Aly & Doug

A blog about stuff we do.

The Backyardigans

We moved into our house two summers ago and have slowly updated the yard. It wasn’t bad when we moved in, just a little 80’s with the lava rock and ugly bushes. It’s been a process, one that I realized gets worse before it gets better. Last year our backyard died, which is a long story. But the shortened version is that the lawn service we have (just a basic one that comes 3-4 times a summer to fertilize and spray for weeds…or whatever they do) ended up planting us a new backyard since it died under their care. They had to send their “expert” to our house three times to try and figure out what happened, especially puzzling because it was only the backyard not the front. We got a typed letter in the mail stating that they’ve never seen anything that bad take out a yard that fast before. I supposed that meant we had the worst yard in all of southeast Idaho which ended in some high-fives between Doug and I.  So they did a round-up treatment on it last fall to kill it all completely. Last fall we also took out all the lava rock in the front yard, so we went through a few seasons with a really terrible looking yard. But things started getting exciting after a few big days in the front yard and when the hydro-seed went in the backyard.

I realize I am using the word “exciting” very loosely as this post could not possibly be interesting to anyone else.

Here’s a photo from google maps of the yard before we moved in. Which is probably not smart of me to post because it just may actually look better than where we are today. The only original thing in the front yard that has stayed is the big tree next to the house. It wasn’t our plan, but we ended up removing every other thing up front. Hopefully once all the new flowers and shrubs mature it’ll be an upgrade.

Google Maps Aug 2011, before our reign here

Google Maps Aug 2011, before our reign here

Last fall, removing lava rock. Worst job ever.

 

Beginning of this summer:

beginning of summer

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only dirt

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Working on the backyard to level it.

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New grass planted

New grass planted

new grass + new herbs

new grass + new herbs

Fun story about the lilies below- I have a friend in WY that I just know from work, our company works with her’s a lot and her and I talk on the phone several times a week. We’ve never met in person but have become really good friends. Last fall she mailed me some bulbs and starts from flowers in her yard and we planted them in October and kind of forgot about them so it was really exciting to see them sprouting up this spring!

new lilies growing

new lilies growing straight from Worland, WY. New bark too

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hydrangeas

hydrangeas

Probably shouldn’t let Squeaker in the backyard.

stalking

being stalked from a predator in the herbs

peonies

peonies

first bloom!

first bloom!

new umbrella tree sprouting leaves!

new umbrella tree sprouting leaves!

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stalking in the new tall grass

stalking in the new tall grass

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hiding

hiding

impressed with the new grass shoots

impressed with the new grass shoots

Enjoying a new crop of grass

Enjoying a new crop of grass

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backyard: currently

backyard pano: currently (albeit a little distorted)

Best way to use a backyard

Best way to use a backyard

Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair

I hopped a flight to San Fran last weekend because 4 years is too long for me to go without seeing my dear friend, Jaimee.

I will skip on any pictures from Thursday, the night I arrived. I had a 5 hour flight delay and judging from the photos alone, it didn’t bode well for me. Jaimee and her husband Brian picked me up from the airport and we went into the city and walked around Pier 39 for a bit and tried to find the seals then went back home and stayed up way too late talking.

Friday morning Jaimee and I took the train into the city (she lives an hour or so inland) and had the whole day to do whatever we wanted. We shopped then got in line for the cable cars. Somehow we ended up in the middle of a very large tour group of deaf Asians, just right smack dab in the middle. It was one of those moments where you just keep replaying the last ten minutes in your mind “If I had not stopped to put my change away we would’ve gotten here 30 seconds earlier.” “Why did we stop at  Starbucks!” Just thirty seconds makes a world of difference in these situations, doesn’t it? Eventually we did make it on a trolley and had a lovely, hilly, jaunt down to Fisherman’s Wharf. I loved watching the cable cars work, I felt like a small kid but they were a little magical.

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We shopped more and had a nice lunch. I so badly wanted to buy the gold and black cat (below) but no one else seemed to think it was a good purchase including the shop owner (what?!?). Now looking at the picture…I’m really regretting not trusting my instincts.  The good news is that it will probably still be there when I return.

Displaying the Pancetta with pride

Displaying the Pancetta with pride

I'm so sorry I didn't buy you, cat.

I’m so sorry I didn’t buy you, cat.

beautiful city

beautiful city

the wharf

the wharf

When we got in line to ride the cable car back up to our train stop we were approached by a guy asking if we wanted a limo ride instead for the same price. We did a few tests to make sure we weren’t going to be murdered and by that I mean we asked him if he was going to murder us. He didn’t think it was funny, neither did we. We were just covering our bases. When we saw a family of six waiting by the limo to go to the same stop as us we decided it was worth the risk. It shaved off a good 90 minutes for us and we had a good laugh with our passenger friends.

Riding in style

Riding in style

We took the train inland and met up with another friend for sushi.

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dragon roll

dragon roll

The next morning we went on a hike through the Redwoods with Jaimee’s parents. They took us to a place called Baltimore Canyon in Larkspur and it was so beautiful and there were no crowds.

my weirdo

my weirdo

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where's Aly?

where’s Aly?

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Jaimee is the best Banana Slug spotter

Jaimee is the best Banana Slug spotter

We doesn't want to live on Redwood Ave?

We doesn’t want to live on Redwood Ave?

Next stop: beach.

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making lunch

making lunch

resting her eyes

resting her eyes

watching the surfers

watching the surfers

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Then we went to Sausalito to get ice cream and explore.

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rock stacking. real or fake?

rock stacking. real or fake?

