Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Colleges Open for Students = Mayhem

Photo Credit: Fitzbillies Homepage

Term begins this week.  Which means, lots of students with their parents, and multiple IKEA bags are swarming the city and colleges of Cambridge.

I realize that for the past 2 years I have been living in a college town (Berkeley), but somehow I never really noticed this. Unless you go directly to the part of town where UC Berkeley is, or you're associated with the school in some way, you can pretty much ignore the swarming hordes of undergraduates, which I quite liked. Living in Cambridge, a town that's about 3 miles across at it's widest point, it's hard not to notice the mayhem, or to even avoid peripheral participation by mere proximity.

I remember how much of a pain it was to move into the dorms, apartment complexes, and houses of Iowa City on the same day that the rest of the city was trying to do the same thing. The impossibility of finding a place to park your car or Penske/Uhaul moving truck. Smashing the Penske truck review mirror on a street sign (oops!) Fighting the crowds at Target for your toaster, microwave and shower caddy. Convincing your parents that if they could help you move just one more time, it would be the last time, because this was the house/apartment/room-mate situation that was going to stick.

I think in total, from the time I moved from my hometown until I graduated from undergraduate, I moved 10 times. Ten times! And they weren't just small moves either; to Arizona for one lousy semester at University of AZ (yuck), to University of Iowa, between dorms, home for the summer, to an apartment, to France, back from France, to an house, to New York for the summer, back to Iowa City . . .  And from there the moving list goes on but I'll spare us both the details (roughly another 20 moves from there until sitting here in England, but I digress).

Devin and I spent the morning and early afternoon downtown to live amongst the mayhem for a bit, and to see a few things we've not yet seen.

First to Fitzbillies Café where it was recommended to try their sticky buns (see photo above) and tasty coffee. We visited the little tiny café side shop along the actual restaurant as we just wanted to nosh our goodies and go.  I wish I'd taken more photos of the interior of the side café because it was absolutely, beautifully simple with clean lines, light colors, and simple, simple decor.  From sitting inside at the single, long wooden shared seating table looking out to the surrounding brick buildings, you could easily believe you were in a different time altogether.  Even the lighting was perfectly designed and impressive, see?

Mixing Bowl With Neato Lightbulb

After coffee we strolled around town, visited a few bike shops in search of yet more biking gear, and also stopped by the local Art and Craft Market that takes place every weekend in a church courtyard.  Devin bought a new wallet because English money doesn't fit in his current wallet and so this is his new money-holder. (Wes: Devin said you'd laugh out loud when you saw this picture, are you laughing?)

Later that evening we attended a concert/benefit for a local Music as Therapy non-profit group that has been working to introduce the field of music therapy in countries such as Romania, Rwanda, and Peru to name just a few. 

From their website: When Music as Therapy began working in Romania in 1995, our core activity was the provision of Introductory Music Therapy Training Projects. These equipped local staff with the skills, experience, materials and confidence to run music programmes addressing the psychological, emotional, social and behavioural difficulties experienced by the adults and children in their care.

The benefit lasted about 3 hours and several musicians of all ages, and musical backgrounds performed. 
It was great to sit and absorb live music in a beautiful hall, and to have the opportunity to see the music therapist from Addenbrooke's hospital perform on the accordion. 

Michaelhouse Café

That evening, when we cycled home past many of the University Colleges, we could hear the sounds of the newly arrived students laughing, talking loudly, and modern music thumping from buildings that date back to the 14th and 15th century. Snuggling down for the night, with dreams of sticky buns dancing in our heads. (Want to try one? You can, Fitzbillies ship their sticky buns world-wide!)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This Week In Brief

Caught on bike in an ABSOLUTE DELUGE.
Banking Fiascos
Art Therapy Job Hunt. Major Push.

