Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Thirty Fourth...

No progress has been made on the Gryffindor scarf. I ran out of yarn last week, and hadn't had a chance, or the funds, to get more yarn until just recently. But, now that I have more yarn, I figure it won't be much longer now until I'm done. Maybe another week or so?

The baby blanket is coming along smoothly. I will eventually need more yarn for this as well, and I had planned to get some more today, but Joann's was pretty picked over (It took me awhile to find the Gryffindor yarn!) and they only had one of the colors I needed. I decided to wait another day or two. 

I finally ordered some more yarn for the Husband's Slytherin scarf. Knitpicks no longer offers Telemark in the grey that I needed, but their Wool of the Andes Sport brand is the same weight, and it has the same colorway, so I ordered a skein. Hopefully it works out so it can be totally finished!

Today I start my first day of work at my new job. I'm excited and nervous!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Barefoot in the Kitchen with Christmas Cookies...

(shortbread fresh out of the oven!)

Today is Christmas Eve, and my family usually gets together to have dinner and exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. I decided to make cookies this year because I've never made anything for the family get togethers and I thought it would be a nice treat.

First up was Scottish Shortbread using this recipe. Unfortunately, I didn't let the butter reach room temperature. I thought I had, but it was still a bit on the cold side, so the dough was very dry and crumbly. About a quarter of a cup of water fixed that. I also made have spread it out in the pans a little too thick, because it was still a bit on the doughy side - but amazingly awesome!

Next was Russian Tea Cakes. Apparently my Grandma used to make these, or something VERY similar, back in the day. The recipe is pretty easy and straight forward, though the powdered sugar can get a bit messy. I also recommend using a mortar and pestle to crush the nuts into tinier bits instead of chopping them.

Finally I made a batch of brown butter and sea salt cookies (aka crack cookies). These are a bit harder to make because you have to brown the butter. Prior to making these cookies I had never browned butter before, and there is a window of only a few seconds where the butter is properly browned. If you take it off too early, it smells nutty, but is only clarified butter. If you leave it on too long, it becomes burnt. The clarified butter still does the job. I dunno if burnt butter will because I'm usually paranoid and pull off the butter way early. Today I managed to time it JUST right and the butter was properly browned.

The recipe also says to just sprinkle sea salt on the top, but I've never had luck with the sea salt staying on the cookie that way, so I recommend rolling the cookie dough into a ball and then pressing it into or rolling it across a bowl or plate of sea salt.

From my husband and I to you and yours: Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Thirty Third...

I'm three red stripes, and two gold stripes, away from completing the Gryffindor scarf. However, I'm tempted to make it a little longer than normal, because I did make it wider than the pattern called for and it is meant for a big guy. I dunno. We'll see how it looks when I get to that point.

No progress to report on the baby blanket this week.

However, there has been some writing progress.


The BIGGEST news of all...

I got a job! I start next Wednesday! It's for a smaller company, but they have a much better schedule than my old job did and there's more opportunity for growth! Yay!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Barefoot in the Kitchen with Chicken Pot Pie...

When I was young, my Grannie used to buy these boxed chicken pot pie and chicken and dumpling meals and make them for dinner sometimes. I loved them. While I now know where to find those boxes (in the same aisle as the mac and cheese and hamburger helper) I wanted to try my own hand at making chicken pot pie using some of the stuff I already had in the house.

Basically I used a combination of this recipe from Pillsbury and this one from Campbell's Soup.

Instead of canned chicken or chicken pot pie soup (according to Pillsbury, Progressive makes one) I baked two skinless boneless chicken breasts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then I chopped that up, added it to the pyrex dish with some Green Giant steamers we had in the freezer: garden medley and healthy weight mix. I made sure those were cooked first though! 

I opted to use a can of Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup instead of Cream of Chicken, and since that was so thick I mixed it up with a 1/2 a cup of milk. I then added that to the chicken and the veggies, topped it off with a can of Pillsbury Grand's biscuits, and put it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. 


Overall it was pretty tasty, though I think next time I might use the basic garden mix instead of the garden medley and healthy weight steamers. I also will probably add some onions, and maybe some garlic as well (the husband loves garlic)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WIP wednesday the Thirty Second

The Gryffindor scarf is currently as long as my leg and it keeps my lap nice and cozy while I knit.

The baby blanket is coming along rather nicely too!

In regards to job hunting, I've had two more interviews with two more temp companies, but supposedly I'm in the front running for this one job. They've been calling my references and should be getting back to me later this week, so keep your fingers crossed for me! It would be awesome to have a job just in time for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Thirty First

I have passed the middle of the Gryffindor scarf.

(Connor modeling the scarf)

The baby blanket is coming along quite nicely. I may have to block it to try to get the bottom row to open up and hang right, but I don't know if blocking will work since simply soft is acrylic and I read somewhere that blocking doesn't work on acrylic yarns. If not, I'm hoping that the border will resolve the issue. 

