Why I Dance With Fire

45005983_1871381679584046_8872051314134089728_oPhoto by Grant Palmer Photography

The first time I ever saw people dance with fire in person, I was enraptured, impressed, and very convinced that I would never be crazy enough to try such a thing. As it turns out, the people I was watching were some of my newest friends at the time, and have come to become some of my longest running and closest. Through them, I experienced a community and genre of art that has brightened the light by which I see my own path through the world, and I’d like to share that with you here.

Shockingly enough, the people I mentioned above have names. Sonali Rathod and David Beeler are two extremely skilled fire spinners, specializing in the ball-and-leash prop known as poi. They also inspired me to learn how to juggle, and did me a great service by taking me to my first FireDrums festival, where I was introduced to a community that, for me, has come to redefine the word “community”.

Never before had I seen such a clear central focus driving such an immense variety of skills and mindsets. Many use the phrase “flow arts”, but to me, “object manipulation” really seems to sum up the central theme of the community that I followed up with at events like FireDrums, Universal Flow Gathering, and, most recently, Manipulation. Staffs, hoops, fans, clubs, rope dart, and mixes and matches… every prop brings a new perspective of interacting with both the world and the mind. This incredible community has changed the way I’ve come to understand how to see and feel the world.

Playing with an object extremely well in popular culture either converges on circus arts or popular sports, the latter of which necessarily involves a winner and a loser. I think that’s what really separates the flow arts community from other types of play: everyone should win. The way fire spinners dance best, is together. They spend their days learning from each other, creating art, building upon each others’ skills and growing, rather than simply picking a set of metrics to determine a winner and loser.

But hey, this post is about FIRE. And it’s about time that I got around to it.

The first time I danced with fire, June 1st, 2013, I had practiced with a pair of sock poi for over a year and a half, and the experience was magical. My most basic instincts were screaming at me, demanding to know why the hell so much fire was so close to me, and why I wasn’t moving it away as quickly and permanently as possible… but my higher instincts of desire and fulfillment responded for me. My arms and legs moved through the practiced motions ahead of my thoughts. I heard the roar, felt the heat, smelled the fuel, and gripped the leash of the balls of fire that spun around my body as I wandered through the enormous circle of fire spinners. All around me, ecstatic performers danced with fire, their props alight with energy and flame, and since I was holding a pair of props that would burn me if I kept still, I moved. I moved to the music, to the crackling of the fire, and lost myself with in entirely.

I mentioned the term “flow arts” before and it may have been in passing, but I now want to revisit it much more intensely. If you’ve ever lost yourself entirely in a task, you have experienced flow. If you’re like me, perhaps a chart would help:

flow

The Flow Arts in the context of object manipulation is a genre of activity that I cannot recommend enough to literally anyone with a healthy, moving body.

And if you’ve spend any amount of time looking at fire, then you know that it certainly flows. Personally, I believe that the conversation between my intentions and my instincts (that felt more like a shouting match at first) has helped me grow immensely, not to mention the people I’ve connected with through this hobby that I find are far more in touch with their instincts than most.

I often think of the human ancestor that first had the instinct to, rather than run from fire, stay near it and use it for warmth… whose offspring, perhaps several generations down, dared to try and use the fire to cook meat or separate metal from sand. I wonder how absolutely insane that first ancestor must have seemed to their peers.

How insane would you be to play with fire?

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Baked History: Yum-kin Pie

Happy Halloween-month everyone! No I’m not one of those people who starts celebrating holidays in advance – but I thought it would be great to theme the rest of articles this month around the holiday so many other people love!

Just a house keeping note, you all may have noticed the site’s been very busy as of late. I’m most certainly going to try and maintain that but Inspyre and I will be having some life changes coming up, so we may not be as consistent.

As usual, if any one has any comments, questions or article ideas, please feel free to comment below or contact us directly!

Today, we’ll be talking about the history of PUMPKIN PIE (my favorite dessert). The first pumpkins were cultivated in 5500 BC in Central America, making it one of the original American vegetables. Due to it’s age, it was one of the first vegetables that explorers to the Americas took back to Europe [1]. By the late 1500s, the English were calling them “pumpions” and the French, “pompon”, both references to it’s roundness. Though original visitors to the Americas during this time may have been familiar with the vegetable, it most certainly did not gain popularity until much later.

