A picture post

Dear audience of 5,
My apologies for taking so long to put up another post. This week flew by, and I find myself sitting here on a snowy (you read that right) Sunday afternoon, finally getting around to photo edits.

First, I suppose I should address what’s on my mind above all the good stuff, because somehow the negative always rises to the top, like oil above water or an alka-seltzer tablet. I applied for a library marketing job and around 2 part-time library assistant jobs, among others. You can see where I’m going with this– I basically don’t handle rejection well. I knew the first job was a stretch (I don’t have an MBA) but part-time library assistant? Shelving books, using databases, customer assistance? I hardly think I’d fail there. I can’t take my own advice that I’d give to others in this situation: it’s not you; it’s who you know, not what you do; be patient, the right job is just around the corner.

I finally shook some sense into myself when I remembered that I’m not here to chase a 9 to 5 or any job, for that matter. I need to enjoy my time off, and not feel so damn guilty about it. With that, let’s move along.

A crisis happened yesterday morning: we were out of eggs. Some Googling for ingredients I had on hand led me to this gem of a blog, but of course I’m incapable of following a recipe without making five thousand tweaks. My improvisation (based, again, on what I had in the kitchen) led to a pretty awesome breakfast, so I thought I’d share the results.

Hearty Oatcakes
Yields: 4 decent-sized pancakes

2 cups oats (instant or rolled)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 Tbsp soy flour (could sub flax seed)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar

Butter (or bacon grease. Yes, I save that stuff in a jar and cook with it. You should, too!)

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients up to and including milk in a food processor (or large bowl, and use your immersion blender like I did) and blend until smooth. Fold in baking powder, soda, sugar.
2. Heat grease in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. It’s ready when you throw a drop of water on the pan and it sizzles. Lower heat to medium.
2. Ladle about 1/2 cup of batter onto pan and let cook for 4 minutes on each side. You want the edges to look a little dry before flipping. These pancakes won’t get quite “bubbly” like those made with flour. The second side will take about 3 minutes to cook, and I’d recommend carefully monitoring your heat (i.e. lowering it a notch as you go along).
3. Serve warm with peanut butter and chocolate syrup if what you really wanted for breakfast was a Reese’s Cup (guilty) or your favorite toppings.

John and I biked all around town yesterday, in the rain. Just like the locals. We happened upon a chocolate festival and scored some delicious samples of fudge and something called Scottish butter toffee…or something. Whatever it was, it was good. I also met a nice labrador-mix from Oklahoma, who only intensified my desire to get a dog. I remembered to snap photos for once. Not of the dog; that would’ve been slightly too forward. You’ll also see that our home is shaping up, with nice little touches, including a tv stand I scored for £3!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Long weekends and languages

I guess any weekend’s a long one when you don’t really need to be at a certain place at a certain time on Monday mornings. I took advantage of that and slept in. For once, I was up late on A Sunday night, because John and I were in the middle of Django Unchained. Tarantino movies might be a rare exception to the multitasking bad habit I have. We’re finishing the movie now, and it’s taking me forever to write this post, because it’s quite the captivating film. I can normally pause whatever I’m doing in order to meet my old lady bedtime, but last night the clock struck 12:30 before John reminded me how late it was.

See, this is already a really poorly organized post. Where was I?

Oh, the weekend. We rode our new bikes around different neighborhoods, stopping in Cowley to get some soup and hummus. We made our way through center city, stopping in Primark and Poundland for essential things like throw pillows, hardware and peanut butter, and finally, to check out Aldi in Botley. We lugged £35 of cheese, milk, coffee and a huge kitchen rug back home, covering around 8-10 miles overall. The weather could have been warmer, but at least the skies were dry.

On Sunday, I woke up with a stomach ache (which actually started Friday night, and has just been a persistent stabbing pain since then. It comes and goes but I’m hoping it goes for good soon). It was even colder that day, so we passed on the bikes and bundled up for a walk into Headington, after a hearty “streaky bacon” (that’s “regular” bacon for Americans– British bacon is less marbled and cut wider), eggs and “soft cheese” on naan. I worked on my CV (Brits never call it a resume, for whatever reason) and tried to eavesdrop on the conversation of the French guys next to us.

And that brings me to the second part of this post’s title: languages. I thought I’d hear more American English here, but the language I’ve heard most often (aside from English, obviously) is French. I sat in Starbucks for a good two hours today, and at least 3 groups of people around me were parlez-ing francais. Unfortunately, my grasp of it has slipped so much since I graduated with that pointless BA in French 5 years ago, that I couldn’t understand any of it. But hey, if its the norm here to hear copious amounts of French in every Starbucks, maybe it’ll come back to me in a few weeks.

