Sunday, December 30

British Night

British Night! Steak & Ale Pie, Mash, and Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert! Cheers #pudding #dinner #steakandale #pie #mash #british #england
British Night! Steak & Ale Pie, Mash, and Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert! Cheers #pudding #dinner #steakandale #pie #mash #british #england

Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas from the Traveling Cupcake

It’s been officially one week since I’ve left England, and it has been a bittersweet one at that. Sometimes I find myself zoning out with flashbacks to memories of England, and it doesn’t even feel real; it feels like I dreamed up all these people and none of it really happened. It still is a mix of emotions, I miss everyone terribly, however I’m excited to see my family again and catch up with old friends. Tonight I’m just so thankful to my family for giving me the world. I’m grateful for the wonderful people I met and the incredible things I got to experience while I was abroad :)
Now that I’m home, I can get back to one of my loves: being in the kitchen. I’ve been cooking and baking up a storm since I’ve been back preparing for Christmas. First was a batch of banana muffins for the boys to eat throughout the week. Then I made my traditional homemade doggy treats for the neighborhood dogs: peanut butter bones! Abby has some waiting for her in her stocking in the morning, shh! Next I started the lovely Christmas traditions like Kringlas (a traditional Norwegian bread-like-cookie that’s shaped in an “8” shape), Rice Krispie Wreaths, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Reindeer Treats, Molasses Ginger Cookies and this year Panetone Bread Pudding. It has been a week covered in flour and sugar!

It’s almost midnight and it’s time to get back into the kitchen to start whipping up everything for tomorrow’s marathon of food as well. A huge brunch of egg strata, homemade carmel rolls, raspberry jello salad and mimosas followed by a large dinner of ham, cheesy potatoes, bread, salad, green beans and lots of desserts and hor’d urves too.

Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

I hope you all have a very merry and bright Christmas! Enjoy this holiday season as a time to reflect on the positives of this past year and cherishing the family and friends that have blessed your life. Merry Christmas from the Traveling Cupcake: May your Christmas always be sweet

Thursday, December 20

First Batch of Cookies

First batch of Christmas cookies :) peanut butter blossoms! #christmas #holidays #baking #cookies
First batch of Christmas cookies :) peanut butter blossoms! #christmas #holidays #baking #cookies

Monday, December 17

It's All Coming to an End

I literally thought this day would never get here. Sitting at home in August this felt like it was lightyears away, and yet now I sit in an empty cold room and realize that it’s all come and gone. Four months have flown by quicker than anyone could have ever warned me about. Everyone said to enjoy my time abroad, live it up, experience new things…and I have however I still sit here tonight in awe of everything. It has to be one of the most bittersweet moments of my life: I’ve enjoyed every moment of my time in England. I’ve traveled all around the country (London, Bath, York, Basingstoke, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Windsor, Warwick, Stoke, Newcastle, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Chesterfield), I’ve been able to experience so many things I never thought I’d get to do, and I’ve met some of the most wonderful people in the entire world. I love it so much and everything about it, however I’m excited to see my family back home as well. Bittersweet feelings tonight.
Studying abroad is more than just traveling to foreign lands people only dream about and meeting people from different cultures; it’s about figuring out who you are as a person and becoming stronger and independent. I have learned so much more about myself in four months than I have in 21-years of existence and that’s something no one can take away from me. I am stronger than I once was; more independent than I could have imagined; and a better person because of this whole experience.
“Don’t let the fear of leaving the harbor deter you from crossing the ocean”  I was so scared of coming across the pond by myself, I literally almost didn’t get on the plane to arrive. Now I marvel at the fact that I could’ve missed out on this experience, these people, this place…and it amazes me. Don’t be scared to push boundaries and leave your comfort zone, because it is outside of our comfort zone that we learn about ourselves.
So cheers to an incredible adventure from the Traveling Cupcake! It is filled with a million memories that I can’t replace for the world. Here’s to the next chapter of the adventures of the Traveling Cupcake!! 

Monday, December 10

Mumford & Sons Concert !!

