Tag Archives: weekends

Downtown

Today John and I ventured out of Headington to centre city. We hadn’t been there in a while (going to work doesn’t count), and I think part of the reason we were hibernating was to avoid the usual crowds that nice weather brings. Considering that today was another British summer day, the people traffic was surprisingly tolerable. And I’m glad we got out, because it led to some nice photo opportunities. John might be made at me for this, but…

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We went to the newly-opened H&M, and that happened. We also went to the Botanic Gardens, which of course were closed, but at least I got a good shot of this punter.

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Punting is one of those activities (I won’t call it a sport) that looks fun, but is only enjoyable if you’re the puntee rather than the punter. Pushing a little boat down a canal with a metal pole is much harder than it looks. And even if you’re the puntee, you’ll either get bored after 10 minutes or feel guilty that someone else is doing all the heavy lifting. I could get into a much more detailed rant about punting, but let’s save that for another blog post.

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This is the Magdalen College tower (I think), and as I took this picture, I thought back to last spring, leaving work early and cycling over the High Street bridge to meet my aunt and uncle who were visiting from Italy. It was when I still liked my first job, and felt excited about the possibilities that Oxford had to offer. I was a tourist that day, showing other tourists around. Somehow, seeing this tower looming before me made me feel lucky to be here, and by “here” I mean more than just the geographical location. Seeing the tower again today, I felt the same spark. As much as I complain (to myself, mostly) about where I currently “am” (in terms of a career, and countless other categories by which we measure success), it feels good to let go of that once in a while in favor of being a tourist again in your current hometown. The city still has much to offer and I intend on soaking it up…on those rare occasions I decide to leave the house.

Overdue for a pancake post (flapjacks, actually)

I was going to write a blog post about how I don’t like my job anymore and maybe never did, how I make laughably dumb mistakes (bringing flip-chart markers to write on a whiteboard tops the list), and how I feel like I’m going backwards on the career progression ladder by being an admin assistant (again). But that wouldn’t be very fun to read, nor would it help me feel good about how I spend 35 hours of the week, which is the ultimate goal, right?

So instead, here’s a pancake recipe. This one’s a winner (which I could have predicted as soon as I saw cocoa in the ingredient list. And because I’m feeling generous, I’ll follow it with a (British) flapjack recipe for comparison. Those were a hit at the office this week. Probably because the main ingredient is butter. To clarify: American flapjacks are thick pancakes, and British flapjacks are basically thick squishy granola bars. 

Warning: these recipes contain coconut because I just bought a lifetime supply at the Indian grocery store. You can omit if you hate it, but we can’t be friends if you do.

 

Cocoa-nut Flapjacks

Adapted from this.

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup mineral water (the fizzy stuff)
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used this gluten-free brown bread mix that I love)
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (un-sweetened and finely ground)
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (use the Dutch-processed dark stuff)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your temperamental electric hob to slightly-too-hot (medium-high for normal stovetops).

Mix dry ingredients together with a fork. Add butter, vanilla, and milk; lightly mix again. 

Add a tablespoon or so of butter to your pan and let it melt, swirling it around with a spatula. When drops of water sizzle in the skillet, lower heat to medium.

Add a little sparkling water (makes pancakes fluffy!) to thin the batter a bit; then and add scoops of batter to the pan. I can get about 3 small pancakes in my 12″ skillet. Cook for approx. 3 minutes, or until the edges look dry, then flip and cook for 2 additional minutes. Transfer to a plate and make your second batch.

Serve with a variety of toppings (John had peanut butter and honey, I had greek yogurt/black currant jam/more coconut).

 

White chocolate coconut flapjacks (the British version)

Adapted from this, and converted into NORMAL (read: American) measurements.

  • 1/2 cup butter (yes, really. Suck it up, and use a decent organic/grass-fed type like Kerrygold to help you feel better about this decision)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated (caster) sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups quick oats, or porridge oats to use the adorable UK terminology
  • cinnamon, sea salt
  • 100 g bar of white chocolate
  • about 1/4 cup desiccated coconut

In a large glass bowl, melt the butter and sugar together in the microwave (about 40 seconds on high). Stir in the honey, vanilla, and oats. Microwave on high for about 3 minutes, stopping to stir after 2.

