Walking Tours…

one of the best ways to see a city is too do walking tours…so today I did 3…

First thing this morning I walked through “The City” using a Rick Steves Audio Tour. It was amazing and I realized that one of my favorite things about any city is walking quietly early in the morning and late at night.

City Walk audiotour

City Walk audio tour

Next I met up with a London Walks Tour to hear about Dickens’ London. Dickens is one of my all time favorite authors and the holiday season is never over for me before reading some Dickens Christmas stories. This is one of the special tours that London Walks does but all of their tours are really amazing!

London Walks: Dickens Walk

London Walks: Dickens Walk

After meeting up with my friend and buying tickets for the London Eye later in the week I did Westminster walking tour on my way back to the hotel for the evening…

Windsor Walk audio tour

Westminster Walk audio tour

poor feetsies

poor feetsies

Good tired, with tired feet or as Rick might say u-feetsies.

“Ugly Americans”

The time old tradition for any American headed abroad is to be reminded to not be an ugly American. So what is an ugly American?

It is being too self centered.

When you travel people are tired, people are whinny and people/tourists are not always polite.  There are three simple steps to not being an ugly American:

1. Take a deep breath, the world is not out to get you.

No Americans the world doesn’t revolve around you. Yes everyone in tourist areas speaks English but just assuming they will is rude. Better to ask “can I speak in English?” If something goes wrong it is just luck not a conspiracy. Take a deep breath and figure out what you can do next, not what you wish had happened.

2. Think before you ask questions, does the person you are asking have time to deal with you.

Today I watched a fellow tourist ask a walking tour guide questions for about 5min and then not even buy a ticket to the tour. While she was asking all these questions, others were waiting to ask questions and the guide was taking tickets from others and giving out change as the woman continued to ask question. Was this tour guide really the best person to ask so many questions to, before you and your group had even decided what you wanted to do…probably not.

3. Travel more. You will be less stressed the more you are used to travel and the more problems you have traveling the easier it will be to take the setbacks in stride.

The more you travel the better you will become at going with the flow. Yes trains are late, buses take time, and you have to read a lot of signs to get to the right underground platform but just like languages cities are very similar. Subway systems work the same all around the world. The more often you travel the more you will know to look for the signs to certain types of trains, attractions or construction.

See if you can spot them. And try to avoid joining their ranks.

the fab food find

Every trip I take I am on the lookout for the fabulous food find. I have listened to some podcasts and done some research online about the food and food culture in London. I was looking forward to the spicy middle eastern food and was hoping to try something I haven’t had before but most often the fabulous food find comes where you least expect it and when you are not looking. Today I had a very long day and was not feeling up to exploring much tonight. I decided to head back to the hotel and after dropping off all of my stuff I seriously considered buying a boring sandwich and crashing early. However I decided to brave a few block walk to a place that had really good reviews in my restaurant app.

***BANG***

The Fab Food Find: Casa Malevo, Cocina Argentina

Ordered: 1 glass Malbec, 2 empanadas: 1 beef, 1 corn, Lamb chops with “anchovies” salsa verde and flan

The anchovies salsa verde was really amazing. As someone who is not fond of overly fishy things and who doesn’t really like anchovies in particular it was really a great mix of spicy chilies, sweet/smooth olive oil and meaty/slightly smoky anchovies. Plus flan…

The next time you take a trip try to be on the lookout of the fabulous food find. If you are on the lookout you just find more than one.

London Day 1/Show 1

Arrived in London. After searching out the many options for taking a bus/train/cab to the city I just randomly chose one which took quite a while to get to my hotel. I ended up with a bus to a major underground station to buy a underground pass, then taking the underground to my hotel. After finally arriving I started to head out to the half price ticket counter to get a ticket for a show that night. It happened that my hotel also offered half price tickets through the TKTS. I was able to buy a ticket without even leaving my hotel. This allowed me to slowly unpack and get settled before heading out for a quick meal and the always crazy search for the theater. I decided to take the underground but there was a problem at one of the train platforms and I ended up walking down Regent Street. I didn’t have much time to make it 4 underground stops so I had to walk quite quickly, however it was great for getting a good outline of where things were.

