Archive | January 2012

Cupcake Update

Because I was completely lazy last week and never got around to blogging, a tragedy occurred. Yes, readers, I apologize, but you missed our second cupcake endeavor. Fortunately there has now been a third so I can remedy the situation with a double cupcake experiment extravaganza!

I now understand what parents feel like if they were ever instructed to pick a favorite child, because picking my favorite cupcake that we’ve made thus far feels utterly impossible. How do you choose between three items that are so unbelievably different? Answer, you don’t, you become an equal opportunist cupcake baker.

We are getting good at working with what we have

Last week Janosz and I made these peanut butter cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache. I think they should be called Americans in England cupcakes because everyone here seems to–rightly–think that Americans are obsessed with peanut butter. Of course one look at my food shelves just proves them correct (current total of PB jars: 4). This was another recipe that neither of us have tried before, so all bets were off as to how they would come out. We needn’t have worried though, after just making the cupcake batter and not even starting the frosting, Janosz and I were like kids in a peanut butter store. The batter was INCREDIBLE. We kind of wanted to just forgo the cupcakes and eat the batter instead. But we didn’t in order to preserve our poor stomachs. We did however spend a considerable amount of time brainstorming other ways to use the batter: on a sandwich, on french toast, in a sweet potato, on a spoon, on Janosz’s finger, over ice cream, the possibilities were deliciously endless. We had to keep reminding ourselves that cupcake batter is not lunch!

Peanut Butter Cupcakes w/ Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Ganache

Think of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but a million times better. And with dark chocolate. They were unbelievably rich but oh so delicious. So I take back my earlier statement, these are definitely my favorite cupcakes thus far. I’ll be making them again and again and again!

Jordan is our first taste tester

This weekend Janosz really wanted to make a throwback cupcake to his favorite chocolate cake that he makes at home. Jordan joined us this time, but it really ended up being Janosz’s show and Jordan and I just hopped in to stir or pour when Janosz directed us to do so.

Jordan gets to see how we improvise our baking

It ended up a little bit like The Little Red Hen (that children’s story where the hen’s friends don’t help her make the bread and therefore don’t get to taste it) except not really at all like that since Jordan and I were rewarded for our meager amount of help with lots of left over cake batter 🙂

Yummy batter 🙂

Double Chocolate Cupcakes with a Caramel Frosting…and the verdict…first chocolate cake I’ve ever liked. I am really not a chocolate cupcake person at all and I loved these. Not quite as much as the peanut butter ones, but these were still great. And Dan (the dance partner) will happily be getting another cupcake delivery in his newly purchased cupcake container.

Of course it is really spending time with my friends rather than the baking that takes the cake. Pun entirely intended ❤


I can’t tell whether I have good senses for when a guy is gay or if I’m hopeless. Last night was no indication either. The night started out like most of our Friday nights with a fantastic formal hall dinner at Teddy, but instead of the usual trudging back to our respective rooms freezing because Sub Fusc offers no protection from the elements, we took a daring step and went…to a cocktail bar.

With the bottle of wine Kelsi snuck into Hall...shhhh!

So not that daring; we’ve been to the Grand Cafe for drinks before, but this was a Friday night which somehow felt more appropriate after a formal dinner, especially since we weren’t going clubbing last night. I had the tie from last week stuffed in my purse just in case that guy came around (he didn’t) and wanted to relieve me of a tie (still have it).

I like The Grand Cafe. I’m assuming that the cocktails are reasonably priced during happy hours because I have limited aka no experience with buying alcohol, but the real draw is that their happy hour is 7-11 pm every night including Fridays and Saturdays. We snagged a table pretty much right away and sat ourselves down for a night of good friends, some laughs, and some tasty beverages. Jordan had a friend from her university at home in for the evening who is a genius with a camera lens, and based on one of the photos she took of me, Kelsi insisted that I live my life holding a martini glass. Apparently, martini glasses and I just fit, though I haven’t quite figured that one out yet as I was just paranoid of spilling it the entire time.

The Grand Cafe's version of an appletini

The best part about the bar were these huge mirrors that outline the entire place, making it ideal for people watching. We had our eyes on this foursome of guys. Not because they were cute, but because they were obviously gay. We spent quite some time analyzing why we felt that vibe from them–turns out it was the way they carried themselves, standing up straight but with a confident ease–and discussing the general merits of flirting. Janosz had the intriguing idea to have the four of us stare at them and see which one of us they made eyes at when they realized we were watching them as a test of whether our first assumptions were correct. Well they definitely knew we were watching them, so I made a bold statement that Kelsi it turns out didn’t think would actually come true: I said that those guys would be over at our table before the night was over.

