Afternoon Tea at the Ritz

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While my parents were in town last week, we decided to do Afternoon Tea in style. I don’t just mean because the Ritz is a pretty fancy place; they also have a dress code. No one can wear sneakers, and men are expected to wear a jacket and a tie. Which meant a quick shopping trip before making it to our reservation. Once there, I did ask, and the cloakroom is used to lending out ties, jackets and shoes to people who don’t fit the dress code. So don’t worry, they won’t turn you away πŸ™‚


We were let in a little early, and got to choosing our teas. My dad took the green tea, since he only likes tea to dip PB & J sandwiches into, my mom chose lemon verbena, and I went with Darjeeling First Flush. Everyone was very happy with their choices!

We almost immediately got the 3 tiered plate with sandwiches at the bottom, desserts at the top, and an empty middle. Our waiter gave us a description of everything that he’d put in front of us, and then we dug in.
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We each got one of each of the sandwiches, and it was assumed that they would be bringing us more. (as in we didn’t have to ask, they just told us they were going to get us more). All were delicious, even the ones I thought I wouldn’t like so much, like the ham (they paired it with dijon mustard, which won me over). From left to right, you have cheddar cheese and chutney, which was so good, but the tomatoe bread was the best out of all the sandwiches, then the smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber with cream cheese and dill, chicken, egg and then ham. We ate every last one of the first round, as well as the refills.
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The scones arrived just as we were about to start on desserts. My mom loved them, but my dad and I, who actually prefer the taste of brown bread with a bunch of seeds in it, weren’t crazy about them. I mean, they were really good, but just not the best that I’ve had here in London.
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Finally, the desserts. Which were surprising, because the one I thought I wouldn’t like and didn’t even really want to try was actually my favorite. We got refills, even though we said no, because one of us hesitated. There were lemon macaroons, orange and raspberry things, a coconut hazelnut white chocolate thing, and then the chocolate and coffee pastry in the middle, which was by far the most delicious. The cream inside was heavenly!
Finally, we were offered a piece of one of the cakes from the trolley, but we were all much too full, so we went home, stuffed and happy πŸ™‚

Hotel Cafe Royal ~ Oscar Wilde Style

Yesterday, we had another little midday break in our scheduling, so Molly and I ventured to the Hotel Cafe Royal for an afternoon tea in the Oscar Wilde Bar.
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First of all, the room is absolutely gorgeous, with the mirrors reflecting all the gold and making it all the more impressive. Not to mention the pianist who not only serenaded us with Disney, movie and musical tunes, he also took requests from Molly πŸ™‚


Upon the waitress’ and Molly’s urging, I did not take the masculine, Oscar tea, but I did take the golden one, inspired by the details of the room’s ceiling. I forget the name and didn’t actually see any pieces of gold, but it was delicious, even without sugar.
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Our first tray that came out was full of interesting sandwiches. We started at the top and made our way down, beginning with the goat’s cheese and Gruyere muffin. The tube contains tomato juice, that we injected into the muffin. I am not a fan of goat’s cheese or tomato juice, but I still tried it, and ended up finishing it, so pretty good. Next, we had the traditional cucumber and cream cheese, this time on a red bread, and with possibly chives inside. The onion-y taste wasn’t overwhelming, and the sandwich was too good to give up on.
The second level had prawn salad in a bun, followed by a sort of hard cheesy crust thing with smoked salmon and a quail egg on top. The salmon with the egg was absolutely delicious, and reminded me of the white egg sauce my grandmother makes sometimes when we have salmon. The bottom layer had the traditional coronation chicken, which was excellent, as always, and an onion wellington thing, that I let Molly have. I assume it was very tasty, because she was really happy that I don’t like onions, and would have asked for more if she wasn’t so full.
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We next got a palate cleanser, of a lovely fruit juice, paired with the most delectable little cookie.

