Monday, September 28, 2009

what's been goin' on

Domesticity. You know, in between bouts of travel. I've only been home since about midnight on Friday and am leaving around lunchtime today. And I had to work over the weekend. But I also got a lot done around the house. It's starting to look a little, um, less lived in. Woohoo. Here are some recent projects.

The Hubby's roadside find from years ago has been repainted (in only a slightly new color but it's no longer shiny and has flowers!) and now the guest bed has a real nightstand:

Speaking of the guest bedroom, it is now sporting new linens. I've always wanted them to be all white:

I made cobbler (peach and raspberry from here) in an awesome green Fiesta pie plate that looked better in person:

There are a few signs that The Husband now lives here (the beginnings of his family's wall in the hallway):

And the shelf in the living room has a little wedding area:

That's it for now. Next up? Eye doctor. Then a long drive.

Monday, September 21, 2009

ireland honeymoon, part four

And now for the finale... On Wednesday (the 2nd), we had a quick Continental breakfast before heading on to Tullamore. We stopped along the way to visit Emo's Court. Beautiful gardens, pretty nice home, and giant redwoods. Not a sullen, angst-ridden teenager in sight.

Then we visited the Tullamore Dew distillery which was combined with a little town history museum. This tour was self-guided and was pretty interesting. We learned more about coopering, the art of making those wooden barrels the whiskey is aged in. I can't imagine ever making even one barrel that could hold liquid. My luck, after all this time and labor, I'd go to char the inside and would burn the whole thing down. Props to the coopers.

We ended the tour with the requisite sampling. The Husband tried the whiskey while I had the liqueur, Irish Mist. Now that's something I could get behind. Much less harsh when compared to straight whiskey. We also had some lunch and an Irish coffee. Turns out the Tullamore folks were responsible for popularizing the drink in the US.

Then we drove the short distance to Kilbeggan to tour their distillery as well. Also a self-guided tour and you could really get up close and personal with the equipment. Again, even though we toured multiple distilleries, they all had something unique to offer and it didn't seem like you were just seeing the same ol' thing repeatedly. And they had a real live cooper working on the premises. Fun!

Because we didn't need a car in Dublin and also didn't want the stress of returning it by 8:00 the next morning, we found a B&B to stay in right outside the city. We returned the car to the airport the night before, ate McDonald's (blasphemy, I know) and headed back south via the bus. We ended up getting a great bus pass that included roundtrip airport transport, any city buses and the hop on and off bus tour. Too bad their bus system is incredibly confusing. No one really knows what's going on--even the locals. Even the transit employees. At least everyone is nice and tries to help as much as they can. On our way back to the B&B that night, we ended up on a bus with other B&B guests. They were kind enough to show us the short cut from the bus stop to our temporary home.

We chatted with those folks over breakfast the next morning and the dad gave us two free passes for the Guinness tour (that they hadn't used). Very nice. After breakfast, we took a cab to our hotel. It was the only place we stayed 2 consecutive nights while we were there. Reasonably nice hotel but no one knew where it was...that always makes for a fun cab ride. We were able to check in early and lounged around a bit before heading to the city.

Our fellow American tourists (as well as guidebooks) recommended taking the Trinity College tour before seeing the Book of Kells. The tour guide was a current student--very funny and informative. It's crazy to think that here's this college...and it's older than our country. The Book of Kells was amazing when you really think about the work that went into it and the technology that was available at the time. I'm glad we got to see it since you probably don't get the chance very often in life.

We spent some time visiting the National Gallery and seeing some of their art for free. Then we headed on to Bruxelles Pub for a quick bite before seeing Ray LaMontagne in concert. Perhaps this was the real reason for the trip, not to celebrate the joining of our lives, etc. :) Really, it was probably why I consented to us leaving a few weeks after the wedding. I found Ray's music while wedding planning and even used one of his songs for the recessional. It was a great show with a fantastic opening act...The Low Anthem. These people played 3 times the number of instruments as they had people. Seriously. And, then there was Ray...