Of course I didn’t really expect it either.

But it really didn’t take long. As soon as I went up the bar to ask for a glass of water, the guys converged on me and within two minutes the bartender was making me a drink at their request. While I explained to the main guy my views on guys ordering the “girly” cocktails (I think it shows a guy is comfortable with himself and for me it isn’t an automatic red flag, which surprised them), one of them made his way over to Kelsi, Jordan, and Janosz, fulfilling my prophecy with no effort on our parts.

Nothing was going to happen; I made it perfectly clear that we were not going clubbing with them and that we were all going straight home alone after leaving the bar. But this kind of muddled the situation. They had come up to a table of two girls and a guy after buying a girl a drink: gay or straight? Our final assessment was gay because as soon as Janosz left to go to the bathroom the guys all left our table. Can you blame them though? Janosz is pretty awesome.

Janosz goes all awesomely mad scientist with glass and fire

For me at least the funniest part of the night was on our way back home when Kelsi whipped out her breathalyzer to test our BACs. I had consumed a bit more alcohol than my normal limit and so doubled over laughing when my results came out as……


Legally I would have been okay to drive, though I never would have gotten behind the wheel because I am a smart girl whose Lawyer Daddy taught her well 🙂 But it was still pretty funny. Guess I have alcohol resilient blood!


Ballets and Boys

Monday and Wednesday the Russian State Ballet with the Siberian Orchestra were performing at the New Theatre in Oxford. I’m a sucker for ballet, pretty much for all types of dance, and as soon as I saw that a Russian ballet company was going to be in Oxford, I immediately booked tickets last term, one for each night. Sounds a little crazy, but the first night was Giselle and the second night was Sleeping Beauty and the tickets were so cheap it was hard to turn them down.

Kelsi came with me on Monday night so beforehand she, Janosz, and I went to Jamie’s Italian where we were heartbroken when they told us they were out of this amazing sounding butternut squash soup. Positively heartbroken. So heartbroken, in fact, that we ended up all ordering something with truffles in it (okay, the two are completely mutually exclusive). Kelsi and I had these drinks called Rossinis which are champagne and strawberry puree.

Me and Kelsi at Jamie's

The drinks at the Grand Cafe are better and cheaper. But it was kind of a splurge night so we figured why not?

Giselle was beautiful; Kelsi described it as sweet and could predict that I would like that ballet. Apparently I look sweet and would therefore like sweet ballets. Our tickets were the student priced, cheaper seats with a bar in the middle of our viewing field, making them “restricted view” and hence so cheap. But it wasn’t sold out and Kelsi found some seats in the front row of the balcony that no one had purchased, so we got great seats for the price of not so great ones. Score 😉 I won’t bore anyone with details about the experience of watching the ballet, but I will say that the ballerina who played Giselle had the most incredibly beautiful feet and clean footwork.


Sleeping Beauty was an entirely different experience. First of all, I went alone. That didn’t bother me at all; by this time I was freaking out and exhausted already and don’t know how great of a socializer I would have been anyway so it may have been a good thing to get some alone time. At least, until women starting sitting around me whom I could only describe as “middle aged biddies.” You know that song in The Music Man, “Cheep a Little, Talk a Little”? Imagine that constantly unless the ballet was in process. And because it was actually sold out that night, I couldn’t move seats to a better and nonrestricted view. The dancers themselves were not as good as the ones from the other night, though I did recognize a few and the girl who danced Aurora was lovely. It was definitely not the ballet I was expecting; it had a lot of walking around and people dancing these little duets that made no sense. Like one pas de deux was a pair of poodles. On pointe. Weird. I think I prefer Giselle.

Friday night, aka last night, was a night on the completely opposite end of the social spectrum. Yep, it was Crew Date #2! This time with the St. Peter’s Rowing Team who for some reason has a massive one-sided grudge/rivalry with Teddy Hall. I thought we were supposed to meet at the college at 7:30 so I walk there from Iffley…and no one is there. I wait about five minutes. Still no one. I get out my phone to call the girls, and realize that I don’t have anyone’s phone number. Not the brightest move on any of our parts. One of the guys ended up meeting me outside and he and I talked for about 20 minutes just the two of us while we waited for the girls to finally show up. We ended up being outnumbered 5 girls to 8 guys, leading them to be borderline insulting by asking a few random girls to come on the crew date with us. That continued through to at the actual restaurant, dropping them so many points so quickly.

