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Spoiler alert: this post has nothing to do with twitter. Something magical occurred in my hanging plant this spring. Shut up, I know there are birds everywhere making baby birds every spring, but this shit went down on my front porch. It’s like a nature reserve in your front yard.

I was totally smitten with these darling eggs, which were eventually replaced by the below not-so-darling baby birds. I thought baby insert-any-animal-name-here were supposed to be cute. When do they get cute?

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Alright, they’re sort of cute when they’re hungry, but I still think they looked like feathery aliens at this point. Mama bird, you’re slackin’, we need some ABC (that’s already been chewed for anyone who doesn’t remember elementary school recess conversations as well as I do) worms over here, stat!

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Once they got a little bigger and acquired some real feathers they started to look less like aliens, though they got considerably noisier (not to mnetion smellier). At this point my short ass dogs became really pissed off that they couldn’t reach to eat them.

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Downsides to baby birds in your hanging plant, besides the late stage smelliness? Apparently mama bird is a total asshole, because I discovered the fuzz she used when building the nest is from my outdoor chair cushions. See Exhibit A below. Thanks for that, mama bird. You couldn’t have used some more sticks and shit instead?

It was also rather difficult to, you know, deliver life-sustaining water to said hanging planter while trying not to soak the nest. See Exhibit B below. Perhaps this was partially my fault seeing as I did forget to water the plant entirely for a solid 4 days. Oops.

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The babies flew the coop the other day, never to be seen again (tear-they grow up so fast!) and they were totally worth the eventual and inevitable demise of my plant. (We all know I was going to forget to water it anyway).

Any backyard nature-ness going on in anyone else’s yard?

Cheers,

Christine

psst! I took all these photos using full-on manual mode on my camera. Bam! Making some progress with my photography skills.

Irish Travels: Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Galway

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After a restful night at Glenomra House where we enjoyed a lovely spacious bedroom, we set out through the rain for the Cliffs of Moher. On our way out of town we waited a while for some kind of foot race to pass by. You can do it, guy in last place!

This was the only day of our entire trip where we were rained on in any quantity. The weather did lessen our enjoyment of the cliffs, but they were still pretty amazing. I did feel like the wow factor of the cliffs was lessened having already seen so many pictures of them beforehand. We were under the impression that you sort of drove along the cliffs and stopped at various look out points, but actually they herd you into a parking lot, collect 6 euro per person and you see the cliffs from the walking path near the visitor center.

Before we even went out to the cliffs we explored the “Atlantic Edge” exhibit in the visitor center. It was crowded (everyone else was waiting to see if the rain let up too) and a little steamy inside. A lot of the exhibits were geared toward children, but there were some interesting artifacts and stuff about how people used to hunt birds by lowering each other over the edge of the cliffs using special nets. (That sounds like the worst idea ever-didn’t they read the signs?)

Ok, so it was really freaking windy. We somehow thought it was a good idea to take our nice camera with us. I took precisely 6 pictures with it before the umbrella blew inside out. This was an optimal time for us to employ our backup (and waterproof!) camera-we should have left the good one in the car entirely. We pretty much looked like this while checking out the cliffs.

The view was great, but we were put off by having to share it with hundreds of other tourists. I felt suffocated surrounded by hoards of tour bus groups. Up until this point, just about every other natural wonder we had visited was essentially deserted. (Especially the Dingle Peninsula, views from the Conor Pass, Garnish Island, the Beara Peninsula, and Killarney National Park)

I felt like I could breathe again once we departed from the Cliffs leaving the tour groups behind. We dried off ourselves and the camera and made our way toward the Burren passing some random ruins enroute (of course!)

Apparently, these biker dudes were also into the Burren, because there were literally hundreds of them biking along the 10 mile stretch. Every time we thought we had passed them all, there were always more around the next corner, so we resolved ourselves for a leisurely pace.

The Burren is a 10 square mile limestone plateau with a unique ecosystem. It was actually a seabed 250 million years ago. At glance, we wondered what the big deal was. Ok, there’s a bunch of flat rocks that sort of look like the moon with green stuff growing out of it. But with closer examination, you start to notice some of the teeny but beautiful native plants.

I just want you to know that I mushed my sunglasses laying on the ground to photograph the teeny plants for you. I know, it was thoughtful of me to sacrifice my favorite $3 pair for your sake.