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We went home and got showered and ready for dinner. We met Jaimee’s father in law and sister in law in Walnut Creek for dinner at a Thai restaurant (thanks, Jaimee!)

Girls Night Out

Girls Night Out

Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice

My Eggplant and Tofu

My Eggplant and Tofu

Gary and Michelle

Gary and Michelle

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After dinner we walked all around the city and Jaimee found a Tiffany’s charm bracelet on the ground! Lucky night.

I had so much fun catching up with my buddy… can’t wait until she comes to visit me *wink wink*. Oh and I almost forgot about the little beauty that is Jaimee’s cat. Poor thing had to deal with me chasing her around the house all weekend, she’s so fluffy I couldn’t help it.

saying goodbye to Brian and Jaimee

saying goodbye to Brian and Jaimee

beautiful beast

beautiful beast

so fluffy I'm going to die!

so fluffy I’m going to die!

Gift of Gab

Travelogue: Part 5

We had to make a choice for our last day between a few options. We decided on castle day.

First stop was Dunguaire Castle near Galway built in 1520.

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Banquet Hall

Banquet Hall

Ireland!

Ireland!

the view

the view

peekaboo

peekaboo

quintessential cottage

quintessential cottage

real thatched roof

real thatched roof

After Dunguaire we headed onward to Bunratty Castle. We were taking a bit of a back road and came upon this really cool monastery and cemetery. We were the only around and no one even drove by the whole time we were walking around which was just crazy, it’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been and being there solo made it that much more enjoyable. It’s called Kilmacduagh and was founded in the early 7th Century. No that was not a typo. A lot of the ruins that are left were from the 11th Century, but still! It’s hard to even fathom.

all alone

all alone

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made a friend

made a friend

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so peaceful

so peaceful

backroads

backroads

So. Much. Green.

So. Much. Green.

Next stop Bunratty Castle.

Bunratty

Bunratty

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On to Limerick and King John’s Castle.

King John's Castle in Limerick

King John’s Castle in Limerick

Then we forged on to Blarney where we checked into our little B&B and then went and explored the castle grounds. We had fun at all the castles we went to but we absolutely loved Blarney. Just the grounds alone would’ve been worth the trip.

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Bumble Bee

Blarney

Blarney

there she is

there she is

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According to legend, kissing the stone endows the snogger with the “gift of gab” or “gift of eloquence”.  It was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The word blarney has come to mean “clever, flattering or coaxing talk.” John O’Connor Power’s definition from Wikipedia is succinct: “Blarney is something more than mere flattery. It is flattery sweetened by humour and flavoured by wit. Those who mix with Irish folk have many examples of it in their everyday experience.”

Snogging the stone is not exactly a simple task. First you must climb up the tower to the top after winding your way up old slippery steep steps. When we got to the top I walked over to the two men I saw sitting down, one was whistling a lovely Irish tune with expertise (I can’t whistle and truly admire anyone who can do it well). I asked him how this was going to go down. He said lay down on your back, scoot back and down. You can see from the picture you drop down into a sort of hole, grab on to the bars behind you and he holds onto you while you lower yourself down a significant amount and then press your lips against the old ratty bacteria filled stone. It was really fun! I love inexplicably weird traditions and I definitely think this falls into that category. My mom asked me if it worked, if I got the gift. I’m not sure about that but I’ve certainly been gabbing like a nut over the past 5 blog posts so maybe something came through.

receiving the gift of eloquence  *smoooooch*

receiving the gift of eloquence *smoooooch*

top of the castle

top of the castle

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After a long walk all the way around the gardens we headed to a pub for dinner. I ordered beef stew and Doug got roast lamb. When it came out I was overjoyed, a piping hot bowl of beef stew with cabbage, carrots and potatoes on the side. It was the most absolute perfect Irish meal I could have gotten. To top it off we got to listen to live Irish folk music while we ate. I think a part of me died and went up in to some enchanted Irish heaven for an hour or two and I didn’t want to call it back.

my heavenly stew

my heavenly stew

you've got nothing on this mutton!

you’ve got nothing on this mutton!

Kieran O'Leary

Kieran O’Leary and Patty

The next morning we headed back to Dublin. For some reason Gloria forgot to set up our afternoon tea with Bono so instead we spent the day in Dalkey, a city near Dublin where Bono lives. We went on a sublime walk passing beautiful houses, boats, foliage etc. and got to stop and watch some dolphins jumping around in the water. How is that even fair? It was so beautiful!

peace?

peace?

straight as a statue

straight as a statue

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dolphins are in this picture, I promise

dolphins are in this picture, I promise

cousins!

cousins!

overlook

overlook

sportin' the L-bug

sportin’ the L-bug

"I think this is where Aslan was sacrificed"

“I think this is where Aslan was sacrificed”

Gloria made us the best Japanese dinner, we came up with the solution to world peace and all too quickly we had to say goodbye. All good things must come to an end and before we knew it we were back in the daily grind playing catch up from having two weeks of adventure and bliss. It was worth every minute.

Castle on a Cloud

Travelogue: Part 4

We left Portrush early the next morning after our traditional Irish breakfast from our B&B. It was pretty much the same as English breakfast but they added black pudding. Neither one of us could bring ourselves to try it, I guess when “pork blood” is one of the ingredients my courage goes out the window. We stopped at this castle that was pretty much built on the cliff. It wasn’t even listed in our guide book and we thought it was amazing! Just goes to show how many incredible things there are to see and Lonely Planet couldn’t list every single one.

Dun Luce Castle, built in the 13th century.

