Friday, February 26, 2010

Random Thoughts

  • Does anyone know a good song out there to get you jazzed about cleaning mold? No? Me either. 
  • Damn me for having tall friends who will be able to see dirt in places I can easily ignore! But, does this mean I can ignore the stuff closer to the ground? Hmmm....
  • A Billy Joel song came on my iTunes while I was cleaning. I knew a girl in college who was absolutely distraught when him and Christie Brinkley separated. I thought that was so freaking weird. That's all I really remember about that girl and I think about her every time I hear Billy Joel.
  • I just read Liz's review of 'Leap Year' and I'm begging...anyone who reads this blog to please not see that film. Sounds like the only stereotype they were missing were the leprechauns.
  • I don't work, have no kids, and live in a one bedroom apartment. Regardless, I'm thinking about suggesting we get a cleaning lady. Does this mean I'm lazy? Don't answer that one. 
And for your viewing pleasure....I was thinking about this picture the other day, most likely when I struggling for an interesting picture for my 365 blog. This is from last year's blog. I think it's one of my favorites, probably because I got it completely by accident. I was living in Bath and I decided to walk home a different way, passing the Royal Crescent. I'm glad I did!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

served with boiled rice

I was given this award by Smocha at Cats on the British Counter. Thank you! The conditions of the award state that I should tell you seven things about me. Right oh, so here goes!

1. If I could have any job in the world, I'd want to sing on Broadway.

2. I love to travel, but I'm always happy to get home, particularly if I'm in a non-English speaking country. I find it can get exhausting not understanding what people are saying around you or be able to read the signs, etc. I think 2 weeks is my max.

3. I am a shopping enabler, so don't take me with you if you're not prepared to purchase. I will convince you you're making the right decision to buy!

4. I am not crafty at all. I love to do DIY, but loathe crafts. It took me 45 minutes to stamp a greeting card at one of those parties. Etsy is my friend!

5. I think goat's cheese is vile and I hate that it's become a trendy food. The smell of it makes me sick.

6. I love to eat dips. I had a party once and my friend made fun of me because I was making about 5 types of dips.

7. As a child I was terrified of thunderstorms. I grew out of it as I got older and even started to enjoy them a bit. Being in England/Ireland has made me soft and I'm back to being scared of them. We had thunder and lightening here a couple of months ago and it scared the heck out of me!  

I'm not going to pass this one on, but all of the blogs I follow make me happy! I enjoy reading all of you!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Restaurant Review - The Exchequer

sauteed courgettes and boiled rice

I was really in the mood for a pub meal and suggested we check out The Exchequer. A few weeks ago we were walking past and had a look at the menu. It looked pretty good, and we were especially interested in the pre-ordered Sunday roast. Considering the city center location of the restaurant, the prices were very reasonable. Unfortunately since we decided to go there at the last minute, we couldn't pre-order the roast. Boo!

The Exchequer classifies itself as a 'gastropub', and I knew that before we went, but it's definitely a restaurant and not a pub. I was a little disappointed about that. The decor is very modern and it's nice, but it's definitely not cozy. You walk in through the bar, then back to the restaurant. There's an area which couches and leather chairs where people were reading the paper, but then right next to that there were ultra modern booths. It was kind of weird.

They have a sunday brunch menu, but we were there too late for that. The roast joint of the day was ham, which didn't really appeal to me. I was really in the mood for chicken, but there was not one chicken dish on the menu. What!? We ended up both getting the roast striploin of beef. It said it came with mash potatoes. It didn't. Don't promise me mash, then not give up the goods! There were a few little roast potatoes and some roasted carrots, parsnips, and onions. All I can say is, well, the roasted onions were good! Overall, I found it all very tasteless...kind of watery. The beef, the potatoes, everything was watery tasting to me. Wes said he thought it was alright, but then in the next breath said, 'Only two months until we get American beef!'  You be the judge of how he really felt! The portions were okay, but we were both still kind of hungry so we ended up getting dessert. I got the warm winter berry crumble and Wes had the blueberry and almond tartlet. Wes loved his and mine was good, but it's pretty hard to mess up a crumble. While we weren't enamoured by the food, the staff was really attentive and the service was excellent.

