September Summary + Tons of Photos

I blinked and September was gone.

The hubs and I left at the end of August to go do our big, annual migration south.

Not wanting us to forget home, this was on our front stoop while we were packing:

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The frog was still coherent and walking around, dragging the snake with him.  The snake was refusing to let go.  The frog had sustained some pretty gnarly injuries by that point so I figure he lost in the end and hope the snake was able to enjoy his meal.  Our plumber calls our home a house of horrors because of the wildlife (and random cats jumping from the ceiling while he’s working).  I really like having the critters around.  Yes, especially the snakes because they are masters of pest control.  I didn’t like it when one of the cats brought a live snake into the house though.  I could’ve gone without that adventure.

For the first leg of our trip, we stayed in a hand-built cabin with some friends in the mountains of North Carolina.  It’s gorgeous there.

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There were seven of us in total.   …and the first night, the well pump died.

Seven of us for a week without any running water.  Using the toilet was interesting and showering was unheard of.  There is a hot tub and it rapidly became our nightly ritual: bathing with friends in highly chlorinated water.  We’re pretty sure that by the end of our stay, it was more of a people broth.

We did try to keep our gross levels down.  We didn’t go fishing like we normally do or get overly sweaty.  The one hike we took ended at a waterfall, so you can be sure everybody was in the water and trying to scrub clean.

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Our friends eventually had to go back to their real lives but hubs and I chose to stay at the cabin for a few extra days rather than adventure onward.  Still no water, but it’s hard to argue with a real chance to relax.

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…except when a herd of deer walked up to me and scared the hell out of me.  I was sure I was about to get kicked but thankfully I startled them just as much and they ran off.

Before leaving NC, we spent the last day gem mining.  That area is really replete with all kinds of neat things.

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That’s my personal jackpot: a 298.5 carat emerald!  It’s obviously not gem quality so not worth much but I was over the moon.  How cool is that?!

When we did finally decide to leave the mountains, we went to visit hub’s grandmother in Alabama.  She has dementia now (and she’s about to turn 93, so it’s well deserved) but we always enjoy getting to see her.  She’s a little firecracker and even though she doesn’t remember we visited, she knows we’re there when we’re there…and maybe she remembers more than we think because she’s never forgotten who we are, including me, even though she doesn’t recognize some of her own family.

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This visit, she taught us how she and her husband used to dance back in the 1940s.  She still loves dancing!

After our day in Alabama, we ventured over to Atlanta to kick off our real agenda: ProgPower USA!  It’s nice having a music festival that allows us to see everybody.

Some of the highlights from the festival this year:

Pictured are Gloryhammer, Cellar Darling, Vuur, Sons of Apollo, Manimal, Bloodbound, Oceans of Slumber, and the queen of metal herself, Doro.  There were twenty bands total but those were my favorites.

Gloryhammer is one of hub’s favorite bands and he got right up front for their show — you can see him in a photo, hoisting a hammer.  The band later took that hammer, hit him with it a few times, hit each other with it even more, then signed it for him.  He was thrilled.

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If you know what he looks like, hubs can be spotted in every photo with a crowd.  He really spent a lot of time on the floor this year and I camped our favorite seats for when he was too exhausted to carry on.

We also ran into Manimal in the lobby and they (for some reason) agreed to let hubs pretend he was one of them.

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…but the best show in my opinion was Alestorm.  They didn’t put on a show, they put on a party.  People were dressed like pirates and waving around plastic swords.  A few people had bubble machines in the audience.  They hoisted the huge rubber ducky out into the crowd for us to bounce around then destroy like zombies.  There was even rapping shark.

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…and they were, of course, super hilarious and friendly.

They also signed my pirate ducky!  The drummer, of course, insisted that he was going to sign its butt.  I’ve had this ducky for over a decade and now it’s even more precious to me.

After four days of festival, we went further down in Georgia and spent a few days with a friend.  Then we headed back to North Carolina and caught the Judas Priest and Deep Purple concert with some of my family.  We saw 23 bands that week!  Crazy!

…and then hubs and I parted ways.  He had to recruit at his alma mater for work and I had to go to where I grew up and spend time with my family.

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A few cool things happened while there.  Mom and I went to a local museum and I FINALLY found out what the heavy old rock was that my dad and I dug up out of our garden when I was little.

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I kept it because it’s insanely heavy for its size and was oddly shaped with some neat striation.  Even little me knew it would be interesting.  I’d always wondered what it was — especially since we regularly dug up arrow heads and all sorts of other fun things.  Turns out, it’s a kettle ball.

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I also visited my hair dresser.  Is it weird that I’ve only ever been to the same person?  She’s awesome, my hair is crazy, and it’s worth the wait between visits.

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I also saw some family.  I, of course, hung out with my Grandmother as much as I could.  She’s still a spry 84 and we had fun going out shopping and for Chinese.  I went to a party with a lot of my mom’s family that I haven’t seen in forever.  Hubs was able to join us for that party and he found it hilarious how aggressive a bunch of old, toothless hillbillies got over croquet.  >_>;  I was also asked to be the matron of honor in a wedding next year.  Guess I’m going to stay busy for the next few months.

…and on my greedy side, I got a sewing machine!

My aunt had been storing them in an old sea crate so they were in absolutely horrible condition.  I was able to check on my Granny Boo’s (mom’s mother) machine and I already have an identical model but mine was made in 1900 and the serial number on hers was from 1910.  Singer 66 machines are great but I only need so many and since I already had the one with Sphinx decals (and in much better shape, sadly), I chose to take home my Granny Sally’s (Granny Boo’s mother) machine.

I didn’t even know what it was, just that I didn’t have anything that looked like the outside.  The cabinet was solid oak and a chain lift.  The chain lift was rusted shut, as were the hinges.  Add in the warped wood from being in wet conditions for several years and it took me over a week to ease the new baby open.

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I brought the head home with me and mom is bringing me the treadle cabinet up at the end of this month when she and her husband are coming here for a concert.