On the job hunt front I've had one interview with a temp agency. They were supposed to call me back this week but haven't so far. Tomorrow I have another interview with a totally different temp agency, and an interview with a company that found my resume online. 

Sadly, I haven't done as much as I wanted to while being unemployed yet. I have written a bit. An author that I liked also released a new ebook, so after downloading it onto my computer I was able to open that into an ebook editing program that I found and see how she put it together. See, a lot of the ebook selling websites tell you to to build an ebook this way, or that way, using Word, or HTML, but none of them really give exact details. I found a WYSIWYG e book editor online, and it cleared up some of the confusion, but actually opening up an ebook file in this editor to see what size font she used and how she included the cover art, etc etc etc. helped a lot and gave me ideas for when the time comes (though that's still a ways off) The Husband and I have also cleaned a bit - those last boxes I never unpacked from the last move are finally unpacked and the Husband found the Christmas lights - but I haven't started walking yet because it's been too cold and windy to venture outside for very long. 

Hopefully all your works in progress are going well

Sunday, December 4, 2011


In our house, my Husband has always been the one that cooks the meals. I can cook, and was fully capable of putting together some nom-tastic meals when I was living on my own, but the moment he came over, and the moment we moved in together, the kitchen was his. Every now and then I would be allowed access to make a meal, or bake something, but the majority of the cooking was always done by him.

That changed recently: when we came home from our honeymoon, he went from working the morning shift to working nights, so I ended up eating either microwave dinners or fast food. I realized that fast food wasn't exactly helping my waistline or my wallet, so, a couple of weeks ago, I started cooking our meals. It wasn't great at first - I relied on a lot of canned soups and boxed dinners - but over time I've gotten a bit braver. Now that I'm out of a job, I have a LOT more time to cook (and I'll have to be a bit more creative about it) I figured 'why not share it my escapades of attempting what to make for dinner?'

So, starting now, on Sundays and Mondays, I'll be posting updates of my progress in rediscovering my cooking abilities and sharing recipes that are inexpensive and easy to make.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday the Thirtieth

Good news - the Slytherin scarf is 99.9% done. All I have left is the fringe. The bad news? I ran out of the Knit Picks yarn I was using for the gray stripes. I could finish it with just green fringe instead of the green and gray fringe I was planning on, but that seems boring to me. Unfortunately Knit Picks no longer has any yarn in that that shade of gray available in Telemark. In fact, they seem to have all the Telemark marked as sell out, so I think they're getting rid of that brand. Knit Pick's Wool of the Andes has a similar shade, and it's the same weight and fiber, but they aren't going to have any more until February. I haven't been able to go to Michaels or Joanns yet to see if they have anything close. 

Several months ago I told a friend that I would make a baby blanket for her. Between working on the scarves and the wedding, I just didn't have time. Since it could possibly be awhile before the Slytherin scarf is done, I went ahead and finally started the blanket over the weekend. I, personally, LOVE granny squares, but I didn't want to do another one, and I didn't feel like another granny stripe. Then I found the granny ripple and I just knew I had to try it. 

It's actually pretty easy. However, I had some problem starting it because this pattern here said a baby blanket sized granny ripple afghan should be a 133 long chain, but that seemed too small. I did a 188 chain instead (which is supposed to be an adult sized blanket) They also said to keep your chain to length that is multiples of 11, but I had at least 5 left over when I started the first row, so I'm thinking they did the math wrong. But it could also be that I made a mistake when I was counting because I had this guy begging for my attention:

(Even now he is curled up on my arm as I type this blog)

Thankfully the left over stitches can be hidden by the trim. 

The other problem I've had is figuring out how to start the new color of yarn when it's time for a color change. When I did the granny square blanket and the granny stripe I had a certain way where I would tie things off and hide the left over yarn by the next row - I can't really do that on this one though, so I've been having to tie things off and weave the ends in as I go. It's a bit more work, but it looks nice!

The boys have also been good the past couple of days about being loving without attacking whatever I might be doing, so I've been able to get a lot done on the blanket even though I just started it.

You know how I said the boys were being loving but good? Well, I think they sense its been a rough couple of days for me. See, I was let go from my job yesterday. I had a feeling it was going to happen and I was already looking for a new job, so I'm not as upset about it as I have been when I've lost jobs in the past. It still sucks though. I'm hopeful that something will happen soon - that I'll either get a new job that's better then what I had before or that EDD will come through quickly.

There are upsides to being let go though: now I have more time to apply for jobs and now I don't have to worry about taking time off from work to go to interviews when I get them. Plus I'll be able to finally unpack those last couple of boxes from when we moved in April (there's always one or two) and I can work out (I plan to start walking every day) and knit, crochet and write of course. Maybe this is the opportunity I need to get one of my stories finally done, edited, and sent out to publishers (or self published as an ebook) So it's not all bad.

