Category Archives: Travel

Lamb Stew on St. Patrick’s Day

I admit that when The Old Man and I went to Ireland and Spain last year, I was planning on writing many detailed posts about every meal, every adventure, every milestone.  Instead I wrote two posts (this one and this one), neither of which detail the delicious food we experienced.  So, let me take this opportunity to talk about Ireland’s lamb stew.

IT IS SO GOOD.  Especially when it is freezing and raining outside (which it was) and served with soda bread (which everything is) near a hearth fire (of which there are many).  Our favorite place for stew in Dublin was a pub near Trinity College called The Duke.  It is two stories tall with nooks and booths to hide away in, there are several hearths crackling, comfortable seating, lovely servers, and – of course – delicious lamb stew.  It was so perfectly warm and welcoming in The Duke, and the stew was hearty and flavorful; a happy combination perfectly suited to weary travelers on a chilly afternoon.

In honor of all things Irish, on St. Patrick’s day whilst pining for beautiful Ireland, I made my own version of Lamb Stew.  See below for the recipe.

And since I neglected to snap any photos of my stew, please accept this Instagram shot of Ireland instead.

Galway

The Domestic B’s Lamb Stew
Makes almost enough for 8 neighbors in your backyard on St. Patrick’s Day.

Ingredients:

4 to 6 pounds of lamb (Ask your butcher which cuts he / she recommends for stews.  I like to make sure at least one bone is included for flavor.)
1/2 pound end cut bacon pieces
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
flour (enough to coat pieces of lamb)
a handful of carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
5 to 7 small red potatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 leek, chopped
5 cups of water
3 beef bouillon cubes, dissolved
1 can / bottle Guinness beer
grapeseed oil
2 bay leaves
thyme

Instructions:

1)  Fry bacon pieces in a pan.  Remove from pan, cut away as much visible fat as possible, cut into bite-sized pieces and add bacon to empty crock pot.  Discard fat, or toss a little back into the pan.
2)  Re-heat pan (using the bacon fat that still remains), and add whole pieces of lamb, lightly browning the outsides.  Remove from pan, cut into pieces and remove as much excess fat as possible.
3)  In a bowl, add plenty of sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and flour to a bowl.  Coat pieces of lamb.  Re-heat frying pan and add the lamb pieces.  Fry until cooked medium rare.  Add to crock pot.
4)  Sautee chopped leek and minced garlic in pan for a few minutes (use a drizzle of grape seed oil if all bacon fat is gone).  Add to crock pot.
5)  Add 5 cups of water and beef bouillon to the crock pot.  Cover and turn on high.  Allow to cook for 1 hour.
6)  Add Guinness beer, carrots, celery, potatoes, barley, and bay leaves to the crock pot.  Sprinkle a pinch of thyme on top, stir and cover.  Cook for 1 hour.

For best results, serve on a cold and rainy day with soda bread near a crackling fire.  Have lots of craic.

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Industry

One of the things I looked forward to on our recent trip to Ireland and Spain was scooping up some fantastic trinket to deck our walls or halls.  But, due to the fact that Ireland was shockingly expensive, the dollar was significantly weaker than the euro, and I had serious guilt issues about buying stuff for myself, I returned home sans decor.  Instead, I snapped some shots of one great little shop in Dublin… to torture myself.

The hanging lamp shade is made out of old wooden rulers!

The shop is called Industry.  Gavin and I just happened upon it as we meandered down several funky side streets, and it was probably my favorite shop in Dublin.  The vibe is industrial, hence the name, yet polite and polished at the same time.

Pantone mugs and espresso cups.I kick myself for not getting one of these mugs.  It would have end up costing about 14 American dollars and, since it is inconceivable that I would ever pay that much for a mug in the course of normal life, I passed.  But $14 in the scheme of our entire trip?!?!  DOH!

A basket full of old letter press stamps!

And these stamps…  WHY DIDN’T I?!?!