Ania and I on the crew date

I didn’t have the best time, to be entirely honest. Out of the 8 guys, maybe three or four of them were actually nice and/or funny, one of whom kept me laughing most of the night as he was practically a one-man comedy show and then he later GAVE me his tie (I did NOT steal it) but by the end of the night forgot to take it back and now I am in possession of another piece of men’s neck ware. I’m pretty sure that was his intention though because he has already texted me about getting it back. But other than that, the guys were kind of insulting. They kept trying to get me to drink, even after I made it clear that I wasn’t drinking and hinted that it may have been for medical reasons, and it came to them literally almost forcing it down my throat. They didn’t seem to realize that the more people pressure me to do something, the more stubborn I get and the less likely I am to do it. So thank to them, I ended the night completely sober, though I highly doubt that those particular guys would ever be able to put two and two together.

Bizzy and the boys

And that is kind of how those guys acted all night, pretty much ruining what could have been a fun crew date. They made fun of my accent, which I had my friends clarify today that I do not have an accent especially not the horribly imitated Valley Girl from “Cali” accent they tried mimicking, refused to believe me that I had an important academic call to make at midnight, one threatened to take away my phone so that I couldn’t make the phone call, they surrounded me and really pushed into my personal space to the point where I pushed them away, and then continued to make fun of me and make completely sexual comments that I am so not repeating here. I mean I know that they were drunk and that this was their poorly executed attempts to hit on me, but it was so unattractive and just…douchy. Other than those few cool guys I mentioned earlier, the highlight of my night was hanging out and chatting outside with this other guy who wasn’t even on the crew date. No hitting on me, no insults, no crudeness, just general conversation and apologizing for his jerks of friends. I wish he had been on the crew date. Him, tie-guy, and maybe one other and it would’ve been a fun night.

Maybe I was just spoiled after how amazing I thought the Keble crew date was last term, but I am really glad that I have more crew dates coming up to redeem the concept.

And yes, I made my call at midnight while wearing a tie.

First Week Freakouts and Fatigue

I was sitting on a low wall outside the porters lodge at Teddy Hall this afternoon, waiting with Janosz for Chocolate Enthusiasts Club to start. One of our fellow chocolate tasters innocently asked me, “How was your first week?” I stared at him in confusion, not because I didn’t understand the question or because it was an odd thing to ask, but I realized that I could barely remember the past six days. Chalk it up to a massive stress reaction but this whole week has blended together into one panicked whirl winded blur.

Stress was the last thing that I anticipated this week. I finished my first of two essays on Sunday and the second one on Tuesday; I only have two lectures a week. The only worry I expected to have was scrounging meals together from the hodgepodge of leftover groceries that I had left (grocery shopping every week from now on, no putting it off for just one more week). I was getting decent responses from everyone paying for their stash, and I even figured heck, why not hang out with Dan on Tuesday after practice? After all, I had time. Tutorial wasn’t until Thursday.

And then all hell broke lose.

Before I explain, I need to state a caveat. While the remaining part of the week left me miserable, exhausted, panicky, anxious, and near tears more than once, the stress sources were all good things. I know what you’re thinking–or what I would be thinking having just read the end of the story before I read the beginning–how could good stress leave me such a mess? Let me start with a prologue.


The average college student in the US graduates in about four years. Having done AOC Middle College for my last two years of high school and just being the general crazy person I am, I was set to graduate UCLA in four years with a double major in Psych and Political Science. Once I realized this summer that I in fact cannot stand the US political system and don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing it, I switched to just Psychology before leaving for Oxford. My 4 years became 3 1/2. Then I came back for Winter Break and spoke with my Honors counselor about the possibility of graduating early, only to be told that I had a residency requirement to fulfill and that there was no way to petition that away. Three and a half became four again. Two days later I get a phone call saying that there is a study-abroad loophole in the residency requirement and thus I already fulfilled it. Four years was now THREE.

Present Day

My plan was then to graduate UCLA at the end of summer and start my D.Phil back at Oxford hopefully in January 2013. But one fateful conversation with Dan had me researching the full extent of my options for applying to grad school at Oxford. So I found out on Friday of last week that the final deadline is March 9th, plenty of time to fill out an application and get in my references. I won’t be eligible for funding during my first year because of the later application date (hereby accepting donations) but I can still apply! Meaning if I get in, I will be heading back to Oxford next October for my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology.

