Category Archives: Freelancing

Oxford, Lately

It’s been a little while since I’ve written, but not for lack of intention. Every night I’ll think, “I really should write this down somewhere,” followed by “but I’ve been in front of a computer all day” and finally “nah, I’ll remember it.”

Of course, I don’t.

But today’s the day– the day where I happen to have an hour or so of train time with no book to read (too lazy to download books onto my iPad– sad, but true) and no Wi-Fi connection to draw my attention to more pointless pursuits, e.g. finding the perfect julienne peeler on Amazon. (It took 20 minutes, but arrives Friday!)

I brought a half-liter of coffee with me today, but knew it wouldn’t be enough. 5 minutes before the train departure time, I grabbed a large cappuccino to go, and my body is thanking me for thinking ahead. I was so excited to go to bed when it was still light outside at 9:30, and then I realized that I didn’t do any of my freelance work that was due that afternoon (American afternoon, I was still on time!)

So, my brain isn’t fully awake yet. I normally wake up 25 minutes from now. And that’s why, without a proper introduction or logical organization whatsoever, I present to you, 5 readers, some highlights that I might want to remember one day.

1. My typical pancakes + yoga Saturday morning last weekend was even better than usual. Actually, the recipe flopped (a gooey mess salvageable as crepes) and the class was mediocre, but my trip afterward to the covered market was a success. A sales pitch from the produce guy charmed me into buying the smallest £2 Pakistani mango (or something like that). Totally worth it. And I tried wild garlic for the first time, mainly because it basically looks like a dainty white flower with long, elegant leaves. You can eat the whole thing, stem to tip, and I found it highly amusing to tell John, “OMG, eat this flower!” and kiss him with my garlic breath. Tip: great in arugula salads.

2. The only consolation for post-vacation woes (aside from the cats) was hopping on my bike again, which I did promptly upon returning home, to pick up some sustenance at the co-op. It’s clearly the superior mode of transportation, as much as I do like to walk (and run). I kind of hated biking in Philly, and never identified the root of my reluctance until I moved here. I thought I hated biking itself, because I’m slow and like to whine about the slightest burning sensation in my leg muscles, but it turns out I actually only hated biking in Philly. Maybe that makes me a snob, but you really can’t argue that the scenery is just nicer here. I’m still loving my 40 miles per week commute, and actually find myself making additional trips just because I can.

3. Our 387 sq. ft. walls were starting to close in on us, so John and I rearranged the living room. Basically, we were embarrassed by our neighbor’s comment that we were “living like students,” because we’ve done that for most of our lives, so we decided to keep the bikes outside (need to buy a chain soon!) and squeeze the two-seater sofa into the conveniently two-seater sofa-shaped entryway. I measured the space and was sure we wouldn’t be able to open the door all the way, but apparently using a tape measure is not part of my skill set. It fits! And the room looks much bigger now. I also found a way to open our window without Zora jumping out (it involves using shelf liner as a makeshift screen), so we can finally circulate some air for more than 5 minutes (when she’d typically find a way out and we’d close the window in defeat).

This weekend’s pancakes

I like to make pancakes once a week. And in the never-ending quest to find the “best”– the elusive, fluffy-yet-hearty, nutritious-meets-indulgent pancake– I’ve tried too many recipes to count.

I haven’t found the perfect one yet, but this one comes pretty close. 

Made some modifications, of course:

-the rest of some coconut milk + whole milk, to use up what was in my fridge

-chia seeds instead of flax (either will work, and I decided buying a 2 lb. bag of chia seeds was a good idea, 2 years ago. I’m still working through that supply).

-coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, ’cause veg. oil is gross. Butter for the skillet, of course.

-sugar instead of honey, because my honey was a little too thick to mix in

-I used a standard gluten-free flour mix from Sainsbury’s, which works really well (rice flour + potato and tapioca starch is all that’s in it, I think). I’m not gluten-free, but try to cut down where I can, after reading some convincing scientific journal publications that suggest it’s not all that great for us).

-double the salt (I ❤ sodium).

 

I topped those babies with peanut butter and banana, as per usual.

Now it’s off to Headington to do some last-minute educational technology product summaries for the upcoming May print edition of my freelance work. I know you’re as excited as I am.

So this is that rain they warned me about

It’s a quiet and relaxing Friday night. Our bellies full of delicious Chinese takeaway (look, I speak British now!), John and I are drinking peach sparkling water and watching Wreck-it Ralph. Well, sort of. We’re both on our iPads, half-watching. I’d blame this ADD on mobile devices, but I think I lost the ability to focus on whatever’s on the telly (did it again!) when I got a laptop in college.

This movie seems light enough for multi-tasking, though.

I rode my shiny new bike into Headington town center this morning to check out their twice monthly farmers’ market today. Does anyone else find it incredibly awkward to talk with vendors? I sampled some fantastic chorizo, unpasteurized goat cheese, and white truffle hummus, and told each seller I’d stop back. Of course, I didn’t. I find it so awkward to talk to a seller and not end up buying anything. It may be worse to avoid eye contact altogether, though. At least I showed up.

I ended up buying a purple cabbage, to be used in a buttery balsamic sauté recipe that two friends shared with me. I got a cheddar muffin flecked with fresh watercress, and 3 packs of free-range pork sausage (not excessive at all, right?) And then I went into Starbucks to dry off and do some editing.

Oh, right, the title of this post. It rained all day today. And yesterday. Sometimes more of a drizzle, sometimes more of a spray, or a mist, but never a downpour. I skipped my run yesterday, hoping today would be drier. When I realized at 5:30 today that that wouldn’t happen, and remembered that sometimes this might last for days at a time, I decided to suck it up and run in the rain.