Finally, we got the scones and the dessert tray at the same time. We both opted to eat the scones first, with clotted cream and incredibly drippy jam. It tasted wonderful, but looks slightly awkward in pictures.

For the desserts, we had a lollipop with a hazelnut chocolate cream inside, and a vanilla sponge cake on the top layer. Molly told me she wished there had been more filling, so I put some lemon curd between the slices and had the filling pouring out with each bite. The paper on the lollipops was edible, we were told, so Molly and I bit right into it πŸ™‚

The middle layer housed the checkered fondant wrapped cake piece, which is traditional for teas, and I absolutely love, as well as the cherry flavored macaroon, complete with Hotel Cafe Royal underground logo. Not the best macaroon I’ve ever had, but it gets all the points back for style!
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The bottom layer had an orange layered cake thing which was surprisingly good, since I wasn’t looking forward to the orange, as well as a raspberry treat. The gelatinous part likes to come free, so bite slowly. Its worth it.
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Intermittently throughout the meal, we got to converse with a toastmaster who was in the Royal NAVY, and had been to both Montreal and California. He could also recite some Oscar Wilde, and was a pleasure to talk to.
It was a the perfect way to spend a long lunch, with a beautiful setting, yummy food, incredibly friendly staff, and I definitely hope to go back πŸ™‚
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Mad Hatter Tea Party @ The Sanderson

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Monday was dance night here at LAMDA, so other than a couple of rehearsals scattered throughout the day, we mostly had the day off. We took advantage by rehearsing our scenes and dances for the performances on Thursday, but I also invited a few friends to join me for a Mad Hatter Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel.


Since the tea was Alice in Wonderland themed, all of the napkins had riddles on them, the menu was tucked away in a book, and the sugar came in this super cute ballerina music box, that actually played music every time Sydney opened it to get some sugar.

The tea selections came in little vials, with names relating to the story, such as the Queen of Hearts, White Rabbit, or Alice, which is what the 3 of us opted for.

The sandwiches were very interesting, but surprisingly delicious. Some were different takes on the classics, such as cream cheese and cucumber on lime bread or marinated vegetables, but others were completely new to me, such as avocado puree in an ice cream cone, or a scotch egg wrapped in salmon and caviar. There was also a croque monsieur (basically a grilled cheese) and a crab salad bun.

The desserts are where it really got fun, as everything was so whimsically themed. There was a carrot growing in the grass on top, surrounded by marshmallow mushrooms and tootsie roll caterpillars. On the middle level, there was a coffee flavored pocket watch macaroon, a chocolate queen of hearts soldier, a banana bread butterfly muffin and a red velvet/almond lady bug. Then the bottom level held the scones with clotted cream and jam, as well as the drink me potion, in this case, a mango smoothie, I believe.

We thought we were done after we got the cocktails, which Amy and I both gave to Sydney, but they came and brought us garden pots, that were actually passion fruit ice cream, covered in chocolate dust and honeycombs. Absolutely delicious!

Stratford-Upon-Avon

Last week, everyone in my semester program spent 3 days getting close to Shakespeare. We did have a short workshop I mentioned in my last post, but most of our time was spent being tourists, which included a lot of food πŸ™‚


When we first got there, we went for lunch at Hobson’s Patisserie. The mac and cheese was calling my name, but I still indulged in a scone with clotted cream and jam. We only took the large ones, because if you take the giant scone, it is at least 10 inches high. The kind of thing you have when you’re not also having pasta.
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Next, we checked into the Falcon Hotel, which was beautiful, and has a bath! I definitely took advantage of that πŸ˜‰
Breakfast and supper was included with our stay, so after eating at the hotel, we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It is one of the Shakespeare plays I have actually read, and I am working on a Helena monologue in class, so it was really exciting to see it live and off the page πŸ™‚
At night, you have to go to the Dirty Duck, a nice pub where you can mingle with the actors you were just wowed by on stage.

