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...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Beginning of November...

It is November! Can you believe it? I really can't.
We've had Christmas commercials on t.v. for two weeks already, two weeks! Half way through October they were already sneaking the odd one in here and there, and last Saturday it turned to full on Christmas advertisements. Suddenly the shops were full of charity cards and decorations. Before Halloween had even arrived. Golly gosh people, come on. I love Christmas as much as the next person (probably a little more) but mid October is really just pushing it a little. I think we need to start a petition begging the world to re-introduce the 'day after Thanksgiving' rule.

Anyway, all this to say: it's November.

I have officially made it through five weeks of my masters program. Yah, that's right. Pretty impressive, huh? I can honestly say that I think I have read more in the last five weeks than my whole life combined... okay, maybe that's not actually true. But, by the time this year is over I seriously think it may actually not just feel like it.

So, let me catch you up on what the first week of November has brought my way.

Yes, November has brought sushi. LSE is surrounded by Japanese restaurants. There are hundreds of them. So, one of my friends and I have decided to try them out. We went to a place that has pick n mix sushi. You just pick all the little bits you fancy and put them into your own tray. It's slightly deceptive because the tray is really big - so you feel like you surely haven't gotten enough food. But really, no one needs to fill the whole tray up with sushi. Anyway, point being: this provided a fabulous break from the library and was very good. I can't really remember the name of this place - it had some super generic name like 'Sushi and Bento Box'... anyway. We liked it, but thought we felt a bit like we were going to tip out of our chairs... but there are worse things, the sushi was good at least.

Starbucks Red cups.
They are officially here, along with the special Christmas drinks. Which, by the way, are ludicrously overpriced. I think it was 3.40 for a grande gingerbread latte. I know, right? (are you thinking 'why on earth does anybody need a sodding ginger bread latte' - well, I don't know why, okay? but they make them, and they are good). It's not a bloody meal for crying out loud, 3.40 is just too expensive! have they forgotten about the recession?!?

 And, the cheeky minks have decided to join forces with the highly commercialized (RED) charity. I'm not slating it, I'm sure it does some great work... but come on now. I know it's the time of giving and laadeeedaaaahhhh... but I just don't like the idea of Starbucks making me think it's okay to spend outrageous amounts on a coffee because 5p (yes, that's all, just 5p) is going to charity. I feel like that is what is happening here. Plus, they've got 'all our coffee is fair trade coffee' branded left right and center... once again, trying to make me feel guilty for thinking I'm being wripped off.

Maybe it's just me.

Let's be honest though. I probably hit up Starbucks at least three times a week anyway - so it's not as if all this is deterring me. The point is that I went to Starbucks this morning and discovered that they had their red cups in... and I felt happy, and when I saw that 5p was going to charity I did feel a little warm inside. Okay, I know... I couldn't help it though. I am a sucker.

Yes, LSE is seriously happening to me in November. Essays are approaching, panic is setting in, hair is starting to fall out... no, no, that's not true. They aren't even going to count towards my final mark - they are just to get an idea of how I am getting on. But, nevertheless. You don't really want to come across as thick as plank, do you? Okay, point is not to moan - the point is to say that I've walked by this building  at least 30 times and never noticed this on the side of it! What is even happening? It looks like some strange cement alien monster landed into the side and got contorted into a strange formation. I am sure it's probably done by some famous architect or artist... but I only just noticed it today. Oh, also, just past that red phone booth is the entrance to the SU shop that stocks very yummy candy. I made the mistake of getting a couple pieces (yes yes, it actually was a couple pieces, not 400 hundred like when I go to Sweden). They are so good, and I am now officially addicted to them.

So, this is basically what November has brought into my life... oh, I am also loving X-Factor which is on every Saturday and Sunday night. Fred is doing such a good job of letting me watch it. So, if you think of me chances are I will either be eating candy/sushi, sitting in starbucks/the library/some form of public transportation and reading (always reading), or watching the x factor...

Stuffed Tomato Tortillas

These are really good. They are my favourite new recipe. I seem to be making them on average once a week. They are so yummy and really easy - especially if you are having people over and want something that serves a lot of people and can largely be done before anyone arrives.

So, of course this is coming out of Jamie's America. My absolutely favourite new cookbook. This recipe serves four. So, here we go...

