Friday, August 17, 2012

Oxford Blue Ice Cream

What are you up to this weekend? I'm SUPER excited because Johnny and I are flying home 
to help celebrate his Granny's 90th birthday and it looks as if you'll have something to celebrate in Oxford too... Have you seen the forecast? 27 and sunny means only one thing - a visit to one of G&D's Ice Cream Cafes is a must!

Known for their wide and imaginative range of ice cream flavours, G&D's has become something of an Oxford institution but you'll need no excuse to visit. There's always something new and exciting to try  - 'Black and Blue' (blackberry and blueberry), 'Golden Secret' (Crunchie Bar) and Hamlet (white chocolate & raspberry) all frequent the menu, but my favourites are 'Bananarama' and 'Oxford Blue' (blueberry). How about you? Which flavour do you like the best?

The first G&D's opened in Little Clarendon Street in the summer of 1992 and was named after its founders - George Stroup and Davis Roberts, who were both students of Oxford University.

All of G&D's ice cream continues to be made on site and is delivered to its new siblings on St Aldates and Cowley Road by bike. It doesn't get more Oxford than that!

Here's my favourite 'Oxford Blue' ice cream. Doesn't it look mouthwateringly delicious? Have a great weekend! xoxo

Friday, August 10, 2012

Have a great weekend!

What are you up to this weekend? I'm off to Bath with my girlfriends and I'm psyched about 
this weather! If you're in Oxford this weekend and looking for somewhere to soak up all the beautiful sunshine, check out The Isis Farmhouse -  It's one of my faves. Hope you have a good one, and stay cool!

Feel like a leisurely stroll or ride along the Thames this weekend? I hope so, because The Isis can only be reached by bike, boat or foot! It's worth the effort, I promise.

Hidden in the fields between Donnington Bridge and Iffley Lock, this characterful riverside pub is about as wholesome as it gets and boasts a huge riverfront garden, (great for the kids), a nice, simple menu, (around 4-5 dishes per day) and a super relaxed vibe. On the downside, there are no baby changing facilities and the service is a bit slow at times, but with a setting like this you won't be in a hurry to leave. 

Tip: Be sure to call or check the website before setting off as opening hours vary depending on the time of year and remember to take some CASH! (no cards accepted). Bonus: Vegetarian friendly. Highlight: The Isis' cream teas and homemade cakes.

The Isis Farmhouse, Haystacks Corner, The Towing Path, Iffley Lock, Oxford OX4 4EL
Food served: 12.30-2.30 & 6.30-8.30pm. Phone: 01865 243854 

Renting in Oxford: Securing a property before you arrive

Unfortunately for most international visitors, securing a property before arriving in Oxford 
is a rather risky business - Twelve months is a long sentence to pay if you've somehow gotten 
it wrong. But if you're up for the challenge and absolutely confident that you've done all your research, it is possible, (but by no means easy) to secure a property before you arrive. 

Things to keep in mind when viewing a property, online or otherwise:
·     You can’t smell a picture and only the best ones will be shown - ask to see more! 
·     Photographs are always taken at the brightest time of day. Natural sunlight is limited at 
      the best of times, so you want to ensure you get as much of it as you can! 
·     Ventilation is also important. Damp, dark bathrooms and living spaces become moldy very 
      quickly. Note: Some properties have bedrooms and/or living areas are below ground level.
·     If it's not possible for you to view the property in person, try to organise for a friend or 
      colleague to attend an inspection on your behalf and ask them to take lots of photos. 

·     Find out as much as you can about the local area – If you haven’t already downloaded 
      The Oxford Fresher's Guide to 'Searching for your new home' now is the time!
·     Remember that the advertisements will always focus on the properties strong points, so be 
      sure to consider what they are not telling you - Is the property behind a night club or train 
      line or in a dodgy part of town? (Google Maps is very useful). 
·     If you plan to rent a ‘furnished’ property, ensure you know exactly what you are getting.  
      Furniture, fixtures and fittings featured in the photographs will not necessarily be there 
      when you arrive. (A full inventory list should be provided by your real estate agent).

Photo: Permit holders only, by Clive Jones

·     Does the property have an allocated parking space? Is it eligible for a permit? 
      Tip: You'll find details on how to obtain a parking permit are included in The Oxford 
      Fresher's guide to 'Buying a Car & Driving in the UK'.
·     and last but not least, if you (or your friend or colleague) notice any faults during the
      inspection, ask if they can be fixed before you move in. Tip: Check the exhaust fan in the 

      It’s important to note that customer service is not one of Britain’s strong suits - equal 
      measures of preparedness, patience and persistence are a must but in this case, 
      will not necessarily guarantee success.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Bicycle Makeover Complete!

I have been in LOVE with Pashley bikes ever since we arrived in the UK but unfortunately, our budget just didn't stretch far enough to buy one and with their collection of classic bikes ranging from £525 - £995, I'm sure I'm not alone. 