On Thursday, we had a tour of Stratford, including the cottage that Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife) grew up in, and the house where Shakespeare was born. The birthplace had an actor, David, who just hung out in a room or in the yard, reciting Shakespeare monologues to us all day. I heard 3 of them, and it was quite impressive.
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We had free times after the tour, so we went to Quickly’s for lunch, followed by a milkshake at Blue Cow. It was probably….or definitely too cold for a milkshake, but it was delicious nonetheless.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the water and visiting Shakespeare’s grave before going to see Dr. Faustus. I didn’t know the story going in, and I am definitely in the minority for saying it wasn’t my favorite play. However, the performances were incredible, and my mind is blown at the fact that at the beginning of every show, the 2 leads come on stage and each light a match, that determines who will play which character based on whose match goes out first. Not only can they play both parts seamlessly, but they go on stage each night not knowing which part they are going to play. Absolutely amazing. Also, there is a girl whose body is art (in the wise words of Elizabeth).

On Friday, we left Stratford and headed to Warwick Castle, which was super exciting for me, because I love all of the Philippa Gregory books and although they don’t really take place there, I still know that the Sons of York grew up there with Anne and Isobel Neville, under the watchful eye of the Kingmaker. It was worth a visit for the history, but also for the beautiful views, both inside and out of the castle. You even get to mingle with the wildlife, that struts around like it owns the place πŸ˜‰

We had a little time left over for lunch, so after checking out a couple of menus, Molly and I decided on the Oken Tea Room. Afternoon tea (without cakes) was about the same price as a cream tea normally costs, and it came with crisps (chips) and a salad. Not to mention the sandwich was huge and everything I had been hoping for, as were the scones. And the clotted cream. Basically, the food was delicious, and the staff was also super nice. I definitely recommend it, and all you have to do is follow the signs πŸ™‚

Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel

The afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel not only looked spectacular during my research, it was also the one place that was consistently recommended to me, no matter who I talked to. Lucky for Molly and me, it did not disappoint πŸ™‚
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I got there early and was brought to our table to wait. I didn’t even have to ask for the comfy chairs by the fireplace, to warm my hands and bones until I could order my tea.
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I ordered the Brown’s Morning Blend, and it was delicious. At the end of the meal, we also got a little package each to take home πŸ™‚
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When the food trays arrived, there were 2 plates of sandwiches, with a plate of 5 different desserts on top. I would have been worried about the lack of scones and not getting to try everything again, but our waiter quickly explained that scones would come once we finished the sandwiches, and that everything would be replenished as frequently as we wanted. He also gave a description of everything we had in front of us.
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I love it when all of the sandwiches have their own special bread, like in this case. I have no idea what any of them are called, but the coronation chicken was on a kind of bagel, the smoked salmon and cucumber was on a really dark colored bread, the cheese, tomatoe and chutney had a seedy bread, and the egg and paprika was on plain white bread. The last one was a kind of ham with coleslaw, but there was maybe an onion or something in the coleslaw, so I didn’t have it. All the other sandwiches were absolutely amazing. We did get another plate of sandwiches, that we shared, then got a couple extra coronation chickens for good measure. And when I said that they would replenish everything as much as we wanted, I don’t mean that we ask and they bring. For the first plates of sandwiches and scones, it was the waiter or waitress bringing them before we had even decided we wanted more.
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The scones were slightly smaller than at other teas, but they were sooo warm and flaky and buttery and delicious. They also kept on coming, so their small size was the perfect excuse to just have one more. As always, we covered them with clotted cream and the hotel’s homemade strawberry jam, which I like to convince myself was healthier. I was too full at the end, but otherwise, I might have just taken the spoon and eaten the rest of the jam by itself.
As for the desserts, we didn’t get a second plate, since we were too full for it to be worthwhile, so I didn’t get to try everything. Everything that I did try though, was sublime. The raspberry puff thing had an actual raspberry in the middle, and I think it tasted like roses too. The macaron had a hard shell and soft interior, just the way I like it. The mango coconut square was the perfect mix, and the one thing on the plate I didn’t think I would like turned out to be a ferrero rocher halzelnut square thing, so obviously delicious. And Molly says the apple dessert was like a sweet apple sauce in cake form. I might have to bring my mom when she comes and pace myself through the sandwiches so I actually have room for dessert πŸ™‚


