Wednesday, 30 December 2009

let it snow...

A white holiday season is always so much fun. Luckily we managed to get some snow here this past week. We made a trek out into the wilderness (umm.. okay, a walk to Starbucks) the other day. It might not seem like much - but it really did feel like an adventure. We all got bundled up - took the wagon for the kids to sit in - and marched off to Main Street in search of winter adventures. We triumphed in our journey... and came out the other side successfully. Despite a few tears, falls, and seriously windy moments in the cemetery.

Playing in the snow.

Dad's winter weather gear.

Everyone happy and warm... a luxury that wouldn't last long.

Our snow mobile...
Getting 6 adults and three kids out of the house and dressed in winter gear was not a simple task.

Stephanie with her camera and Swedish winter hat.

Now we just need some more snow so we can test out the new sled!

Friday, 25 December 2009

merry christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Freddy and I are here in St Louis for Christmas! It was 50 degrees yesterday (totally not Christmas-y - no coat even needed...) but today it was 23 and snowing! So much fun. Was really great to spend the day with lots of family and little kids. We got more presents then we know what to do with... and we've got enough candy, cookies and leftovers to last until next year.

Hope everyone has had a lovely day!

My family has certain traditions that we've carried on from many years ago... one of those is making a birthday cake for Jesus. Thankfully we've got some new little people who can help in the design now... there were a few years when my sister and I fought it out in some serious fights... a manger or a christmas tree? sprinkles or candies? what colour frosting? Well, this year all bets were off as a 3 year old and 2 year old took to the cake...

Uncle Freddy helped to write 'Happy Birthday Jesus' ... but it just got covered up by heaps of sprinkles.

Another tradition is that we always get new pajamas on Christmas eve... you normally get to pick yours out - but this year we swapped my mom's J.Crew ones for this lovely fleece primark pink and leopard one piece (it even covers your feet). I didn't think she was going to wear them... but she totally kept them on the whole time.

Everyone was very excited... there were tons of presents. We had to open them in two installments - first with the kids awake and then more when they were taking their nap.

Obie got a new train set.

Grace got kitted out in more princess gear than I have ever seen. Dresses, pajamas, magic wands, colouring books, pencils, stickers, lipsticks, nail polishes, handbags, nintendo games... all disney princess themed. She was seriously pumped.

Not only did she dress up in her own presents... she dressed up in her brothers too.

Freddy had fun playing with the new doll house.

Blowing out the candles on the birthday cake.

We played outside in the snow... it was seriously so cold though, so we didn't last too long.

All bundled up with Obie's new bike.

All the rubbish...

Family portrait.

Stephanie has requested that we are at the mall tomorrow morning when it opens... so we are off bright and early to try to find some bargains! Wish us luck!

the arch..

We are in St Louis for Christmas at my sister's house. We went down to see the arch because my childhood best friend, Mellissa, came to visit - and she had never been to St Louis before. So, the arch is a must.

Obie dressed up in his uncle Freddy's winter gear.

Papa and his grandson in matching jackets and hats.

Re-united after 8 years...

Taking photos of taking photos...

Monday, 14 December 2009

pizza hut officially now delivers...

i know this is old news to much of the western world... and probably the non-western world too, but to the quaint little town of oxford this is seriously big news. pizza hut now delivers! i know this may not sound like a big deal, but trust me, it is.

so, fred went to holland on saturday to visit a friend. i was pretty upset at first because i couldn't go too. i have had to work every day since saturday. it just doesn't seem fair that fred always gets to go on trips... i know, i know... it's not as if my life is that rough. but, nevertheless i just felt a little bummed.

as it happened though, i have had a great weekend. despite fred being in holland and having to work every day... and this is due to two very important factors.

1. i got to order pizza hut. for the first time. EVER. in oxford. and what did i order? a large supreme deep pan pizza and two sides. that's right. i was home alone and blew almost 20 quid on horrific greasy overpriced heaven.

the box did wish me 'seasons greetings' though...

so wrong. but yet so right.

2. the x-factor final weekend.

can you believe that if i had gone to holland i would have missed the x-factor final?!! ok, the x-factor is lame, i know that. it's rigged, it's hype, it's just cowell/cheryl promo, it's symbolic of all that is wrong in the world... rah rah rah rah rah. this may all be true but it is also truly fabulous and utterly addictive.

i'm not going to lie, i've devoted every, yes every, saturday and sunday night to x-factor since it started a couple months ago. so i've kind of invested a lot into it, right? i couldn't put all that time and effort (not money, i didn't ever vote... until the final) and then miss out on the end. right?! so, in light of the momentous occasion - i had some girls round and we made mulled wine, had chinese take away, minced pies and watched the x-factor final.

it was amazing.

we've got the x-factor.

joe mcelderry: the winner

to summarize: if your husband decides to ditch you and go hang out with his friends in a foreign country make sure it's the x-factor final weekend, that you've got some good food, and good friends to spend time with.

