Day 28: Dinner with students, evensong, and dessert

This morning Erin and James walked down to a local pottery store to find a wedding present for “Aunt Leah”, the ACU student who watches the kids twice a week during the semester.

Then James taught class and the kids took naps. Then at 4:30 we met up with some students to walk down to The White Rabbit to have dinner.

The White Rabbit claims to have the best pizza in Oxford, so we gave it a go. It was really good!

Zeke had a lot of fun sitting between Collin and Jessica.

After dinner, we met up with the rest of the group at Blackfriars to attend their vespers after daily mass. Because we are between Oxford school terms, we have limited options for evensong as a group. Since no one is presently running a choral evensong service, we decided to head back to Blackfriars. Below you can see our group waiting for mass to end outside of the chapel.

After the vespers service was over, we met back at the house in the common room to talk about our weekend of free travel and discuss the next day’s trip into London. Everyone had great stories of fun times exploring Europe. Erin and Shelley made dessert one last time for the group: chocolate oatmeal cookies (also known as “no bakes”). Erin made her mom’s recipe and Shelley made her and James’ mom’s recipe. They were both a big hit and everyone enjoyed the cookies.


Day 27: Church, Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour, Dinner with Friends

We continued our second free travel weekend by doing things close to home. First we got up and went to church. Bethany and Dustin decided to join us for church since they had spent the weekend doing things near to Oxford as well. The 4 or 5 others back at the house were all still sleeping.

We went to St. Andrew’s Anglican Church again today. It’s so close by and we enjoy seeing local expressions of faith.

They were advertising “Holiday Club” in their bulletin, which is the same as our Vacation Bible School. I took a picture because I thought “Holiday Club” sounded very British.

This week they were offering Holy Communion, so we went up as a family. The Vicar handed each of us the bread individually and said, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” It was a very touching moment that he would spend the time to tell us, complete strangers, individually this sacred message. He even knelt down to Zeke’s eye-level to tell him too.

The sermon time was all a children’s sermon, where a character like Doctor Who (called “Doctor Wot”) travelled back in time to see the story of Joseph unfold. It was very funny and also very poignant. At the end of the story, Joseph declares to his brothers, “You meant it for harm, but God meant it for good.” And the Vicar made a direct connection to the story of Jesus there: something people meant for harm (crucifixion), God meant it for good.

It definitely wasn’t our familiar church experience, but it was wonderful to see Christianity alive and well in Oxford, England.

After church, we walked down the street to have brunch at Gee’s Restaurant again. Bethany and Dustin came with us.


It was really good, again!

We had a fun time talking with the students.

And the coffee was really great, too.

Then we walked back to the flat, changed clothes, and then took the bus down to city centre to purchase tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus tour.

Zeke wanted to ride on the top deck, so we did.

Zeke really enjoyed being up so high…at least at first. Then it got really hot up there. Before too long, he was saying he wanted to ride below because he was too hot. (Also in the picture below, the Ashmolean’s facade is under construction and so it looks terribly ugly!)

We got off near Christ Church to take a peek into Alice’s Shop, the shop where a little girl named Alice would buy her candy, which inspired Lewis Carroll to write about a little girl named Alice in his famous book, Alice in Wonderland.

You can see the beauty of Christ Church across the street.

We hopped back on the bus and continued on our way.

Our next stop was to get crepes from the crepe stand, “Crepes O Mania” on Broad Street, across from the Weston Library.

They were really good!

We then diverted south to meet up with Shelley’s husband’s sister who happened to be in Oxford (long story). Along the way we decided to get Ben’s Cookies again because they were so good.

Once again, Micah was asleep by the time we got there. In the picture below you can see Ben’s Cookies in the background.

Shelley met up with Kyrie, Brian’s sister, and talked to her for a bit.

Then we got back on the bus and headed for home. We were really tired.