I’ve never used a Davis VF before but I’m pretty excited.  The finish is crackled but I’ll see what I can do about getting her shined up again.  I did get all of the mechanisms to move so she’ll sew.  These models are really interesting, as there aren’t any feed dogs — the presser foot is what moves to advance the fabric.

…and then we got to come home.

Just in time for my favorite fall activity: apple picking!

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The trees were absolutely laden with apples this year.  I had already picked a bushel from this tree and you can’t even tell it.

All of those apples were quickly processed down in what hubs calls my “factory”.  Most of them were turned into applesauce then apple butter.  I love me some apple butter and I was on my last jar!

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…and of course it wouldn’t be fall without some apple cider donuts.  I made my own this year and hubs claims to like them even better than the ones he gets at the orchard.  I’ll call that a win!

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Trip summary

We made it back alive (sort of) from our ever-insane Christmas travel extravaganza!

Insane because we somehow manage to fit four Christmas celebrations, a few birthdays, and a New Years Eve party into our trip south…along with one night of having to suffer through the southern fascination with college football.  >_>;;

Highlights of this year’s trip?

We smuggled away Grandmother’s cheeseball recipe!

I’m not sharing that recipe with anybody — it’s mine, precious, mine!

This amazeball serger and coverstitch combo machine landed in my lap:

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Have I learned to use it yet?  Nope!  Do I pet it every time I walk by it?  You bet’cha!

Grandmother’s sweater fit!!!

Mom’s necklace held together!!!

Logan’s mom discovered the recipe hiding away somewhere to his favorite holiday cookie that his grandmother used to make, which I think is similar to a pecan meltaway now that I’ve tried them.  He was and is super ecstatic to have them again.

Logan and I got to meet our niece — his sister’s 10ish week old daughter — for the first time.  Logan had never held a baby before and he looked very much like a panicked T-Rex when he did.

The New Years Eve party with our friends was better than it has been in years.  I’m not really sure why, either, but it was.  Good food, good company, I guess.   …and “really sharp cats”.  Turns out some of us aren’t so good at the game “Heads Up”, or at least not at describing porcupines.  ;P

I’ve also made it a point to reconnect with old friends.  I’m normally really introverted and antisocial…but what if other people are too?  So, I’ve reached out and found a few.  It has been so, so worth it.  I think it made a difference in both my sanity and happiness while traveling and having to watch back-to-back college football games.  Definitely not my thing.

Now, to try to finish cleaning up the lower level of my house after a pipe decided to burst this morning and flood everything.  Who’s glad it burst the morning we came back and not while we were gone?  This gal!

A post that’s all over the place

It has been a few weeks since my last post but I haven’t been dawdling too awful much.  Maybe I’ll get back to more frequent updates so my posts are less massive and more on one subject. 😛

Our Asian Supermarket remodeled over the last month and I was like a kid in a candy store.  They have a butcher and a fresh fish counter now!!!  *happy dance*  I now have a resource for almost everything I could dream of, including Silkie chicken (okay so maybe I want them more for pets than food), quail eggs, and pork blood for black sausage!

I didn’t go too far off my restocking list, but I did come home with some pork belly for dinner this week — think I’ll pair it with some sticky red cabbage, sauteed kale, and mashed sweet potatoes, and Logan brought home a bag of fresh squid.  He spent Sunday learning to clean squid.  It was a mess but he loved it, especially eating it after I cooked them up as Korean-style Ojingeo bokkeum.

On Thursday, Logan and I went to NYC and finally saw The Nightmare Before Christmas: Live to Film.  The show was amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Catherine O’Hara and Danny Elfman singing Jack and Sally’s Song

We had an adventure getting there.  We almost missed both of our MTA-North trains…you know, the kind where you dash onto the train and the conductor (as he’s laughing at you) gets on behind you to close the doors and already has everything in motion before you reach any seats.  We live an hour and a half from the furthest line north, so we take the last train on the line.  We would have had to wait another hour for the next train to the city or possibly had to have stayed the night in the city if we’d missed our train home.  Sometimes we cut things a bit too close for comfort.

To add to the fun times, our arrival train lost its brakes approaching Grand Central Terminal.  The conductors’ radios weren’t working like they should so they announced that fact to the entire train to tell one another.  We were sitting across from a screaming kid.  The conductor in our car was cool as a cucumber, though, so we didn’t see a reason to worry about it.  In the end, there was no reason to.

Since we made our train, we got to enjoy dinner at La Vara in Brooklyn.  Logan was especially excited.  He’d never had Spanish cuisine and they’re Michelin starred!  We ate at a Michelin mentioned restaurant in Scotland and the food was so phenomenal that now he wants to work his way up the star chain.  I’ve noticed there’s a bit of a bias towards Japanese and fancy French styles of cooking in the guide, so wanted to try something a bit more off beat and closer to Barclay’s Center since that’s where our show was…La Vara fit the bill.

Everything was served tapas style and was very tasty.  I agreed to eat everything, even things I don’t normally like (olives and cilantro) since the waitress took note of allergies before taking our order and recommended ordering about 5-6 items (minus dessert) for two people.  The chef did a great job — I even liked the olives and chimichurri.  Normally I think cilantro in anything tastes like soap but not this time.

I agreed that I’d remember what we ordered if Logan would take the pictures.  So we ended up with the a free little fried olive in a mint yogurt sauce as the “Amuse”.  Then we started off with the Croqueta Del Día which were serrano ham. Soooooo good!  Next was Sobrasada con Miel which was a Menorcan spreadable sausage and honey foam on charred bread (sadly, my personal favorite — that combo was to die for), followed by the Pulpo — grilled octopus with a spicy ink sauce and a garlicy sauce over white beans.  Next we had Conejo en Escabeche, stuffed rabbit loin in a tangy onion vinaigrette with prunes and onions, which was Logan’s favorite even though he’d sworn never to eat rabbit.  Our last savory plate was Cochinillo which was a crispy suckling pig with a rose-quince sauce and, of course, chimichurri.  Desserts were Egipcio and Budin — the first was an orange blossom, walnut and date tart (reminded me more of a shortbread, though) with lemon curd and cream, the second was a super awesome bread pudding with a cinnamon cream and blueberries.  Can you tell which I liked more?  😛

All in all, I’d recommend stopping by if you’re in the area.  It was a cute and cozy restaurant and a not a bad walk from the nearest underground.  It also wasn’t busy when we were there — but we went early so we could go to our show — which is a huge plus for me.  It was filling up fast by the time we left.  It also wasn’t nearly as expensive as I thought it would be — our bill ended up being just a bit over $100, for eight plates of food.  Logan is a heavy-hitter when it comes to meals and we did -not- order cheap plates.  Here at home we can rack up $80 bills at our Chinese restaurant if Logan is in the right mood, so considering this was NYC, I was really pleasantly surprised.