Doesn’t sound too stressful yet right? Just wait.

On Tuesday after lecture, my tutor and I discussed my options and she was thrilled to hear my ambitions, thought I had a strong resume, and agreed to be my supervisor for the next three years. Oh, and she will write my recommendation, as will one of the leading attributional psychologist in the field, and the graduate student I did research for last year. A solid three strong references 🙂 But then on Tuesday night, the first night of my irritatingly back insomnia, I was searching for possible sources of funding (seriously, send donations) and discovered that if I applied back to Teddy Hall for my D.Phil, I could still make the deadline to apply for college funding, possibly reducing my fees a teeny bit (so send cash or check). Deadline: FRIDAY JANUARY 20.

Within 72 hours, I would need two recommendation letters, an unofficial transcript, a new resume, and a graduate research proposal.  Remember, the week before I had only just found out that I was potentially graduating, two days before I had found out that I could apply back to Oxford for Fall, and twelve hours before I had found a research supervisor. Now I needed to decide what I was actually going to study for the next three years and write a proposal with a well-formed and well-researched hypothesis and a description of the myriad experiments I was going to do over the next few years. In less than 3 days.

I’m glad everyone else had so much faith in me, because I totally didn’t. Maybe I would have if I wasn’t so caught off guard and I had nothing else to do for the rest of the week, but when is that truly ever the case? I had to organize the stash order and collect all the money, arrange for pickup, etc. I had two days of running research subjects and both days I had problems with the computers. I had the most killer ballroom and Latin rehearsals of my career (Latin Rehearsal was renamed Latin Bootcamp) and two tutorials. Deer+Headlights=JennaRoadkill.

Somehow I managed to do it all. I’m not going to go into details about all the little things that got in my way or the obstacles that lead my to calling my parents at 3 am LA time because I was about to have a panic attack because all that matters is that the funding application got it, the research subjects were run, my first tutor loved my essay (my second tutor spent our tutorial revising my proposal), stash has been paid for/picked up/disseminated, grocery shopping has been done, and I am taking today off. I haven’t slept in days and am so worn down from the constant panic and anxiety attacks that I am allowing myself one day without even picking up a textbook. Because somehow, I DID IT.

Did I mention that there was a crew date last night as well? No? Well, I’ll tell you all about that later (sneak preview, it was actually with a crew team) because I want a well-earned nap.

On a not so stressed note, I did see the Russian State Ballet perform both Giselle and Sleeping Beauty with Kelsi. Giselle was stunning! Though it did make me miss ballet.

Send me money.

Message from the Dean

This is a reminder that as set out in p 31 of the Grey Book

“It is forbidden to keep pets, livestock or stuffed animals on college property.”

The prohibition on keeping pets includes pet fish. As two junior members have recently been reported for keeping fish in their college rooms, I have asked the College Secretary to circulate a reminder of the above rule. If you are currently keeping an animal on college premises please make arrangements to have said animal or animals removed elsewhere by Thursday morning, 19th January.


Thank you

Robert J. Whittaker



Does this mean I’m not allowed to have a teddy bear in my room? It does say stuffed animals! My poor little dog from Build-a-Bear will be so sad.

The Cult of the Dirty Chai

We have all returned! Jordan and Sam came back on Thursday morning and now the gang is all here, back in the suddenly freezing cold city of Oxford, and giddily awaiting the beginning of term.

Haha, yeah right.

Something they neglect to tell you when you are applying to Oxford and preparing to start work on the Monday lectures begin for the term is that term at Oxford actually starts up to a week BEFORE lecture series do. Many of my friends arrived to emailed essay assignments and deadlines already fast approaching. The term hasn’t even officially started and the college library is seething with stress and tension. Granted, traditional students have collection exams and are studying, but even visiting students were circling the main room trying to find an open desk. Meanwhile, it was Thursday and I hadn’t received any correspondence from my tutors much less assignments, so my newly arrived friends were willing to put away their books for a few hours to catch up.

