It started snowing Christmas night, so I guess you could say we got a white Christmas. Although 24 hours and 16 inches later... Yeah. We just got a bit of snow.

I'll Be Home For Christmas

My Christmas present from my mom this year was a flight home to the US to spend the holidays with my family.

If there's one thing that sums up the holidays at our house, it's eating. Between all the different family get togethers, we probably make enough food to feed a small army.

But I took advantage of my time at home by doing what I may do best - baking.

I didn't bring over all of my baking tools and supplies to the UK, so I was looking forward to having a mixer and pastry bags at my fingertips! At home, I'd usually bake cupcakes about every two weeks or so, so I had almost 3 months of not baking that I had to catch up on! And I'm pretty sure I accomplished that in spades.

The best part of being home though is spending time with my family and friends.

Winter Wonderland

After the Chocolate Festival, we decided to venture over to Hyde Park, where the Winter Wonderland was taking place. Basically it was a HUGE Christmas-themed fair with rides and a little German-style village full of eateries and shops. Jennifer, Andra, Yanan and I spent the afternoon enjoying the festive atmosphere, as well as a few German sausages.

I even managed to get up the courage to ride the roller coaster! Sure, it was small, but when you hate roller coasters as much as I do, it's quite the accomplishment to be proud of!

Chocolate Festival

After exploring the exhibition space for Made in Brunel, we decided to walk up the street a few blocks to the Chocolate Festival that was taking place.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a chocolate festival, because I could only visualize, well, chocolate bars.

But instead we discovered TONS of booths with all sorts of chocolate faire. From spicy chocolate, to dark, to white, to hot chocolate. If there was a food item made with chocolate, it was there.

The air around the festival smelled not only of chocolate, but of cookies and pastries as well. And even though it was bitterly cold outside, you just felt warmer walking through all the rows of tents.

I decided to indulge myself and get a warm crepe filled with Belgian dark chocolate and bananas. And it was pretty much amazing. (If you remember my earlier post, I've really taken a liking to crepes - although I don't eat them that often!)

For someone like me who loves baking, this festival was awesome. Because at least half of the booths were baked goods that utilized chocolate rather than just chocolatiers.

And even though I knew everything would probably taste amazing, I think the best part was just looking at everything all organized and wrapped up on the tables. The presentation on many of the treats was just as extravagant as the treats themselves. It was really hard not to walk away with anything more than my crepe - because I was certainly tempted! Especially with the monster cookies all stacked up!

There's Beauty in the Breakdown

Every year, Brunel's design students put on an exhibition called Made In Brunel.

The show specifically highlights the work of the undergraduate product design students, but also features some of the MA students as well.

As a part of the planning committee for the postgraduate Made In Brunel team, we went down to the Bargehouse, which is right on the Thames by the OXO tower.

The Bargehouse is pretty awesome as a gallery space because it's kinda run down. But in a cool way. There's graffiti inside, exposed pipes, peeling paint, cracked windows, and old hardwood floors. It's a bit decrepit - but it will make for an AWESOME exhibition. I had fun just wandering through all four floors of the space just taking pictures of the remnants of past exhibitions and all the different rooms. I especially enjoyed taking photos of all these random chairs I kept finding throughout the space.

Seriously can't wait to transform this space!

Marks & Stencils

So I've been a pretty big fan of Bansky for a few years of now. I think I'm really just jealous that he's able to paint on the streets and get away with it. So I was pretty stoked to hear that there was a new Banksy-curated exhibition in Central called Marks & Stencils. The name is a play off of a chain of stores here in the UK called Marks & Spencer.

I went with my friend Cillian and met up with my friend Amber and we went to check out the space. Needless to say, I was pretty much in awe. I love graffiti. Not the gross nasty tagging and scribbling that most delinquents do, but I'm talking about REAL graffiti art. There's something pretty cool about creating art in public spaces.

The sad fact is that even though most of these graffiti artists do some amazing pieces, it is still illegal and so most of them go by pseudonyms. Banksy himself has yet to be revealed. Every now and then though you can find some great art by these artists and they're definitely worth checking out.

If you can't go see any street art shows in your area, you could watch Exit Through the Gift Shop. It's an awesome film about street art and Banksy and totally worth checking out.

And if ever decides to stop raining in this country, I'm planning on doing a Banksy hunt through all of London to find all of his pieces that are left throughout the city. Get excited!


The British government recently announced that they were planning on massive cuts to higher education in the UK. In addition to cutting university funding, they also announced that tuition fees for English students could escalate to as high as £9000 ($14,500) a year - triple than what most students are paying now.