Who knows, like I said, something will happen. Something's got to. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

To my readers...

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately I'm at work, so I can't celebrate with my family, but the phones seem to be dead despite the fact that there's only half of us here, so I should be able to get some knitting done.

Gotta celebrate the good things right?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday the Twenty Ninth

I am four rows away from completing the Slytherin Scarf. It's been slow going lately though because the cats have been very clingy lately, and they do not approve of me knitting when they feel I should be petting them.

Since I'm so close to the end, I realized that I had no idea how to bind off (it never occurred to me to practice that like I was practicing the other stitches) and the little 'how to knit' booklet I have from Red Heart doesn't really explain binding off clearly. I'll be checking out Knit Pick's tutorials later, but if anyone knows of any other tutorials with clear instructions (preferably step by step with pictures) please let me know!

On the Gryffindor scarf I seem to have mastered the k2tog stitch. Obviously the scarf just calls for round after round of stockinette, so I shouldn't have to k2tog - but on a couple of stitches I apparently forgot to drop the old stitch and ended up with something like this:

Of course, by the time I realized what I had done I was already on the next row, and there was no way in hell I was going to pull the scarf off of the needles, frog those rows and then put everything back onto the needles. It's one thing to do that on the Slytherin scarf since that's on straights, but it's quite another thing when you're doing it on circulars. I ended up doing the k2tog and then moving on with the project only to discover a few rows later I had done the same thing again. 

In my defense, last week was rather rough - so I'm going to blame the screw ups on that. 

But in the end, none of them show up, so no one would notice them (except for me)

There hasn't been any progress on the job search front. I do get calls from prospective employers who are interested in talking to me - but they all seem to be offering me sales jobs where you just get paid on commission, or they're going to train you and give you enough money to start your own office up but after that you're on your own. No thank you.

In regards to reading, I highly suggest picking up The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. It's not your average paranormal teen book in that a girl meets a vampire, or ghost and falls in love with them. No, in this book an American girl travels to London for her last year in High School (her parents have taken up teaching positions at a college in England) right when a copy cat serial killer decides to mimic the Jack the Ripper murders. There's a smidge of romance, but it's mostly a mystery as the girl tries to figure out who the new Jack the Ripper is, and, in the midst of all that she discovers that she can see people her friends can't. It's a bit slow at first, but the last 2/3rds of the book make up for it. 

I started The Beauty Bride by Claire Delacroix last night. I had read some of her other novels when I was younger, and I figured that this one would be just as good. I was wrong. It started off strong, but then after the heroine agrees to marry the man who just bought her at an auction, and they consumate their relationship, the man tells her that she better give him a son or else he's going to start sleeping around with other women just like his dad did in order to get one. I understand the novel is set during the medieval period, and that society was very different then, and it wouldn't be a good book if there wasn't a bit of conflict between the heroine and her man, but still! Ugh. 

So, if anyone has any good books to suggest, please do so! My own good book finding mojo seems to have failed me. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Twenty Eighth

No pictures this week - but I can tell you that on my Husbands Slytherin Scarf I'm half way through the last green stripe. YAY! It's almost done!

I was also reminded recently that I myself am a work in progress. I'm still employed at my current job, but I've been applying for other jobs because I would like to find a place where there's room for advancement, better pay, and a normal schedule. Thankfully there seem to be a lot of customer service jobs out there - but then I realized that I might be looking for a long long time because silly me forgot to update the email address on my cover letter and resume. I had applied for at least 5 jobs with that outdated information without realizing it. And then once I fixed that I realized that there was a line in the cover letter about a letter of recommendation from my supervisor (I had been copying an old cover letter and tweaking it according to the job I was applying for, and somehow completely missed that line) and I had applied for 5 more jobs with that.

This all has been fixed now, but, man oh man, am I so embarrassed! I can't believe I didn't catch that!

I'm going to go hide now. But while I hide make sure to check out Tami's Amis for less mortifying works in progress!

Monday, November 14, 2011

He's Hell on Wheels alright...

This week's Meatlocker Monday post goes to Anson Mount - star of the new AMC drama Hell on Wheels. Anson plays a former plantation owner who has been tracking down the men involved in his wife's murder (the good type of plantation owner who rarely gets mentioned: he didn't have much land and he had only owned a few slaves - slaves that he had actually freed and was paying for their work prior to the Civil War breaking out) Just when he thinks he found the last one, the man reveals that there's another - and he's a worker for the railroad as well. However, before the old codger can tell Anson's character the name, or give him any other information regarding the guy, he is killed by an African American who is avenging the death of his friend earlier in the day.

It's a rough and tough show like Deadwood, but it's not as pretty as Deadwood and the conversation doesn't flow as well. Despite that, it still looks like it'll be interesting, so we'll be tuning in every week; the husband will watch so he can get his old west fix and I'll watch because, well, Anson Mount is a very handsome gruff man.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Twenty Seventh...