This probably doesn’t sound so great, but I felt feeling stuffed, like I couldn’t possibly have another bite, which is exactly what I like in an afternoon tea. Not only did they not make us feel awkward for wanting more, I think they would have kept on bringing more food indefinitely. And the setting was so beautiful, the fireplace so warm, the chairs so comfy, that I would go just to hang out there for an afternoon. The pianist played some songs that I actually knew, as well as a song from Phantom of the Opera, which made Molly really happy. Would definitely want to come back, and will be recommending it to anyone looking for a good afternoon tea in London πŸ™‚
 

Adieu French King

I can’t believe today is the last day of January. I am already done my fourth week in London, which is crazy!
On Monday, Debbie had us working on our monologues, and she saw me standing there with my arms crossed, so she told me to stand more open, and to take up more space. Harder said than done for someone who tries to take up the least amount of space and go unnoticed most of the time, but I was determined to try.
In stage combat, after we spent most of the class practicing what we had learnt and adding more things to it, we were asked to do the routine in front of the rest of the class. We did it twice and me and my partner went second both times, partially to get it over with, partially to …yep, mostly to get it over with. But part of me hopes that volunteering to do something like that before we are told we have to kind of shows it we’re not afraid of it, right?


Monday night was Burns Night, which my grandmother had told me she used to celebrate, and they would have haggis and everything, so I dragged Sydney and Kailea to the Island Grill with me where we had the Burns Night Menu. I had haggis croquettes, to show my grandmother, who later told me that she doesn’t think she actually likes haggis. The risotto was absolutely delicious, with butternut squash, and they let us switch the blue cheese for aged cheddar, which was perfect. My favorite part, however, was the dessert, which I forgot to take a picture of before devouring. It had cake and a warm sauce and ice cream and honeycomb and pistachios and it all blended together to be amazingly delicious. I plan on going back and ordering it again under the guise of getting a picture to show you, but I can’t promise I won’t eat it before remembering to take a picture next time too.
Wednesday we had our songs, both verses, which I think went well. I definitely improved, at least on pitch, which greatly surprised our teacher. He was also intrigued to learn that I was more familiar and comfortable with film, since my performance made people feel things, but was way too small for the stage. The next song he gives me will challenge me to adapt and be bigger for the stage.
That afternoon, we had a masterclass on Restoration/Comedy of Manners, which was really interesting, because I didn’t really know much about them. It also finished early, which meant Molly and I were able to push our tea earlier and get home at the same time we would have without the tea.
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We went to Orchidee, which is actually in the middle of a mall, which was interesting. The sandwiches were pre-made somewhere else, and although some had two so we could each try them, others had one, so we had to cut them in half. There was a Mediterranean vegetable one, cheddar and pickles, smoked salmon, chicken, roast beef, and egg. Molly’s favorite was the vegetable one, but I absolutely loved the chicken salad, since it tasted just like the one we buy at the grocery store back home πŸ™‚
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We each had 2 scones, that kind of tasted like the ones from Pillsbury, but I happen to be a fan of those, so it was lovely. We got to choose our macarons for the pastries portion, so I got one red velvet and one vanilla. Both were absolutely perfect, with the crispy outside and the yummy filling…macarons are what they are known for. We also got chocolate cups filled with whipped cream and berries, some salted caramel cake bites and a blueberry vanilla macaron which was also really nice, because the blueberry takes away some of the sweetness and balances it out.
On Friday, we learnt more RP in the morning, which is so exciting for me! Then Debbie caught me crossing my arms again. I feel like I did it a lot less this week, but it still creeps out. I got to tell her how I want her to keep bugging me, even if I might look like I don’t, and we had a conversation about why it all matters. She was very accurate in saying that my brain works really well at understanding and analyzing everything, but then something blocks me from letting my body act it out, even if I want to be free and got for it. She also pointed out that crossing my arms makes me an observer rather than a participant, which is not something I want. So, instead of focusing on not crossing my arms, I have taken to standing in the superwoman power pose, with my head held high, like I mean it. So be warned.
Debbie also suggested that our movement and Alexander classes would help me open up. Our movement teacher likes to keep us away from our comfort zones whenever he can, so I think she might be right. This week I did cartwheels and handstands before we started, which was a lot of fun. Handstands are still iffy for me, so I had Molly catch my feet, but by the end of the semester, I plan to be able to do them with nothing but the wall to catch me if I go too far. I also plan to be a ninja by then, since Sydney and I did pretty well with the throwing the stick exercise. Most of the time.