Crafting wise, I’ve been working on the endless RPG scarf (I’m on Chapter 6 of it, so just two more left, I think?) and I finished my end of Mom’s birthday gift!  Her birthday is two days after Christmas, so it adds to my crafting mayhem for this time of year.

Is it time to finally reveal what it is I’ve been making for her?  Sure!

When we were in Northern Ireland, we visited the ancestral castle of her maternal family.  It’s in ruins now, but we still hopped a fence and explored around as much as we could.  It was spooky and lovely and one of the most fun things we did in my opinion.  Mom’s too, if I had to guess.  At least, I hope.  😛  I’ve had this gift in the planning works for a while now.

The whole castle is enveloped in ivy now, completely swallowed by it except for one little corner.  Even the inside of the rooms are draped with it since the roof has long collapsed.

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I pinched four leaves of that ivy while I was there and smuggled them back with me.

Once home, I’ve been slowly coating them with a PMC3 slip — a silver clay.  I finally got them all up to the proper thickness last week and started torch firing them since I don’t have a kiln.

I’m glad I was smart and brought back four.  The first time, my butane torch (using the same one I use for plumbing, not food) was too hot and I melted the damn thing right at the end.  Three left and they fired fine.

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After being fired and the charred leaf remnants removed — ivy is oily so didn’t burn completely

Three left and then I had to drill a hole in them so I could turn them into jewelry.  Of course, one didn’t get along with the drill and cracked.  Two survived.

Two is good.  One for Mom, one for me, if they survive.  I scuffed off the clay residue to expose the silver with a stainless steel brush then burnished them just a bit to give more of a mirror shine on some surfaces so the leaf veins and textures would be a bit more obvious.

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I dropped them off a few days ago at my local jeweler to add a jump ring — they need a large one due to size and weight — and I knew he’d do a better job and for cheaper than I could get the materials.  I was right, of course.  He’s charging me $15 for the work when I can barely get the solder I need for it, much less the boric, the jump rings, the pickle mix, etc… for that price.  I’ll save myself the panic and headaches and let him do it.  If one of the leaves survives for gifting, I’ll be happy.  I also went ahead and ordered a chain from him while I was there.

I hope she likes it!  At least it will be something completely unique.

To finish off the post, I can’t leave without mentioning today would have been my sister’s 30th birthday.

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…and yes, I chose this picture of Pissant for a reason (no, I have no idea why I called her Pissant for most of my life, but I can remember doing so even when I was really little).  It absolutely encompasses her personality.  She was absolutely full of mischief and “fuck you” attitude.  Life has a funny way of building character.

I’m doing my best not to be a complete wet blanket over my missing partner in crime, so I’m going to go finish sewing some pillow cases — 30 for her 30th to donate.  I just have 4 more to finish!  I still haven’t decided if I’m giving them to our local Ronald McDonald House or the local charity for children in crisis — they’ve went viral this year with their Christmas wishes, so they may be a bit swamped right now.  I have a soft spot for both.  We stayed at RMHs a lot growing up and I know (and worked with years ago) quite a few kids that went through the foster system.  Maybe I’ll split the difference and give to both?  Time will tell.

ProgPower + Plague

I always seem to catch some sort of plague when I go out in public.  I don’t know if my immune system is just especially protected and low or if people are just -that- gross.  Probably a mixture of both.

*hack, cough, snort, sneeze*

We had to cut our trip south short by a week due to Hurricane Irma.  Logan was supposed to do some recruiting at his alma mater but it was right in the path of the storm, so it the job fair was postponed until next week…so the company will be flying him back again on Monday.  It’s almost ridiculous, right?

ProgPower was, as always, an amazing festival.

Logan built up the courage to go to the floor and mosh for three of the bands: Twilight Force, Amaranthe, and Seven Spires.  He’s in the photo below somewhere.

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One thing I love about ProgPower is you get to see a full show from each of the bands, they don’t skimp on time, so you actually get to enjoy the bands you came to see.  Conversely, if you don’t like a band, you have time to go out and get something to eat and still have plenty of time to get back before the next band.  We saw every band this year, though.  I’ll link up a few of the better ones in the rundown below.

Wednesday: Power Quest, Serenity, Orphaned Land, and Haken

It was Power Quest’s first ever show in the U.S. and they brought one of their former singers with them…as well as the singer from Theocracy (which I can never figure out why he keeps popping up there other than he’s local to Georgia so is always at the show anyway?).

Serenity’s singer stage dove and crowd surfed after their set, which is always fun.

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Orphaned Land is one of the bands that I was most excited to see — they’re Israeli and most of their songs deliver a strong message of peace for the different religions in their homeland.

Haken is a progressive band from London.  I’ll admit, I’m not always a fan of Prog bands — I find a lot of them needlessly tedious or like highschoolers in a garage band that just don’t quite know edit their music or end songs…and Haken falls into that category.

Thursday:  Next to None, Twilight Force, Vandan Plas, Between the Buried and Me, and Metal Church

Next to None is quite literally a band of teenagers.  They’re also a Prog band but they have a lot of potential, most likely because the drummer is Max Portnoy, son of Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy.  They varied their music enough that even a 20 minute song remained interesting.