Attended Newcomers & Visiting Scholar's Coffee Hour @ University Centre
Purchased Art Supplies
Used New Art Supplies (!)
Art Therapy Job Hunt Continues
Pints The Elm Tree Pub with Devin's Lab-mates

Purchased Rain Pants & Wind Gloves (Refer to Monday)
Paneer Bag Hunting
Crossroads Care Open House & Interview-ish Thing
Epic Grocery Backpack Run (10 mile round trip ride)
Devin Goes to Pool. Devin Misses UC Berkeley Pools.

Knitting & Crochet Group (I'm knitting, I'm knitting!)
Art Therapy Job Hunting & Applications
Having Dinner at Koohinoor with Devin's Lab-mates

Friday (Tomorrow)
Anglesey Abbey with friends
More Banking. More Job Hunting.

Home: A Photo Post

Today I learned to knit. 
Two days ago I bought the same silverware we had when I was growing up.

Real Towels, because we got tired of camping towels.

At different ages, but the same spirit.  We're holding hands.

Beans for lunch.

Beans I say!!

64 Stairs to Home

Bike Parking at Forster Court

Building Foyer

Daily City Market

Town: On Wednesday

A tiny glimpse into what my day looks like running errands around Cambridge.

Cambridge City Centre

My Favorite Sign So Far


All Along The Bike Trail. Yum!

Weekend Around Town


So much to share with you!  I feel like I've not done a proper post for some time now.  The tales of adventure and photos that accompany them are piling up in my head an on the camera roll.

Enough!  Time to blog it out.

Last Friday
Devin's lab was taken on a tour of the Botanic Gardens, and I got to tag along! (Nah na,h nah nah, naaah-nah!) What a beautiful, historical garden with plants from all around the world.  The tour was about an hour and a half, so it felt like we barely scratched the surface of all it contains.  There were art students scattered throughout, sketching plants and landscapes on large format paper.  It made my fingers itchy to do some drawing.

After the tour we had lunch with a big group of employees from the Leyser lab.  Everyone Devin works with seems so nice, and so welcoming.  They even made cupcakes as a going away party for an undergraduate.  These are my kind of people!

This guys is sayin', "Yay Cupcakes!"

Later that afternoon I met a friend at the Fitzwilliam Museum in central Cambridge.  The museum is ALWAYS free.  It's a fantastic place, with gallery after gallery of works to explore.  We took a cursory sweep around the premise, and then had some tea in the café.  I had visited the Fitzwilliam on our last visit, and would like to go again so I can pick and choose the rooms I want to spend time in.  So wonderful and so important to have museums be free and open to the public (though I'm happy to support the arts financially as well).  Truly allows for you to take your time and absorb the artworks at you leisure.

Decanter. Wicked old. And with multiple animal heads.

Devin and I biked around Cambridge so I could show him areas he's not yet had a chance to see.
We visited part of town called Granta Place.  The area is full of discount shops, thrift stores and cafés. From there we walked down Mill Road a very eclectic strip with multiple foreign food markets, restaurants and of course more cafés.  We were pretty excited to find some super groovy stores, and finally found tempeh!  Though it was frozen (we don't have a freezer) and costly we bought it anyway.

Photo Credit
After throughly exploring the length of the street we stopped on our walk back north at Café de Paris and had some panini sandwiches and coffee.  We meandered through town back to our abode and crashed out for most the afternoon.  That night we ate dinner at India House, which was pretty tasty, but not my all time favorite.  I'm hoping we go to it's neighbor The Rice Boat sometime soon.  We ate at The Rice Boat on our previous visit and I liked it so much more than India House.  Just my personal preference.

We couldn't go home without visiting a pub to complete our day out.  We walked just over Mill Pond to a pub named, The Anchor.  The pub dates back to 1864 and sits directly alongside the River Cam. It's a rather spacious place, full bar and of course a full pub food menu. Devin got a tasty ale, and I ordered a face kicking peaty whisky, which Devin had to drink since I couldn't (I stole as much of his beer as possible instead).