Yesterday I started on the final gray stripe on the Slytherin Scarf:

I'm only one row in, but still - it's the final gray stripe! That means I'm only two stripes away from being finished! 48 rows! Whoo-hoo!

The Gryffindor will probably be a little while longer. The coworker who I am making it for is going on a mini vacation this weekend to someplace cold, and I'm trying to get it done in time, but I'm afraid I won't. I'm still going to try though!

I already have the next project lined up - a baby blanket I promised to someone in the spring that didn't get made because of the wedding chaos. I'm thinking I might try a rectangular granny square or a granny zig-zag (I have a thing for granny squares and granny square-esque stuff)

I also got caught off guard by a yarn sale at Michaels. I walked in to see if they had any Halloween stuff on sale (they did, but nothing interesting) went to the yarn aisle just to look at stuff and pet the yarn and ended up walking out with 8 skeins of yarn. 

Surprisingly the maker of the yarn is Red Heart! I couldn't believe it the first time I saw it! Normally Red Heart has the worst stuff ever - it just feels so nasty, like it's been treated with something. This new brand of Red Heart, aptly named Red Heart Soft, is so nice and they have some really awesome colors. I can't wait to use it!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The return of the Meatlocker...

The last Meatlocker Monday post happened in August, and the meatlocker hasn't been updated since, because, well, I kinda ran out of guys.

And then Once Upon a Time started. The concept of the show is that Prince Charming and Snow White got married and had a baby. The Evil Queen couldn't let them live happily ever after, so she cast a spell that made everyone forget who they were and she forced everyone into the Real World - because you know, living in the Real World is SO much worse then living in a land where your stepmother is trying to kill you. Anywho, it turns out that Snow's baby survived and her destiny is to destroy the Evil Queen. It also turns out that she had a child of her own who she had given up for adoption years ago. The kid decides to hunt her down on her 28th birthday and she makes the decision to take him back to Storybrook where he lives with his adoptive mother... who happens to be the Evil Queen.

So far it's been a pretty fun little show.

But, of course, rather than drooling over Prince Charming like any normal girl, I ended up being a bit distracted by the Sheriff instead. He's dark, scruffy, is played by an Irish actor, and I suspect he may be the Big Bad Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood fame. Can you blame me?

Anywho, for your viewing pleasure, here is Mr. Jamie Dornan!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Guy Fawkes day...

When I was in Jr High (or was it High School? Oh well, it was sometime around then) I remember reading a book called Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging. In it, in the very first chapters, the girl character talks about Guy Fawkes day and burning effigies. What in the world? I thought to myself. Those English people are weird

But at the same time, I was a bit of a pyro who liked to watch things burn - and by watch things burn I mean things like old checks from my Mom's bank account that she didn't plan on using, leaves and old newspapers, stuff like that. I was a pyro who respected fire, knew how to handle it safely, and knew that burning down houses was bad. In fact, I was the one my Girl Scout Leader turned to when other troops wanted someone to talk to their troop about fire. 

That said, a holiday that was all about burning a straw man sounded pretty awesome to me. Now that I'm older, and I understand who Guy Fawkes was and what he was all about (and I'm not talking about the V for Vendetta version, but the truth) I still think it's a pretty cool holiday because fire is still pretty awesome.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Twenty Sixth...

The Slytherin scarf is ALMOST done - just two and a half more stripes to do! I feel rather proud of my proguress considering that I screwed up on the scarf this past week and had to frog about two rows. See, the Gryffindor scarf I'm working on has stripes that are 22 rows long. Since the Slytherin scarf is being knit out of sport weight yarn, I decided to make the stripes 24 rows long. Well, last week I finished a stripe on my Gryffindor scarf, went home, started work on the Slytherin scarf (it's become to big to carry in my purse so it's a strictly at home only project now) and finished a stripe on that. I realized two rows into the next stripe on the Slytherin scarf that I had started the new stripe too early, so I had to go back, frog it, and then tie the old color in, knit in that for a few more rows, and then start the next stripe like I was supposed to do. 

On the writing front I did not get my story done in time to meet my personal deadline. I ended up getting pretty nasty writers block, and then, because that's how it ALWAYS works, I ended up getting ideas for other stories while I was trying to finish the first story, which just messed with the flow of things. I am sure my muses, whoever they may be, are laughing at my suffering right now. However, by missing the deadline that means I now have more time to 1) finish the short story 2) get beta readers for it 3) edit it and 4) design a cover and publish it. So, I guess it all works out in the end. 

Let me tell you, all these ideas make me look forward to the day when I can just stay home and write as much as I want every day without any interruptions (like having to get back on the phones after work)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

To all my readers - Happy Halloween!

The Hubby and I are currently watching The Walking Dead on AMC. So, since it seems like a zombie kinda night - here's a link to a Zombie Preparedness Awareness comic that was released by the CDC.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Twenty Fifth...