After classes were done, Molly, Kailea and I went to Wagamama for supper (see Carolyne, I am working my way through your list πŸ™‚ ) and then we went to Sleazy, the kind of open mic/talent show for LAMDA students. This week there were a few acts by students in the semester program with me, and they were amazing! There was also a poem reading that broke my heart, an original poem that was made a million times more powerful by the way the girl’s hand was shaking as she read it, a singalong that made me smile, covers that were awesome, original songs that inspired me and I want to buy, with a final act that had me twisting and shouting. I am definitely going to miss Sleazy nights when I go back home.
My week ended yesterday with some laundry and Red Velvet. Not the food, but the play. I went in having no idea what it was about, other than it was based on a real person. I had really high expectations, based on my friends’ posts about it, and I wasn’t so sure after the first few minutes, but then it completely pulled me in. The end was kind of heartbreaking for me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the night. Which is the best kind of story, isn’t it?
Now, you might be wondering about the title of this post. And if you were following along, you might be wanting to point out that I skipped Tuesday and Thursday. That is because this week marked the end of our work on Shakespeare’s histories, and we had our first performance of the semester. It was just in our little rehearsal groups, but for someone who has never done Shakespeare and was slightly terrified at the thought of performing with that language, it was a big deal. And, it was my last time working on and learning the role of the French King in Henry the Fifth.
Since our director was still too sick to come in, we got a new one on Tuesday. While the majority of our rehearsal classes had been spent playing games and building an ensemble these last two were kind of intense, at least by comparison. He started out by asking us each what we wanted to work on in our scenes, making notes in his notebook, then came back with a bunch of exercises for us all to do which targeted what each person wanted to work on. He was insistent that the point wasn’t for all of the exercises to work for everyone, but for us to have so many options that we can find the ones that work for us with each particular role we end up with. We also did our scenes multiple times in front of the group, as a kind of dress rehearsal, which I found terrifying. In a good way. I think. Since this is kind of exactly what I came here for. We did an immersive improv, which meant the whole group spent an hour in various situations as our characters, which wasn’t my favorite, since I was French in a room of English, but I think it was an awesome exercise that I would love to try again. I really loved and would no trade the rehearsals we had the first few weeks, but I also feel like I got so much, including a whole lot of tools from our new director.
For our final presentations, we decided to just do all of our scenes chronologically, moving through the room and having the others get up and follow us. This meant both of my versions of the same scene would go back to back. This was kind of nerve-wracking, first because I had to go up twice, and second because I did them both really differently. At first, it was hard for me to reconcile what my research had told me about King Charles VI from a historical perspective, versus the way he was written in the play. Then, one of my groups wanted me to be sitting on a chair to represent my throne, but without a platform and with everyone else standing, I just felt really small and powerless, which is how I might feel if I were a King who no longer had any ruling authority because I had bouts of going mad. With the other group, I stayed standing, and went with what I knew from the play. I still had the history in mind, but I didn’t let it define me. I was a King who was worried for his country and didn’t want to show fear to my enemy. And even when I was scared of the whole thing, I still really enjoyed being able to explore both sides and do the scene so differently.
We opted not to film our performances, and I am still not really good at gauging my own, especially when I was a ball of nerves for most of it, terrified I would forget a line and people would know because it messed with the iambic pentameter (which I still haven’t figured out). But, in the end, I did forget a line. I’m not sure if it was in the dress rehearsal or the final performance, but I know I skipped a line once, and once I said the completely wrong word. But both times I just kept going. And nothing happened. No one called me out, nothing bad happened…the show just went on. And I was okay. More than okay, because apparently, I looked completely at home on ‘stage’. Which is kind of hilarious, considering how I felt inside. My tells were talking extremely fast and lifting my heels. The talking fast I know I do when I want to get through something, so I wasn’t surprised, but I had no idea I was going on my tippy toes sometimes. My notes were to taste every word and let it land, as well as to be grounded. Which is actually good advice in life as well.

