Tag Archive | Dance

The Ranks of the Unemployed

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. If you’re a Dodger, you don’t seem to be able to hit one, but for the rest of us non-athletes, we need to be able to adapt and duck when one comes our way so that we won’t get hurt. Why this has any relevance to the rest of my post, I am not entirely sure. But I started the post with the aforewritten sentence and it just kind of seemed to follow from there. What baseball has to do with my being temporarily unemployed is a mystery to me. Maybe I’m just a little more than a little upset at the Dodger’s season this year and I needed to get that off my chest before I told you that I quit my job this week.

Yes, I no longer work at Sake Bistro and Sushi as of last night. I’m not going to go into the reasons why I quit because that is unethical and honestly unimportant, but I am sure that I made the right decision. It was actually really difficult to do. My coworkers are the most amazing people and I hate feeling like I am disappointing people, yet how could I pass up these other opportunities coming my way? Maybe that’s what I meant by life throwing us curveballs. We really have no idea what is in store for us; just when we think we are aiming at a fast ball, the ball falls away to the right and we have to adjust our plan.

Oh yeah, I just got deep with you 😉

And now I get the luxury to think: what will I do with all my time off??? I can bake, I can scrapbook, I can sketch, I can travel, I can…start memorizing the information for my new job that I start training for on Tuesday night. So much for time off! But I have to save money for grad school and traveling (as always, donations are greatly appreciated).

But despite all the week’s focus on my job, that isn’t really what I was planning on talking about. I wanted to talk about dance. Shocker right? Jenna talks about dance. It should make the national papers it’s such a rarity. Anyways, I’ve been training at this new place by the Westfield mall (anyone else annoyed that Westfield literally owns nearly every mall in the country?) for some intensive ballroom and latin lessons. And oh my god is it intense. I’m pretty sure that we spent the first two weeks only working on Rumba walks. But it is AWESOME. I absolutely love being back in a studio and getting to move my body in a way that isn’t walking to and from tables carrying food. We’ve been working on Rumba technique as well as general ballroom technique. Last lesson we started samba. Just when I felt like I had a handle on this latin stuff, Todd throws this crazy Brazilian dance with psycho hip actions and bent knees and my brain literally leaks out my ears with contrasting information. It’s nuts: Brazil nuts in fact. Regardless I am having a great time 🙂

Yet ballroom and latin are not the only kinds of dancing I’ve been doing lately. Laura and I head out to Thousand Oaks every Wednesday night to go country line dancing at Borderline Bar and Grill. Let me tell you, it is SO MUCH FUN!!!! It’s wholesome and every one is super nice and friendly and so willing to help you learn the dances. I’ve been about 8 times and Laura’s been 5, so we are officially regulars and we are picking up the dances pretty quickly I think. It’s so awesome to get all cowgirled up (yes we both own real cowboy boots now), dance our little hearts out to “Blown Away” “Footloose” and “Stuck Like Glue”, and spend a ton of time in awesome best friend bonding over good music. We might be a little addicted…but only a little I swear!

So those are the basic updates for the moment. There are a few really cool things in the works right now, but I am not ready to share those yet so you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Over and out!

The Big 100th Post

Isn’t it amazingly fitting (and completely coincidental) that my 100th post is my leaving Oxford to return home to the States? This was never my intention; I didn’t plan out all of my blog posts for my entire year to make sure that I ended on the 100th post. I can’t even really believe that I’ve had 100 posts!

In fact, this post is truly the last part of me in England at the moment. In case no one noticed, the time stamp on this one is 4:15 pm, GMT, which means that as this is being blasted into cyberspace, my plane towards Los Angeles has just taken off and I am now in the air, eleven and a half hours of a plane ride ahead of me. Let’s hope there are no screaming children!

So as this is my 100th milestone, in typical blogosphere fashion, I thought I would do a little fun listing, an almost sum-up of my incredible time abroad. Nothing is in any particular order. Enjoy!

25 Great/Funny Experiences

  1. Meeting my amazing dance partner, Dan, is probably the best thing that happened to me here!
  2. Being pelted with snowballs outside the Sheffield competition. First time in the snow!
  3. Disneyland Paris
  4. Harry Potter Studio Tours in Leavesden
  5. Seeing Les Mis on the West End…twice
  6. Dan running into a bollard at Blackpool. This was mostly funny because of the email his dad sent him afterwards, but it’s a favorite inside joke with the two of us now.
  7. Blackpool IVDA!
  8. Thinking that Iguanadons were the same thing as Iguanas (you’ll understand this one later)
  9. Baking parties in the Acland kitchen
  10. Dan’s birthday BBQ
  11. Days spent at the Missing Bean
  12. Keble Ball
  13. Meeting up with Dale in Paris
  14. The Port Meadow Photo Challenge
  15. My family visiting!
  16. Driving in Ireland
  17. Finding Charles Brandon’s grave in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
  18. Becoming friends with all the people on the dance team
  19. Dancing on a table in Wahoo with Ania 😉 and nearly getting kicked out
  20. Flying off to Zurich alone, completely random! Sidenote: Awesome zoo
  21. Seeing the town that  my family has lived in for hundreds of years (Harlech, Wales)
  22. Walking through horse pastures in the Cotswolds
  23. Varsity Match for OUDC
  24. Going to tutorials in a room that is older than any of the original 13 colonies
  25. Stonehenge in the pouring rain with my brother

25 Things I’ve Learned

  1. The Rose has the best cream tea in Oxford
  2. Custard, cream, and mayo might as well be their own food groups here
  3. Pants=underwear, not trousers
  4. Pimms is awesome. There is always an excuse to drink Pimms.
  5. The instant the sun comes out, expect the streets to get very, very crowded.
  6. Blackwells is the most deadly store in the world.
  7. Sometimes it is cheaper to take a train to a foreign country than to Cornwall.
  8. You can get to Brussels or Paris from Oxford faster than you can get from Oxford to Cambridge (they must have planned it like that!).
  9. Awesome words like keen, overkeen, and knackered should be incorporated into our everyday vocabulary.
  10. British people think that all Americans are gun-toting, obese rednecks.
  11. Cobblestones do not mix well with high heels.
  12. Punting is not just a type of kick in football.
  13. At a BBQ, Brits bring their own meat. Americans bring desserts and sides. Plan accordingly.
  14. Stand mixers are necessary to avoid baking catastrophes.
  15. 14lbs=1 stone. This is how they measure weight. But then they use kg? Wth?
  16. Fancy dress means costumes, not cocktail attire.
  17. Stealing ties and bow ties makes night clubs into a game.
  18. You never wait for a cross walk to cross the street.
  19. Buses will run you over and they get really close to the curbs.
  20. Salad means assorted vegetables that you can have put on your baguette at lunch or lettuce with delicious toppings. However, salads are rarely meals.
  21. You need a television license just to stream a show online.
  22. Everyone, and I mean everyone, watches and loves Downton Abbey.
  23. I know more British history than a lot of British people.
  24. Waffles are dessert, not breakfast. And for that matter, pancakes are basically crepes, not the fluffy goodness we get in the States.
  25. If you forget an umbrella, you’ve guaranteed that it will rain. If you brought an umbrella, it will still probably rain but at least you will be dry.