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Doug pointed out that there isn’t any dirt in Ireland, it’s all covered in deep green grass. Every square inch is luscious and green. I need to stop using the word “green” but I don’t know how when I’m talking about Ireland.

Next on the agenda was Carrick a Rede rope bridge. Bridges to the Carrick a Rede island have been in place in some form or another for 350 years, mainly used by salmon fisherman. The rope bridge spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the water. It was made clear that it was not for the faint of heart so I felt exhilarated leading myself up to the bridge. We were both a little disappointed in the actual crossing of the bridge as it wasn’t as scary as expected; a part of me wanted to be scared enough that I’d have to summon up courage from my depths to cross it. We were still rewarded with incredible views from the island and a sense of accomplishment.

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bridge over troubled water

bridge over troubled water

cave of wonders

cave of wonders

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clearly proud of myself

clearly proud of myself

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The Giro d’Italia bike race was scheduled to start in Ireland. We drove along a lot of the route and it would be an incredible race to be a part of, the scenery is unreal. We passed bicycles painted pink all over the place and some shops even painted their building pink in support of the race. It made for a really exciting spirit and feeling of camaraderie, would’ve been fun to stay and watch the race. If you notice in the pictures above of the bridge- the rope is pink to celebrate the race.

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This was our big driving day to make it all the way down to Galway. In keeping with our road trip tradition, we brought an audio book to listen to. I’m telling you right now, it makes any road trip blissful to listen to book while you drive. Sometimes it gets to the point where we don’t even want to pause the book and get out of the car. Lucky we had our book because we got “diverted” an hour or so out of our way because of a car accident on one of the main motorways. We ended up driving on tiny back roads pretty much in the middle of no where, which was totally ok because we were in Ireland. Besides the green fields there are a lot, and I mean a lot, of sheep and cows. Every time we passed them I would gasp and make some comment about “the sheep!” or I’d grab Doug’s arm and point. That wouldn’t be that big of a deal but we were literally passing them every 2-3 minutes. It didn’t make a difference, each time I saw a field of sheep I was more excited than the last. Doug was very patient with me and just nodded or smiled at me, he had to grow tired of it- not of the sheep, but of my commentary about the sheep. I think I’ve always like sheep but something about them plastered on an emerald canvas was so extraordinary I could not get enough. I strongly considered selling everything and buying a cottage on a sheep farm over there. I’m still not opposed to the idea and it sounds better and better the more pictures I look at.

Another note about driving- we drove on the left side of the road there just like in England. It wasn’t bad because we were out in the country so much, it didn’t take much concentration as it might if we were in a busy city and making lots of turns, dealing with roundabouts, etc. Actually, we still dealt with a lot of roundabouts. Well whenever we would walk to the car I would walk to the right side of the car to get in, stop, look in the window, realize that was the driver’s side, put my head down and walk past Doug to the passenger side of the car. He would stand back and watch me do this every single time. I don’t think I ever got it right and it was embarrassing every time so I’d try to scurry past him and he’d just be standing back smirking/laughing. Old habits die hard.

my favorite picture

my favorite picture

We gave ourselves a driving tour through the city of Londonderry. This is actually the street name we live off so we were excited to drive through it for that reason amongst others. Our whole neighborhood is named after cities in Ireland so it was really fun for us to scope out each place and put it on our “mental maps”. Londonderry is the only city left in Ireland that has a fully intact wall dating back to the 17th century.

Londonderry

Londonderry

wall separating north and south

Derry

Londonderry/Derry

Wall

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I want you

I want you

met a new friend on the backroads

met a new friend on the backroads

I loved being in West Ireland because of the extensive dry stone walls. They were built as field boundaries while they cleared the ground and were made with no mortar. I read there is an estimated 250,000 miles of dry stone walls in Ireland. They’re both practical and aesthetically pleasing, especially if the field they encase houses sheep.

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Oh hello

Oh hello

We made it to Galway for the night and had the best Italian dinner. Galway was a very cool place, but unfortunately you have to make sacrifices when you are in a time crunch and we chose to carry onward the next morning instead of spending time in the area. I guess it gives us more reasons to go back, right?

The last day of our road trip was our castle tour day, to be continued.

Five Short Days in the Emerald Isle

Travelogue: Part 3

We hopped from London to Dublin and were greeted by more green than I’ve ever seen.

About to land in Dublin

About to land in Dublin

I was really looking forward to this leg of the trip because we got to see my cousin, Gloria. We’ve actually only met maybe three times in our lives; I don’t know my mom’s side of the family very well as we’re all spread across the states. We bought our car from Wayne and Gloria a few years ago right before they moved to Dublin for Wayne to get his doctorate in Liberation Psychology (he’s smart). Ever since then I’ve had it in my mind that we really needed to go see them while they were living in Ireland and we were lucky enough to make it happen. I’m so glad we did too because they are now some of our favorite people in the world. They are are both such interesting and intelligent people and we felt deprived that we only had two days with them. But it’s ok, because we’re all moving in together when they get back from Dublin, right Gloria? Right?

Gloria was kind enough to meet us at the airport and we rode back to their city, Dun Laoghaire (Dun Leary) together. We could sense right away that we were no longer in London. Overall London had a vibrant energy, was very posh and the people were generally dressed really nice (huge generalization right there). When we got on the train with Wayne and Gloria I noticed seven people all wearing sweats (like sweat pants and matching jacket) and it caught my attention so I inquired. Wayne and Gloria laughed and informed us that was typical and that held true. It’s probably something we wouldn’t have noticed had we not just come from London but it was a fascinating juxtaposition, especially after learning more about Irish history.