I'm now one row and one stripe away from the middle stripe on the Gryffindor scarf (It looks rather dark in the picture because our lights at work and because of the camera app I was using on my phone.) Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the yellow yarn to work with me, so after this next row, the scarf gets to sit here and wait at work until tomorrow. 

On the Slytherin scarf I'm now just three rows away from being done. I would be closer, but the boys have been rather clingy lately, and they're trying to one up each other in their clinginess. So, one will start off in my lap, then the other will decide that my stomach is the better place to lay. Soon, the boy on the lap will get tired of his brother laying on top of him, so he'll move up to my chest, and then the other one will move so that he's taking up the available space left over on my chest - which often means he's laying on top of one arm - so knitting around them is rather impossible. Plus they hate my knitting needs for some reason, any time I try to knit, and one of them is coherent enough to see what I am doing, they'll start biting and attacking the ends of the knitting needles. 

Also, they make typing rather impossible, so the only writing I'm able to do is while I'm at work on my breaks or in between calls. Not that I've been doing much writing, since writer's block decided to hit me last week, so there has been absolutely no progress on my edits. 

But at least the Honeymoon updates are done - here and here - so now I can move on to updates about all the stuff I've visited recently while the husband has been busy working (he's a supervisor at a local Halloween event, so I've been on my own for most of October) I've also been doing a lot of reading recently - while a friend and I were in San Jose I finished The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton and When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. 

The Faerie Ring was a fun read. It's about a pickpocket in Victorian England who manages to steal a magic ring from Buckingham Palace. The ring is a symbol of an ancient agreement between England and the fey, now the fey from the Unseelie court are after the ring, so they can break the truce and start to take their world back. The ending was confusing though, and left me wanting more - thankfully, this is the first in a trilogy, though there's no word yet on when the next one will be out. 

When She Woke was VERY thought provoking and amazing. I finished it, and literally sat there in awe for a few moments afterwards. It's that good! It's a retelling of the Scarlet Letter set in a dystopian future America. Prior to the novel's start, there was a plague that rendered most of the population sterile before a cure could be found. Abortion is outlawed, and continues to remain illegal in most states even though the population has begun to restore itself. A girl has a forbidden relationship with a man, and when she finds out that she is pregnant, she gets an abortion rather than name him as the father. She's caught, but in this new America, in order to save money, the government now injects people with a virus that dyes the color of their skin according to the severity of their crime rather than imprison them. The story is all about the girl as she tries to deal with the ramifications of her 'crime', looses her family, finds new friends and hope. It's a very fitting novel for these times when there are debates about abortion, Mississippi is getting ready to vote about personhood laws, and churches are picketing funerals. Go out and buy this book right now! Do it! You won't regret it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scotland and Ireland Day Ten - home...

As I mentioned in the previous post, the LCD screen on our new camera was broken - we could take pictures with it, but we couldn't actually see what the pictures looked like, or what we were aiming at, because the screen was just filled with white - and our other camera, which is nicer and fancier, eats normal batteries up like candy. So, taking pictures of the Dublin airport, or the flight home, or the Newark airport was impossible.

Let me say, the Dublin aiport is confusing. There are two buildings, and they're both big, and neither one is labeled very clearly on which terminals are where. The Husband thought that we should go into the newer building, because that's the building we came out of when we landed in Dublin, but the tickets said something about building one, which I thought was the older building. However, we got there only to find out that the terminal we were looking for was in the other building, so we had to walk across the airport (but thankfully it was nothing like the walk from the Air Canada terminal to the Continental terminal at LAX) Once there we found out that the Husband's bag was overweight, but unfortunately my bag was packed full too, so we couldn't switch stuff over (and Airport security is very twitchy about that anyways) so we paid the fine. Then we had to figure out how to get into the Terminal itself, which was up a floor, but wasn't clearly labeled either, so we got lost again.


We finally found it, made it through security and customs, and then found out that our bad luck from trying to get to Ireland had decided to follow us on the way home as well; a hurricane was blowing towards the UK, and the wind speeds in Dublin were pretty high (I've forgotten how high they were, but they were strong enough to move the metal siding on the terminal) On top of that our flight home had been delayed by two hours, because it had to land for gas in Iceland (scary!) so we had to be put on another flight from Newark to LAX. All in all it was better than having no flight home, but still - what is with us and flights and hurricanes?! Next time we're going overseas in April or May (but then we'd probably have to deal with a freak blizzard or something)

The flight back home was just as cramped as the flight to Dublin. Since it was daytime, we were able to see all the damage the flooding had caused in New England. I remember hearing about the flooding, but I didn't realize it was that bad!

We landed in Newark only to find out that our connecting flight had been delayed (see what I mean about us and having bad luck when it comes to airplanes) So we were able to relax at Newark for a couple of hours and indulge in some McDonalds.

