A Weekend in London

I’ve had “write London blog post” on my to-do list since I was on the train home, about two weeks ago. Like many things on the to-do list, it fell to the bottom and has been ignored for about two weeks. I figure it’s all about priorities .

During the first week of term (the second week I was here) I had the chance to go down to London for an Amnesty International + Channel 4 conference for student media. It was really cool opportunity to talk to some incredible journalists who work on Channel 4’s ‘Unreported World’ series, and some of the researchers for Amnesty.

While the event was just a Friday afternoon, I got to spend the rest of the weekend (because if I’m going that far, why not) enjoying London with one of my absolute favourites, Bethan. Since Bethan has decided graduating and moving away from Lancaster was an acceptable thing to do, I hadn’t seen her since I left for the summer, and now just anxiously await her visits to Lancaster.
Bethan’s lovely family allowed me to crash her mum’s birthday dinner on Friday night, which was generally delicious and a great time.

Saturday we headed into London for food (very important) and some planned art viewing before going to a show that evening.

  
(Very good Greek food at ‘The Real Greek’)

While food happened (priorities) we managed to distract ourselves with wonderful food and conversation for so long that we didn’t have time for art. Sad, but not the end of the world.

Wondering around the city doesn’t really lose it’s magic for me, so I followed Bethan like a lost puppy and stared at lots of pretty buildings for a while. We then managed to make our way to the theatre where the show was, with only a bit of time walking in the pouring rain.

  
A glass of wine and a bit of very needed drying off later, we headed upstairs to the theatre and saw “Buzz: the musical”, an incredible show put on by 9 recent graduates about a woman’s journey after a nasty breakup. It was historical, relatable, and generally hilarious. We left with cute merchandise and a need for that soundtrack.

  
We wrapped up our Saturday with more food, of course. As Bethan knows how much I love Mexican food (and how much I miss it) we had dinner at Wahaca, a delicious and adorable temporary restaurant in Southbank. Food is always best shared, so we did it all tapas style and honestly, I’m still craving those tacos.

  
Sunday started off slow, but with a 3+ hour train ride ahead of me, I sadly said goodbye to Bethan after some really good mac & cheese for lunch.

  

Did being gone all weekend mean I was tired for the busy week ahead? Did I miss my very first Buddhism lecture on Friday? Was it really, really great? Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you Bethan for a wonderful weekend, I’ll at least take to you Whaletail when you come up to Lancaster next.

SEPTEMBER

There is a point just before a trip or moving or an event where it hits you. And while the entire month of September was leading up to heading back to school, it didn’t hit me until the Saturday morning before I left. Standing in the shower with too much shampoo in my hair I suddenly realized I had basically 3 days before I left and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where all my months of summer went.

September is the month that gets squished in the preparation to go back to school. A year ago it was a mad (and incredibly stressful) rush to get visas and paperwork and packing done, and while this year the first two were taken care of, the latter was put off until the last minute again. The weeks leading up were filled with work (and more work, and some more work) and the usual doctors appointments. A few not as usual doctors appointments and an MRI, but everything was wrapped up in time for the trip back across the ocean.

  

I did manage to squeeze in a trip up to Dallas, in what seems to be becoming a tradition. That whirlwind trip aside, September was filled with family and home, as my last month in the country should be.

  

My last weekend may have been my favourite of the whole summer though. Thursday through Sunday were a family filled (thanks to Moo for coming home) string of fun, an incredible way to wrap up the break.

 

  

   

Of course September did mean that school activities started up, from getting class schedules (why do I still have all of Wednesday off, but class all day Friday?) to the first edition of SCAN (school newspaper). A number of skype meetings, grant proposals, and enough emails to rival my work emails later, everything seems (nearly) ready to go for the start of school, or at least Fresher’s week.

I’m back in Lancaster a few days before Fresher’s (Welcome) week, and a week and half before school actually starts. Why I thought being a Fresher’s Rep (our version of RA’s – don’t live on campus, most of the focus is during the first week) was a good idea I will never know. A theme that seems to be reoccurring in my life.

  

September is wrapping up from my new house (which will be a post of its own), very far away from where it started.

Alex

AUGUST

I don’t quite know how it’s already September. It feels like July started just yesterday. As the middle of my 3-month summer, my August was not filled with ‘back to school’ like the rest of the world seemed to be. There was something incredibly nice about looking at the ‘back to school’ displays while still having another month-and-a-half left of summer. Maybe that’s kind of what not being in school feels like.

  
Unfortunately, it also meant that by the end of August, everyone else was moving back to school. It’s an interesting way to see school start, but its probably not my favourite part of summer.

August was another one of those work-filled summer months, something I’m sure is preparing me for the real world no matter how much I don’t enjoy it.

  
Morgan and I also went to Arkansas this August for a weekend of much-needed sister time since living on different continents seriously limits how much time we get to spend together. It was a really wonderful trip, more details can be found here.

   
 August didn’t end with a bang, other than being the last month ending here in Texas. Like June although I spend most of September here in Texas, I’ll end it in Lancaster. So August was the month in the middle, a little slower, a little quieter, and a little break before the rest of the world picks up again.

Alex

Arkansas {Hot Springs & Little Rock}

When you want to take a weekend trip, don’t want to pay ridiculous American flight costs, and want to go somewhere new, you take a trip to Arkansas. Seriously, we’re running out of states within decent driving distance from Austin.

Since sadly nursing students don’t get a real  summer, Morgan and I chose to take advantage of her less-than-2-weeks-off break and take a sister weekend. And when she vetoed New Orleans because of humidity, Arkansas was our best bet.