We went into the city for dinner and gobbled up our food so fast, it was delicious. Then got the best ice cream ever from Murphy’s.

The Dykstras: Norah, Wayne & Gloria

The Dykstras: Norah, Wayne & Gloria

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her appetizer

Norah’s appetizer

Salted Cararmel Ice Creamn, YUM!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream, YUM!

Then we had a walking tour of Dublin. It was so fun having Wayne and Gloria as tour guides because they have learned so much history during their time there and were great resources. We could spout off any question about anything and Wayne would come back with a knowledgeable answer plus the history behind it. I loved it.

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The ladies

The ladies

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The next morning we went to rent our car and were time warped into the UK version of “The Office”. I’m pretty certain it was the same building and I think I even saw some of the cast. We had a long wait but it was so entertaining for some reason that we didn’t even mind.

Thus began our whirlwind trip around the Emerald Isle in a short three day spree. Here’s the stops we had planned (and some not planned):

ireland route (mostly)

We saw this clown before we even left the city and we thought it was so funny, you can’t just cruise around in a car like that and act like nothing is unusual.

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I was immediately in jaw-dropping awe at the countryside from the moment we got out of the city, I was never able to pull myself together because it was one breathtaking scene after another. I couldn’t narrow down my photos enough so just buckle up for a serious overload.

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We crossed easily into Northern Ireland and I had to get out my British Pounds again. Northern Ireland is part of the UK while Ireland is EU (they use euros). Crazy that not too long ago they were still violently fighting each other. It felt peaceful while we were there but it just adds to this long sad history that Ireland has gone through pretty much from the start. When we got to Belfast there was almost a tangible feeling of dreariness. It could have been the weather, and we really weren’t there long enough to make a educated judgment, but it was notable. All the same time we were surrounded by beauty and we adored every person we met, both in Belfast and in Ireland as a whole.

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Entering Belfast

Entering Belfast

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Doug ordered the “Bangers and Mash”. We didn’t even know what that was at the time but hey, when in Rome!

Banger and Mash

Banger & Mash

Bangers & Mash

Grand Opera House

Grand Opera House

This beautiful building below is for sale, any takers? We thought that was so odd, who sells a building like that? Why isn’t it a museum or something?

For Sale: Landmark Building

For Sale: Landmark Building

From Belfast we headed to the Giant’s Causeway, natural volcanic structures created from molten basalt. The legend goes that a giant, Finn MacCool, was challenged to a duel by a Scottish giant. Finn built the causeway to reach over to Scotland. We had audio tour guides with us and listened to an Irishman tell us folktales of Finn while we walked around and explored. It made it so magical. Probably any story told with an Irish accent would sound magical now that I’m thinking about it. We enjoyed ourselves so much that when we got in the car to leave I told Doug that if didn’t see anything else in all of Ireland that would be ok because of how amazing the Causeway was.

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giant

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Giant's Gate

Giant’s Gate

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Our hike

Our destination

Our destination

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Causeway from above

Gorse

Gorse

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I don’t think the English language even has adjectives that adequately describe the beauty there. It started pouring rain when we were almost to the car, the timing couldn’t have been better. We headed further west to a little city called Portrush. It was right on the water and we were so sad we didn’t have longer there (I sound like a broken record). It was nearly 10PM when we were taking the photos below. We were so far north the sun doesn’t set until quite late and rises early.

Portrush

Portrush

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These are my favorite snacks when I’m in the UK. Disregard the name, they taste kind of like graham crackers.

my biscuits

my biscuits

to warm up my soul

to warm up my soul

I feel like this is plenty pictures for one post so I’ll leave it here and continue onward.

God Save the Queen

Travelogue: Part Two

From King’s Cross Station in London we headed to the airport where we rented a car. It was a little too easy, in our opinion, to be handed keys to a vehicle in a foreign country with no instruction, where they drive on the wrong side of the road. It instilled a little confidence at least. We were headed to Windsor Castle so we plugged that into the GPS and it said it was only two miles away, that seemed a little off but we took it as a win and set out. We wound around and around this little city until we realized GPS was taking us to a pub called “Windsor Castle”. Not helpful. Isn’t Windsor Castle trademarked or something? Seems like an oversight. We found the real castle in the GPS and off we went, this time through the countryside.

I tried so hard to get a decent picture of the “rape fields”. We would refer to them as “canola fields” but the English prefer “rape fields”. I informed our friend that that would have an entirely different meaning back home. Despite the horrifying name they were absolutely beautiful and the glorious yellow was exactly want you want to see dispersed through the deep green fields and trees that is the English countryside. It’s not ideal taking pictures from the car window so most of it is stuck in our memories.

WRONG SIDE!!

WRONG SIDE!!

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Rape Field

Rape Field

Despite the fact we were driving on the wrong side of the road and had to navigate through countless (pointless) roundabouts, we made it to Windsor and immediately fell in love. There’s this giant castle in the middle of the quaint little village and then I looked up and saw an airplane flying overhead and for a moment was confused what century it was.

Windsor

Windsor

The castle tour was much better than I thought it would be. For some reason I did not know that the castle is still in use this very day by the queen herself. It’s the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. The queen spends many weekends there, hosts state banquets and entertains there. We couldn’t take pictures inside but the tour was really cool and it’s pretty much just how you would imagine a castle to be.

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I know the guard garb is tradition…but come on, really? I think there comes a point when breaking tradition is the better option. Do they know they look absolutely ridiculous? And what if there was an actual threat? Are we supposed to trust these dudes to protect us through that furball covering their eyes? I’m sure I just offended more than one British person but I need some answers.