Twilight Force was Logan’s big draw this year.  They basically LARP on stage, so how could he not be super happy.  He’s also pretty convinced we need to move to Sweden.

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Vandan Plas is a German prog band.  We stayed for about half of their show before we got hungry and ducked out to grab dinner.  They weren’t bad, we were just really hungry after a day of being at the festival.

Between the Buried and Me is another prog band, but from North Carolina.  We came back from food about halfway through their set.  We were pleasantly surprised by them — neither of us had listened to them before.  When we came back, their mosh pit was literally square dancing.  It was highly entertaining.

Metal Church is an oldie but a goodie….as in, they’re way older than us but Logan still rocked out and enjoyed them.  He’s pretty picky about his metal but he’s starting to appreciate older sounds due to Primal Fear and Battle Beast.

Friday: Daydream XI, Distorted Harmony, Lords of Black, Angel Dust, Myrath, Mike Portnoy

Daydream XI is a Brazilian band.  They surprised me….for an unexpected reason.  At ProgPower you tend to make a bit of a family over the years.  You sit in the same place year after year and kind of adopt the people around you.  You never know a single thing about them, but you trust them more than the other weirdos around you.  They won’t steal your shit and they’re somebody to casually chat to if you’re desperately bored.  On Friday, we were missing six people — our tall guy, who doesn’t like prog music, so we weren’t surprised he wasn’t there…but also the five smelly guys.  That was a bit unusual because they never missed anything.  ProgPower is sold in Wednesday/Thursday and Friday/Saturday blocks though, so we thought maybe they just didn’t come for the second part of the Festival and didn’t think much more of it….until those five smelly guys showed up on stage as Daydream XI.  Who on earth would’ve thought it?  Even more surprising, for all their man-buns and body odor, they were actually tolerable.  XD

Distorted Harmony was another prog band from Israel.  Not bad, but not really my cup of tea either.

Lords of Black are a Spanish power metal band.  Definitely a good time.

Angel Dust is an older heavy metal band from Germany.  They were great, of course, but made the mistake of pulling a crazy female fan on stage.  I have no clue what on earth she said to the singer (as she was groping him) but her trip in the spotlight didn’t last long.

Myrath is the other band I was really excited to see.  They’re Tunisian, so not somewhere you’d expect to find a metal band….and let’s be honest, I’m not traveling to Tunisia any time soon, regardless of how much I love these guys.  They’re my brand of prog metal; something unique and varied.  I’ve always loved a bit of local flare and folk music mixed in with metal though.  Zaher, the singer, did something absolutely magical during his set and crawled out into the middle of the moshpit and somehow convinced the entire crowed to SIT on the incredibly nasty floor for a song.  I almost died laughing — the event coordinator posted a video before the event fussing about how nasty people are and how they spill trash and beer everywhere and how gross it is for the crew to clean up…so then they had to sit in their own mess.  Karma at its finest.

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Mike Portnoy did his Shattered Fortress show.  It’s definitely a spectacle.

Saturday: Seven Spires, Dynazty, Snowy Shaw, Pain, Amaranthe, Katatonia

Seven Spires was a surprise because they weren’t supposed to be on the roster.  One of the band members from Teramaze (Australia) was sick and the band had to cancel, so they filled in last minute…quite literally.  It was a happy surprise for us — Seven Spires is a bit of a local band, based out of Boston, so we’ve seen them as an opening act when we’ve attended shows over at the Palladium in Worcester and have chatted with them before. They just put out their first CD a few months ago, so Logan bought it and had them sign it for him.  They’re still very sweet and young….I think the drummer may still be a teenager.  In a bit of awesomeness, I’d seen the guitarist, Jack, walking around Atlanta on Wednesday morning (the show is attended by LOTS of bands in general), so when Teramaze had to cancel, I told Logan I hoped that Seven Spires would be the replacement…then a few hours later they were announced.

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Dynazty started off the rest of the day’s Swedish invasion.  The singer burst his pants wide open on the first song and gleefully showed it off.  No shame — it’s just a sign of his rock prowess. 😛

Snowy Shaw is a legend.  His show was amazing.  Logan didn’t listen to the playlist I had made him to prepare for the show so he had NO clue what to expect.  He was suuuuper happy.

Pain is actually more of a project than a band.  It’s all recorded by a single guy but when he performs shows, he has a band that tours with him.  The project itself is an awesome mix of metal with almost a techno influence — again, Logan was blown away.  I just spent the hour being completely mesmerized by the bassist, Andre Skaug.  That guy should teach headbanging lessons, I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

Amaranthe was awesome, as to be expected, even with their relatively new lineup.  I was a bit surprised that Jake (former male clean vocalist — Amaranthe has three singers) didn’t make an appearance since he was definitely at the show (and did show up on stage with Snowy Shaw).  Logan had a great time as a gate hugger during their show.

Katatonia is more of a death metal prog sound, so was a good, chill way to end the night.  I personally prefer to end the night with really high energy bands as I tend to get tired after being at a festival all day (doors are at 1:30 and the headliners don’t usually go on until at least 10:30), but it was still a good band to end on.

The lineups for next year were also announced and needless to say, we’re already planning on buying tickets the second they go on sale!

Ross the Boss (Manowar set)

Gloryhammer (Logan’s FAVORITE band, another costuming one and the band responsible for both of our ringtones right now)

Nocturnal Rites

Voyager

Cellar Darling

Kingcrow

Dream Evil

Angra

Triosphere

Eclipse

Soen

VUUR (I was tempted to go to Amsterdam to see them while we were in Scotland, so not missing them while they’re here!  It’s Anneke’s new band, hooray!)

Alestorm (One of my old favorites — they’re pirate metal.  How could I not love them?!)

Tarja (Yes, the old voice of Nightwish)

Manimal

Persefone

Bloodbound

Labyrinth

Redemption (with new vocalist Tom Englund)

James LaBrie (from Dream Theater)

 

 

 

 

Weekend

Since I’m finally done posting about the adventures in Scotland and the Irelands, I can return to mundane life again!

