Thursday February 23th-Sunday February 26th
On Thursday and Friday, I sat around and did basically nothing while my body tried to decide whether or not it was going to fight off whatever I was coming down with. I dusted and vacuumed most of my room, in case it was just my allergies, but that didn’t do anything to help.
By Saturday morning, I was pretty sure I was indeed coming down with a cold. Unfortunately, I had things to do! First off, when I made my birthday cake, I drastically overestimated how much fake butter I was going to need and I bought a lot. So I needed to use it up, and I decided to do that by making sugar cookies. Since I was estimating measurements, I think I got the proportions of baking soda and baking powder off, and the “cookies” puffed up. This provided a linguistic dilemma: how was I going to describe them in the Facebook message to my hallmates where I told them they could eat some? Here’s what I’d say if I was sending this to Americans: “Hey all! I just tried to make some sugar cookies, but they puffed up into something that’s kind of a cross between biscuits and scones. They still taste fine, though, and they’re up for grabs!” But here’s what I had to actually say: “Hey all! I just tried to make what I’d call sugar cookies (not sure what’d you call them, they’re softer than your biscuits). They ended up puffing up into something like a cross between American biscuits and scones–my biscuits are your scones, and I don’t think you have a name for what I would call a scone. Anyway! They still taste fine, and they’re up for grabs.” I already knew about this, because the last time I was in Australia I had the same problem, but it’s still confusing. To clarify:
- American “cookies” are roughly equivalent to British “biscuits” although from what I’ve seen, biscuits tend to be harder than cookies, and they can be sweet or savory. I did a bit of Googling and one article suggested that if it’s chewy they call it a “cookie” here.
- American “biscuits” are British “scones”.
- American “scones” don’t really have a British equivalent, but might fall into the category of “pastries”.
Like I said, this is something I already knew about, but this is probably the most confusing time I’ve had to figure out which word to use! The article I linked to above came up when I was trying to see if there’s any equivalent for what I would call a scone, and it had an interesting section towards the end talking about how American and British terms tend to diverge a lot when it comes to food, and why that is. It talks about vegetable names in that section, which has been throwing me off. I already knew “aubergines” (eggplants) and I figured “courgettes” (zucchini) out pretty easily, but I was awfully confused when I saw “mangetouts” (snow peas) in the grocery store the other day.
And don’t even get me started on lemonade.*
After baking, I went on a very important adventure–clothes shopping! No, it actually was pretty important. See, the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences is putting on a ball in March. Like, a ball ball. Black tie. I think a lot of the schools do it, because my hallmate who’s in a different school within the university also had one a while ago. Now I brought a fancy dress with me, just in case I needed it, but it’s a simple cocktail dress that’s made for being bunched up in a suitcase. Very practical for traveling, but definitely not black tie. There’s a dress in the window of the vintage store near the uni that I’ve had my eye on, but when I asked about it at the counter they said it wouldn’t come off display until early March and you can’t buy display items. Since the ball is on March 4th, I didn’t want to risk it. But luckily, there was a huge vintage clothing sale on Saturday, right near where I live! It was one of those ones where you pay by weight, not by garment.
Unfortunately, when I got there, I didn’t have much luck with finding formal dresses–there was a cute velvet one, but dancing in a long sleeve velvet dress? Ugh. I pulled out this gorgeous dress–very obviously 1970s, with fluttery sleeves and a long skirt–that looked too big, but I figured I might as well try it. That was about it for cute formal dresses. Most of the other ones on the rack were really obviously from the ’80s and while I did find one that was appealingly wacky, it was still out there, even for me. And the ones that weren’t awful ’80s dresses all screamed “mother of the bride” in pastel, oddly pleated letters. The velvet dress was big, and while I could tell it would flatter my figure if I altered it, and the long sleeves were cool, it would be a lot of work and I would definitely overheat. Also I almost got stuck in it. The ’70s dress, on the other hand, turned out to fit me much better than I thought it would. It was a little loose in the bodice, enough that I’d need to take it in somewhere. There was an ugly fake rose pinned to the front, but I could fix that.