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I loved the unicorns every where and the fact they chose a unicorn for the royal coat of arms. Brilliant choice. That might sound like I’m being sarcastic but I’m not, I really loved the unicorns.

Unicorn

Unicorn

Royal Kitten

Royal Kitten

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“Made with milk from the Royal Farm.”

Royal Farm? I want to go to there

Royal Farm? I want to go to there

After our adventures in the castle we headed west to Bath through more stunning countryside.

We could immediately see the appeal of Bath. We got mixed reviews so we weren’t sure what to expect but we chose to stay there a few days because of the location, we had plans to visit friends in Bristol and Bath made the most sense. We stayed at the most darling B&B and I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture of the owners. They were this older English couple who both grew up in Bath (seriously, can you believe people can just throw out that they grew up in Bath?). I loved the gentleman owner. He served us our breakfast each morning while he chatted with us; he was just perfect with his big belly and bushy eyebrows, dry sense of humor, polite manners and the accent, oh the accent! I begged Doug to let me take him home with us. I wish I at least got a picture of him. I mentioned before about our gross English breakfast, well all you need is someone to make you breakfast at a nice home in the middle of Bath and all of a sudden it’s the best breakfast you’ve ever had.

Traditional done right

Traditional done right

Our B&B, Membleton House

Our B&B, Membland House

Walking around Bath felt very Italian and much different from the other places we’d visited in England. The Romans built the main bath around the hot springs around 60 AD and the complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years. It became a popular spa town during the Georgian era and most of what you see now is buildings crafted from Bath Stone during that time. We took a walking tour that the city offers for free every day and it’s one of the best tours we’ve ever had. The guide was a volunteer and so knowledgeable we loved learning about the city. During Georgian times they believed the water had healing powers so people flocked here for various afflictions. Many women were sent here (usually alone) if they were having infertility issues and many inexplicably left pregnant. I always romanticized this time period with the big hair and the fancy dresses and the balls. One thing that was really pounded into our heads was how disgusting and smelly everything was and it really put a damper on my imagination. We learned about the human waste disposal they had and how most only bathed once a year, which is ironic when you live in a place named “Bath”. At least they really came through with their architecture, it was a treat walking around.

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We went to Friday Mass here

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Here Doug is in “The Circus”, from wikipedia: “Divided into three segments of equal length, the Circus is a circular space surrounded by large townhouses. Each of the curved segments faces one of the three entrances, ensuring that whichever way a visitor enters there is a classical facade straight ahead.”

In "The Circus"

In “The Circus”

Circus Trees

Circus Trees

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Next stop was the Royal Crescent. Our pictures can’t do it justice but it’s a row of 30 houses in a crescent shape and it makes you feel like you are in another time period when you see it.

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Since many people were unable to read, symbols were widely used. On the abbey here is the “signature” of the Bishop “Olive over king”= “Oliver King”. He was responsible for rebuilding the abbey.

Bishop Oliver King

Bishop Oliver King

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wall to the backyards of residents

wall to the backyards of residents

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Baths still in use today

Baths still in use today

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Inside the original Roman Bath house.

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Gorgon's Head from original Roman Bath

Gorgon’s Head from original Roman Bath

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This is a stranger with Doug

This is a stranger with Doug

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I asked one of the workers how often someone jumps in and she said about twice a year. When they do they have to rush them to a doctor because the water is so full of  bacteria being submerged, even for a second, is very dangerous. That’s actually pretty gross.

We headed over to Bristol in late afternoon to visit our friend Dennis and his wife Willow and daughter. You may recall Dennis is Doug’s buddy from his first time living in China in 2008. The two met each other and were best friends, spending almost every day together. Poor Dennis learned a lot of his vocabulary from Doug, which if you know Doug you know that most of his vernacular is very unique…because he makes up words and phrases. Dennis was still there attending University when Doug and I moved there in 2010 and we spent a lot of time with him. He married Willow a few years ago and she’s from England. Now they live in Bristol with their little girl. It was a mind trip seeing Dennis in England. It’s like running into your dental hygienist at the grocery store, you kind of recognize them but your brain tells you something is off and they should be holding floss in the dental chair. It was hard to wrap our heads around it- we were seeing our buddy Dennis while we were traveling in England. It was so fun to see them and I love hearing Doug and Dennis tell stories from their past shenanigans. We got Chinese food for dinner and I almost cried because I was so happy, it was real Chinese food. It has been so long and enjoyed it deeply. We need Dennis to come here and find the secret menus with real Chinese food listed, I know one of our restaurants has to make it…they must.

Dennis and Tanya

Dennis and Tanya

Doug with the Hu's

Doug with the Hu’s

Little Beauty

Little Beauty

Together at last

Together at last

Important ship behind us

Important ship behind us

After the obligatory photo shoot we went on a walk to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the first suspension bridge ever.

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Bridging the gap

Bridging the gap

Looking toward Wales

Looking toward Wales

First ever Suspension Bridge

First ever Suspension Bridge

Our visit was all too short, as they always are, but we had to head back to our B&B to get some rest before saying goodbye to the United Kingdom and heading off to the Emerald Isle.

I See London

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging. Once we started missing days from taking our daily picture I sort of lost the blogging spirit.

Doug had a big birthday in March. The big three-oh. Dirty thirty. In lieu of a party, or any sort of celebration, we decided to plan a trip to commemorate the rise into true adulthood.  With a little deliberation we landed on London and Dublin. Mainly because my cousin is living in Dublin right now while her husband is getting his doctorate, if we were ever going to see Ireland in our lives now was the time and England was a nice bonus.