The owner of the shop is Vanessa, a very lovely and friendly young interior designer.  Next time you’re in Dublin, go peek in and tell her hello.  AND BUY SOMETHING!  See above for the street address, and check out the website at www.industrydesign.ie where you will find better photos of more cool stuff.

And always remember – if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself traveling to some glorious far-off locale, don’t skimp on the tchotchkes.  Everything is cooler if it’s from somewhere else.

Early Morning Ireland

One of the great joys of traveling is jet-lag.

As everybody knows, jet-lag is best enjoyed while wandering the pre-dawn streets of foreign cities, bleary of eye and cloudy of brain.  So, on our first full day of honeymoon bliss, in order to savor our jet-lag to the utmost, Gavin and I woke up sometime between four and five o’clock and took to the streets of Dublin without a plan and without a map.  Within five minutes, a historically important building found its way to us: Christ Church – the oldest medieval building in Dublin.  See below for first rays of sunlight on it’s outer walls, with the moon still in the sky.

That little dot up there is the moon!

It wasn’t open that early in the morning, so on we walked.  And at around eight o’clock we found ourselves another historically important building:  St. Patrick’s Cathedral – the other oldest medieval building in Dublin.  The marquee outside announced that matins are sung every morning at nine, so – undeterred by the fact that we did not know what what matins are – we waited until then, paid the tourist fee, put away our cameras and waited.  If you, like me, are unschooled in the ways of Irish Anglicans (yes, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Anglican, not Catholic), and had to google “matins”, allow me to inform you that matins is an early morning service during which psalms are sung.  And at St. Pat’s in particular, the psalms are sung by super darling Irish children.

We sneaked a recording for you!  Click below to listen:

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Matins 10/20/11

Lovely, no?  My favorite part was watching the kids pick their noses during songs.  (Shame on you, Seamus O’Shamaucy.  I shaw you…)

After matins, we pretended to blend in with German students and eavesdropped a guided tour of the cathedral.  We learned what “chancing your arm” means and where it comes from… or at least where the Irish have decided it comes from.  (Get the run-down here:  http://virtuallinguist.typepad.com/the_virtual_linguist/2011/05/chance-your-arm.html)  We also learned that Jonathan Swift is buried at the cathedral… standing up.

Then we saw really old flags:

Really old flags.

Then we saw the outside of the cathedral again.

The outside of the cathedral again.

After so much medievalness, we had to find a pub.

So we did!

After a nap.

Dressing for the Weather

As you might imagine, with only SEVEN DAYS UNTIL LIFTOFF, I am finding it difficult to think about anything other than Ireland or Spain.  I am SO EXCITED!!!   Even agonizing over the maddening details like deciding what gifts to bring to our family in Ireland (perhaps wine?  but what if they don’t like wine?  a dolphin wood carving?  maybe something more Catholic-y?  … wine it is!) is somehow very satisfying.  My mind is chewing and savoring and digesting the fact that we are finally going. 

By far, the most enjoyable brain fodder for me has been deciding what to wear.  Although admittedly this is causing me some anxiety being that Ireland is supposed to be rainy and chilly – I believe 59 degrees or so on average, and Spain is supposed to be sunny and hot – 80 degrees or so.  Packing for two very different climates in one very limited bag may prove to make me crazy insane-o, but I swear to GOD I will be a well-dressed crazy insane-o.

So here is my solution:  See Spain wardrobe below:


How nice of me and the rest of my identical octuplets to try on all of these outfits to take a picture.  You’re welcome.  (Side note:  I am pretty positive that this model is the actress who plays ONE of the women Don Draper sleeps with in season three of Mad Men.  The teacher.  Am I right?)