Everyone suggested we stop in Hot Springs, so we settled on a night there before heading up to Little Rock. However, no

However, no road trip is complete without a Nation meet up, and JP was nice enough to take a detour from his trip back to school for dinner and some great suggestions about what to do on our trip.


Unfortunately, the weather decided to fight us and our Night/Day in Hot Springs was rainy. And while we did hide from the rain with some amazing pancakes at a shop from the 1940s and good coffee, nothing stops Morgan when she wants to hike.



Coffee at Kollective, taking on the rain.    

After drying off a little, we drove out to Little Rock for the rest of our time. Still dealing with bad weather, we opted for some more indoor activities, specifically food and the Clinton Presidental Library, then more food. You can never go wrong with more food.

Lunch at The Root 
  
Luckily, our second day in LR had much better weather. It was a Sunday, so we hit up a wonderful Farmer’s Market before grabbing some incredible brunch. Then it was back to more hiking, though luckily much drier hiking this time around.


  
We wrapped up with another nice dinner and a walk across the aptly named “Big Dam Bridge” with one incredible sunset.


 Our drive home kicked off a little earlier than usual, as to make it back across state lines and into Dallas for lunch with our Uncle.


 It’s not often you get to travel with just your sister, so this was a pretty special trip, despite bad weather and more. Being two busy students with very different schedules (and locations) really limits the time we can spend together, and with Mo’s graduation coming up, that time will be even more difficult to come by. So here’s to sisters and adventures.

 

Alex

 

JULY

What do you mean its the end of August and this hasn’t been written…

July was a lot like April, but without the variety of countries and school work. It was however, almost constant travel and lots of work, just of a different kind. Becuase I do really hate having ‘nothing’ to do, I decided having two jobs, ie working 40+ hours, was a good idea for my summer. And while it can be a little exhausting, it does keep me busy!

On the more fun side of things, July was 3 (back to back) weekends of travel, and a whole lot of family!

It’s been a very long time since we went to a family wedding, so my cousin’s wedding in early July was a great chance to see a lot of extended family. It was an incredibly sweet event, very personal and thought out!


  
I got to finally see my sister after 6 months, although it took a trip to Houston for that to happen. Major downsides to being uni students, though summer was her last academic semester of nursing school!


  
We also took a trip out to Odessa to see the other side of the family, and were immediately  overfed at every opportunity because that’s what grandmothers do.


July was also when I started wanting to go back to school. I don’t know if its the distance, the fact that I like school, or the desire for my normal schedule that has made me want to back to school. I’m so happy to have a break and get to spend time with family and friends, but at the same time, 3 months feels so much longer than it did before. But maybe that’s just the Texas heat talking.

 

Alex

Thai Coconut Soup

I snapchat most of my cooking these days, because I am an uncreative trend follower and would like to torment everyone with videos of what I’m making. But here is a non-video version of what I’m doing in the kitchen.

 This recipe is a mix of this recipe and this one, because I wanted more veggies, and then a few random additions because I am terrible at following directions.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 tbl fresh ginger
  • 2(+) cloves garlic
  • 1 onion – diced (red would be great, but HEB was out so we had white)
  • 1 red bell pepper – diced
  • bok choy  (I just used a whole baby one)
    • chop into one-inch strips, separating the fibrous stalks from the delicate green ends.
  • Cilantro (add as much as you possibly can)
  • Juice of a lime
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 ‘can’ (just use the coconut one, measuring cups are overrated) vegetable stock
  • 1 (small) can tomato paste
  • 2 tbl red curry paste
  • 1 bag of rice (we’re lazy and use the boil in a bag kind so I really have no measurement)
  • Shrimp (optional)

The obvious conclusion from this list is I do not measure things, and no idea how many ounces are in a can and I’m not taking the time to go look.


  
  

  1. In a large saucepan of 1 1 /2 cups water, cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
  2. If adding shrimp: Melt butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add shrimp, salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pink, about 2-3 minutes; set aside.
  3. Cook garlic, onion and bell pepper to a stockpot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in ginger until fragrant, about 1 minute
  4. Whisk in curry paste until well combined, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in coconut milk and vegetable stock, and cook, whisking constantly, until incorporated, about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the stalks of  bok choy, set aside leafy ends
  6. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 8-10 minutes
  7. Add rice and shrimp (I ran out of space in the pot and made everyone add them separately, so plan better than me)
  8. Serve with lime juice, cilantro, and leafy ends of bok choy

 

 I make no promises this is anywhere near authentic, just that its good.

 

 

 

JUNE

*let’s all ignore that this is literally almost 2 months late, okay? Okay.*

June was strange. June was exams and meetings and planes and work. June went from 60 degrees to 100 degrees.

2 out of my 3 exams were in June, so the first 2.5 weeks were really just lost to books, notes and too much time in the library. But of course, that was consistently interrupted by meetings, activities, and requests for ‘Alex Please Fix This’. To illustrate, here is a photo of me absolutely losing it in the rain while holding dropping a container of bagels. Probably actually a good illustration of most of my life.

I flew back to Texas on a Tuesday, and I feel like it has been a week, not 6. Between friends, family, cross-Texas road trips every weekend, and work (so much work) time has flown by. But June was nice. It ended a school year and started summer, so the stress of exams is quickly lost to the joy of sunshine and live music and late nights sitting in the driveway with friends I don’t get to see 9 months of the year.

 

 Alex