Lately.

carousel_s1. Rehearsals for Carousel (get your tickets!!) have been ramping up in recent weeks, on top of the usual evening commitments. Although it’s tiring to be out nearly every night, I have more energy these days than I have in a long time. What is it they say about finding your truest passion? Something like: it’s the thing you can do for hours without realizing the time that’s slipping by.

Or may that’s just what they say about sleeping.

Either way (whether sleeping or performing), I am so thankful this season.

2. I am especially enjoying my lunchtime walks around Jericho, where everything but the walls have fallen down on this building.

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3. This cookie cake (recipe halved) took 20 minutes to whip up and kept Peter and I very happy through a depressing episode of Silk. Serves 4? I don’t think so…

 

4. Every time I grocery shop at Lidl, it deluges. Which truly baffles me because, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t actually rain every day here in Oxford. When I emerged from my last shop, the skies took pity on me… Just believe me when I say that it went all Lion King there for a moment as the sun set.

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5. I was out leafleting today for Carousel in Summertown, a very old (and very posh) part of Oxford. The houses are amazing — fully of little nooks, secret passageways, tiny gates overgrown with ivy… How’s this for a long walk to your front door? My shoulders almost brushed the walls as I walked down to the post box.

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My leafleting partner Hilary and I got complete drenched on our two hour expedition…  You can’t tell in this photo, but my scarf, jacket, jeans, and whole face to be honest, is actually dripping with rain. The things we do for art!

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6. Peter was at a conference in Dublin this week where he participated in philosophical sparring, Guinness imbibing, and Ryanair haggling. He had a blast (without me! I’m still waiting for my spousal invite to one of these things…), and I didn’t put a great amount of effort into a homecoming welcome. That said, I’m pretty proud of my self-portraiture here. And check out those bikes! Best bikes I’ve ever drawn! Pictionary, anyone? You’re going down. 

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7. Finally, this guy blew me away on Cornmarket last week with his guitar playing/slapping. Wow.

Saturday.

With turn of the clocks, it’s starting to feel like the sunlight hours are incredibly precious. I cycle to work as the sun rises and come home in the pitch-dark. I can no longer feel my toes for most of the day.

Winter has its upsides, of course. Hot chocolate. Butternut squash. New mittens. Singing Silent Night in the shower. Curling up with a book and a blanket. Watching Frozen on repeat (wait – you guys have been doing that all summer? Without me?!)

But when Saturday warmed up for one last hurrah before dipping down into winter, I had to chase it.

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Homes on the river… barbecue and lifesaver ready.

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Railroad track graveyard?

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Hidden ponds.

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Are they seagulls, or… sharks?

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All kinds of blue going on here.

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Gravel for miles.

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Is it me, or… Two-Face?
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Lately.

1) At risk of sounding like the wimp that I am… I really hate cycling in the rain. Nothing’s worse than arriving at the office looking like a river rat and then having to sit in wet jeans for the next five hours. Wet jeans are the worst (except for maybe turtlenecks. Or other pressing global issues.).river rat

2) Baby bok choi: it exists and it’s otherworldly. Just looking at this picture The Violinist sent me gives me the shivers. Though that could be caused by my wet jeans, come to think of it.

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3) Runaway grapes! Our neighbor is an extraordinary gardener and she has bred some very robust grapes this year. They have crept over our fence and are languishing on the vine – hundreds of them. Suggestions welcome. But please note: grape jam is disgusting and I will not entertain the mere thought of making any.

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4) Our light shades throw geometric shapes onto the ceiling and walls. It’s mostly cool and a little bit weird.

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5) I love my new morning Saturday tradition – fresh pain au chocolat stuffed with raspberry jam!! Tesco’s finest, baby. And accompanied by weak tea, apparently – though I am taking your suggestions to heart. Our poll shows a 3 minute brew with 2% milk is as close to “normal” as it gets.

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6) Remember our Indian summer, Oxfordians? Lest you forget, with all this rain… it happened. 2 weeks ago.

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7) Finally, this poster really tickled me. But it worked – I did visit the website. Which tickled me only slightly less than the poster.

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On Bin Bags

After the great tea debate of last week, I feel like I’m airing my dirty laundry all over the world wide webernet. And I have to say, the feeling’s addictive.

So here’s another confession.

I don’t know how to buy bin bags (trash bags, bin liners, garbage sleeves, you know…). They’re too small, or they’re too industrial, or I get the ones with handles that keep flipping over into the trash which makes retrieving them a task performed at great personal peril.

Here’s my bin.

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Here’s me and my bin, (for size reference, natch).

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Here is an assortment of bin bags I’ve purchased over the last five years.

(For reference, that last one is called “tall and chunky bin liners”, which is wonderfully descriptive, don’t you think? Didn’t work for my bin though.)

Anyway.

You can see from the pictures how overdressed my bin currently is. My most recent bin bag purchase folds completely over it, which besides being a waste of plastic makes the bin look quite sad, I think. Like a kid who didn’t get the memo that it wasn’t a costume party, and came as Count Dracula. And then the other kids shunned him. Possibly taking the metaphor too far at this point.

I need help. Do I have a swing bin or a dustbin? Tie handle or drawstring? How many liters equates to size “medium”?!

And yes, in case you were wondering, I will be accepting bin liners in lieu of Christmas presents this year.

On “Normal Tea”

When I moved to Oxford 5 years ago, one of my early “baptisms by fire” was learning tea.

And when I say “fire”, I mean it. Once when preparing tea and coffee at the office, I pushed down the cafetiere plunger and the pressure exploded the glass. I got drenched in scalding coffee. And broken glass. And coffee grounds. And did I mention I was wearing white?

I soon learned that tea happened at pre-specified intervals: 9am, 11am, 2pm and 4pm. The 11am slot was always accompanied by cake, so naturally it was my favorite though the caffeine + sugar overload on an empty stomach was pretty disastrous for my work life. Trying to understand Scottish building contractors while high on adrenaline was… well, let’s just say I didn’t last long there.

At my next job, my coworker would only drink the tea I made if it had been stewed for no less than 5 minutes. If there was no tea scum floating on top, I knew I’d failed.

Another coworker liked very weak tea, which required quite a bit of fine motor maneuvering to dip the tea bag in by one corner without burning your fingers, then out after 8 seconds.

Another person wanted milk and one sugar, which, since sugar cubes are a thing of the past, was a tricky thing for me to master. What is one sugar? Units, please! [Still another person only drank silver tea, which is actually not tea at all, just hot water and a splash of milk. I also struggled a great deal with discerning what exactly constitutes “a splash”.]

After years of this, imagine my utter delight when recently my colleague took a sip of a tea I had prepared and said with surprise: “Sarah! This is a good cup of tea!”

I dread to think what she thought of the previous 400 cups I’d brewed for her.

The troubling thing is that all of these people called their particular cup of choice “normal tea”.

When taking tea orders and someone puts in the dreaded “normal tea” request, I blush and have to mumble something about “being a dumb American” and then, “so that’s with milk then?”, hoping against all hope I’ve nailed it.

But really, given the variables, it’s nearly impossible to make a cup of tea that’s just right for the drinker’s preferences. Strong! Weak! Milk! Sugar! Tea scum!

So, I think it’s time to settle this, once and for all, with a poll.

The question is very simple.

WHAT IS NORMAL TEA?!!