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.

20130308-223633.jpg

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.

Apartment: Before

People who’ve requested pictures: this is not the post you’ve been waiting for. Well, probably not.

Since I was a wee 4th grader, I’ve had an obsession with interior design. I sketched (grossly out of scale) floor plans of my rooms and had annual “makeovers” to freshen up my personal space. Lately, I’ve been following the “Small Spaces” section of ApartmentTherapy.com for inspiration. Things are slowly shaping up, but I thought it’d be nice to show you the “before.” Before the mounting piles of cat hair and scratch marks cover our nice leather sofa; before the kitchen counters turn into a Tetris game; before my clothes find an actual home in a chest of drawers or wardrobe, rather than my gigantic purple suitcase. 

There may never be an after, but there will be slightly-more-exciting “during” photos, as I head out for additional furnishings this week. Go-to places are Argos.co.uk, Dailyinfo (like Craigslist, but just for Oxford), and charity shops.

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Rule #1 of Starting a Travel Blog: Don’t title your first entry “Greetings from ______”

Embarrassingly, this is not my first foray into blogging.

But it might be my most public attempt. I can track my compulsion with online journaling back to Xanga, LiveJournal, and even Angelfire. The last one is a bit hazy, as it might’ve been the spark that set it off. I can’t remember if my site was hosted on Angelfire (it most certainly was not Geocities), but I do recall that the username featured “peach” and my birthday, and I can still see myself editing the text and background colors to the perfectly complementary shades of coral and sunset. I filled the pages of my first online journal with quiz results (mostly in hopes that a certain crush would see my speck of cyberspace) and inside jokes. It didn’t last long, probably not even beyond that summer spent in Germany, pecking away at the keys on my grandparents’ outdated PC and crawling dial-up connection.

Xanga, on the other hand, was a plunge into the dark side. If pressed to define “Xanga,” I’d call it your typical teen angst outlet. Black background, “mood” icons to show my audience of 5 exactly how I was feeling each time I hit the “submit” button on a new entry, and some back-end drama thanks to the ability to see who was reading.

Fast forward a few years later– this isn’t even my first WordPress blog. I actually chronicled (haphazardly, at best) my move to Philly, through cooking vegetarian/vegan cuisine. Sorry, veggie friends, but I eat meat these days (I’m not sorry, just polite, sometimes). One of the first things I bought at the grocery store here was pancetta. Anyway, food blogs are boring, but I may share the occasional recipe here or there, since I’m into cooking and eating.

Some of my friends know that homemade pizza is sort of my “go-to” meal when I don’t know what else to make. So with a mostly-bare kitchen in our little shoebox of a place, the first non-takeaway (see, I’m picking up the lingo already) dinner was pancetta and British cheddar pizza on a whole wheat crust. It wasn’t as good as it sounds, though, because I didn’t have sugar, and yeast needs sugar in order to produce a non-mushy-cardboard crust. John and I ate off a cutting board and rubber casserole dish lid, because we didn’t even have plates yet. Thanks to our neighbor Mike, we now have plates.

Speaking of our neighbor, I’m not used to people being friendly and open. This guy cooked dinner for John the first night he arrived, and for the past few days, we’d just knock on his door and hang out for a bit. He’s in the military, working an “if I told you, I’d have to kill you” types of job. Except, he’s pretty bad at keeping mum, because he’ll flip through the channels and I see his eyes light up at certain military-related scenes and locations, and he’ll hint at where he will be and what he will do as long as we ask first. He won’t tell us directly, but I guess he’s a bad liar and has to confess when asked. Although I don’t agree with all things military and counter-terrorism, I do value his endearing traits: being a bad liar and a giving neighbor.

I do this thing when I write, when I come to a “natural pause” in the speed at which my fingers are clicking away, and my mind just stops. Some might call that writer’s block; I call it time to wrap up this post. I’m glad I managed to avoid the typical “Hi, my name is ___ and I just moved to ___ and it’s __! Lots of !!!!!’s” introduction. This ramble probably isn’t much better, but if you take anything away, let’s summarize it into a tidy, bulleted list.

  • I’m a serial blogger and have a hard time keeping content both interesting and audience-appropriate. This could be a good thing.
  • Always use sugar in pizza dough, and maybe cook your pizza longer in these confusing Celsius mini-ovens.
  • Friendly neighbors do wonders for making a place feel welcoming and homey, immediately.

Stick around! I promise, it’ll get better.

 

about assorted adventures

%d bloggers like this: