My Restaurant Rage: Is it worth eating up your wallet on??

I have always been someone who enjoys eating out. I used to prefer it to eating at home but more recently I've become kind of disillusioned about it. Don't get me wrong, I still really enjoy it, but if I'm going to pay for someone else to cook for me, I want a really nice experience!

The fact is, eating out is overpriced: you literally end up paying about four times the price of what the food cost to make, and that's in a reasonably priced restaurant. When I'm eating out, I try and make sure I order something I couldn't just make myself at home, for cheaper and more to my personal taste.

There are a few things which I just don't think anyone should order and honestly when I see them on a menu, I'm just like, "Really?!" They are so simple that anyone could make them, regardless of ability, and making them yourself will really save you soooo much £££/$$$.


1) Coffee
I'm kind of weirdly passionate about not buying coffee. If I ever end up meeting someone in a coffee shop, I have to buy something like a chai latte, which I do not have the facility to make at home. I've been mocked throughout my time at university for owning a cafetiere and making real coffee at home. However, I'm going to argue I was actually just being savvy and amazing with money.

In the UK, in Starbucks, the price of a coffee ranges from £1.75 to £3.50. Even if you buy an expensive brand of ready ground beans to make at home, such as Taylors, it will cost you £3.49. So yes, you could be paying less for a posh pack of coffee than the price of one Starbucks drink. A pack the size of Taylors' packs lasts me a week and a half, and I like go crazy piling the coffee into my cafetiere. And if you don't have a cafetiere (wow, don't think I've ever used this word so many times in one go!), you can buy them for as cheap as a fiver on amazon. I even have one which looks like an alien. You could be as cool as me AND saving money.

"But, Alex!" I hear the masses cry in indignation. "I don't have time to drink my coffee in the morning! And anyway, I want to drink it on the go/in the office/in class!" My recommendation for you then is buy an on-the-go mug. I have a really sleek sexy Starbucks mug, which I literally feel so cool being out with. It keeps my drinks almost too hot and not to jinx it but in the year I've owned it, it hasn't spilt once. I bought mine in a Starbucks in California; it was fairly pricey at about $17 but it was an actual investment.
 
 

2) Breakfast Foods
I genuinely get rage when I see the things some restaurants put on breakfast menus. "Breakfast like a king!" Costa are currently declaring. Now I may be weird, but personally a £5 pre-made egg sandwich and one cup of coffee which is, let's face it, on the small side, ain't a kingly breakfast in my opinion. I'll feel infinitely more kingly in my PJs eating double the amount for third of the price.

My breakfast bothers do not stop there. Oh no. Another of my biggest annoyances is eggs. You are really going to charge me £5 for eggs ON THEIR OWN??! A pack of 10 free-range costs about £3.50! I'm also super bothered when people put things like yoghurt and granola on menus. Oh my God. I'm not paying you five pounds for yoghurt and granola. Get real. What really takes the cake is when you can get a FULL COOKED BREAKFAST for only about £2 more! Do I look stupid? I'll pay my £2 extra and have my beans and hash browns and tomatoes and sausage and toast and mushrooms, cheers very much.

3) Pasta
Now I know that sometimes menus have genuinely fancy pasta dishes, which take skill to make. Therefore I am not talking about all pasta dishes. But when you're trying to charge me around EIGHT POUNDS for pasta with tomato sauce? Um... no???

4) Bottled water
If I end up having to buy water out, I always buy sparkling water because then at least I'm not paying for something which is already in my taps. Buying a water bottle is another awesome investment, which will work much better for you than refilling a disposable one. They're healthier, they hold more, they don't get cracked or damaged.

Best of all, cafes will fill them up for you with tap water. The majority of places such as Pret a Manger and Starbucks are told they are not allowed to refill disposable bottles, but they don't mind refilling reusable bottles. This one time, in Pret, I had my partner's reusable bottle and my sister-in-law's disposable bottle to refill. Pret took not being allowed to fill disposable bottles SO SERIOUSLY that they filled the reusable bottle, encouraged me to go outside and sneakily pour it into the disposable one and then refilled the reusable one. That's a serious rule.

5) Sandwiches
I used to hate sandwiches, but now I'm a totally convert. Alex Of The Past thought they were dry and boring, however, I now respectfully disagree. If you're like me and you find normal bread can be too thick, I suggest buying pre-cut rolls or even wraps to make your sandwiches in. If you find them dry, I recommend hummus as a base. You can then be so inventive with fillings! You can put most any veggies on sandwiches, as well as things like falafel and chutneys. You can even get vegetarian lunch meat. Quite literally, I eat hummus wraps for lunch everyday and I genuinely get excited to eat them EVERYDAY (is this a weird thing to confess?) Plus, you can make your own sandwiches at home for a week on what they'd charge for one at somewhere like Pret a Manger... and it'll taste fresher.