…which has been anything but boring lately.

The dogs caught a baby bunny last night and injured it.  It escaped by the time Logan pulled the big dog off and alerted me, so I can only hope its okay.

The wax seal on the toilet in Logan’s bathroom sprung a leak…and that is the bathroom we haven’t remodeled yet, so it was still carpeted.  …meaning the already gross carpet was now soaked with dirty toilet water.  It had to come up.

The cutoff valve for the toilet was also broke, so I replaced that and exchanged the flushing mechanism with a duo flush low flow variety while the toilet was off the drain.

After the dirty work, I made a stuffy for Logan’s niece to be.  He wanted me to make her a penguin for Christmas.  He chose the colors and pattern.  I’m still not a fan of this designer.  Her patterns are adorable but the execution is poor.  I had to alter a few pieces, add seam allowances even though she says they’re included, and completely change construction at some points.  I wish I had tossed the instructions altogether, then I would have ended with stuffing via a ladder stitch up the back instead of cursing while trying to sew a stuffed head to a stuffed torso and leaving it a weaker joint.  I may remake this one later if I care enough.

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I also got in a bit of stitching.  This whole project has been slow as molasses.

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Finally, I decided to make Grandmother a facecloth to go with the Scottish soap I brought her.  It’s a bit of a joke, really,  as we didn’t see a single washcloth the entire trip.  It was really frustrating, actually.

I wanted to do a bit of cabling, so chose this pattern: Woven Lattice Washcloth with Crocheted Edge

I started it in a variegated blue yesterday but the pattern wasn’t showing well enough for my tastes,  so switched to a pretty, solid mint.

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I just have two more repeats and the crocheted edge to finish.  It’s nice having a quick project for a change!

Vacation Days 10 & 11: Ireland

I’m going to go ahead and lump the final two days of our vacation together since we stayed in the same location and did the same thing — visited Dublin both days.

We actually had a relatively early flight the second day and the airport there has a pre-entry screening now for U.S. entries.  I’m not sure if that’s common in other international airports.  It didn’t add much time to our processing, just 3 questions and a photo at a kiosk, one extra luggage scan, and a 5 minute chat with a customs officer, then we didn’t have to go through customs AT ALL when coming back into the States.  It was awesome!!!

On our big touristy day in Dublin, our first stop was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral since it’s the national cathedral of Ireland.  Logan has also never visited a cathedral other than the St. Patrick’s in NYC and it was under construction at the time — he likes seeing old things, so I think a church founded in 1191 fits that bill.

I’ve always found old architecture fascinating, in religious establishments especially, since they scrimped on nothing.

…but the best part?  Jonathan Swift was buried there!  Maybe I’m morbid, but death masks and skull castings are awesome.  It was right up there with seeing some saint’s heart in another cathedral when I was little.

The whole time we had been in Ireland, we’d been on a quest to find fresh seafood.  Mike’s a big fan.  We found it everywhere in Scotland, but it was proving a real pain in Ireland.  Lots of fish and chips, not so much fresh.  We finally had our seafood in Dublin at a cozy little place called Catch-22.

I’d looked up food guides and everywhere had been raving about their open-faced prawn sandwich, so that’s what Mom ordered.  She was very, very pleased.

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I remember I ordered a lunch special that had a really tasty prawn sandwich that came with avocado on it and a side of soup that had every fish under the sun under it.  Logan really wanted my soup, so traded me it for half of his calamari appetizer…then he ate all of the calamari anyway because I’m a slow eater.  =/  He’s a real jerk sometimes.

On the way to our next destination, I had to stop in the street and laugh…and laugh…and then feel incredibly sorry for the person who had to work what had to be a miserable job.

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Is that not the most ridiculously small ice cream truck you’ve ever seen?!  It was just cruising up and down the sidewalks, music blaring.  The music, by the way, was much less annoying than ours play here.

Since Mom had picked the tourist attractions for the day, our next stop was at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.

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She spent a good part of my school age years as a librarian, so it makes sense that she’d want to see them.  I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, but the illustrations were stunning and it was a really fascinating exhibit.

I WAS able to get photos of the library though!  I could live in a library like that!!!

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Afterwards, we went to the Temple Bar district — Mike and Logan found THE Temple Bar on their quest for dinner and Mom and I shopped around a bit.  We were on quests and it was really busy, so I didn’t take many photos then.  I managed to pick up some Irish yarn and Logan got some gifts for his family as well.

We then retired to the resort for the night to stuff ourselves on dinner and sleep.  We were all pretty exhausted.

As I mentioned before, the next day was the airport and that was always fun in and of itself.

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Bye, Ireland!

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Vacation Day 9: Northern Ireland & Ireland

Morning dawned early, as it always did.  Not as early as in Scotland, of course, but earlier than I was used to.

I stuffed myself with currant jam at breakfast — I’m normally not a jam person but exceptions must be made when currants are available — and we were off to visit Carrickfergus.

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Carrickfergus itself means “the rock of Fergus” and is named for King Fergus.  Legend tells of his sailing there looking for a cure for leprosy in the healing waters of the well in the rock.

If I recall correctly, it started as a castle or keep then kept expanding until it became a walled town.  It was one of Logan’s favorite things on the entire trip and was really a lot of fun to explore.

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Hardly anybody else was there, which also made visiting really special.  I don’t like fighting with crowds.

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One of Logan’s favorite things was an example menu of what would have been served at a feast.  I think he was jealous.

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Also, being a history buff, he was blown away to see the waters were John Paul Jones fought and won his famous naval battle in the Revolutionary War.  I guess it had never really occurred to any of us just how far away from home that particular war raged.

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After a morning spent playing in Carrickfergus, we ventured down into the capital of Northern Ireland.  Belfast!

I’m really not sure why we always ended up driving on crazy streets, but Logan was happy driving in cities, though I was always sure we were going to die.

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Seeing that the city life was not for me, we drove out toward the coast and stopped in a really cute town called Bangor for lunch.

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Seriously, how cute is it?!