Monday, 30 November 2009

A big sigh of relief...

It's Monday evening. That was always either going mean pure panic or... well, something less than that. I have avoided panic, because I managed to get my essay handed in on time. I'm not overly filled with joy because I'm not really sure how it was was.... but regardless, four days ago I had two essay to write and now they are both finished. That is something to be thankful for.

So now I am a pretty happy girl. Living in fear of deadlines is not nice. Next essay is due December 11th, and I have every intention of having in done by next Wednesday. That way I can avoid the panic, the fear, the nail biting, the late nights, the manic induced coffee moods, and the grumpiness... procrastination has never been easy for me to avoid. But, I am going to do better with this next essay.

But for now I have the entire evening to take it easy and not worry about any essays.

Here is what I am going to do: vacuum the living room, take a bath, play my new favourite ipod app game called flight control (if you don't have it yet, get it, now), lay on the sofa with a massive blanket and watch t.v., eat home made pizza and hopefully some apple crumble, and snack on after eight mints.

Yes, that is the plan for the rest of my evening... ah, freedom is fabulous.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Sunny South

I know it looks crazy (end of november, freezing outside) but it was very sunny today so jenny had to don a pair of sunglasses so she could do her reading.

Lawrence of Arabia... perhaps Fredrik of Middle England

Ok. So I meant to write about this last week, but life has been pretty hectic and last week just slipped through my fingers. Looks like this week will be even busier, with parents visiting, tutorials, experiments, demonstrating (to name just a few of the planned events).

Two weeks ago Alex (pictured below), a postdoc in my lab, suggested that we should cycle to bath. Why not?... i thought. Bath is nice, Ive been there before and my bike is pretty nice.

To be honest I did know it was quite a long way (our route was 75 miles). The day before was the stormiest day of the year, but luckily it cleared up on sunday. And so we set off at 8 in the morning. Here is our route. Sorry I don't know how to take a screen image with the mac so Ive just copied the link to the map.

So yes, early in the morning, dressed up in the all the lycra (spandex for our american brethren) I own, I set off. This was definitely a good decision. However, I made one key error. I don't own any cycling shorts, and this is definitely a huge mistake, because although I do have a fancy gel seat on my bike, after 9 hours on a bike you need all the cushioning you can get.

Something like this. Apparently back in the day tour de france cyclists would put a raw steak down their shorts in attempts to assuage the chronic pain.

The first few hours till lunch time were wonderful. We made a good time to wantage (our first rest). Unfortunately alex got a puncture, so had to fix it (twice... the first time wasn't so successful). These are the only pics I took (of alex fixing his bike). After this I was too tired.

Then it started to get really hilly... I was shocked. England is supposed to be flat! and my bike doesn't have any gears. Now its not all bad. It just means you have to man up on the hills, but the worst is going downhill bc my bike also doesn't freewheel so I have to peddle every rotation of the wheel. This is rough when you are going down a steep hill bc it gets pretty wobbly as your legs are wildly flailing up and down.

Luckily Jenny had been baking the day before so I had plenty of muffins to keep me going. We got to Marlborough around lunch time and luncheoned in a pub. This was really nice and think I would have taken the train the rest of the way because I was so thoroughly exhausted after eating (but they didnt have a train station).

We were worried that we wouldn't get to Bath before dark and cycling on small A roads can be pretty dangerous, so we altered our route to a boring but quick one. We did cycle past some cool looking barrow mounds. I thought briefly about taking some pictures but my will to live was slowly ebbing away and being replaced by the pain from sitting on a bike for so long.

Our plan was to stop in Chippenham and take the train for the last 15 miles, but once we got there, we assessed the situation, I took as many ibuprofen as I could get my hands on (and would have bought a raw steak if I could have found a shop) and decided we would cycle the last bit as well.

We finally rolled into Bath (after having to ask the locals for some directions... as we only had some printouts from google maps). Once in Bath we headed to the hot baths... the only ones drawn from natural volcanic springs. That was amazing, but made even better by the nine hours we had spent on the road (definitely recommend them to anyone who is visiting the area). They have a pool on the rooftop where you can see the whole city and lots of steam rooms.