As many Americans and Canadians are taught at a young age, when the countries were originally settled back in the 1600s, the Pilgrims and Natives shared….varying relationships depending on the location – more often than not, incredibly violent. When the first winter came around, and many Pilgrims died or realized they were going to shortly thereafter without help, relations improved. Legend goes that the Natives brought pumpkins for the pilgrims as a sign of good faith and to provide them with the necessary nutrients [2]. Pumpkins are not only native to the Americas, but the Natives were fond of boiling or roasting members of the squash family for sustenance.

Eventually, the discovery of the pumpkin made its way to France, where Francois Pierre la Varenne wrote a cookbook that has the first written recipe of pumpkin pie included [2]. This cookbook’s English translation made it’s way back to the Americas and Britain where the recipe began to evolve. In the late 1600s, a variety of British cookbooks began showing up with a different variations of what they call “pumpion pie”, and finally in the 1700s, the first American cookbook by Amelia Simmons was published, whose Pumpkin pudding recipe largely resembles our recipe today.


Amelia Simmons recipes [2]:

Pompkin Pudding No. 1.  One quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.

Pompkin Pudding No. 2.  One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.


 

If you’re looking for a more modern recipe, I HIGHLY recommend either a Costco Pumpkin Pie or this recipe from Food Network [3]!

Ingredients

Dough:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), diced

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Flour for rolling the dough

Filling:

One 15-ounce can unsweetened pure pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups half-and-half

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. Make the dough by hand. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow corn meal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.) Add the egg and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture.
  2. Alternatively, make the dough in a food processor. With the machine fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles yellow corn meal mixed with bean-sized bits of butter, about 10 times. Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times; don’t let the dough form into a ball in the machine. (If the dough is very dry add up to a tablespoon more of cold water.) Remove the bowl from the machine, remove the blade, and bring the dough together by hand.
  3. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Flute the edge as desired. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.
  5. Set separate racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie shell and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake on a baking sheet on the center rack until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift sides of the parchment paper to remove the beans. Continue baking until the pie shell is lightly golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Cool on a rack.
  6. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  7. While the pie shell is cooling make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, half-and-half, spices, and salt until smooth. Return the pie shell to the baking sheet and pour in the filling.
  8. Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges of the filling are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 50 to 60 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil.) Cool on a rack. Serve room temperature or slightly warm.

 

Well I hope you all enjoyed our Yummy article, and feel free to leave comments below!

Sources:

  1. https://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-pumpkin-pie
  2. https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/PieHistory/PumpkinPie.htm
  3. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/pumpkin-pie-recipe-2102740

Baked History: Tiramisu, I see you!

After a long hiatus, we’re doing another baked history article! Today, we’re doing an article on the mysterious beginnings of the Tiramisu, an international favorite. The word Tiramisu is Italian for “pick me up”, most likely an ode to the coffee component, and the oldest recipes refer to it as “Tirime su” or “Tirime on”. Layered desserts aren’t very popular in Italy, so this definitely stands out as a dessert. There’s a lot of disagreement on the particular region that the dessert originates from, but it could be anywhere from Treviso to Tolmezzo to San Canzian D’Isonzo to Tuscany to Torino [1][2]. Basically, everyone has their own claim to the famous dessert! What we do know is that the dessert is a more recent invention, coming to the Italian public eye somewhere around the 1950s.

There’s a variety of stories with how Tiramisu was created. What’s clear is that this is a “restaurant” recipe, and not a familial one. The stories vary anywhere from a restaurant creating a similar recipe, and then somehow, over time the credit was “stolen” from them to an energy-giving treat for prostitutes working in an Italian brothel in the 1950s. Each region seems to have its own “indisputable” proof as well that they were the first to create it.