Of course, students that are already in massive dept don't want to hear that they will not only have to pay more to attend university, but their universities would also have to have major cuts in the services and facilities on campus.

So, they decided to take a stand.

The National Union of Students (NUS), which is the overarching organization for all of the student unions around the UK, planned a demonstration in London to show students' disgust with the government's plans. On Wednesday, November 10th, students from all over the UK traveled to London armed with signs, banners, and lots of noisemakers in order to attend the aptly titled "Demolition 2010".

The planned route was to march in a peaceful demonstration from the Horseguards Avenue, through Westminster until reaching Parliament while shouting, protesting, and making their voices heard.

While I was unable to attend the event due to some lectures and meetings with university staff, about 200 Brunel students journeyed into Central dressed in top hats and demo-tape.

The latest numbers I've found online said than an estimated 52,000 people showed up on Wednesday from all corners from the UK. I even heard that a few buses of students even came from Belfast - in Northern Ireland!

In addition to the funding, many students were angry with Nick Clegg, an elected MP from the LibDem party. Apparently when he was campaigning for his election he and his party signed a pledge with the NUS vowing that they were against raising tuition fees. Students, of course, loved this idea and many think that the student vote is what won him the election. Months later, it turned out to all be a lie - Clegg voted in favor of raising tuition. So, needless to say, the students were just slightly pissed off at this blatant betrayal to the people that elected him in the first place. The punishment? A lot of angry students with very rude signs specifically targeting Mr. Clegg. Can't say I feel sorry for him. I'd be pissed too.

While I followed the events of the Demo via the Twitter hashtag #Demo2010 and the BBC, I was disappointed to see that the majority of the attention was being put on a small minority of protesters that broke into Millbank Tower, which is the headquarters for the conservative party.

People set bonfires, smashed out all of the windows, spray painted the walls, and somehow ended up on the roof. Now the police are on the hunt for some idiot who thought it would be a good idea to throw a fire extinguisher over the roof onto the crowd below.

But aside from the group of that destroyed the tower, the majority of students were peaceful while making their voices heard. And they were there for the right reasons and going about their protest in the responsible way.

Unfortunately from what I've read online, it looks like the Demo may have all been in vain. Because of all the media attention to the events at Millbank, many people are saying that it's "too late" to make any changes to the proposed tuition fees and funding cuts - saying that the country's debt has to be controlled somehow and that cutting education funding is how to start.

After seeing how massive state funding cuts to the budget at Virginia Tech last year, I totally sympathized with the students' plight. It sucks. Massively. And it makes the quality of student life decrease dramatically when you start cutting programs, arts, clubs, intermural sports, library hours, student jobs... the list goes on and on. I wish I had seen such a massive demonstration from students in the US over our funding cuts - but we just sat there and took what was handed to us, only whining about it to the media rather than taking a stand.

And while I admire the UK students' tenacity and supported them in their battle, sometimes David can't always beat Goliath. But at least they gave it a shot.

Thanks to Ollie for sending me pics from Demo for this post. And to the random people whose pics I stole from facebook.

Settling In

So my collection of books on my bookshelf is slowly growing. And with the addition of a couple of Kidrobot dunnies, and a newly purchased Boston fern, my room is starting to feel a little bit less like a concrete block.

Still doesn't completely feel like home, but it's getting there.

Canterbury Tales

Anyone who's been through the Chesapeake Public Schools system has more than likely read Canterbury Tales as a part of the Honors English curriculum. (Any Hickory kids wanna back me up on this?) So when the opportunity arose to take a trip to Canterbury, I decided to make the 2-hour trek.

Aside from Chaucer's centuries-old tale of religious pilgrims, there's actually a lot of interesting places around Canterbury. In fact, the only references to Chaucer that I saw were a bookstore named after him, and a cheesy tourist-trap of a museum about Canterbury Tales (skipped it! English class was enough for me.).

The main sight to see of Canterbury is most definitely the Cathedral. It's one of the oldest churches in all of England, dating back as far as 597 AD when it was first established. And while I'm sure the current state of the cathedral is definitely not what it looked like in the 6th Century, it's still awesome to think that people were there that long ago.

Canterbury Cathedral is the home of the
Archbishop of Canterbury, who I guess you could of sort of say is like the Pope of the Anglican Church (the Church of England). Because the Anglican Church doesn't have a pope, the Archbishop is the symbolical leader. Part of me was kind of excited to be able to visit such an important place, since I'm Episcopalian (which is the American-ized Anglican church, because we have to take everything and make it our own...not really. It's more political than that. And we don't follow the Anglican Archbishop, we have an American presiding bishop, who's in charge of the Episcopal Church.).