Guess who got to see Mumford & Sons in concert…in England?! Yes, this girl right here. Holy cow, it was literally one of the most surreal things ever. They sound absolutely incredible; they sounded just like they do on their CD. Within the first half hour they played all of my favorites: I Will Wait, Winter Winds, Roll Away Your Stone, Awake My Soul, Babel, and Sigh No More!! It was a great great night :) Plus I got to see them in ENGLAND!!! What?!

Saturday, December 8

Liverpool with the gang #liverpool #england #travel #studyabroad
Liverpool with the gang #liverpool #england #travel #studyabroad

Saturday, December 1

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Happy December everybody! I can’t believe December is already here, it’s scary how quickly it comes ever year. It’s starting to feel like Christmas and the holiday season around here, as the village has put up the Christmas lights, campus has Christmas music playing on the radio, and Starbucks has brought out the top guns of eggnog latte and gingerbread! Yum!
I’ve been trying to get into the festive spirit although I am away from home and my family. My friend Yasmin took me to Emma Bridgewater, a pottery shop in The Potteries to paint our own piece of pottery! She said I could not visit the potteries without painting a piece :) The shop was absolutely precious: it was decorated for Christmas and had some of our favorite Christmas carols which we, of course, had to sing to!
Yesterday my friend, Alana, and I completed another British Bucket List item off my list: See ”A Christmas Carol” in England. We went into Newcastle-under-Lyme to the New Vic Theater for the matinee performance of A Christmas Carol and it was absolutely brilliant! It was theater in the round, so it was incredibly intimate and cozy. We sat in the balcony and had such a neat viewpoint of the stage. The singing was fabulous, the music was lovely, and the actor’s all did incredible. It totally got us into the Christmas spirit!

Monday, November 26

Date night with the best !! #date #pottery #paint #friends

Sunday, November 25

To Be or Not To Be...

This past weekend my friend and I travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon to get in touch with our Shakespearian side of life! Stratford was an incredibly charming area with Tudor-style buildings and houses dotting the countryside and the village. Plus they had just turned on the Christmas lights the night before we arrived, so the entire town looked so cheerful with the Christmas spirit. They had lights strung everywhere, Christmas trees, Santa’s and all sorts of Christmas decorations hung. 
On Friday evening we knew everything would be closing soon after we arrived so we decided to get a nice dinner and go see a movie instead. We had an incredibly delicious steak dinner that evening with great drinks and appetizers. The restaurant was an old Tudor-building and we ate upstairs in the timbers by candlelight: talk about absolutely perfect! We sat there and talked for hours eating incredible food…oh and for dessert we split a lemon-raspbeery cheesecake and a pear-apple tart. After a great evening we walked to the Picturehouse (yes it’s not the movie theater, cinema, or theater…it was the picturehouse); which was a vintage-style movie theater with assigned seating, food and drinks bar and only three screens!! We saw James Bond: Skyfall (although I’d already seen it) and it was absolutely fantastic- loved it! That evening we returned to the inn we were staying in and got to watch, wait for it- TELEVISION! Yes. Never realized how long I hadn’t watched TV until I was actually watching “Ellen” and “FoodTV”; it was brilliant.
The next morning we started off right by having a full-English breakfast at our Inn. Straight after we headed into town to the Shakespeare Center and Birthplace where we got tickets to tour Shakespeare’s birthplace home. The home was actually extremely nice with adorable Tudor features and lots of room (for back then at least). It was cool seeing so many artifacts from William himself. 
Next we headed to the Nash House, which is the home in which William’s daughter Susannah and her husband Dr. Nash lived in. There was also a Christmas market going on that day and a small elementary school had come to serenade the crowd with Christmas carols: it was so precious! The house was decorated for Christmas, crackling fires in the hearth, and then the sweet angelic voice of children drifted through the house: adorable!
Our next stop was Holy Trinity Church which is where William Shakespeare’s is buried. The Church was gorgeous with beautiful stone work and carving work as usual. It had started to rain at this point and gave a somber mood to the Church; quite fitting actually. Oh, and one cool aspect is that they had a Tudor-dress up section inside of which, of course, we had to dress up! We then made our way down the long aisle towards the front of the Church where Shakespeare and his family is buried: his wife, daughter, and son-in-law all lay. It was surreal to think that one of the world’s greatest writers lay to rest right in front of my feet!!
Finally, we went to the house where William Shakespeare died, or what is left of it actually! It was actually demolished over a hundred years ago by a disgruntled and poor owner of the house, so they are still doing excavation of the area! Afterwards we bummed around town and did some shopping before having afternoon tea at a cozy and apparently, famous, tea room. Tea was quite yummy and definitely warmed us up a bit before we had to brave the rain again to catch a train back to Stoke! It was a great little trip :)  
Tea in Stratford #tea #teatime #stratford #england #travel #studyabroad