We then had a farcical episode of trying to find somewhere to eat, which ended with us standing outside the train to Oxford with crisps and sandwiches bought from sainsbury's being told there was no room on the train for our bikes. I almost lost it. A train that can hold hundreds of people only has room for 6 bikes?!?!?! and you could see the twisted joy in the conductors eyes as he informed us of this. So we went to the pub and waited for the next train. Luckily there was room on the next train so I was back home just before midnight. It was a long day, and I think I had barely got in bed before I fell asleep.

It was actually loads of fun looking back at it, but it was definitely painful. But then people don't climb Everest bc its easy. My thoughts on the trip: cycling shorts (a must for long bike rides), fixed wheel bikes (very trendy at the moment, but not practical and should be left on the track), cycling (fun), muffins (good), spas (amazing), english trains and first great western (rubbish).

Also here is a picture of my trusty bike (I still like it... thanks Ezra).

Thursday, 26 November 2009


My plate is empty... and waiting for the Thanksgiving fairy to come deliver my meal.

Sadly, I don't think she got the memo. I think my plate is going to stay empty.

Thanksgiving forgot to come to England. Sadly, it's not like Santa (who finds you no matter where you live) and whose Christmas magic seems to start two months before the 25th of December. Sadly, there was no Macy's Thanksgiving parade on t.v., no football, no pie, no turkey or stuffing, no day off work or school, no Thanksgiving magic, no anticipation of Black Friday sales, no extended family, no awkward 'I'm thankful for...' conversations.... no Thanksgiving.

Sadly, it was just another day. Sadly, it was predominately marked by the stress of essays, and the insanely crowded nature of London public transport.

I guess I will have to forget about the Thanksgiving fairy this year... and wait patiently for Santa.

p.s. I hope Thanksgiving magic found most of you out there.... and that you enjoyed it thoroughly.

Monday, 23 November 2009

My day so far...

1. I woke up at 6am (because I forgot to buy my train tickets in advance) to catch the bus.

2. It was pouring it down... so when I got to the bus station I was sopping, yes sopping, wet. Shoes: soaking. Jeans: soaking. Jacket: soaking. Head? Managed to survive because I've devised a way to fit my hood under my helmet and this keeps my face/hair pretty dry. Bag? I managed to fit it into a plastic m&s carrier bag so it also remained pretty dry.

3. Tea. Ah... warm tea on the bus and the very last coffee cake muffin. (This was a happy moment)

4. In the library at 9:30am - it was pretty empty, and this was a nice change.

5. 11am: Dilemmas of Equality lecture on redistribution or recognition.... with an extra hot vanilla latte.

6. Yesss... I broke my '1 starbucks a week rule'.
6a. I thought it was necessary considering my checkered morning.
6b. Checkered in that I am stuck wearing seriously wet converse ALL day.

7. 1pm: back in the library (which is now full to the brim).

8. Experienced difficulty finding an outlet socket that works (whyyyy don't hardly any of them work?!?) I've had to position my diary against it so that it is at just the right angle to let the power seep through.

9. Found out a friend has bought a spare copy of Glamour, which I am going to get - which means I can work around my 'no purchasing fashion magazines until christmas break' rule.

10. Avoided doing any real work by making a list of all the things I've done so far today...

Monday, 16 November 2009

coffee cake muffins

Saturday morning I needed muffins. Fred suggested bran muffins... no-no, no, no-no, no way Jose (see Nacho Libre).

I had a certain type of muffin in mind.... the king of all muffins.

I'm not going to lie to you - these are not for the faint hearted or calorie conscious. These are buttery, sugary bad boys. So, make at your own risk. They are addictive.

Surprisingly I didn't get this recipe from Jamie, but from the notorious Martha Stewart.

I don't know why but I found the wording of this recipe slightly confusing... it may have just been because I was on a muffin craze which rendered me unable to understand the English language. Anyway, I don't have any recommendations for this recipe - other than that I wound up with way more streusel topping then i could use. So, maybe this means it makes more than 12 muffins and you don't need to fill each muffin spot with very much batter - so there is more room for the topping. I'm not sure, see how it goes.

Tastiness: 8/10
Difficulty: 3/10
Expense: 3/10

Makes 12 muffins.

  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature plus more for pans
    • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • Confectioners' sugar, optional
    • Directions

      1. Prepare streusel topping: In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour, and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles large coarse crumbs; refrigerate until ready to use.
      2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffins: Butter and flour a jumbo 12-cup muffin tin (or two 6-cup muffin tins). In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
      3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, sour cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined. With mixer on low, beat flour mixture into butter mixture.
      4. Divide half the batter among prepared muffin cups. Top with half the streusel mixture, then remaining batter, and top with streusel. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The most amazing pizza ever... it really is for so many reasons

Ok another food post! So this a the recipe for home made pizza which we have recently been making alot. It is very good for a few simple reasons:

1. So making dough is a rather long and tedious process (you have to let it rise, etc...). But if you make enough dough for six pizzas you can freeze the rest and then thaw it in the fridge the night before you want to use it.