Trips take so much planning and preparation, especially when you both have full time jobs, pets and a house to make arrangements for but it’s all worth it. We were gone for 12 days and returned a week ago. I suffered from some serious jet lag and it took me awhile to get back into the swing of things. This is the first chance I’ve had to even look through our trip photos and I have a big task ahead to get them organized and posted.

 

Travelogue: Part One

After countless hours of driving, flying, layovers and customs lines we finally made it onto UK soil. We were excited to get settled; once I get off a plane all I want to do is get to my “home base” (hotel, home, whatever it is). We hopped on the Underground (Metro) and had a straight shot on the Picadilly line to our destination….or at least we would have if there had not been a strike and the Underground was running normally. What should have been a nice 45 minute ride turned into a 4 hour jaunt from one form of public transit to another. But we did end of making it and got to see a lot of the city right off the bat, it just wasn’t as easy as hoped after 22 hours of travel.

First flight and still in a good mood

First flight and still in a good mood

Waiting for our first bus

Waiting for our first bus

We had a nice Indian food dinner, walked to the apartment we were staying in and got in around 9PM. Doug was asleep before I even found my toothbrush in our suitcase. We crashed for a solid 10 hours and woke up ready to see the sights.

When we visit big cities we typically like to take public transit to our first destination and then walk the rest of the day until we make our way back “home”. That’s what we did each day in London and clocked around 10 miles a day. It’s our favorite way to see the city. Our first day we took a bus to London Bridge and started walking from there. We loved the buses in London. Usually we stray from buses, because they’re pretty dodgy, at least in my experience. Not so in London, they were clean and when you sit up top you have an amazing view- it feels like you get a free tour with your bus ticket. It was such a nice way to travel. Not to mention the buses are adorable.

We grabbed breakfast at a little diner and ordered the traditional English breakfast to share. It was kind of gross. We later learned that the traditional breakfast can be amazing, you just shouldn’t order it from a dumpy diner. Let’s talk about the beans for a second… Who thought it was a good idea to slap beans on everything? I actually didn’t hate them, but I still think it’s silly.

"Traditional English Breakfast"

“Traditional English Breakfast”

Here we go with our walking tour that took the next two and a half days. Hold on for a very large amount of photographs.

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Southwick Cathedral

Southwick Cathedral

The Legend of Mary Overie
Legend suggests that before the constructions of London Bridge in the tenth century a ferry existed here. Ferrying passengers across the River Thames was a lucrative trade. John Overs who, with his watermen and apprentices, kept the ‘traverse ferrie over the Thames’ made such a good living that he was able to acquire a considerable estate on the south bank of the river.
John Overs, a notorious miser, devised a plan to save money. He would feign death believing that his family and servants would fast out of respect and thereby save a day’s provisions. However, when he carried out the plan, the servants were so overjoyed at his death that they began to feast and make merry. In a rage the old man leapt out of bed to the horror of his servants, one of whom picked up a broken oar and ‘thinking to kill the Devil at the first blow, actually struck out his brains.’
The ferryman’s distressed daughter Mary sent for her lover who in haste to claim the inheritance fell from his horse and broke his neck. Mary was so overcome by these misfortunes that she devoted her inheritance to founding a convent into which she retreated.
This became the Priory of Saint Mary Overie. Mary having been made a saint on account of her charity. 

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Southwick Bridge

Southwick Bridge

I took this photo just so I could remember to look up the word “busking”.
verb  1.Chiefly British . to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.

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“Men’s evil manners live in brass, their virtues we write in water.” Henry VIII, Act 4, Scene 2

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Entry of Tate Museum

Entry of Tate Museum

Ready to be cultured

Ready to be cultured

We are the art

We are the art

I was really excited to see Millennium Bridge because of the scene in Harry Potter 6. Actually I was really excited to see everything in London because of every scene in Harry Potter. If I’m being honest, most of my knowledge of London/England comes from Harry Potter. Let me try again, most of my knowledge of every thing comes from Harry Potter. I’m not even ashamed.

Millennium Bridge

Millennium Bridge

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Save the skate park!

Save the skate park!

More London Bridges

More London Bridges

We regretfully decided against riding the London Eye. For better or worse we saved $100.

London Eye

London Eye

Eye on London

Eye on London

We are so small

We are so small

First glimpse of Big Ben

First glimpse of Big Ben

I have to throw this picture in here for old times’ sake and for Aubrey’s sake. I went to Europe with Aubrey in 2006 when we were in college doing a travel study for Humanities. We got hot dogs near Big Ben then hoofed it across Tower Bridge and my friend Shauna puked up her hot dog all over the bridge and instead of being helpful at all we just thought it was hilarious and brought it up the rest of the trip.

Mind the Gap...and the vomit

Mind the Gap…and the vomit

Look how dorky and patrioric we were

Look how dorky and patriotic we were

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About Half Three

About Half Three

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I want one on my own house

I want one on my own house

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

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We saw these darling little school boys in their cute little uniforms and cloaks and immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were at Hogwarts. Turns out that these were actually choir students from the boys choir that sings in Westminster Abbey. Can you even imagine? Everywhere we turned we saw something more amazing than before and it’s hard to believe that people just live their normal lives here, just like these boys at school. I’m sure I’m guilty of taking the beauty of where I live for granted but London was unreal to us and at times it seemed we were the only ones that even noticed a gorgeous building that was centuries old in the middle of the city.