Photo Credit

Rain. Rain. Rain.
Lots of internet surfing, reading books, and eating food.  That afternoon we Skyped with the O'Connor's and Oggel's as they were hanging out together in Santa Fe for the weekend.  Needless to say, Devin and I couldn't be more pleased that our parents all get along so famously (or so it seems!).  How perfect that they all like one another and actually hang out together when we aren't around! Absolutely fabulous! (Unintended British television program reference)

That evening we took a rainy walk along the path next to our field and then through different areas of the Coton Nature Reserve. We were popped out at this totally charming church smack in the middle of town (if you can call Coton a town).

We then started to wander back toward Cambridge and home soggy but happy for our adventure.  However in order to get back on the trail home, one must pass the Coton Pub, The Plough.  I think its pretty much impossible to pass up going into a warm dry pub, on a soggy Sunday night.  And so we drank two pints in this charming place, and ate olives and bread.  Oh so good.  Boy do we have it rough.

Photo Credit

A lovely way to end a lovely weekend.
It's pretty amazing to feel like you're on vacation with each adventure you undertake.
Definitely my favorite perk of living in a foreign country, even the small stuff is a new adventure!

Thanks for reading this epic post!  Congratulations on making it to the end!

The Sky: Unfiltered

These were taken with my crappy iPhone 3gs camera, so I'm not working with great equipment here.

I inform you of this in order to better impress upon you how utterly fantastic the skies are here in Cambridge.  Is it just because we have a view over a huge field? Perhaps.  

These are the sort of vistas that inspire people to create, to paint, to photograph or to simply sit in wonder of it all.

Nice job sky.  Way to inspire greatness and jaw-dropping awe.

Wednesday Morning

Thursday 1:00pm

Tuesday Late Afternoon

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Around the Web

Happy Wednesday!  Here's my latest installment of Around the Web. Enjoy!

An interesting article I found through the Society of Arts in Healthcare monthly newsletter about art and neuroscience. Interesting read.

Speaking of art, did you know the history of the famous Pantone colors

A fascinating project called The Empowerment Plan:
"The plan centers around a coat that is self-heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night. The coat is made by a group of homeless women who have been paid to learn and to produce the coats for those living on the streets."

Hey crafty Father-in-Law (I'm talking to you Greg), can you make us a set of these?
Or if that's too time consuming, how about this instead?

The blog, The House That Lars Built featured a cool installation by artists Gerda Stein and Jorg Lenzlinger.  If I ever have a super high bedroom ceiling I just might do this.

Bike Tours for Foodies.  Pedal on and get some grub.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Telegrams. Full stop.

Lately I've been reading books that are set in the early 1900's through the 1940's.  Many of which feature London or the English countryside.  Between the books, and riding my bike through this crazy beautiful, historical town I've developed a sweet spot for old-fashioned things.

And then I happened upon this post, which got me kind of excited.
This is the company she speaks of in her post, and I think it's just a brilliant idea (if a tad bit expensive).
The nostalgic, ephemera-loving part of me really likes the idea of a telegram being sent in present day when we have the internets to connect us at the touch of a fingertip.  It got me thinking about the last time i wrote a letter or sent a postcard.  I think it must have been years ago when I was living in France or Florida (bit of a difference between those two locations and lifestyles . . .).  How many penmanships of your loved ones would you recognize today?  Would friends and family know a letter was from you just from seeing the handwriting in the address?

I realize letter writing is far different from telegram sending, but just the same . . .
Would you ever send a telegram or write a letter to a friend/family member instead of shooting off an email or a text message?

A Love Letter. Found at 490 41st Street, Oakland

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Great Internet Blessing

Ah, to be online.  Untethered.  Freely streaming.

Amazing how many references I could make to being online and being out in nature.
Let me tell you, moving to a foreign country without internet or phones makes getting settled a bit of a hassle.  You have to actually talk to people and use paper maps.  Must be just like what the pilgrims experienced.  A hard life indeed.

But I digress.
We have the interwebs now.  Ahhhhhh.
And there's so much to tell you!