I gave it a 2 out of 5. Wes felt the quality of service bumped it up to a 3 out of 5. I realize we should probably go another time to make sure The Exchequer gets a fair assessment, but we won't be back. There are so many other restaurants in Dublin that we'd like to try, so onwards and upwards!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hilarious...probably in that 'you had to be there' kinda way.

My cat has never been ones to really care about what is on TV. My friend plays National Geographic videos of birds for her cat and I think that's the coolest thing. Well, tonight this advert for Robinson's Be Natural came on and Little Kitty was definitely interested! Her head shot up (she was sleeping of course), her eyes got big, and she stared at the TV the entire time. Hilarious! Yes, we are crazy cat parents.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This and that...

and steamed green beans

Not a whole lot going on here these days. Not surprisingly, most of our conversations center around what the heck we're going to do after May 31st when Wes' contract is up. Last night we were watching the Olympics and an American woman passed the Canadian favorite in the moguls to get the gold. Even I surprised myself with the 'booyah!' that came flying out of my mouth. Then I turn to my husband with a crazed look in my eyes and say, 'Why wouldn't you want to live in America where your athletes will DOMINATE!!!???' I mean, could there be a better reason to move there??

Prior to this we were eating our lovely Marks and Spencer food and I mentioned that while I would miss this culinary delight if we moved away from here, think of what we would gain! Me: The pizza shop! Him: Panera! Me: Trader Joe's! Him: Whole Foods!'  We came to the conclusion that we could 'visit' M&S when we happened to be in the country. Of course, they have M&S in the UK (it is British after all!) which is a pro for the possibility of moving there. It's good to keep things in perspective when making such large decisions!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy 101!

with mashed potatoes

I was tagged by the lurvely KD and Jessica to list 10 things that I love. I should then pass it on to 5 other bloggers who make my day happy, but I'm fairly certain every single person in the world has already done this! And if you haven't already done it, you should!

1. My husband. He humors me when I'm singing the Chiquita banana song at 7:30am.

2. Sleep. My husband made fun of me when I told him I love sleep. I'm not one of those people who can sleep all day, but I do like my 8 hours.

3. A good shower. I'm not a bath person, but there is nothing better than a shower with decent water pressure, temperature, and lots of nice smelly things.

4. Visiting my family and friends in the US...and BEYOND! 

5. Travel

6. My cat. She totally cracks me up.

7. Pain au chocolate and coffee

8. Hanging out with my Dublin friends!

9. NPR podcasts

10. Pottery Barn - I wish I could put the whole store in my suitcase and fly it across the ocean.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


*I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it's the first time I've left Ireland since July, so cut me some slack!

We are back from our first trip to Spain. We decided we are probably the only people in the whole of the British Isles who haven't been to Spain. For those of you not in the UK/Ireland, 'Spain' is to Brits like 'Florida' is to Americans. This comparison hasn't really done much for my desire to go there. I mean, I've been to Florida loads of times! Plus, you hear so much about the Brits invading Spain and there are shows on TV showing all these Brits acting like complete jackasses. Not my idea of a good time.

Fortunately, my friend Gemma lives there and we had the full benefit of hanging with locals! I think we only heard native English speakers twice the whole time we were there. We had a wonderful time! On Sunday it was warm enough to wear short sleeves. This means on February 6th it was warmer than the average Irish summer day. Oh yeah, and the sun was out for 3 DAYS IN A ROW. Wes and I were in heaven!

Here are a few pictures from each day and a description of what we did:

I arrived early on Thursday. I brought the clouds with me, so between that and the fact that I woke up at 4am, I was tired. So we just hung out and I tried to take a nap. Gemma was putting down the blind in my room and this is what I saw. This is how the Catalan deal with the occasional shower when they're trying to dry their clothes:

I thought it was genius. I should also point out that people did not do this on their street front terraces. The Catalan are not a ghetto people.

After lunch it was decided that the bed they had for us to sleep on was unacceptable. It was fine for just me, but two people would have been uncomfortable. So, we went here:

That's right. I went to IKEA in Barcelona. They sell hot dogs at the end, just like every other IKEA! After IKEA, in true European-style, we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant at 10:30pm. I get mad at Wes when we eat dinner at 8:30pm which I think is entirely too late. I adapted fairly quickly!