25 Things I’ll Miss

  1. Nightly tea parties with my dance partner
  2. My friends on the dance team
  3. Olives (the sandwich shop not the food item)
  4. Cream teas
  5. Being able to walk everywhere
  6. Saying Cheers instead of Thanks
  7. Spur of the moment day trips into London
  8. West End shows for cheap!
  9. Being surrounded by history everywhere I go
  10. My bay window
  11. How happy everyone is when its sunny
  12. Oxfordshire Public Library
  13. Free entry to museums and galleries
  14. Everyone in the Keble MCR/Acland
  15. The collective understanding when someone mentions Jamals or Park End
  16. My scouts (aka the women who clean my room every week and empty my bins. They were the nicest people!)
  17. The accents
  18. Ease of travel, unless you want to go horizontally across the country. Good luck with that.
  19. Baking for Dan’s friends and Keble events. Love easy taste testers
  20. Laughing as Dan and I attempt to Quickstep/Waltz/Jive/Cha/Foxtrot/Viennese Waltz
  21. Hearing everyone’s opinions on LA
  22. Dirty Chais
  23. All the literature and film links in the city
  24. Feeling like I’m constantly at Hogwarts
  25. My coworkers

25 Places that I Didn’t Get a Chance to Visit, But That I Definitely Will Someday

  1. York
  2. Cornwall
  3. Dover
  4. Calais
  5. Norfolk
  6. Budapest
  7. Prague
  8. Vienna
  9. Pompeii/Rome/Venice/Naples/Italy
  10. Warsaw/Other Places in Poland
  11. Berlin/all over Germany
  12. Geneva
  13. Istanbul
  14. Marrakech
  15. North Carolina
  16. Athens, basically all of Greece
  17. Slovenia
  18. The Netherlands
  19. Northern Ireland
  20. Brighton
  21. Denmark
  22. Russia
  23. Bruges/Antwerp
  24. The Caribbean
  25. Portugal

Yeah, it’s a long list, but hopefully I’ll have a long life in which to fulfill it, with wonderful friends and family by my side. Now don’t think that because I’m back in the US that this blog is ending. I’m still going to be traveling and I’m working on finding my way back to England for a bit longer of a term. So stay tuned!

And thank you to everyone and everything in England that made this the most amazing year of my life.

A Week of Lasts

Warning, it’s a long one. My advice: Grab some tea and scones before settling down to read this novella. Trust me, tea and scones makes everything better 😉

It has been a week for lasts. Which is completely fitting as this was 8th week, meaning my final week here in Oxford. Pardon me for waxing nostalgic for a blog post, but what a year it has been. Right now Dan and I are exchanging stories of our favorite memories from the past nine months via Facebook chat, and it blows my mind just how much has happened since I stepped off that plane back in September. But a full reminiscing might wait until a milestone blog post, so I’ll refrain for the time being. Not only is it my final week, but it has also been a crazy busy one! So let’s begin with the list of Lasts. Head’s up, it’s a long one!

Last Shift at Work

Sunday afternoon I ended my time waitressing. Ironically it was one of my toughest shifts; I was far from focused and we filled up the entire restaurant for about 90 minutes. With only two waitresses, two bartenders, and one chef, a full restaurant can get overwhelming really quickly. And although I can normally handle a busy shift, for some reason my brain was just not turned on enough to manage it. I choose to blame it on having three long and busy shifts in a row (Friday-Saturday night-Sunday morning) and being once again plagued with insomnia, two things which would make any waitress a little bit off her game. The breakfast/brunch crowd is also a bit more difficult when everyone orders omelettes and you end up confused about which table ordered which omelette because there are two waitresses managing the same tables. So if I didn’t take a table’s order, I didn’t necessarily know that they had ordered food–the specific table in question had told me they were waiting for one more person to join them, who never showed up–and Table 15’s omelette and yogurt and granola ends up at Table 16, and Jenna gets a lecture from the other waitress. All in all though, it was a fun shift and I am surprised at how much I’m going to miss waitressing. Though the tips have a lot to do with that! 😉

Last Essay for Tutorials

It also happened to be my longest essay of the term. My major tutorial is an Independent Research Project, and because we didn’t have time to actually run the study during term (I’m supposed to figure out a way to run it over the summer from the opposite side of the world?), we decided that I could at least make progress on the eventual final write up by writing the Method section and the Introduction of the paper before we even made the stimulus. The Method section was turned in a few weeks ago, so the Intro needed to be written by Thursday’s tutorial. When I set my mind to finishing an essay early, I rarely rest until I do, hence why this week’s essay was researched, outlined, and written between Saturday and Monday afternoon. Granted, three paragraphs were copy-pasted from a previous essay that was a foundation essay for the Intro (so it wasn’t cheating to reuse it), but the majority of the research was new articles and the paper ended at a concise 2200 words. Not really sure how I was able to churn it out that fast, but I certainly wasn’t complaining as it allowed me more time to experience and appreciate the remaining Lasts as there wasn’t an essay hanging over my head.

Last Ballroom Practice

Only ten people showed up! So disappointing as I was planning on using this last Tuesday at Wychwood to say goodbye to everyone. The rest of the week was shaping up to be a crazy busy one, so I wasn’t sure how much time I would have to make the rounds among my friends (as it turned out, I was right in thinking not much) and really wanted to see as many of them as possible at rehearsal. Unfortunately exams are going on for a lot of people and as such the crowd was small. Sadness. Guess I’ll be leaving without notice for many people. I guess this is the advantage of Facebook; at least I can stay in touch as much as possible.

The actually dancing was exactly what Dan and I wanted. Bruce started with our new favorite dance: Foxtrot. I bet my ballroom coach back home will laugh when he hears that I love International Foxtrot, since he practically had to bribe me into practicing it back home! But Dan and I love the smoothness of the music and the technique seems to come very naturally to us, always a bonus. After 90 minutes of Foxtrot, Bruce switched it up to teach us Viennese Waltz. I’ve done Viennese Waltz before, and after spending an entire academic year watching the main team couples dance it, Dan was able to pick it up really quickly. The steps themselves aren’t difficult, it’s all about the speed and stamina. We found it easier to dance when the tempo was quicker, rather than the slowest Viennese that Bruce had, possibly because the slowest Viennese switched timing so often through the song that it was difficult to keep in time. Our last Viennese was the perfect ending to an incredible year dancing with my best friend: it was the theme to Harry Potter!!!! Couldn’t have chosen better myself 😀

