Archive | October 2011

The Day of One Syllable

I don’t know what it is, and I’m not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth, but every Sunday so far, I have been blessed with perfect weather for traveling. This Sunday’s excursion was to the adorably quaint region of the Cotswolds, specifically Moreton-in-Marsh (chosen solely because that is where the only train station in the Cotswolds happens to be). It started with six people in the planning stages, but dwindled down to only Kelsi, Jordan, and myself (told you girls that there would be a blog shout out!) which it turns out was the perfect combination for the girliest day we have had so far.

The day began like any other travel day with us all making our respective breakfasts and meeting outside Dawson Street–slight detour to knock on Kelsi’s window and make sure she was awake; she was–before walking over to the Oxford Rail Station. It was definitely a gray morning, so we were glad we brought our umbrellas because that guaranteed that there would be no rain on our walks. On the half hour train ride we gasped at the beautiful autumn countryside and began to plan next weekend’s Sunday excursion (no sneak preview this week, it’s going to be a surprise). What can we say? We like to plan ahead.

Kelsi on the train to Moreton-in-Marsh

Jordan and I riding backwards

The actual tiny town of Moreton-in-Marsh is as cute as expected. Built entirely from Cotswold stone, it looks exactly as it would have during the Middle Ages and subsequent eras apart from the surprisingly expensive cars driving through it. We strolled down its High Street, wandering into little antique shops and tea houses searching for the best place to get our now traditional cream tea. There was a little sweet shop, an anticlimactic bookstore, and a cheese shop where we all bought strawberry-champagne jam, and individually bought fig and apple jam (Kelsi) and lemon curd (me, duh) and banana curd (again, me, shocking I know). Tomorrow will have a taste test of a few jams so I’ll let you know how they all are. Most of the shops were actually closed, but it is a Sunday and in a little town to be expected.

Kelsi looking at recipe books in the bookstore

We ate lunch at this little cafe called Mrs. T Potts’ Tea Shop (as in Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast! Disney nerd inside is happy). There we had the best sweet potato and cheese soup and the best warmed white bread I have ever tasted. SOOOO GOOD. Sorry, enough gushing about the cute lunch place.

Speaking of gushing, the majority of our conversations in the Cotswolds started with or were interrupted by multiple sighs of “awwwww”. Cute child or baby? Awwwww. Little store of trinkets? Awwwww. Old couple walking down the street holding hands and walkers? Awwwww. Gardens? Awwwww. Flock of sheep? Awwwww. Cottages all with names like “Angel Cottage”, “Little Cottage” and perfectly decorated kitchens? Awwwww.

After lunch, we walked 2 miles down a one-lane country road, next to fields of crops, for grazing, and just meadows, towards the 90 person village of Bourton-on-the-Hill, not to be confused with Bourton-on-the-Water.


There is really nothing to do there but walk uphill on its one street towards the church and cemetery, but being girls let loose in the Cotswolds, we gushed over its beauty and imagined what life would be like if we lived there.

The Horse and Groom Public House

I decided to get married in that church, just have to find a duke to marry now! Then we walked back for our cream tea at Tilly’s Tea House.

Best cream tea so far. The scones were warm, the jam not too sweet, and the clotted cream a step closer to what we are searching for and away from unsalted whipped butter. We tried this hot milk drink (hot milk, honey, and nutmeg), which was too sweet on its own but was delicious in tea. After that, it was 4 pm, everything was closing that had actually been open, so we caught the 5:12 train back to Oxford. At the train station, this two-year-old girl became instantly attached to us, much to the chagrin of her father (wow, can you tell that I’m taking a break from writing my essay right now with all of my high class vocabulary?) who tried to walk to a different bench but was forced to stay as she started crying and she sat down on the bench in between all of us.

We grabbed dinner in Oxford at the very gourmet Fire and Stone Pizza, then trudged back to our rooms once again completely exhausted but perfectly happy with our wonderful day and giddy for next week as the traveling and search for the best cream tea and umpteenth jar of lemon curd continues! Thanks girls for an awesome day!

P.S. still cannot figure out what a hashtag is #whitegirlproblems haha

Amputation by Dance Heel

Considering how polite the British are, when you put a bunch of beginner ballroom dancers on a small basketball court and teach them a basic quickstep, it is shocking how all that etiquette doesn’t just go out the window, but can get very dangerous. As I learned the hard way this morning when I became the first casualty of the Oxford University Beginner’s Ballroom Dance Team.