Anyway.  My octuplet sisters and I are modeling part of Heidi Merrick’s Spring 2012 collection.  I feel that bright colors will work well to both enliven the drizzly atmosphere of the one, and reflect the vibrancy of the other.  Also, although some of these outfits are decidedly Spainy, most of them could easily be made Irelandy.  Throw some cozy leggings on underneath some of those, add tall black water-friendly riding boots, a scarf, and a coat and wha-blam!  Irelandy.  So although I do not own any pieces from Heidi Merrick’s Spring 2012 collection (YET!) I am trying to build a travel wardrobe with outfits like this.  Key words and phrases:  versatility, simplicity, chose a color palette and stick with it, layers, comfort, and leave some room in the bag for NEW items of clothing.

How will our cats will fare without constant adoration?   When exactly should I take my Advil PM on the flight across the Atlantic to minimize jet lag?   Is our landlord really going to renovate our bathroom while we’re gone?  (Crossing fingers for an affirmative answer on that one.)  Will we be able to catch up on Dexter on the iPad during our travels?  Is it wrong to wear Spring 2012 when it’s only Fall 2011?  All these worries will soon subside as the old man and I inch ever closer to our precious sixteen days of cold Irish beer in warm Irish pubs, and cool Spanish sangria on hot Spanish terraces, perfectly attired and mutually admired.

a good plan is one that works

Being a Sagittarius, I pride myself for my adventurous, loose-planny, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-firey-pants ways.  I love to travel without any agenda other than having an adventure.  Being that way was a great asset when I was single.  Now, I am happily not single.  What’s more, I am happily not singled to a Virgo (of ALL signs!).  This means that my maladjusted ne’er-do-care ways have slowly adapted to a more civilized and organized existence.  And I like it!  Planning has proven to be a very excellent skill, especially in the arrangement of our soon-coming honeymoon.  Because of my new found planfulness and researchfulness, I have been able to find the best credit card for overseas travel (Capitol One – zero foreign transaction fees), I have been able to locate fantastic little apartments to rent during our trip at fantastic little prices, I got us reservations at the Arab baths in Granada, I’ve made sure that we will have the priority pass for entrance into the hoity-toity travelers lounge at the 5 international airports from / to which we are traveling, I know to expect to get robbed by RyanAir for their checked-bag fees, and the list goes on.  I like being a planner!

For the most part.

Until I get my daily Remodelista.com blog email and see that a brand new fantastic adorable hotel has JUST opened in Madrid.  Just DAYS after I booked our Madrid hotel for a non-refundabe amount.  It’s called Hotel Praktik Metropol.  See below for fantastic adorableness:

Right?!?

RIGHT?!?!

What’s worse is that rooms start at €50.  And it’s on Gran Via in the middle of everything.  See?

See?!?

A POX UPON PLANNING!

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Soon to be ‘mooning!

In four short weeks, the old man and me will be celebrating wedding anniversary Numero Uno!

And now that our first year of legal love is drawing it’s close, we are going to celebrate by FINALLY taking our honeymoon!  When G first suggested that we wait a year for our honeymoon, I got uncharacteristically freaked out.  My parents never took their honeymoon, and it was always a sore issue for my mom, and a source of contention.  (She is now on to her second marriage and still has not gotten a honeymoon.)  And I suddenly was having flashbacks of sitting in the theater watching the first seven minutes of Up, and Carl and Ellie keep having to smash the piggy bank:  broken arm:  SMASH, busted car:  SMASH, new balloon cart:  SMASH… and then Ellie is dead and Carl is alone and Ellie never got to travel with Carl and them I’m CRYING and then squirrel!  (See the movie if this last part makes no sense.)

But, once the real wedding planning began, it became quite apparent that the old man was right: planning the honeymoon we wanted (and could afford) while also planning the wedding we wanted (and could afford) would be very difficult, if not crazy-making.  And nobody wants to marry a crazy-made over-stressed bitch.  Much less go on an extended overseas vacation with her.  So, thanks honey.  (And, you’re welcome.)