I was also really excited to visit the cathedral because I am a bit of an architecture nerd/fanatic, especially when it comes to old cathedrals. Cathedrals have always been my favorite pieces of architecture, due to all the craftsmanship and detail that had to go into building these complex structures. I mean, have you ever thought about the physics behind a keystone in an archway? Or a flying buttress? But I digress...

Needless to say, this place was GORGEOUS! The ceilings in the nave were so high, and the light was shining through onto the stone below. And then other sections had this somber dimness to them. Sorry Pope, but Canterbury is much more appealing architecturally than St. Peter's - St. Peter's is just so over-the-top and flashy.

After wandering around the cathedral for a bit, we stopped off at a pub for another traditional English pub lunch. I think these pub lunches are becoming my favorite part of my day trips. They're cheap, delicious, and it's totally excusable to have a pint in the middle of the day.

Next stop was the High Street, where my friends and I stopped off to pick up some crépes for dessert. I hadn't had a crépe since I went to France in high school, but I always remembered how delicious they were. I got mine filled with Belgian dark chocolate and bananas. And it was delicious and totally hit the spot.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering to find the Norman Castle on the edge of the city center, walking around an old church graveyard, and perusing the shops along the High Street.

We made one last pit stop at this park that's where this old brewery used to be. There was a fire a long time ago and the townspeople chose to save their town rather than the brewery. In hindsight, this was probably a good idea. Although they were probably missing their beer for quite some time.

Another successful adventure.

From Hell

So, I didn't realize that Halloween is gaining some momentum here in the UK, and that people are actually beginning to really celebrate it here. Oops.

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, and usually I make some elaborate costume myself rather than buying one. And I usually start planning my costume about four months in advance.

But since everyone told me that the UK isn't big on Halloween (liars!), I didn't bother to think of a costume for this year. So on All Hallow's Eve, I made a last-minute stop at the shopping centers in Uxbridge and picked up a bunch of facepaint, and my friend Amber picked up some random bits to throw a costume together.

After about 30 minutes of makeup, I had been transformed into a zombie hipster. Thus me and my friends (Amber and Jennifer) set out on the tube to East London. More specifically the Tower of London.

We decided to celebrate Halloween by doing a walking tour that followed in the footsteps on one of the world's most notorious serial killers and greatest mysteries: Jack the Ripper.

Our journey began at the Tower of London, where one of the Yeoman guards (the guys that work in the Tower!) was actually our guide for the evening. We then spent the next two hours wandering down dark alleyways and stopping in creepy churchyards as he told us the gruesome tales of Jack the Ripper.

The most interesting thing I found about the tour is that there were over 1000 suspects at one point of who Jack was!! One of which was even a member of the Royal Family. Who would've thought?? Well, apparently the police did, because several of the prostitutes that were killed had previously worked at a gay house (brothel) that was right next door to Buckingham Palace - which the prince often frequented... Haha. I don't think having a brothel next to the palace would fly in today's times.

When Jack sent letters to the police, he signed them "From Hell" (creepy), hence the title of this post. He said that by killing the prostitutes, he was sending them to their rightful place in hell. Also creepy.

After the tour, our zombie-selves were hungry, so we ventured towards Soho to find some eats. We managed to wind up in the gay section of town, so we saw some very outrageous costumes (and people for that matter!) as we were wandering the sidewalks. I'm pretty sure I saw a transvestite in about 8-inch platform heels... she was at least 7 feet tall with those shoes! It was really cool to see that sort of subculture out in full force. It seemed to suit the holiday, and added a bit of light-hearted entertainment to the evening's festivities.

In Soho, we found ourselves a diner, called Ed's Diner. Probably the coolest restaurant I've been to yet. It was an American 1950's-style diner (think Johnny Rockets, but less cheesy). Everyone just sat at this bar that wrapped around the kitchen area. And there were jukeboxes. And fun people. And good food. And it was so much fun. Jennifer, who is from Ireland, loved it and kept asking if that's what diners in America were really like. I told her I wish they were.

And while brains weren't on the menu for this zombie, I still managed to appease my hunger with a chicken sandwich and some fries. (Yes, they called them fries on the menu! Not chips!!)

Mmmm. Zombie juice (Coke really, but work with me here!) What an awesome end to an awesome evening.


I went to Cambridge about two weeks ago. Yes I'm slow on the updates, but gimmie a break - I'm a graduate student!!

Anyways, Cambridge is about a 1.5-2 hour bus ride from Uxbridge. So I signed up on another day trip with some friends and made the trek. After all, Cambridge is very famous for its many intellectuals and universities.

