Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BookBook - Hard Leather Case for MacBook Pro

I found these BookBooks in an email from my mum entitled 'cool inventions' and they are very cool indeed. If you look very closely, you'll see that these vintage leather hardbacks are more than meets the eye - They are lap top cases in disguise! 

BookBook Hard Back Leather case for MacBook Pro $79.99 USD

Versions of BookBook are also available for iPad, MacBook Air and iPhone - making them 
the perfect accessory for tech-savvy Freshers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Linacre College - Celebrating 50 Years

Did you know that Oxford University is the oldest university in the English-speaking world? 

Its exact date of foundation is unknown, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. However, not all of Oxford's college's are quite this old....Linacre College for example, is a mere babe in comparison and is 50 years young this year. 

Congratulations on your 5oth Anniversary Linacre!  

Linacre's 50th Anniversary logo featuring Thomas Linacre. (Designed by yours truly).

Founded in 1962, Linacre College takes its name from Thomas Linacre, founder of the Royal College of Physicians and distinguished Oxford humanist. The College reflects Thomas Linacre's breadth of learning in its own multi-disciplinary purpose and ideals and its membership includes post-grad students from over fifty different countries.

Linacre College, Oxford from New College Recreation Ground.

Set within the beautiful surrounds of The University Parks and playing fields, Linacre is 
located just five minutes walk from the city centre on the corner of St Cross and South Parks Roads. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

British Summer Time (BST)

Don't forget to wind your clocks forward an hour before you go to bed tonight.
British Summer Time is finally here! 

The White Rabbit - Through the Looking Glass. Illustration by Sir John Tenniel.  

British Summer Time (day light saving) begins at 1:00am on the last Sunday of March each year when clocks are moved forward to 2:00am. Whilst we may all lose an hour of sleep tonight, I don't think anyone will be complaining. With extra daylight in the evenings and a long summer ahead, there’s plenty to look forward to after the clocks go forward.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's Pimm's O'Clock!

OK, perhaps I am getting just a little over excited, but has anyone seen the seven day forecast?
Summer is finally on its way and as far as I'm concerned, there's no better way to celebrate.

Pimm’s is surely the quintessential English summer drink and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s wonderfully refreshing and absolutely delicious when laced with summer fruits and mint. So arm yourself with a picnic rug and a couple of friends and set off for your favorite summer spot, whether it be Port Meadow, The Trout, Perch, Cherwell Boat House or the The Fishes in New Hinskey - you'll be sure to blessed with some sunshine this weekend, so go ahead and order a Pimm's!  

If your planning on catching some rays as the English ladies do - be sure to wear a nice bra! (Don't worry, if you don't understand what I mean, you soon will).


I just love this ad, ‘ice’ is so cool, and ‘orange’, well she goes without saying. A brilliant 
concept, and perfectly cast! For those of you that didn’t catch it, here’s the recipe:  

Grab yourself a bottle of Pimms No.1, now take a jug and fill it with ice. 
Mix one part Pimm’s No. 1 with 3 parts lemonade, 
Add sliced cucumber, orange and strawberries, and a little mint 
and you’re ready to go!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Inspector Morse

Are you a fan of Inspector Morse? I'm afraid to admit I haven't yet read any of Collin Dexter's famous novels, I'm not sure whether detective novels are really my 'thing', but I figured whilst living in Oxford, there's no better time to find out - Inspector Morse you see is a senior officer with the Thames Valley Police and all the novels and television adaptations are set in Oxford!

Pictured: Sergeant Lewis (left), played by Kevin Whately and the famous Inspector Morse (right), played by John Thaw.

There are a total of 13 novels in the series, but you can also buy the complete Inspector Morse TV adaptation on DVD if you're feeling lazy. The new "Lewis" series in which, Morse's "sidekick," takes the lead is also available on DVD and has proved so popular that it is now into its sixth series. Filming continues in and around Oxford.

Pictured: Inspector Lewis, played by Kevin Whately and Detective Sergeant James Hathaway, played by Laurence Fox.

