Sunday, January 27, 2013

Singin' in the Rain in London & Branca: Turning 28 in Style!

 Turning 28 in London was turning 28 in style.  A few friends from my course and I celebrated over lunch (thanks to a shift in the lecture schedule), at Branca on Thursday.  If you're looking for a delectable meal out, I'd definitely recommend it.

Delicious Italian cuisine   - a vegetarian pizza and red wine (they have an amazing lunch deal for under £8), and authentic desserts. Surprisingly, they didn't have tiramisu, although Alexandra has promised to teach me to make it next weekend.

Check out the photos below of this beautiful restaurant...what a great mid-day break from class!
Dima, Juliet & Sapna --LMH college girls!

From left: Alexandra, Kingsley, Anna, Samantha, Alex

Dima & Sapna
From back right across: Glenn, Rick, Kingsley,
Paola, Dima, Sapna, Majka, Juliet & Alexandra

Leicester Square
Thursday night, I took the evening completely off, watched episodes of The Tudors, and packed my bags for London and Kent.  Since Kiara and I were going through London on our way to Aunty Viniti and Uncle Steve's house anyway, we stopped in Leicester Square at the TKTS ticket booth to pick up discount same day theatre tickets.  Most of the shows aren't actually discounted, but you can get lucky sometimes. We got Singing in the Rain tickets --in the middle section of the Dress Circle ---perfect seats!! 

The picture on the left is of Leicester Square ---there are a few shops, two cinemas, about ten theatre ticket booths, a gelato place that I want to try next time I'm there (but apparently it's ridiculously expensive) and several restaurants. I did try to take a picture of K sitting in Leicester Square, but she kept jumping on the benches!

Singin' in the Rain was at Palace Theatre in London. The tap dancing was absolutely incredible - perfectly coordinated to the lights and music.  I remember watching the film years ago, and it was fun to hear the songs again.  Best of all was the Singin' in the Rain song, of course, where they were kicking puddles of "rain" onto the theatregoers in the first row! Good thing we were a level up! The theatre, unfortunately, would not allow any photography, even of the intricately carved woodwork and beautiful auditorium, once the play was over.  The streets were also crowded and  taking a clear photograph of the lit up outside sign was nearly impossible. So, you'll have to imagine the fluster and bustle of Friday night in the theatre district in London. So much energy! I love metropolitan cities! What a great birthday gift!

As it was nearly 11 pm when we left the theatre, we decided to have dinner at a Bangladeshi place in Brick Lane called The Standard Balti House, a place with good food and very friendly staff. Brick Lane is one of those places that reminds me of Chinatown at home; an area of town where you're not sure much is there...until you venture into the restaurants and try their delicious food!

The rest of the weekend was spent chilling at home and celebrating both my cousin Tina and I's birthdays. Tina is 21 on Tuesday!  I have a small suitcase full of gifts (including my Christmas gifts) to take back with me to Oxford today! I can't wait to put up the calendar Tina got me (full of pictures I took of Kiara!), read the book Tired of London, Tired of Life, a book of suggestions of what to do in the big city that Sunny and Nia got me, and hang up the picture Sonia made for me. The matching notebook will be used as a recipe book---the first recipe will be....tiramisu!

I also have a Bodum coffee maker, glass fruit tray, a beautiful throw for the sofa, a dog blanket for Kiara, chocolates and slipper socks!  My Gordon Ramsey blender from Christmas will have to wait until my next trip down!

All in all, turning 28 was great... now it's back to Oxford to get working on that dissertation!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Snow Day in Oxford: 1 cm of amusing panic!

Church near my house
For the first time in my life, I live somewhere where the SNOW makes the news. Yes, that's right, 1 or 2 cm of snow on Friday made BBC news (click here for the article). The best quote of the week is definitely from Dima, who said something along the lines of "omg, it's snowing live! I've never been in live snow!"). I guess in Lebanon it just stays on the mountains). 

To be fair, I didn't really think snow in London stuck around, and I definitely wasn't expecting ice, but we've had it for the past few days! It only really got in the way on the first day, when my usual seven minute bus ride took 1 HOUR and ten minutes to arrive at class. Plus, pretty much everything closed at 3pm so workers could "brave the roads" and get home safely.Luckily, I only had my optional class that day, so I didn't miss much. 

