Category Archives: Work

The “R” Word

Normally, I start thinking about what I’d like to do differently in the upcoming year immediately after Christmas. But for the first time, New Year’s Eve came and went (with a bang– lots of bangs–as the Nuremberg sky lit up with fireworks and smoke so thick you had to climb through it), and I found myself kissing my husband and not really thinking about anything else.

Then I remembered, oh yeah, this is when I should resolve to do something about those habits I still keep although they don’t do me any good. Or to put it in a more positive light, this is the time of year where the collective desire to effect change gives us the momentum we need to begin. Beginning is the hardest part. John gave me the scientific interpretation earlier today– something about a moment of momentum, and overcoming that energy barrier– but understanding it* still might not inspire us to do anything about it*.

*it: That feeling of procrastination. I-know-I-should-just-start-but-don’t-wanna. The motivation to start.

Today, I went for a rainy run and thought about all of those little things I do or don’t do that annoy me, and reflected on how all those other times I made New Year’s resolutions that didn’t pan out, and I realized that those other resolutions lacked…well, resolve, really. And accountability. It’s easy to keep intentions in mind, and then to berate ourselves when we inevitably forget those intentions months later, because we never put them into practice.

So to keep it simple, my resolution is to write more. And read more. I’ll be a pretty crappy librarian someday if I never read, right?

Also: To not feel like a failure for not having the aforementioned career that I got my Master’s degree for. It doesn’t hurt to cast a wider net when it comes to jobs and business experience.

And finally: To give myself more credit. Which is probably a resolution that’s good for everyone.

 

Full-on Fall

I could sit here for thirty minutes trying to organize my thoughts, but am trying to minimize the time I spend in front of a screen when I get home. I’ve been taking breaks at work just to sit outside for a few minutes– luckily the weather is still nice enough for that. I just thought about this in relation to my previous job, because I was just as busy but didn’t need that “nature break.” Probably because it involved lots of paperwork, and this job has none of that. I almost miss that feeling of rustling through program commitment and trip reservation forms. Actually, I do miss it.

We are still settling in here in Oxford. 2 weeks ago, we finally got a real dresser for our clothes. Two, actually. It’s nice knowing where to find socks, and t-shirts, and it’s also a good feeling when your clothes have a home. It means this is home now, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Except maybe the minutes spent vacuuming cat hair.

In cat-related news, we’ve reluctantly allowed them to become indoor/outdoor creatures. Ikky would whine all the time in this little flat, and Zora would sneak outside any chance she got. As of today, they now have collars with bells, so we feel a little better letting them roam free. If they get hit by a car, at least they’ll die happy, right? That’s a morbid thought, but I’m okay with it.

Yesterday I was insulted with just about the worst remark I could imagine. Poor grammar. Even criticizing my appearance doesn’t cut as deeply as that. I’m chalking it up to American vs. British English, but the wound stings and I worry that I’m not actually the strong writer that I think I am. I’m debating the grammar in that last sentence. And now I’m convincing myself to get over it, embrace my flawed sentence structure, and take comfort in being a linguistic outsider, a foreigner, in any language I speak. Being a foreigner isn’t a bad thing. It means I have many homes, and an interesting, traveled life.

An interesting, traveled, married life. Today marks 1 month since becoming a Mrs., and it feels pretty awesome. I still think it’s weird to be congratulated for it, because it’s different from the usual things that call for congratulations. Degrees, promotions, that sort of thing. Congratulations for a relationship? I’ll interpret these well wishes to simply mean others are happy for me, and in that case, I’ll take it. Or maybe people are congratulating me for landing the best husband ever, in which case I’ll also take it, because it’s true.

P.S. we had these for dinner, and they were amazing. Skip the oven part and use two pans, one for the pork and one for the apples. Use butter, not this “vegetable oil” nonsense. Up the cinnamon. Serve with rocket salad, and a lovely miso-tahini-apple cider vinaigrette. Eat the fat off your picky husband’s plate. Enjoy.

Fighting screen-time

John and I are upstairs with our neighbor Mike and his cousin, watching crappy reality tv. Mike is about to take a bath (a totally normal thing to do when you have company, right?) and the smell of his Lush bath salts is torturous. It’s been a long week already, and a bath sounds SO good. And I never take baths.

