Thanksgiving in Oxford

When we were gearing up to move to Oxford, I had a timeline in my head of when I'd start getting homesick. It was right around Thanksgiving. I imagined sitting in my apartment eating something not usually found on the Thanksgiving table like steak and ale pie instead of turkey, and FaceTiming with everyone back at home wishing I was there to clink my glass with them in person. But the day has finally come and so far, so good!

We actually hosted our first Thanksgiving on Saturday. Our sweet neighbors Aleks and Greg embraced the tradition with us and I think it will be one of our most memorable days this year. It was quite a process getting everything we needed for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Oxford. I had to make a few trips to different grocery stores and place an online order to ensure we could get everything. And we still had to improvise on some things (Stove-Top is not a staple in the UK apparently….)

Even though we were in another country, we managed to keep most of the tradition associated with Thanksgiving:

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- I found last year's entire episode on YouTube so I played it while we prepared the food that morning.

Turkey -- I don't remember turkeys being this inexpensive in America. Most of the ones I found here were around £40 ($63) but I managed to find a small frozen turkey for £12 ($19) that was the perfect size for four of us. Christopher did an excellent job roasting it!

Sides -- I had to buy imported French's onions to make the green bean casserole, but I'm happy to say it turned out exactly how it does back home. The stuffing was a little harder. We used actual bread mixed with seasoning but it turned out pretty good. We also made sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, and those delicious Red Lobster biscuits.

Pumpkin Pie -- We gave Greg and Aleks Christopher's mom's recipe and they made the most beautiful one complete with homemade whipped cream (because Cool Whip doesn't exist here.)

Video: Looking Back On My First Job

Just wanted to share something I did as part of's video series "Dreamjobbing With…." I got to talk about my first job and that time I basically stalked my favorite magazine editor and made her my mentor :) I feel honored to be included in this series.

You can find out more about the concept of Dreamjobbing in my interview with the co-founder of the site.

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The Coolest Thing We Did In Barcelona

I first heard about EatWith while interviewing a travel blogger for a freelance story I was working on (it'll be published soon--I'll share when it is!). The concept's so cool--it's like an Airbnb for meals--so I decided to try it out on our trip to Barcelona. Basically, you go to the site, enter the name of the city you're traveling to, and you'll find a list of locals offering to cook for you in their home. The fee is small compared to the experience you get. There are even some listings that feature meals with Michelin starred chefs for less than $100.

One of the highest rated hosts in Barcelona was Marta, who runs a very famous paella cooking class out of her apartment. We decided to opt for that one and are so happy we did (although I'm sure the others would have been great too!)

I was kind of nervous right before we arrived--going to a stranger's house can be a little creepy, but the guy who told me about this ensured it would be safe and said to just embrace it. At the elevator, we met a friendly-looking girl our age who asked if we were going to the class too. And when we arrived, we discovered a whole group of travelers around our age getting to know each other on the terrace.

There was a couple from California who brought their adorable 6-month old girl. I loved their spirit and attitude. It's like, "yeah, we just had a baby but that won't stop us from having fun." I've got to remember that down the road…. Then there was another couple from the States who knew each other through their brother and sister who had just gotten married. Three people were on solo trips. How awesome to go on an adventure by yourself?! And one guy brought his parents. We'll get back to him in a second….

Marta began the class by telling us a little about herself. She's originally from Barcelona and moved to San Francisco to teach and ended up loving it so much she stayed there for 20 years. When she moved back to Barcelona, she was teaching a vegetarian cooking class when someone asked her if she could teach them how to make paella, thus launching her career as the queen of paella, Spain's national dish.  The one we were making that day was composed of rice, vegetables, broth, meat and seafood (so a little bit of everything, really….)

Then, she gave us all a task. I cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces, and Christopher cut the cuttlefish (which is a big deal because he's not a big fish fan--although, we're definitely changing that one cooking class at a time.)

Weekend Adventures: Barcelona

I think I've found one of my new favorite cities! This past weekend, Christopher and I jetted off to Barcelona to experience delicious food, beautiful architecture, and the amazing Spanish culture.

First stop: our hotel. We found a great deal at H10 Urquinaona Plaza, a modern hotel located in the heart of Barcelona. We were in walking distance to pretty much every stop on our trip, but also right across the street from the metro when we were too tired to walk back. They greeted us with champagne upon arrival (yes, please!), and we centered ourselves and planned our first day on the terrace overlooking the city.

Christopher enjoying the bubbly on the hotel terrace

Our next stop was the Sagrada Familia, the Roman Catholic church designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí. It's so massive that they started building it in 1882 and it's not set to be completed until 2026. This was one of the most amazing places I've ever seen.

This is the view when you look up while inside the Sagrada Familia. Pretty awesome!
After a brief siesta at the hotel (hey, when in Rome Barcelona, right?), we ventured into the neighborhood of La Barceloneta (near the beach) and found a cute little tapas restaurant called Jai-Ca which was packed with locals, so we figured it had to be authentic. We perched ourselves up on stools at the bar and enjoyed three whole hours of small plates and vermouth. It was probably one of the best meals/dates we've ever had, and it only cost around $40 for the whole night. Highly recommended!

