Sunday, 14 August 2011

We've Moved

So - I've shifted my blog over to WordPress - here!

For the summer, it's random musings and photos when I can - but two weeks from today I'll be leaving for Athens, and a new adventure in Greece!

Stay tuned.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Retrospective: Lavenham

(First things first - I am done with my Arabic orals!! Listening was Thursday and speaking was yesterday. I'm sure both could have gone better, but I was expecting them to be pretty rough. In any case they are now behind me - the focus shifts towards the five, three-hour written exams I have ahead of me beginning a week from Monday. Yay! Until then - literally nothing - no classes, lectures, supervisions or assignments. Just library!)

As a result, I decided to recap one of my adventures from earlier this year, when Dad came to visit me around my birthday in February. A true Poseidon adventure! Dad had originally planned to come for Lent Bumps (which I rambled about here), but I told him the wrong dates (major fail, trust me, I know..) By the time I figured it out, the flights were booked and there was no changing them.

So Dad arrived the weekend before Bumps - with a full getaway planned! On Friday night he treated me to sushi, which seemed like a good idea at the time. We planned to depart earlyish on Saturday morning, but I woke up at ~4am and headed straight to the bathroom to be sick (that is British speak for vomit.. yeah..). So, maybe it was the sushi, who knows, but something wasn't right. After a second trip to the loo, and a small bowl of Jell-o, I felt better so to the train station we went!

Looovely day! (The photo from above was from the next day :) )
The train from Cambridge wasn't running because of 'engineering works,' so after a bus to Bury St Edmunds, and a bit of standing around in confusion waiting for a bus to Lavenham, a friendly bus driver finally explained we were waiting in the wrong station. In any case, we figured it out eventually. By this point I was feeling pretty horrible, and the bus motion and dreary weather weren't helping. I'm sure I was a pretty miserable travel companion.

We arrived at our destination - the tiny town of Lavenham - and made our way to our hotel, The Swan. The Swan is probably the main attraction in the village, and understandably so. The oldest part of it was built in 1400, and the character has certainly been well preserved. Unfortunately, by this point I was in major need of rest and some warmth. I crawled into bed for a short nap - curled between the radiator and a space heater wearing all the layers I had - and accidently slept until dinner time. (Sorry Dad :( )

I crawled out to visit the bar around dinner time, which was excellent. Very 'typical English pub,' with the added bonus of having been the meeting place for British and American service men stationed in Lavenham during WWII. Dad continued to try and feed me, so we got some soup (which was good, even though I didn't eat much). And that was about the extent of our activity for the first day!

On Sunday I felt much much better (for real this time), and we headed to the hotel's fabulous restaurant for breakfast. I have to admit, there isn't much I love more than a really good breakfast. Despite the iffy stomach, I managed to 'force down' quite a lot of delicious toast, tea, and eggs benedict.

After eating as much as possible, we were left with a little time to explore the town. Fortunately, it's tiny, so there wasn't too much to see. Unfortunately, this brief walk was about all I got to see after spending the entire day preceding it inside the hotel. Boo. On the upside, the weather on Sunday was gorgeous, while Saturday was cold (although I think my fever skewed things a little) and rainy - so Sunday was the better day for photos anyway!

Back in Cam I managed to capture the gorgeous view of Great Court that makes up the header of the blog! And Dad and I headed to the Eagle for dinner - probably the most famous Cambridge pub, known for (also) being a hangout for RAF pilots as well as a meeting place of Watson & Crick.

Conclusion: Lavenham is gorgeous, and the Swan is even better. Just try not to be ill while you're there..

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Grind.

Back in Cambridge after a whirlwind trip home. Although it was pretty exhausting, both mentally and physically, the unexpected joy of seeing 100% of my mom's immediate/extended family was pretty great. After the grueling study schedule I'd been keeping, an escape was both needed and welcome. The more time I spend with my family, the more I realise how awesome they are. Their presence was just what I needed.

The only issue was the state I found myself in after arriving back in Cam yesterday. Running on who knows how little sleep, the transition from being surrounded by 20+ loving relatives to being back alone in my room with nothing but impending exams to keep me company was tough. I went to bed at 8pm yesterday (English time - my body is so confused..) and feel better after a good solid sleep. For the past few weeks I've been so stressed falling asleep has been tough, even though I've been sleepy. I think it all finally caught up with me. I also had my last lectures of term, and thus, of my undergraduate career. A pretty bizarre concept really.

Now all that's left are the exams themselves! Yay. I have my Arabic listening exam tomorrow afternoon, and Arabic speaking/conversation on Friday afternoon. I'm pretty nervous, but at this point there's not much else to be done. The benefit and drawback of language learning is that cramming doesn't help much. There is always a bit of extra vocab to learn, but again you can only stuff so much in your brain.