We got home and rested for about 30 minutes before James and Erin headed out with John and Laura for dinner at a nearby pub. Shelley graciously agreed to watch the kids. She is very amazing, and no, you can’t have her, she’s my sister. So there.

We went to the Victoria and had a nice dinner.

We sat outside in the very lovely weather.

Our table was the one in the back right corner. I forgot to take photos while we were there, so I took these photos later. There were a lot of people there when we had dinner.

We came back and put the kids to bed.

Day 26: Oxford Botanic Gardens

.Saturday of our second free travel weekend we decided to stay closer to home and take it easy. The previous two days were very hard on us, so we wanted a day with a little more relaxed pace. We headed out at about 10:15 to walk around the block to a place that serves brunch on weekends.

Gee’s Restaurant on Banbury Rd was close by and came highly recommended to us.

Inside, it looked like a converted green house.

The food was really good!

After brunch, we hopped on a bus and headed downtown. We got off at city centre and walked down to High Street.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I snagged a picture of this strangely-named store, “Fat Face.”

Then we walked down High Street until we go to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden on the River Cherwell. The Gardens were very beautiful and it was lovely to stroll through the gardens while everything was in bloom. It was also Alice’s Day (i.e. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland), so there were lots of tents set up with fun things for kids to do. Lewis Carroll lived in Oxford, so it’s a fun celebration with a lot of local flavor.

The entrance is incredible.

Inside the gardens, they were amazing.

Some students were playing cricket in the field behind the botanic garden.

The kids also enjoyed the flowers.

And Erin took pictures of tons of flowers. I got a picture of her taking a picture. I thought it was very pretty.

Erin thought the lily pads in the pool were gorgeous.

James and Zeke enjoyed looking at the river and the ducks swimming by. Zeke enjoyed throwing rocks into it.

As we left the botanic garden, Micah fell asleep. We walked back up high street towards city centre and diverted into the covered market.

Inside the covered market, we got Ben’s Cookies, something everyone recommended to us. They were really good!

Back outside, Alice’s Day was in full swing. All the shops had Alice in Wonderland themed displays.

We did a bit more shopping at the official oxford clothing store, followed by some grocery shopping, and then hopped on the bus home.

We got back home around 4:00. The weather was in the high 60’s and sunny all day. It had been a really nice day.

We ate dinner together and then went to bed.

Day 23: A Quiet Day + Mamma Mia Pizza

We did nothing today. James taught class and let the students out early because it’s the beginning of the second free travel weekend. Erin felt pretty terrible all day. So by the end, we were ready to order pizza. We called and ordered from Mama Mia Pizza, a local Oxford place. I walked 10 minutes to pick it up.

Along the way, I saw this sign and thought it was funny.

We accidentally called the wrong location and they had to call and cancel the order, so it took a little longer than expected to get the food, but they were pretty quick (the one pictured below is the Summertown location, which we called. The one I walked to was in Jericho and did not have outdoor seating like the picture below).

We ate dinner and had some funny times with the kids. Zeke likes to pretend he’s a fan and say “wackeda-wackeda-wackeda” while flailing his arms and I caught it on video.

Micah decided she need to do it too, so she went and got Zeke’s fleece sweater.

After this, we gave the kids baths in the hopes that it would calm them down. Zeke apparently heard this and we get the video below. (By the way, I only added this video below because somehow, miraculously, Zeke manages to obscure his privates during the entire video.)

After bath time, Micah went to bed while Zeke enjoyed a story from Aunt Shelley followed by some attacks by “Aunt Shelley T-Rex” (what Zeke calls her when he pretends to be a “baby T-Rex”).

Finally, he got some snuggles from mommy.

Then he went to bed. Shelley sent me these (below) and I put them here because they’re true, but especially so when you’re traveling.

Day 21: Evensong, Dinner with Students, and Dessert

We had a quiet morning at the flat. While James prepared for his afternoon class, the kids jumped outside and played inside.

After class, James and Erin went on a quick shopping trip.