Pashley Cycles have been hand building British bicycles in Stratford-Upon-Avon since 1926, and have named their new special edition model the ‘Britannia’ to reflect their pride in British manufacturing. The vintage styled Britannia cycle is based on their popular Pashley Princess and features a hand built frame, traditional wicker basket and comes in a choice of red, white or blue. 

Get the look for less
Those of you who read my post on Cool Bike Accessories may remember me mentioning 
that I was planning to give my Raleigh bicycle a makeover. Johnny was busy studying over the weekend, so I thought I'd give it a go and I couldn't be more thrilled with the results!!! 

Here are the before and after photos: 

BEFORE: Boring old Raleigh Oakland Hybrid. (Image flipped for comparison).

AFTER: What do you think? The whole transformation was SUPER easy and cost less than £15!

Here's how I did it:
1. Start by give your bike a really thorough clean and leave it to dry
2. Next, remove all the stickers using a hairdryer. A little heat makes them really easy to peel off.
3. Remove the wheels and mud guards, or find a handy man who can! (Thanks Johnny). It's not as hard as it sounds, but if you need some help, check out this You Tube clip for instructions.
4. Place your bike upside down on a drop cloth and let the fun begin.
5. Don't forget to paint the mud and chain guard, for a classic 'Pashley' look.

Tip: Hammerite metal paint is fantastic as it only requires one coat and you can even paint straight over rust. The only thing I found a bit tricky is that it is quite thick and sticky. Work quickly and avoid going over any areas you've already painted for a nice smooth finish. Be careful not to over-apply or the paint will sag. If you have the space, use spray paint instead. It's much quicker and will give you a super smooth finish.

What you'll need:
3. 750ml White Spirit - £2.48 
4. A drop cloth
5. Disposable gloves (Pack of 8) - £0.98 

...and if you can stretch the budget, these accessories will really help polish off the look: 
8. Leather-look FWE Trail Saddle - £24.99
9. and this oversized Pashley 8mm Bicycle Bell- £19.95! 

Feeling inspired? I'd love to see YOUR before and after photos. 
Share them with our readers here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Oxford Guide: Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in a new country can be a daunting and time consuming experience, but it can also be lots of fun! There are lots of weird and wonderful new products to discover, a seemingly endless list of '3 for 2' and '2 for 1' deals and a few fancy new names as well. For example, did you know that if Cinderella had have been written in the UK, she would have ridden home in a 'squash'? A few other veggies separated by a common language include; 'mangetout,' 'aubergine' and 'courgette,' otherwise known as snow peas, eggplant and zucchinni, but none are quite as important as learning the difference between 'trousers' and 'pants!

As I've mentioned previously, I do most of our grocery shopping online, but I love the markets and use the local supermarket for everything in between. I don't have a favourite, I usually just use whichever is most convenient, but there are some major differences to be aware of. 

Here's a brief introduction to what Oxford has to offer:

Charles and Camilla check out at Belgravia's Waitrose. Photos by: The London Evening Standard

Waitrose $$$
As the only supermarket chain to hold a Royal Warrant, Waitrose supplies some seriously 'posh nosh.' Understandably, it also has a reputation for being one of the most expensive super- markets in the UK, (along with M&S), but I think it offers far better value for money than it is given credit for. That said, if you choose to do your weekly shop here, it will cost considerably more than at any of the other 'big 4' supermarkets (Asda, Morrison's, Sainsbury's or Tesco), 
but the quality and service you'll recieve are second to none...except maybe M&S.  
Location: Old High St, Headington.

Kate at the Menai Bridge Waitrose store in Anglesey, North Wales. Photos by: Lee Thompson & Chris Neill.

M&S Simply Food $$$
Marks & Spencer, (also affectionately know as 'Marks & Sparks), specialises in luxury food items and has the best selection of fresh, organic produce by far. All products are own-brand and come beautifully presented. Home-brand just sounds wrong in this case and the only real down side (apart from the price) is that most of M&S's produce comes with LOADS of packaging.

M&S also have a large selection of delicious ready-made meals. Please let me clarify by saying these are not words I ever dreamt I'd use in the same sentence, but they really are delicious! Keep an eye out for their 'Dine in for £10,' deals where you get everything you need for a two course meal plus wine for two. Locations: Banbury Rd, Summertown, Queen St, City Centre, (the food section is on the ground floor towards the back of the store) and at the Oxford Retail Park at the end of Cowley Rd.

Tesco / Tesco Express / Tesco Metro $$
I had no idea Tesco featured in Lily Allen's LDN (London Music Video) until my little brother came to visit last month. Every time we went past a store he'd start singing, "There was a little old lady, who was walking down the road, she was struggling with her bags from Tesco!" It was kinda cute. You can watch the clip below. (You may need to 'un-mute' the sound).

