26 May 2010

summer lifestyle lessons from england, part 2.

Since all of the lessons from my last post involved going out, today's will involve staying in.  The nice part about vsiting people, especially when they are generous and gracious enough to let you stay for a long period of time, is that you can to try their routines on for size. Dearest Mommy and Don have picked up some nice habits on their expat journey that I think are examples of quality living.

4. If you're going to stay in for the evening, you should probably have something nice to drink.

After a long day of touring, or writing papers to finish incomplete classes so you can get your Masters degree, there is nothing more refreshing than a fancy drink.  Moscow Mules were a house favorite last summer.  Or how about a Dark 'n' Stormy made with Cuban Rum? (if only!)  Strawberry beer, sweet German wines, and of course classic Gin and Tonics all provide maximum summer refreshment.

If you want to go all out, have a Pimms! You can have your drink and eat it too.

5. Now you'll need something to eat. 

British cuisine is pretty straightforward. Grab some fish and chips. Snag some apple sausages from Trader Joe's (or, Philadelphians, get to Gracie Tavern stat).  I'm a big fan of the ploughman's lunch- typically bread, cheese, and pickle.

I made a modified ploughman's lunch recently with crackers (read: I've been eating them almost every day).  Apricot stilton is my life.  You should top off your meal with a nice dessert- maybe some molten chocolate cakes if you want to replicate the suffering from every episode of the BBC cooking show Master Chef (the major plot thread was that nobody could make a chocolate soufflĂ©. But you can!)

6. Now, what to watch?  
A little googling and you can watch episodes of the working-class soap Eastenders and the medical drama Casualty 1909 (I am so behind on Eastenders it's not even funny!)  

Holkham Hall

If you're looking for movies that feature houses we visited, you can see Burghley House in the new Pride and Prejudice and Holkham Hall in The Duchess (the house outshines Kiera Knightly).

Of course, if you want to come over, we can just crank up the streaming of Star 107 Cambridge / Ely and watch my iPhoto slideshow (ha! I do that like, every day ;) ).

21 May 2010

summer lifestyle lessons from england, part 1.

Last summer I went to visit my mom, stepdad, and pup siblings in England.  It was the trip of a lifetime- seven weeks in the English countryside with some very wonderful company.  We went to National Trust houses and beer festivals.  I presented at my first conference in Cambridge.  No piece of antique furniture could escape our loving gaze.  Sunday roasties and the pleasures of tea-time (clotted cream, where art thou?!)... lovely lunches and riverside walks... beautiful churches and lingering trips to Marks and Spencer (to emerge with canned cocktails for public consumption)...  Eastenders and the joys of the BBC... really, it as the most wonderful trip. (a handful of related blog posts here)

I've been thinking of the trip often lately.  As it stands, I am grounded in Philly for the summer; at present, I am beginning to gather materials and start reading in preparation for my comprehensive exams (one must have an occupation).  There have been summers in my life that escaped my memory (Summer 2008, I'm looking at you) so I've decided to apply some of the lessons of pleasured living from last summer to this one.  Realizing that there are so many lovely points to highlight, this is the first in a series of posts.  So what if I can't live in the now.

1.  Find somewhere nice to visit with friends.

Caerphilly Castle

Last summer I went on an excursion to Wales with a friend after hanging out at his place in Cambridge.  This summer I'm planning on making a couple of trips to Boston and New York with my buddies.  If it's close, you should go.  Grab some honey ale and some stilton and crackers lest you get lost and need to picnic.

2. Don't forget to visit the beach.

Hunstanton Cliffs

This is very important for health and well-being. This summer I'm bound for the Jersey Shore, and you can bet your sweet pippy when I get back to Washington, there will be some beach time as well.

3. Beer festivals are a top priority.

Three different kinds of cider at a beer festival we happened upon unexpectedly.

The Campaign for Real Ale has done much to promote and preserve English beer culture.  We took great pleasure in selecting a range of delicious local brews from an overwhelming number of casks at CAMRA festivals.  It expanded my palette and was just so dang pleasant.  This summer, I'm looking forward to Philly Beer Week. June 4-13  is going to be a very glorious time.  I've already got the June 9th Real Ale event at Johnny Brenda's scribbled onto my calendar.

(excuse the wonky formatting... ahem, Blogger...)

17 May 2010

omg baby sloths.

Usually I would just tweet something like this, but then I wouldn't be able to find it when I want it.  Like on some bad day in the future when only baby sloths set to music from The Royal Tenenbaums will do.

Meet the sloths from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

Church of the Granny Bike: Keeping internet memes safe since 2008.

16 May 2010

helpful tips: hauling a macaroni and cheese.

Summer is here! I'm braindead. But done with the first year of my PhD! (please start chanting, "Four more years! Four more years!") I needed a blog post just to help me get my act together for a recent barbeque-- one so special that I made some crack and cheese.  Planning on how to haul it by bike- with a potato salad, no less- was probably the most intellectually stimulating thing I'd done since I turned in my last paper four days before.  I say it was intellectually stimulating because I couldn't suppress the image of my beloved stoneware 9x13 pan careening through the street, sending a shattering exploding blast of golden fatty deliciousness into traffic.

So! For my own sake, I present some helpful tips on how to successfully haul a macaroni and cheese to a barbeque by bike.  I recommend you try it because, well, you want people to like you, don't you?

First you will need to gather your tools.  Here we have the usual suspects- 

a basket 
a free Filene's Basement reuseable tote- first for preserving your potato salad en route, this will come in handy when you decide you need to take yourself and your dirty pans into the Grace Tavern on the way home.
 a light- because you know you and your posse are going to overstay your welcome.