So I got it! It’s going to need alteration–the silhouette is so ’70s that I need to disrupt that–but it’s nice. I already took the rose off the front. It turns out it was there to hide a triangle of cloth someone had inexpertly sewn into the neckline to make it more modest. I’m not sure which version of that situation I prefer–that someone sewed that triangle in and realized, “Crap! This looks awful!” and covered it with the rose, or that someone acquired the dress after the fabric was added and added the rose on top of that. I removed the addition, which left the neckline a little raggedy where the holes from the stitches are, but anyone who gets close enough to notice is officially entering “you are creepy and I am fine with the potential consequences of hitting you” territory.
The dress is made of sheer, green fabric; I think it’s fake silk, or rather I hope it is, because it’s wrinkled and it’ll be easier to un-wrinkle if it’s polyester. (Although I like the wrinkly look–it almost looks intentional. I just think everyone else would look at me and think I was taking terrible care of my clothes.) There’s fabric lining it that blends okay with my skin tone. It also has part of the bodice that looks like scales, so combined with the color, it’s mermaid-y. Unfortunately, once I got into better lighting, I realized that there’s weird discoloration on the lining of the skirt–and the green layer on top is sheer, so it shows. I have a vague plan for what to do about that, but I’m going to have less than a week to execute it. (Yikes!)
I did get a few things besides the dress even though I knew I shouldn’t, but really, could any of you leave without buying a leather jacket that looks like it time traveled from the Elizabethan era to the present, just to grace your wardrobe? I think not! (It does look like it came from a theatre department’s wardrobe purge; it’s not dissimilar to the costumes from Something Rotten! which was a terrible musical that I deeply regret going to see. I mean, the costumes were fine, but the overall show was awful.) Anyway, the jacket mostly fits me across the shoulders without being a size too big everywhere else, which is a miracle.
(Are five paragraphs on vintage clothing relevant to people considering studying abroad and looking at my blog for an idea of what it’s like? Probably not. However, they’re an incurable side effect of giving me a platform for my thoughts.)
Very late on Saturday night–well, Sunday since it was past midnight–I got hungry and remembered that I didn’t have very much food at home. So I decided to get fish and chips at my favorite restaurant. Normally, I go there in the afternoon or early evening, since I eat dinner early. (I got on Saga’s schedule during Div I and never broke free, so I start getting peckish at 4:30 pm and am ready for dinner by 5:00 pm.) But I haven’t been there at [mumble mumble] in the morning before and it was packed. It still didn’t take that long to get my fish and chips–something like 15-20 minutes–but wow. All the seats were taken (I had to huddle on a bench in the corner) and people were yelling. (I’m sure most of them were drunk. Especially the one who was boasting about being 18 and ready to fight people at maximum volume.) Every time a bunch of people left, and it looked like the crowd was thinning, an even bigger party would come in. It was an effective reminder that people party late here, and that I’m not aware of that because I’m usually in bed (if not asleep) by the time they start.
Sunday was laundry day, and I finally had problems with the app we have to use! I’ve been waiting for something to go wrong, since the app has so many negative reviews, so in a way it’s a relief that it happened. Basically, the washing machine and the app thought that the machine had started washing my clothes when nothing had happened. It then wouldn’t let me use that machine when I tried to go through the process again, because the machine was allegedly busy. Luckily, after waiting for a few minutes and irritably mashing the washing machine’s buttons, it reset and let me wash my clothes. So far, it doesn’t look like it charged me for the cycle that didn’t go through.
Later in the day, I started the process of altering my dress–I went to the fabric store. I’m trying very hard not to get carried away with some grand, overly complicated idea that I’ll never finish in time, and I’m not sure whether or not I’m succeeding. It doesn’t help that some of the work definitely is going to be complicated and fancy. (I talked myself out of trying to add godets in addition to the gathered bits I have planned, so that’s something.) The fabric store was close enough that I could’ve walked, but I took the bus because I was tired and the stop was right in front of the store. However, there weren’t any convenient buses back, so I walked it–best decision I’ve made all week. The walk back took me past a Chinese grocery store. This was great not just because I’m always in the mood for lychee-flavored things, but because my favorite meal when I’m sick is homemade hot-and-sour soup. I hadn’t been able to find dried mushrooms, rice vinegar, sesame oil, or ground red pepper at all the other stores I checked, but at last my quest was over.
*Alright, I might as well explain. This is something I also ran into in Australia–American lemonade doesn’t really exist here, except in fancy cafés and health food stores. If you order “lemonade” you’ll get something like Sprite, or maybe a little fancier depending on where you are. The slightly fancier stuff is really good, and I drank it all the time in Australia.