I ended up getting a ticket to Dreamboats and Petticoats mostly because I wanted to go to the Playhouse Theater. When I was looking at the current shows in London, online I realized I had never heard of this show. I love musicals and love love love to go see them live. One of my favorite trips in recent years was to NYC with my best friend where we went to see multiple shows. In Chicago, I was a constant visitor to the traveling Broadway shows, the ballet, and the symphony. By looking at the information about Dreamboats and Petticoats it was obviously not a new show and was a British classic so I thought it would be a great introduction to London Theater.

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The theater was gorgeous. The show was so much fun. It was cute and campy. It was the British equivalent to Grease. The staging was good and the singers were really talented.  A good first night!

Side Note: only buy discount tickets from TKTS…all others are just like the guy selling tickets on the street…no matter how fancy they look.

London’s Calling!

An old friend of mine (we had our first sleep over in 7th grade) was headed to London to march in the New Years Day Parade. We had casually talked about the possibility of me coming to London to meet her. After looking at their group itinerary I decided to go for it. Buying a plane ticket and booking a hotel room in about 2 hrs I am set to head out to London for New Years!

London is calling! Many posts about the trip to come after I get back.

london

Chrismas Eve vs. Christmas Day….

In the US we open our presents on Christmas morning after Santa has come on Christmas eve. However in Sweden the big Christmas celebration is Christmas Eve. After eating a Julbord , presents are opened in the evening. I can see how at first glance this seems better that opening them on Christmas morning because you get them earlier. However I think in the end the Christmas Day model is better. First, you get to open your presents first thing in the morning, no waiting. Second, because you open presents in the morning, you get to play with them or use them all day. Some of my favorite Christmas memories were doing legos and puzzles while watching a movie that my brother or I got for Christmas. Third, there is a better defined time to open presents. By having present opening as “Christmas Eve” it is hard to define when that starts…right after dinner? when the sun goes down? what if you eat dinner in the middle of the afternoon?

Thus I think I will stick with my Christmas morning Christmas celebration and leave Christmas Eve for baking cookies (Scottish shortbread was only made on Christmas Eve in my parents house).

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Merry Christmas to all! (no matter when you celebrate)

Pepparkakshusen

This year my cousin and her husband gave me a coupon for a day of making pepparkakshusen with them. Below is a bunch of pictures from our day of fun, plus the finished products.

A quick rant to get started is that people say gingerbread and pepparkakor are the same. While Google translate might say these are the same to me they are completely different. If you have ever bought the boxes of pepparkakor at IKEA or ANNAS ginger snaps and thought they are way better than other gingerbread cookies, I agree. While these Americanized versions taste more like American ginger bread than any of the family recipes I have used for pepparkakor they still have a special spiciness to them that I love. The key is the ground cloves. If you look at most American gingerbread recipes they don’t have ground clove and if they do it tends to be less than 1 tsp for a batch of a dozen or so cookies. However, my family swedish recipies and the book we used for making pepparkakshusen (http://www.adlibris.com/se/product.aspx?isbn=9179881629) have as much ground cloves as cinnimon and ginger. So have a few pepparkakor this holiday season and appreciate the special spiciness.

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cutting the dough

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baking and cooling the pieces

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PEPPARKAKSHUSEN!!!!

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what do you do with all the rest of the dough?

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pepparkakor och pepparkaksgris

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and even a pepparkakscheese cake

Holiday Cards

Happy Holidays!

This year I am sending over 75 holiday cards to family, friends, and colleges. I love holiday cards. I love getting them, and making them. What I don’t love is sending them (or paying for it anyway :). This year since I have a brand new address and wasn’t organized enough to get my cards ready early I sent out an email with a change of address the last week of November to make sure any cards coming my way made it here. This was a great because I got some fun emails with updates from some people but I also got a lot of emails saying that people were looking forward to my holiday card and what ornament I would make this year.