Known as the 'big bad giant', Tesco has put many of its smaller competitors out of business, but its customers enjoy excellent value for money and the convenience of extended trading hours. Some stores are even open 24 hours a day!

Sainsbury's $$
Although they own far fewer stores Sainsbury's is often compared to Tesco, but overall, I think that they provide far better customer service and a more pleasant shopping experience. They also offer a huge range of products to suit most budgets, from the Sainsbury's 'Basic' range, to 'Taste the Difference,' Sainsbury's answer to the up-market, restaurant quality foods provided by rivals like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Other ranges include; 'Organic', 'Freefrom' - for those who have wheat, gluten and dairy intolerances, a 'Kids' range and a 'Be Good to Yourself' range.

The co-operative $$
The co-op pride themselves in ethical trading and sourcing and ALL of their stores are powered by green energy. (A first for any UK retailer). Amongst their produce you'll find fairly traded bananas, wine, tea, coffee and chocolate. And if these weren't reason enough to visit, the co-op's 'Truly Irrisistable Chocolate Ice Cream' really is!

Aldi $
Short for "Albrecht Discount," Aldi is SUPER cheap and stocks mostly own-brand products. The check-out system is a bit bizarre, but it's fast and furious and the quality and service are great. Location: Botley Rd, Oxford. 

Expat shopping tips
·     In most cases, you'll be expected to pack your groceries yourself
·     Fruit and vegetables are weighed by the cashier at the cash register
·     Plastic bags are provided, but usually at a cost.
·     Always insist on receiving a receipt and check it before leaving the store.
·     If paying by credit or debit card, take extra care to ensure 'cash back' has not been added 
      to your bill. (Unless of course you requested it).
·     Many stores offer loyalty/ discount cards. If you plan to shop at the same store regularly, 
      it's definitely worth filling out the paperwork.
·     If you're longing for items from home, check out my post on expat survival food supplies.
·     Unfortunately, few grocery stores in Oxford supply parking. If a car is a must, check out my 
      post on Oxford's Superstores.

Delis, specialty stores and farmer's markets coming soon!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Cool bike accessories

Sadly, like almost everyone in Oxford, I own a burgundy, ladies, Raleigh hybrid. You know the one. Nice, basic, entry level bike with nothing too special about it. But as any fashionista will tell you, it's all about the accessories daaar-ling! So why let our bikes be the exception?

Honored by Architizer as one of the Ten Best Bike-related Design Innovations of 2011, this neat leather Frame Cinch secures just about anything (narrow) to the top tube of your bike.

Two leather Frame Cinches can also be used  to neatly secure your brolly.

Here's something we could all use in Oxford, a Drybike brolly holder!

I know most people usually use TomTom when they're driving, but am I the only one who gets lost whilst cycling? With this GoRide - Bike Mount for iPhone 3G/3GS I'll never be lost again. GoRide is also great for using iPhone bike apps like; iMapMyRide, EveryTrail, Trail Blazer, Cychosis, RunKeeper and MotionX-GPS to track your progress and map your ride.

If you like cycling and you like wine, you’re going to love this! Oopsmark's Bicycle Wine Rack attaches easily to any 1″ bike frame and holds the bottle securely with a hidden clamp.

Who says that bicycle bags have to look like… bicycle bags? This Frame Bag by Retrovelo is super stylish and provides two compartments, perfect for A4 notebooks or your laptop.

This Walnut Barrel Bag is also super cute and perfect for carrying smaller items like keys, sunglasses, and phones. 

Need a good coffee to start your day? The LugCup coffee holder has got you covered.

Now you're really going to think I'm an alcoholic but this Bicycle Can Cage can be used for other things than a beer you know! And last but not least, don't miss the Spoke Lites I posted late last year. 

These are just a few of my favorites, but there are lots more out there. What do you think? Have you found any beauties of your own? I'd love to hear any other fun ways you've personalised your bike. 

Speaking of which, I've decided to let you all in on a little secret. I'm going to give my bike a makeover. I'll post the before and after photos soon, but in the mean time, wish me luck!

Update: My bicycle makeover is now complete. Take a peek.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Oxford Guide: Oxford's Superstores

Buying your weekly groceries in Oxford can become a bit of a drag. Most of the stores are tiny, offer poor selections and have little or no parking. As a result, you may find yourself visiting lots of different stores to find everything on your shopping list only to find yourself limited by what you can physically carry home. One solution is to give online shopping a go, but if that's not your style, try one of Oxford’s Superstores. They’re HUGE! 

Check out this wacky Cart Bike designed by Ryan McFarland! Now there's a man on a mission.