The Burren is also known for having an excessive amount of prehistoric sites, including the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a 4,000 year old portal tomb. They excavated the remains of 30 something men, women and children in this area. It was sort of interesting and mysterious to see the tomb smack in the middle of this barren landscape and impressive to think just how the ancient people even managed to lift the huge stone on top of the tomb (it’s 6 feet off the ground!)

We continued our drive past idyllic pastures, avoiding some sheep in the roadway.

Maybe we should have run this one over when we had the chance. He looks sort of like a zombie. Check out those crazy eyes.

It looks like low tide as we approach a small fishing village.

I’ll leave you with one last lovely view, this is across from Joyce’s Craft Shop where I purchased my favorite souvenir  a lovely wool throw. I’ll tell you all about our purchases in a later post.

Once we arrived at our BnB near Galway, a little earlier than usual, we had time to take the bus into the center of town and explore this bustling town with it’s variety of shops and splendid architecture to admire.

Next up, we explore the coastline north of Galway up to Clifden, with plenty more scenic views, so check back soon!

Cheers,

Christine

You might also like:  Pack your suitcase: IrelandIrish Travels: a castle, monastic ruins, and winding roadsIrish Travels: Waterford Crystal and spectacular Rock of Cashel cathedral ruinsIrish Travels: a star shaped fort, garden island, mountain pass, and a true Irish pub experienceIrish Travels: a castle, farmers’ market finds, the beautiful Dingle peninsula, and a harrowing mountain pass

Pack your suitcase: Ireland

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Ok get ready, I’m taking you on an awesome trip. Well, not literally, but as close to literally as possible. Wes and I spent 8 days travelling in Ireland exploring the countryside and taking a lot of pictures of sheep, the ocean, and ruined castles and I’m going to tell you all about it. The country is greener than green, the countryside and coasts are gorgeous, and there are a lot of sheep. Not a day went by that we didn’t see at least a few sights that made us say WOW.

Planning your own trip? It’s not cheap, let’s be real. Anytime you fly across an ocean, there’s a lot of investment, so stay at least a week (plan for spending two days travelling). We rented a car and stayed in BnB’s throughout out trip (BnB’s are actually cheaper that hotels in Ireland, unlike in the US, where they’re often considered more luxurious). I’ve shared a few planning tips below and our overall itinerary. I’ll be back with the day by day details and tons more pictures in later posts, so check back.

Book airfare. I suggest using kayak.com, especially if you know you want to travel in a certain window, but don’t care exactly which days you fly. It saved us $200 or $300 to leave on a Monday as opposed to a Saturday.

Hire a car. We used Alamo, but they were a little incompetent, so maybe try your luck with another company. Definitely book in advance. Remember, they drive on the left in Ireland, so if you’re going the car rental route, you’ve got to be bold. It’ll be worth it-we saw so many more places, many of which were very rural, than you would if you were on a tour bus. GET THE GPS. No really,a lot of the streets aren’t labeled. Do it.

Buy the guidebook. Buy Rick Steves’ Ireland. You can thank me later. My best friend Kathleen told me, “Take it with you everywhere and do everything it says. He is always right.” She wasn’t kidding, best $14 I ever spent.

Decide where you can reasonably travel to each night. The guidebook has a nifty map showing the driving distances between each town. Make a list of your must-sees and figure out where you’ll spend each night. We decided to arrive at our destination cities late-7pm or later. The only down side to this is that when you arrive most everything will be closed and a lot of shops and attractions don’t open until 10am-ish, so if you want to get an early start it sort of throws you off a bit.

Book accommodation. Using the guidebook recommendations and trip advisor, I picked BnB’s for each night and a hotel in Dublin. We didn’t spend much time in any of our BnB’s since we arrived so late, so we didn’t stress about picking the fanciest accommodations possible since we never unpacked our suitcases!

Loosely plan a day to day itinerary. You don’t want to miss any of your must-sees, so you’ll want to lay out your general itinerary below. My general itinerary for our trip included all the stuff between each evening destination that we might possibly be interested in seeing. As we went along we had to pick and choose between some of the minor attractions, but we never compromised if there was something we really wanted to see. Make sure you’re not too ambitious, or you’ll be so stressed about trying to see everything that you won’t have time to enjoy anything. And you really don’t want to miss the cheese, trust me.