Friday was our last day in Ireland. We slept in, tried to figure out the bus schedule so we'd be able to leave the following day, were told misinformation (we later realized), and ate lunch at Flanagan's. The rest of the day was pretty much spent on the on-and-off bus tour. We saw some interesting sites including the Custom House, Phoenix Park, and Christ Church Cathedral. We also toured St. Patrick's Cathedral and Guinness. The best part about Guinness was the bar on the top floor. It's round with the bar in the center and all the walls are windows. You have a great view of the city. That night we had pizza and dessert at the hotel and packed up for the early Saturday morning flight.

The Husband would like for me to tell you (I'm sure) that we tried to take a bus Saturday morning but realized that they didn't start running early enough. Fortunately, there were lots of available cabs. We took one and the driver said his meter was broken--it was charging us a lower rate but what can you do? He told us how much he estimated the fare would be and The Husband looks to see how much cash he had. I also had some left but soon realized it was probably in my pants pocket. The pants I wore yesterday. The pants that were packed in my suitcase in the trunk of the cab. Turns out, we had just enough money to pay the fare without worrying about the misplaced cash. The flight back was thankfully uneventful.

It was a really good trip. I'd highly recommend it (although yours may not be as good since you probably won't be honeymooning with my hubby--but perhaps your travel companion will make a Guinness mustache, too).

Friday, September 18, 2009

we fit, yo

We're not the typical couple. Even though folks are marrying older these days, we're still above average. We've lived with roommates and on our own. We've had time to inherit things from other households. We've had real jobs for years and if we needed something we could afford to buy it. This makes registering for wedding gifts a difficult task.

What did we do? Registered for some things we needed, some upgrade items, and lots of fun things. Last night we used two of these. We did our first round of the 30 Day Shred. Holy moly. That you can feel that way in a mere 20-ish minutes? That's got to be good. Then, since we were still alive (and by "we" I mean me as The Hubby is obviously way more fit), we set up the Wii Fit.

It was fun to see our little Miis dressed up in their workout clothes. You have to enter your height and DOB and they calculate your weight and BMI. Then they test your posture and balance and stuff to give you your Wii Fit age. Ok, so I misunderstood the directions. Twice. After the third round of testing, my age went from 51 to 52 to a much more respectable 37. For the first time, I'm older than The Husband. I told him I was enjoying being a cougar...

Both are good programs. They seem pretty enjoyable and are much more fun with a partner. We'll see how long we can keep it up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

irish honeymoon, part three

I'm going to keep at the recaps even though no one appears interested. Is anyone reading blogs anymore or has everyone gone over to Facebook? No matter, the blog is like my own little (public) diary so it's as much for me as anyone else.

On Sunday morning we at breakfast at the B&B. Potato waffles! Then we dressed up and walked through the park to St. John's Church. It was The Husband's first Catholic mass and about half of it was in Gaelic. If you're Catholic, you know this makes no difference to you since it's all a giant pattern anyway. But it was bare bones mass. In and out in 30 minutes flat.

Then we headed on to Dingle, briefly stopping by the windmill outside of Tralee. We had read good things about the scenic Ring of Dingle (a drive around the peninsula) and were told if you were short on time you should do this instead of the Ring of Kerry. There are two routes from Tralee to Dingle. According to Rick Steves: "the easy southern route or the much more dramatic, scenic, and treacherous Conor Pass." We chose Conor Pass. It was indeed curvy, narrow, a little scary, and it was rainy and like driving in a cloud the visibility was so poor. The Hubby did well driving it, though.

When we got to Dingle we did the walking tour in our Rick Steves book. We had lunch at Paul Geaney's Bar and Restaurant (lamb stew and ham/cheese/pineapple panini). We bought art from the artist's daughter in a cute little gallery. We saw the tribute to Fungie, the Dingle Dolphin. The weather was really the worst of the trip but we attempted the Ring of Dingle anyway. After about 9 kilometers we turned back. This was enough, however, for The Husband to get to drive over the "upside down bridge." Twice. This part of the road has never had a bridge but was designed as a ford. Fun.