Saturday, November 24

Getting in touch with my Shakespearian side #stratford #shakespeare #travel #studyabroad #england @bellasumer

Friday, November 23

Dinner with Bella #bestfriend #dinner #delicious #england #travel @bellasumer

Thursday, November 22

Happy Thanksgiving from Across the Pond

Happy Thanksgiving everyone from across the pond! I’ve spent all day doing exactly what I love the most, being in the kitchen! Bella and I woke early and got ourselves to the market to pick up the things we needed to make a Thanksgiving meal for all of our friends in our flat. Did I mention that means we’re cooking for at least 18 people?! 
In case we didn’t already know, we are in England and they basically don’t have any of the same stuff as we do back in the States: pumpkin pie- yeah right; cranberry sauce- nope; French’s onions for green bean casserole- ha! However, I think it’s kind of fun not to have the same familiar stuff…that means we had to improvise! I thought it was quite ingenious of me to substitute French’s fried onions for bread crumbs if I do say so myself. No pumpkin pie here- we’re having apple carmel crumble, chocolate cake, and “fizzy” jello whatever that is :) 

I am thankful today for this incredible opportunity my family has given me to be studying abroad this semester. They’ve been an incredible support system to me at home and abroad, I couldn’t ask for a better family…not many people’s family would fly over to visit them while they’re abroad; and I was lucky enough to have my cousin and my mum come over! I’m also thankful for my great group of friends here in England who have become some of my closest friends in the world. They don’t care that I’m obsessed with British culture, am searching for Mr. Darcy and have an incredibly posh accent..they still love me the same. It has been one incredibly blessed year full of experiences I never would have thought I’d be able to have a year ago.
So here’s to a wonderful family, incredible friends, a blessed life, and lots of yummy food! 

Saturday, November 17

Keele Salsa Extravaganza

Last night was our Keele Salsa Extravaganza, where I did my first ever salsa performance with the girls. Eek! 

Friday, November 16

Tea at Chatsworth Estate #tea #teatime #england #travel #afternoon
Tea at Chatsworth Estate #tea #teatime #england #travel #afternoon

Mum's Visit: Chesterfield

Our last and final day together was spent in Chesterfield, going to see Chatsworth House which is also the house of Mr. Darcy’ (“Pemberly”) in the 2005 adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. It was a bittersweet day, as mum and Kelly were leaving the following morning. However, we enjoyed our time at Pemberly. It was decorated for Christmas, or shall I say a pantomime Christmas. It was so odd, I had no idea what was going on at first- ha! Although the house was decorated, it was still cool to see it in such a festive season. There was also a Christmas Market going on outside in the garden areas which we had no idea was going on, so there were Christmas carols being played, lots of people bustling around, food and tons of gifts and shopping to be done. 
We toured the house first and then went to the stables where we had made reservations for afternoon tea in the Chatsworth Restaurant. Tea was good, the food tasted delicious, and it was nice to be able to sit and relax after days of running around. Afterwards, just in time to watch the sunset, we head out to the gardens and got to see the beautiful house glow in the warm setting sunlight. We walked around the gardens for a bit before it got pitch black and we had to manage our way back to the main house to catch a taxi to our hotel.
It was our last night together in England, which was sad, however I thoroughly enjoyed all our time together, and I feel so blessed and fortunate enough to have family who would stop their lives for a week and come and visit me :) I loved every moment and miss them terribly already! 