“Think like a Queen. A Queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”

-Oprah Winfrey

Kensington Palace & Orangery

On Sunday, I decided to cross two items off of my list for London; the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and Afternoon Tea at the Orangery.
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Although I had excellent intentions to be at the Palace an hour before it started so I would get a prime spot, I found myself meandering to previously unvisited places in Hyde Park, as well as getting stopped to talk to a boy on a bench overlooking the pond with the swans. Luckily, people weren’t lining up to the side gates, only at the front ones, so I got a prime spot for all of the action.


The whole thing at the Palace lasts about 45 minutes (you can also choose to follow the new guard from their prior location, I believe), but I don’t think you would be missing out if you had to leave after 15 minutes or so. You might, however, miss out on a rendition of the Star Wars theme.

Since I had a few hours before our tea reservations, I decided to check out Kensington Palace, since it is right there and I walk by it all of the time. Initially, I thought it would just be a pretty palace to look at, but then I walked in and found out (possibly rediscovered) that it is where Queen Victoria grew up. I have already mentioned that she is one of my favorite royals, and touring the rooms where she grew up, reading snippets of her journal entries…it was an amazing way to spend an afternoon. I learnt a lot, but I think my biggest takeaway is that I want to rewatch The Young Victoria, and Mrs. Brown and I want to read some biographies on this incredible woman!
As for the tea, Sydney and Molly were already there when I arrived, then Lucy and Kailea came not long after. My reservation had been for 4 people and it kept saying there was no availability when I tried to change it, but the maitre d’ said it was no problem and brought us straight to a bigger table.
Since I enjoyed the darjeeling so much, I ordered the Afternoon at the Palace tea, which was perfectly delicious.
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After having been so full after our previous tea, we were a little disappointed that there wasn’t enough of everything for us each to try it, and that you had to pay extra if you wanted more of anything, but everything that we did get was amazing.
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The mini sandwiches were each on their own bread, so the salmon and cream cheese was on a bagel, the super delicious chicken was in a wrap, the cucumber and cream cheese had white bread and the egg was in a little bun.
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We each got two scones, one with raisin, one plain, that we all covered in clotted cream and jam, as we continuously assure ourselves is the custom. The desserts were where it got tricky. I missed out on the lady finger, but the lemon mousse, the strawberry shortcake and the pink checkered things were delectable.
It was definitely a beautiful location and a lovely experience πŸ™‚
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O Thym

O'Thym

It was Chelsea’s birthday this week, so we went out for supper to celebrate that, as well as her being one step closer to completing her PhD. Have I mentioned I have an amazing and talented cousin?

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We went to a really cute restaurant in Montreal, so I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for my first restaurant review.