Treviso claims the recipe is theirs, having been created in the restaurant “Le Beccherie” in the 1970s by Ada Campeol, who created the recipe to give herself energy after giving birth to her son [3]. (The restaurant closed inn 2014 due to an economic crisis). The region already had a dessert “zabaglione custard”, which may have been the inspired beginnings to tiramisu itself. The zabaglione was inspired by the “Zabaja”, having existed since the 1700s. In his book, gastronome Maffioli says, “The groom’s bachelor friends at the end of the long wedding banquet, maliciously teasing, gave him a big bottle of zabajon before the couple retired to guarantee a successful and prolonged honeymoon.” [4]. “The zabajon,” Maffioli continues, “sometimes had whipped cream added, but in this case was served very cold, almost frozen, and accompanied by baicoli, small thin Venetian cookies invented in the 1700’s by a baker in the Santa Margherita suburb of Venice.”

Author and blogger, Anna Maria Volpi has provided this original recipe from the Le Beccherie, which she found in a Spring 1981 Vin Veneto magazine article.


Original recipe: [5]

The quantities Maffioli indicates are for a large restaurant-sized dessert:

12 egg yolks
1 lb 2 oz (½ kg) sugar
2 lb 4 oz (1 kg) mascarpone cheese
60 ladyfinger (savoiardi) cookies
Espresso coffee, as necessary
Cocoa powder, as necessary

She resized the recipe to fit in a 8 inch x 8 inch x 2 inch pan:

1 -1/2 cups (360 cc) espresso coffee
2 teaspoons sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1 lb (450 g)
mascarpone cheese at room temperature
30 savoiardi (ladyfinger cookies)
2 tablespoons bitter cocoa powder

1. Prepare a strong espresso coffee, about 1½ cups (360 cc). Dissolve 2 teaspoons of sugar in it while the coffee is still hot. Let the coffee cool to room temperature.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until they become light and fluffy.
3. Combine the mascarpone cheese
4. Dip half of the ladyfingers in the coffee and place them in the pan in a single layer.
5. Spread half of the mascarpone cream on the cookies
6. Dip the remaining ladyfingers in the coffee and place them in the pan in a second layer layer.
7. Spread the remaining mascarpone cream on the cookies.
8. Sprinkle with the cocoa powder and refrigerate for about 3 – 4 hours.

tiramisu20beccherie20x01


In Tolmezzo, however, there’s a very different story. They claim that there are not one, but two official recipes. [6].

The first is a classic recipe created in Hotel Roma di Tolmezzo by cook Norma Pielli. Tolmezzo claims the irrefutable evidence is a receipt dated December 13, 1959! The second is called “Vetturino Tirime su Cup” created by chef Mario Cosolo of Al Vetturino restaurant in Pieris, near San Canzian D’Isonzo, dating back to the 1940s. This second recipe, shockingly doesn’t include the ingredients we know and love today, but instead, sponge cake, marsala wine and cocoa!

The hotel Roma has been around since the 1880s, and in the 1950s was being managed by Bepi del Fabbro and his wife Norma Pielli. The dessert was originally proposed to “To cheer me up a little and to crow the flors” (respectively, the coffee and at the time, zucchini flowers in the recipe!). The recipe was so popular, it became a mandatory stops for skiers coming down the mountains. According to legend, residents from the town of Trieste suggested changing the name of the dessert to Trancia to Mascarpone to Tirime on (in the Trieste dialect, this means “pull me up”).


In Norma Pielli’s diary [8]:Tiramisu. Ingredients: 4 whole eggs, 300 gr. of white sugar, 500 gr. of mascarpone, 40/45 biscuits biscuits, 300 cc. of bitter and strong coffee left to cool, 100 gr. sprinkling of bitter cocoa. Prepare coffee (moka or espresso) in advance and let it cool. Place 3 egg whites in a bowl and whisk them with a pinch of salt. With a whisk, beat the 3 egg yolks and the whole egg together with the sugar then, using a spatula, add the mascarpone and mix slowly from bottom to top to form a cream. Finally add the whipped egg whites and mix everything by mixing very slowly, from the bottom up, not to remove the cream. On the flat bottom of a bowl or a baking dish lay a layer of ladyfingers, soaked in coffee, drained and lightly squeezed with a fork to remove excess liquid. On the layer of ladyfingers spread a layer equal to half of the prepared cream. Then spread over it a second layer of ladyfingers, soaked and treated like the previous ones. Spread over the remaining cream. Put the cake in the fridge for 12 hours and taste it after having dusted it with bitter cocoa with a colander.


