Preparing for the future

So in case you haven’t heard I will be departing the beautiful city of Bath and moving to the one and only Boston, MA. Well more like the Boston area…but who’s checking.

I’ve been hired as a Wyss fellow by the Wyss Institute and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard (check it out!) and start on October 1st. Woohoo! If that wasn’t awesome enough I’ll be working with one of my research role models, Prof. Joanna Aizenburg, and living in an absolutely amazing house with amazing people!

Davis square better be ready, the bee hunter is heading back to town!



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And we’re back!

After a romp through Catalonia and the Basque country Jona and I have returned to what can only be described as the heart of the British summer (read a grey and rainy England). It was an amazing trip full of sun and sand and bulls! Let’s recount.

So technically we spent our holiday in France and Spain but culturally we were exclusively in Catalonia and the Basque country, starting in the Basque city of Bilbao and ending in Barcelona.

In Bilbao we were hosted by a wonderful couchsurfer who not only put up with me rediscovering how to speak Spanish but took us out to show what Basque night life is all about – drinking kalimotxo on the street until the early hours of the morning. For those of you haven’t had the pleasure, kalimotxo is a mixture of cheap red wine and coke and tastes about as good as it sounds. When not hanging out with our host Jona and I explored the city and went to the Guggenheim museum (sister to the one in new york city).

From Bilbao Jona and I headed out to Pamplona for the Sanfermines! We stayed in an awesome apartment in the old part of the city so we had a brief stumble to watch the bull run in the morning and could be escorted home by local marching bands in the evening. As well as lots of music and parties the San Fermin festival is of course famous for it’s bull run. Neither of us actually ran with the bulls (take a deep sigh of relief parents) but we did wake up before 7 in the morning to go and see it which is a feat in itself.

Now although we didn’t run with the real bulls we did run with the potentially more treacherous firework bull! Jona even has the burns in his fleece jacket to prove it.

After three days of fiesta and festival Jona and I were in serious need of rest and luckily that’s what we found in Saint Jean de Luz, the home of my lovely housemate Claire. We spent a lovely 3 days climbing mountains, exploring old ports and most importantly feasting on french cheese and bread. delicious.

From Saint Jean de Luz we moved onto out final destination: Barcelona. We only had two days to explore an amazing city so it was a bit of an exhausting adventure, but it was all beautiful. We explored the old city, Gaudi’s beautiful church and buildings, and even got a little beach time in on the last day. Top that off with beers, tapas and a swim in the Mediterranean and you have yourself the perfect end to a wonderful vacation.

p.s. sorry for the lack of pictures! Jona was the photographer for our trip – I’ll update when I get a my hands on some.

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Jona and I are headed to Spain tomorrow! Spending 10 days exploring santander, bilbao, pamplona, biarritz and barcelona. If you have friends in or tips for any of those places feel free to share!

In the mean time I’m sort of all about this song.

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So two weekends ago Jona and I attended the biggest music festival in the world. We’re talking 170,000 people in a field listening to hundreds upon hundreds of artists big. If  you don’t believe me you can find out more about it here: It’s ridiculous.

As well as being ridiculously big, it was also ridiculously muddy. Despite having biked there in the beautiful sunshine, Jona and I immediately had to  put on our wellies upon arriving at the site to cross the amazing mud pit that was the entrance to the festival. Once in the seen didn’t really change much. It had been raining the 3 days prior to the festival and it turns out that ground which is constantly being walked on doesn’t dry up that quickly.

Muddy boots.

Well in spite of (or may partially because of…) the mud Jona and I had an awesome time. We saw some amazing music (full list at the bottom)…

Hanging out with Don Mclean

A few people wanted to watch Paul Simon with us.

and some things you would never expect to see on a farm.

This massive spider thing plays electronic music and shoots fire.

Club gaga rocking 'til the morning.

Overall it was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced before. Totally worth waking up super early on a Sunday back in November to buy tickets.