K loves snow more than I do!
So far this weekend, I have done nothing productive (yes, that's right, it's 6 pm on Sunday evening and I have done NO school work). That being said, a bit of dissertation work will get done before midnight, I'm sure of it. That and French and English Language Teaching module homework. I'm also going to start one of my new years' resolutions, to read one news article in French, Italian and German each day, beginning today. It's all about comprehensible input, right ALSLA-ers?!   

Still, it's quite the light load compared to my last six weeks of hell, and this past one week of how-much-better-can-I-make-this-Phd-proposal, before finally submitting Friday morning. 

Les Misérables Poster
Les Misèrables  was a beautiful film, but a tad too long (seems to be a trend these days). The singing wasn't perfect, but the story was beautifully portrayed. Dima, Juliet, Alexandra and I took Saturday afternoon off to see the film, followed by a couple glasses of wine at Alexandra's place. The best part of Saturday was both sleeping in, and sleeping early.'s delicious after weeks of Oxford essays.  (I guess we're all leaving the Statistics assignment from hell until tomorrow night!)

The Tudors Poster
Kickboxing (sparring session) was on this morning, despite the snow (yay!), so I had a killer workout, and then super-cleaned my house, and took Kiara on a beautiful wintery walk.The plan for tonight is to watch a couple episodes of The Tudors (my new favourite downloaded show), drink a glass of  mulled wine, and then start intensely planning a cold call list to start on tomorrow. All I need is one, short, intensive French class in the UK, and one, short intensive study-abroad French class in France to say, "sure, you can study me."  Fingers crossed I can find willing participants for my study!!!

Stay tuned for a review of a London play on Friday (hopefully!) and a weekend in Kent.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy New Year--(OTZ: Oxford Time Zone)!

Happy New Year!  Yes, that's right. Fourteen days late. Well, we are on Oxford time, after all, (OTZ?) where Christmas doesn't count and essays never end. Finally, at noon today, everyone on my course submitted 4 essays we have been gruelling over for the last six weeks (except maybe Christmas and Boxing Day). Somehow, during that time, I also managed to finish a couple drafts of a PhD research proposal, have my supervisor review it....and I still have 4 days left to edit it! Woohoo!

Our sweat, blood and tears went into those essays, and submitting them was like whispering a breath a relief, and letting a rucksack full of monumental pebbles roll off our backs. Finally. We can breathe now...right?

A few minutes later, we receive an email from our course director....Welcome's a non-graded Statistics assignment to complete for next week! It's not even really just an assignment. It's a 2000 word essay/response based on a data set they give us to answer three research problems/tasks (both by hand and using a computer). It sounds like a mixture of the Economics 281 and Statistics 252 courses I took at the University of Alberta School of Business. Not fun days. We are all burnt out. SPSS fun is not the kind of amusement we had in mind.

Victoria, Lucy, Emma and Sonia - local pub, NYE 2012
New Year's Eve  was pretty tame this year.  In fact, I spent the entire day working on essays (surprise), and in the evening, went out for a couple drinks with my cousin Sonia and her friends, and then rung in the new year at my aunt and uncle's place with my cousins. 

Just thought I would share this pic!

New Year's Resolutions....
2 years ago...that's the goal.

What I really kickboxing and the gym. Kickboxing tonight was a killer session....just a preview of what to come.The Varsity Squad match against Cambridge is in SEVEN weeks. Apparently, I'm supposed to attend "sprints" (but I can't, because I have class). "Sprints" are when you do 8, 200 metre sprints in between jogging around the track. Sprint. Jog. Sprint. Jog. So, now I have to do it on my own. Yikes, think I will be using the treadmill, not a track ---track running makes me SO bored! Running outdoors with puppy is definitely the best.

I set goals every 6 months, so I can't really say it's a "new year's" resolution, but I am resolved to meet this goal. I'm so pumped for my new workout plan...maybe I can get back to where I was with the trainer, just 2 and a half years ago. Having Juan as my personal trainer in 2009 was absolutely amazing -- I'll have to follow the plans he gave me on my own now. It's definitely gym time!

More Fun Time

Yes, that's another goal. Read, read, read...but have more time for fun, this time. The other ALSLA-ers are so much fun to hang out with, and hopefully, this term, we will have more social events. I'd also like to get out and see Oxford more, so stay tuned for more photos of this beautiful, historic city.

Happy New Year, everyone!  To a 2013 filled with excitement, fulfilled dreams, love, and surprises...