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Great Lakes Great Times


In June, Kerry and I had the privilege of journeying around the great state of Michigan with our tour guide dear friend Alice, who is not only a lovely person, but also my very favorite Michigander. Hi Alice!

We started off the trip with just a touch of sightseeing around Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, and more importantly, home to Alice! From Ann Arbor we drove up to the Leelanau Penninsula which is dotted with charming small towns and lots and lots of water. Because Alice loves us she not only secured bikes for us to use on our trip but also let us ride said bikes every day. And also because she loves us she scheduled for some of our bike riding to be around vineyards where we could stop for some wine tasting! Leelanau was such a really pleasant place to spend some vacation days and I can certainly see why it's a popular summer destination for Michiganders.

Most of my photos are from the Sleeping Bear Dunes which we enthusiastically hiked at Kerry and my foolish insistence (against Alice's better judgement). And by enthusiastically hiked I mean ever so slowly and grudgingly traversed because we thought there was going to be some sort of spectacular cliff side view at the end. It was such a very long march up and down those mountainous sand dunes and then at the end you are just at the lake. It's a nice lake of course, but Alice correctly pointed out that we could have just walked 10 minutes from our campsite to get to the same lake. Mwap Mwap. Sorry Alice! Still the dunes were pretty impressive and we did feel pretty accomplished at the end of the hike.

The most pleasant surprise of the trip goes to Traverse City which has an awesome little downtown and a scenic lake-side location. I was somehow picturing Traverse City to be something like Flint (Sorry Flint!!) but that was totally not the case. On my next trip I do hope I can spend a bit more time exploring Traverse City.

On our way to the airport Alice took us for a little tour of Detroit which Kerry and I both really enjoyed. I'm not sure I've ever been to Detroit before but I was surprised by the vastness of it. I love the look of the extra wide roads leading into the city. It felt almost futuristic? Or maybe old fashioned? Alice showed us the Heidelberg Project and took us to the Detroit Institute of Bagels which was delicious. It seems more and more like D.C. might be the only city in America without a decent bagel.

Also, I believe I've also given poor Alice a complex about Michigan with my constant prattling on about my favorite state of Vermont. Lemme just tell you right now that while Vermont obviously has my heat that Michigan is also worthy of great praise. AND I do believe I had the best salad of my life in Ann Arbor.

Until next time Michigan!



















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Notes from the Farm



At this the end of our second full summer at Highclere I'd like to discuss the farm. Also known as the garden to those with less fanciful imaginations then myself. Ahem.

At the beginning of each summer thus far I have been so wholly enthusiastic about the enterprise. I buy all the seeds one might want and I read all the garden books given to me by MoCo. I lovingly start my seeds indoors or in the greenhouse. I check them daily for progress and adjust their conditions as best I know how to ensure their growing success. During this optimistic early part of the summer I both assume nothing will grow while also thinking that one day soon I'll be like a modern day pioneer woman living off the land. 

And then we move into the middle of the summer where I am still blown away that seeds become plants and plants provide fruit. It is singularly amazing to me. At this point my excitement about the garden is probably at it's peak only to descend from there. And that is because the dreaded, rotted, miserable mosquitoes are back. This means I can only go in our yard clothed as though I am expecting some form of chemical warfare attack, or a surprise visit from the pope. That is to say I am wearing a lot of clothing for 90 degree weather.

This July I also found that my precious crops were suffering from the dreaded tomato blight! And of course in my early summer enthusiasm I had quite unreasonably planted approximately 1,739 tomato plants. The horror. I took to the web looking for the best way to salvage the crops and landed on copper based fungicide. I hesitate to admit this here but I actually lost sleep over the tomato blight situation. But the good news is even with the blight I had a very successful tomato harvest. And very little to harvest from most of the other things I planted. I guess it's fair to say farming is still a mystery to me.