Evensong at Christ Church College

Well, it’s Monday and that can only mean one thing: evensong with the big group!

We got back from our shopping trip just in time to head to evensong at Christ Church College. This marks the second time we attended evensong there.

The college was beautiful as ever.

We waited outside of the sanctuary before being led inside.

Even though we had seen the church before, it was still amazing to see.

Here the students get ready for evensong. It turns out that during the break between terms, the choir gets Mondays off, so it was not a sung evensong and therefore demanded much more audience participation. So we had a lot of responsive readings. It was great and very participatory!

John and Laura talk quietly before the service starts.

The north facing stained glass window was amazing: a depiction of St. George slaying the dragon.

On the way out, we saw this dedication to the famous philosopher, John Locke:

After evensong, the students talked outside for a few moments before heading back to the houses.

When we got back, we hosted the final group of students for dinner. It was a very fun time and great conversation.

Then we went upstairs to the common room and met everyone for a time of discussion about our recent trip to the Peaks District and our upcoming second free travel weekend. Erin made dessert again for the students: black forrest dump cake with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious! We had a great time talking about our upcoming travels.

Now it’s off to bed.

Day 18: Girls Tea and Guys Watch the Kids

Today after James’ afternoon class, the girls went to high tea at the Ashmolean Museum Rooftop Cafe.

It was a tea for all the women on the Oxford trip. They had a very nice time enjoying the finer things in Oxford. In the picture below, starting at the bottom left: Jessica, Holly, Bethany, Jacque, Erin, Laura, Shelley. The ones on the left are the students. Jacque is ACU’s Oxford on-site coordinator (and also PhD student in history!).

Meanwhile, back at the flat, James recruited one of his students, Collin, to help watch the kids (actually, Collin volunteered).


Then Zeke’s new friend (Jacque’s daughter) came out to play. They had a lot of fun.


When the girls got home (about 5:50), we had dinner with six more students that we had invited over. Unfortunately, James forgot to take any pictures of that, but they stayed and talked until 8:30. It was a great time!

Day 16: A Quiet Day & Atomic Burger!

Today the high was 90 F! Without air conditioning, it felt really hot. We mostly stayed inside the flat today, which thankfully is in the basement, so it remained mostly cool.

In the morning, I wrote an exam for my Old Testament class and looked over reviewer feedback from my recently accepted article on novice users interactions with compiler error message feedback. Erin, Shelley, and the kids went grocery shopping. Before they hit the grocery store, they got some coffee and breakfast.

When they got back, I was still working on my lecture and Zeke decided to sit opposite of me and “work on my computer” which was his book. You can see I was working on my primer for what the students should expect to see in the British Museum when we go.

You can see below that Zeke was “typing” on his “computer” next to Aunt Shelley. He’s hilarious.

Micah, however, had fallen asleep on the way back from the grocery store.

The kids ate an easy lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an apricot.

Shortly thereafter, I taught my class and then gave the exam. The kids took a nap.

Atomic Burger!

Then we went with a bunch of my students to Atomic Burger! It’s a retro/sci-fi-themed burger place and it’s pretty amazing. We walked about 1.7 miles through Oxford to get to it. Here’s the menu:

We had a lot of fun there.

And best of all, the students really loved playing with Zeke and Micah.

Here’s a video of Zeke and one of my students, Jessica, having a straw sword fight and being generally silly.

My students are pretty great.

After we walked 1.7 miles back to the flat, we were very hot and tired. It was still over 80 outside. So we decided to give the kids quick baths before bed to help cool them down.

Then we all went to bed.

Day 14: A Slow Day and Evensong

We took today rather slow and didn’t do much. It was 88 F here in Oxford, and without air-conditioning, it’s rather hot. Our basement flat, however, remains quite cool for most of the day.

In the morning, whilst preparing for my lecture, Micah decided to put on my dirty socks and then horde the rest of them between her legs. She’s a little dragon with her horde.