Our trip was pretty packed and we got an early start each morning, but we never passed up a waterfall or a scenic view or an interesting shop (or another pint) for the sake of getting to the next place. Below you’ll find a quick summary of all the stuff we visited and a map. Pink is our general route of travel with places we stayed the night in blue. It was quite a whirlwind, but we’re so glad we got to see so much of the country in such a short time.

Monday, June 18

Travel

Tuesday, June 19

Land in Dublin at 0530, pick up car. Visit Powerscourt Gardens, Glendalough monastic ruins, take the military road over Sally Gap, visit Kilkenny castle, and sleep in Waterford.

Wednesday, June 20

See Waterford sights including crystal tour. Visit Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins. Sleep in Kinsale.

Thursday, June 21

See Charles Fort in Kinsale. Stop in Macroom. Take boat to Garnish Island and travel through the Healy pass on the Beara Peninsula. Stop in Kenmare, an adorable market town and visit the ancient stone circle. Pass through Killarney National Park. Experience traditional music and sleep in Dingle.

Friday, June 22

Visit Minnard Castle, right on the beach. Explore Dingle town with great shopping and a nice farmers’ market. Spend most of the day on the Dingle Peninsula and visit the Great Blasket Center. Pass through Tralee, take the Tarbert Kilimer ferry over the Shannon River and sleep in Ennis.

Saturday, June 23

Visit Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. Explore and sleep in Galway.

Sunday, June 24

Explore the coastline northwest of Galway up to Clifden and travel to Mullingar (just to have somewhere to stay that’s close to Dublin).

Monday, June 25

Return car in the morning in Dublin. Tour Dublin Castle. Visit National Library, the archaeology museum with it’s bog mummies. Explore shops and squares. Free comedy show. Sleep in Dublin.

Tuesday, June 26

Guinness Storehouse tour. Tour Number 29 Fitzwilliam Street Visit Book of Kells and the amazing Trinity College Library. Tour of Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). Traditional music pub crawl. Sleep in Dublin.

Wednesday, June 27

Fly home.

Coming up, I’ll share all the details for each day of the trip, so check back.

Cheers,

Christine

Typeset Drawer Shadow Box

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Lil’ sis and I were at the biannual Gettysburg antiques flea market on the square a couple of weeks ago, and I picked up two of these vintage typeset drawers. They were only $5 apiece, and I could envision them as future wall art in my living room. Then, I saw this papered shadowbox on Pinterest and I got to thinking…this could be like a scrapbook for teeny keepsakes, YES! I wasn’t in a painting-stuff mood, so I pulled a bunch of my scrapbooking stuff I haven’t touched in a while out of the craft closet and went to town. Note: Wes contends that just because the closet is currently full of craft stuff, doesn’t make it the craft closet. He does have a guitar in there. And there is a set of gigantic carved wooden tiki style utencils. (Don’t ask.) But I digress.

Here’s the the drawers looked like before. I’ve only gotten to the one on top so far. The most fun part of making the shadow box was “curating” all the miniature collections, including selecting some shells I brought back from Australia when I studied abroad in 2007.

     

I used rubber cement to affix trimmed paper of all sorts to the back of each section. I used scrapbook paper, bits of greeting cards, and even a liquor bottle label. I’ll show you how I organize this stuff another time. I did leave some sections unlined. It adds a little texture to have some plain wood, and I can always add something to those later. I decided to go with rubber cement in case I ever decide to return the drawer to it’s natural wood state or to paint it.  Any items I needed to attach to the papered inside for display purposes, I used hot glue. You can look for your own typeset drawer at flea markets, antique stores or online.

Some of the  more memorable spots I filled with wine corks from the stash I’ve been saving-(I may need a pintervention due to my obsession with wine cork craft ideas. I’ve considering devoting an entire pin board to the cause.)

I lined one rectangle with white cardstock with a wax letter seal on it. Wes and I got the sealing wax and stamp when we honeymooned in Williamsburg, VA.

Miniature collections of shells, rocks, and scraps of patterned greeting cards made up some of the other spaces.

I think my favorite one-if I have to pick (from the 38!) was the neat row of pennies, from shiny to not

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I also picked up some of the jumbo headline sized typeset letters. I want to do a gallery wall and put these guys up above some of our wedding pics.