For those of you yet to arrive in Oxford or still in the planning stages of your move, the Inspector Morse and Lewis DVDs are a fantastic way to get a sneak peek into Oxford and taste of what lies ahead, (aside from the murder and mystery of course!)   

Oxford Pubs frequented by Inspector Morse  
As an inspector well know for his thirst for English real ale, it's no surprise that many of Oxford's pubs featured in the long running TV adaptation. One of Oxford's most enchanting and well-hidden watering holes, the Turf Tavern, features heavily in the series and is well worth a visit - finding it is half the fun! The Randolph Hotel, host to the 'Morse 'bar,' the Bear Inn and The Old Bookbinders Arms in Jericho are also worth a visit.

You'll find this chalk board at the Turf Tavern along with another depicting Inspector Lewis, however you may not pick it at first. Lewis' chalk board reads:" Inspector Lewis is a regular although this looks nothing like him due to our one eyed, left handed signwriter"!

Inspector Morse Walking Tour 
If you'd like to follow in the footsteps of the city’s most celebrated detective and visit the scenes form his best-known cases, you can download a free self-led itinerary here. Alternatively, guided tours depart from the Oxford Information Centre up to 3 times a week. Further details available at the Oxford Information Centre, 15-16 Broad Street, Oxford. 

Die-hard fans be warned - If you're looking for Beaumont or Lonsdale College whilst in Oxford, neither of them exist! In reality Brasenose College was used to represent Lonsdale, while Corpus Christi was used for Beaumont.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mothering Sunday (Mother's Day)

In the UK, mothers are honoured on the fourth Sunday of lent, i.e. today, but before all my fellow expats start freaking out, it's important to note that in Australia and the US at least, Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. This year it falls on the 13th, so there's still plenty of time to make that all important phone call, get your Mum's gift organised or schedule in time for a Skype date.... just be sure to purchase your Mother's Day cards now - there won't be any left in May!

Perhaps all the lucky Mums amongst you will even get to celebrate Mother's Day twice this year! 

Need a post friendly gift idea this Mother's Day? We love this personalised 'Supermum' Print £45 by More Than Words

Happy Mother's Day to all the Super Mums out there!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Folding Bikes

I admit when I first saw people riding around on these funny looking contraptions, I thought they were the most ridiculous things I had ever seen - But everyone’s entitled to change their minds aren’t they? Now that I understand what a folding bike is (having never seen one before moving to Oxford), I almost wish I had bought one. 

Ridgeback Folding Attache, Matt Black - Approx £599.99
Advantages of Folding Bikes 
·       folding bikes are perfect for space-challenged urban commuters 
·       are ideal for multi-modal travel, i.e. cycling to the station and catching the train
·       can be taken on all forms of public transport for free
·       will fit in the boot of your car, so there's no need for car racks
·       can easily be stored inside, under a desk or in the corner, reducing the risk of theft
·       are generally sold in one size only that can be adjusted to suit the whole family
·       have a high re-sale value, so make good investments

Ridgeback Folding Rendezvous, Matte Grey - Approx £279.99

Disadvantages of Folding bikes
·       they are more expensive than conventional models
·       designs are more complicated, which means that more parts can go wrong 
·       the short wheel base can translate to a rougher ride on bumpy ground 
·       wide wheels and suspension are a must if you are riding any distance

How much do Folding Bikes cost?
Although the most popular type of bike ridden in Oxford remains the Hybrid, I'm sure you'll agree that "folders" have much to offer. Favoured brands amongst Oxford cyclists include the Ridgeback and Brompton and cheaper "quality" models start at around £250. From here, prices can range up to around £1000, but as with conventional bikes, the higher the cost, the better the components and the lighter the bike.

When it comes to buying a bicycle, whatever shape it may be, you'll save yourself a whole lot of time, money and frustration if you get it right the first time, so it's important to do your research. For lots of great tips on buying a bicycle and riding in Oxford, check out:
The Oxford Fresher's Guide to Buying a Bicycle.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where is Oxford University?

Don't worry, if you have asked this question, you're not alone. Aside form the obvious answer, Oxford University is a collegiate university, so you won’t find it all neatly packed into one campus, 
it is all around you. This can be a little confusing if you are not familiar with the college system, but Oxford University is made up of 38 colleges and 6 permanent, private halls all of which are sprinkled throughout the city centre. 

Each college has its own individual buildings and grounds, faculty and traditions, providing students and academics the benefits of belonging to both a large, internationally renowned institution and a smaller, interdisciplinary, academic college community. 

Many of the colleges are open to visitors throughout the year, but may be closed or have set visiting hours during term time, so it's best to check each college's website before planning your visit. Christ Church, Magdalen, Trinity, Brasenose and New College are all particularly worth exploring if you don’t have time for them all.

Christ Church College, St. Aldates, Oxford.

Some of you may even recognise Christ Church's, Grand Staircase and Dining Hall from the famous Harry Potter movies. 
To follow in Harry's footsteps, click here.

Magdalen College, High St, Oxford. ~ Don't forget that in Oxford, "Magdalen" is pronounced "Maudlin."

Did you know that Magdalen College even has its own deer park on campus?

Lincoln College, Turl St, Oxford.

When visiting Oxford's colleges, be sure to stay off the beautifully manicured grass in the quad-
rangles! As tempting as it may be, it is a privilege reserved solely for the Fellows of the College.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Expat Survival Food Supplies

So the saying goes, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but perhaps it should have included expats as well. Whilst food may be the last thing that springs to mind when you are packing up all your belongings, nothing will remind of home quite like a dish or favorite treat from your past.  
As an Aussie expat, some of the treats that I miss most from home are Tim Tams, Mint Slice biscuits, Cadbury's Top Deck chocolate and Cherry Ripes - just thinking about them all is making my mouth water! For Kiwis it's Manuka Honey and Whittakers Peanut Slabs and for South Africans it's Peppermint Crisps, but whatever your soft spot, be sure to include an emergency stash in your suitcase before you leave. (The cutoms and quarantine regulations in the UK are not as strict as those in countries like Australia, so you'll have no trouble getting them across the boarder, the only challenging part will be making them last!)

Unfortunately chocolate of any description doesn't last very long in my household, so making our supplies last was never really an option. Thankfully, a recent trip home to Australia enabled me to stock up on all my favorite supplies. I was even able to teach all of my English friends the art of a Tim Tam slam on my return. The only problem was that they were all such naturals I've had to beg my mum to send me some more! 

If like me your supplies have run low, the following UK based websites are an absolute godsend: Australia Shop, Canada Shop, South Africa Shop, New Zealand Shop, American Soda, Italian Deli Online and Sanza  (which caters for South Africans, New Zealanders and Aussies). Please email me the details of any other stores you'd like to share with your fellow expats.

For more arrival survival tips, check out The Oxford Fresher's Arrival Survival Guide.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Computer Says No

I’m not sure whether you are familiar with the BBC comedy series ‘Little Britain,’ but if our experience in the UK is anything to go by, you may at times feel as though you’ve stepped into one of the show’s popular skits. A recent episode at our local Thrifty Car and Van Rental office reignited our frustrations with British bureaucracy and general lack of customer service so much that I though I'd share it with you here. 

When we first arrived in the UK, we were completely shocked by the lack of customer service and general ‘friendliness’ in stores, cafes and restaurants - it seems to be the norm here rather than the exception. Expats from countries like Australia and America who are not only used to happy, smiling, sales staff, but those who will go out of their way to help are in for a nasty surprise. Here, receiving a simple greeting, a smile or even eye contact from a grumpy sales clerk is almost worth celebrating - and that's just at the grocery store. Heaven help you if you actually need any assistance.

To avoid nasty glares at the grocery store remember that you’ll be expected to pack your bags yourself. Fail to do this in a timely manner and vacate the checkout before the next customer is ready to pack their bags at your peril. 