We drove on to Killarney but just stopped by the Tourist Information. Nothing too exciting. We basically were just trying to cover some ground. We ended up staying at An Cuasan, a B&B near Macroom. We had dinner at the recommended Abbey Hotel in Ballyvourney/Ballymakeery. We walked around the little village a bit before heading back to the B&B.

The next morning we headed off to the nearby toy soldier factory. They were quite neat but pricey. Then we headed on to Blarney. We'd read that the castle is very touristy and overpriced so we had hoped to get to see only the gardens. Well, turns out you have to pay for that, too. So we skipped that and wandered about town. It is a pretty area.

As we headed away from there and on to Cork and Midleton, we stumbled upon Barryscourt Castle. It had been redone and even included some furnishings that would have been present in it's prime. There was a great tour guide and the whole thing was free. The tour guide even said that this tour was better than Blarney, where she also sometimes gives tours. I'd definitely recommend it. The had nice gardens as well.

So off to Midleton for the first whiskey distillery tour, Jameson Midleton Distillery. This was the most touristy tour but very interesting. I had read that at the end they ask for volunteers for a whiskey tasting. The Husband, of course, raised his hand and was chosen. He got to taste an American, Irish, and Scottish sample. Lots of pictures from there.

Then we drove on to Dungarvan, one of my favorite places. It was beautiful and would have been completely overdeveloped if it were in the US. As it was, there was a quaint little town on one side of the bay and our B&B was on the other. The man who owned the B&B had grown up next door. It seemed like a lot of folks didn't move far from where they grew up. We ended up getting Italian that night (very good food) after taking in our options and being followed around by a very friendly dog.

Tuesday morning, The Husband finally got to try white pudding. Eh. And we drove on to Waterford even though we new the factory was closed. We went through the visitor's center and I bought a Celtic cross Christmas ornament (since I try to pick up a Christmas ornament whenever I travel). Then we headed on to Kilkenny. There, we visited the Kilkenny Castle. This one was very different as it was set up more to show how fancypants the residents were rather than to be used primarily for defense. Very well restored. We also browsed some of the town including their rather large art center and St. Canice's Cathedral. We then headed on to Portalaoise and stayed in a B&B there. Dinner that night was at Egan's. Quite good, highly recommended, and the decor was nice as well.

Up next? Dublin (and our last installment).

Monday, September 14, 2009

angel stadium at anaheim

In addition to getting to hang out in Redondo Beach this weekend and attend a wedding in Palos Verdes, we caught an Angel game before heading back home. It still amazes me how many baseball teams California has--and in such close proximity to one another. The Angels fans are pleasant enough. They enjoy the wave and throwing around beach balls and balloons.

We had heard that they have good food there. They do have a lot of restaurants represented (like we do at home). We ended up having garlic-parmesan fries (pretty good).

We had seats in the 200 level, 3rd base side, covered because I had already gotten too much sun the day before. The weather was great, however, and it would have been nice to take in some sun after rainy Ireland but the shade was more responsible. One neat feature of the ballpark is the waterfall. Oh, yeah. And the giant A outside. Other than that, just a nice normal ballpark.

It was kids' day and they represented. One fun thing was that some kids had gotten selected to do things like throw out the first pitch, be a guest announcer, work a camera, or help the grounds crew. It was fun (especially the enthusiastic guest announcer--a girl!).

The Angels played the White Sox and won 3-2. This was my 5th ballpark that was unrelated to the Astros. So far when I'm in attendance the home team wins 80% of the time. Think I could capitalize on that somehow?

Friday, September 11, 2009

and we're off. again.

Leaving for California today. The Hubby is returning the favor of one of his groomsmen. The up side is that I had nothing to do with this wedding and I'm pretty sure I'll just be a guest. Would I prefer for it to be a local wedding? Or for it to be maybe next weekend? Yep, but what can you do... I suppose all the little house projects and the garage sale prep and the putting away of Hubby's stuff can wait till we get back. Since his schedule will be filled with groomsmen activities, I may just lounge on the beach. Or shop. I'm sure I can fill my time somehow.