As we roll through September I'm doing very little in the yard except cutting some zinnias and Mexican sunflowers to keep around the house. And let me mention here that Mexican sunflowers (the tall orange flowers in the photos) are the best. Hummingbirds love them and they seem to sturdy, always a plus in my garden. As the gardening season winds down I'm already thinking about what I might plant next year.... Pumpkins! Butternut squash? And so my adventures in farming continue!







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Ta Da

me looking quite tuckered out after finishing the triathlon

Look at me blogposting twice in one week! Huzzah!

As I write this my arms are still sore from completing the Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon yesterday (!) This was my favorite race I’ve done so far of any kind and I liked it so much that I’m having to resist the urge to sign up for another tri this summer. I’m finding that triathlons are fun and motivating but also pretty expensive so I think I’ll be waiting til next summer to do another. I may actually just do this one again since I so enjoyed it!

The key here was in recognizing that I’m really a touch too lazy to train for the Olympic distance triathlons (of which I did two last summer) and that I’m much better suited to the sprint distance.  I felt a little like it was cheating doing the shorter event but for the amount I’m willing to train (not much) the sprint tri is really perfect. Basically I wasn't cursing everyone under my breath during the run as I was in both races last year. A great success if I do say so myself.

And thank you to Aunt Peggy for snapping this one photo of my from race day. Looking good rocking my medal and carrying a beach towel as triathletes do.


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California


Prince Michael and I are recently back from what I would describe as a particularly successful trip to California. If I'm being totally honest with you - we dominated. Seriously. We were out there for a friend's wedding but since California is a hike we took the whole week off and packed a lot in. I kept telling Mike how lucky we are that we're not Pioneers since it would have taken forever to get to California and we can just take a flight! Actually I kept saying pilgrims. Which is funnier yes?

I want to make a little note of what we did so I can remember for our next trip. Which I hope will be soon.

1) The Griffith Observatory - Hello, how had I not been here before? Such great views of the city and it's free! There appeared to be lots of nice hikes up to the Observatory which I think would have been pretty sweet but someone, and I'm not naming names here, didn't want to get overheated. Ahem. This same someone also nerded out and made us actually look at the science exhibits inside the observatory. He also insisted we see the planetarium show. Which actually turned out to be pretty entertaining.


 

2) The Getty Center. I think probably even better than the Griffith Observatory. Also cool views but mostly you're there for the exhibits and the ARCHITECTURE. I wanted to make sure to emphasize that because really the architecture is pretty incredible.






 3) Angel City Brewery.- We loved it so much we went twice! On the weekend there's food trucks outside and every day there's corn hole, ping pong, and jenga inside.

4) Arts District - this is the neighborhood in LA where Angel City brewery is which is how we ended up there. Very trendy with lots of loft apartment buildings and arty shops. I pretended I was in New Girl while in the hood. It's pretty close to the...




5) Dodgers Stadium - Guys this stadium is everything. I'd been as a teenager but I did not at all appreciate at the time how retro the stadium is and how awesome the views are from the upper level. Also ice cream in a plastic Dodgers hat. Nothing wrong with that. Amirightoramiright? Also I've decided I'm a Dodgers fan. Also Matt Kemp is my favorite player.





6) Gjelina - This was a restaurant I saw on a bunch of LA based bloggers' guides to LA so I sweet talked the little prince into taking me there. It was so so so so so so good. Really. If I have any regrets from the trip it's that I only went once! Honorable mention goes to Bottega Louie for Macarons and Farm Shop for a delicious brunch.


7) YOSEMITE!!!! - I had been a couple of times as a kid/teenager but had severely unappreciated how spectacular it was. The park was having some major fires when we arrived so we weren't able to stay in the White Wolf Lodge where we'd initially booked. This was going to be a huge bummer but we got extra lucky and were able to snag the last tent cabin in Camp Curry (located right in the valley) which I think just happened to get freed up due to a cancellation. Yosemite is unbelievably scenic and the park itself is just really well run. Maybe all national parks are? We loved the food, and had a great time biking around the park, and we saw a bear! 