Agree? Disagree? Is there anything which will get you seething over a menu? I'd love to hear what you can make better yourself in the comments :D
 


 

Oklahoma says "Ok" to Marriage Equality


When I initially read that an Oklahoma judge ruled a gay marriage ban unconstitutional, I didn’t believe it.  Almost smack dab in the middle of America, it’s hard to think of the mid-west as progressive.  But perhaps that’s merely my personal prejudice speaking. 

This past June I helped my mother, step father, little sister and her boyfriend pack up our beautiful Southern California home and proceeded to wave goodbye as they headed for a new start in a tiny town nineteen hours away.  With a U-Haul and thirst for adventure, they headed to Oklahoma for my step-father’s new job at a university my sister and her boyfriend were planning to attend.

All packed up and ready for adventure!

Since then, I’ve visited twice.  Because of a father employed by the Air Force, I’ve lived all around the world.  Five different states and three continents have been called my “home” over the past twenty-one years.  As a person who’s lived in more places than most have visited, I pride myself on my adaptability.  After the first excruciating lunch hour spent alone in a new cafeteria, I learned that adapting was important.  But perhaps even world travellers have stereotypes. 

When I stepped off the plane in Oklahoma City this past September, I inwardly cringed as I braced myself for a swarm of camouflage-clad, homophobic rednecks.

A peaceful Oklahoma morning spent sipping coffee on the porch


Instead of air rifles and hunting attire, I was greeted with a stunning sky that felt infinite, peaceful evenings spent on a back porch, a sprawling backyard covered in lush green grass and the kindest strangers I’ve ever met. 

During my time in the great Midwest, my mother underwent surgery on her back.  Because of the seriousness of the operation, my entire family stayed in the hospital overnight.  Shortly after the operation was complete and my mom was still coming out of her surgery-induced haze, there was a knock on the hospital door.  I went to answer it and was greeted by two middle-aged women with enormous smiles.  They gave me a quick hug before asking,


“We’re here to see your mom, sweetie. How’s she doing?”


I stepped back and allowed them entry.  

As the two visitors hovered over my mom and told her that she looked stunning, I recalled briefly meeting these two ladies at church the weekend before when my stepdad informed them of the approaching surgery. 

Their response to my stepfather’s information was to drive two hours in order to say hello to my mom post surgery.  But the kindness didn’t stop there.  The next week, our two hospital visitors and their husbands showered my family with delicious, home cooked meals: handmade cinnamon rolls, an entire roasted turkey, cakes, pot roast, bread rolls, salad, and homemade chicken noodle soup. Every day, for the next seven days, the doorbell rang at 5 PM and care was momentarily a tangible object as their homemade feasts passed from their hands to ours.

Recovery presents for my mom--including flowers from the church

The families who brought us food, sent flowers and took a road trip to visit my mom during her time of need didn’t know I was gay.  Because they were members of a small town church and residents of a miniscule town in the Midwest, I remember wondering if they would have still shown such kindness to my family if they had known I was queer.  Although I’ll never know for certain, I have a feeling that the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

As America continues to move towards equality for everyone, I hope to follow suit and not judge a place or group of people based on personal prejudices, stereotypes and fear.  After all, if we, as an LGBT family, hope for the world to change, I think it’s only fair that we meet it halfway.


Congratulations on marriage equality Oklahoma.

11 Life Lessons to Learn Before You're 21


I visited my doctor this weekend and as he was flipping through my chart I heard him mumble, “Heart rate good, blood pressure good, twenty-one years old…” What?! I was so shocked by hearing my age that I almost fell off my chair.  Twenty-one year olds are legal drinking, full functioning adults.  Since when did I become one of them? But after a little self-reflection, I realized that maybe I have learned a thing or two in my twenty-one years.

Exploring Paris at 20

1. Travel—don’t put it off until you’re “older” or “have more money.” It’s never going to be more fun than when you’re young, excited and totally scared.
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2. Go to college—I’ve dropped out, threatened to quit and taken quite a few “gaps” in my education.  But I ultimately decided that the learning, experiences and opportunities that can be gained from college are for me.  Whether you decide it’s not your thing or your lifelong passion, take at least a few classes before counting it out entirely.


