The Grass Really IS Greener

Granted, we’ve only been on “the other side” of the thesis for about 24 hours, so I may not be best positioned to comment at this juncture.

But I have to say, the grass is looking pretty verdant so far.


All 225 pages of thesis are contained within that unassuming volume, representing 4 years of hauling books back and forth from the library, approximately 7300 hours philosophizing in an easy chair, and countless cappuccinos. No wonder the man looks gaunt and pale. Though that may just be his natural state – the pale part, certainly.


There was only one thing appropriate after such a feat: burgers. Surprisingly, they had a menu picked out just for Pete! (Unsurprisingly, he declined.)


One cheeseburger with fries later, he was smiling again.


We thought Baby would be smiling too after all that delicious food – but we’re pretty sure all it can do so far is bounce on mama’s bladder and cause excessive sleepiness by 10pm.


Burgers were followed by a movie, was followed by 10 hours of sleep, was followed by a supercharged Bob Harper Ultimate Cardio Body! workout (the proof  is in the pudding, folks), was followed by several hours of high-paced chatter about everything from visual-spatial learning to lotteries to Aston Villa. It seems we had a lot of useless things to catch up on after so many weeks of intense thesis-focus. It’s funny what random things your brain will store – for weeks – for conversation with the one you love.

It’s good to have my buddy back!






Somerset has been calling for a few years now. After vacationing in Cornwall/Devon back in 2010 and driving through the beautiful Mendip Hills of Somerset to get there, we’ve had this lovely county on our holiday hit list.


One of our favorite things is renting a self-catering cottage in the (relatively tame) wilds of rural Britain.

byre8The price is unbeatable for what you get, and you don’t have to eat out all the time either which saves more money and also your arteries! Bonus! Having a log fire at your beck and call in the middle of winter is pretty sweet too. But let’s not dwell on the question of whether we successfully lit it — or not.

byre2We hiked out to Brean Down, a little cliff peninsula that juts straight out in the sea. The wind almost blew me over; the Philosopher insisted I was safe but I’ve never trusted his judgment under pressure. I think his arm socket suffered the consequences.


We took in Cheddar Gorge (where cheddar grows, of course) one afternoon. It was lovely, except when we took a wrong turn into a farm and the guard dog shot out at us from across the yard, barking and baring its fangs. It turns out our instincts for dealing with the threat differed slightly. I jogged backwards away from it, sweet-talking in what I hoped was a soothing doggy voice. The Philosopher turned tail and sprinted away. (This tactic, I’ll have you note readers, left his defenseless wife in the danger zone, unprotected. But maybe it was my fault for trying to talk dog as a primary means of excape. The fact that my husband told me what he would have done to the dog should it have attacked me was some small consolation – and also very entertaining.)






One of the funniest things about England is this private/public land issue. The right to ramble basically renders landowners powerless to prevent strangers hiking across their fields. Seems this confusing sign is the best they can come up with. Oh, and guard dogs. (We also saw a terrifying plaque that read “Bull in field. Proceed with caution.” That sign was quite effective.)

byre15While the Philosopher worked, I took in Glastonbury. Despite the hype, the highlight of the trip for me was this gorgeous alleyway, which was considerably enhanced by the smell of bacon frying in the cafe at its entrance.


The wonderful owners of our cottage put a tree up for the duration of our stay. Since we had not one (NOT ONE) Christmas decoration up at home this year, this tree basically saved us from Scroogehood. Sadly, I neglected to take a single photo. But! I can thoroughly recommend the Byre, and Somerset.

Perhaps, if we’re lucky, we’ll make it back before another 5 years have passed!byre6


On my last day of work, I headed to the library to grab a couple books for the 10 day vacation ahead of me. I may have overshot my mark a bit.


Speaking of books, this one was not as good as the title would suggest.


A newish card store in town blows Schmhallmark out of the water… Happy New Year cards for colleagues? Check.

cardsThe Phil. and I are fondly remembering good times with this guy and the Violinist (hand model below) a mere month ago. Settlers binge! Followed and preceded by chocolate binge, of course.