There are some mega-cute repurposed typeset drawers on Etsy, like this jewelry organizer. Smart! I do still have one more drawer…

(Jewelry organizer by Etsy shop Aurea.)

Cheers,

Christine

Lager Pulled Pork & Asian Red Cabbage Slaw

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It’s been a busy couple of weekends here and the fun is just beginning. Our friends Chris and Allyson are getting married tomorrow and “the boys”  have been staying at Hotel Heyser this week. No Vacancy, so don’t even ask.

I made this killer crock pot pulled pork last night and it was a hit. I think they also appreciated the fact that I cooked it in beer. Bonus. I served it with a side of Asian Red Cabbage slaw, which was a crunchy addition perfect for a warm night.

Puppies were supervising kitchen operations but then they got sleepy. Rough life.

The pulled pork recipe was adapted from this recipe I found online. For the slaw I followed this recipe from Food Network, just using all red cabbage and topping with avocado.

Crock Pot Lager Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lb pork butt roast
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 whole cloves garlic
  • 2 cans lager beer
  • 8-16 oz of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Place one sliced onion at the bottom of Crock Pot. Stud pork roast with garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper. Place roast in slow cooker on top of the sliced onion. Cover with the second sliced onion and add enough beer to fill Crock Pot two-thirds of the way. Cover and cook on low 8 to 12 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours.

Remove roast. Remove and discard garlic, bone and fat as well as any water, onions and grease remaining in pot. When pork roast is cool enough to handle, use 2 forks or your fingers to shred the meat.

Saute the chopped onion in EVOO in a skillet. When soft, add to Crock Pot with about 8 oz of BBQ sauce and the pulled pork. Add additional BBQ sauce until desired saucey-ness is achieved, then heat on high til warmed through, about 15-20 mins or so. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a little water.

Serve on large, crusty buns with a slice of cheddar and dill pickles if desired. Serves about 8

 

Asian Red Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (6 large) scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium head red cabbage, about 2 or 2 1/2 pounds
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (from about a 1-inch piece)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, optional
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 20 grinds black pepper
  • 1-2 avocados (optional)

Rough up the scallion slices a little with your fingers so all the little layers of the scallion whites separate. Shred the cabbage thinly, removing the thick core. Toss the cabbage, the red onion and scallions together in a large bowl until mixed. You can make the slaw up to this point up to a day in advance as long as you keep it refrigerated. Before serving, simply bring the slaw back to room temperature, make the dressing and toss.

Stir the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl until blended, then pour over the vegetables. Serve within 1 hour of dressing or the cabbage will get wilty and sad (though it will still be delicious). Top with sliced avocado if desired. Serves 8-10.

Cheers,

Christine

Rhubarb Muffins

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Ahhh-the smell of rhubarb muffins in the springtime. Every spring, I buy a bunch of rhubarb and I make these muffins. Rhubarb is in season now and you very well might be able find it at your local farmers’ market. I picked some up over the weekend along with some other seasonal goodies including asparagus and (almost local) strawberries. (Check out my roasted asparagus with goat cheese recipe here.)

As I was making my purchases, these little buggars began to develop their reputation as strawberry thieves. They’re cute, they know it, and they use this to their advantage.

A rather tart red-green stalk, rhubarb is commonly made into pies with a boatload of added sugar. I dig this recipe because it doesn’t have too much sugar and the rhubarb provides a nice kind of tangy contrast.

I will contend that the number one most awesome way to get muffin batter into muffin tins is to use an ice cream scoop. Try it. You can thank me later when you can use the extra time you aren’t scrubbing baked on muffin batter off the muffin tin to watch some trashy tv.

Check out the full recipe below.

  

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C flour (may use all whole wheat flour, as I did)
  • 1 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2 C diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 C nuts (optional)

Crumble topping

  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt thoroughly in a medium bowl.

Combine the buttermilk or yogurt, brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla well in a large mixing bowl. Stir in dry ingredients until just moistened. Stir in rhubarb and nuts if using. Fill greased or paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full.

Combine crumble ingredients and sprinkle on top of batter. Bake prepared muffin tins until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes about 18.

Recipe from Simply in Season.

Cheers,

Christine