Last Baking Experiment

I insisted last week that my making a gigantic batch of sugar cookies to distribute was going to be my last baking day of the term. It just goes to show you that sometimes people eat their words, literally in this case. I blame my mom’s telling me that our peach tree back home is bearing an insane amount of peaches and asking me for some peach dessert recipes to try. She blames Dan for suggesting that we try out one of the recipes ourselves. He blames my telling him about her plans to make peach pie and other assorted peach desserts and sending him the recipes to tempt him. Basically, it’s a blame circle that worked out for everyone in Acland on Tuesday night after our rehearsal. We started off making Strawberries and Cream Pie (recipe below), and it would appear that I still haven’t learned my lesson to read a recipe all the way through before I attempt it, because I neglected to notice that the pie not only took 1 hour 10 minutes minimum to bake, but also needed to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving. Darn it! I really wanted to try something we baked, but I was not about to stay up until 3 am for a slice of pie. I am definitely not that crazy! Luckily for the little petulant child in me, we also had had the foresight to bake a Honey Almond Cake (also below) that did not need chilling for eternity and was delicious right out of the oven. Our friend Pippa came over after her law dinner and was greeted with huge hugs and a slice of cake. Yeah, she likes us. Plus both desserts ended up great successes, though I found the cake too simple of a recipe too eliminate my baking craving. Guess I’ll just have to make a really challenging recipe next week at home! In my own, fully stocked, clean kitchen!

Oh and did I mention that since neither of us had a pie pan, we made the pie in a 8×8 square pan? Do you know what that means? That Pie R Squared! Sorry, math joke. Dan came up with it.

But really, making a pie in an 8-in square actually was super convenient and came out just as tasty, if a tad unconventional. It was a lot easier to cut it into even slices as well.

Last Spontaneous Weekend Trip Booking

While I won’t reveal where we booked a vacation to, just know that Dan and I booked a last minute trip to somewhere and leave tomorrow morning at 5:30 am!!! So excited though. And I realized that now all three of my terms ended with me spontaneously leaving Oxford on a vacation. Michaelmas I went to Paris to visit my junior high school friend, Dale. Hilary term I flew off to Zurich alone. And tomorrow we head to…like I was really about to reveal it! I will give you a hint though. We are not flying 😦

Last Day Trip into London

With all my work for the term completed, I had a few free days to lounge around Oxford if I so chose. Of course, the weather not being the greatest lately, that would literally entail lounging around my room while all my friends were either in their respective labs or exams. Not exactly the way I wanted to spend my final Wednesday in England. Traveling around the UK, while easier than in the US, can actually be quite difficult and time consuming for simple day trips by yourself, so I just copied what I did a few weeks ago and caught a bus into London with the intention of snatching some discount tickets to some West End productions. I really wanted to spend the evening with Dan, so I chose to only do a matinee and not a double feature (plus I wasn’t really keen on walking around London alone at night again or getting back at 2 am). After buying a ticket at Leicester Square–I tried to get a ticket to War Horse, which would have been the only show I’d have stuck around for a double performance to see, but unsurprisingly it was sold out–and resisting the urge to make it Les Mis for the third time, I walked to the National Portrait gallery to kill some time. Free museum entry is definitely something I am going to miss when I go back to California. I love how England has made it accessible to visit a museum or gallery multiple times because entry is free. I rarely feel rushed through a collection, frantic to see every single piece, because I know that I can return for only the cost of transportation into the city. Unlike in the US where we have to pay an arm and a leg just to visit a pretty garden (not that it has ever stopped me…). After the Portrait Gallery I ate lunch in the National Gallery’s cafe, sat in yet another bookstore adding to my list of books to look up when I get back in the States, and then made my way to the Adelphi Theatre for the matinee of…

Last West End Show

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet…Street! I never saw the movie with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, but I really wanted to, and now I want to even more after seeing the stage show. My ticket was great (middle of second row orchestra!) though I ended up with a slight crick in my neck from having to crane it up a tad to see the whole stage. It was a great show, truly. It was different from anything else I have seen in that there wasn’t a big fanfare before the show began. No overture, no entr’acte after intermission, not even a curtain rising. In the ten minutes before the actual start of each act (five for the second act) the chorus actors just meandered on stage as if they were going about their daily lives, chatting to one another, doing laundry, writing a letter, fixing a door. Really a unique way of beginning a show. The music was great and some of the songs were absolutely hilarious. I actually laughed out loud multiple times, which was unexpected as I had been under the impression that Sweeney Todd was a really dark musical. And it was, even the colors were mostly darker neutrals, but it was darkly humorous as well. And bonus! Imelda Staunton was playing Mrs. Lovett. Recognize the name? Yep, Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One can actually sing and be comedic. I’ve had such good luck with my spur-of-the-moment musical selections yielding the opportunity to see some famous talents. I mean, Raza Jaffrey in Chicago (as much as I hated that show) and Imelda Staunton now, not to mention a few years ago seeing Daniel Dae Kim in The King and I at the Royal Albert Hall. It was a great and very satisfying last show to experience in London.

Last Tutorial

I don’t really have much to say about this other than yesterday (Thursday) was my last tutorial here in Oxford. While I was definitely far from happy about being left in the rain as the tutorial before mine went 20 minutes over, it was a productive meeting. I really like the tutorial system of education and have no idea how I’m going to readjust into massive lectures and multiple choice exams this summer at UCLA! Here’s hoping my GPA doesn’t take a sudden plunge because I’m used to creating my own research topics.

Last Performance at the New Theatre

This might actually be my last performance in the UK, unless some unforeseen tickets come mine and Dan’s way this weekend. The show was a really unique one, titled Against Time, and it was a joint venture with the England National Ballet (my second time seeing them) and Flawless, a UK hiphop/breaking troupe. The story of the production was kind of meh, but I really couldn’t have cared less what the story or the message of it was because the dancing was so incredible and the music was amazingly fun to listen to. The choreography blended hiphop and ballet, with the two styles mirroring and complementing each other and the music was almost all contemporary music. “Moves Like Jagger”, “Party Rock”, “Sexy Ladies” by Justin Timberlake, as well as a bit of Swan Lake and some other classical stuff thrown in. There was also the requisite hiphop/electronic/house/whateverpeoplebreakdanceto music. Absolutely loved it! And now I can’t wait even more to get back into a dance studio.

Last Tea Night with Dan

After the play, Dan came over to Isis for possibly the last time, well at least for a tea night (and pie. He brought me a slice of our pie. Good Partner). The guy really is a godsend; I’ve been freaking out a little bit because repacking up my life to return to LA is stressful, especially when you only have two duffel bags and a carry-on in which to do it. Dan was great about keeping me company while I made the tough decisions about what stays in Oxford for trash, what gets donated to bookstores/libraries/Oxfam, what goes to Dan for either consumption or safe keeping (he was excited about that part), and what gets packed up for this weekend or going home. I had to harken back to the day of the amazing Ziploc bag and “vacuum seal” everything in them once again to make it fit, but Dan seems to share my dad’s incredible packing skills and fit everything I needed in, without me having to through away my unused toiletries! Quite an accomplishment! Dad would be so proud of us. After I was completely packed up, we had some tea and talked about our weekend plans, trying not to think about my leaving in five days. It was 1:30 am before he finally left with two of his four bags of new stuff and a plan of what to do with every item in my room set out. The guy is such a blessing to have around when you are stressed.