I wrestled for a good 5 minutes with the idea of blogging today. That’s right, I verb-ed that word. I’m a serious blogger now. I fought the (urge to) blog, and the… Well, you know the rest, because you’re reading this.

I like writing, but I don’t like my bloodshot eyes at the end of a long day, 8 hours glued to the computer, interspersed with meals and commuting, finished off with a few more hours of multiple screens, including but not limited to iPads, laptops, TVs. Er, tellys (tellies?)

Have I become one of those (eye-roll inducing) anti-technology people? I don’t think so, but lately I do seem particularly drawn to open windows, staring at my cats, meditating over simmering massaman curry chicken noodle soup. Avoiding the pixels when I can.

I got a flat tire (tyre) today, and ended up taking a new way home from the overpriced repair shop in Cowley. Passed a nice park, huffed up the hill to the appropriately named Hilltop Road, weaved through the JR hospital parking lot. Just when I thought things were getting familiar, Oxford continues to surprise me.

Thai Curry Noodle Soup (totally improvised and seconds-worthy)

coconut oil
2 T curry paste (I used massaman)
1 large shallot, halved & thinly sliced
2 birds eye chilies, de-seeded and diced, optional
1-2 chicken breasts, diced
14 oz can coconut milk
Handful (a bundle?) wide rice noodles
1T lime juice
1 T fish sauce

1. Heat a spoonful of oil over medium in saucepan. Add curry paste and stir-fry for a minute.
2. Add onions and chilies. I forgot to de-seed and our eyes were watering with each bite.
3. Add can of coconut milk, then fill the can up with water and dump that in as well.
3. In a frying pan, add a little oil and stir-fry the chicken over medium-high, until lightly browned on all sides. Add chicken to saucepan.
4. Did you catch that mistake?
5. Submerge noodles (broken in half worked for me) and cover. Bring to boil, then simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Finish with lime juice and fish sauce (for the brave) and enjoy!

Getting out of the office

“Train to London Paddington, Next Call: Reading.”

Yes, I’m on my way to Reading. I wonder how it compares to the one in PA. But I won’t stop there long enough to find out, as it’s my transfer point to Maidenhead. I woke up an hour earlier than usual today, surprised that the sun was up already and that I actually felt awake, to venture out to our client’s office for some webinar recording. If all goes well, the videos, narrated by my “soothing” voice (well, that was a co-worker’s compliment– I’d describe it more as a manly, monotonous lisp) will be broadcast on the big scary internet. There’s even an app for the site, and I cringe to think of being watched on a phone or tablet.

Well, half-cringe. The other half of me is flattered to take on the task and happy to get out of a typical day in the office. Not that I mind the cubicle lifestyle too much, but it’s great to get a change of pace once in a while. I’m looking out the window at the rolling green countryside: sheep, houses, trees, a bright blue sky. It never stops feeling like I’m dreaming here, really. Except when it rains. And even then…

Switching gears (something I’m still having trouble with on my front derailleur– it might be time to cough up some money for a proper tune-up), the other day I made the mistake of looking at my wedding planning checklist and immediately got overwhelmed. Lists, and big projects, are like that: one task after another, and it all seems to scream at you to get it done. Logically, I know that I have no problem completing a project at a natural yet efficient pace, under the deadline, wondering why I ever worried in the first place. But I have a hard time remembering that when facing something new..

A wedding is pretty new. I decided from the beginning I’d abandon pointless place cards and seating arrangements, “favors” that are never as favorable as intended (Hershey’s Kisses with the couple’s name? Sorry, you just wasted 5 hours putting a sticker on what covers a mediocre piece of chocolate and will inevitably be thrown away), bachelorette/bridal shower plans, matching outfits, etc. And yet, the list looms.

Have I decided where to get folding chairs for the ceremony yet? Exactly how much food do people eat at an appetizer/dessert reception, and how did I decide it’d be a cinch to self-cater a picnic style reception? When will I find shoes and a dress?

Then I get a hold of myself, and remember (like my friend Erika says) that’s it’s more of a “wedding theme party.” No one is going to remember or care about the little details. And like all projects, this will be doable if I stick to a schedule, and don’t peek ahead at what needs to happen 2-3 months from now.