The temperature was crisp but comfortable, with no wind, so I zipped up my windbreaker and slapped on my touristy-but-functional Tulum, Mexico baseball cap. Halfway through my brisk 3 miles, my body warmed up and I tied my jacket around my waist. Sure, I got wet, but it actually felt refreshing to dart through the twilight, raindrops cooling my flushed skin.

Now I wish I’d paid attention to this movie, because I’m completely lost. Apparently I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I thought. Actually, I know I’m bad at it and don’t think anyone else is very good at it, either.

The weekend’s on the horizon, and I’m not sure what it will bring. Maybe a trip into the city for Poundland, for some house things. Maybe (definitely) some of those sausages, probably the sun-dried tomato variety. Maybe some sunshine? Even if the rain continues, I’ll still love this place.

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What about work?

When John accepted the Oxford U. position, I almost immediately started looking for a job of my own. I was leaving a pretty comfortable (in terms of environment and salary) position that I saw as something between administration and management. Administrative in that I made sure people were crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s, and managerial in that I got frequent opportunities to go, “Well, that idea seems stupid, so let’s try this instead.” I found myself back in my 2008 shoes (the beat-up blue slip-ons with the rainbow straps), applying to entry-level administrative/personal assistant jobs, with the occasional, hopeful, part-time librarian application thrown into the mix.

After about 2 months, I received my 8th rejection. Sure, I was pretty upset. I thought I was over-qualified for most of these jobs; not that I think I’m a genius, but I can file papers and type. And I still maintain that my library science coursework was somewhat of a joke, though John will argue with me until I see that I’m doing that “thing” where I brush off accomplishments because they seemed easy to me. It took me a while to understand that maybe finding something easy (of course, putting in the work along the way) means I’m good at it. In a society where we’re always comparing ourselves against and measuring up to one another, we should pat ourselves on the back more often for our natural talents. Sounds cheesy, but I mean it.

After that 8th rejection, I decided to chill out and back off for a while, rather than continue the job hunt. John is far more generous than I am with money, and continuously reassured me that we’d have enough to cover our living expenses from his salary (which is, roughly, what I’d been making for the past year or so). I also wanted to continue my freelance work– perhaps even give it the full, focused attention it deserves, rather than rushing to meet deadlines on Sunday nights.

Of course, I still did the deadline-rushing thing last week. For my Tech & Learning work, I assemble anywhere between 20-100+ monthly press releases from various vendors (Blackboard, PBS, Epson, even Mitsubishi) into neat little product “what’s new” lists, cutting out the sales-y language and repackaging them into unbiased summaries. It’s easy and, actually, interesting– students and teachers today have access to more Apps and gadgets than we know what to do with. What’s actually useful and how to make these tools affordable is another point of discussion, but I’ll lead that up to the education experts. It’d make sense for me to set a reasonable daily, or even weekly, schedule to do this– but if we’re being honest, I always wait until the day before the monthly deadline before I even open a single email. Not much has changed since college.

I also occasionally proofread Philadelphia Stories editions. It’s a free publication that features artwork, poetry and short stories, and I get to indulge my inner grammar nerd while reading some pretty decent work at the same time.

My main focus for this month, though, is editing the final chapters (80-90 pages or so) of a friend’s memoir. My former boss introduced us; she’s unbelievably friendly, awesome, and brave for putting her writing out there to the public. I struggle between calling myself a proofreader and an editor, but now that I don’t have a full-time job using up my brain-space, I should be able to check for transitions, symbolism, flow– all that other stuff that doesn’t fall into “capitalize this” or “change that word.” And I’m looking forward to it.

Finally, on a whim, I responded to a call for a proofreader that someone posted to DailyInfo.co.uk. I didn’t really know what to expect, or stop to question whether I was even qualified (side note: I should probably learn the actual proofreading marks; I’m surprised I’ve gotten as far as I have when considering my abuse of parentheses and penchant for inserting too many commas). I met with a phD candidate in Business Management, and sat with him for an hour in a local cafe. We went over his professor’s comments on a paper; English wasn’t his first language, so I clarified some language and improved his sentence structure in a few places.

I learned some new words, which I’m still not convinced are words– they’re business jargon, an abuse of the English language. I still cringe whenever I see “COB” or “EOB,” and paragraphs about stakeholder power/influence make my skin crawl. But, it was fun, I made £10, and I like to think that I taught the guy something he wouldn’t have learned from submitting his paper to one of those “professional proofreading” websites (my competition, I suppose).

Friends and family were asking whether I’ve been applying to more jobs, now that I’m hear [full disclosure: just caught my own typo, and I’m leaving it in to make fun of myself. But I did fix another one in this post…], and it’s hard for me not to feel guilty when I respond with a firm no. I have to remind myself that I’m not falling into the bored-housewife role, or the lazy-dependent role. What I’m doing, at the moment, is actually pretty close to my dream job. I don’t rush off to the office to plop in front of a computer and put in a straight and straightforward 8-9 hours. I write and pick apart people’s spelling mistakes and get paid (a little) for it.

I wake up when I want to, and I get to make breakfast and coffee with John. I can take breaks, naps, read for fun, cook lunch or go out, go for a run (on the agenda, after I hit the “publish post” button: a 4 mile round-trip into Summertown, an apparently gorgeous neighborhood I haven’t been to yet). I can sit and think, or not think for a while. I can work on making our shoebox feel more like home. I can continue the search for that much-needed dresser, all before dinnertime.

Sure, I might tire of that freedom and life of luxury, and want to rake in a little more dough so we can shop at Waitrose more often or go on short weekend trips to Spain, France, or to visit my grandma in Germany. But before I get ahead of myself, I need to remember that this is sort of a golden opportunity to just relax for a while and do exactly what I want, when I want. Not many people get that. I’m very lucky.