Last Full Day in Oxford

It finally came. It still hasn’t hit me that it has, that today was my last consecutive 24 hours in Oxford for this time around. And I definitely spent it all around the city. There were errands to run, banks to visit, people to say goodbye to. To give just an overview of my day: wakeup at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am yet again (curse insomnia!), grab items to donate, go to Teddy Hall to donate items, go to Missing Bean, go to NatWest, go to Barclays, go to Covered Market, go to Library, go back to Isis, meet Dan there, move refrigerator that had melted all over my carpet from Isis to the taxi downstairs, move refrigerator from the taxi downstairs to Dan’s room in Acland, go to a High Street shop to finally buy a new iPhone case that I’ve been eyeing for weeks, go back to Isis, grab more items to donate, go to Sobells and Oxfam to donate items, go back to NatWest, go to The Rose, go to IT office at Teddy, go to Collections at Teddy, go to Sainsbury, go back to Isis. Lots of running around! There is so much to do today since I obviously won’t have the weekend because I’ll be in…gotcha, not giving it away!

Last Dirty Chai

So sad that I had my last Dirty Chai at the Missing Bean. I met a friend from the dance team there for breakfast and coffee and a two hour catch up session before I go to the US and she studies in Paris and Brussels for the summer. But it was such a great 2 hours. And a great Dirty Chai.

Last Cream Tea

All that cream tea tasting and reviewing practically necessitated me going to tea for the last time this year at the place that I consider to have the best cream tea in Oxford: The Rose on High Street. It is the entire package of delicious and warm scones, real fruit in the jam, smooth clotted cream, and a delicious loose leaf vanilla tea in a minimalist but warm atmosphere. And all for a great price in my opinion. Had to end with the best.

Last Time at St Edmund Hall

It’s a little bittersweet ending my time at this college. Granted, I really didn’t spend a ton of time on the site since I lived out for the year, but I still felt like I belonged to St. Edmund and loved that the place had such character. But I left it completely satisfied and with some beautiful pictures in my head from all the seasons. Bye Teddy! Thanks for welcoming me into your quaint world for a great year.

Now all that’s left is a super awesome trip with my dance partner and a twelve hour flight.

Strawberries and Cream Pie (aka the Pie R Squared pie)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 1 pie

 Ingredients
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust (I highly recommend making your own pie crust as I find the pre made ones really bland. You only need a bottom crust, so make a single crust or else the crust will be too thick in my opinion.)
For the Filling
  • 2 pints strawberries, stems removed and halved
    • Other fruit options to try: Strawberry-Banana, Peach, Blueberry with Lemon Cream, Cherry (though not having tried them myself I can’t vouch for them, they are just ideas I had)
  • 1 cup sugar (I used just over 2/3 cup)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Crumb Topping
  • 2 1/2 tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 tbs. sugar (I used 1 tbs.)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tbs. all purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roll out the raw pie crust and press into a pie dish. Shape the edges in to desired shape. Set aside.
For the Filling
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour and sugar together.
  2. Add in the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Mix for about 3 minutes. (Not having a stand mixer, I whisked it by hand for 5 minutes)
  3. Place the strawberries into the pie crust. Pour the filling evenly over the strawberries.
For the Crumb Topping
  1. In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in the melted butter.
  2. Add in the flour and use your hands or a spatula to combine until the mixture has a crumbly texture.
  3. Distribute the crumb topping evenly over the top of the pie.
  4. Bake the pie for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  5. Let pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

Honey Almond Loaf Cake

4 eggs

2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream (38% fat) *Note: This is whipping cream in the UK. Single and Double Cream have too high of a fat content*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups (280 grams) self-rise flour

For the topping

200 grams slivered almonds

3 teaspoons honey

Turn the oven on to 170°C/350F. Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ones in another (eggs, vanilla, cream). Mix the contents of each bowl, separately. Pour the cream mixture into the flour and mix well with a whisk (no stand mixer needed). Pour the batter evenly into one large loaf pan and one small one, or pretty much whatever type of pan you want to bake it in (just adjust cooking times accordingly). Scatter a handful of almonds over the top and drizzle a spoonful of honey. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick/knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cover top of cake with aluminum foil if top is browning too much before the cake is finished baking.

Serving suggestions: As is! Drizzled with a bit more honey. Any way you would serve Angel Food Cake (cherries instead of strawberries would be really good). With bananas. 

42nd Street

I am definitely on a musical kick at the moment. How can I not be, with random breaks of free time, tip money in my pocket, and the West End a mere 90 minute bus ride away? So far, this term alone, I’ve seen Les Mis twice, Billy Elliot, Chicago, Guys & Dolls, and last night I saw 42nd Street at the New Theatre in Oxford. Hopefully I can get myself to be productive enough over this Partnerless weekend to afford a last trip to Leicester Square (if so, I’m thinking Sweeney Todd).

My blog earlier today, in my opinion, didn’t really do Phantom of the Opera justice; chalk that up to a deadly combination of tiredness and low blood sugar and please accept my apologies. Having written a 2000 word essay yesterday, I’m a little burnt out today and writing my blog seemed more like a chore than anything else. But I promise to do as much justice to 42nd Street as I can!

Which is to say, not much? But I’ll get to that. Let’s first step back into Phantom so I can spill a few little, astonishing, tidbits.

Dan bought the program and while he had stepped out for a minute, I read the history of the show. I was floored to see that it was intended to be produced in the style of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! I’ve never seen it, but I have watched the Glee episode and am very familiar with the song “Time Warp” and the Los Angeles traditions of what you do at a screening. I’m sorry, but that just wouldn’t have done the original novel justice! (Yes, Phantom is based on a French novel, and yes I’ve read it and recommend it.) Though after learning that, I could actually hear some of the Rocky Horror influences in the music. So disappointing.

Okay so that was just one tidbit, but it felt like an important one.

As for 42nd Street it was produced for the first time in the 1980s, and it really felt like it. I am pretty sure I’ve done a dance to one of the songs (“Lullaby of Broadway” maybe?) so I kind of new the style of music. But I find it a little saddening when my favorite part about a production is the chorus. There was nothing special about the main characters, no gripping storyline to pull you in, no powerhouse that kept you on the edge of your seat. Maybe I’m a little spoiled from Les Mis and Wicked. But I think the problems with the production stem from its original script and book. It just doesn’t lend itself well to the 2010s’ culture. It was dated. Costumes were dated. Actors were dated. Audience was definitely dated.