Most people won’t really be surprised given how accident prone I am, but I swear this one was not my fault. Eusebio did a great job of teaching me dance floor politeness and that the number one rule was watch where you’re going. That hasn’t really been taught here, unfortunately for me because a beginner couple literally slammed into me while doing their quickstep and injured my toe. And I understand that they are beginners and we were all cramped and that it was an accident and not an attempt at sabotage, but they could’ve at least said sorry and asked if I was okay. Which they didn’t.

So then I was left to hobble off the dance floor up to the locker room with a toe nail crushed and dripping blood (sorry if that’s considered a little graphic). Thankfully I got my brand new latin shoes off before the blood got on them, and then one of the main team girls was very nice and ran to get me some toilet paper to wrap my toe up in so that I didn’t leave a trail of blood behind for Hansel and Gretel to follow me from. And one of the people who help Bruce out came over and helped me get to the locker room and then grabbed first aid stuff while I rinsed off my foot in the sink (hurt like heck!!). All in all, I only missed about fifteen minutes of rehearsal before Hugh and I had me bandaged back up, back into my Latin shoes, and back to practicing that darn quickstep.

Mark of a veteran dancer, we are masochistic  stubborn people who just–to borrow a British phrase–“keep calm and carry on” even with bleeding toe that will probably be missing a nail when I undo the bandages tonight. And it won’t stop me from walking around the Cotswolds tomorrow, or to the Eagle and Child tonight.

At least I didn’t spring for a pedicure yesterday!

Need $ for More Productivity

Ah if only it were that easy. Just fork out some cash and suddenly become productive! Alas it’s not really possible to do that unless you know a drug dealer willing to sell you Ritalin, and I’m not really for adding stimulants to my pill-popping regime, so I have to deal with being unproductive and exhausted today I think.

Technically I guess I can afford to take a day easy in the middle of the week, even if I do have two essays due next week and one is about amnesia (unfortunately that doesn’t allow me the excuse of “sorry, I kept forgetting all the material”) and requires a lot of reading. And yes, I suppose it isn’t really taking a day off because I already had a 2 hour dance rehearsal and I have another 3 hour one tonight, but I still would have liked to actually make progress on a paper today instead of literally falling asleep every five minutes.

Teddy Hall Library/original church built in the 1200s

Maybe I should be writing my paper on narcolepsy.

I feel a teensy bit guilty though for not working every day during the week when I know that I’m taking a day off on the weekend (Sunday trip to the Cotswolds!) but then again what’s the point of doing a bunch of reading now only to not retain it and having to reread it all again later? I guess my brain just needs a rest after yesterday’s ultra productive day. Tea and a history book time is it then.

Question: Is there anywhere someone specifically wants to hear about in England? I’m willing to take on the responsibility of visiting somewhere so people can live vicariously through me 😉

Refrigerator Love

Seriously, I am so thankful that I sucked it up and bought my own fridge. It may seem a little weird to post about an appliance, but it has really been such a great investment. Last night my essay for Friday was finally assigned, and now after complaining to Mom about how it was a horrible topic and that this essay was going to be the worst I’ve ever written, I find myself struggling with my outline. Not because it’s terrible, but because it is now over 3 typed pages and I still have about four articles and two books to read through which means more information to squeeze into 1500 words. This may be a paper that goes over the word limit. I might be sending an email off to my tutor asking for a physical extension.

Back to the appliance.

With all this reading to do and a seminar at 4:30 then Ballroom rehearsal tonight, I knew there was no way that I could afford to leave Isis for the hour to go grab breakfast…or lunch…or dinner. But thanks to my refrigerator, I have been able to have some pretty yummy meals for the low cost of absolutely nothing since I already paid for the groceries and I got to be productive! Who knows? Maybe I’ll get even luckier and pull an all nighter and finish my essay tonight! Oops, now Mom and Dad are going to send me an email warning me not to do that haha.

Off to a seminar!

London Bridge Did Not Fall Down

I must be the luckiest girl in the world. I have been to London four times in my life (twice on my trip with Mom, once for orientation, and yesterday) and every time the weather has been absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, and it was just warm enough to forego a coat most of the afternoon.

And therefore perfect for a picnic lunch in Regent’s Park with my friends.