And while I may not have the privilege (or the wallet) to attend one of the prestigious universities, I was still able to enjoy the many museums and and visit them.

The main college to visit is King's College - a private school that has its own church and chapel and everything. It's really old and very pretty, and has super-pristine lawns that you're not allowed to walk on and make me want to puke at the sight of them. My mother would be jealous of these lawns. For real.

I wandered around King's College for a bit before venturing into the rest of Cambridge. But rather than strolling the High Street like I did in Oxford, my friends and I decided to take advantage of the free museums that Cambridge University had open to the public.

The first stop was the anthropology museum. Cambridge has a large collection of artifacts, sculptures, and photos from cultures all around the world. And they have a small museum that contains them all. And while I was gaping at 12-foot-tall totem poles, and cases filled with old medical tools and African headdresses, my friends played around with a temporary exhibit on the human body. All-in-all an interesting spot.

The coolest museum though was definitely the natural history museum. It had row after row after row of cases completely FILLED with fossils, samples of stones, and basically all things ancient-dinosaur-times related. It also had a casting of a complete dinosaur skeleton (the original is in Belgium), and a T-Rex head. There was also a really awesome exhibit about Darwin and his travels around the globe.

The coolest part about the museum though, was that most of the samples had handwritten tags stating what they were. And most of these tags dated back to the time when Darwin was alive to present day - but they were all from people that worked for or were attending Cambridge. So all of the fossils and samples had been part of projects that had been worked on by Cambridge students and staff. So doing a project and then having it put into a museum for all of eternity - pretty awesome.

Walking around the town, you could almost physically feel the sense of wisdom and intelligence that came from the people that had studied at all of the schools there.

I feel smarter already.


A couple of weeks ago, I went to Oxford. It was here that I discovered the concept of the "High Street."

Basically, almost every town in England has this main road running through the center that's called the High Street. In all the places I've been so far, it seems to be a pedestrian-only street lined with shops on either side.

And what I find really weird is that no matter what time of day it is, or what day of the week it is, the High Street is always packed with people! I mean, it could be 2:00p on a Tuesday and there will be a million people out shopping. Where do they all come from? Aren't they supposed to be working? And I thought Tuesdays were reserved for senior citizen discounts?

Anyways, back to Oxford. It was a lovely day trip arranged by the Brunel International office. About a hundred students piled on to three buses and make the journey to this gorgeous city. Aside from the High Street Shopping, there was a great market, some old churches, and of course, the university. While we didn't go inside the university buildings, we did walk through some of the gardens and passed by the main hall that was used as the great hall in the Harry Potter movies! Yes, nerdy, I know. Gimmie a break here.

It was also in Oxford that I discovered that there are sunny days in England. In fact, contrary to popular belief, we've gotten a lot of sun here in merry ol' England. And when the sun is out, all of the stone buildings look absolutely gorgeous!

The trip overall was nice, and it was cool to see an area that wasn't the big metropolis that is Central. Sometimes walking around in the smaller towns is a lot quieter and less crowded, as long as you avoid the High Street.

Things to Know

This page is a conglomeration of all the places and things that get mentioned throughout my posts. Wondering what something is? Check it here, and if it's not listed, let me know and I'll add a post!


Brunel University. Located in Uxbridge, and named after the famed British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

This is where I am currently studying.


Central London. Because Brunel is on the outskirts of London, technically in Middlesex, I have to take about a 45-60 minute tube ride to get into the heart of London. But Brunel is considered to be in "West London". It's all London. But the main city is sometimes called Central to us students.

Chimes, The

One of the two shopping centers in Uxbridge. It's the nicer of the two. This one has more "high-end" shops like the Gap, H&M, M&S, Starbucks, and other stores that are name-brand. Fun fact: The Chimes was used to film an episode of the UK comedy, "The Inbetweeners" for season 3!

High Street

The main shopping areas of town. All the ones I've been too so far are pedestrian-only and are lined with shops on both sides. And no matter what time of day, there always seems to be a ton of people. Shops usually close early, but are open late on Thursdays (until 7!).


The on-campus accommodation complex especially for postgraduate students. The seventeen buildings are arranged in flats, with about ten rooms and one kitchen in each flat. Luckily, there's a private bathroom for each room!

Pavilions, The

One of the two shopping centers in Uxbridge. It's the bargain-shopping spot with stores like Poundland, T.K. Maxx, Iceland, and Wilkinsons. Usually a temporary market opens up shop on Tuesdays in the atrium so you can buy random stuff as well.