Yet the chorus girls were great. I didn’t know that all the dancing in it was going to be tap (though it does explain my memories of that dance’s costume and yes it was a tap number), and it was good tap. So often you get a line of tappers and it just sounds like a terrible cacophony. Which may be why it has always been my least favorite style of dance. But here, everyone was really talented. Their sounds were crystal clear and on time! And there were easily 30 tappers all dancing at one time. I really wish my mom had been there with me, she would have loved the dancing. As it was, definitely my favorite part of the entire show. I found myself groaning whenever there was acting or singing, wishing I could go back to writing my paper, until the chorus came on and I paid rapt attention.

The other funny thing about the show was its storyline. It definitely was not an accurate portrayal of how people act in the entertainment industry. An entire chorus would not be clamoring for a brand new chorus girl to take over the lead role of a high profile Broadway play just so they could perform themselves! In truth, everyone would be cutthroat and after the lead role themselves. But I guess that makes for entertaining television right now in Smash but not appropriate for 1980s Broadway.

Oh and I find the storyline of the older, crotchety director in love with the clueless chorine ingenue kind of gross.

Random interesting factoid: Catherine Zeta-Jones got her start in musical theatre in the chorus of 42nd Street when she had to fill in the role of Peggy Sawyer after both the lead and the understudy became ill. Lucky her!

Spontaneous London Reviews from A Day Trip

I couldn’t stomach the thought of sitting around Oxford doing nothing but wait for an email that I no longer think is going to come for the third day in a row, so I decided to leave. Originally I was hoping to go to Lanhydrock in Cornwall despite the 4 hour train rides it would have taken to get there, but the price was a bit, shall we say, prohibitive? In fact it seemed like every place I thought I might travel to was crazy expensive. Now I am definitely not one to scrimp on travel expenses (remember me traipsing off to Zurich with no warning?) but if I’m going to spend the money to go to Cornwall or York, I should probably do it as a weekend trip and make it really worth my while. Which is how, at 2 am, I came to the decision to go into London for the day.

Yet it would not just be any old day in London, not one spent wandering the streets and museum aisles with headphones from either my iPad or an audio guide. No if I was going to do London alone, I was going to boldly go where this Jenna has gone before: to the theatre!!!

Apparently I picked the perfect day as well. It was indeed the third day in a row of gorgeous sun (could I perhaps get some color to my skin?!) and, since it was a Wednesday, many of the popular shows were doing their matinees, meaning that I could see not one but TWO productions all in the same day! Talk about indulging my theatre junkie 😉 As soon as I hopped off the X90 bus I headed over to a tkts booth in the theatre district of Leicester Square, crossing my fingers that I could score a seat to both of my planned shows. I know that all the guidebooks and Dan tell you to go to the “only official discount theatre ticket” place in the middle of the square, but the line was really long and after my experience of missing out on War Horse tickets by literally three minutes, I wasn’t really in the mood to take any chances, so I went to one of the imitation discount booths down a side street. Official or not, I did score some amazing seats for what I consider cheap for the theatre. Next time maybe I’ll get into London a bit earlier and use the official one to compare deals, but I wasn’t going to compromise on this sunshine day that had the makings of being one to remember.

Sunshine!

And which shows did I score those coveted tickets to, you ask? None other than Les Miserables and Chicago! Success!

Yes, I’ve seen Les Mis before, but I’m also the girl who saw Wicked six times and Billy Elliot twice, not to mention the number of times I saw each Harry Potter movie in cinemas, so obviously I don’t care about repeating. In fact Les Mis was even more incredible the second time, but I’ll get to that later.

The matinee doors weren’t even going to open until 2 pm, and it was only 10:30, so I decided to wander the surrounding neighborhoods of London, taking advantage of the weather while it lasts (it’s already cloudy outside as I’m writing this, though that could just be the morning haze). I found myself first in Chinatown and then in SoHo, without nearly getting hit by a car once, so I guess everyone else decided that walking and fresh air was the better option than sitting in a potentially stifling cab. At least Londoners appreciate the sun when they get it! Back home we almost get sick of the heat, granted ours is about fifty degrees hotter than yesterday, and eventually start seeking cover in shopping malls and restaurants. But once again I digress into talking about the weather, an apparently way too easy of a distracting topic. So I’ll move onto cupcakes.

No, I’m serious. Among the stores I came across on my traversing the sidewalks of SoHo was the London version of LA’s Sprinkles or Manhattan’s Magnolia Bakery: Hummingbird Bakery. Surprisingly they don’t make hummingbird flavor cupcakes, but I guess that is more of a Southern American thing. I’ve heard of Hummingbird mostly through that addicting website known as FoodGawker, and since I obviously make a lot of cupcakes myself, I decided to go ahead and try one of theirs. I was hoping that they would sell their cupcake mini’s in store like my favorite New York cupcakery Baked by Melissa (you have to go if you are in New York!), the perfect way to try multiple flavors and give a truly accurate review, but alas those are apparently only available online and I was forced to get a full sized in one flavor. Of course I had to go for red velvet, that ultimate benchmark for the quality of a bakery!

Mmmmmmm…red velvet

I’m no where near creative enough to write cupcake reviews like Dan (see comments section of this post for the latest one), but I can give you my highly detailed notes on the cupcake experience in case anyone makes their way to Hummingbird Bakery anytime soon. The first thing I noticed about the cupcake was that it was well proportioned, a frosting to cake ratio of 1:2, and a wonderfully moderate size, not the super-sized monstrosities guaranteed to give you diabetes in one bite that so often come out of US bakeries. The cake itself was a rich, red color with a pleasant medium chocolate flavor that complemented the frosting without either overpowering the other. A little too dense in my opinion–I prefer a fluffier cupcake, because all things are better when they are fluffy–yet still moist. I wonder how it would be later in the day once it is no longer as freshly baked as this one seemed to be. Now the true mark of proper red velvet cake in any form is the frosting. Hummingbird Bakery went the correct route with a cream cheese frosting and not that buttercream disgustingness that people use instead (it’s not red velvet without cream cheese frosting people!) and it was a good, fluffy (told you) frosting, though with too much icing sugar added in for my taste as I’m not a fan of overly sweet frostings. Overall: a solid effort that I would definitely try again if I ever find myself in SoHo with a cupcake craving, but the dense cupcake and slightly too sugary and subsequently grainy frosting led me to toss the last third of the cake part into the bin and head for a corner cafe to down a bitter coffee.