On Friday we went to Montserrat, which is a mountain about 45 minutes outside of Barcelona. The Santa Maria de Monterrat is a monastery located here. It is a very peculiar looking mountain and the name literally translates to 'jagged mountain' in Catalan. Oscar tried to insist that I should try rock climbing here and that I would really love it. Um...I assured him that I'm certain that rock climbing isn't for me. He kept trying to insist I would love it and it was clear that he was unfamiliar with my history with stairs and heights.

We had lunch there and Gemma insisted I try mel i mató.
This is a traditional Catalan dessert which is soft cheese with honey poured over it. It was really nice. The cheese didn't have a very strong flavor, which is what I was most nervous about. Plus, I could bring the honey pot home as a souvenier. Score! We walked around the monastery, saw some real live monks, and admired the view. During the summer and on the weekends the place is packed, so we were really fortunate.

We then headed back to Barcelona and went to Parc Montjuic to see the Castell. It was most recently used in the Spanish Civil War of 1938-39. 

There were more amazing views of Barcelona and the Mediterannean Sea.

Of course you got a good view of the dildo. This is very similar to the one in London. Apparently, there's a bit of a scandal as both were finished around the same time by two different people. Each person thinks the other one stole their idea.
And of course you gould see Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, or Church of the Holy Family. It was magnificent. We didn't have time to go inside on this trip, but we'll be back in May for their wedding, so we're planning on visiting it again.
After all that, we went home to change, picked up Wes at the airport, then headed out for dinner at a traditional Catalan restauarant. I didn't get a picture of the food, but we basically each had a piece of bread the length of your forearm with various toppings. Mine was steak, roasted vegetables, and cheese. YUM!!! After dinner we went to a bar with gorgeous views of the city for some birthday drinks. It was a great birthday!

Gemma and Oscar don't have a car and they use scooters to get around the city. I was a little nervous about this, but once we started going it was awesome. What a great way to see the city! 

We went to la Bouqueria which is a huge market in the city centre. I love stuff like this, so I really enjoyed it.

Now I know where to go for a cured pig's leg.

And birds, rodents, and small reptiles (for pets, not eating):

We wandered around to see the sites before and after we met some friends for lunch:
Two of Gaudi's creations: la Pedrera (sorry it's blurry) and Sagrada Familia.

The next day we toured la Pedrera. His creations are so whimsical that I can't help but think of Dr Seuss. Apparently the family that commissioned this house also asked him to create the furniture. Sadly, in the end they didn't like the furniture and ended up burning most of it. The way Gaudi created his art was quite interesting and scientific. His furniture, door knobs, and drawer pulls were all ergonomic. Here are some pictures from the house:
This is a reflection of one of the scientific models he used to design his buildings. It's made of chains and hangs from the ceiling.

After the house we went to Parc Güell, which is a park that was commissioned by the same family that commissioned la Pedrera. It's most well known for the beautiful mosaic terrace. Please note the presence of short sleeves.

After the park we drove up somewhere. I don't know where really. It was about 45 minutes away and it was at the top of this windy road out in the countryside. We were going there to meet some friends for lunch. The thing that made this lunch special was the cal çotada, which is a traditional Catalan food. It was a huge restaurant and since it was a Sunday it was jam packed. Wes and I were the only non-native people there and our friends were nice enough to use this fact to our advantage and get us a great table. Seriously. The views over the valley were spectacular and the food, wine, and company were excellent. We both agree this was probably our favorite part of the trip. Cal çotada is grilled onions (larger than a green onion, but smaller than a leek) served with a tomato based sauce that you dip them in once you've peeled off the charred outer layer. You wear a bib and gloves because it's pretty messy.

After the cal çotada they brought out little grills with lamb and sausges, along with a plate of beans. There was also bread that you rubbed with garlic, then tomato, then sprinkled with salt, before drizzling it with olive oil. Delicious! THEN, I know, it was never ending! Then they brought out Crema Catalana which is the Catalan version of creme brulee.

It was the perfect vacation! Great friends, food, and sights. We are so fortunate to have been able to explore the city with locals. Two of the people we met were actually high school exchange students in PA, so I could even chat with them about that! Lucky for us Gemma and Oscar are getting married in May, so we get to go back and do some of the things we didn't have time to do on this trip. We'll be on our own to navigate our way around the city, so things will be a bit different! We're looking forward to it already!