In 2013, daughters of Chef Mario Cusolo claim they found important evidence that their father is definitively the inventor of the dessert. In the storeroom of their house, daughters Gianna and Flavia found a portfolio containing photos that confirmed the Vetturino Cup had turned into “Tireme su” right after the 2nd World War [7]. The portfolio contained photos and a poster, which has unfortunately not stayed in tact. The photos, however, show the poster displayed in the background of the restaurant. The photo is from the marriage of Tiberio Mitri and Fulvia Franco in 1950, and the poster states “The Tirime on created by Mario is worth more than what it costs” (note the usage of the Tirime on instead of su)The Cosolos also point to an article written in 1975 by Giorgio Mistretta, in “La Buona Tavola”, where he states “In addition to the many specialties already mentioned, it deserves a separate mention of the ‘tirame su’ served at dessert: it is a semifreddo made with zabaglione created in 1935 and the progenitor of a whole family of ‘tirame su’ that you can meet today in the Friuli restaurants” (translated from Italian).


For 8 cups [9]:

For the sponge cake :
5 eggs
sugar (equal to the weight of 4 eggs with shell)
flour (equal to the weight of 3 eggs with shell)
baking powder ½ sachet (Author’s note: I’ve translated this as a total of 8g) [10]
the grated rind of 1 lemon.


For creams :
6 egg yolks
8-9 tablespoons of sugar
1 liter of liquid cream
80 ml of dry Marsala (a wine)
2-3 tablespoons of bitter cocoa.

In addition : dry Marsala for the bagna (Author’s note: this means bathing) as needed, bitter cocoa for dusting as needed

Preparation
Sponge cake : in a bowl break 5 whole eggs and with electric whips mount them by adding the amount of sugar equal to the weight of 4 eggs with the shell. Beat for a long time until a swollen and fluffy mixture is obtained. Incorporate, sieving little by little, the flour , whose weight is equal to that of 3 eggs, together with half a packet of yeast and a pinch of salt (or half flour and half potato flour or frumina). Perfume with the grated peel of a lemon. Pour into a mold and bake at 160 ° / 170 ° C for 30/40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Creams : in a bowl with a concave bottom, whisk very well, with electric whips, 6 egg yolks with 6 tablespoons of sugar: when it becomes a nice clear froth, 80 ml of dry Marsala are added, one spoon at a time. The container is placed in a warm bain-marie placed on low heat and continuing to whisk with a hand whisk, always in the same direction, the eggnog is thickened. When it is well swollen, ie at the first boil, it is extracted from the bain-marie, allowed to cool and then placed in the refrigerator. Add a liter of fresh cream, with a high percentage of fat (at least 60-70%). Sift 2 or 3 tablespoons of bitter cocoa powder together with 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar and mix in small doses to 400 g of whipped cream. Return immediately to the refrigerator. This cream can be made by replacing cocoa powder with melted dark chocolate and warmed. With a hand whisk gently incorporate the eggnog to the remaining whipped cream: the cream should be full-bodied and light in taste.

Prepare the cups . Place the chocolate cream on the bottom of each (about half cup); above is placed a square of sponge cake soaked in Marsala; then it is covered to the brim with the zabaione cream. Decorate the surface using a sac-à-poche with a 10 mm curly nozzle. Finally sprinkle with plenty of cocoa. Store in the refrigerator for a few hours. This dessert should be savored “vertically”, collecting all the layers of the cup with a spoon.


And who could forget Tuscany? More precisely in Siena , where on the occasion of a visit by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de ‘Medici was invented a sweet called “soup of the duke” or “Zuppa del Duca” [13]. The dish was successful particularly among courtesans, who found it both stimulating and an aphrodisiac, enjoying it before their “trysts”. The dessert shares some characteristics to the current tiramisu [12]. However, there are some discrepancies in this legend because both the sponge biscuits and the mascarpone were little used in the Sienese pastry between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Marscapone, in particular, could hardly be preserved and transported quickly from Lombardy to Tuscany.