For the tomato sauce:
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
1x400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 lime
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tortillas:
3 ripe avocados
2 limes
8 corn tortillas
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely sliced
small bunch of fresh coriander, stalks finely chopped
100g freshly grated Manchego or Cheddar cheese
150ml soured cream, plus extra to serve
a bottle of chili sauce

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Get a saucepan on a medium heat and add a couple lugs of olive oil. Add the garlic and gently fry for a couple of minutes until lightly golden. Add your tinned tomatoes, squeeze in the juice of your lime and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened.

While that is ticking away, halve, peel and stone your avocados, then chop the flesh and mash it with the juice of 1 lime and a pinch of salt and pepper. Take a baking tray and pour in some of your tomato sauce so that it coats the bottom. Divide the avocado mixture between your tortillas, and top with a sprinkling of chili, coriander and cheese. Roll them up, and arrange them snugly in your dish on top of the tomato sauce. Pour any leftover sauce on top, then spoon over your soured cream and any leftover cheese and chili.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden and crisp on top. Serve with fresh green salad, and have a bit more soured cream and some wedges of lime on the table, with a bottle of extra chili sauce if your fancy a bit more heat.

So, this sounds great - and it really is. I made them like this the first time. But, we kind of like our meat... so I decided to add chicken to it the next time I made it. So, I just cooked up the chicken and flavoured it up with some spices to make it nice and tasty (use whichever you fancy) and just added them into the tortillas. Next time I am going to use leftover meat from a roast chicken because that tends to be really tender and lovely... so I recommend that. But you can do it either way - with our without meat.

Final Verdict
Highly recommended.
Expense: 3/10
Difficulty Level: 2/10
Tastiness: 7/10

My thoughts on Freddy.

Freddy is such a funny boy.

This photo is just too funny to me. Who would have thought that he would ever be wearing ugg boots and carrying two floral bags to go to the shops?! He is so cute, right? (by the way, he chose those shoes and those bags himself... I didn't tell him to wear them)

Freddy is really wonderful.

I have been pretty tired lately - traveling to and from London, studying, and all the rest of it. By the time I get home, which some nights is 9pm, I am pretty knackered. There is a great potential for me to be grumpy. I get grumpy easily, especially when I am hungry and tired and frustrated after taking public transportation. But Freddy has been so great. He always has the house tidied, food ready, and a warm bath waiting for me when I get home. I know! He is so wonderful. I am one seriously lucky girl.

Freddy can cook, and he can cook well.

This might look strange, and seriously disconcerting to any vegetarians out there. But, it was really really tasty.

So, all this to say... my thoughts on Freddy are very positive, I like him a lot, and feel very blessed to have him in my life.


For Halloween we dressed up like characters from Clue. I was Scarlett (as you can see with my weapon: a candlestick), Fred was Reverend (they made him a reverend in England) Green (can you see his white religious neck thing?), our friend Harry was Mr. Plum, and our other friends were Miss Peacock and Colonel Mustard.We went to a party that helped raise money for Oxfam. I spent 25 pounds on a signed photo of Cameron Diaz. I really don't know why... I think I was taken over by the pure desire not to let someone outbid me, I think I should be kept away from auctions.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Onion Soup

Another quick food post. This is a great winter dish, perfect if your feeling a bit poorly and you need some warming up.


Olive oil
sage leaves
6 cloves of garlic
5 red onions
3 large white onions
3 banana shallots
300g leeks
salt and pepper
2 litres of vegetable or chicken stock
some slices of bread
200g cheese (cheddar)
worcestershire sauce


Put knob of butter, a couple of glugs of olive oil, a handful of sage leaves, and the garlic (crushed and peeled) into a large saucepan. Once the butter is melted and everything is starting to fry ,add the peeled and sliced onions, shallots and leeks. Stir everything around and add some salt and pepper. Place lid on the pan, slightly ajar, and leave to cook slowly for at least 50 mins. Remove lid for the last 20 mins. Stir occasionally.

Once onions etc... are soft and silky add the stock and simmer for 20 mins. Preheat oven. Toast bread. Season soup to your taste. Then add the soup to individual bowls. Place the toast over the top (so it acts like a lid). Place grated or sliced cheese on top. Sprinkle on some worcestershire sauce. Place in oven till cheese melts.


Taste  7/10
Difficulty 3/10 (alot of chopping and takes a while till its ready to eat)
Price 2/10 (onions are cheap)