Hurrying off to Transfiguration

Hurrying off to Transfiguration Class

Another shot of Westminster

Another shot of Westminster

St James Park

St James Park

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Stop looking at me, Swan

Stop looking at me, Swan

I know it's just a squirrel, but still

I know it’s just a squirrel, but still

Buckingham Palace

Queen of the Castle

Queen of the Castle

As we’re walking along we caught a glimpse of this tower and when we rounded the corner we realized we were at King’s Cross Station. I was completely smitten with this building. I think it was my favorite in all of London; it’s enormous and magical.

King's Cross Station

King’s Cross Station

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We were walking around the building admiring it and at the same time trying to find platform 9 3/4. We were having trouble locating it so I ended up having to ask one of the guards and I was quite embarrassed to do so. Doug filmed me asking the man without me knowing, video to come later. When we found it there was a crazy line of people, probably a two hour line, to get their pictures taken at the platform. Regrettably we had to turn around with no picture. The next morning we had to catch a train from the station and decided to take a small detour to pass the platform again and no one was there! So we got the photos and my excitement is almost oozing out.

To The Hogwarts Express

To The Hogwarts Express

Slytherin

Slytherin

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Regent's Park

Regent’s Park

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Sitting in the Queen's Garden

Sitting in the Queen’s Garden

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Fairytale Meadow

Fairytale Meadow

bus ride

bus ride

le coq bleu

le coq bleu

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

We got to go to the National Gallery again. This is one of my favorite museums, one that I hope to visit again. I think my favorite, if I had to choose, would be the Van Gogh pieces they had. Seeing his work in person is incredible, prints certainly don’t do them justice.

Curiosity Killed the Cat

Curiosity Killed the Cat

National Gallery

National Gallery

Funny story about the phone booth. Of course I wanted my picture in one because they’re so iconic and, forgive me for overusing this word, cute. I hopped in and immediately thought I was going to pass out. The smell hit me like a ton of bricks, the most pungent rancid urine smell I’ve ever encountered. It was like it had been cooking in there for months just waiting to knock someone out. I held my cool while Doug took the picture for me but it kind of ruined the phone booths for me. It was like going in a bakery and seeing a bunch of delicious looking chocolate chip cookies only to take a bite of one and realize it was full of raisins, thus making it inedible. The phone booths are full of raisins.

Dry Heaving

Dry Heaving

Hurry and take the ^$&#@ photo!

Hurry and take the ^$&#@ photo!

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On our first night we wanted to go eat at a restaurant called Rules, per a recommendation. Rules is the oldest restaurant in London. We knew it was on the pricey side but were prepared. We got there early, around 5PM, and were let in by a doorman in a tux. We were greeted by the host whom I can only describe as Stanley Tucci playing one of his snobby/arrogant yet lovable characters. Tucci looked us up and down and let us know that they were booked solid and we would need a reservation should we want to return. Doug assured him we would. We grabbed some Thai food  instead. We love going to shows and had a lot of choices in London and decided on Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, a play. It’s been running for 62 years! We thought it was a very “British” choice and ended up loving it.

First thing the next morning Doug called and made our reservations for Rules. We arrived right on time and when we got up to Stanley announced we had a reservation with confidence. He looked up the reservation, looked at us and put on a fake smile. Stanley knew the place was too nice for us, we knew the place was too nice for us, but by golly we wanted our Yorkshire pudding so we pretended we belonged. (That story might be a bit of a hyperbole).We ordered as instructed by our friend: Rib of beef with roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding and lemon meringue pie for dessert. It was very good and such a fun dining experience. The restaurant has been running since 1798 and has only had three owners. They specialize in traditional English food and game that, from what I understand, they hunt themselves.

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Justice Building

Justice Building

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Pigeon

Seagull

St Paul's

St Paul’s

Shard

The Shard

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Atop Millennium Bridge sans Dementors

Atop Millennium Bridge sans Dementors

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photo

We absolutely loved every minute we spent in London and could have used another month, at least, to see what we wanted to. 

Travelogue to be continued.

FAIL Blog

This picture is so stupid. I had just cleaned out this bowl (you can’t really see the bowl) and Felix kept jumping in it every chance he could so we gave up and just thought it was funny.

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FAIL

We forgot to take a picture this day. Our first miss in 1.25 years. Major fail. It probably would’ve been a cat picture anyway.

My coworker has chickens and I’m so fascinated by that fact. I ask him stuff about chickens all the time, usually about chicken procreation because that stuff is wack. I’m sure he thinks I’m an idiot but at the same time he loves talking about chickens. He’s about to place an order of spring chickens and let me choose two that I wanted. I was so excited! The chicken magazine was hilarious and he informed me that it is the same magazine that he looked through as a kid. I could just see it, where most kids are going through a toy catalog circling pictures of toy guns and wagons he’s choosing chicken breeds. I asked if I could name the chickens and he gave me a look that said “You dummy, you don’t name the chickens because I’m just going to chop their heads off anyway so why bother?” I’m still going to name them.

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Met my lovely  Chelsea for a movie on Thursday, love her.

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Friday night workout. Felix loves “abs” so he can walk on top of me.

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Tender moment.

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We had my parents over for dinner last Sunday and this recipe is now in the rotation.

Dinner

Dinner

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I spent four hours last Saturday making this Minestrone soup that could feed an army. I make it once a year and freeze individual servings of it but we’ve eaten so much of it this time I might have to make another batch soon.

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Playing with a flying contraption at the park.

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Rob and Shane won the Farmer of the Year award which is awesome and well deserved. We were all able to attend a banquet where they received their award. We got to see Bonnie Thomason get an award for Teacher of the Year too, I can’t think of a better candidate. She’s truly inspirational.