We went to my new favorite coffee shop on Turl Street called The Missing Bean that has the most amazing Dirty Chais that I have ever had, and I couldn’t resist peer pressuring Kelsi into ordering one as well (as if that took a lot of pressure!). I don’t know if the employees there don’t get orders for dirty chais often, because they certainly knew what it was, but for some reason on of the baristas commented that Kelsi had joined the Cult of the Dirty Chai, while looking over at us. I was the only one sitting there with that drink making his comment even more confusing, but entertaining nonetheless. Next door is also this great secondhand bookshop complete with a cooking section for Kelsi and an extensive collection of other genres for the three of us.

Cappuccino art at The Missing Bean

Coffee and books may have taken us a while, but not quite to dinner time, so we all ran an errand together and then just hung out in the JCR before eating our first dinner back in hall. Sam joined us then, along with a new visiting student, and I felt so bad for her because we five were catching up with each other in rapid fire and probably overwhelmed her to the point of deer in headlights eyes. I mean, it’s to be expected, we haven’t seen each other in 6 weeks! We went back to old times–well as old as last term can be considered–and chilled out in Kelsi’s room until we parted ways for bed, finally feeling like life was getting back to normal.

Chilling in Kelsi's room

Friday was much of the same, unnoteworthy drudgery of the rest of the week. I had a meeting with someone I’m doing research for in the psych department and then went to the science library to study because I finally had an essay assignment and was aching to feel productive. And that’s kind of what I did the rest of the day, just did my readings, some on my own, some next to Jordan in the college library, all with the thrill of holding pen to paper alongside a textbook again. My first essays are due Wednesday and Friday, but oddly enough the Friday one was assigned first so that one is getting priority. Plus the topic is fairly simple and thus a good one to ease back in with. Another coffee shop on High Street, another dinner at hall where Jordan and I somehow couldn’t find Kelsi and Janosz, and another night of talking until 11pm without understanding where the time went.

And then came today. Beautiful, bright, blue, -3 degrees Saturday morning. Yup, winter has officially hit Oxford, in my Southern California opinion with a vengeance. I should have looked out my window this morning because then I would have seen that the ground and buildings were covered in a fine layer of frost (which I insisted on calling snow) and therefore would have known that it was a poor decision to wear sweatpants and a tank top to dance practice at 8:30 am. But alas, I didn’t look out my window, I didn’t dress appropriately, I did freeze. At least practice went smoothly so it was worth losing an appendage or antenna or two to frostbite. Mental note: windows can be a wonderful tool. Use them.

Continuing in our cooking exploits, the mutually agreed upon social activity of this term, Janosz took the lead in our making sweet potato pancakes. Sounds kind of odd, and they definitely were not the fluffy American breakfast pancakes that we associate pancake with, but they were pretty tasty. Of course, we always pick recipes with huge yields so we are having sweet potato pancakes part two tomorrow for lunch again. It gives me an excuse to leave my room and walk through the (hopefully) nicer sunnier weather tomorrow to hang out with my friends 🙂

Jordan’s parents are still in town so they graciously took the four of us out for our traditional weekend cream tea. We were planning on taking them to the Rose as that is thus far our favorite local tea place, but the wait would have been an hour so we went to The Grand Cafe instead. The Grand Cafe and Queens Lane coffee house both battle over which of them is the oldest coffee house in England (guess which one is right) and they couldn’t be more different. The Grand Cafe is truly grand, small in size but big in atmosphere of a Revolution-era Paris salon and mirrors on two walls that make you think the cafe is more than double the size it really is. The tea was pretty good, second best in Oxford so far for me. The Earl Grey was loose leaf and you could actually taste the lavender, which is the mark of a good Earl Grey. The scones were a little too large for me, had a slightly more salty/almost biscuity like flavor (in my opinion, I was the only one who thought so), but they were warmed! I love it when they are warmed, makes such a difference. Clotted cream was once again the unsalted butter, but the jam was very complementary. And service was great, something rather rare in England. The true highlight though was getting to know and converse with Jordan’s parents. I really enjoy meeting my friends’ parents. Besides the fact that I just get along well with that generation of people and academics (Jordan’s dad is a professor at Chico State), I always find it interesting to see how my friends are with their parents and also the similarities. Call it the psychologist in me haha

Jordan and her dad

Me and Janosz

Kelsi and Jordan

We felt really lame after dinner at hall for saying that we were all just going to go back to Kelsi’s room and chill…again…on a Saturday night. None of us are really big on partying or anything, but it is the first weekend and even people who you wouldn’t think were the clubbing type were doing something. Now, we really were not in the mood to go clubbing and Jordan, Janosz, and I had all of our school stuff with us so we really really were not going clubbing like that. But we wanted to do something! So we went back to The Grand Cafe, where from 7-11 pm, the elegant restaurant and coffee house becomes a decently priced cocktail bar.