And finally, Torino. The legend says that during the unification of Italy a famous pastry chef prepared a special, potent dessert for Prime Minister Cavour, something that would sustain him in his difficult work of unifying the Italian peninsula. The coffee and liqueur mixture helped perk him up [11]. At the time, however, food preservation wasn’t great, to say the least, which presents the same problems as the Tuscan legend.



Torino Tiramisu  [14]

Serves 6:

3 egg Yolks
¼ cup Heavy Cream
½ cup Sugar
1 tsp. Marsala
½ cup Mascarpone
9 tbsp. Espresso (regular coffee can be used too)
3 tbsp. Kahlua
50 g Lady Fingers

  1. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, until cream is formed and sugar is slightly dissolved. Whisk in marsala, continue to beat for a minute or so, and then take off heat. Let sit to cool.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
  3. In a larger bowl, fold the mascarpone into the egg yolk cream.
  4. The mascarpone is folded into the egg cream.
  5. Fold in the whipped cream.
  6. Fold the creams together.
  7. In a small bowl, mix the kahlua and espresso together.

To Assemble:

  1. Crack 1 & 1/2 lady fingers into a small cup.
  2. Lay out your cups. I like to use these little espresso cups. Tiramisu is rich, so it’s the perfect portion!
  3. Pour coffee mixture over lady fingers until submerged.
  4. Pipe the cream on top.
  5. Dust with cocoa powder.

IMG_8462-1024x574


Well I hope you all enjoyed this special, way-longer-than-I-thought-it-would-be article about Tiramisu!

If you have any questions, or suggestions for the future, please don’t forget to comment below or contact us directly!
Sources:

1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/17/italian-regions-battle-over-who-invented-tiramisu-in-long-runnin/
2. https://archive.is/20120604101928/http://www.annamariavolpi.com/page38.html
3. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10666253/Last-orders-at-restaurant-that-invented-tiramisu.html
4. Giuseppe Maffioli, Il ghiottone Veneto (The Venetian Glutton). 1968.
5. http://www.annamariavolpi.com/public_html/tiramisu_le_beccherie.html
6. http://showmefriuli.com/un-pomeriggio-a-tolmezzo-patria-del-tiramisu-e-dellarte-del-fare/
7. http://ilpiccolo.gelocal.it/trieste/cronaca/2013/12/29/news/manifesto-del-1947-gia-pubblicizzava-il-tiremesu-di-pieris-1.8380140
8. http://www.udinetoday.it/cucina/disciplinare-ricetta-tiramisu-signora-norma-pielli-tolmezzo.html
9. https://www.italiaatavola.net/ricette/dolci-e-frutta/2016/5/16/tiramisu-coppa-vetturino/44440
10. https://allthingssicilianandmore.com/tag/italian-baking-powder/
11. https://www.summerinitaly.com/guide/tiramisu-
12. https://www.ilgiornaledelcibo.it/origini-del-tiramisu/
13. http://unseentuscany.com/italiski-receptai-tikras-italiskas-tiramisu/
14. http://bengusto.com/2014/09/21/torino-tiramisu/

 

)'( – The Return

I went back to Burning Man this year. I know I never quite finished the previous post series about it, because like most of my projects, my instinct to refine ad infinitum resulted in them never getting done. I do think my thoughts on this year might be concise enough to put onto one post. Might… let’s find out by the end of it.

I was part of the Fire Conclave, again, which is the umbrella term for all 26 groups of fire dancers, each of which perform their own choreographed routine on the night before The Man Burns.

Not only is our show the final event that occurs before the event’s namesake, but this year we got front-row seats. That is to say, as soon as we were finished performing for the audience, we gathered our gear, huddled together, sat down, and turned around to watch him burn. And what a spectacle it was.