And the full list of all the bands we heard/saw:

  • Banana Sessions
  • Two Door Cinema Club
  • Jenny and Johnny
  • War Paint
  • The Horrors
  • Noah and the Whale
  • Janelle Monae
  • Big Boi
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry
  • Don Mclean
  • Laura Marling
  • Paul Simon
  • Eels
  • Lykke Li
  • Beyonce
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Things that are made

Despite the somewhat failure (I mean at least it was edible..) of our cheese project Robin and I decided to try to make some other consumables by hand. This time we stayed away from foods and focused on drinks instead – trying our hands at making nettle beer, elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne. Well, I can happily report that we make much better brewers than cheese makers…if you discount a couple of bottles of nettle beer exploding all over my bathroom that is. Anyways, for you viewing pleasure I know present “Robin and Becky Make Things, Take 2.”

Starting with nettle beer, the first thing we had to do was pick the stinging nettles. I learned some useful tips like if you are unsure if something is a nettle, touch it! If it hurts you have found yourself a nettle.

Robin bravely picking stinging nettles.

With nettles in tow we began the actual process of making nettle beer. You more or less make really sweet nettle tea and then add yeast to it. It sounds easy enough, but working with boiling liquid and squeamish Brits has its challenges.

Boiling the nettles.

Squeezing out the tea. It was very hot.

Add lemon to taste and let it sit out for a few days.

Look at that two-handed lemon squeezing technique!

After some quality fermenting has taken place all that is left to do is bottle the stuff up. Tah dah!

The finished product.

Now if all that seemed to complicated, fear not! Making elderflower cordial and champagne is even easier and there is no risk of getting stung! First you have to stroll through parks and collect some pretty elderflower heads. Next soak them in water with sugar and lemon.

Elderflowers becoming delicous.

If all you want is cordial, let it sit for a day and then drink away! If you want champagne put it into bottles and let them hangout for a while. The elderflowers are naturally yeasty and will get to work on converting those sugars into bubbly deliciousness. Enjoy!

Much better than the cheese.

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Jona’s house!

So Jona lives in a very crazy but very awesome house in Machynlleth, Wales, and since it’s a place where I spend quite a lot of time I figured it deserved a post of its own.

The house itself is an old Tudor style building which has been a shared house for as long as anyone can remember. It’s set just out-of-town, is surrounded by amazing gardens and meadows, is at the base of some beautiful green hills and looks like this!

The house as seen from the road.

As well as the main house there is also a yurt which goes up in the summer time and this really cool little house thing that has a stream running through it. No joke.

Please take off your shoes before entering the yurt.

This room has a stream running through it.

Inside the house is a crazy collection of Victor Jara posters, rainbow textiles, instruments and random dishware and things that have been collected over the years. To give you a taste here is a very creepy photo of Jona(s) sitting in his kitchen.

Two-faced jona surveys his habitat.

In short it’s a lovely place filled with a group of people as eclectic and exciting as the building itself.

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A very festive Welsh weekend

For weeks Jona has been telling me that Machynlleth is the most happening thing west side of the English border, so I decided to go and check it out for myself. Turns out Jona wasn’t bluffing, what laid in store was a jam-packed and festival-filled weekend.

After a night of frisbee and pubbing Jona and I woke up early to begin the preparations for Labyrinth festival – a celebration all things bowielicious and minotaurtastic. The day began with brunch and a screening of The Labyrinth, followed by the ultimate labyrinth themed scavenger hunt in which two epic teams vied for this amazing trophy.

To the babes with the power.

Ok, I may be a little biases as the person who made the trophy and came up with a lot of the clues….but I thought it was pretty awesome. Here are some of the highlights from team “This is a very serious matter.”

Can you survive the bog of eternal stench? Take a photo in the smelliest place in Mach.

Jump magic!

Unfortunately, despite an epic showing, my amazing team was bested. Lucky for us though, we didn’t have long to mourn our loss as Spud Fest ‘011 began immediately afterwards!

Jona celebrates his team's victory.

In a celebration of all things potato we listened to potato songs, learned educational potato facts, made a spud shrine and ate more types of potato than most people would care to. Here’s a photo of the spread.

Spud Fest '011!

The fun didn’t end there though, we spent the evening dancing the starch away to some solid motown tunes. Who knew a town of 2500 could have so much going on?

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