We tried to take a picture of all of us through a mirror...and kind of succeeded?

And dang the cocktails were yummy! I tried a White Peach Bellini; it was so good.

Too many good choices!! Kelsi and Sebastien

Yum 😉

And while yes, theoretically it wasn’t that much different than hanging out in Kelsi’s room since we all just sat and talked, but it felt different, more like going out without the actual hassle of going out. So good drinks, good company, good decision in my book. We definitely found our post-formal hall hangout spot too.

Me and Jordan

Happy to be getting back into the swing of things here!

Welcome Back Dinner, part 1

Does it count as a welcome back dinner if the person you are welcoming back has already been here for 24 hours and you went out to dinner with her the night before? I think I’ll count it, or maybe change the name to “Welcome Back Dinner, which we cooked this time” to be more accurate. And there may not be a part two (it depends on what we all decide to do today when Jordan and Sam arrive) but just in case…

Janosz and I ended up dressed as Twinsies again

Kelsi was a bit jet lagged, understandably, and ended up sleeping til 11 am. I don’t think she would’ve woken up even then if it hadn’t been for the fire maintenance guys knocking on her door and Janosz texting her about what time we were all supposed to go to breakfast. I had already been awake and therefore already eaten, so I just went along for some tea 🙂 Really not wanting to spend another day holed up in my room, I walked around the City Centre with Kelsi while she ran the errands I ran last week. We have been so lucky this week with the weather. Yesterday may have been a little gloomy, but it wasn’t that cold at all! If this is what winter in Oxford is going to be like, I can totally handle it.

We decided around 3pm that not only was I not going to dance rehearsal that night (I haven’t been feeling well and was not up to it), but that we were also going to cook dinner and make mulled wine so that I could finally taste this drink that I’ve wanted ever since the weather turned chilly. To be fair, it has always been chilly, I just felt like mulled wine was more of a Christmas drink. So we made a highly successful trip to the grocery store to pick up ingredients. Only it ended up becoming a pain in the you know what when we were doing self-checkout. I don’t know why I have this aversion to other people checking out my groceries for me because I always go to self-checkout no matter how many groceries I have. For some reason, the machines hated Kelsi and me this time and it kept calling over an employee to verify every single item we rang up. It was pretty embarrassing, not to mention frustrating. By the time we were halfway through I had his employee code memorized but was too afraid of getting in trouble to just input it myself and save him the walk to our machine and us the embarrassment of needing him AGAIN. It literally took us 30 minutes to check out and by then we were so irritable that Kelsi swore off self-checkout again and I just swore once or twice.

Janosz joined us for the actual cooking, taking a much needed break from his studying for collections exams. Kelsi delegated him to making the mulled wine while she and I prepped everything for the Turkey Encore main course.

Kelsi and Janosz do prep work

Mulled Wine, pre-simmer

It was an easy and vegetable laden recipe (just the way we like it) that only took as long as it did because we had to peel and chop so many vegetables. After they were blanched and the turkey cooked, it was all one big–and I mean big–stir fry.

Good thing Kelsi had a lot of practice stir-frying at Vassar

It came out looking so colorful and was so delicious. We also cooked way too much, of course, so now each have between one and three meals of leftovers ahead of us. Not bad, especially cost-wise when you divide it up amongst cost per meal yield. And you can’t put a price on the fun you have cooking with great friends 🙂

This is what we had to stir fry all together!

And as for the highly anticipated mulled wine…totally worth the wait! The best parts were definitely the comforting warmth from the simmered alcohol and the poached apple slices at the bottom of our mugs.

Deliciously colored and tasty, mulled wine poached apple

Yeah we kind of went Jenna-and-Aisha-college-style for the drinking, wine in coffee mugs. Some things are just too convenient and good to change.

Browsing cupcake recipes for our next baking attempt

If you want the recipes, hop  over to Kelsi’s blog Kelsi’s Kitchen Adventures because I’m sure she is going to post this recipe…eventually…

The First Cupcake Experiment

Before I left Oxford back in December, knowing Kevin was coming back with me and wanting to be a nice sister, I purchased an air mattress. Thank goodness I did because it has already been used by someone other than its originally intended user, and it gave me a great opportunity to hang out with a friend and help her out a bit.