As a kid every year we got a holiday card and Christmas ornament from one of my mom’s old friends. I loved seeing what they made each year. Since the end of college I have been sending a picture card with a small handmade ornament every year. I had been contemplating sending my picture card via email this year, thinking that I would save money on postage and making it easier. I definitely hadn’t planned out an ornament planned. Last year (2011) I made small wreaths out of braided ribbon I bought on sale after the Christmas before. I started to make the ornaments in early November so by December when I made my card I was all done. So what could I make in less than a week.

I decided to go with something very Swedish…a woven heart. Sticking with the “Swedish” theme I bought some blue and yellow paper and got started. Note: I made these quite small to fit in an envelope but you can make them basically any size that you can get a sheet of paper folded in half.

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1st, make a pattern where the height of the heart is about 1.25+% the width and rounded at the top

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2nd, fold colored paper in half,  cut along fold, fold in half again.

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3rd, cut out half hearts using pattern–width of the pattern is the most important dimension to cut correctly. Save any extra strips of paper from the ends of the sheets for handles.

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4th, plan and cut 3 even strips out of the heart, starting at the folded edge. The height of the cut should be the same as the width of the piece. (there are many more complicated patterns with wider and skinnier strips but with ones this small a simple pattern is best)

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5th, weave the strips in and out of each other. Remember there is no right or wrong all the ways of weaving will be the same.

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6th, add a handle from the strips left over after cutting the hearts or cut new thin strips for handles.

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DONE!!!

Then I made a quick picture card, one picture from last Christmas in Chicago and another from this Christmas in Denmark, both at Christmas markets. Saying: same Lisa, same Christmas market tradition, different country

Finally I saw a great idea for holiday cards that were a year in review on a few blogs and pinterest and decided to make a sticker to put on the back of the photos with my 2012 in review:

2012-year in review copy

After a fight with the printer to print everyone’s addresses and return address labels, and the year in review labels for the back of the pictures. 4 hrs and remaking the files 3 different ways using the label making software, reinstalling the printers 3 times, and a college accidentally printing on one of my label sheets when the printer choose to use my manual feed paper instead of the normal drawer, I stuffed all the cards, put postage on them, and shipped them off.

Happy Holidays!

Work Christmas Parties ? Why?

One of the biggest questions I am seeing answered on other blogs this season is about what to wear or what to take or how to act at a work holiday party. While these are all good questions to get answers to (see end of post for some of my favorite links) here I will just touch on my history with work holiday parties. In an academia sense there are a few types of work holiday parties. First there is a research group party, a department party, a school wide party and then even some smaller groups with in the university also have parties (like our juniors bowling party last week: http://wp.me/p2QzcO-3c).

In undergrad I attended the department holiday party and the 2 years I was in a research group I went to the group holiday party, then some of the clubs I was part of had parties. All of these were pretty fun. The department party was sponsored by the department so the food was pretty good. The club parties tended to be pizza but sometimes had a fun activity. The research group I was in at the end of undergrad was really small the first year and it was just a potluck, hang out type party. The second year when we were larger we went to a fancy bowling place for food and bowling (which our boss completely paid for) but as I am not a huge fan of bowling and this happened right before I needed to take all my finals I didn’t stay long.