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The first course was a soup, that none of us ordered, but was included with everyone’s meal. It was delicious. Pumpkin, turnip and sage, according to the waitress. I don’t really like turnip, but the flavors blended so I didn’t notice it. Perfect for a chilly evening πŸ™‚

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Some of the others had starters, which looked pretty tasty, but I waited for the Trou Normand, which was apple sorbet soaking in ice wine. There was a hint of cinnamon to it, that made the whole thing taste kind of like apple pie. I normally say no when something has alcohol as a prominent ingredient, just because I don’t drink and don’t particularly like the taste, but ice wine is an exception. Especially when you give me a palet cleanser that tastes like a refreshing version of a comfort food dessert!

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The main meals varied from beef to game to salmon, but I opted for the vegetarian option, because the english translation had been mushroom pie, which had me excited and intrigued. In the end, my meal consisted of philo pastry, topped with hummus and mushrooms, as well as a pile of salad with lentils and a mountain of parmesan cheese. So yummy!

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There were 3 dessert options, and I am told that all were delicious, although I only sampled the maple creme brulee and the bread pudding with blueberries. Unfortunately, we dug in and finished the desserts without me remembering to take a picture. I even missed the adorable tea cups and coffee mugs. I say adorable because they were so small, but actually pretty simple as far as cups go.

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The restaurant had 2 sittings, one at 6 and the other at 9. We thought we had so much time to spare when we were told we had the table until 8:45, but it really took us all that time, and we could have stayed longer. It didn’t feel long, because there were so many courses, and although I never felt rushed, more food seemed to arrive just as I felt I wanted it.

As far as the decorating, there was an interesting collection of superimposed images, featuring President Obama dressed as superman and Michael Jackson mashed up with Marilyn Monroe. Still, my favorite part would be the hanging lightbulbs. I don’t know why, but I feel like you can put them anywhere and the place automatically becomes warmer and mystical and somewhere I would want to hang out.

I definitely recommend it as a place to spend a few hours catching up with friends, or getting to know someone new. It does get kind of loud though, which is a perfect excuse to have to lean in close on a first date πŸ˜‰

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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

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I started this book knowing that I loved all of the Chris Hadfield quotes that I had found on the internet, and that my cousin had told me she found the book too technical for her to really enjoy it. Having just finished reading and watching the Astronaut Wives Club, I was actually kind of interested in seeing how space travel had changed, so the technical stuff didn’t bother me.

As it turns out, a few pages into the very first chapter, I was hooked. I don’t know if it is because me pursuing an acting career is highly unlikely as well, but when he explained his theory on wanting to be an astronaut, it gave me a lot of admiration, and inspiration. You see, he decided he wanted to be an astronaut when Canada didn’t have a space program, and NASA required that you be an American citizen to join. With those unlikely odds, instead of giving up or settling, Chris focused on taking all of the courses and doing all of the things he thought an astronaut would be doing. It was the guiding force in his life.

There are a million different ways for someone to get an acting career, but it helps put things in perspective if you base every decision on whether it is something that would bring you closer or farther from your goals.

Another passage that really got to me, is one where he advises that we sweat the small stuff, and shares a story in which every flight test was make it or break it, and a single bad day could set in motion the destruction of your entire career plan. I know that sometimes I go for an audition or send in a self-tape that doesn’t show me in the best light, and that is something I definitely should not be doing. Every single audition should be make it or break it for me, not just the ones with establsihed casting directors for union roles in theatrical release movies or network television shows. Every non-union project or student film deserves to be treated with the same preparation and excellence, because you never know who might be in the room, who might see your tape, or even who that student director may become. It really made me determined to never go into the room unprepared, or send in a self tape that I am not convinced would win me the room.

Every single chapter had tons of advice and insight, linked to a single simple saying, and surrounded by tales of becoming an astronaut and going to space. It was really interesting finding out what it is like living on the International Space Station, as well as everything that is involved in a launch or gettting there, but it is the life advice he offers that I will remember and try my best to put into practice. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in space, or who has some kind of goal in life πŸ™‚

β€œThat’s how I approach just about everything. I spend my life getting ready to play β€œRocket Man.” I picture the most demanding challenge; I visualize what I would need to know how to do to meet it; then I practice until I reach a level of competence where I’m comfortable that I’ll be able to perform. It’s what I’ve always done, ever since I decided I wanted to be an astronaut in 1969, and that conscious, methodical approach to preparation is the main reason I got to Houston. I never stopped getting ready. Just in case.”