We all wanted fish, so stopped in at a chippers called Cafe Cod.  The reviews were mixed on online sites, but most seemed to say that the dine in side was good and the take out was not, so we gave the sit in a try.  We all really liked it.  Mike and Logan had the scampi (which are not shrimp) and Mom and I had the cod bites.  Those things in front of me are BITES.  I’d hate to see the full sized cod!  Mom had been hesitant to try the scampi the whole trip but finally did and loved them.  Also, don’t judge my black currant “Sukie”.  😛

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After we refueled our tummies, we set off on what can only be described as a video game quest.  It was a most excellent adventure!

We wanted to go visit Brú na Bóinne but the tours were sold out for the day.  So, I snagged a photo of it from a distance and said “Oh, well!”.  It was a last minute decision anyway.  Logan had picked up a brochure for it that morning at the B&B.  I’m not the biggest fan of tours or crowds or paying for anything but food.  I’ll always pay money for a good food experience.

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Logan was disappointed, of course, he really wanted to see some really old passage tombs.  I had something much more fun up my sleeve planned anyway.

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I had Logan follow some shabby looking signs to the middle of nowhere.  Literally it was the middle of nowhere.  He likes adventure, so he was enjoying this.  When we got to the place, there was just a small pull off, just big enough for two cars.  Across the road, some steps.

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Logan still has no clue what on earth we’re doing here, so we go up the awesome little steps and find this sign:

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Now we’re REALLY in for some fun!!!

His interest is piqued.  We’re on an official quest now!  We can’t back out.  I spy our purpose in the distance, but I don’t let on yet.

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We head down the road and get hopeless lost, so stop to ask a guy leading a horse down the dirt road where to go.  We’re close and he tells us which house to stop at.

Logan runs in and asks for the key.

Alas!  Somebody else was just there and got the key.  We missed it by 10 minutes, but if we hurry, we might be able to catch them!

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We hurry back to the site and see that they’re parked where we were just at not long ago (and seriously, isn’t it gorgeous?!).  We scurry down the gravel track and run into the nice French family that is already there.  They graciously agree to let us look at Fourknocks with them.

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Now Logan gets to be SUPER excited.  He can explore a Passage tomb, with inscriptions dating back to the Neolithic period, as long as he wants…and touch everything…without a tour guide or group to hurry him.  He’s the type that can spend hours at a museum reading everything; this type of thing is perfect for him.

After he’s had his fill of ancient tombs, we head down to our accomodations for the rest of the trip.  We’re done with B&Bs and are now staying at the 5 Star Druids Glen Resort.  It’s just south of Dublin and almost too fancy for us…but who’s complaining?!

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One of the staff reminded us all of my uncle soooo much that we started calling him Irish Vince.  I wish I’d gotten a photo of him, they even looked identical.  It was almost creepy.

All of us were so tired that we didn’t feel like going back out for dinner.  Mom and Mike were the champions of luxury and ordered room service.  They were amazed that their full order arrived in something like 10 minutes.

Logan and I had brought a change of fancy clothing and decided to take advantage of the opportunity and went to the formal restaurant on site, Hugo’s.  Expensive?  Sure….but not as bad as I feared and as I said, I’m always willing to pay for good food and good service.  I’m definitely a buy an experience kind of person.

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Logan started with some scallops with all sorts of fancy foams and creams and mousses and (of course) white truffles.

The waiter said he wouldn’t let Logan eat in front of me, so he brought me a free and fancy little sample of strawberry gazpacho.  I’m normally not a fan of cold soup but I was won over by this one.

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Then onto our entrees!

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Logan, of course, picked the seafood option (even the mushrooms were oyster mushrooms — har, har).  Me, being me, went with tasty, tasty meat.  Bacon wrapped tenderloin.

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I actually chose it because of sauces.  Sauces are what win me over at fancy restaurants…that and the tenderloin was actually tender.  It was fantastic.

Since portions were reasonable for the first time on the trip, we actually had room for dessert.  Huzzah!

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Logan picked a honey and apple type of thing with a sorbet.  It was really sweet, even the apple.

…and speaking of sweet, why not just order ice cream in a hard chocolate ball, sitting in sweet creamy foam, and then have molten chocolate poured on top of it until it all melts open?

DONE!

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Experience, people, experience!

It was so rich and chocolately that I couldn’t eat most of it (Logan definitely polished off what I couldn’t).  I just had to order it, though.

As an added bonus, a table in the back was having a birthday party.  The restaurant did these huge, flaming sparklers as part of their celebration when they brought out dessert. One of the sparklers misfired and shot out a 4-foot burst of flames.  I almost saw a table of women get their hair-sprayed bouffants set on fire…but they all screamed and fell away like dominoes in their fancy dresses.

I guess it was dinner with a free show?

Worth it!  😀

Vacation Day 8: Northern Ireland

We live in the suburbs and I’m still not used to it.  Admittedly, it’s better than the few years of city life, but I’ll always be a rural girl at heart.

Waking up to the harpy shrieking of a mama peahen at dawn did my heart good.

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She was trying to keep something like 8 little peachicks in line (we never did see the peacock) and Logan thought she sounded like an incredibly pissed off cat at 4 in the morning.

Birdie made us a hearty breakfast and we set off to explore Castle Caldwell Forest.

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Forever ago, one of our ancestors was a merchant and purchased a castle in the area to inhabit.  The family kept it for several generations but it’s nothing but ruins now.  The Old Bastard Master (he chose that struck-through name, not me — he seemed quite giggly about being called that and brought it up multiple times) from the previous night had regaled us with many stories of the family and how the tenants would basically screw them over because they were supposedly good people.

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Either way, the forest was nice and dark and there was a slight rain, so it was the perfect day for exploring it.

The castle ruins were roped off with barbed wire but that certainly didn’t stop me!

We also walked through a lovely meadow.

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…and we stopped by the lake.

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On the way out we even found the small church where some of our family had supposedly been buried, but most of the graves were in massive disrepair, so we couldn’t identify anything.  It was still eerie and beautiful, though.