When I got to graduate school we were officially accepted into our research groups right around thanksgiving so the holiday party was the first big event to get to know your research group in a social setting. I of course attended both groups’ holiday events, the department holiday party, and the graduate school holiday party each year. Now the department party was food, alcohol, and some kind of drawing or raffle with some music and games some of the years. I always dreaded going but it was a good time to catch up with friends in other groups who I didn’t see often and I always ended up having a pretty good time. The graduate school party was often at a nice location (the alumni club right on the lake downtown for 2 of the years) and the food and drinks were good. Since it was free as long as you signed up on time I often combined this with a shopping trip at some downtown stores, plus good free dinner. Finally the two research groups I was in were large (>25 people at all times, up to about 45 in one of them). This makes planning holiday parties more difficult. One of the groups (the larger one) had the tradition of going to a fancy restaurant for dinner. The first few years we had a prefix menu where everyone paid ahead of time and you got 3 courses. This cost about $30-40 per person but I would just budget this into my holiday expenses. Then the group started picking other restaurants and the method for paying became more and more messy. I don’t mind splitting a bill with people but graduate students are cheap and no one would pay their share with out being forced to. Plus splitting a bill with 40 people is just a pain…even when we split between 6-8 at a table it was a pain depending on who you got sat by. The biggest problem I had with this type of party is that you actually didn’t get to meet anyone in your group. You sat by people you commuted to the restaurant with (i.e., the ones you knew) and then you couldn’t move around to talk to other people so you were stuck with the same people for hours. My other research group had a holiday celebration that I enjoyed much more. This event was a whole weekday in Jan or Feb at our boss’s house. We would show up around 9am, have some bagels and coffee and then have a day full of fun science talks. Sometimes they were project ideas that someone had just tried thinking they would never work, sometimes they were talks on how to use a useful tool (I did an in depth end note talk a few years in a row) and sometimes they were talks from group alumni about what they were up to now. Then after  lunch (Chicago pizza) we would go outside and have  snowball fight, build a snowman, or just fool around for a while. After the rest of the talks we returned to campus around 5pm. This structure was nice because it offered multiple hang out times to talk to people. Of course some people sat in one place or talked to only their friends but I was able to use the food and coffee breaks to talk to people about what they were working on and I started 2 different collaborations at these events. As an added bonus this event being in Jan removed it from the stress of the rest of the holiday season.

As I have explained before I have a go to the holiday party even if you don’t feel like it policy so when the sign up sheet for the holiday party went up in the coffee room, I signed up. Then when I learned from a discussion by others at lunch that we had to bring food…I said I would bring cookies. No one corrected me so when I saw the sign up sheet for the food and the only options were traditional food for the Julbord I was a little miffed. After deciding I could cook meat balls (I make Swedish meatballs often to eat myself) I realized the problem that the party was a Monday after work. How was I going to bring warm meatballs to the office then? Were they going to be able to heat them up? what was the plan? I kept asking these questions of the guys I eat lunch with and never really got any answers so I decided to cook my meat balls at my apartment on Monday afternoon and take them straight to the party. Of course they wouldn’t be hot but at least they should be warm. Turns out they had decided on a way to reheat the food onsite (sorta) and the schedule was much more complicated that I knew.

First there was a talk which I had never seen on the schedule, then everyone went upstairs for dinner. Dinner was a Julbord buffet that was a mix of all the food people had brought. There was a lot of food but also a lot of people so the organization of where the food was, what was hot and when people should get in line wasn’t great. After the dinner started there were signing groups, drinking songs, and a trivia game during and after eating. After all of this they announced a treasure hunt. Since the party had already lasted for 3 hrs and I had planned to do some work before I went to bed, I snuck out to head home.

What I learned is that scheduling a holiday party is always difficult and there is probably no good way but just like with any social event making it cheaper for the planning group just puts the costs off onto the guests, either in actually money, time, or inconvenience. A good party balances these costs and work parties are always a mess.

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Holiday Party Attire Links

Festive Attire (That Won’t Make You Cringe) – Sociology of Style

Things That Make You Sparkle – Sociology of Style

5 Outfits of Christmas – Sociology of Style

Casual Party Attire – Capital Hill Style

Two Ways: Holiday Party Looks – Capital Hill Style

Two Ways: Holiday Red Pants – Capital Hill Style

Some Good Coworker or Friend Gift Links

Holiday Hot Coco – Capital Hill Style

Gifts for Co-Workers – Capital Hill Style

May your work holiday parties be classy and at least not boring 🙂