Jordan lived in London for six months when she was 14 while her dad taught at a university here so she played tour guide and showed us around her old neighborhood. We got off the bus at Marble Arch sand began to meander through Marylebone (pronounced Marley-bone) to a small museum/noble house. No nobility currently live there and it was such a small museum that I can’t even remember its name, but like most museums in London it was free and therefore so were its restrooms!  It was a pretty well-stocked museum with an interesting exhibit on suits of armor, allowing Janosz to enjoy some more manly items while preparing for a day of being an honorary Straight Gay Best Friend to three girls.

We were pretty hungry by then so we walked toward Regent’s Park and found a decently priced cafe to grab lunch (baked sweet potato stuffed with chicken and bell peppers and a tomato salad in case anyone wants to be jealous because it was delicious!). Luckily for us in an odd twist of fate, there were no tables available at the cafe so we walked about ten minutes away and ate our lunches under a big tree in the middle of Regent’s Park, surrounded by guys playing soccer and parents pushing their babies along in prams on their way to the vicious swan pond. Apparently the ducks there will literally steal food from a baby.

Next we walked down Bakers Street, passing the famous 221B of Sherlock Holmes, and made our way to Daunt’s Bookstore. Needless to say Jordan and I were in heaven shuffling through the shelves of England history books while Kelsi looked at recipes and Janosz perused…well, I’m honestly not sure. He went to the bathroom and I didn’t see him for about 40 minutes because I was too obsessed with the books. I now have four new editions to my Kindle because I promised not to buy hard copies of books if I could avoid it (I was a good girl!).

We honestly had no real plans for our day apart from enjoying ourselves so we decided to just walk. And walk. And walk. And when we got tired of that, walk some more. We headed from Marylebone to the proper City of London (detouring down the street that Jordan used to live on) and eventually made it to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  I was really saddened because neither Kelsi nor Janosz had ever seen St. Paul’s, and it was marred by the protest camp set up on its steps. I can’t help but feel that protesting the economy is a little sacrilegious when done on the grounds of one of the most historic churches in the world.

We are also on a tasty search for the best cream tea in England, so of course we had to find a tea shop while in London. Unfortunately, we are also poor university students and wanted to find a cheap tea. With the help of a trusty guidebook, we headed off for TeaPod and a five quid cream tea. We walked down to the Thames River, saw the Millennium Bridge, and crossed the very sturdy London Bridge, and walked on the other side of the Thames until we finally reached TeaPod on Shad Thames. The road was completely unexpected; you felt like you were walking through London in the time of the WWII bombings (in fact, we probably were as we were in a region that had been targeted). The scones were decent, the clotted cream more like butter than the fluffy sweet cream we expected, and the jam was excellent. I had a Rooibus that was supposed to be flavored like Earl Grey but without caffeine, and it was good but not comparable to Earl Grey at all. Definitely worth five pounds.

Exhausted from walking around and being faced with a setting sun, we opted to take the Tube back to Notting Hill Gate where we would catch the bus back to Oxford.  I was completely happy with that decision as the closest Tube station required us walking around the Tower, one of my favorite places in London (yes, I teared up again, couldn’t help it). Janosz had never been on the Tube so it was a historic moment for us. We successfully navigated the Underground with no casualties and picked a Greek restaurant on a side street in Notting Hill for dinner.  Service was fair, which means great by English standards, but the food was pretty good (I tried moussaka and tiramisu for dessert!). And we got a free show with our dinner.

The table directly across from us and therefore unavoidable to our eyes held a middle aged man and a slightly less than middle aged woman completely sucking face for lack of a better term. I have never seen two people literally staring into each other’s eyes so intently for so long. They couldn’t bear to part their faces long enough to look at separate menus, instead sharing one and not even paying attention to it long enough to order any food. The man knocked over their water pitcher as he struggled to get even closer to her (which I promise was not possible) and then the waiter slipped in the spilled water because the man neglected to tell him about it. We were pretty floored the whole time over this couple. It was pretty inappropriate, even for the Brits who are a lot more open about PDA. But as Janosz said, “That’s one way to share a meal.” At least we all had more than a few laughs over it.

