Archive | December 2011

Thank you Bahama-mama

Don’t worry, the explanation will come later.

It was almost not fair that our first full day in England had to be an early wakeup, but that’s kind of what happens not only when you travel with me (this goes as fair warning to any of my future travel buddies) but also when you try to fit in two locations into one leg of the trip. Today’s exploration sites: Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick.

Sorry, mildly unrelated, but Kevin snores!!! Not as bad as someone else I once knew, but snoring is snoring nonetheless. Good thing I’m not trying to go to sleep right this second or else he’d be getting punched. Well, pushed a little bit. We established earlier today that I have no measurable upper body strength and can barely open doors. So punching him probably would not be very effective. Back on subject.

We took a few trains to the town made famous by the one, the only, the William Shakespeare! The town looked as if back a few centuries ago it was cute and quaint and a quintessential English country burrough, but now it smacks of overpriced tourism traps. By going early in the morning before most of the sites were opened and refusing to pay for any of the combo tickets and thus not actually going inside the sites, I think we were able to avoid feeling like we were cows being milked for our money. Seeing the outside of Shakespeare sites made us appreciate their beauty and focus on the architecture and character of the buildings themselves moreso than we would have had we been bombarded with Shakespeare wax figures, at least in my opinion. So we wandered around the little town of Stratford, meandering our way down to the Holy Trinity Church (meandering turned out to be the worst catchword of the day, more on that later). On the way, we saw the Old Thatch Tavern, the only building in Stratford still with a thatched roof after three severe fires destroyed parts of the town in the 1600s. Further down the road was a Barry’s Butcher for my dad and The Garrick Inn, a tavern built in 1594 and still with its authentic Tudor era architecture (nerd out!), followed by the Guild Church and Edward VI Grammar School, the latter being Shakespeare’s primary school and also in the Tudor style to this day. I was giddy with all the Tudor architecture because there really isn’t much left that isn’t imitations built in the early 1900s.

The Garrick Inn, built in 1594

In the Holy Trinity Church, which looked absolutely beautiful glowing in the sunlight, is the burial site of Shakespeare, his wife, his daughters, his granddaughter, and some associated husbands. The art and architecture in these churches are just incredible. Especially when you sit there and think about how old they are, and you just kind of wonder how on earth were they made. I think someone should make a documentary or do an exhibit on that…hint, hint to all my history major friends who want to be historians!

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Without paying to enter the actual houses, there wasn’t a lot to do in Stratford besides walk around and take pictures of the outside of the buildings. We stood along the banks of the Avon river, utterly stunning.

The River Avon

We lucked out in that the sun was out in Stratford during the morning so all the water was sparkling and the light was shining through the trees, allowing us to get some really cool photographs. We did get lost while attempting to meanderΒ to a central bus station that apparently doesn’t exist so that we could catch a bus to Warwick. We finally did catch a bus, just as the weather became gloomier and we met a family of Texans. We really needed a better map, as we also discovered later at Warwick.

Like Stratford and Shakespeare, Warwick is popular because of one thing only: its castle. And, I mean c’mon, it’s a big ass castle! Pardon the language, but there is no other way to describe it and hopefully get the scale of the place across. Built in 1068 by William the Conquerer, the castle is full of other insane history that I will add some other time once I read the overpriced guidebook. I do know that it is/was the seat of the Earls of Warwick dating back to the War of the Roses and that now it has been taken over by the same company as Madame Tussouds Wax Museum and has become a bit too hokey and touristy for Kevin and me, and also WAY overpriced. So repeating our strategy from Stratford, we did everything in the castle that didn’t scream Universal Studios like walking across all the towers and looking through the state rooms, climbing the Mound (oldest site of the original 1068 castle), and trekking down to the trebuchet on the grounds and getting into a staring contest with a peacock (we won). But with our aversion to wax figures and our individual aversions to costumed actors and Nutcracker music–guess which one of us hated which more–we were ready to leave the castle after about two hours.

Warwick Castle

The Mound, site of the original castle built by William the Conquerer

castle grounds

There was a pretty church called St. Mary’s Church of Warwick on our way back into the town centre, so we figured what the heck? And it was such the right decision. A great thing about churches in England being open to visitors is that most of them are free or ask for a small, reasonable donation, and the employees are friendly and willing to exchange knowledge with me about any associated Tudor history around the church. Since Henry VIII began the Reformation, there is usually something cool and obscure that very few of us nerds would appreciate. In the church in Stratford, it was a chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket, an outspoken priest who was murdered because he opposed Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. And in Warwick, it was the actual grave of Robert Dudley, Elizabeth I’s controversial favorite courtier!

