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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 liked it so much.

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. Have I mentioned I'm not the best at history?

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 Macaroons 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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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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