Finally, 20 hours after leaving Dublin, we arrived at LAX and were greeted by the Husband's parents. We loaded our luggage into their car and tried to tell them about everything we'd seen and done (though it probably wasn't very coherent) After a stop at In and Out for dinner, we pulled up into the drive way of our apartment, unlocked our front door, and were promptly attacked by the cats, who wouldn't let us out of their sight and didn't want to be put down unless we absolutely had too.

We then passed out for the night, happy to be back home with our friends, families, and pets.

Scotland and Ireland Day Nine - Our last day in Dublin...

Yet again the Husband and I slept in. As soon as we did wake up though, we grabbed a cab from in front of the hotel and drove out to a cemetery in the sub-burbs of Dublin. A friend of the Husband's had family who lived in Ireland who recently passed away, he was unable to attend the funeral, but had asked us to get pictures of the grave site. That may seem weird and morbid to people, but I come from a family who has family members buried in different states, and when my Grandma and my Aunts visit those states sometimes they'll take pictures of the graves, so I was used to it growing up.

We couldn't find our friend's family's grave sites, but the cemetery was lovely to walk around and look at. Here, in California, most of the cemeteries aren't so busy, or, if they are, they don't feel like it since the grave markers are set into the ground instead of standing up. This place was pretty packed; the graves were right next to each other as far as the eye can see. The only exception was in the older parts of the cemetery - here tombstones would trickle off into the trees, and it just felt very magical. Like anything could happen. But sacred at the same time. It was a weird feeling.

After walking around the cemetery for a little bit longer, we tried to find another taxi that would take us back to the city center. Sadly there wasn't a taxi to be found, but there were a couple of buses. After our previous experiences with the Dublin Bus system we were a bit leary, but thankfully we managed to get on one that was heading to Pheonix Park, which was a stop on the hop on hop off bus tour that we had bought the day before. So, we got off the Dublin Bus and hopped onto the sight seeing bus. We had already seen most of what we wanted to see, so we just rode around on the bus for awhile listening to the tour guide talk before getting off at St Patrick's Cathedral.

The cathedral was built in 1191, and is another church that has some lovely tombs and memorials inside with amazing statues that give you a really good idea of what people wore way back when. 

Sadly, we were having issues with both our cameras by then, so I don't have as many pictures of the end of our trip as I do of the beginning. Our fancier camera eats up batteries like they are going out of style, and the smaller camera that we had bought specifically for our trip had a cracked LCD screen (We have no idea how that happened) It could still take photos, but it was a mystery if those pictures actually came out or not until we got home and uploaded them to our computer (the camera is fixed now)

(This is one of those mystery shots)

(And here's another one)

After visiting St Patrick's cathedral we went back to the Temple Bar District again. This time we stopped at Gallagher's Boxty House, and it was still early enough in the day that we were able to get their three course lunch special. Boxtys are potato pancakes that have a filling and are OH so yummy. There's a recipe for a Gaelic Boxty on the Food Network website that I highly recommend checking out. The Husband has been looking at it a lot lately, so I can tell he's planning on making one soon. 

When we were done eating, we walked through one of the larger Carrolls shops in the area. There are a number of Irish gift and souvenir shops in Dublin, but Carrolls is the leading store with shops near all the popular tourist spots (we counted three on one street, granted they were several blocks apart, but still) They carry everything from t-shirts to jewelry, shortbread and fudge to books, hats, scarves, and hanging signs galore. Oh, and there's plenty of rugby, soccer/football, and Guinness paraphernalia too. The Husband and I selected gifts to take back to our family, grabbed a taxi, and went back to the hotel to try to pack all this stuff up into our bags. 

Our flight was supposed to leave the next day around 11am, so we knew we'd have to get up fairly early to make it to the airport, and then through customs on time. After checking our bags one last time, we ordered some pizza from room service, and then turned off the lights and tried to get some sleep.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WIP Wednesday the Twenty Fourth

(Murphy cat thinks he's helping)

Yet another week of not getting as much done as I'd like when it comes to knitting. A friend and I drove up to San Jose/San Francisco for the weekend, and while there is a lot to do and see on the way up, we took a different route on the way back where there was nothing to do or see. I took advantage of this dead time to try out knitting in the car, and, hey, what do you know, I can knit in the car without any issues (I was afraid I'd get car sick) I am now two grey and two green stripes away from being finished with the Husband's scarf. 

My writing is going well, though I don't think I'm going to make my personal deadline. I decided to add something else to the storyline again, so I'm going through and revising things for a third time so the new subplot makes a little more sense. I really need to stop doing that to myself. 

The next to last Scotland and Ireland Trip update is over here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scotland and Ireland Day Eight - The Husband's Birthday...

Since it was the Husband's birthday (yes, the lucky man got to celebrate his birthday in Dublin) he got to choose where to go and what to do. Since he's a big Guinness fan, the first stop was the Guinness Factory, so, since both of us were tired of dealing with buses, we took a taxi to St James's Gate.