My mom (and sister!) are the most amazing people I know

3.  Become friends with your parents—in high school you couldn’t wait to get away from them, but chances are that you’ve recently discovered that they’re kind of awesome. Don’t wait until you’re thirty to let them know you’ve discovered this.

4. Get a part-time job—The lessons learned from waiting tables, tearing movie tickets, and making cold calls will always be with me.  Not only do you does part-time work help you appreciate your money more, it also gives you unique insights into your fellow humans.

Friends forever--even in dresses and sneakers!

      5. Don’t lose your life long friends—life is crazy and chances are that some of your favorite people are going to end up across the country (or even the world). Figure out which ones are worth keeping and then put the effort in to make it happen.

6. Learn to cook—eating out gets old real fast (not to mention expensive). Learn to cook a few personal staples. Mine are: breakfast burritos, curry and countless delicious pasta sauces.

7. Realize that you’re not going to live forever—when you’re a kid, life seems endless; by the time you hit twenty, it feels infinitely shorter.  Don’t take your moments of happiness for granted. Cherish them.

8. Read—Try every kind of book you can find: fantasy, spiritual, science fiction, and nonfiction.  Books teach you about the world, but also yourself.

9. Drink lots of water—No, really. Nothing can boost your immune system, overall health and skin more than H20.

10. Clubs aren’t the nirvana you thought they were—sure, they’re fun on occasion. But $10 drinks add up fast and dimly lit rooms kind of all look the same.

11. Don’t sweat the future—Yeah, a full-time job seems scary, being poor sucks, and you can’t really envision life past next week. Guess what? That’s okay.

Turns out that 16 old me still had a lot to learn



What have you learned before 21?

Cosmopolitan Goes Gay!

Oh em gee, plot twist. Cosmo's for lesbians. Yes: Cosmo, the magazine. Surprised? So was I! However, nonetheless, Cosmo suddenly appears to have become a rabidly feminist publication, and what's more, it's totally pushing the lesbian lifestyle. In a shocking turn of events, it's talking about lesbian experience AS IF IT WAS NORMAL OR SOMETHING. Suddenly, as if in a world gone mad, Cosmo is giving Diva a run for its lesbian lolly.

I'm not a total Cosmo newbie. Was a time when Cosmo was my guilty pleasure. The copies I was FORCED (shifty eyes) to read because they were hanging around the communal areas of my girls' house in boarding school (on every single surface, sofa, toilet seat...) filled me with penis-based revulsion and heterosexual-dating-based rage (when I wasn't giggling at the confessions and admiring the shoes).

Cosmo was a guilty pleasure to the extent that on leaving boarding school, I missed it and would buy it for myself. On a fairly regular basis. Returning from the Himalayan mountains on my gap year, there's a chance I sobbed with joy as I bought a shiny, fabulous Cosmo UK in Delhi airport. I also "liked" Cosmo on facebook and followed them on twitter. Hence why I've been privy to their transformation.
To be fair, I actually think Cosmo has had a good amount of feminist content for a long time, albeit sold behind a cover which discussed Kim Kardashian's ass and 50 Things Guys Crave In Bed. In Cosmo, I have read articles about women's experiences with female castration and sex trafficing, saying, naturally, how horrific these things are. I've also read about women's careers and how we still get paid less, with UK women being paid even less than women in the US on the whole, and Taylor told me she read about how to have a totally equal heterosexual relationship.


However, Cosmo has recently experienced a Sapphic invasion! I noticed mid-December an article about self-love, in which the author discussed her disappointment when she hated her wedding photos. And who was said wedding to? Only a woman! I thought this was pretty gosh darn cool and, after retweeting it and excitedly showing Taylor, largely moved on with life.

But then, a few days later, Taylor discovered another article: 13 Things Not To Say To Your Lesbian Friend . While neither of us were very impressed by this particular article, we were astounded at the sudden amount of lesbian content Cosmo was pushing. And when, this morning, I noticed The 13 Best Things About Being A Lesbian my head exploded. Oh my God, I thought. What is happening? Has Cosmo been inundated by a Sapphic siege? Or... could it be... that Cosmo backs the gays??!


This is such an exciting revelation to me. A mainstream magazine like Cosmo's support makes lesbianism more visible and accessible. It reaches out to those who are wondering if they themselves could be lesbians. I actually get a bit tearful thinking about this, because as I said, Cosmo was read avidly at my boarding school. Maybe a young teenage lesbian nowadays wouldn't have to awkwardly head down to WHSmith and buy one of the three copies of Diva stocked on the Marlborough high street in order to read about someone like herself.