My friend Dorothy, now that I think about it she was my first friend in England since we met in the airport on our way over here, was one of those unfortunate Oxford students who had to completely move out of her room during the break but had to return for rowing training camp two weeks early and so has no room of her own. The poor girl has basically been a nomad for a week now (she gets to move in to her room tomorrow), bouncing around people’s floors and “nests” though I’m still not entirely sure what the nest situation was. Before she asked to stay with me, she was staying with some of her teammates, essentially crowded into one room with a bunch of GUYS. Now, we all know that I have nothing against guys and the fact is that most of my friends over the years have been guys, but I’ve also spent about two months over the years practically living in a room with guys so I know that sometimes you just need to stay with a girl. The two nights she stayed with me were the easiest I’ve had with a houseguest in a while! More than anything she was just grateful to have a bed, even if it was just air and plastic covered in a blanket, and I had someone to drag me out of my room a few times so that I didn’t become a shut in. And last night I had someone to cook dinner with 🙂

Dinner with Dorothy

Over the past few days, I’ve mostly been hanging out with Dorothy when she isn’t in practice and my friend Janosz. It’s mostly been running errands together and sitting around talking, but Janosz and I did go to see The Artist, a film I highly recommend. My mom was shocked that I liked it since I’ve never seen a silent film before and as a kid I hated black and white films, but I thought it was extremely well done and had wonderful movement from both the actors and in terms of the film as a whole. I can see it being up for an Oscar. I think what was so refreshing about it was that it was a film that didn’t rely on special effects and technology to tell its story. It was literally stripped down to the base elements of picture and music, beautiful in its simplicity.

But today was the day I have most been looking forward to all weekend. Sitting around Oxford with nothing to do begs for some creativity. And what could be more creative than baking cupcakes! Well, lots of things probably considering we made simply vanilla cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting, but neither of us have baked in our kitchens so figuring out the process took some creativity. Plus the weather is kind of gloomy out right now so no one really wants to be outside, making it perfect baking weather.

Now I’m just making excuses.

Janosz mixing frosting

I’ve been blog-stalking this one cupcake blog called  The Cupcake Project for a few days and Janosz loves to bake too, so we decided to figure out how to work my oven using her recipe for the “Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake” and her frosting. We ended up mixing all the batter and frosting down at Janosz’s place on Dawson Street then walking over to my place with two full bowls to use the ovens, which probably earned us some confused looks from passersby. The challenging part of the whole thing was converting American measurements and temperatures into British ones, something made a lot easier by Janosz’s investment in a food scale and access to internet.

Oh. My. God. The cupcakes are awesome! Super moist and vanillay (is that a word?) and the frosting is perfect. I really think that the other blog was right, these are the ultimate vanilla cupcake. Even with having to improvise on cooking utensils, they came out delicious and are going into my future family recipe book. Cupcake gush 🙂

The coolest part about making all these cupcakes is that I have an excuse to finally meet the people I’ve been living with for the last two and a half months. Everybody likes free cupcakes right?

Two happy bakers 🙂


I have started another blog! (This is what happens when you have a week with nothing to do for the first time in…years?) It’s completely unrelated to Oxford and I highly doubt that anyone other than my mom will read it, and probably only because she loves me, but I started it and am looking forward to writing on it as well. It’s called Reading Between the Pages and is a book review blog. Pretty much if I read it all the way through (as I do most books) I’ll post a review about it on my new site. It isn’t geared towards one particular genre; I’m an equal opportunist reader. So there will be fiction, nonfiction, academic, history, guidebooks, basically anything I get my reading hands on.

At least you can fake being excited haha. Though I guess with all the blog posts today you are all a little sick of seeing my name pop up on your Facebook feeds. Sorry! I’ll put down my keyboard for the night I promise.

But check out for my first review on We Need to Talk About Kevin, a novel by Lionel Shriner. And if you like what you read, subscribe!

Goodnight xoxo

Goodbye Kevin, Hello Solitude

This is the last post about Kevin’s trip out here, so if you haven’t read something about Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, two days in London, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Leeds Castle, or Maidstone, you missed something! Wow that list makes it seem like quite the whirlwind trip, which I guess is pretty accurate. But this morning my dear brother and I took a train into London where he went on his way back to Los Angeles via Heathrow and I traipsed around London alone trying to take pictures for the book some family friends bought me this summer.