The next stop on our journey was more for Logan’s family!  We took a jaunt around the Ulster American Folk Park.

They had a really fantastic and informative museum as well as an entire outdoors park with replica buildings from different eras in history.

Logan had to pose with a Grandfather clock because every.single.time. he played Oregon Trail as a kid, he’d be a rich doctor and load up his wagon with nothing but as many clocks as would fit and would inevitably die at the first river crossing.

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We were there on a fantastic day with lots of live demonstrations and actors/employees.  Most of the site was focused on the Mellon family since they seemed to finance the park and it included the home where Thomas Mellon was born, as well as other replicas of what he would have lived in after he immigrated to America.  Everybody kept talking about the “famous Mellon bank” and we all had no clue what on earth they were talking about.  It went defunct in 2007.  Oops?

The blacksmithing demonstration was really neat, as they almost always are.  He was making fire pokers that day.

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I think, perhaps, my favorite part of the Park was where they harvested their turf for the fires.  I grew up near coal country and in a heavily forested area, so the thought of just going out and digging up a chunk of grass to burn still fascinates me a bit.

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After the park, we loaded back up and headed up to the coast.  Along the way, Logan insisted on stopping to scope out a wind farm.  He looooves wind farms.

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The day finally got a little bit less dark and dreary as we got closer to the shore, but it was still raining.  At least we could see the patchwork landscape.

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We were headed to see one of the neatest geological formations I’ve seen thusfar:  Giant’s Causeway!

After exploring the hexagonal rocks, we (of course) got back in the car and drove yet some more.  This time we stopped at the Dark Hedges.  We parked the car and Logan and I got to out to walk among the beech trees before driving through it.

Then we checked into our B&B for the night: Caldhame Lodge in Crumlin.

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The rooms were very nice and spacious, and the host was very nice as well.  The only drawback — which was also nice for finding the place — was that it was right off of a major roadway, so there was quite a lot of road noise.

She gave us excellent directions to the nearest town (not far at all) for dinner.  We chose The Fiddler’s Inn.

We were all absolutely blown away by their service.  We went in and it was a Wednesday night, which is a popular night for live music, so the place was slammed.  The waiter asked some locals that were just drinking to move so we could have a table to sit at THEN when he found out we wanted dinner, he asked others to move so we could have a better place to sit, as a band was going to be setting up later.

The food was also super tasty.  I finally got my bangers and mash!  I always order them when we go out to a pub here at home….they’re never, ever this good.

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Pork and leek sausages over champ (mashed potatoes with scallions) with tobacco onions and gravy.  Logan had to plead for a bite, I didn’t want to give any up.  I finally did, though, but only in exchange for some of his garlic chips.  I’m going to have to make those at home — they were amazing.  He just ordered the pie of the day and loved it.

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It was also nice getting to sit right next to some live music and watch a lady dance around for a bit.  Normally I’m not a fan of live music while I’m out to dinner, but for some reason it was different here — I think it’s because it was local and it just seemed like everybody was there for a good time, instead of out to harass you for tips.

Vacation Day 6: Ireland

Our first breakfast in Ireland was unremarkable, other than the fact that the B&B owner gave us a menu to chose from then told me “No.” when I gave her my choice from her own menu.   Sorry, but if you don’t have an option, don’t offer it to your guests…or at least don’t be hateful about it?

Like I said in my last food, the whole experience put us off on a bad foot with Ireland and it was NOT typical at all.  One of our party didn’t even go to breakfast but chose to just leave and wait in the car.  It wasn’t the best way to start the morning.

On our way out, we did see a rather amusing gas station:

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Apparently our former President had familial roots in the area and visited several years prior.  The whole thing is almost a tourist trap with little Obama gifts and cardboard stands you can have your photo taken with…it’s pretty amusing to find in the middle of nowhere.  I also saw “Donald Trump Kebabs” in one of the cities but wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture of it as Logan sped by.  I’m not sure what the story behind those were. >_>;

Our first real stop in Ireland was Burren National Park.

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The parking is slim, so we were able to ride a free transport bus, with a very friendly driver, which was a nice change of pace…especially for Logan.  The Burren was very lovely and we all enjoyed a short little hike around (even Mom, who was very sick of hiking at this point).

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Mike said he wished we’d even been able to stay longer and brought a picnic lunch.  There was so much biodiversity and the geography was really lovely and interesting.

As we were waiting for the bus back, Logan couldn’t resist the chance to have an “epic” photo by climbing a (very) small escarpment.

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Everybody gathered to watch his antics had a good laugh at him.  Not only did he look ridiculous, he also ripped the back of his pants open.  XD

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He assures me it was much scarier climbing down than up because those green things are the tops of trees, so he was quite high.

On the way back to the town where we’d left our car, we asked the driver for lunch recommendations and not only did he suggest a tasty little place, Bofey Quinns, he dropped us off right at the door!  We were very encouraged by his attitude compared to where we had slept the night before.  Luckily, his was the prevailing attitude we encountered throughout the rest of the trip.

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Since our first night in Ireland was actually a bust, we happily tucked into our first -real- Irish meals.

What did I learn in Ireland?  Meat and potatoes are all you need to survive.  I could grow used to that philosophy as well.  I had beef and Guinness, Mom was Mom and hilariously chose a pizza, Mike had a lamb stew, and Logan had some sort of Corofin fish pie.

The food was all really tasty but the best part of the restaurant was the fireplace in the back.  I have no clue what they were going for with this thing, but I seem to love weird animal statues and figures.

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On the way back to pick up our car, we passed by a church and Logan was worried Voldemort was growing out of the side.

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The rest of the church was really beautiful and they had a very interesting and old cemetery.  I’m not sure what the story with the floating alien-esque head was or is.  Nobody seemed to know.

Next we drove over to the Cliffs of Moher.  Thinking of Voldemort wasn’t a coincidence afterall!  We were going to see where Harry and Dumbledore went searching for one of the Horcruxes!

