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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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A Smattering of Rarebits


And just like that winter is behind us. Wheeeeeee! I remind myself that I DID live in California and I DID miss distinctive seasons whilst there. And yet I reserve the right to feel downright giddy now that dreadful miserable winter is over and warmer weather is upon us.

I’ve been listening to some book themed podcasts lately. Mostly this one, and this one. The first one, Books on the Nightstand, is unabashedly, wholeheartedly, ridiculously nerdy. If you picture this SNL skit you will have a fair idea of what I’m speaking. The second one, the Slate Audio Book Club, feels less embarrassing and a touch more literary. I binge listened to maybe 10 of them since I've read many of the books they've discussed. De-Lightful.

Under the influence of said podcasts I’ve also been persuaded to give audiobooks a go. I QUITE enjoyed listening to One More Thing by BJ Novak, aka Ryan of The Office fame, and now I’m working on Going Clear, because really I’m always looking for new things to feel depressed about and a book about a somewhat humorous but also quite ruthless cult seemed like just the thing!

Kerry celebrated a birthday recently. In honor of the occasion I baked her some magical shrinking cupcakes!! Full sized when out of the oven, but and this is important, miniature later in the day when it came time to serving them. Which leads me to ask…Who are these people with the thoroughness to succeed at baking?  I did HOWEVER buy this  book after listening to a particularly lively episode of the Splendid Table and now I feel like a little less muggle-like indeed! Behold my second loaf of bread. Hip Hip!




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The Basement Renovation




Mike and I are both (unfortunately) the same breed of indecisive, shall I say, commitment phobic people. We've both been known to agonize about purchases and other minor decisions for far longer than appropriate.... which is why I'm so excited that after only, maybe 6 months of contractor visits and intense deliberation, we're having the basement renovated!! 

When we moved to Highclere I'd say our basement was a halfway finished space. The ceiling was open so you could see all the joists/wires/pipes but it had all been painted white so it didn't look terrible. There was a pretty workable layout with drywall in place, but there were a bunch of strange openings/holes in the walls. We're talking closets without doors, weirdly open little storage nooks, and my favorite the "built in bookcases" (HAHA) which were really just two janky bookcases stuffed in a hole in the wall. The ceilings were pretty low and there was a somewhat severe slope in the floor. Our home inspector estimated it to be about a 6 inch differential from one end of the room to the other.Eek! On the flip side, arguably the nicest bathroom in the house is inexplicably in the basement. (??) So basically the space was a real mixed bag but we were very excited about the renovation potential.

So here we are now a few weeks into renovation. The basement isn't finished yet BUT lots of great progress has been made and I've included some subpar iphone photos below as proof! The room still needs to be painted (as evidenced by my now standard 15 paint samples) and we're hoping to put barn doors at the back of the room but I'm delighted by everything that's been done so far.

 For my next trick I'll be trying to talk Mike into a large luxurious but still classy sectional sofa...





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Ireland Trip Planning


Things I'm looking forward to right now: 1) spring time 2) summer time AND 3) the upcoming Petersen family trip to Ireland!!  Both Kerry and I have been to Ireland on separate trips in the past but this will be Mother Courtney's first time there and I'm so excited for her to see what Kerry and I have been raving about for so long. Also my one previous trip to Ireland was in early February so I cannot even imagine the splendor that will be Ireland in May.

Generally (read always) when I go on trips I do a very minimal amount of planning before the trip and just play it by ear when I get to the destination. I'll have a rough idea or timeline but won't book places to stay or make any specific activity arrangements. I bring my tour books and sense of adventure and just do the best I can when I arrive. On the whole this system has worked out pretty well for me in the past. It's nice to be flexible so you can move along quickly if a town isn't the best, or linger when a place really catches your fancy. But, there have also been many moments when I think a little advanced planning would have gone a long way in making a trip more successful. For example this past fall when I was in London and tickets to the Harry Potter experience were sold out. What a botch. I cannot even. I probably could have bought the tickets a week before my visit and they would have been available but I couldn't be bothered to think that far in advance.

This is all to say that for this trip I am turning over a new leaf and doing the bulk of the planning before we go. So far we have planned all of the cities and towns where we'll stay, and have even made hotel/B&B reservations for the bulk of them (2 months out - can I get a high five). On top of that we've already planned some activities and know which bars have trad sessions (traditional Irish music) which nights and made a game plan for packing in the most trad sessions we possibly can. If things get truly crazy I might even try to pick some restaurants in advance. Only time shall tell my friends. 





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The Weekend (Cabin Edition)

 

While I'm not an expert camper (yet!) I did have a great time camping with some friends last summer and was eager to sign up for another weekend out of the city. One of our actual expert camper friends had talked up the joys of camping in March and so Mike and I agreed to an early March camping trip. I was a little skeptical since cold weather isn't really my thing but I thought braving the cold would be worth it to avoid the summer camping crowds (please refer back to accidentally camping in the middle of an AA reunion).The initial plan was tent camping, but since we had snow last week and it was still pretty frigid leading up to the weekend we decided to go for a cabin instead. We found a place west of Frederick that offered tree-house camping and thought that would be perfect.

As you can probably see from the photo above the term tree-house is a bit of an exaggeration for what is happening here. I would say this cabin was about 6 feet off the ground.... and not in a tree. Even still it was a pretty campground and the cabin we stayed in slept 6 people and had a sweet wood burning stove. We had a little trouble figuring out the stove situation the first night (read we spent hours sitting in a freezing smoke filled room) BUT once we got it working properly it was glorious and so cozy to be inside. The weekend itself involved a great hike with the dogs, and a quick trip to Harpers Ferry which is a little campy but worth seeing at least once.

I'm hoping we can plan one more camping/cabining trip this year since I so love taking little vacays with Zoe. Ahem and my friends.






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