Spread mixture on the bottom of a lightly greased 8″ x 4″ glass baking dish. Top with cinnamon, a little sea salt, and sprinkle with coconut. Press mixture down firmly with the back of a spoon.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in the microwave, stopping to stir every few seconds. When the pieces are almost all melted, it’s likely to be ready (you don’t want burnt chocolate). Stir some more. Spread chocolate on top of oat mixture and cover the dish. Let cool, then move to refrigerator for overnight firming up. When ready to cut/serve, it helps to let the dish come back to room temp. Slice into whatever sizes you’d like, and enjoy.

 

Lazy Sunday

Could I pick a more cliché title? The problem is, I’m feeling too lazy to think of a better one.

But it’s descriptive enough, and I’m not going for the next Great American Novel, anyway.

I left the house twice: first to walk to Headington for far too much produce and meat to fit into my mini-fridge, and then again for the usual 3-mile run with John. It wasn’t too cold. I was actually sweating on my way back from town, possibly due to too many layers of fleece and also because I had coconut oil on my head and just slapped a knit hat on top. Deep conditioning while grocery shopping – genius, I know.

I’m toying with the idea of doing one of those terrible healthy-eating cleanses because I feel really run down lately, and this one seems sane enough, albeit just as annoyingly evangelical as the others. But I like cheese and bacon and chocolate too much (we have this deliciousness in the house) and I’m not good at following rules. Maybe I should do something productive instead of whining about having unlimited access to yummy things. On a positive note, I got this in ebook format, and now my mini-fridge is full of colorful vegetables – a step in the right direction.

Yesterday, we watched Last Vegas, which just made me think about how old Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline are getting. That sounds terrible, but I mean it in a good way. You look at those actors and just think about how many days, weeks, years they’ve experienced. I complain about Mondays that feel too long, but one day I’ll look back and not remember anything about any particular Monday. Memory is marked in big events, and we probably forget most of the ordinary days. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

So I’ll try to enjoy the rest of this lazy Sunday, and the impending tomorrow. Because one day I’ll be as old as Michael Douglas, too, and I’d like to remember enjoying even Mondays.

Drops of Jupiter

On Saturday, John and I went to a stargazing event at one of the physics buildings downtown. I thought it would be one of those typical free, family-oriented events where no one shows up and you’re stuck watching 8-year-olds draw pictures of planets, and maybe glance through a telescope at the cloudy sky. Don’t call me a pessimist; I just like to set my expectations low sometimes, to avoid disappointment and also to get excited when something turns out to be fun.

Anyway, it was fun. We watched some awkward grad students play an astronomy quiz show. I felt good about myself because I totally got the answer to one of the questions, which was to guess song names (Jeopardy-style) that have to do with planets. My love of 90s music proved useful when I named-that-tune by Train.

We also went out onto the rooftop deck (technically not the rooftop, since I think there were higher floors. The almost-rooftop deck?) and the clouds cleared away. It was freezing, but I got to peek through a big telescope (I always want to say microscope…) and saw the moon. And its craters. And Jupiter, which really just looked like the brightest star in the sky. Through the lens, you could make out a faint ring or two around the planet, and see its 4 moons. I tried to explain this feeling to John and my friends who were there, and still can’t make sense of it, but somehow the images magnified just looked fake to me. Almost as if I were a kid, flipping through the images on those glasses that showed, for instance, photos of jungle animals or Disney scenes. Does anyone remember those? They came before video games. And now I feel old.

Somehow, looking through the lens and seeing that planet, and that moon, up close just wasn’t as good as staring up at the sky, unassisted by instruments. 

We also talked to a grad student, or possibly a post-doc, who was in the “sort of final round” of 1,000+ applicants for this colonization of Mars project. Apparently we’re going there in 2025, and a group of 4 geniuses (or at least non-psychopaths, and non-claustrophobics) will kick off the (televised, of course) experience. I’m picturing it like the latest reality show. Instead of the Kardashians and all of those gold-digging (literal and metaphorical) shows, we’ll be watching cat fights and pregnant teen dramas on the moon one day. 

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!

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