And did I mention that we got our wedding pics back? I can't share all of them on here until we get the rights to them at the end of the year but there can be a few more sneak peeks.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ireland honeymoon, part two

Friday morning (the 28th) we woke up for our first Irish breakfast. They don't play. Sure you can have your normal Continental breakfast with cereals and breads and fruit and yogurt and stuff but if you're hardcore you have a traditional breakfast. This means eggs, tomato, sausage, and bacon (which is a weird cross between our bacon and ham but not like Canadian bacon...I know, it's hard to describe). If you're lucky you can also get white pudding or black pudding. Both are sausages but the black contains dried pig blood. Yum. No, not really. I wasn't a huge fan of any of the sausages but did try them all. The Hubby enjoyed them.
After breakfast we drove from Galway to Rossaveel so that we could take the 40-minute ferry ride to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. It's a 9x3 mile island that's very rural and like "old Ireland." You can tour the place on foot or bike or in a horse drawn carriage or van. If you go there, don't try to walk it. There's too much ground to cover in the hilly, incredibly windy area. Also? If you're prone to motion sickness (or even if you're not), leave from Rossaveel. It's a shorter trip than from Galway. Let me tell you, I've been seasick maybe once or twice in my whole life but this was the worst. There was no barfing but I needed to be still once we landed. This delayed us a bit.

Once we got going we visited the Aran Sweater Shop where I bought a traditional Aran sweater. The Hubby got a jaunty little cap. We picked up a few pastries from the grocery store and headed to what ended up being a vacant seal colony. We saw some ruins and landscape and houses and stone fencing. It rained off and on (never very heavily) but was so windy that you dried off almost immediately. Like I mentioned, there was too much ground to cover so we ended up trekking over a private road to get to the other main road and head back to the ferry landing. The boat trip back was MUCH better.
Then we were off to Clifden, further west. The land in this area (Connamera) was my favorite. It was so green and hilly and there were little lakes and forests. Just beautiful. The night before, I had read in one of our travel books that you may encounter a stray sheep or two along the roadways. Well, The Hubby was driving and I was enjoying the scenery. I pointed out something that I'm sure was picturesque off to our left. We were both admiring it and then I look ahead. "Sheep! Sheep, sheep, sheep!" Hubby was looking all around, everywhere except for DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE CAR. We stopped in time. No sheep were harmed in the making of our honeymoon.

When we decided on Ireland, I figured we should spend at least one night in a castle. There were a few options and the one we ended up getting was in Clifden. On the way there, however, we stopped by Ballynahinch Castle (our first yet unavailable choice). It was probably nicer on the inside than Abbeyglen where we stayed. But Abbeyglen felt more castle-like on the outside.
Abbeyglen certainly wasn't short on customer service. We had a great greeting by Brian, one of the owners. He addressed us as the "bride and groom" or newlyweds. He gave us free champagne and let us take a plateful of the dessert buffet to our room following dinner. Our room was in one of the turrets so it was about twice as large as most. We had our own little gas fireplace and a canopy bed.

We slept in on Saturday morning and had breakfast before we checked out of the castle. We walked around the small town of Clifden and then headed south. We stopped at our first "real" castle, Aughnanure, that was used for defense. The structure was restored but nothing was inside. It was interesting to learn how the architecture and building placement helped the people defend themselves.

After that, we headed on through Gort and Ennis and Limerick. I got to drive for the first time (no incidents other than freaking out The Husband). Our destination that evening was Tralee. When we got back home, I asked The Hubby where in Ireland he'd want to live if he could. He said this place. It's not too large of a town but has everything you'd need. And it has the International Rose of Tralee festival that we missed by about a week. Our B&B of the day was The Willows, ran by Mary and Tim. She was very chatty and informative and he was a handyman. He had restored their home/B&B and was nice to talk to as well. Mary recommended dinner at the Grand Hotel and we listened to her. It was a really good meal. We took dessert to go (also very good) and took the shortcut through the park to head "home."

Up next? Church, the Dingle Ring, and a little bit of Blarney...