8) Frozen Bananas on Balboa Island. Clearly this was an Arrested Development dream come true. And look there's George Michael himself in the yellow polo enjoying a frozen banana! For those of you who might be looking to do some further reading on the subject I did find this article.

 


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Lately


We've been back from Ireland for about a month now and I miss it. The weather on this trip tested our fortitude (rain, cold, gale force winds! - did you even know that was a thing?) but it was still an amazing trip. And as the Irish were quick to point out, we have the seemingly never-ending rain to thank for the luscious green of the countryside. Also. There were rainbows. Lots of them. Photos to come. For now you'll have to settle for these cow photos from Doolin which for some reason seem to be my favorite photos from the trip.

Shortly after our return I read a couple of books MoCo gave me years ago. Heaven's to Betsy and Betsy in spite of herself. I don't know how I'd made it so long without having come upon the Betsy Tacy series but let me tell you in just the same way I must see PE Island per the Anne of Green Gables books I have now added Mankato MN to my travel wishlist because of the Betsy Tacy books. I'm not sure who I will talk into this pilgrimage, perhaps some sort of bribery is in order. No offence Mankato, obviously.

I also recently read The Dirty Life which is one of those books about someone trading in their city life to become a farmer. I've read a few books from this genre before and I've been pretty ambivalent about them, but THIS book has really got me itching to become a farmer. Due to some practical and logistical challenges,  (lack of farm, lack of farming knowledge, etc.) for now I'm settling for simply referring to myself as a farmer. I do after all have 2 raised garden beds and a herding dog. Kind of. As a part of my new farmer lifestyle I now ask people at the farmers market what type of cow the milk came from (Jersey Cows!) and I've been trying to figure out how I can get in on a CSA. I've also acquired poison ivy. Fitting.

Also in just two weeks I'll be 31. Where does the time go.






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Bagels


I believe I've mentioned before that I am very enthusiastic about bagels. Have I also mentioned that while I believe DC to be a really a lovely city that for some reason you have to go to Panera to get a decent bagel? I literally cringe as I write that but it's so true. Due to said enthusiasm for bagels and the existing dearth of options I've been wanting to see exactly how hard it is to make bagels at home. I even included in on the old bucket list. So last weekend I used my new potions book to whip up some home made bagels (!) Let's talk high lows shall we?

1) They were delicious. Really. I've quite proud of myself. I basically can't stop talking about how great this book is. Also,I know they look a little wonky but they definitely tasted like bagels.

2) They were unfortunately still fairly labor intensive and involved both boiling them on the stove top and then  baking them on a pizza stone in a super hot oven... and that's a hard pill to swallow on an 80 degree day in a house with no central air. Basically they are a good party trick but I can't see myself regularly making bagels even if they were pretty legit. I will however need to try them at least one more time with chocolate chips involved since that's really my kind of bagel.



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Pineapple Margaritas


Lately I've been wanting to class it up a bit here at Highclere. This involves (among other things) keeping liquor on the bar cart, as opposed to my cookbook collection, and learning how to make cocktails. What could be more proper. So when I saw a recipe for pineapple margs on pinterest I decided that making and then indulging in said margs would be a good activity for Betty and I while the gentlemen folk toiled in the kitchen brewing beer.


You can see that Betty was a real trooper working that blender on our living room floor since on brew days we're banned from the kitchen. Not pictured are the 3 grocery/liquor stores I dragged Betty to for our ingredients. Also not pictured is all the labor intensive pineapple chopping and lime squeezing that was involved. The margs were definitely delicious but Betty and I both agreed we felt like our throats were maybe closing up due to the high volume of pineapple pulp we were consuming. Lord I don't know. Maybe I picked the wrong recipe or maybe I'll never be a mixologist but beer sure seems easier. Also, Hi. Liquor is kinda pricey. Still I'm thinking I should at least give mojitos and pimms cups a go before I totally quit on this lark. If anyone has any good and EASY cocktail recipes do tell!





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