But even more, it teaches Cosmo's largely heterosexual readership about lesbian experiences. Maybe if lesbians had been discussed regularly in Cosmo five years ago, I wouldn't have spent my teen years being treated like a figure who was at best comical, and at worst a freak, by my boarding school peers. Maybe I wouldn't have been asked invasive questions about my homosexuality every few hours. Maybe it wouldn't have taken me - super super confident, out and proud me - three years after I came out to my parents and out-of-school friends to come out at boarding school.


I'm not saying Cosmo is perfect. For every feminist article on Cosmo.com, there's a "funny" article about how women hate blowjobs but give them anyway. For every article advocating the joys of girl-on-girl make outs, there's a very rude article about activities involving semen. But what Cosmo's sudden huge amount of lesbian content does tell me is that the world is finally, finally, changing. It's been a long, long, LONG time coming, but finally, it looks like change is gonna come and that change is going to involve gay girls being featured in women's glossies.

 
And so I raise my cocktail to you, Cosmo. I praise and thank you for your lesbian content and please keep it up. Thank you for talking about us like we're normal people and for discussing what bothers us. Thank you for talking about what makes us smile, be that The L Word, sharing clothes with our girlfriends or kissing a beautiful girl. Thank you for applauding our lifestyle. In doing so, you are doing women everywhere a favour.


Long Distance Love: The Pros and Cons

Long distance relationships (LDRs) are often portrayed as THE. WORST. THING. EVER. Upon hearing I’m in one of those dreaded international love things, I am often greeted with, “I’m so sorry” or “Wow, that sucks.” As Alex previously discussed there’s an abundance of negative stigma surrounding long distance. Yet strangely, when people aren’t bashing LDRs, they’re romanticizing about them. All you have to do is log on to Tumblr for a bombardment of gooey-eyed long distance love idealization. But the truth is that long distance relationships aren’t good or bad…they’re both.


Pros:

1) You commit to another person in a way you never knew was possible. When your other half is across the world (or country) there is no room for anything other than complete trust, love and mutual respect. In order for your relationship to work, you must want it more than anything else.

2) You travel around the world! I’ve been to London three times in the past year alone. Not to mention a romantic week in Paris, weekends in the English countryside and a week of sunshine on the Isles of Scilly. Seeing new corners of the world is a pretty awesome perk of international love.

3) You never take the other person for granted. When I’m with Alex every moment is magical because I’m constantly aware that the end of our togetherness is in the not-so-distant future. This means that each small gesture is appreciated—whether it’s making the bed each morning, an unexpected hug or whipping up a delicious dinner. I know what life is like without those small gestures and it makes me appreciate them all the more.

4) Romance thrives. Handwritten love notes are as normal in our relationship as texts are in others. We send cards to one another, buy each other “reunited gifts,” “goodbye gifts,” and never miss an opportunity surprise the other with gorgeous bouquets of flowers. Because long distance means less physical closeness, the romance is kept alive through thousands of surprises, gifts and letters. No one could ever accuse a long-distance couple of romance being dead.

5) You become a stronger person. It takes unbelievable strength, determination and faith to be in a relationship filled with continual goodbyes. It is truly remarkable to believe so strongly in something as elusive and beautiful as love that you are able to briefly bid it farewell.

Reunited at last!


Cons:

1) It’s painful. You’re away from the person you love and life often feels like it has lost its color.

2) Money, money, money. International travel is expensive as f***. Seeing your partner will require much more than a quick text and drive down the street. Chances are that you’ll need a job (or two) and months of saving.

3) Your life is split in two. There’s life with your partner and then there’s life without him/her. Distance requires you to build a life that doesn’t directly involve the person you love. You’re going to have a house you live in, friends you adventure with and countless moments of laughter and sadness that are impossible to include your partner in. Sure, you can recap it. But trust me, it’s not the same.

4) Fighting is amplified. Fighting always sucks, right? But now imagine it without the ability to hug and make-up. Add in an eight hour time difference and you have the perfect breeding ground for potentially epic feuds.

5) It’s hard to live in the moment. You’re watching a beautiful sunset with your favorite friends. Part of you is happy and content, but there’s another part that is heartbroken as you think, “_____ should be here. ______ should be here.” Welcome to the life of long distance. Happiness rarely feels completely pure when the person you love is absent. It’s also hard to not continually fantasize about the beautiful future you’ll share with your other half when long distance is conquered. The present is all we have, but the future can seem much more alluring when you’re separated from your better half.


Verdict:

Sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's awesome as hell. And ultimately, I wouldn't change my LDR for the world.