Oxford Spring and Bristol Bachelorette!

Since Bruges, we’ve had a few quieter weekends around Oxford, but they’ve all been restorative. The days are getting longer, the layers are coming off, and Oxford is prettier by the day, reminding me what drew me here in the first place. Jack went home for a long, 4-day weekend, and though I usually go home with him, having that time to throw myself into projects and wanderings was really nice. I bounced between small gatherings (birthday party, pizza party, one-on-one catch-ups), cycled through spring fields to a nearby village for dressmaking materials (patterns, fabrics, tailor’s chalk, a few other small tools), and spent a lot of time writing.IMG_4604
I’m now four classes in to the dressmaking class; it’s been a revelation learning how to read patterns, what you have to consider, and how much strange and specific vocabulary there is to learn. Or what some of the previously untouched functions on the sewing machine will do. So far, I’ve learned how to read a dress pattern, how to decipher the back of a pattern envelope, learned how to make darts and pleats, learned new shortcuts (tailor tacks!), figured out how to sew in an invisible zip, how to switch and adjust a new zipper presser foot… still so much to learn.IMG_4632Brilliant yellow rapeseed fields and the Thames Path on my bike ride.
IMG_4617Taking a mid-afternoon reading picnic to the river. Finished the Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (review here).
Our summer, as always, has been full of fresh, delicious meals. Lots of misos; a lemon chicken orzo soup; warm salads; and this blackberry, fennel, goats cheese, hazelnut pizza:
Only a few more days until my Half Marathon! I’ve managed to nail a morning run routine, getting up and running a circuit through the still-empty college lanes, through the heart of town, over to the train station and then down along the Thames all the way home. Sometimes the morning beauty is a little too overwhelming to run past without capturing.

Queen’s Lane at dawn
Morning rowing practice on the Thames
Bridge of Sighs when no one’s out in the world
My good friend Lizzie has just bought a gorgeous farmhouse estate. It’s an absolute stunner out in the countryside, and after a short bus ride you feel miles and miles away. I went out for an overnight visit. Here we were exploring their huge garden (a third of an acre!) with its huge gazebo, abandoned organ, and this little pathway for children leading to a Wendy house. (For Americans, a Wendy house is like a children’s playhouse).
The garden gazebo with an ole timey weather vane.
They had the incredible fortune to inherit the best tub I’ve ever seen. Freestanding, power head, gorgeousness:

Ending our quiet weekends in Oxford was the start of about 6 weekends in a row out of town. To kick them off, I headed to Bristol for my good friend Jess’s ‘hen do’ (bachelorette party). I was in Bristol by 10 am, and then was picked up with a few others to head out to a high ropes course just outside of Bristol. High ropes sounded FUN, and it was… but our challenges were less obstacle course and more mind game. Gravity-defying, fear-testing courses.IMG_2506

Jess had to wear a monkey suit for the high ropes!


Laura walking the balance beam up in the sky IMG_2511

And then shuffling across a single, slack wire

Then the worst! Tier three. Lurching out to grab spaced-out, free-standing ropes.



And then the team tower thing! Three at a time on this wobbly platform in the sky. Jess and the Deans go first.  IMG_2538 IMG_2539 IMG_2543

From there, we went to Aston Court (also where the hot air balloon festival was) for a long picnic and games.
All the ladies and all. the. snacks.
One of the classics. We split into two teams and dressed Jess and Susie up in wedding dresses made out of toilet paper and tin foil.
This is after parading across the green to ask a few strangers to be the judging panel.
 And Rachel, me, and evidently the color of the season! You can’t even tell, but she’s about 5 months pregnant. Such an adorable little pregnant lady. IMG_2582
Later we got ready and went out on the town for sherry tasting, tapas and cocktails. This guy, showing us how heavenly it is to add a fired orange peel to sherry.
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Back in Oxford, the nights are still getting longer!

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