But really, that’s the most mundane part of Burning Man, as spectacular as it is. It’s one of very few things in Black Rock City that everyone knows for certain is going to happen. The rest of the week was far more unexpected, and mine had a strange hodgepodge of qualities that contrasted each other weird ways. For instance, despite being wildly unpredictable and indeed having no plan whatsoever for most of the week (in part because I lost my events booklet on Tuesday), my time in Black Rock City this year was very, very calm. There’s no shortage of partying hard on the Playa, and as much as I wanted to and even intended to this year, I simply… didn’t feel like it. Let me walk you through my week…

The start of it was fairly bumpy; after six and a half hours of waiting in line (seeing the sunrise while waiting in line wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought), I got my camp set up right on Esplanade by noon on Monday and immediately began visiting friends I had across the city. This already sharply contrasted with the beginning of my first burn, when I spontaneously made friends with a couple of other first-time burners and we spent much of the week galavanting around the city together. This time, my camp was filled with veterans and I never really felt like I needed to ‘go out there’ to have extremely wholesome conversations and connections with people. Indeed, camping on Esplanade made me feel like I never had to leave; by night, I simply sat on the scaffolding to gaze upon the illuminated art and citizenry.

Tuesday and Wednesday were my ‘party’ days, if I had any. Alcohol, music, and merriment is kicked up with every grain of dust out there, and I certainly did partake. I danced with fire among friends and made a few new ones… but Wednesday night was the peak for me. Oddly enough, that’s when my body should have gotten around to acclimating to the environment, and my energy level should have gone up, but the rest of my week had, believe it or not, a rather consistent routine.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I slept until maybe 10 or 11 AM, woke up, used the restroom and ate, then went back to camp, looked out among the Playa, looked back into the campsite and saw our camp’s cozy little tepee and fuzzy soft carpet, and curled up to nap until 4 or 5 PM. Then I generally wandered a bit around the city, talked to my camp mates, but very little else. In retrospect, maybe it was dehydration (ended up only drinking like 5 gallons the whole week… which doesn’t sound right), or poor nutrition (some day I might prioritize food well enough to plan… meals? nah) but ultimately I’m glad the rest of the week was so relatively relaxed. It made my personal best time on Playa this year shine that much brighter.

Thursday night, I found charisma! If you know me personally, you probably wouldn’t describe me as ‘charismatic’. I get unreasonably excited about very specific things and am extremely difficult to engage with or stimulate outside of those specific things, though not for lack of trying. Thursday night at Burning Man this year, however, must’ve hit one hell of an intersection of stimulation for me because I was stone sober while attending a wonderful interactive art piece known as the Tesseract. With unbridled enthusiasm I shouted at people “Introducing the latest in human transdimensional transport technology! The Tesseract will take you to the fourth dimension and if you are very very lucky, it will bring you back!” Despite my general distaste for excessive theatrics, it simply flowed out of me. Multiple people commented that my attitude improved their experience and for two and a half hours I was spewing more positive energy at people than I ever thought I had. And the craziest part? It was contagious! I would open up the Tesseract to let someone out and shout “YES, ANOTHER ONE MADE IT BACK!” often enough to be met with joyous laughter. Charisma… is it just… being happy at people? Because that’s what it felt like, and wow it felt great. I really hope I can wrangle that some day to use it at will.

And the art… honestly, to talk about the art at Burning Man feels like trying to talk about the heat after visiting the sun. I could describe the enormous LED spiral circles that were vertically stacked one night and rolling around the desert the next. I could tell you about what I thought was a huge statue being slowly set up and posed, only to learn it was the biggest marionette I now know exists. I could even describe to you the vicious, sharp metal humanoid figure of Killbot 3000, a statue built on the base of The Man: in its left outstretched hand was what appeared to be a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll that had been ripped to shreds and somehow bloody (for good effect), and it seemed so menacing and evil… until I walked around it and saw a message written on the back of its right arm: “I don’t want to kill anymore”, and even though he didn’t move, my entire perspective of the statue shifted drastically. The dismembered Elmo wasn’t a warning, but a plea.

I do have a small regret in not going out into Deep Playa at least a couple more times this year.

I haven’t taken the Wifey yet, so I’m not done with Burning Man at least until then.