I taught my afternoon class, then we took a bus down to the local grocer and picked up some items for this evening and bused back.

At 6:15 we met outside of the houses to head to evening vespers, also called evensong. It’s something we’re trying to do every Monday with the students, and each time at a different place.

This week we attended Blackfriar’s service, which is a Catholic church run by Dominican friars. We arrived just as mass was ending and sat down for evensong which began shortly after. There weren’t many people there.

The service was short and distinctive. They did not sing in harmony, wore very simple white robes, and there were hardly any adornments in the building, including no stained glass. It was a simple and thoughtful service, lasting about 15 minutes in total.

After evensong, we headed back to the house to discuss our weekend free travel trips as one big group and to eat the peach dump cake that Erin had made along with vanilla ice cream. It was a big hit and there was none left. James is pretty sure that his students love Erin more than him…not an unreasonable idea at this point. 😉

Day 8: Museums in Oxford

Since we had originally planned to go to London today, but could not due to the recent terrorist attacks, we instead used today to visit some of the museums in Oxford: Pitt-Rivers Museum, Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of the History of Science. It was a lot to do in one day, but it was good.

We started out at Pitt-Rivers, which is museum of cultural and historical anthropology (pictured above).

Exhibits are not organized by provenance (place of origin) or originating culture, but rather by type of thing. So all the fire-making tools were in one place, all of the personal religious miniature statues were together, all of the spears were together, all of the religious masks were together, all of the amulets were together, etc. For example, here’s a picture of all the writing equipment from various cultures and time periods. The Roman ones are in the top right on that greenish/grayish background.

James led a group of students around the museum, looking at important artifacts from the Biblical time period. Meanwhile, Erin, Shelley, and the kids walked around briefly and then headed over to the cafe for a snack.

After Pitt-Rivers, we headed next door (connected buildings) to the Museum of Natural History. It looked very impressive.

And Zeke got to finally see some dinosaur bones! Below Zeke is showing off his scary T-Rex claws. When he started roaring, Micah decided to start roaring too and had to also be a scary T-Rex.

And here’s one with Aunt Shelley. 🙂

Zeke also liked seeing some other bones.

He was so good at the museum that Aunt Shelley bought him a T-Rex dino stuffed animal. He loves it.

After the museum, we headed over to a nearby middle-eastern semi-permanent food truck and had felafel and hummus for lunch with our faculty co-sponsors, John and Laura Homer.

We ate at Martyr’s Memorial just north of the center of town…in the shade, of course. John is wearing black and Laura is wearing purple in the shot below.

After lunch, we headed over to the Museum of the History of Science.

The students were supposed to find some things in there relevant to the History of Computing class they are all taking. One of those relevant things is a piece of Charles Babbage’s difference engine, a specific-purpose mathematical calculating machine. He began working on it in 1820 and never completed because his funding was cut after 20 years. Needless to say, he was well-ahead of his time. Below is a picture of James in front of that piece of the difference engine.

After that, everyone was tired and walked back to the flat. The kids didn’t take naps because they had taken some small portion of a nap earlier while we were waiting on something, and so refused to sleep. Awesome. James worked on a recent conference paper that got accepted. After that, it was time for dinner, so we went to a nearby food truck for some kebab wraps.

Below you can see Aunt Shelley and Zeke being silly while we ate dinner outside of a local college. Regarding the bandaid on his nose: Zeke did a face-plant earlier in the day and the inside of his nose bled a little, so we put a bandaid on the outside to make him feel better (it’s all about psychology with kids…seriously).

Micah decided to be silly too.

On the way home, Micah wanted to walk. Sometimes when she runs, she throws her arms behind her. We finally got it on camera.

After a long day out, it was time for bed for the kids.

The students all got together in the common room upstairs to watch The Imitation Game, the movie that dramatizes the work of Alan Turing and the Allied codebreakers during World War 2. It was a great movie!

Tomorrow, we leave for Newcastle on our first long travel weekend!