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Like I said, I may be the only one to act like a five year old in a Mr. Simm’s Candy Shoppe when faced with these things, but I have no shame in it πŸ™‚ It makes walking into random churches a worthwhile experience. The weather in Warwick was following the lead of Stratford and turning sour on us, so we decided to head back into Oxford, leading us to the titular story of the Bahahamama.

We needed to find a train station so that we could actually return to Oxford, and I am so walking-deprived after being at home for three weeks in a town where walking a mile will get me nowhere other than down my hill that when given the choice between a mere 15 minute walk to the train station and paying for a bus, I pushed the walking option. I still insist that the directions were unclear and just generally sucky from the man I asked on the streets because we couldn’t find the train station anywhere, not even the landmarks that the man told us to look out for! After about 25 minutes, even I had to admit that we were hopelessly lost and would once again have to rely on a stranger to point us back in the right direction.

Enter the Bahaha-mama: a very kindly woman who was actually a British Jamaican (totally random combination making for a totally awesome accent) not only told us we were in completely the opposite direction from the train station, but also offered to drive us there! This was the second time that I have gotten seriously stranded in England (first time was at Blenheim Palace with Kelsi if anyone remembers that) and again someone was willing to go out of their way to help us out. Restores my faith in humanity, it does.

Needless to say we made it back to Oxford, exhausted and a little cold, teasing each other about my inheriting micromanaging from Mom (I told him to stop complaining about it because without my simply organizing our two days in London coming up, we would get nothing done with his constant “I don’t care”s). Walking around all day takes a lot out of you, and since my only friends around in Oxford are all out of the city tonight, we are calling it an early night and going to sleep now, regardless of whether the date is December 31st or not. We have five more days of intense walking ahead of us and need our rest. So in two hours for everyone reading this in Oxford, 5 for those on the East Coast, and 8 for my California family and friends, wish yourselves a Happy New Year from me ❀

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Kevin Comes to England!!!

I’m back in Oxford!!!!!!!! I’m so excited to be back, despite arriving to rain and cold. I think that the last few weeks of 75 degree heat and perpetual sunshine cancelled out any adjustment my internal body temperature regulator had made over the last few months in England. So I’m FREEZING! And wet. But I’m so giddy to be back and busy playing tour guide to my brother that it doesn’t matter…too much.

The ten hour flight was full of turbulence and completely lacking in even a cat nap, but at least there were no screaming children or obnoxiously smelling people sitting around us. Air New Zealand actually had a pretty decent selection of movies and television shows to keep us entertained while we were stuck awake. Considering the length of the flight, it wasn’t that bad at all.

After arriving in Oxford and practically skipping to my apartment because I was so anxious to get there (read: drop my heavy duffle bag and unpack), I took Kevin on a tour of my adorably old college and the general City Centre, including all the Harry Potter stuff at Christ’s Church and went to the top of St. Michaels Tower, the oldest building in Oxford. For less than Β£2, we got this incredible, secluded view of the top of the entire city, literally breath-taking. I can’t believe that I’ve lived here for nearly three months and had never gone up the tower. The rain and exhaustion (curse you lack of sleep!) drove us back to my place for an early nap and prevented us from walking to the Eagle and Child for dinner. Instead we exchanged one pub for another and went to the Angel and Greyhound closer to my place and will push E&C until another night.

At Christ Church, standing in front of portraits of Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, and Cardinal Wolsey

View from top of St. Michael's Tower

That’s the basics of our first 24 hours of vacation. I apologize for it not being very informative, creative, entertaining, insert other self-decprecating adjectives, but we are absolutely exhausted and have an early morning ahead of us, so I will beg off with a simple good-night and good-bye to California for the next 6 months πŸ™‚

The Great Edzant Christmas Caper

The scene: Christmas day at the Edzant Residence just outside of Los Angeles, California. Approximately 4 pm. Presents have all been opened; wrapping paper and ribbon is strewn across the living room floor. Everyone is settling down for a few minutes rest before moving into the other room for dessert.

