by the same name. I've yet to either read the book or see the movie (I was too young when it was popular!), but I still found the interior of the chapel, with it's innumerable stone carvings, to be fascinating. One of my favorite "mysteries" of the chapel is that while the building dates back to the early 15th century, there are carvings of corn on the walls- a crop that supposedly wasn't introduced in Europe until after 1492 when Columbus discovered America. This indicates that perhaps other explorers (namely, Scottish explorers) visited America before Columbus, and imported corn to Europe. It just goes to show that the way history is written in our textbooks isn't always exactly how it played out.

My dad's last night in Edinburgh finished with a lovely dinner at the Scran and Scallie, a Scottish restaurant owned by Tom Kitchin, a world renowned chef. Here, I had partridge for the first time and the three of us enjoyed some traditional, live Scottish music. 

And this brings us to today! My dad left to go back to Boston this morning so he could go back to work, and my mom and I continued on to Oban- a coastal town in Western Scotland. The train ride was about five hours total, however, it went by pretty quickly for me since I slept most of the time! Luckily, I didn't miss all the scenery and was able to snap this picture of some of the picturesque countryside. 

Oban is so stunning. Its quaint characteristics and charm reminds me of a lot of the coastal towns in New England (many of which I visited this summer, hah). No matter where you walk or sit, you're bound to have a striking view of the ocean and mountains. 

My mom and I couldn't resist popping into this chocolate shop we initially walked by on our way to the hotel. I had an iced dark mocha which was out of this world- it basically tasted like a hot chocolate, but cold. 

See? I told you the view was amazing! This is Oban at sunset- it's really fantastic. 

Our night ended with (of course) some more eating. We did some extensive research on which restaurant served the best fish and chips in town. Oban Fish and Chip Shop turned out to be the winner on paper- and it certainly didn't disappoint! The fish was perfectly flaky, and the mushy peas were way better than I anticipated. 

Being back in Scotland has been fantastic so far- from settling into the flat to traveling all the way to Oban. I know that once I get into the swing of things back at the flat in Edinburgh, reality might finally hit me that I actually need to take care of myself (whether it's laundry, all three meals every day, or keeping the bathroom clean). But for now it's all about relaxing and enjoying these last few days with my mom! 

Oh, and relishing the fact that I don't have to pay for anything as long as she's around ;) 

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