While enjoying that blissfully bitter cup of caffeine, I whipped out my sketchbook and just started drawing. I just recently started to get into drawing, encouraged heartily by my mom, and I knew that by nature of being alone in London I would have tons of free time, so I somehow managed to pack my sketching pencils and book into my already so full that half the time it wouldn’t close purse. I felt so artsy at first, sitting in the middle of Leicester Square, drinking barely sweetened coffee, waiting for a West End production, sketching the cafe patio across the way, until I became so absorbed in the drawing that I lost all that pretension and forgot everything except which direction a line had to go so that I could achieve the right depth of field. I ended up taking up that corner table for over an hour while I finished my sketch, so I left a more generous tip than one cup of coffee called for to compensate. Thanks random cafe for the extremely pleasant diversion 🙂

Leicester Square decking out for the Jubilee

With still more than an hour to kill before doors to Les Mis opened, I took to the streets of Piccadilly and Regents Street, leisurely strolling past the storefronts and stopping into a Boots to buy a pack of tissues (not going to make that mistake again!). Londoners really came out in droves at lunchtime, so it was fortunate for me that I had enough time to spare so that I didn’t have to rush through a crowd; I just let the swarms slip by me and took side streets whenever I could. After a giddy find of a brand new Whole Foods (they have my peanut butter but not Luna bars, almost success?) more crowded than the streets outside and a quick spot of lunch, I headed into the Queens Theatre and back in time to the French underworld of the 1800s.

Whole Foods! Feels like a slice of home

I don’t think I need to gush on and on about how incredible Les Mis was, though it completely would deserve another helping of exuberant adjectives. I was surprised that for a matinee it was basically the same cast as the evening show I saw back in March with my mom, with the exception of a different Cosette and Marius (funnily enough, the Marius I saw last time was in the chorus this time looking exceedingly bored). I’ve always associated matinees with the understudies or second string of performers, but I guess the West End is fortunately different. And I don’t know if it is the music or the beautiful singing or just the emotions of the story, but I seemed to tear up for almost the entire performance regardless of what was going on at the time. Has that ever happened to you? When you just become so overwhelmed by the beauty of something that you feel unworthy to experience it and just start crying? No? Okay so maybe I’m the odd girl out, but it is definitely how I felt for the majority of Les Mis. Thank goodness for foresight in buying tissues and not wearing mascara (oh no! Did I just admit to that?).

All too soon the final curtain fell, eliciting the fastest and most exuberant standing ovation I have ever seen from a London audience. The cast even came out for an additional bow because the audience wouldn’t stop clapping, myself included. But all great things come to an end, and I was shuffled out of the theatre against my will. I would have stayed and foregone Chicago for the evening performance of Les Mis, but I thought I would be making a better use of my time to see a new production as well. But Les Mis, I’ll be back!

I found myself once again on the streets of Piccadilly with two and a half hours to spare before curtain up at a theatre four blocks away. The great thing about May in England is that the sun doesn’t set until 9 pm-ish, affording me ample daylight to retake up my wanderings armed with a book of London architecture. I find architecture really interesting, probably because of its very close links with history, but I know very little about it and have picked up a few books with the intention of learning more. That is how my London architecture book ended up squeezed into my too small purse alongside my sketchbook. The poor purse’s zipper. London really is a highly navigable city by even just walking, provided you have a decent map, which I did, and therefore walking from Piccadilly Circus down to Westminster Abbey and back up through Trafalgar’s Square via Whitehall to Leicester Square is an entirely feasible plan of action. And a great, educational way to pass 90 minutes in the fresh air. Only made sense to do so, taking my time to read about every building I could find, discovering the Scotland Yard building for my brother, and really looking at the buildings to understand the elements that the book discussed. Random things like the way Portcullis House was designed in 2001 to evoke a symmetry with the Scotland Yard building despite one being made of brick and stone and the other glass and steel. I never would have even thought of something like that, though once it was pointed out to me I can completely appreciate the architect’s intent.

Scotland Yard

Portcullis House evoking Scotland Yard, can you see it?

On my walk, standing outside the Admiralty Building reading about the architect’s decision to forego the use of columns unlike his contemporaries, a random Londoner stopped by me and commented on how I picked the best possible day to be a tourist in London. I thought that it was a random statement, until I soon found out that such a conversation was really just his opening line to ask me for a shandy. With no idea what a shandy was, but knowing that in any situation going somewhere with a stranger is not the smartest decision, I politely declined with a “no, thank you”. Normally that would be the end of the conversation, but this businessman then proceeded to engage me in a cultural comparison of the polite way to refuse an invitation. He commented that it must be an American custom to simple say “No” to such a question while a Brit would say “Sorry”. I replied that in fact I was being very polite by saying “No, thank you” rather than just a flat out refusal. I then thanked him for the compliment of his attention and turned back to my book. And apparently a shandy is a very delicious drink of a blend of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Sorry, but that doesn’t change my mind. And there was his sorry, just for him! Weird interaction.

I promise you that you are reaching the end of my saga; only three more things to go: a city, a surprise, and a fox.

I love the movie of Chicago, even if I’m not the biggest fan of Renee Zellweger, so I made the mistake of going into the stage show with high hopes of a similar sultry and well choreographed package. Lesson shatteringly relearned: No expectations are good expectations. I truly almost walked out and asked for a refund, before realizing that the theatre wouldn’t give me one since I hadn’t bought my tickets directly from them. First problem, the accents. Now I know that a Chicago accent is difficult for an American, much less a British actor, but if you aren’t going to do a proper Chicago accent at least do a Standard American English one, not a Southern accent and not a valley girl. And make it consistent, none of this switching in and out of poorly performed dialects. Second problem, the choreography and stage design. Apart from the utterly boring minimalist stage that could be the way the musical was originally intended, Chicago is based on the Vaudeville and Cabaret movements, so yes the movement should be subtle and sexy, but you can still be subtle and sexy and actually move across a stage at all much less without prancing. For example, remember Queen Latifa in “When You’re Good to Mama”? Yeah, copy her, walk around, actually swing your curves a little, don’t just stand there and occasionally raise your hand to shoulder level. And Velma Kelly? You are not a giraffe though you may be taller and skinnier than one, so don’t dance like it. Third problem, Roxie Hart. The best way I can describe her was a cross between Kristen Chenoweth in Wicked and Yzma, the villianess from the Disney pic The Emperor’s New Groove. I think that gives the most accurate depiction. Fourth and in my opinion biggest problem, where was all that jazz? Where was the sensuality and the ooze? Yes I said ooze not booze, if you are a dancer you’ll understand what I mean. It felt so little kiddish and perky. The story is about murder, manipulation, and illicit activities, not PopRocks and cartoons. To sum it all up in a quote from Derek Wills from SMASH! “Where’s the sex?!”

Which leads me to the one redeeming quality of the night, the surprise…

I had no idea who was playing any of the roles and was running a bit behind when I was approaching the theatre so I completely ignored the posters of the actors, or else I would have been more keen to sit through the show, based on who was playing Billy Flynn. But I didn’t have any prior knowledge and London theaters don’t hand out playbills so as I sat through the overly rushed performance refusing to clap at the end of any number, I had no idea what was in store for “All I Care About Is Love.” And by what I mean whom and by whom I mean RAZA JAFFERY!!!!!

Raza Jaffery and me 🙂

Yes, Dev from SMASH! was playing Billy Flynn!!!!!!!!!!!! He was by far the best (and most attractive, wink wink) actor in the show and made me believe that he has been underused in SMASH since he can actually sing and dance really well. He also kept up his accent through the entire musical thank goodness His being there was the only reason that I am glad I picked this show, and the picture with him afterwards by the stage door was definitely worth it.