(Can you see how excited he was?)

Thanks to the Dublin City Pass, we were able to get in for free. The first stop on the tour is a little orientation where a Guinness employee talks about Arthur Guinness, the history of the factory, and points out the 9,000 year lease that's sealed in glass underneath the floor. 

It turns out that the factory tour is built around an atrium that resembles a pint glass. During the introduction you are at the bottom of the glass. From there you walk through an exhibit that talks about the main ingredients for Guinness and how it is brewed. Once you are finished with that, you can go into a Guinness tasting room, and there are also exhibits about how Guinness is transported and how it's been advertised over the years. Meanwhile, as you go through all this, you are slowly going from level to level up the pint glass.

After you are done with the exhibits there's a computer where you can take a test about your Drinking IQ, and there is another kiosk near by where you can look your family name to see if you might be related to anyone who worked in the Guinness factory. There's also a spot where you can learn to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. However, if you do that, you won't get your free Guinness in the Gravity Bar later.

The factory also has a couple of restaurants; one is a fancier sit down type place and the other is a cafeteria that offers more traditional Irish food. The Husband decided he wanted to eat there and we both got shepherds pie and a desert. 

I cannot recommend the cafeteria at the Guinness Factory enough. For about 12 euros each we both had an entree (Shepherds pie) which came with three different salads, and we also shared a yummy desert. It was an amazing amount of food that we were, unfortunately, unable to finish. 

After lunch we continued our trek up to the Gravity Bar for our free pints of Guinness. Since the bar is at the top of the Guinness factory it has an amazing view of the city - but it was too crowded, so we couldn't get anywhere near the windows to see what the view was like. 

(I don't drink beer, so the Husband got an extra Guinness)

Once we were done with the factory, we went downstairs and purchased tickets for the Dublin city Sightseeing tour bus. This is a red bus that goes only to the popular tourist locations so we wouldn't have to worry about getting lost. Also, the ticket is good for two days, which gives you plenty of time to see everything. 

Next up for the day was Kilmainham Gaol, which is a prison where many of the leaders of the different Irish Rebellions where held there over the years. Also, historians feel that it was the executions that took place there in 1916 that turned the tide in the battle for Irish Independence. 

(The entrance)

(A quote above the door)

(The Victorian wing)

The gaol has held more than just political prisoners over the years; during the famine it was quite crowded since people committed crimes in the hopes that they would be caught since prisoners got at least three meals a day. However, it's stories like that of Joseph Punkett and Grace Gilford, who were married just hours before he was executed, that will be remembered and retold more often. 

(The exercise yards)

(Two crosses mark the spot where the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed)

(A plaque in memory of those who were killed)

From Kilmainham Gaol we caught the tour bus to someplace a little happier - the Jameson's Distillery!

While I'm not fond of beer - whiskey is definitely right up my alley. This tour is much shorter than the Guinness tour, but it covers a lot of the same type of information; what ingredients are used for whiskey and how it's made. Did you know that Jameson's is triple distilled, which makes for a smoother taste? And that the barrels it's stored in are personally selected for that purpose. 

During the tour, the guide asked for eight volunteers. We already knew what the volunteers were for, so the Husband stuck his hand up and was one of the lucky men and women chosen to take part in a whiskey taste test. 

Each participant was given three shots of whiskey; one was the best selling American whiskey, Jack Daniels, the next was the best selling Irish whiskey, which was Jamesons, of course, and the final shot was the best selling Scottish whiskey, Johnny Walker. 

After tasting each whiskey the tour guide asked which whiskey each person liked best. Most said that they enjoyed Jamesons the best, but a few said they liked Jack or Johnny better. We had been told that if you answered that you liked Jamesons better then you would get a free certificate stating that you were an official Irish whiskey taste tester - but the tour guide gave the certificates out to everyone no matter what whiskey they liked. 

(The Husband was quite excited about his)

By the time we were done at the Jameson's Distillery, most of the tourist spots like museums and what not were closed for the day, and the tour bus was no longer running, so the Husband and I walked down Abbey Street to O'connell Street. The Dublin Bus runs a Ghost Bus tour that we were interested in taking, however, we couldn't purchase them online, so we were hoping that we would be able to buy them at the Dublin Bus office. They were closed by the time we got to their office, so we waited outside for the bus to show up. 

I am sad that I didn't think to take pictures of this thing. It was a double decker bus, but it was decorated with a wrap around sticker that depicted graveyards and ghosts that blocked out all the windows except for the windshield and the windows up top. Inside the bus had been redecorated with dark paneling and velvet cushions that had a damask pattern. There were chains and fake spider webs hanging from the ceiling, and a skeleton in a robe that sat on one of the seats. 

If you've ever been to Halloween Haunt at Knott's Berry Farm and walked through their vampire maze, Lore of the Vampire - well.. the bus looked a lot like that, except it was on wheels. 