I have to say that the trip was amazing, and that Kevin and I travelled pretty well together. We may have become a teensy bit exasperated with each other at times, and there were some times that we were both really quiet, but for two young adults who have grown up together all that is to be expected. The fact that our parents still have two children is enough to impress most of the people who know Kevin and me and how we acted as kids. I am so thankful that I had this week to spend with him; I really think it brought us closer and we had some…interesting conversations to say the least.

After leaving Kevin at Victoria Station, I proceeded to walk around like crazy (as fast as I liked!) to a predetermined list on London landmarks without getting lost thanks to the A to Z I picked up the other day. My umbrella had been broken at Stonehenge, so my only protection from the slight rain that began as I was walking through St. James’s Park was my hood and the knowledge that I was almost at the National Gallery. It appeared that everyone had the same idea I did as the Gallery was PACKED. I had to wait around the coat check counter for someone to leave and take their bags because I was already in pain from carting my book bag read temporary suitcase around 4 miles of London. It was making me rethink those new jam and lemon curd I picked up at Leeds Castle. I then ran into the same problem with crowds as I was trying to find a seat to eat lunch at. I ended up sitting at a counter crowded in with a bunch of other people, huddling over my new book on the Princes in the Tower. Did I mention that I don’t like crowds, especially around food?

The Gallery itself became one of those places that I am very glad I went to once, but unless they are having an incredible temporary exhibit, I see no need to go again. I am so unbelievably picky when it comes to which art I enjoy staring at for hours on end, and unfortunately the Gallery was lacking in a large collection of the Impressionists and Tudor portraits. It did have some truly amazing Monet garden paintings and a Degas pastel that I had never seen before; it also introduced me to a new type of art I like, Dutch flower still lifes. They were so realistic that I had to crowd one of the paintings and squint to prove to myself that they weren’t photographs. The other really cool exhibit there was one on DaVinci with the main showpiece being The Last Supper, but you needed a ticket for that and I was not in a spending money mood having just blown all my Christmas cash. I did find a book on Degas alone and on the symbolism and purpose of gardens in paintings, so I splurged and picked those up. I figure that since about 75% of my favorite paintings revolve around gardens I may as well learn more about them.

The audio guide at the National Gallery is probably the best audio guide I have ever come across in an art gallery. Nearly every painting has an audio commentary, so you can either do their recommended 60 minute highlight tour or just walk around like I did and do the audio guide for the paintings that catch your eye. The woman at the tour desk said that it is impossible to listen to every painting’s commentary in one day as there is over 50 hours of recordings!

By the time I left the gallery and snapped a few more pictures for my book and was walking down towards the Oxford Tube stop, I was finding bruises on my shoulders and wrists from the bag. It almost sent me running for the underground, but it was still such a nice day out (the rain had stopped) and as we’ve established, I really like walking. My weary stroll was rewarded, too, in a way that only Mom and me would consider worthwhile. I was heading towards Victoria Station, walking along the path of St. James Park towards Buckingham Palace, when I saw him. Outside of the Rubens Hotel, the hotel Mom and I stayed at in London back in 2009. I recognized him instantly; he didn’t look any different, though I suppose two and a half years is not enough to age someone beyond recognition. But there he was…Nathan! The super awesome doorman who helped Mom and me out so much when we stayed there, he was still working for them! Like I said, only Mom and I would find that exciting, and I’m sure she just laughed or smiled at the vary least while she read that I saw one of our favorite Brits of all time. Just seeing him revitalized me enough to get my last picture and finish my walk to the coach station.

The Ruben, the hotel with the cool doorman

Physically, yeah I was pretty tired, but I had no idea just how bad it was until I was at the Subway near my apartment picking up dinner (yes Subway as in the sandwich chain, nothing else was open!). I ended up getting really confused over the whole mustard situation and panicking and nearly crying because I felt like such an idiot and was holding up the line. Not my proudest moment. I tried playing the sorry my brain must have turned off card, which didn’t help, and then the confused traveling American card, which also didn’t help. I still nearly cried in a Subway over mustard. Needless to say I have never run out of a Subway faster nor more humiliated in my life.

Over mustard. Seriously Jenna?

I did enjoy having a night to myself for the first time in a month. I haven’t had much if any measurable amount of time completely alone, especially without a definitive end time to the solitude, so I almost didn’t know what to do with myself other than relish in quiet and open spaces.

Thanks to Kevin for a great trip and to Mom and Dad for all their help with it 🙂