The characters: The Edzant Family

Barry, the head of the main household, alias Dad, sitting at the dining room table

Patti, Barry’s wife, alias Mom, curled up on the carpet with the furriest animal you will ever see

Brinkley, the aforementioned furry animal, 15 month of golden retriever, just consumed an entire ball of wrapping paper

Kevin, Barry’s son, 22, resident sarcasm king, sitting on the couch opening up his new headphones

Jenna, Barry’s daughter and the writer of this mystery, 20, also sitting on the couch, plotting her escape to another room of the house after playing Elf and disseminating Christmas gifts for the last two hours, in need of a nap

Pamela, the aunt, alias Auntie Pam, sitting around the coffee table

Linda, the grandmother, additional near the coffee table

The mystery: found in the bathroom, a slightly damp snowman patterned hand towel left over an open flame from the scented candle next to the sink, the toilet seat raised and covered in soot

The case: Jenna was exonerated from committing the act because it was corroborated that she never left the living room during the afternoon until she went to the bathroom and discovered the towel over the fire. She naturally assumed it had been her brother Kevin because he had been the last one to use the bathroom, but upon initiating her typically sarcastic response, she remember that Kevin could not possibly have tossed the towel over the candle because he doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom. Therefore the two children of the family were ruled out as suspects. Patti was never considered as a serious suspect. Not only had she also been in the room for the entirety of Christmas present unwrapping, but it was also simply a widely known fact that Patti doesn’t toss towels around and just wouldn’t have done something like what the mystery entailed. Barry spent the next few hours mildly interrogating the remaining family members trying to get to the bottom of the situation, suggesting that he was not the culprit either.

The remaining questions: Who was the party responsible for nearly setting the towel on fire? Why did the towel not actually catch on fire? (Though that part is assumed as solved by Patti’s suggestion that the towel was flame retardant.) Why was the toilet seat covered in soot? Why doesn’t Kevin wash his hands after using the restroom? Only three suspects remain under consideration–the dog, the aunt, and the grandmother. But no motive, no further evidence, no confession, no conviction, and thus all we are left with is the open case of

THE GREAT EDZANT CHRISTMAS CAPER OF 2011

Anyone with information about this crime is invited to come forward as soon as possible. Nature and amount of reward to be given is dependent on the usefulness of information and how much Jenna likes you.

Twas the Night Before the Night Before Christmas

And my mom and I continued our search for the perfect pie crust. Our recipe is quite solid, always a great flavor, but we can never seem to make it roll out without completely falling apart. Every time we make our traditional apple pie, we try a new method and pray to the pie-crust gods that maybe, just maybe, this time our pie crust will retain it’s wonderful buttery flavor and flaky texture without disintegrating and needing to be patched together again as we cover the pie. Pie crusts should not be Humpty-Dumpty!

And this time, it wasn’t! Not only did our pie crust come out beautifully, I also had fun using little pie crust cutouts to make a winter scene of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer flying over a forest in a snowfall. Literally. I made that on a pie. It may have been a little overboard especially since pies get eaten so my artwork wouldn’t last that long anyway, but it’s Christmas Eve Eve, and we all go a little overboard every once in a while.

Because of a wonderfully fair but inconvenient concept known as joint custody, we had my mom’s side of the family over for holiday celebrations two days before Christmas so that my little Emily could be here too. As such, it’s a Friday, meaning Dad is off at work and for the second year in a row getting the holidays together fell on my mom’s and my shoulders. Having done the holidays for the last 30 some odd years, Mom has kind of begun to “pass the oven” on to me. Last year I did the holidays alone because my mom had thrown her back out; this year I took the lead again but I had my sous-chef by my side for most of it. Good thing too, because making the turkey would’ve completely grossed me out so she did that. But the cooking and the cleaning and the making/wrapping the final gifts were finished just in time between the two of us. Except for that darn turkey which as always pushed dinner back an hour.

And whoa that last hour was crazy as all the turkey stuff and the gravy and the sides and things had to be finished with only two ovens and a stove. Talk about coordination! Again though, all dishes were completed at the same time and the dinner was enjoyed by all. Except Brinkley because he had to be outside. Not making the mistake of letting a dog inside with a turkey carcass on the counter again. That was a memorable Thanksgiving.

The two little girls were absolutely the cutest things of the night. Andrea (16 months old) cried any time I so much as looked at her, but at least Emily (7 years) was chatting with me and giving me huge hugs, though anything other than crying would’ve made me feel like a million bucks. She is just a love-muffin. It was pretty funny when I was cooking, wearing a conservative dress that almost looked like something out of the 50s and heels, occasionally a pink apron, and juggling cooking, being a hostess, and talking with a child…my new nickname became Donna Reed! (Which, side note, can you believe Kevin had no idea who that was?!) Of course I don’t think Donna Reed would be talking about wines, cell phone technology, the prospect of alien life and the future of our space program, or the medicine behind repairing a torn ACL on a dog’s leg. Times change just a bit.

I think everyone enjoyed themselves; I know I certainly did, despite how much work it was. And that’s really the point isn’t it? Enjoy your time with your family, end up with way too many leftovers, share laughs and the year’s adventures, and snap pictures of the excitement on little children’s faces when they open up their presents. Oh, and watch a dog attempt to open a present of his own.