Honeymoon 2017: Bletchley Park (Day 2)

Welcome back everyone!

Today, we went to the Bletchley. If you’re familiar with the movie “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, this is where it all took place. Bletchley is considered the home of famous cryptologist and father of the modern computer, Alan Turing, during WWII. I would say this is a must-see for any computer nerds, cryptologists, or WWII junkies.

On Sept. 3, we woke up at 6am, ate breakfast downstairs and headed off to the tube across the street. We took it from Gloucester Road to Green Park and transferred onto the Victoria Line all the way to Euston station. We got there at about 8:00 which is when we bought tickets for “National Rail System” Train where we took the London Midlands Line all the way to Bletchley Park (BP). That took about an hour and we arrived at 9:30 to the station, which was literally a 5 minute walk to the Bletchley campus.

BP was absolutely amazing. First of all, the estate is sprawling, which is interesting because it’s essentially an expanded farmhouse. Inspyre and I had anticipated there wouldn’t be THAT much to do there (we were still under the impression it was just a farmhouse), but we were sorely mistaken. We were there from opening to closing (5:30 pm) and I would argue we still didn’t get to see all the exhibits we wanted to. We did take a tour of the grounds, but the tours fill up VERY fast.

***A word of advice: Sign up for your assigned tour first thing in the morning, and then have lunch right after the tour is done.

You can spend the rest of the day seeing the exhibits on your own time. That being said, we were going from exhibit to exhibit so much, we actually skipped lunch.

***A word of advice: Don’t skip lunch. With all the walking, I only noticed when I almost fainted.

By the time we did notice, it was tea time, and the restaurants on campus had stopped serving entrees.

We left BP at 530, boarded our train back home, and I promptly fell asleep, pretty much not walking up until we got back to the hotel. I ended up taking a 3 hour nap until about 9:30, which basically killed the rest of the day. I recommend NOT doing that. Drink plenty of coffee instead.

Tomorrow, Inspyre and I go on our first planned day tour – Stonehenge, Bath and Strattford-upon-Avon!

Be sure to leave your comments below, or feel free to contact us with any questions! Thanks and see you next time!

Honeymoon 2017: London (Day 1)

Hello Lovely Readers,

So a few opening points. Firstly, if there’s something I think readers should absolutely be aware of, it’ll be demarked with “***A word of advice”. Be sure to read those for important tips! Additionally, on every trip we take, we download maps of the cities we’re going to be in in advance. The app is MAPS.ME. This is basically a MANDATORY app. It is SO important and useful. It’s basically the only way to guarantee you won’t waste ages of time getting lost. Please head my advice. Additionally, any photos, unless otherwise noted are my own. Please ask for permission before use. Moving on!

So, Inspyre and I left from LA to England at 8:30 in the morning on American Airlines. Overall, the flight was rather poor with no food or entertainment. There was a 2 hr layover in Philadelphia, at which point we got onto our second, international flight. There was at least in-flight entertainment this time, but the food was some of the worst food we’ve ever eaten. Neither of us could finish it. On the plus side, we did land an hour earlier than anticipated at Heathrow.

***A word of advice: Heathrow is known as one of the busiest airports in the world. That includes the security lines. Be ready for at least an hour of waiting in line, and bring some snacks.

Heathrow is well prepped for tourists and has an entire section after security ready for tourist-y type tickets. Most of the tickets we decided could be purchased through our hotel concierge, so we only bought Oyster Pass tickets at the airport.

***A word of advice: Oyster Pass is basically mandatory if you’re in London. It’s the cities transit system, but most importantly, their Metro. 99% of attractions are available by Metro. GET THE OYSTER PASS.

After getting the Oyster Pass, we immediately used it to take a metro to our hotel on Gloucester Road – Millennium Gardens. When we got there, we were told our room wouldn’t be ready for another 4 hours, which was incredibly inconvenient. We decided to use the time to drop off our luggage with the concierge and wander the city. We decided to wander in the direction of Kensington Palace, which we were a stones throw away from. However, Inspyre, who’s never been international, had jet-lag hit him like a bucket of rocks in about 30 minutes. We headed back to the hotel prematurely, without really having seen anything.