2. Also the pizza sauce recipe is pretty freaky naughty (i dont really know what that means either... but jenny and I say it a lot... maybe its from a movie, I dont know... if you know, let us know).

3. You can choose the toppings, and this is really what makes a good pizza into an excellent pizza.

4. Its cheap and once youve made the dough its quick and easy to make.

I think we have hundreds of pictures of pizzas we have made. Here are a select few.


1kg strong white bread flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
2*7g sachets of yeast
1 tablespoon caster sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olivce oil
650ml lukewarm water

Sieve flour and salt onto a clean work surface or large bowl. Make a well in the flour. In a jug mix yeast sugar and olive oil into water and leave for a few mins. Pour this into the well. Using a fork bring flour into the well and mix around. Keep on doing that till all the flour is mixed. Then knead flour with your hands till you have a nice springy dough. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm room for about an hour. Remove the dough and knead again to get rid of all the air bubbles. You can use it immediately or wrap it cling film and put it in the fridge or freezer.


olive oil
4 cloves of garlic (peeled and finely sliced)
a bunch of fresh basil (leaves torn and picked)
3 * 400g tins of whole plum tomatoes
sea salt and pepper

Add garlic and four glugs of olive oil to a non-stick frying pan. Once the garlic begins to colour add the basil and tomatoes. Mash the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon (we use a plastic potato masher). Season with salt and pepper. As soon as it starts boiling remove from heat. Strain sauce through a coarse sieve (we use a colander). Using the back of a spoon push tomatoes through the sieve. Discard whatever is left over (basil, garlic, but of tomato). Pour sauce back into the frying pan and simmer till to reduce to a nice consistency for pizza sauce (20 mins or so). You can also freeze this and use again.

The actual pizza (makes 2 pizzas):

2 * 1/6 of your dough (a third of your dough in total)
2 * 1/6 of your sauce (a third of your dough in total)
2 * 125g balls of mozzarella
whatever else you like to have on pizzas (we usually have fresh chilis, salami, artichoke hearts)

Pre-heat oven to basically as high as it goes. Put a baking tray there as well so it heats up. Role out the pizza dough out (it should be as thick as a pound coin or so... better to go on the thin side usually). Once oven has heated take out baking tray, add some olive oil so the dough doesnt stick. Place dough on the baking tray (have to work quickly bc dough will start to cook). Add the sauce. Then add the cheese. I really recommend trying fresh mozzarella although any cheese is fine. If you are using mozzarella balls (the best), then you can just peel them like onions and put the cheese on. Add your toppings. Chuck in the oven for 10-15 mins. Our oven isnt very good so it takes 15 mins. But if you have a decent oven it should take 10 mins or less. We also only have room for one pizza at a time. But theoretically you could make many simultaneously.


Taste: 10/10
Price: 2/10 (will depend on how nice your toppings are... nicer toppings=nicer pizza)
Difficulty: 5/10 (it takes some time to prepare, and it can be a bit tricky getting the dough on the baking tray etc... but its worth it!)

Friday, 13 November 2009

Economics and penguins.

Pop-intellectual books are massive at the moment. There was even an article in the Sunday Times about how we all need 'big ideas' these days... and apparently moaning about the recession wasn't good enough anymore.

In the spirit of the hype, we went to a talk by the authors of Freakonomics and the newly released Superfreakonomics on Monday night.

The authors were very funny and full of so many good stories. They were 'in conversation' with a slightly dull economics lecturer that taught Steven Levitt at M.I.T. It was a little awkward and only added to the hilarity of the whole thing. The book looks really good and has been added to my 'to read' list.

We also checked out the LSE penguin that was returned last week. It was stolen last year to many people's devastation. If you want more on the exciting story check out:

As cheesy as it may be we (okay I) had to have my photo taken with it.

Then we went out for some dinner. Our friend Louise took us to such a good Chinese place called Chop Chop. I forgot to take a photo but the food was so cheap, it was insane. The meals were 3 pounds and you got a pretty big portion which was really tasty. And, 3 pounds is insanely cheap.... especially for London.

Then we went to a really cosy little place that is a wine shop and restaurant. We had a drink and some dessert. It was so lovely and had a really great atmosphere. When we walked in I felt a bit like we were interrupting somebody's dinner party. There were also lots of strange people to watch, which is always a bonus. Sadly I can't remember the name of the place... I need to get better at that.

Wine in many colours...

Cheese... Fred chose a pungent and smelly trio.

A lovely combination: plum cobbler, rose, and cheese...