We arrived back in Oxford at around 9:30 pm, utterly exhausted, and were all asleep by 10:30. Today we mapped out our journey on Map My Run and we apparently walked over 9 miles total!!! No wonder we all looked like zombies today. All in all, great weather, great sites, great friends, and great trip 🙂

Online Reality Check

Today is a day where I want nothing more than to be at home in LA, curled up on the couch with my family and my Brinkley, and have them all tell me that everything is going to be okay. Today wasn’t exactly a bad day in itself, it was just a culmination of a lot of not too great things going on coming to a head with some other events in really bad timing and triggering a massive bout of homesickness.  Unfortunately as of this moment, Mommy hasn’t gotten my email saying to call me so I actually have to sit with my feelings (and most of us know how much I hate doing that!).

Wow I could not have been more vague in that paragraph. Sorry about that, but vague is all you are going to get! Unless your name is Patti or Barry and you happen to call me…right now…

Switching gears away from the temporary pity party and back to the adventures in Oxford. Yesterday was my first official rehearsal as a member of the Oxford University Beginners Ballroom Team! We rehearse about 12 hours a week (knowing me, I’ll be doing private lessons and therefore a lot more time) in random big halls across the city. I’ve had to walk 45 minutes each direction and also 5 minutes. Our 3-hour rehearsal was all in Latin dancing. One whole hour of basic warmup Cha-Cha steps and hip actions, then another hour of warmup steps for Jive in increasing levels of speed beginning at slow and ending at a six minute PSYCHEDELIC speed when I literally danced right out of my shoe and had to do half of the dance in one heel and one bare foot. The last hour was a scary lecture about how high their expectations are for us and then 30 minutes of working on our “Lock Steps” down the room.

Exhausting, but oh so much fun. I’m even looking forward to our next rehearsal at 8:30 tomorrow morning (in fact, it’s the only reason I’m still going right now). Our Latin coach even said that I was one of the best dancers on beginners team and that with a few private lessons and some hard work I could–direct quote–“Be the sexiest thing in Oxford and win all the competitions”. And yes, I’ll be holding him to it. I’m not going to work this hard for nothing! But really, I can already tell that I’m going to love the team and that being a part of it is going to make my Oxford time amazing. As long as I can get a few weekends off…specifically in two weeks so that I can go to Paris!

If you don’t like the weather, wait an hour

Yesterday started out a bit brisk and chilly, but considering England is known for fog, especially in London (random Starbucks shout-out to the old London Fog drink!), the sun being out still classified the morning as beautiful. And it really is beautiful to see the sun glinting off the yellow Cotswold stone and spires of old buildings. You become so struck by the beauty that you nearly forget that a gigantic red bus just zoomed past you barely a food away and that you are about to be run over by a herd of cyclists (I really need to get a bike).

Alas, good things always pass in life, and the sunshine in England is no exception.

Around 4 pm, as I was beginning my trek back to the Experimental Psychology building for an interview for a research position (which I got by the way 🙂 ) the sky decided to drop a few buckets of water on my poor head. I have been intelligent at least and had an umbrella stashed in my bag, but I was wearing jeans and Converse shoes which together delivered me at my meeting looking like a drowned rat who can’t afford to buy jeans in her size.  Add that appearance to my coughing up a few organs as discretely as I could, and it is amazing that I still was offered a position. It’s strictly volunteer of course, but money really was never my aim in applying for it. I’ll be studying threat perception in adolescent boys and if it has any correlation with their levels of anxiety and depression.

Luckily the school I’ll be researching at is directly across from my residence (Isis House in case I never mentioned that) so I won’t be drowned on my way to my research, just going everywhere else!

Oh and by the time I was out of my interview 30 minutes later, the sun was shining once again.

British Lingo

This is only going to be a small post because later I’ll probably write a longer one explaining why you should only take medications as directed on the prescription.

Did you know Britain has Port-a-Pottys? Well, not exactly, they have PORTALOOS!!! So much funnier to say that port-a-potty.  I’d almost use one if I needed to just because the name is hilarious. But then I remember that I am a little spoiled and not quite desperate enough to succumb to portable loos unless I’m completely out of other options which thank goodness I’m not.

6 Ft Under Bop-shoo-bop

We all have heard the story of the Teddy Hall Killer.  It’s a scary one to say the least.  A former student, a vivacious 20-year-old girl, murdered 35 students with a small ax. No one really knows why she did it, certainly no one expected her to be a killer, but it’s a story they tell the Freshers every year during orientation. Most of her victims were guys, including one rather important older gentleman, and none of them stood a chance against her batting eyelashes and innocent head tilt while she sweetly asked them if she could kill them. Not a single one refused her, but none of them really knew what she was planning on doing to them. Or at least, we don’t think so. After all, there were no survivors.