But wait! That's not everything!

You will also need: 
a bungee cord- for locking that shit down
some bangin' sunglasses-because hello! you are hauling a macaroni and cheese!! own your awesomeness.
Benefit Dr. Feelgood- honey, it's muggier than a swamp. Just bathe yourself in that biz before you leave.  
Sassy Wedges- do you even have to ask why? come on! you are owning it!! (and they will also make liftoff at stoplights easier when you are hauling a zillion pounds of cheesy density)

Ok. Now you will need some food to haul.

Like one sexysexysexy macaroni and cheese.  I topped mine with foil so it stayed warm.

Some light and glorious red potato salad with a barrier to keep potato salad lovin' critters out.

Here is the first most important part- make multiple trips. I took my bike downstairs while the mac was baking.  Then I took down all my gear, then the mac.  Again, we are trying to avoid disaster here.

Behold! Our secret weapon!! I tossed my pan into a roasting pan with handles.  It fit perfectly on the rack between my saddle and the bag prop on the rack.  The unsung hero of this whole experience, the bag prop kept everything secure when I forgot my bungee at the barbeque. The bungee was nice, but not having it was no big deal either.

Don't judge my missing skirt guard, ok? It went rogue on me a couple weeks ago and now there's just no getting that thing off of Fox News.
(because that's where rogues go, natch.)

As you see, the Old Dutch Treat is a natural macaroni and cheese (and potato salad!) hauling machine.  It was a slow ride to the barbeque, but I was hailed as a hero so it was like, no big deal. 

Here's to hauling many more beautiful sides this summer!

14 May 2010

tacoma biking, part 2: chupacabra ride.

The true purpose of the xtracycle snapdeck, revealed.

One of the pleasures of home is that after living in Philly, Tacoma feels a little quaint.  It's always refreshing to go home and find familiar faces around every corner of are not-so-tall city.  There are some seriously nice folks who gather for a festive booze cruz every now and then.  Big Brother is a frequent flyer, and I myself had the pleasure of riding on the Christmas ride (and by riding, I mean, sitting on the back of the xtracycle while BB hauled my ass all over Tacoma).  It's a merry and low key mix of beer, food, bikes, and light costuming. What more could you ask for?

For info on future Mob Rides, check here and here.
I go to the rides for the sweet spokes-cards.

I was very pleased that the Chupacabra ride occurred during this last trip home.  Naturally, I hopped on the back of BB's xtracycle and we made our way to rally at one of Tacoma's best bars, the renowned hot dog bar The Red Hot.  After some brewskis, we made our way to the Taco Truck on Sixth Ave, where BB and I enjoyed some Mexican coke.  The group rode on to downtown, and BB and I made our way home.  

Our favorite part of the ride occurred as we passed a sporty guy cycling for exercise-- he was like, "What are you guys doing?" And BB was like "We're riding to get beers!" and the guy was like "I'm coming with you!" and did a u-turn to join the crowd.  Warm fuzzies and all that.  I also liked the part where BB found 18 dollars on the ground-- allowing us to completely recoup the cost of our night.  That's definitely one of the perks of not being in a car.

Tacoma Cycle Chic at its finest.

I was excited to see so many people on bikes while I was home-- like everywhere, I think Tacoma is on the verge of a bicycle explosion. 
(BB speaks to the local paper about Tacoma's emergent cycle culture here)

13 May 2010

crack and cheese.

A while ago, things got pretty rough.  I decided what my friends and I needed was some good ole comfort food.
I did my homework and found that the recipe of recipes is

It made us all feel better.  

Word got around that this mac and cheese is to die for, and unsurprisingly, it was requested for a barbeque tomorrow.  Do you think I had to be asked twice?  

Since I was making in advance (there is potato salad to make, after all), I skimmed a little off the top and baked a single portion in a ramekin.  You see that little lacy bit of dribbled cheese on the side? Heaven on earth.

11 May 2010

tacoma biking, part 1: my little french friend.

This blog isn't dead! Really! Between the end of the semester and being called home last week for family business, I haven't had a whole lot of blogging energy.  But I'm done! I'm back! So get ready for me to start blowing up your Google Reader like whoa.

The first two days of my trip came at the end of #30daysofbiking.  I was really committed and wanted to ensure that in spite of my travel and stresses, I met the goal.  As I was to be spending a lot of time going back and forth between two family homes linked by a bike lane, biking at home was an easy and feasible transportation choice.  Big Brother asked a family friend if I could borrow the vintage Peugeot folding bike that BB rehabbed last winter. Alas, to my delight, me and The Peug were joined together for 8 wonderful days. The link above will give you better insight into the specs of the bike, so now I can just prattle on about the bike's awesomeness.

This bike fits me the best of any bike I have ever ridden.  I have a long torso and short inseam, so my smallest-size Old Dutch is a bit of the stretch, and the Dahon is you know, fine.  But The Peug fits perfect.

This bike is what you would see if the Old Dutch Treat and the Dahon had a baby.  Size-wise, The Peug would fit nicely in a car trunk or small apartment.  Size isn't everything, though, so you still get all the amenities of a city bike- nice upright position, a skirt-friendly frame, built-in lights, and a rear rack.  The positioning is great-- riding the bike, it feels like your sternum is being thrust out in a very "Hello, World!" kind of way.  Compact bike happiness if I ever saw it.

We are very grateful that the person who loaned me the bike generously ended up giving The Peug to our family.  I am looking forward to riding this bike when I go home at the end of the summer... and will probably start trolling Craigslist for one of my own.  It's that fantastic.


Moms and daughters alike love Peugeot folding bikes!