Best Teacher + Cutest Baby Awards

Best Teacher + Cutest Baby Awards

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Doug saw this dog and now he wants this dog.

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Saturday is not a day off for my Dougie, he works so hard every day (and every night for that matter). So proud of that guy.

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You Know What Floor You’re Really On

Doug is intrigued that I read psychology books for enjoyment but I’m even more intrigued that he reads books on coding for enjoyment. Squeaker helps with the hard concepts.

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The cats love it when we change sheets. They have a sixth sense for when I’m making the bed and literally come running from all corners of the house despite how quiet I’m trying to be, it’s bizarre. It takes us six times as long as normal people because they hop around, in and under each layer trying to halt the progress and they always succeed.

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Wednesday we went and saw the Harlem Globetrotters and I was so excited, for some reason I’ve been wanting to see them since I was a kid which is a little out of character but I was pleased to fulfill that dream nonetheless. We were lucky and even got to see Kate the Great perform at half time too.

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Harlem Selfie

Harlem Selfie

Kate the Great

Kate the Great

I said something (probably something hilarious) the other night and Doug’s response was to just poke his head in the door frame and give me a “look”. I thought it was so funny, maybe you had to be there.

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Friday we went to Brigham City to meet our friends, Patrick and Cynthia, for dinner at Maddox. It was our first time eating there and it was so good! The plan was to head to Salt Lake after dinner to a comedy show. Patrick’s assistant is a comedian who is moving to LA soon to pursue his comedy career so we really wanted to see him before he left. We ended up chatting too long after dinner and were in a time crunch to make it to the venue before the show. As luck would have it we pulled onto the freeway right behind a cop. A cop that was going the speed limit. So that slowed things down a bit. Halfway there our gas light came on with 35 miles to go and then I started whining that I really needed to void my bladder. It was a very intense 60 minutes, tensions were through the roof! We decided to power through because there was no time to stop for gas so we felt like Kramer when he runs the test drive car past the E until the gas runs out. It was a wild, wild ride. The comedy show was surprisingly excellent, we love stand-up but are also pretty selective so it was rare that we laughed hard at four comics in a row.

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After the show we visited our friends Jason and Becca at their hip little apartment and played Mario Kart 64. That is our favorite and they completely destroyed us! Becca is a Mario Kart wizard. It was about time we had some humble pie.

Getting Owned

Getting Owned

Then we headed up to another friend’s condo where we were staying the night. He happened to be out of town so he just left us the keys and directions and I didn’t even bother looking it up until we were on our way there. When we got in the elevator I pulled up the note to tell us what floor and I read aloud, “Floor 14.” We both looked at the buttons then looked at each other, floor 14 was the top floor. Then I did another quick scan to verify the superstition of the building and sure enough the button for “13” was absent. I said to Doug, “But the people on the 14th floor, you know what floor you’re really on.” (Credit to our favorite comedian, Mitch, may he rest in peace). The condo was completely nuts and had the most epic view. We were blown away. Blown. Both by the generosity and the set up.

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Saturday morning we met up with my cousin, Eva, for breakfast whom I haven’t seen in 15 years. It was great reunion and we had a remarkable breakfast at Ruth’s Diner.

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After breakfast we went to visit her Irish Wolfhound. The thing was a small horse, it was nuts. He was a gentle giant and so funny to watch. I’d seen pictures of him before but pictures in no way do the beast justice. I love the way he was cuddling with Doug.

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Just a big baby

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Archer

Saturday night we had game night at our friends’ house. One of the guys in the crew is a food scientist and I always love hearing about his work. They create all kinds of food for lots of restaurant chains.We did another taste test tonight but with chocolate chips. It was pretty fun because the way it was done and scored was completely legitimate for how the food products are tested. For those interested, Guittard chocolate chips came in at number one by a fair amount, the other brands all scored almost equally expect for the store brand, which came in at the worst. I should point out (so no one is misled by the picture below) that we just fed the kids a bunch of chocolate chips and then had them go play downstairs so they weren’t actually involved in the real-serious adult taste test.

choco choco chips

choco choco chips

Sunday evening games. I guess I felt like there weren’t enough cat pictures this week.

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Loves the boxes

Loves the boxes

Concentric Kitties

Ideas Worth Sharing

This is what I did on my day off work. I was really productive. Happy President’s day, Happy America Puzzle.

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Felix still always comes down with me when I work out and it’s really cute and really distracting. He usually falls asleep on my stomach when I’m doing abs so I give up early and pet him. Cats are really not conducive to productive exercising.

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My friend Sara and I got matching nail polish in our ipsy bags this month in the mail so I was sending her a picture…because she lives in Alaska and wanted her to know we had matching nails? I don’t know why I took it.

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Doug spent the day working at The Dealio office in Rexburg and got to witness their 11AM slump where they have  a little dance party to get things energized. The picture is out of focus because he meant to take a video; incidentally it’s the only picture that was taken on this day so that’s lucky.

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Friday we got to help out our buddy, Brad, who organized the first ever TEDx Ammon. Doug and I love TED Talks and were happy to help out at the local event. We were in charge of filming the speakers (well, Doug was, I just followed him around and did was I was told). Doug will edit them and they will go up on the website in a few weeks so check back and watch a few of the videos. It was a really good evening and a great success.

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TEDx Ammon

TEDx Ammon

Doug and Darr went to Targhee yesterday.

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O'Rourkes

O’Rourkes

Happy birthday, Anni/Young Jedi! The big one-two.

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Happy Birthday, Young Jedi

Happy Birthday, Young Jedi