So, aside from some minor wedding stuff, this weekend I’m making it my mission to finally put some more pictures online to entice our friends and family to move here. After all, I can only say “Oxford is awesome, and I never want to leave” so many times before it becomes annoying. Photographs say all of that, and more, in a much classier, more convincing way.

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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.

9 miles, uphill, both ways

I know– it’s been a while. I could say I’ve been waiting until I had an expertly drafted, nail-biting, page-turning blog post before hitting “publish” again, but that’d be a lie. Still, better to get something out there before another week goes by, and so forth.

If I let that happen, I’d find myself here two years later (in the same position, curled up on the couch in my Carrier-branded fleece jacket and cat hair-covered fleece blanket, watching another thrilling episode of Ice Road Truckers). And I’d wonder, what happened to the past 24 months?

It’s one reason I decided to blog again, aside from the obvious “living abroad is exciting” thing. Too often, I find myself missing complete chunks of time. I can’t remember how old I was when I learned how to ride a bike, or what my favorite TV show was in 12th grade, or what I learned in my college French classes, or what it was like living in my first apartment in Philadelphia. Without stopping to write things down, my brain doesn’t have that motivation to go, “Hmm, we might want to remember this one day.” And then I feel boring. Complacent. It’s not that I need my life to be filled with constant excitement– on the contrary. I’m kind of a homebody, happier on the couch with John and the cats (with or without Ice Truckers) than…anywhere else, really. But If I don’t stop to notice and appreciate (and remember) these nice, relaxing days and nights, they’ll just turn into more “missing chunks.”

To summarize that tangent into one sentence: Writing and sharing is good for the soul, so here I am.

In attempt to remember what the hell happened this week, before it goes into black hole territory:

1. I started my new job! Oh, maybe I didn’t even mention I had a new job. Or an interview. I’m superstitious like that; it wasn’t a sure thing. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted the position, so I was pretty relaxed about the whole interview process. Somehow, that translated to confidence. And the most surprising thing is that I really like it so far. The people and work environment are wonderful, and I’m finding more and more support to what might be the closest I ever get to a life epiphany:

It’s more important to find a supportive, engaging and enjoyable environment rather than to  land the ideal (planned-for, studied-for, ultra-specific) job.

Maybe it’s just the honeymoon phase, but I don’t think so. Speaking of honeymoons, though…

2. That thing in September is my wedding. This might be awkward, but obviously we have guest list limits (and there’s that whole dislike of large crowds thing). We’re keeping it to mostly family, because, well, John and I are becoming our own family through this whole “marriage” thing. We’d like our individual families to see that, be part of it, support it. It’s kind of a private event, if you think about it. We can always party with our friends later, right? (Please don’t hate me, non-invitees!)

One promise I plan to keep, before that bigger “I do” promise: this blog will not turn into a melodramatic, wedding planning bridezilla frenzy disaster. I couldn’t care less if my “bridal party” (our siblings) wear matching ensembles that they’ll never wear again. I frown upon chair sashes. Pomanders and place cards? Shudder. It’s one day, people. It’ll be a fun party, and I’ll get to wear a pretty dress, and then I’ll be married. It doesn’t have to be an overly-constructed, over-priced ordeal. And instead of getting into wedding bikini shape or whatever pre-wives do to torture themselves, I’ll keep nursing my Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (half price at The Co-op today! In all my excitement, I ate, um, most of it).

3. My name is Clea, and I have a problem: lists must be comprised of at least 3 items.

Oh, biking. That was going to be the subject of my original post. See what happens? Anyway, I have a 9ish mile round-trip commute to work. There’s one way to go that’s maybe .2 miles shorter than the second route, but it involves the grueling Headington Hill, that murderous quad-builder that starts at my front door. So I take the more scenic route through Cowley and Rose Hill (“the ghetto” of Oxford, apparently, though it seems pretty idyllic and just like everywhere else in this city). The slightly-more-flat route. I’m getting dusted by everyone from middle-aged ladies on cruisers to teenage boys riding with look ma, no hands!

It seems like everyone and their grandma “cycles” all across town, so I should be getting in pretty good cardiovascular condition in a few weeks here. And catch up to my fellow commuters. Maybe leave a few of them in the dust.

Fine, and maybe negate some of that Ben & Jerry’s, because I’m not above vanity after all.