And that brings me to the end of my spontaneous day in London, and to the fox. As I walked towards Victoria Coach Station desperately trying to hail a taxi, a fox ran in front of me on the Pall Mall. Like an actual fox. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real fox before, and I certainly haven’t seen any wildlife besides those blasted pigeons in London. But there it was…a small fox. Random much? 🙂

Springtime at Last?

There have been two consecutive days of sunshine and warmth, but after the teasing weeks back in March that soon gave way to England’s wettest April since 1910 (according to Danopedia) I am hesitant to bask in the perception of spring. Is it folly to put away my winter coat finally into my closet instead of hanging it on the back of my chair each day? Do I dare to wear a dress without tights or even–gasp–shorts?! Or would doing so be tempting the weather gods too much and encouraging them to drop a freak snowstorm or something? See the dilemmas a few days of not just tolerable, but enjoyable weather bring to the people of this country?

But the facts do speak for themselves: the last two days have had such crystal shades of blue skies and balmy air that I have twice ventured outside without a jacket and sweater. Sunday may not have had the cloudless atmosphere, but it was an indication that we may have broken through a cold spell. I even went for a run Sunday morning before heading off to Cuppers to support my Dancesport friends.

Cuppers is the Oxford term for intramural sporting competitions between colleges. I have no idea why they call it Cuppers (and by that sentence just opened myself up to a few long winded comments from readers regarding the origin of the term; I welcome your enlightenment!) but for ballroom dancing it works a little bit different than the other sports. Since you obviously need a couple in order to dance, college teams must be made up of at least one inexperienced dancer who has not competed in the last year. The other member of the couple is allowed to be an experienced dancer, so most of the couples were made up of one member from the dancesport team (either Blues or Beginners) and then a member of their college who learned a dance just for this occasion. It’s quite good fun, and highly entertaining to watch in some cases. As I am the only dancer from my college, and no one approached me about getting a team together, I had the opportunity to merely spectate and take pictures for the largest represented college, my partner’s, Keble College. With a good combination of Beginners and Main Team dancing on behalf of the college, their eventual victory was kind of a given, but no less fun to watch.

Cuppers was run in a typical elimination fashion, with the added addition of the first two rounds being essentially free rounds, though I’m not sure that the inexperienced dancers realized that every single couple made Quarterfinals. But doing this gave them more opportunities to dance, and since when is that ever a bad thing?  Randomly there would be a break for some general social dancing, so Dan and I ended up with a spontaneous Quickstep, Waltz, and Jive under our belts before the embarrassment of Bruce teaching us a line dance to “Stayin’ Alive” put me off dancing for the rest of the day. He should be lucky that it wasn’t forever. Dan claims that I had good fun during it and was just acting out my sullenness, but I claim that I had a headache ever since I went for my run and so I was in truth sullen. Agree to disagree perhaps?

But that is beside the point; the point being of course that Keble achieved the Cuppers win (how cool would it have been if there was a Cuppers Cup?) and Dan and his temporary partner placed second in Quickstep! And one of the other main team guys not dancing and myself correctly identified all four dance finals, down to the random people who were obviously thrown in for entertainment. Maybe I have a future as a dance judge?

Yesterday, after spending the entire afternoon beginning/finishing a book because my tutor still hasn’t emailed me an essay assignment for the week, Dan sent me a simple text: Take a walk at 5? to which I sent an equally simple reply: Sure. Easily persuaded aren’t I? I had a feeling of where Dan wanted to walk to, and at first I was determined to change the location citing bad weather, but as I already mentioned, the weather was perfect for a very long stroll while waiting for the sunset at 9 pm. I arrived at Acland and was handed a camera with no indication that he was going to take it back. I should have known then that something was suspicious, but I can be oblivious and just followed Dan out the back doors of Acland and into Jericho. Yes he was taking us down the three mile path through Port Meadow (if you have been around him for more than five minutes you know that Port Meadow is his favorite place in Oxford). Only then did I receive my challenge. With the camera OFF of auto, I had to take 150 pictures on our round trip walk to The Trout Inn. Some challenge! As soon as I learned that I was being given free range of a camera, I went giddy like a child and ended up with 237 photos (we all know I can be an overachiever). Dan found it really interesting the difference in shots I took versus the ones he would have chosen. So I may have gone a little bit overboard, but especially on the walk back, once the sun was setting, the lighting was so beautiful that taking pictures became a veritable compulsion.

We did stop at the beginning of Wolvercote and at dinner on the patio of The Trout Inn, where we questioned how one could chargrill a watermelon given its high water content. Oh and we unofficially designated ourselves the Duck Police, as there was one particularly cheeky duck that was obsessed with the potatoes of the table next to ours (and yes you did read that correctly). She must have made the leap from another table four times, knocking over the wine glasses that were thankfully empty and snatching chips directly from their plates or the bowl, whichever was closest to her landing mark. Boldly going were no duck had gone before. Because of the obsession with potatoes, I’m betting she was an Irish duck.

I can completely understand why Dan loves Port Meadow so much now. A stunning and relaxing walk that seems like it would look different every time you took it. I won’t put up a fight next time he wants to walk there! I’m thinking picnic by the banks of the stream?

Having been bitten by the photography bug yesterday and still lacking an emailed assignment today, I borrowed Dan’s camera yet again and turned it onto a few well known sites in Oxford. And finally made my way into the Botanical Gardens! While they were pleasant and relaxing to read in for a little while, they are nowhere near as beautiful as some of the other gardens I’ve seen in both this country and back in the LA area, so I didn’t spend more than an hour there. But now it is time to return the camera to Dan and go learn some foxtrot!

Hmmm, is it still okay to wear shorts at 6 pm?

Coming Full Circle

I feel a little sheepish writing down my version of events from this weekend. Partner’s blog has already detailed everything so well and accurately, and about three days ahead of me, that I’m a little embarrassed to tell the story so many days after it happened. In fact, the number of times I’ve begun to write this post, only to exit out of the page either in a fit of futility or a sudden case of the snoozes, probably exceeds the number of words I’ve already typed. But as much as I’d love to leave the day in Dan’s very capable blogging hands, I have to admit that there is only a small readership crossover and I should probably explain the weekend as well. Of course, I’ve been so tired lately that I may need to review it myself through his blog (slash copy-past-cite at least one passage).