In list format (I love me some bullet points) this was yesterday:


  • Rode bike to Addenbrooke's Hospital to meet with a Music Therapist
  • LOVED the Music Therapist! (Instrument of choice: Accordion!)
  • Visited bike store #1.  Test rode an amazing bike.  Rode it to Devin's work.  Devin loved it too.
  • Tried to find another bike store.  Got lost.  Sat in grassy field, ate some snacks.

Lost and Snacking

  • Visited bike store #2.  Test rode a so-so hybrid bike. Dogged tourists. 'Eh' about the bike
  • Bought a Brie and to-MA-toe sandwich. Yum!  Ate in sun on crazy-old college steps.
  • Visited bike store #3.  Test rode the worst bike of them all.  Ew.
  • Returned rental bike. Walked past cows, finished sandwich.
  • Returned to bike store #1.  Purchased bike! As well as some bike accoutrements. 1 hour before bike was ready to ride.
  • Plopped down in pub (The Prince Regent).  Bought a pint from a bartender named Hayley.  Read through Music Therapy stuff from Addenbrooke's.  Invited Devin to ditch work and join me.
  • Devin joined me at pub.  More beer.  Picked up bike!
  • Rode to another pub (The Red Bull) known for their pizza.

The Red Bull Pub (Bad name, Good food)

  • Beer.  Pizza (so good!). Soup & Salad.
  • Bike ride through the cool night home.
  • Book reading and bedtime.

My Trusty New Steed

That's all for this post.
More tomorrow about my exciting trip to a new grocery store, waiting for the internet install guy, and learning to follow an actual crochet pattern.  Don't hold your breath!

Over and out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Around the Web

Reading the Guernsey book got me curious to see what it looked like. I had no idea . . . (above photo)

How annoying do you think it would be to drink from this cup?

Would you go see a movie about Happiness?

I think this is a great idea for people who make or teach art. (Sadie, are you reading?!)

Okay so I wouldn't take photos quite like the samples, but the filter idea is pretty rad.

A new take on egg carton design.

These might inspire me to learn how to knit (oh can't I crochet them?)

Hong Sungchul might be one of my new (to me) favorite artists. Like woah, it's string.

Festival of Ideas in Cambridge.  What free talks would you go to?

Feeling bummed that summer is over? Build an urban sandcastle.

That is all.

One Week, Small Victories

Holes made gradually as water drops over a period of time           Photo Credit

I feel the need to list all the things we've accomplished in a week's time because the list ahead of us still feels long and arduous.  I'm hoping this list will be a cathartic exercise and make me feel as though I've actually done some things to help us settle.

  • Got Devin a working SIM card so we have some form of internet/communication
  • Registered with the utilities company
  • Scheduled an internet installation
  • Called to receive an application, to get an appointment, to register for our National Insurance number (notice the number of bureaucratic steps in that sentence)
  • Set up bank accounts
  • Successfully transfered bank funds (after a long Skype call with a US bank)
  • Completed all apartment inventory paperwork, hand delivered to accommodation service
  • Registered for Council Tax, hand delivered to tax office
  • Discovered my phone was in fact NOT unlocked, re-ordered the unlock from a dumb-dumb-head US phone company (!!!!!!)
  • Met multiple strangers/Attended 2 different newcomer groups
  • Purchased Whiskey (okay, that one was easy, but feels like a huge success!)

I'm really tempted to write a list of all the things that are in limbo, didn't work out smoothly, are driving me crazy, etc., etc. I'm going to stop myself from making that list because the point was for this post to have some level of catharsis, and if I go there I'm pretty confident I'll feel defeated. 

I'm now off to conquer the laundry machines.  Oh, to have coin-operated washers and dryers on the ground level of an altogether different building. . .  Berkeley outdoor-shed-non-coin-operated-machines, I didn't know how good I had it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Biking in Cambridge


2.1 miles:  Home to JobCenter for National Insurance application
1.7 miles: JobCenter to Bee Hive shopping area
2.2 miles: Bee Hive to Bicycle Shop
0.3 miles: Bicycle Shop to Cell Phone Store
0.1 miles: Cell Phone Store to Bank
0.4 miles: Bank to Grocery
1.5 miles: Grocery to Home

8.3 miles of bike riding around town today. Granted it's all flat, but my excuse for my fatigue is that there's a strong headwind any time you head west, and my rental bike is a tank.

