Thursday, July 25, 2013

My London Adventure: In Honor of the Royal Baby

"The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it."

-J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I am an adventurer. I love exploring new places. I love aimlessly walking streets. I love finding myself lost and realizing that something completely unexpected, yet beautiful is around the corner. I love to explore.

I never want to lose that childlike sense of adventure and ability to be spontaneous. 

This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to go to London, England for 10 days with some pretty awesome people. I went with a group who was completely different than me [they were all music performance or music education majors], yet our common sense of adventure bonded us together for some unforgettable memories. Besides getting to explore a different country and a slightly different culture, I got to explore the arts. I learned about architecture, experienced English symphonies, plays, and even an opera, and got to experiment a little bit with my photography. I am so thankful I got to go on this trip, and I am thankful for the friendships I made along the way. 

Due to some programming issues on my Cannon, I haven't been able to post any pictures yet. So, today is the day! I finally get to share some of my experiences with everyone! I hope you enjoy, because I know I sure did!

The group in front of Kensington Palace.
Unfortunately it was under construction =[

The sky was amazing in London. Absolutely gorgeous.
The picture below is from the roof of our hotel (The Westbury Hotel). I would highly recommend it to
anyone. It was right next to the Earl's Court Tube stop, and it was really clean and quaint.

Fountain in Trafalgar Square.

One day, the London Symphony Orchestra was having a free concert in Trafalgar square. Although we didn't have time to watch the whole thing, we got to watch them practice while eating our lunch. It was beautiful.

Westminster Abbey. What a wonderful place.

Big Ben and Parliament

We got to ride a really cool ferry along the River Thames

Cute little carnival area by the Southbank Centre
(location of most of the symphonies we saw)

Tower of London

View from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral. By far my favorite part of the trip.
Although I am deathly afraid of heights, I ventured up the 528 steps to the top of the Golden Gallery. From there I was able to stand outside, at the very top of the Cathedral, and overlook the beautiful city that is London. 
It was well worth the shaky legs.

St. Paul's Cathedral

I couldn't help but thinking of Harry Potter when I took this one.
Yes, I am a nerd.

Speaking of Harry Potter, Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station! 
By the way, King's Cross looks nothing like the movie. =[ I was very disappointed.

Natural History Museum. Although this definitely wasn't my favorite thing in London, it had some pretty fantastic architecture that I loved to photograph. =]

The outside of the building.

One day I went wandering around the city and found some beautiful things. I think this was the side of Westminster Abbey, but I can't remember. After hours of walking, I found myself really, really lost (luckily there always seemed to be a tube station close by). I ended up wandering through this beautiful neighborhood that opened up to a big field where a bunch of adults were playing cricket. So that was pretty cool. After a while, I decided to rest my feet, enjoy a Pret Manger toasty (These delightful sandwich shops were on almost every corner of the city), and figure out where I was.

It was a wonderful day.

I later found out that I shouldn't have been wandering around that area because it was home to the majority of the psych wards in London. My friends had a hay day with that one. They told me I had found my home in London. Really funny guys... =]

Shakespeare's Globe Theater!!!! I absolutely loved this! We got to see A Midsummer Night's Dream in true Elizabethan fashion: standing propped up against the stage. It felt like I was thrown back in time for the night. England had a way of doing that to me.

As I sit here posting these pictures, I realize my father has taught me well. 

In true Szczepanik fashion, I completely filled 2 memory cards with pictures of my trip. Who knew it could be so hard to condense 10 days of fun! More pictures to come in the next few days.

What to expect: Portobello Road Market, Wimbledon, and my personal favorite, OXFORD!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Skillets and Fritters

Do you ever have one of those moments when you suddenly realize that life is good? 
That life is really, really good? 

I had one a few nights ago. 

Now you may not know it, but I am extremely blessed by the fact that I have a boyfriend who is also an INCREDIBLE cook. Not lying. I love the idea of being "Miss Homemaker", but when it comes down to it, I HATE cooking. I have lied to myself for years trying to convince myself that I actually love it, but when it comes down to it, I hate it. It takes so much time, I never seem to have all the ingredients I need, and for the life of me I can't get everything to finish on time. I've realized this summer that when Alex doesn't come over to cook for me, I end up eating ice cream for dinner...and then eat a cucumber to make up for the unhealthiness. I might as well just accept the fact that he loves to cook; I hate it. 

Luckily I don't have to win his heart through his stomach.

The other night Alex came over and surprised me by cooking dinner. Being the awesome man he is, he had gone to the store and bought pork chops with the intention of making fritters (apparently that's what you call fried pork chops). He got out the cast iron skillet (his cooking weapon of choice) and proceeded to do his thing while I started doing some dishes that were left in the sink .

At least I am pretty awesome at cleaning, right?

After covering the pork chops with breading, he put the meat in the buttered, hot skillet. 
[More background info for you: my kitchen has terrible ventilation, and my house is really small.]
Suddenly, my eyes began to burn as I finished washing the last plate in the sink. I looked up from the soapy water and realized that my entire house was filled with smoke. Thick, dark smoke. I started coughing and had to leave the room to breath normally. Then, the smoke proceeded to fill the whole house. As Alex unplugged the smoke alarm, I threw open the windows and doors, set up the box fan, and went outside to get some fresh air. 

Alex stayed in the house and kept cooking, dedicated to the success of the meal.

A while later, Alex emerged from the house with the notorious cast iron skillet. I couldn't help but laugh as he threw it on the gravel driveway, smoke still pouring out of its black edges. A few minutes later, he reemerged from the house bearing 2 delicious looking plates: pork fritters and broccoli. Since the house was still filled with smoke,  we ate sitting in my driveway on the back of my car.

The meal was surprisingly good, with the exception of a few edges that tasted slightly charred. It took a while for us to be able to go back into the house, but I didn't mind. It was so beautiful outside. After a while we finally went in, put in Boy Meets World, and sat on the couch to enjoy the sitcom of our childhood.

As I stood in my driveway contemplating the slightly disastrous dinner attempt, I couldn't help but laugh to myself. It was in that moment that I realized how completely happy and content I am with my life right now.

That is a really good place to be.

Although the other night wasn't anything extraordinary, I realized how happy I was to be sitting in my little house, next to my amazing boyfriend, simply relaxing and enjoying each others company. I am completely content in our relationship; although I look forward to the future, I am thankful for where we are now and I am happy I have the ability to enjoy our relationship for what it is.  I am completely content with where I am in school right now. I am content with my job, my friends, my family, and my life as it is. I am in a really good place with God right now, and I am so thankful that I can see the blessings He has put in my life at this moment in time. 

Who would have thought that that would have come about from a skillet and some burned pork fritters?

**I decided to include a few pictures of other meals he's made for me to prove that he really is an awesome cook. =]