For now I'm sitting back, doing a bit of light reading about the 'Abbasid caliphate, and planning on another early night. Tomorrow I'll do some more revision, and spend the day with BBC Arabic in the background - looking forward to 5pm tomorrow when I can take my new running shoes on a spin around Cambridge! (more on them later, but as a teaser - they're bright blue!) Tasty Kakes and tea are sustaining me, as is the thought that all of this will be over in less than three weeks. Totally doable, right?

This sounds really grim - I'm sorry! Things are not as bleak as this post makes them seem. Positive things: my parents sent me back with a suitcase full of food. And I mean literally full. American staples like Reese's Cups, Tasty Kakes, Peanut Butter Puffins, Sunflower Butter, M&M's, Love Grown Granola, Luna Bars, chocolate from the one and only Abington Pharmacy which has been a family staple for years, etc.

Plus, our trip to Philly included not only much needed family time but some delicious eats! First of all cheesesteak, of course from the classic destination, Jim's.

On Saturday we took the entire family to Ralph's - our family's traditional gathering place in South Philly. We've been coming here for as long as I can remember, but I'm not sure we've ever made it with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins at once.

We are many..

A toast, to an incredible group of relatives!

Followed by incredible eats - the classic mussels in red sauce -

I tried Chicken Sorrento for the first time, and man it was good - drenched in cheese, butter and white wine cream sauce. Om nom nom.

Some more tasty things..

And finally.. a cannoli. Apologies for the horrific photo, light was getting bad this late into the meal :)

Driving through Center City/South Philly is always fun too.

On Sunday the parents and I set out to do a little more exploring in South Philly. I was feeling pretty awful - tired and hungry, but the aforementioned cheesesteak cleared things up. Plus this guy made me smile.

We explored the old part of the city, which I loved. History nerd! :)

We visited a convenient store to stock up on the goods - Tasty Kakes! A Philadelphia staple.

I was equally excited to finally get to try the craze that seems to be everywhere in America, but no where in England - frozen yoghurt!

This was A.mazing. Cake batter, chocolate, peanut butter cup, and watermelon flavour yoghurt; chocolate chips, raspberries, mango, peanut butter chips, gummie bears, reese's cups, and more that got buried on top. So amazing.

Overall, not a bad way to spend a few days in the middle of Cambridge exam term, if I do say so..

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Some brief glimpses of life recently. I've stayed true to my plan to work/live in the library, but that doesn't mean I still don't take my camera everywhere I go!

Sadly this means my little camera - the more I use the big guy, the more inadequate the little guy becomes. So sad - but I still love him!

Last Friday, Julia finished her exams and I spread out my work in the BA Kitchens while she celebrated the best way I can imagine - baking!

Julia made Nanaimo Bars - a Canadian specialty apparently.

I definitely approve - they were crumbly digestive biscuit, almond, coconut, cocoa powder base, some kind of custardy, creamy, sugary middle layer (my least favourite part..), and then a chocolate layer on top - all stuck in the fridge and then cut into bars. Delicious.

The same day I received a surprise in the mail!

I have excellent parents :) Inside were M&M's, Reese's Eggs, Peeps, and LOVE!

On Saturday I took a break from the books to celebrate a tried and true European tradition - Eurovision. Vaguely similar to American Idol, except it began in the 50s! Every country in 'Europe' (extremely loosely defined - Azerbaijan won this year..) submits an act and the rest of Europe vote on their favourite. Both ABBA and Celine Dion began their careers with Eurovision! This is now the third year I've watched, and it is great. Some truly terrible songs, costumes, and talents, so we really watch for the spectacle rather than the music. Plus after each country has performed their song, they go through the votes again by country, and the geopolitical dimension of it is amusing. For example, Britain votes for Ireland, Cyprus votes for Greece, Portugal votes for Spain, etc..

Julia brought the Nanaimo Bars out, and by the end of the night I was scraping out the middle layer to get more of the chocolatey bit. :) Naughty naughty, but they are good!

I always cheer for Greece, of course. There they are, slightly blurry..

Plus, a few weeks ago I was harangued into going down to the river to bankparty one of our men's crews for a race. Not such a bad way to spend an hour or two - cycling leisurely up and down the river, watching instead of rowing.. In the end we had a small emergency that resulted in me having to jump into a boat myself and row a 4k race in denim shorts and a t-shirt. Not ideal, but hey.. At least it was sunny..ish.

No photos of me, sadly. Not one of my finest rowing moments in any case so I'm fine with a lack of documentation..

Finally, on Sunday the Student Union Welfare people hosted some kind of relaxation afternoon. I wasn't going to go, but met a friend who was on her way, as I was on my way to (guess where! it starts with L!). So I turned around and just went to see what they had conjured up.

Yes, that is a bouncy castle! Across the river were inflatable Sumo suits - I'm not sure how to describe it.. 

You can vaguely see the people in the massive suits. I think the point is to hit each other with something, but obviously wearing an inflatable sumo suit is unwiedly.. I have no idea, but it was funny to watch from a distance.

And, on that slightly bizarre note..back to important questions like the religious fabric of pre-Islamic Arabia!