Why the exhaustion? Let me digress for a moment. Waitressing is freaking hard. It’s not really all that mental challenging, though remembering a large party’s order or a heavily modified one takes some practice and prioritizing an entire restaurant’s worth of customers when you are the only waitress on the floor for a six hour shift requires a mental Tetris game to be on constant PLAY mode. Ok so maybe it’s more of a different challenge than those I face at Oxford in my tutorials. But I didn’t really expect how physically demanding it would be. My average shift is 7 hours, with the shortest ones being 4.5 and the longest being a few 10-hour ones on Friday nights. And when we fill up, things get hectic. You have to greet new guests and manage who sits at which table, hot food has to be delivered first, then hot drinks, cocktails, and cold food/drinks; every time you go back and forth between the tables and the tills, people need to be checked on, order items, pay their bills, have their plates cleared. You have to juggle the tables and their orders with the bartenders and the kitchen staff, which sometimes can get pretty heated, and remember to be as polite and friendly as you can with everyone despite how tired you get and how much your feet ache because the tips all go into a pool at the end of the night. But I prefer those hectic shifts to the ones where you have no tables and so spend your entire shift scrubbing the restaurant. It’s a new challenge, but it keeps my mind off of schoolwork and dance for a few (read a lot of) hours each week, so I’m grateful for it.

So the night before the Varsity match this past Friday, I had one of those grueling 10 hour shifts at closing time, meaning that the last hour was spent begrudgingly cleaning the restaurant for the night. I didn’t even get to sleep until 2:30, getting only 4.5 hours of sleep before my hateful alarm woke me up for my makeup and packing time. Thankfully the match was being held at Iffley Sports Centre, a five minute walk from my place, so my wake up time wasn’t even earlier. The match was supposed to start at 9:30 am, so Dan and I did our traditional quick run-through of each dance before resting and stretching so as not to wear ourselves out, then found out that The Other Place was late, automatically making the competition run at least 30 minutes behind for the entirety of the day.

Love you B-Team!

Here is where I steal from Dan’s explanation of the actual process of the match. I was confused until just about the last round of Jive, so I followed the advice of “know your letter and listen for it” thereby dancing when they told me to with no forethought. Just go out there, dance, and try not to do Quickstep to the Waltz.

“The varsity match is the competition between Oxford and Cambridge. Each university selects an A team and a B team of nine couples each. The A teams from each university compete against each other in the ‘Varsity Match’, and the B teams face off in the ‘Challenge Match.’ Thus, there are 36 couples competing. In each team, the couples are divided into three 3-couple pools. Thus, for the Oxford A team, there are pools A, B, and C, each with three couples; the Cambridge A team has pools D, E, and F. The heats are then a round robin format: A vs. D, A vs. E, A vs. F, B vs. D, B vs. E… etc. In each heat, the six couples (3 Oxford and 3 Cambridge) are ranked from best to worst and assigned points 6 to 1 accordingly. Then, the round robin is repeated for each dance, waltz, quickstep, cha cha, and jive (henceforth WQCJ). At the end, the points are totaled and a winner declared for each of the Varsity and the Challenge matches. “-Dan, aka Partner, wheresdannow.blogspot.com

This was a very unique competition experience for the two of us. First of all, we had all brand new routines that were at the Intermediate level instead of our typical Beginner level that we had never performed before. One could argue that that made it more fun for us, and it’s true that I had a lot more fun dancing in this competition than in any of the others. Second, this was the first competition in which we had absolutely no expectation to do well. Because each round is like a 6 couple final, there was no elimination, but you still don’t want to end the lowest in your heat. As Beginners in an Intermediate competition, we fully anticipated being last in every heat. So absolutely no pressure! Any place above last was simply a bonus! It was actually really freeing and lightened us up out of competition mode and into fun, spirit mode. And I don’t care how we actually placed (though cool note, one judge marked us third place in all our rounds for Jive!!), I’m just so unbelievably proud of how far we’ve come since we were paired up in only October.

Making a run for it in Quickstep

After the conclusion of the Challenge Match, there was a quick break for photos and then it was on to the actual Varsity match. That was a really cool opportunity to watch the best of Oxford and Cambridge compete on the same floor. Because of the round robin style of heats, we were able to watch the full routine of each couple out there, really appreciating their talent and style. Oddly enough it also afforded us the opportunity to understand the power of partner dynamics: because of eligibility rules, some partnerships were split up and rearranged, and we could really see where that hurt the partnership, performance, and overall scores of certain couples. I wonder how Dan and I would look if we had to partner other people? Probably miserable as we have way too much fun together! 🙂

Totally in character during our “Phantom of the Cha Cha” or “Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Cha”

The match only lasted about 90 minutes due to the format, so we had plenty of time for a late lunch and to change back into our fancy outfits for Beginners Ballroom rounds. Those rounds gave me perhaps the funniest moment of any competition I have ever danced in. Dan and I, members of the B Team in the Varsity match, were knocked out first round in Waltz. We have never been knocked out first round in any competition, in any dance, ever. The rest of the Oxford main team looked at us in confusion, and then we all started laughing out loud. The problem was obvious: because we have spent practically two months preparing Intermediate level routines, we actually forgot how to dance like Beginners and completely blew the dances. Pretty much hilarious. Thankfully, we partially redeemed ourselves in Latin, finalling in both dances despite messing up our routines a bit. Four days later, I’m still giggling over the irony. And Main Team seemed to get a kick out of it as well. Happy to provide entertainment, as always, folks!

Fast-forwarding to results.

Unfortunately, Oxford lost to Cambridge by a mere 10 points (ultimate heartbreak!) which is basically a tie considering the scores were 1882-1892. Not even .01% difference in scores. The Challenge match was a bit more obvious, 2000-1750ish. Oh well, we’ll take back our trophy next year!

Speaking of trophies, for the Beginners results, Dan and I placed 5th in Cha, and WON 1ST IN JIVE! It was so utterly poetic. Our very first competition as Beginners, we won Jive, and now 6 months later, at our last competition as Beginners, we win it again. We have come full circle 🙂

Jive Beginners Champs 🙂

But even more exciting for us was an award we definitely didn’t expect at all, in fact we didn’t know it existed. We won a coaches’ award for the couple who not only works really hard, but also brings great spirit and smiles to the team as a whole, “who make the team better just by being on it” and so on. It isn’t restricted to a Beginners Team thing either, this award was for the entire team, and they honored Dan and me with it. We both agreed that it was far more rewarding and touching to be given The Bowl (as we now call it) than any of our other trophies or medals from the entire season.

Receiving The Bowl

However, in true Dancesport fashion, the fun didn’t stop when the last award was handed out. We still had to attend the Varsity Ball with our Cambridge rivals that night. If anyone remembers the last OUDC Ball I went to, it wasn’t much different, just more people crashing into you during Viennese and Quickstep and a lot less dancing on my part because I was so exhausted. What made it better was the demo (and you know you’ve been dancing for too long when you tap your partner on the shoulder during the National Champions’ demo and gush about how beautiful the footwork is on her double reverses) and the enhanced friendships I got to enjoy this time around. At the last ball, we barely knew each other, and now we really are like a family. And I am so freaking proud of each and every one of them ❤

For me, the exhaustion has only been compounding with the next morning having a shift at work, a double shift yesterday, and a shift today. And then there is the shift tomorrow as well. Oh and somehow I need to find time to do my Oxford research? Bring on the coffee!

Best Friends, Best Partner Ever