Thankfully they still had room, so we paid the driver took the stairs up to the second level (the stair well was decorated with fake stone!) and settled into seats at the back of the bus. The guide came up and exchanged his coat for a bloody lab coat, told us to pull the curtains blocking the windows shut, and away we went. 

Like the Ghost Tour in Edinburgh, the Dublin Ghost Tour Bus is more theatrical. The bus took us around the city and stopped outside of various points where the guide would talk about the location, the people who lived there, any ghost sightings that may have occurred, and he would also give anyone who flinched at one of his practical jokes (like tossing a rat tied onto a string at one lady) a hard time or make fun of any wrong answers a guest might give for a question he asked.

We were allowed to exit the bus and walk around twice. The first time was at St Kevin's church, a church that dates back to around the 13th century. According to our guide it was rumored to have been used by the Hellfire Club for certain practices, but I can't find any information online to confirm that. What I can tell you is that all that is left of the church is its ivy covered walls, and its cemetery which has been converted into a park. 

(Our guide talks about the cemetery)

(Supposedly a little boy has been spotted here)

When the cemetery was converted, people were able to come and claim the bodies of their loved ones to be reburied elsewhere, but a lot of bodies were left behind. Rather than move them, the tombstones were just shoved up against the wall instead. In some places they were piled four deep.

Once we reached the church, our guide discussed how the cemetery was a popular spot for body snatchers, and discussed what, exactly, body snatching entailed using another tour member as an example.

From there the bus drove around some more, again stopping at different places so that we could look out the windows at them (If you take this tour I would highly recommend sitting on the left side of the bus so that you can see more) and our guide made fun of more people. 

The last stop we could exit the bus at was outside of St Audeon's where the guide showed us part of the remaining medieval Dublin city gate and walls. Here there are a series of steps that go from the gate up to the top of the hill. There is also an archway built into the wall at the bottom of the steps where the guide told us there used to be an entrance into the Dublin underworld. According to him, there were a lot of brothels in the tunnels under Dublin (just like in Edinburgh) and that the prostitutes would bring out their babies to the church nearby and give them up for adoption since they could not care for them. Supposedly one girl fell in love with a man and had a child by him. Rather than allowing him and his wife to raise the child, she gave it up to the nuns at the church nearby. The man accused her of killing the baby, and the girl was executed for her crime. Ever since there have been sightings of a woman in green, walking from the archway up the stairs. 

While explaining all of this, our Guide, who claimed to believe in ghosts, but still had that air about him that said he was a skeptic stopped multiple times to stare up the steps at something. Now, it was a pretty windy night, and as you can see in the picture, there are a lot of trees around St Audeon's, so it's quite possible that what we saw was just a combination of things, but the Husband swore he could see shadows of people peaking around the corner of the church to look down at us. Judging from how the guide kept looking up that way, I bet he saw something too, and I don't think he's such a skeptic anymore. 

There's another group from around Dublin that gives walking ghost tours as well, but we were unable to get in touch with them, and their website was a bit confusing, so the Ghost Bus was the last of our paranormal experiences in Scotland and Ireland. 

The tour ended at O'Connell Street and the Husband and I walked down to the Temple Bar District for dinner. The Husband chose a place that had mainly American food (it was his birthday after all) and we headed inside. Unfortunately, we were seated in the back of our servers area, and it was a busy night, so it was a good 30 minutes before he came over to take our order, and another 30 before we actually got our food. However, the spot gave us a great view of the antics that were about to ensue. See, behind us was the bar, and a group of girls who were obviously a part of a hen/bachelorette party were hanging out there. Then suddenly, I noticed the Husband's eyes get very big, so I looked over and...

There was a fireman stripping for the girls! And he was a damn good one too! Yes he got down to the buff, but he did it so cleverly and kept an Irish flag wrapped around his waist so that only the girl he was dancing for had any idea how little he was wearing. He finished his act and made his escape with one of the waitresses acting as a body guard for him. But then, not even 15 minutes later, he was back and dancing for another hen/bachelorette party down on the other side of the restaurant. Apparently, the stripper was an employee of the restaurant! You'd definitely wouldn't find that in the US (which is sad, because, man, girls night out would be so much more interesting)

We paid our bill and left and then caught a taxi back to our hotel. This taxi driver was just as friendly as the gentleman from the day before and we chatted about the weather, and then the Husband and the Taxi started talking about diesel cars. The Taxi driver got us to our destination, but unfortunately pulled into the wrong driveway - the one for the bar next to our hotel. He turned around though, but warned us that while the hotel we were staying at was really nice, the neighborhood was not and to be careful if we went outside.

The husband and I exchanged a look - it figures that we would learn this the night after we had gone walking around the city because we got off at the wrong bus stop. Oh well. 

We paid the Taxi and headed inside where we promptly passed out again.