Speaking of binges, we may have overdosed this past weekend on Dominion with this lovely lady, who, it turns out, dominates at Dominion. Her secret weapon: gardens. Confused? Congratulations – you’re not a geek.


Funny story: one day the Philosopher was cycling home, and while stopped at a red light a beautiful woman leaned out of a van and gave him a dozen Krispy Kremes. He thought he’d died and gone to heaven. I, on the other hand, was reminded of how little I enjoy doughnuts, and how much I enjoy hats.


While celebrating the Phil’s birthday with burgers, we were both disturbed by the lack of logic in the statement below… I guess by “too much is never enough”, the menu writers mean “too much is more than enough, and thus never simply “enough”?” OR, they are just not very bright.


It’s been really cold. I almost can’t deal. But winter trees have a sort of violent beauty that deserves admiration. I think the reflection is more beautiful than the real thing.


But the cold brings the sunshine! It flooded Broad Street on Sunday. Though the temperature was below freezing, the sun warmed our faces as we hurried around town wrapped up in hats and scarves.

broad st

And that’s it, lately.

More fun coming in the form of Somerset this weekend… we’re totally gonna gorge on Cheddar (Brits – get it?!).

I think Schmhallmark should hire me to write not-funny greeting cards.

Dear Santa/New Year’s Fairy

Dear Santa/New Year’s Fairy,

I already have everything I need. [There’s that sweater from H&M I’ve been eyeing, sure. Let’s talk again when the January sales hit.] As I sit down to write this letter to the North Pole – N.Y. Fairy, I need your address, by the way – I’m a little overwhelmed by how many things are already checked off my Life Wish List.

…I get along really well with my roommate, and a few years ago he said he’d stick with me for life. Never having to find a roommate again? Fist pump.

…My boss is pretty cool. Want proof? Check out my Christmas card from him.


…I got to travel the world this year to the most exotic locations: Texas, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lexington, and the Lake District. The flora and fauna were indeed exquisite.

…Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be the leading lady in a Rodgers and Hammerstein show. Tick!

…My hair is long. I didn’t think I could do it. It has only taken me 27 years to achieve below-the-shoulder status, and I couldn’t be prouder of those hard-working little follicles.

But all this good stuff has left my feet floating a few inches off the ground. And I think I need to press the reset button as January draws near. There are a number of areas which would earn a firm “needs improvement” on my Life Report Card [the Life Wish List’s evil stepsister whom one pretends not to know in public places].

So, herewith enclosed, is the list of things I’d like to work on this year. Let’s not call them resolutions. Let’s simply call them… “Things I’m Not Very Good at and Could Possibly Change Given Enough Time and Willpower.” It sort of rolls off the tongue, don’t you think?

Things I’m Not Very Good at etc.:

– seeing in the dark
– tolerating cold (or heat, come to think of it)
– not looking at myself if a mirror presents itself
– being alone
– not losing my keys/hat/gloves
– “relaxing”
– waiting
– not buying cheap clothes
– seeing the silver lining
– doing anything slowly
– eating chocolate (more than one bite slays me)
– baking “just for fun”
– abstract thinking
– repetition of anything (meals, tasks, you know)
– saying no to one more tortilla chip
– doing anything the hard way, even if it’s the better way
– being content
– exercising hard enough to work up a sweat: i.e. I am a lazy bum
– having patience with the kettle when it’s boiling

So, what do you think? Can either of you help? Is there hope for change in 2015?!

Yours truly and with gratitude,

In Eynsham

In our first proper trip to Eynsham, a village north of Oxford, we got up close and personal to a Siemens factory by accident.

We were looking for a scenic country walk, and somehow ended up on a path that skirted the walls of the Siemens manufacturing plant.

It was indeed picturesque, if we looked only to the right, ignoring the steel machinery behind metal fences marked “KEEP OUT” two inches to our left.