The best part of the my bike tour today was that I took the path all along the river near the northern edge of town.  A beautiful ride, surrounded by green fields of grass, colorful narrow river boats and grazing cows. (Yep. Cows graze in town on the park grasses!)

Photo Credit and Cute Blog Post

Seeing all the Narrowboats lined up along the River Cam got me thinking . . . Maybe when we go on holiday sometime we'll rent one of the narrow boats and go explore the waterways of England!

Wikipedia Photo

Now home, drinking peppermint and eucalyptus tea, going through my RSS feeds, and preparing to dig back into my book

Incase you feel like continuing to read from the web check out:
A new post from one of my favorite blogs: Reclaiming Wife.  I definitely found myself relating to a few things she said in her article.  Worth a read if you and your partner have ever moved or considered moving (abroad or otherwise).

Hope everyone is having a lovely start to their week.
Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homemade Tortillas

Just a quick post. I saw this while internet trolling today.

Have you ever made your own tortillas?  Somehow I thought I'd need a press to make these, but it appears not?  Dreaming of making some when our kitchen (and rest of the home) arrives in early October.


Blind Dinner Date Win!

Devin and I had our first social "blind date" tonight with a couple from the Seattle area.  I met A.B. (one half of the couple) from a Cambridge Newcomer & Visiting Scholar's group on The Book of Face.  

A.B. insisted on having her husband J.B. pick us up in their car and drive us to and from their lovely home in South Cambridge (a short 4 miles away, but a welcome car ride on a cool, windy evening).  A. & J. live in a LOVELY English house with two kitties (but we only laid eyes on one) and are an absolute wealth  of knowledge when it comes to getting settled and integrated into the Cambridge and UK life.  They've lived here approximately a year and seem to really love it here.  Their enthusiasm is contagious and I can't help but feel we've found a winning pair of friends! 

We spent three leisurely hours talking over wine, cheese, tasty salad and home-made individual pizzas. There wasn't a moment when conversation was lacking or when we were at odds with what to say next.  What a pleasure it was to meet them, and an encouraging introduction to our new social circle here in the shire. :-)

A.B. promised to introduce me to an extended group of people at a Tuesday morning coffee group, and tells me that when "term" begins there will be a wealth of events, lectures, and shows to attend.  She got me pretty jazzed about all there is to do in Cambridge.  I can't wait to learn about all the happenings around town.

Earlier today Devin went to the lab to meet his former boss from UC Berkeley.  She stopped by Cambridge on her way from Norwich, heading to Oxford.  Devin seemed to really enjoy catching up with her, talking shop about current work happenings, and sharing with her his newest adventure at the Sainsbury Institute.  I had planned to meet them for lunch, but since her train from Norwich was cancelled and she only had a couple of hours in town, the two of them spent the time together while I walked the trail around the fields near our home.

Most of my day was spent doing the following things in random, repetitive order:
·       Looking for a bike on (think Craigslist)
·       Walking along fallow fields.
·       Editing my resume (yes, I’m still working on that).
·       Job hunting on depressing internet job search sites, which lead to . . .
·       Researching yoga/meditation classes.
·       Seeking out and finding yarn and craft stores (Awesome ones, I might add!) (Michelle R. I thought specifically of you when I found this store that has its own Ravelry inventory!)
·       Building a personalized Google Map for all the things in Cambridge I thought would be useful to us or visiting guests.
·       Reading my latest novel: The Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
·       Eating cookies.

Since the only internet service we currently have is from Devin’s phone, he’s been leaving me with his phone, and sometimes takes my phone with him to work so he at least can tell what time it is.  When he returned from work today my phone had this awesome picture waiting for me.  And no, there’s no filter on this picture, that’s just how a plaque looks when HRH The Queen of England has blessed a building.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

First Saturday

We are either lazy or jet-lagged.