Thus far, the plan is this: cross the pond to Ireland (a mere 14 hours), spend a couple days in Dublin, then it’s off to Galway for a few more days; a visit with some of G’s distant cousins, many many beers, a horse race, much too much soda bread, and then it’s back to Dublin via rental car to fly to Madrid.  We’ll stay only one night in Madrid, then take the train to Granada where we have rented an apartment in the Albycin!  Whose porch overlooks the city and the Alhambra!  (Scroll down for photo.)  After three days there, we rent a car and drive to the coastal city of Almeria – the city of my grandmother’s birth (and the city of spaghetti westerns!  They have old western towns built outside of Almeria where Sergio Leone would shoot movies.  (For a couple of weirdos like us who totally watch old westerns, this is awesome.).)  Then roadtrip to Barcelona, stopping perhaps in Valencia for a good night’s sleep and a day wandering BioParc before our 3 days in the big city.  And then, it’s back to the states.  16 days in total.

CANNOT WAIT!

Things that have been helpful for planning:

TripIt.com:  I give it a B-.  It’s a great idea, but has got some frustrating kinks that should be worked out before I give it an A.  Such as:  When a new activity is added to the itinerary, Tripit does not organize them very well.  It is totally non-intuitive in the area of organizing.  Great idea for a travel tool, but not perfect yet.  Though I have high hopes for you, Tripit.

VRBO.com:  RAD.  A-.  This is a website where people with second homes rent them out to hotel-weary travellers such as you and me.  They’re generally less expensive than hotels, more spacious than hotels, and more better than hotels.  But one does risk having to deal with a not-professional / personally-attached-to-the-place-that-you’re-staying home owner who may or may not be crazy.  But this is a risk I am willing to take.  A manner of travel that may not be for everyone, but definitely for someone.

The view from the place we are renting in Granada.

Hotels.com:  B-.  Above average, but still not my Happy Place.  I recently used hotels.com to book a room in LA near husband’s place of work, and the ratings for the place were great.  But the place was a shithole.  A stinky shithole.  (Really.  We had to ask for another less-stinky shithole room.  Which we got, but which instead had forehead prints on the windows and hair on the bathroom floor.)

Family:  A+ for donating their years of saved-up American Express points to help us buy our plane tickets.  SO AMAZING.

Blogs:  A+.  I have been following mycastleinspain, and holavalencia for tips on the best local places to go in Granada and Valencia.  I am still looking for Irish blogs and Barcelona blogs, but I don’t want to step on the old man’s toes because he is in charge of plotting our Ireland course, and I our Spanish one.  (I know he’s reading this.  Hi honey!)

Word Lens:  GET THIS APP!  If you have an iPhone and are planning on travelling to any Spanish-speaking country, GET THIS APP.  It is great for several reasons.  1) If you point your phone’s camera at a sign written in Spanish, it translates it instantly – in the same font and color – into English.  2) It is FREE… except it’s not because the Spanish library is $10.  But still!  SO ok with me.  And 3) it does NOT REQUIRE INTERNET CONNECTION!  Which means you will not come home to a $2,000 phone bill (which has happened to some unsuspecting travelers who use other apps which do require connection).  Which also means you can use it on the dirt road you just got lost on when your burro got spooked by gunfire and you don’t know what “PELIGRO:  COCODRILOS MORTALES” means.  All good things.  Watch the video here.

PELIGRO: COCODRILOS MORTALES

Capital One Credit Cards:  No rating yet, but possible A for not charging foreign exchange rate fees.  This is what I have heard, anyway.  I’m trying to get us  signed up for one before we go so we can put all our charges on it and pay it off *crossing fingers* when we get back.  Every single other credit card adds a percent ranging from 1 to 4 of the purchase price of foreign charges.  NO GRACIAS!

And since no blog post is complete without lots of visual stimulation, here are some photos from last year.  We DID take a “mini ‘moon” to Monterey for a few days after the wedding.  It was lovely.  See below.

View from our mini'moon room in Monterey, CA

Sea Nettles at the Aquarium

Newlyweds!

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