The Philosopher’s parents + friends are staying in Eynsham until tomorrow (they promise us they didn’t pick the place because of its proximity to Siemens, but we’re not so sure), and on Sunday they invited us round to their little rental in the countryside…

…which turned out to be more manor-house than little rental.


The gorgeous exterior is matched by an equally decadent interior, complete with delicate floral walls, high ceilings, chandeliers, and at least three fireplaces!

We did question the half-gravestone perched in the front garden, however. A subtle reminder of mortality, amidst such a glorious setting?


The moon was high in the sky as we set off for a stroll.










Thank you to these 4 lovely people for keeping us company this week. We have enjoyed every minute with you! (And, for the record, we will gladly visit industrial factories with you any day of the week).

Virtual Thanksgiving Feast

Due to certain thespian happenings this week, tonight’s Thanksgiving celebrations have had to be put on hold. But that hasn’t stopped me from planning what I would make for you all, if you came round tonight for dinner.

As you walked through the front door into our warm kitchen, dumping your wet shoes and coats and bicycles, you’d find a bowl piled high with Buttermilk Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

And we’d put extra butter on the biscuits, of course, and need napkins to wipe the grease off our fingers after we’d all greedily tucked into at least two each.

After drinks had been passed round and stories of Oxford traffic nightmares exchanged, we’d sit round a long makeshift table with chairs that don’t match and kitchen roll for napkins and barely enough forks to go round. I’d be anxiously checking the oven because I’m terrible at cooking roast meat, and you might be called over to help me check that it’s cooked through. (That way, the blame is never solely mine, see?)

The meat on offer would be Delia’s Roast Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon because I’ve failed at that recipe less than most. I find turkey both dry and tasteless, so you’ll never again see it at my Thanksgiving table. A few years ago, we bought a whole turkey, but had to get the butcher to chop it into quarters because it wouldn’t fit in our oven. And because we were just a small crowd that year, we only roasted one quarter. Do you know what it’s like to face three turkey quarters in your freezer every time you open it, dreading the day you have to use it up? Scarred for life.

The next Thanksgiving a friend kindly offered to do the turkey at her house and bring it over. Except her oven sort of caught fire while they were out at the store and the fire brigade had to break down their door to rescue the bird.

So, me and turkey? Not best buds.

On the side we’d have Bacon Brussel Sprouts Gratin, and sweet potatoes roasted in foil  – with little bowls of brown sugar and butter scattered around the table for you to sprinkle liberally on the steaming insides. There would be mashed potatoes made by The Philosopher. And a fluffy salad featuring rocket/arugula, cucumber, cherry tomato, and spinach, tossed in a balsamic glaze. Maybe some roasted pecans for those of us whom nuts wouldn’t kill (i.e. not me).

And when we’d shared a prayer, and dug in to the feast, and stuffed ourselves silly, we’d take a break to breathe deep and loosen our belts. You’d roll your eyes as I made everyone at the table name three things they were thankful for this past year, and one thing they felt excited about for the year ahead — but you’d all indulge me, and I like to think you’d benefit from the exercise a bit too.

And then: pie. Oh pie!

This year I’d attempt Brown Sugar Maple Pumpkin Pie, and Apple Cranberry Pumpkin Pie  and of course my mother’s Chocolate Pecan Pie that always steals the show. We’d have cream for the Brits, and vanilla ice cream for the Americans, and we’d all have a slice of each pie though our bellies would protest each bite.

Then some of us would pass out on the couch wrapped in a blanket, while others would insist on doing my dishes, and someone might even propose putting on a bit of Michael Buble. I wouldn’t object. The Philosopher would whip out Mindtrap and I would groan and counter with Articulate, and because it’s Thanksgiving we’d play both until the laughter hurt our ribs.

And when you’d all stumbled out into the dark night, the room suddenly empty of your warmth and good company, I’d look at my husband and say: “Let’s do this again soon.”

And he’d grin. “Next year? Same time, same place?”

And I’d not want to wait that long to do it all over again.

Thank you, friends near and far, for your excellent love.  Wishing I could hug you tight tonight, and tell you all the reasons that you are wonderful. Happy Thanksgiving!