At this point, I informed the reservations desk that we were on our honeymoon, and Inspyre was basically hallucinating from jet-lag. They informed us they could have our room ready in an hour! I convinced Inspyre that we could get some food in the meantime. We went to a Starbucks across the street, and then went directly to Nando’s, which was right next door.

FOOD REVIEW: Nando’s absolutely lives up to it’s international reputation. Although the menu isn’t terribly complex, it has perhaps the best chicken I’ve ever had. Inspyre and I shared chicken thighs, garlic bread and mashed potatoes.

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We then headed back to our hotel at 12:15 pm. Not only was our room ready, but because it was our honeymoon, the hotel upgraded us from a Standard room to a Superior room, complementary! Inspyre then proceeded to accidentally sleep for 4.5 hrs.

HOTEL REVIEW: Millennium Gardens was a PERFECT hotel. It is very centrally located, 2 minutes walking from the nearest Metro station, and absolutely beautiful. The staff are incredibly helpful, and in particular the concierge desk is one of the most valuable resources I’ve had on any of my vacations. Furthermore, they even serve breakfast downstairs every morning. Not only was it always delicious, but there was a wide selection in their buffet. 5 star review.

By the time he woke up, it was about 5:30. We went across the street to Nero’s, a very popular coffee shop in Europe, and continued to explore. The first thing we did was find a shop that would sell us a universal adapter for our appliances (laptop, phone, etc.). The store we found was a little hole in the wall, Kensington Communications, that sold it to us for 20 pounds instead of 22, because we paid in cash.

***A word of advice: Bring a universal adapter. Bring cash.

We were close to the palace grounds at this point, so we wandered to Kensington Palace. The palace is known as the last place Princess Diana lived, so the whole place is basically a memorial to her. Inspyre and I decided not to do a tour, as we would rather see one of the palaces that focus more on history than on a single person. Instead we wandered the grounds for hours. By the time we decided to stop, my feet were aching and I felt ready to collapse.

***A word of advice: Wear sneakers. Definitely wear sneakers.

We headed back to the hotel, where our concierge David makes his debut! David was one of most knowledgeable people, I’ve ever met in regards to London. He knew every restaurant, every travel tip, and even customized his recommendations based one what things we liked to do (he was the one who suggested Kensington Palace might not be up our alley). Inspyre asked David for a good Italian restaurant and David recommended Da Mario or Il Borno for Italian food or if we decided on Mediterranean food, MK Market. We settled on Da Mario.

FOOD REVIEW: Da Mario’s was fantastic! We started off appetizers with a buffalo milk Mozzarella Caprese, followed by meals of Inspyre’s pizza and my gluten free Rigatoni da Mario. They had gluten free options for everything on the menu! Inspyre also got some Rosé, and we followed it up with some great Chocolate Sorbet. The whole thing cost about 56 pounds. The restaurant is a little unusual in that theres an upstairs and downstairs level. To get downstairs, there’s a very cramped and tight staircase. But it feels like you’re going into a speakeasy, so it’s not terrible. If you want some authentic Italian food, this is the place to go! 4 stars.

When we got back to the hotel, we bought tickets for “The Big Bus Original Tour” and talked to David about how to get to Bletchley, which was the plan for the next day.

Stay tuned for Day 2, and be sure to comment below!

Travel: Honeymoon 2017

Hello! So this post comes a bit late, but as many of you are aware, Inspyre and I got married July 2017. In September of 2017, we went on our honeymoon! So if you need any ideas, or have questions about the regions in general, feel free to peruse below, or contact us directly!

The trip will be outlined in a series of articles, that will focus on each location. Inspyre and I left LA, California and flew directly to London, where we stayed for a couple of days. From there, we left for Rome where we began our 7 day cruise around the Mediterranean. The cruise concluded and we spent another couple of days in Rome before ending the adventure of a life time! With this introductory article, we’ll be releasing the London article, with a different location coming out every week!

Thank you to our readers as always and feel free to contact us with any questions. Don’t forget to leave comments in the section below!

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