Where you’ll find them
Sainsbury’s  - The Westgate Centre, Oxford OX1 1PA (Central Oxford)
Sainsbury’s  - 289 Oxford Rd, Kidlington, OX5 2PE (North Oxford)                
Sainsbury’s  - Heyford Hill, Littlemore OX4 4XR (South Oxford)
Tesco - Oxford Retail Park, Cowley OX4 6XJ (East Oxford)
Asda - London Rd, Wheatley OX33 1YZ (West Oxford)

Bonus: There’s loads of parking and some stores even offer a hand car wash while you shop.
Tip: Avoid visiting on the weekends and allow yourself plenty of time! 

The Ville urban folding bicycle designed by Hyuk-Jae Chang

Other stores with parking include:
M&S Simply Food - Banbury Rd, Summertown OX2 7GB (North Oxford)
The Co-op - Banbury Rd, Summertown OX2 7BY (North Oxford)
Tesco – Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1UT (South-East Oxford)
Waitrose - Old High Street, Headington OX3 9JT (East Oxford)                       
Aldi - Botley Rd Oxford OX2 0HA (West Oxford)     

If anyone has come up with any ingenious ways of carrying their groceries home 
by bicycle, I'd LOVE to hear them. I'll be including a few snazzy accessories in my next post, so stay tuned.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Oxford Guide: Online Grocery Shopping

Are you tired of lugging heavy groceries home or trying to find ingenious new ways to carry 
more on your bicycle? Maybe it’s time to give online shopping a try. Before moving to Oxford, 
I thought online shopping was reserved for those who had grown too old or frail to reach the top shelf and busy mums and dads who'd rather die than take their toddlers shopping... It didn't take long for me to change my mind.

Photo: 'Grocery Shopping', by ralphbijker.

Whether you work long hours, don't have a car, or like me, simply hate visiting the grocery store, online shopping has lots of advantages...

·     Shop from the convenience of you home any time of day or night,
·     Find products quickly and easily using a key word search,
·     Create and save your shopping lists and 'favourites,'
·     Swap your selections for cheaper, suggested items at the checkout,
·     Buy all the items you struggle to find at your local grocers,
·     Have all your groceries delivered to your door! 

·     You can't handpick your meat, fresh fruit or vegetables
·     You may be given products closer to their end date than you would choose yourself.
·     If an item you’ve ordered is not available it may be substituted for something similar, 
      but in my experience, this is usually a good thing!
·     Delivery times with some suppliers can be very unreliable.
ASDA, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose all have online stores, but I shop with Ocado and can’t recommend them enough. They’re a little pricier than some of their competitors, but the quality of their meat, fresh fruit and vegetables can’t be beat. The delivery men and women are very friendly, helpful and always on time, (if not a little early), which is more than I can say for their competitors, (namely Tesco & Sainsbury's). 

One of the other little perks of shopping with Ocado is that they occasionally pop little ‘thank you's’ in with their orders - Our second delivery came with a complimentary bottle of wine and a block of Green & Black’s chocolate! 

I'd love to hear where you buy your groceries. Do you shop online or prefer to pick your groceries yourself?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Moving to Oxford: Unlock your mobile phone

For those of you traveling from abroad, if you own a mobile phone and plan to use it when you arrive, make sure you get it 'unlocked' before you leave. Unfortunately, most phones are 'locked' to the country and service provider from which they were purchased, which can be a real hassle. For example, if you bought your phone from Vodafone and you replace your Vodafone SIM card with a SIM card from another network whether it's Orange, Virgin, O2, 3, or any other provider, your handset won't work. 

Unfortunately, this also extends to SIM cards from the same service provider in different countries. For example, the Vodafone handset you bought in Australia, will not work with a Vodafone SIM card purchased in the UK (unless you have had your phone unlocked). 

Once unlocked, your mobile phone can be used with any compatible SIM card (including foreign SIM cards), on any network. Not only will this give you greater flexibility for prepaid SIMs and pay-as-you-go plans in the UK, you'll also avoid expensive overseas call rates when you're traveling. (Tip: Purchase a local SIM card whenever you travel abroad). 

Where can I get my phone unlocked?
If you've already arrived in Oxford and forgot to have you phone unlocked, Benny's on St Aldates should be able to help you out. They generally charge between £5-15 depending on the make and model of you phone, but this may void your warranty. 

Tip: Buy yourself a prepaid or pay as you go SIM card as soon as you arrive. Setting up your mobile phone with a plan or contract is far more challenging and frustrating than you will ever anticipate! Until you can provide an English bank account, bankcard and statement from the same account (including a minimum of 5 transactions) and a permanent UK address, I'd save yourself the headache.
Don't you just love these gorgeous tin can telephones? I found them at madebyjoel and they reminded me of all the fun I used to have as a kid. Such simple pleasures. Joel's website is full of fun and creative projects, perfect for keeping your little ones occupied whilst you prepare for your move. Check it out here.
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