Posts tagged "Colleen Steffen"

5 ways not to lose weight in England

Last week at the Selfridges (like a British Macy’s) in Birmingham, I stumbled upon a huge food-court display of Frosted Flakes and Pop-Tarts that was entirely surrounded by American flags. It sat next to a sushi bar and a French bakery, and I think it was supposed to represent our national cuisine.

I guess they weren’t wrong.

But the U.K. also has quite a selection of deliciously crappy (or crappily delicious?) treats just waiting to be discovered, and being a good American I have tested many of them. Look for these, my favorites, in groceries, convenience stores and anywhere empty calories are sold:

1. Cadbury Digestives. You can find these at home, in the Meijer international aisle, but they cost like 6 bucks. Here they’re for sale at Poundland (insert off-color joke here). They’re dry, slightly sweet cookies with delicious milk chocolate on one side, and my 4-year-old calls them “Mommy’s special cookies” because I bribe her through art museums and bus rides with them. The same form of bribery also will work on me.

2. Cadbury anything. Yes, we have it at home, but IT DOESN’T TASTE THE SAME. It is a mystery as to why.  No preservatives, superior British cows, I don’t know. I don’t even like chocolate that much, and the Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel bar makes me want to write a poem or maybe cry a little.

3. Weird crisps. A crisp is an adorable British way to say potato chip, and they have very weird flavors here, like Thai Curry and T-Bone Steak. No matter the flavor, they all taste vaguely of ketchup. They’re fantastic.

4. Maynards Wine Gums. These are like gummi bears only more delicious, round and sold rolled up in a little tube. Why does so much British candy sound like the title of a PBS sitcom your grandma watches?

5. Jammie Dodgers. These are just little sandwich cookies with cherry or maybe strawberry jam in the middle, but it’s fun to say Jammie Dodger. I keep them in my purse for British-food emergencies, like when all the deli sandwiches have butter on them, all the salad dressing is really mayonnaise, or the pudding turns out to actually be bread with some sort of gravy on it.

You’ll see when you get here.

Colleen Steffen  |  Features Editor


So I’m totally an athlete too—if athletes are uncoordinated and weak

I don’t really like sports, but I love sports movies. “Hoosiers,” “Breaking Away,” “Rudy,” “The Blind Side.” I even liked that Brad Pitt baseball movie with all the math.

Movies give you the dramatic climax of the sports experience, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” and very little of the tiresome monotony of practice—unless, of course, it’s in some brief, musically scored montage. Sports movies are for people too impatient to commit to actual sports, people like me who never quite mastered the cartwheel in pre-school tumbling, only lasted one season on the grade-school basketball team, regularly convinced her dad to write her notes to get out of gym class.

It should be no surprise, then, that I love the Olympic Games. They offer three weeks of sports cinema, all those years of numbingly repetitious practice and toil telescoped into a few sentimental minutes of narration by Bob Costas so we can dwell on the crossing of the finish line and the tears on the medal stand. The Games, like a great sports movie, offer us a metaphor for all human endeavor, made more poignant because most of the athletes aren’t superhuman celebrities but ordinary people who committed beyond all common sense to a dream.

I have a dream too. This winter I sat in a chair every single day for six months and wrote a first draft of a book. It was boring and it often sucked and I would rather have been doing almost anything else—although when I did do something else I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would write next. And then I finished. And though nobody called me from ESPN and nobody handed me a gold medal and I remained painfully conscious of all the ways I could have done it better, I had done it. I had beaten my own record, clocked my best personal time, jumped an inch farther than I had jumped before.

It’s cheesy but it feels true. It’s the reason so many people love the Games, even people like me who hated gym.

If they can do it, maybe we can do it. Whatever it is.

Colleen Steffen  |  Features Editor

But seriously, what should I wear?

So for our spring Olympics class, I put together a presentation on how to pack for a long trip abroad–mostly from the perspective of being a terrible, terrible packer. You know, someone who doesn’t break their new shoes in ahead of time, grossly overestimates their upper-body strength and dresses entirely inappropriately for the weather. (I also get sick on all forms of moving transportation. I should hate traveling! And yet I adore it.)

Learn from my mistakes!

1.) On a three-week trip to Italy once, I insisted on wearing a lovely pair of black leather boots, which not only gave me bleeding blisters but also disintegrated off my feet in the Venice rain. I then bought a replacement pair on the road that, while beautiful and costing as much as my first car, caused me to come home and make multiple visits to a podiatrist. And I was in my early 20s.

So just wear sneakers. Everyone wears sneakers now, even stylish Europeans. I mean, not big white gym-shoe sneakers, and not those beautiful European women you’ll see tottering through historic ruins on their stilettos. But your feet will feel better than theirs. Trust me on this.

2.) A few years ago, because I fear boredom and like related reading material, I traveled around the entire country of Ireland with the complete works of William Butler Yeats, the complete works of Lady Gregory, the complete works of James Joyce and a stack of Eyewitness Travel books that weighed approximately 17 pounds each. Strangers had to help me get my travel tote into the overhead. And I read a total of about four pages.

But this summer I will be taking my new Kindle, which not only can hold the entirety of English literature (and even some travel books) but weighs nothing and only costs 80 bucks. So if I lose it, I don’t have to cry. At least not much.

3.) The last time I went to the UK, in summer 2010, I had a 2-year-old with me and didn’t even attempt to pack light. That’s how I ended up claiming a black duffel bag filled with diapers, table salt, shampoo, hand sanitizer, peanut-butter crackers, socks, plastic bags and microwave popcorn at the Birmingham airport. Which is totally something you want to deal with after you fly eight hours with a 2-year-old.

News flash: They sell things in Europe! You can get toothpaste and nail clippers there! You are not going on a trek to the undiscovered North Pole. So buy stuff there. And the packages will be different and it won’t cost much more and it will be fun.

Remind me of all this next week when I start packing.

Colleen Steffen l Features Editor