Only one question remains…how many of her victims woke up yesterday morning with the word “DEAD” written on them in black sharpie and no idea how it got there?

Yup, I hereby admit to being the Teddy Hall Killer at our matriculation bop of Saturday night. Inspired by my antics with tie theft at the Back to School bop, a guy dressed up as Death and I decided to “kill and collect” as many people as possible by writing on them and taking a picture.  I ended up killing Osama bin Laden, two devils, a lot of Romans, some miners, Steve Jobs three times (sorry Apple employees), and even St. Edmund. Oh and let’s not forget the President of the Teddy Hall Alumni Association who was really drunk for a 45-year-old man.

It was an awesomely fun night and I met a lot of people who won’t remember me next time they see me, but I’ll remember them because the Sharpie still hasn’t worn off and soap is of no help 🙂

Blenheim Palace and the Advantages of Being a Girl

Yesterday was absolutely beautiful weather here in England and thus the perfect day to grab a friend and take my first excursion out of Oxford. Kelsi and I didn’t want to do a weekend trip, so we decided to take an afternoon and go to Blenheim Palace 8 miles away in the town of Woodstock.

For anyone who likes history, here are some interesting factoids about Blenheim Palace. It is the home of the Dukes of Marlborough, the Spencer-Churchills (yes, that Spencer, and yes that Churchill). They are currently on the 11th Duke, whom we did not get to see unfortunately. Elizabeth I was imprisoned here in Woodstock though not the palace for a year when her sister Mary was deciding whether or not to cut off her head. And Hitler frequently said that when he took over Britain, Blenheim was going to be his center of government in England. Interesting stuff!

We spent the early afternoon walking around the lake and the paths through the rolling fields, including the rose garden (Mom, so not as impressive as Hatfield or even that random family’s), the anti-climatic Secret Garden, and saw into the private Italian Garden with a Bernini sculpture. Weather like that is such a wonderful treat in England that we had to take advantage of it!

Kelsi and I in the Blenheim Gardens

We still had time to kill so we took a guided tour of the state rooms in the house. Our tour guide was a very sweet older woman who was amazed by my intimate knowledge of British history. Then we went to the gift shop and bought a bunch of really cool sounding alcohols that came in cute bottles such as Cherry Brandy Liquer (had it last night, so good!), Blackberry Wine (also amazing), Apricot Brandy Liquer, and Blackcurrant something. I also bought Blackcurrant Sloe Gin Jam which I used on my PB&J this afternoon and Blenheim Palace Lemon Curd. Kelsi was super sweet and bought me Oxford Lemon Curd a few days ago so we are going to have to do a lemon curd taste test!

And then it was TEA TIME! I had my first cream tea in England this time around 🙂 and I have to say…Harvington Hall with Mom and John was a lot better.

Cream Tea at the Indian Room

But it was a lot of fun to be the youngest people in the tea and the scones were pretty good (they even gave us each another one to go so we know what I had for breakfast!). I will say though, service here is atrocious. We had tea scheduled for 4:15 and didn’t get out of the palace until almost 6 pm, leading to…

THE ADVANTAGE OF BEING A GIRL, pt 1. (part one because I’m assuming that another advantage will come up in a future post)

We had taken the bus to the palace and the bus stop was right outside the main gates so we walked back there to get out. Turns out, the gates were closed and no one was there to open them for the poor little Americans so we had to walk all the way back to the palace with no idea where we were going or how to get to the bus stop. We decided that instead of walking six million miles trying to find a way out, we were going to ask people for help. We found this nice group of people who told us that it was quite a long walk to the exit and that basically we were screwed. They said it more refined of course. Once we looked absolutely heartbroken and they found out we needed to get to Oxford, they graciously offered to drive us most of the way there as they live in Oxford themselves! I’m sometimes so amazed at how friendly and willing to help the people here are. I mean neither of these two families knew us and they just went out of their way to make sure we got home safely. And the kids were adorable. The two little French girls were so excited to practice their English with me and loved my one sentence that I can say in French. They thought it was very well spoken.

Stay tuned for last night’s bop stories as well! But right now it is off to dinner time at Teddy.