If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing assistance, whether it be from your local bank, your network provider or a sales clerk in a department store my advice is to never take "computer says no" for an answer. Once you have a better grasp of the English language you'll realise that "computer says no" actually translates to one of the following; "I can't be bothered helping you," "I have zero problem solving skills," or "I really don't care." Don't take it personally - persistence is the key.  I know at times it may seem as if you have no other option than to give up, but if your request is reasonable, stand your ground and if all else fails, ask to see the supervisor.

When preparing for battle be sure to arm yourself with as many tools as possible. Depending on the circumstances, documents such as your passport, identity card and drivers license or those that provide proof of your address can be incredibly helpful.   

When you first arrive in Oxford and are faced with the challenging tasks of opening a new bank account, applying for a credit card and organising a contract for your mobile phone, getting the help you need can feel like an uphill battle. The Oxford Fresher's 'Arrival Survival Guide,' contains everything you'll need to hit the ground running. I truly hope it helps you avoid the endless hurdles and frustrations I faced when I first arrived!

Grumble aside, there are of course exceptions to every rule and if you're fortunate enough to be served by a particularly helpful or friendly sales clerk, please go out of your way to thank them - they are very rare indeed!'

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Internet connection

Lady Gaga has a reputation for stealing the spotlight, but perhaps this time, it was free Wi-Fi that she was after. We're moving apartments at the end of the month and it's made me remember just how difficult it was to get the internet connected when we first arrived in Oxford.

If you are planning a move to Oxford or have only just arrived, you'll quickly discover that over the next few weeks and months, the internet will be your life line. Not only will it enable you to receive emails from real estate agents and potential employers, search for your new home, a car or find where the closest bike store is located, it will provide the cheapest and easiest way to keep in contact with friends and loved ones at home. So what do you do when it's taking forever to get the internet connected at home? Check out my tips below.
Lady Gaga wearing a specially designed satellite dish hat during the 2011 MTV EMA in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Wi-Fi hotspots in Oxford
If you're fortunate enough to be travelling with a laptop or a mobile phone with Internet capabilities, you’ll be pleased to know that there are lots of cafes and pubs in and around Oxford with free Wi-Fi. These include; Greens Cafe on St Giles, The Jam Factory on Park End Street and the Modern Art Gallery Oxford Cafe & Bar on Pembroke Street to name a few, but you'll find a more extensive list of Oxford's Wi-Fi hot spots here. The new X90, Oxford Express and The Oxford Tube, (Oxford to London bus services) also offer free Wi-Fi and power sockets to keep you connected on the go.

Dedicated Internet cafes in Oxford 
Whilst Wi-Fi hot spots are great for updating your Facebook account and sending the odd email or two, if you're in need of a printer, you'll need to visit one of Oxford's dedicated internet cafes. These can be found at the Oxfordshire Central Library in the Westgate Centre, HighTec Solutions on the first floor of North Bailey House on New Inn Hall St and at Castle News Net Café on New Road in central Oxford. 

Getting the internet connected at home 
Getting the Internet connected at home can take what seems like an eternity and extreme patience is required here to avoid tearing your hair out. Not only do most internet providers advise of a two week waiting period for installation (at minimum), once your installation has been scheduled, technicians are far from reliable and have a reputation of running incredibly late if they bother to show up at all. If you own a laptop, notebook, desktop computer or other similar device and are tired of hanging out in internet cafes, dongles can be really useful. 

Sarah Jessica Parker thanks the gods, she's connected at last in this outrageous, Philip Treacy "satellite dish" hat! 

What is a dongle? 
Dongles are an absolute lifesaver when you first arrive and allow you to do everything you would on a home connection when you don’t have one! They are basically a small plastic USB device, (similar in appearance to a memory stick) which allow you to access the Internet on your laptop or other similar device wirelessly and portably. The biggest plus in my opinion is that connection is instant, plus you to access the Internet pretty much wherever you go in the UK. Like mobile phones, they can be prone to coverage issues, but if you can gain access in your own home my guess is you’ll be purring contently.

For more arrival survival tips, check out The Oxford Fresher's Arrival Survival Guide
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