So Happy Christmas Eve Eve!

A Fortnight in SCV

Hmm…how many posts have I missed in the last two weeks? No idea, but hopefully this can reassure everyone that, yes, I’m alive and kicking in my hometown still. Ok yeah probably no one was really worried about that, but just in case that one random person was freaking out because I haven’t updated anyone in two weeks can now rest easy.

It has been one of the most insane winter breaks I think I have ever had. I can’t think of a single day where I haven’t been running around like a headless chicken with errands. Literally two weeks worth of errands! I was more relaxed during term at Oxford! I have gotten in a little bit of socializing though. I saw my dear friend Amy for an awesome and long catch-up session over dinner (with my favorite waiter at BJs!!!), took my not-so-much-a-baby-anymore baby cousin to see Arthur Christmas, went to afternoon tea that really can’t compare to England’s teas, and had fun last night at my dad’s office’s Christmas dinner. But other than maybe those four things, my days have been filled with Christmas shopping, Christmas baking, Christmas wrapping, Christmas decorating, Christmas cards, and Christmas stressing.

Hard at work on those millions of batches!

Brinkley gets in on the action

Now I know what it feels like to be a mom during the holidays. Though I will say, based on the general response to my obscene amount of cookie batches that I’ve baked, I’m going to be a great housewife someday haha. As long as I get my career too πŸ˜‰

But seriously, I make some damn good cookies.

Christmas cookie samplers for Christmas presents this year! That was a lot of baking

Homesickness

Just because I’m home as in at my house in Santa Clarita, that doesn’t mean that I cannot be homesick. It’s a Sunday, which would normally mean that Jordan, Kelsi, and I would be traveling somewhere in England and getting cream tea or we would be living in our respective libraries and rooms and then getting cream tea. The obvious solution would be to go to the Tea Garden and get cream tea, and while that sounds lovely, it doesn’t quite feel the same. I love spending this time with my family and my cutest-in-the-whole-wide-world dog, but I have a confession.

I miss England. There! I admitted it! I miss the people, the dancing, the studying, even writing the essays. I miss queueing in the freezing cold for Formal Hall (okay I don’t miss the cold part of that) and the way the sun glints off the stones on my way to the library. I miss how easy transportation is (walking > driving). I really miss my friends though, the British ones and the American ones who are now scattered across the country, or world in a few of their cases. Sigh. I can’t help being struck with melancholy and resorting to baking to feel like I’m back in England…though I never baked in England so I really have no idea how that correlates.

Two and a half weeks to go before I return to my second home.

Installation Dinner, aka Rave at the TPC

I think Deanna and I made history last night by starting a huge dance party/mature adult version of a rave at the SCV Business Group’s Installation Dinner. Somehow every social I attend for the networking group ends up in a dance party. Oops.

My first morning back home was spent exactly as my mornings at home used to be spent before I left: Starbucks with the mommy then errands, errands, manicures, and more errands. Okay, so the manicures and pedicure in my case are not really normal occurrences, but after seven weeks of dancing completely destroyed my feet, they were in desperate need of some professional care. And they look pretty πŸ˜‰

I got dressed at Deanna’s since Mom had to deliver gifts to Dad at the TPC and then we joined them at the country club. Deanna and I were immediately put to work selling raffle tickets, and let’s just say that–shocker–not a single person said no to us when we asked them to buy tickets. Okay so the 50/50 raffle may have had some draw, but I prefer to think that Deanna and I just have amazing powers of persuasion.

It was a little bizarre to be at a formal three course meal where we didn’t stand up as a high table walked in, no one banged a gavel to make us jump six feet in the air, and no phrase in Latin was said before we could eat. Formal Halls back in Oxford seem so much more ritualistic compared to a Santa Clarita formal function. Then again, there wouldn’t have been a dance party to close out a Teddy Hall formal dinner either.

My dad, as President, gave out the gifts and thank yous in a very long and very funny speech. I love how he can make an event that has the potential to be more boring than March of the PenguinsΒ a veritable comedy show. Everyone was laughing and smiling as he worked the room. Then when I went up to announce the raffle winner, everyone just smiled at each other and said “Yep, she’s just like her dad.” I could think of way worse people to be compared to that my dad so thanks everyone!

All in all, it was a pretty fun night, especially considering that I had gotten off the plane about 24 hours earlier. Hopefully the lack of jet lag continues and I can continue to spend my days having fun instead of sleeping at awkward times.

Benedictos benedita…or whatever our Principal says in Latin.