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…Mom and Mike had no idea what we were talking about.  >_>;

It was raining and super windy but still worth it.

Before the trip, I agreed to let Logan have three photos of me on the trip.  He chose to get one in each country.  In Scotland, he chose to take one of Mom and I in front of the Muirhead Inn.  In Ireland, he wanted one of us together here.  It turned out spectacular.  I couldn’t have asked for a better photo! XD The wind did me a solid and gusted in at the perfect moment.

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I was sad that there weren’t any Puffins obvious on Goat Island when we were there.  I really wanted to see one.  Alas, some day!

Logan did run around to the other side, mainly because he wanted to stand on the edge of a cliff, next to an electric fence, and feel the wind knife through the hole in his pants.  He was terrified and loved it.

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Then we loaded back up in the car for our best kept secret of the trip, our destination for the night.

But first, I’d like to address our GPS and the road situation.

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I referred to this thing as Harold and the Purple Crayon for the entirety of the trip.  The big purple squiggle covered the entire road and every road around it.

The second issue is LOOK at how curvy that particular road was…and the speed limit was 100 kmh….Logan was going 16 and still thought that was too fast.  We read somewhere that Ireland supposedly had some of the worst drivers in Europe.  We think we know why. 😛

So what was our big secret for the night?

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Okay, so that doesn’t give away much, does it?

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One of Mike’s favorite movies is “The Quiet Man” and he’s a pretty big movie buff.  We’d managed managed to get rooms at Michaeleen’s Manor in Cong, where they filmed the movie, for the night.  All of the rooms were themed and much of the town and surrounding area were still the same as they were when the film was made.  Logan finally got to see the film and enjoyed it himself.

I think the best part of it was the host — he was a hoot.

We were going to eat dinner at Pat Cohan’s bar (from the movie) but it was slammed.

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Instead, we ended up going to Ballinrobe and had dinner at Flannery’s.

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The place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but if you’re in the area; Go.

Mom doesn’t like beef and rarely eats red meat in general.  This was her favorite meal of the trip, so that speaks volumes.

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Luckily, she ordered the same thing as me, so I had an amazing meal too!  We all did.  It also came with a side of vegetables and THREE more types of potatoes other than what is pictured.  I think Mike says his huge sirloin was his favorite as well.  Logan was drinking the gravy that came with my steak by the end of the meal.  It was that ridiculously good.

None of us could finish all of the food that was brought to the table or order desserts, even though the sweets the people around us were ordering looked amazing.

Happily stuffed, it was really easily to sleep that night.  It was actually the first night I slept until the alarm went off.  I don’t know if I should blame the food or laughing at the signs above the bed — quotes from The Quiet Man movie.

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Vacation Day 5: Scotland & Ireland

Breakfast at Culcreuch was, of course fancy with a full waitstaff.

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Logan was convinced that the organ in the dining room was fake and just for show, though I’m not sure why.   Especially not considering the lounging area right next to it was also super fancy, just like every other room in the entire castle, except the one we slept in.

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It was our last day in Scotland, but our flight wasn’t until later in the afternoon so we had a bit of time to waste.  We started off the morning right by chatting up the “maids” at the castle.  They were a delight of inappropriate banter — not at all stiff and formal like the rest of the staff.  They all recommended we visit certain bars, entertainment districts, and other fun places instead of typical tourist sites.

One was really confused that we wanted to visit a little town called Muirhead.  “Why the hell would you want to visit Muirhead?!”

The old family connection.  My Scottish roots hail from Lanarkshire, on the outskirts of Glasgow.  The castle and estate are no longer standing but at least there’s a town still named for them!

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As always, the drive was beautiful and Logan wasn’t stopping for anything.

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As we approached Edinburgh, he did at least let us get out of the car and wander around because he wanted to look for a kilt.

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He was a man on a mission.  He ultimately didn’t find anything he liked but was okay with that in the end.  The town he stopped in, though, had a great view of the famous Forth Bridge.

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We also got a passing glance of the Kelpies as we zoomed by on the way to the airport.

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After we booked in with Aer Lingus — seriously, fly small.  The flight was painless and awesome.  Booking in was quick.  Edinburgh airport security was amazing; we were in and out in minutes.  I loved the whole process and I’m usually quite nervous through the whole proceeding.

We found a beautiful Krispy Kreme!   …so split a box of donuts in flavors we’ve never seen on this side.  Oddly enough, my favorite was one they declared was a NY Cheesecake.  Why have I never seen that one over here?!  :O

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There are also some strawberry something or others (didn’t try that one), nutella ones that were so rich they made me sick, and some kind of lotus and ginger flavored one.

After our short flight to Dublin, with a very sweet flight attendant, we picked up a much more comfortable car from Dan Dooley rentals.

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Thankfully we were -not- the first person to beat this one up and it had a lot more leg and head room for all of us!  I’d never heard of a Skoda before, so live and learn.

We landed late, so immediately off to our B&B for the night, Ardmore House in Kinnitty.

The instructions to get to the house were horrible and the GPS didn’t work as well as the one in Scotland, so we ended up turned around a dozen times.  Logan called the lady and asked for specific instructions and she basically treated him like a moron for not magically knowing where it was, despite having never been to Ireland, much less having no clue what any of her reference points where.  We didn’t even know the difference in the types of roads at that point.

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The house itself was lovely and it was really interesting…but it was a bit of a rough start.  I had really been looking forward to this particular stay and it fell short.  The host was really brusque and downright rude in some instances.  She also flat out lied to us and said her local pub, where she was going that night to play music, didn’t serve food when we inquired about dinner.  She sent us 30 minutes down the road to a bizarre little place — you can see their enthusiasm and the pizza was by far the best part.

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When we popped in to listen to music later at the local pub (unannounced) were, needless to say, surprised to see a very bustling kitchen at the pub and quite a few waiters running around with food.  It wasn’t a good way to start off our stay in Ireland, despite the sign on her front door. 😛

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So, lovely house, but steer clear of that one.  We unanimously agreed that it was the worst stay overall because of the owner’s attitude.