-Chris Hadfield

Lean In

While I was on vacation, I read a book that Sam had originally lent to my mom. I had been hearing a lot about Lean In and figured it was time I read the book that started it all. Or at least the longer version, called Lean In for Graduates. It was the first book that wasn’t for school or offering acting advice that I still felt I needed to take notes.

Until a few years ago, I had never really thought of feminism as something we still needed, especially not for myself and the women around me. I don’t think I had ever consciously thought that I was missing out or getting less because I was female. You see, I grew up surrounded by really strong women and aside from a gender stereotype that saved us girls from having to work outside in the dirt and garbage at the family business, I don’t think we were ever prevented from doing anything, or treated as less. We were encouraged to study hard, dream big and do whatever would make us happy. In the office of that business, we had a sign that read “Do you want to talk to the man in charge, or to the woman who knows what’s going on?” Even though my grandfather was the boss, we knew he couldn’t do it without my grandmother, and so did he.

It wasn’t until I was reading Lean In that I started to see all of the things that we do to ourselves to prevent us from reaching the top. Emma Watson’s He For She movement has been raising a lot of awareness on the fight for Gender Equality and how far we have left to go, but I hadn’t realized how much I stand in my own way. I often feel like an imposter, I put my hand down when the question period is supposed to be over and if there are people who aren’t able to sit at the table, I will most likely be one of them. I can’t go through everything Sheryl Sandberg mentions in the book, because I think everyone should read it, but almost every example she gave, I thought “I do that” and I had never even noticed before.

Luckily, the book didn’t just make me realize that I have been holding myself back, it also inspired me sooo much, so I wanted to reach for the stars and keep going. I wanted to want to run a Fortune 500 and be president and be a perfect example of leaning in. The book isn’t saying that every girl should aspire to those things though, it just suggests that we shouldn’t be afraid of making those kinds of goals, and then making them come true. I still want to be an actress and a writer, so being a CEO wouldn’t make me happy. But, playing a strong and powerful female president could be fun. Writing female characters who aren’t restricted by gender norms and stereotypes opens a world of possibilities. So, I am tailoring the inspiration to fit my dream, and the book is definitely on my mind now when I come up with stories or read a script.

The book itself was absolutely amazing, and hasn’t left me since I started reading it. Not only is Sheryl Sandberg one of my new heroes, but I have been watching commencement speeches and TED talks and anything I can find to keep the momentum going. One recommendation in the book is to “Do one thing every day that makes you slightly nervous.” The day after I finished the book, I started trying to do that, and keeping note of those things in my journal at the end of the day. Sometimes I felt silly with what I came up with, but they were things that made me nervous that I pushed myself to do. The other day I was about to go to bed and hadn’t done anything yet, so I signed up for a class that sort of scares me. Yesterday instead of just lending my cousin my car, I went to Ottawa with her and a bunch of people I didn’t know to interview a politician for the Science and Policy Exchange. I only started this about 2 weeks ago, and already I have stood up for myself more and said yes to experiences I probably never would have tried.

My biggest fear when I finished the book was that the feeling I had, of being inspired and wanting to conquer the world, that it would pass when I got home and was faced with the real world again. So far, I am no less motivated or encouraged, and I am so excited to see where I can be after I keep this up for a month, a year or even a decade.

To sum it all up, the book is amazing, and you should all go out and read it. There were parts that made me laugh, parts that made me cry, but most of it made me think and dream and finally pushed me to seriously work on cultivating the self-confidence I lost when I was growing up. I might fake it until I make it on that one, but at least I now feel confident that I will truly make it.

“Proceed and be bold.”

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”