We slept until about 9:15 this morning and had a s . l . o . w . start to the day.  But once we got off our duffs and shut down our various technological devices we made a lovely day of our first Saturday in Cambridgeshire (because we live in a shire now, which in itself is awesome by the way).

We hopped on our rented cycles and headed two miles west to the tiny village of Coton (civil parish according to Wikipedia).  There's not much to see in Coton, but it's a lovely bike ride along golden and green fields, through tree-canopied pathways and a windy bit of road.  Our destination was the Coton Orchard Garden Centre (notice the mixed up "r" and "e") which is best described like a conglomerate rock: part grocery, part garden center, part clothing/gift shop, part cafe, PLUS an apple orchard. It's quite a mix of goods.  The only thing of use to use was the grocery section where we purchased a few things for lunch, and a couple of other things for the kitchen at home.

The most exciting of these purchases you ask?
Well it was undoubtedly:

Followed by a close second, the Sweet Pepper and Goat Cheese Filo Tart:

Other exiting things we saw at the garden center: Port Marion dishes! I include this specifically for my Mom and Tom who have these dishes and love them.  You'll both be happy to know you can buy this china at a road side store, in a town with a population of ~770 people in the middle of nowhere England.  How cool is that?  I didn't actually check the prices on these, but heck, if they're cheaper and you break a dish, let me know!  I'll toss some in my handy cruiser bike basket and mail them back to the states for you!

Finally, let's face it, the mug I purchased for Devin is so freaking cool, there's no way the mug I bought for myself could even compare so I'm sharing my new mug with you in an altogether separate post so let his mug stand alone in glory.  But here's mine for a bargain price of £0.75, it's getting the job done and allows me to pour a tall cuppa in the morning so not have to turn on the turbo electric tea kettle twice in the morning.  

And this last photo is for my friend and colleague Maya.  Are these the ones  you told me about? I think they might be, and if so, I can see why.  They are delicious!!  Want me to send you tube of them?  They can replace the cookies at Wednesday staff meetings . . .

After a lunch at home in our sunny and warm apartment (thank the gods), we rode into Cambridge to explore a potential bike purchase for me.  We're renting bikes at the moment, but the sooner I can buy a bike the better.  Devin's bike is on it's way in our shipping crate, but I left my narrow wheeled speedy at home hoping to buy a more mellow bike for the flats of Cambridge.  We visited about 4 bike shops, but unfortunately the shop where I'd like to test ride a few were about to close for the day.  I plan to head back Monday and try out a few hybrid cycles, as the classic cruiser of my rental bike just isn't working out for me (they are cute and all but heavy and slow). 

Our final stop was at Marks & Spenser (a department store + grocer?) and bought a bottle of wine and a box of truffles as a gift to the couple who have invited us to dinner at their place tomorrow night.  We've never met this couple in person, but thanks to the Book of Face and a Cambridge Newcomer group I joined, we met online.  Meeting people online has worked in my favor in the past (Please meet my husband, Devin), so I figure we can meet friends this way too.  

Tonight we sit snug in our apartment, reading books and papers, the door wide open as the sun sets pink and purple over the open field. Things are shaping up nicely and we're feeling pretty happy with ourselves and our decision to live here.  Tomorrow, we have our first of what we hope will be many visitors.  

So the question stands, who is coming to visit us next? (besides Greg and Edie :-), See you both in November!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

For the Love of Science

Devin's fancy new lab has it all.
Truly.  Seriously.  Check it out.
Private bathrooms, a locker, showers, and lots of grant money.

But it was missing one thing.  While it has a kitchen with all the bells and whistles, he thought he should have a designated, personal coffee cup.  You know, so not to share cooties with the other scientists.

Today while out running around town, I found him a mug at Oxfam, a second hand shop, for £0.95
It is perfect, don't you think?  I told him that when people ask him how he does his science he should say he uses The Force.