Mmmm… tapas. Delicios!

Writing Among The Dreaming Spires

Happy Friday, everyone! This week has been a very busy one for me--actually all of November has. As you know, I moved to Oxford with the goal of writing a novel. In August I started working on one that's been in the making since I was in college. My friend Megan--who also wanted to write a book--and I decided to become writing buddies, so since August, we've been writing a couple of chapters every other week, emailing them to each other, and meeting up on Skype to talk about them. Writing is a very solo activity so it's nice to have other people involved in some way.

So, when National Novel Writing Month kicked off in November, I decided to participate. The gist of it is that you try to write 50,000 words in a month (my head hurts just thinking about that!). There's a website that you register at and connect with other writers participating in your area. So, I joined the Oxford group and was welcomed with open arms.

They have these things called "write-ins" where you meet up with other members at various spots around town and work on your novels together. I first did one with an American girl around my age and we ended up talking for two out of the three hours we were together. But it was so fun making a new friend, I didn't care that I wasn't moving up my word count. The second one I did was with a woman who has had a lot of experience writing. That day, she was actually working on a scene in her YA novel that involved a teen magazine and she had brought some issues for inspiration. We both felt it was meant to be that I was there that day since I define myself by teen mags.

And yesterday, a group of us ended up at St. Cross Church which was built in 1160 (pictured above)! This write-in was a lot less social and much more productive (the building was so quiet I felt guilty talking.) Since I started writing this over the summer, I'm a little ahead of the goal right now for NaNoWriMo, but I doubt I'll finish it on time--I'm so impressed with anyone who can do that! One of the women in the group wrote 4,000 words in three hours. I was just happy with my thousand!

Right now I'm at 26,000 words, and I think with all of my previous (incomplete) attempts at writing, this might be my best one. I've learned that writing a novel is not easy at all, but doing it with people and support makes it a lot more fun!

Have you ever written a novel? What's your biggest piece of advice? I'd love any tips you can share.

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That Time I Attended a Wedding in My Pajamas...

One of the things we had to come to terms about living abroad this year is knowing that we would have to miss a few of our good friends' weddings. This is actually our first big wedding season year (you know, the one that 20-and-30-somethings often complain about but secretly love… "I have TEN weddings to go to just this summer alone. I'm going to be so broke from buying so many gifts but look at how popular I am!") We don't have ten weddings. (We're not that cool.) Just four. But sadly we knew we had to miss them.

So, when my digitally savvy friend Christie emailed me to tell me that they were live-streaming their wedding for everyone who had to miss it, I jumped up and down (literally.) Since July, I've relied heavily on virtual participation to stay in touch with friends and family. Thanks to Skype and FaceTime, I can have a cup of coffee with them on their couch or be passed around during Sunday night dinners. But the idea of attending a wedding virtually? Absolutely brilliant and something I had never thought of!

Saturday rolled around, and I was so excited. I felt like I was part of Christie's big day, just like she and her groom were for ours. Christopher and I poured a glass of wine to toast to the happy couple and powered up the live stream (or "love stream" as my phone appropriately auto-corrected it to when I put it in the calendar.)

First we saw the groom walk in with his groomsmen. Then, the bridesmaids trotted down the aisle in their gorgeous sparkly gowns. My excitement was building so much that I almost couldn't take it--the doors opened, and I caught a glimpse of my dear friend in white. I couldn't wait for her to get closer to the camera so that we could see her dress… the dress… the one we talked about over lunch right after she had bought it. My heart was beating fast, and I was prepared to shed a tear. And then…!

10 Things To Do With Your Bonus Hour Today

Funny story: Last Sunday, Christopher and I woke up after what felt like a really long night's sleep, but the clock only said 9 am. We went on with our day, having coffee at a cute little cafe, taking a long walk, cooking a yummy meal, and watching one of my favorite movies ever--Brewster's Millions (the 80s version). It was a typical day, but something just felt a little off and I couldn't put my finger on it. Later that night, we were having a completely random conversation and we both wondered if the UK moved their clocks back in the fall. So, I googled it. And guess what--they do. On October 26 at 2 am. That's right--we completely missed the time change but thankfully all of our technology updated it automatically!

It was a super weird feeling and also a little disappointing. I love the end of Daylight Saving because you get a bonus hour to do something you might not do ordinarily. So, since Fall Back is happening in the States today, I decided we'll just wake up a little early and re-do our day. In the spirit of the end of Daylight Saving, I put together a fun list of things you can do with an extra hour. Enjoy!

1. Write a handwritten letter or email to an old friend -- This one is inspired by my some of my sweet friends and family members who have sent me actual cards in the mail while we're over here. Living abroad ironically makes catching up easier because the intervals between updates are longer. It makes me want to write long emails to everyone, so apologies in advance if you get a novel from me in the future :)

2. Get a massage -- All you need is 60 minutes and a good masseuse to be completely transformed into a totally relaxed and peaceful person. Yes, please!

3. Work out -- It’s tough to get a good workout in sometimes, but now there's no excuse when you have a bonus hour. Feel the burn! (And for my friends running the NYC marathon today, you're doing the ultimate workout. GOOD LUCK!)