Wednesday, November 14

Mum's Visit: Bath

The next stop on our journey through England was Bath. I joked that we were just on a Jane Austen tour of England at this point, since she famously moved to England with her family a few years before her father passed away. First off, we stayed at the most beautiful Inn; the Kennard Inn which was literally just a three-minute walk to the center of town. It was a Regency-style Inn complete with chez lounges, gorgeous drapes, chandeliers, and a too-die-for dinning room where they served us a formal English breakfast with fine china, French press coffee, incredible tea and delicious home cooked food.
We only had one day in Bath before we had to head north to Chesterfield, so we tried to hit most of the highlights. First we went to Bath Abbey and did the tower tour, which took us to the very top of Bath Abbey and gave us a fantastic 360 view of Bath. Then we went and toured the Roman Baths which, talk about absolutely magnificent, are so incredibly old it’s hard to fathom. Plus the fact that the Roman Baths went undiscovered for so long is quite remarkable. The details that went into the baths is unbelievable, it’s hard to believe that these have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Afterwards we hopped on a double-decker bus and did a hop-on-hop-off tour of the rest of Bath because I was bound and determined to ride a red double decker bus before I left England. Ha. Anyways, we got out and walked around The Circus, the Royal Crescent, we stopped at the Jane Austen Museum and the gift shop for a bit, and then literally just walked around, shopped and explored Bath. Bath had incredible shopping!! We absolutely enjoyed every single moment of our time there. That evening, after all the shopping was done and the tours were closed, we ate dinner at this extremely old pub where Charles Dickens actually stayed and ate when he was writing the Pickwick Papers! Talk about history. Oh, and for dessert we stopped at Sally Lunn’s, the oldest house in Bath, and got one of the famous Sally Lunn’s buns to go…which was quite yummy I might add. Bath was gorgeous beyond words, and let’s just say I will definitely be looking for a job in Bath after I graduate this spring!!

Tuesday, November 13

Mum's Visit: Jane Austen

For those of you who know me, you know how much my mum and I are absolutely obsessed with Jane Austen and all things Jane Austen. Ever since I was little, I have wanted to go to England and see where Jane Austen lived and wrote. Well, twenty-one years later I finally got to do just that! Mum booked us a Jane Austen tour :) The tour was based out of Basingstoke, which is kind of in between London and Bath. 
We went all over the countryside of Hampshire to explore the early years that shaped Jane Austen into the writer she became. We started off in Basingstoke and saw some of the estates and places Jane Austen went and danced, dined and explored when she lived there. The Manydown House of the Biggs and Big-Withers, Hackwood Park of the Boltons, Kempsholt Park, Oakley Hall of the Bramstons, and Ashe Park. We also got to see the church her father preached at, Steventon Rectory…and the big tree outside DOES exist! We also went to other churches in the area that held connections to the Austens such as Ashe Rectory and the place where her mother and sister were buried. We also saw the land that her father owned and where the house she was born in once stood, which has long been demolished. 
We ate lunch at a local pub that Phil brought us to, which was absolutely delicious and quaint. There was a fire going, which was lovely because it was incredibly cold outside that day! The food was fresh and locally grown, and all the people were so kind and warm. After lunch we headed just about 5 miles down the road to the Jane Austen House Museum. I’ve read so many books where they talk about this place, and to be there was so odd. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel real. Anyways, we explored the house and got to see some of the incredible artifacts that are still left from Jane Austen’s family! Her writing desk was the most incredible thing of all. The physical desk that she wrote so many of her famous novels was right there in the room. Surreal. 
The Jane Austen tour was probably one of my favorite days of our trip, just because I had been looking forward to this for so long; and I was so thankful that I got to experience it with my mum. We have been reading her books and watching the movies for so many years; sitting on the couch with candles and homemade carmel corn…and now we got to experience the actual places she lived, danced and loved in. It was an absolutely magical day.