Life Update
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Travel & Culture

Life Update

Hey everyone, its Amy! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times. I figured some effectively forced time at home was a good driver to get the blog going again. So, this post serves as a bit of a catch-up and reintroduction of sorts. I have taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging since around October last year. Things got pretty hectic, there were some big changes, and we shifted priorities for a time away from blogging. I think this time away has helped me in a number of ways.

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To be honest, keeping up the blog had been a bit tiring. We had been trying to post very regularly and coming up with new recipes was leaving me a bit worn out. It was making cooking a bit less fun which I wasn’t happy about. By the time we got to the holidays and with all of the travel and the fact that other people were hosting, the food blog was just too difficult.

The time away from the blog has helped me find that enjoyment again and has taught me the need to balance. A few new recipes per week balanced with older favorites has been our sweet spot. The funny thing about all of that is the blog is actually getting more daily hits now than it did while I was posting regularly! A few posts have really done well for themselves and its been keeping the blog pretty well visited it seems. I am just so glad that people like the recipes.

Reintroduction/Cooking Philosophy

Before I get into whats new, I want to reintroduce my cooking philosophy. I will still be bringing more of the same as far as recipes. I still like to focus on making classic technique and skills approachable along with great flavor combos. Also, I will continue to aim for a good balance of difficulty and effort levels to suit everyone from the eager novice to the experienced but busy. My focus is always on maximum flavor, but how you get there can take many forms!

Something a bit new, I will likely be leaning on Rob a bit and more of his voice will be seen on the blog. Those of you who have read some of the past posts will see that he is mentioned a lot both as a recipe generator but also as the cook. I figured I would give him a bit more of a role and make this more of a couples activity. Expect elevated dishes from him (think special occasions or date nights) that are still approachable.

So now to what’s new!!!

We’re buying a house!!!

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That’s right, we are finally taking the plunge. There was some possibilities going on in our jobs where we thought we may be moving this year; however, for various reasons, decided that staying in the DC area was best for us.

We have been renting for almost 7 years now and frankly we want something we can call our own. Rob and Id look from time to time to see what is on the market, but have never found something quite to our liking. If you aren’t aware, DC is a vary tough market; convenient locations tend to be very expensive and go quickly. So we decided to look a little farther out and looked at new construction.

Thankfully for us, we found a great community and an available lot that fit exactly what we were looking for and would complete exactly when we needed it to. We went with a NV Homes community and were able to snag an end-unit townhome. What really sold us was the kitchen, it’s huge and I can’t wait to cook in it.

The whole process will likely be the topic of a more “lifestyle” post later. For now, we are really looking forward to being able to move in!

We are getting back into fitness!

We bought a Peloton! It may sound a little bougie, but Rob did a lot of research into workout studios and class options. Rob was the big driver for this decision; he really prefers a guided workout as opposed to just going to a gym and winging it. He looked at multiple class/studio options, but none quite fit in with his schedule. Ultimately, the Peloton made the most sense. You get the bike and a whole library of on-demand workouts for less than a subscription would be to most fitness studios (e.g., Orange Theory, Solid Core, etc.).

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Since the start of 2020, we both have been focused on getting back into good shape and working out has become an integral part of our routines. I had been doing Pure Barre for years, but recently was finding that it was becoming difficult to get to as my work schedule got busy. The freedom to workout whenever with a lot of variety that the Peloton gives us has been integral to our fitness goals.

If you are on the fence, I highly recommend it. Yes, its a little pricy but its really high quality and the whole package is hard to beat. Hit me up if you want a referral code (we both get money off accessories!).

Recent Vacations

We will start with the most recent and work our way back!

Ireland

Neither of us had ever been and if you couldn’t tell from a picture of me, I am of very Irish decent. We planned this trip almost a year out, but honestly didn’t really solidify any definite plans until a few weeks before we left. Ireland is a beautiful country, with friendly people, and makes for a great vacation option.

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First, let’s talk basic logistics. Ireland is easy to get to from the East Coast for pretty cheap. Plus hotels and rental cars are pretty cheap there. So, all-in-all its very affordable. You can even find hotels that give Americans a discount to drive tourism. Dublin airport even has a US Customs desk there so when you get home its like getting off a domestic flight!!! Also, rent a car there; they drive on the other side of the road, but Rob got used to that really fast and loved it. In Dublin, you can pretty much walk to most of the major touristy areas in about 15-20 minutes (a few outlying areas are easier to cab to).

Our itinerary for this trip was pretty basic, we didn’t want to bounce around too much so we split our week 50-50 between Sligo and Dublin. First off, it is winter and yes it rained; it’s Ireland and it should be expected. While I really liked Sligo and Donegal, in the winter is can be cold and pretty rainy so just account for that if you want to do outdoor activities. Dublin was generally a bit warmer and it rained a lot less.

So for a few highlights and recommended activities:

Sligo/Donegal

  • Glasshouse Hotel – located in the heart of Sligo Town, so super convenient and very nice.
  • Generally a pretty good food scene in Sligo Town. Multiple very good Italian options, coffee shops, and the standard Irish Pubs.
  • Voya Seaweed Baths – Pretty much a spa where you take a bath in hot seaweed water. Sounds a little odd, but feels really nice.
  • Donegal Castle – Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, an old castle in the heart of Donegal Town.
  • Bundoran – In the summer, its a busy seaside resort town. In the winter, not so much but still very pretty.
  • Triona Design – A purveyor of Irish woolen goods. They have a shop in Donegal Town and a larger place in Ardara which is worth the very pretty drive to (just note the roads are really narrow).

Dublin

  • Wilder Townhouse Hotel – Located a little off the beaten path but a very easy walk to most of the major tourist areas. Very nice rooms, but most are fairly small.
  • Trinity College – An old college with beautiful grounds and some historic manuscripts for viewing.
  • Irish Whiskey Museum – a little history on the making of Irish Whiskey and a tasting. Great selection of whiskey to bring home.
  • Dublin Castle – Former headquarters of the British government in Ireland, now home to rooms used for state ceremonies.
  • St. Stephen’s Green – Beautiful park in the center of Dublin. Walk around the park and stop at the info signs which talk about the role of the park during the Easter Rising.
  • Restaurants – NoLIta (Pizza), The Sussex (Elevated Pub), Brasserie 66 (Self-explanatory)
  • Grafton Street Shopping – Pretty standard high street shopping experience.
  • Guinness Factory – Honestly, I would skip this if I did it over. Its crowded and expensive for what you get. Go to any pub and buy a pint of Guinness, you will be more relaxed and it tastes just as good.

Disney World (again)

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Yes, I know: you went again? For those who don’t know me that well, we go at least once a year (typically at least twice). My last posts on Disney (Part 1 and Part 2) talk a lot about our approach. However, that is likely changing. While we had fun as we always do, I just don’t feel like I need to go again soon. In fact we have no plans to go in 2020 and may not even go in 2021.

For this trip, we went down for EPCOT Food and Wine and stayed at the Grand Floridian. I will start by saying, Food and Wine is not as great as I remember it from the first time we went back in college (we actually got engaged our senior year on that trip). I felt the variety and overall quality of the options has decreased. Some of this may be due to the fact that they effectively do something similar 2-3 times a year with Flower & Garden and the Arts festival. It just feels like you get a lot of braised meat options or other fairly heavy dishes and they are often the same as what you find during the other festivals or from year-to-year.

One cool thing was that we got to see the Christmas decorations go up. There is a crazy efficiency there; basically one day to take down the old stuff and one day to put up the new! Everything was decked out for the holidays and the famous gingerbread houses started to go up!

We also got to explore the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge area. This was before they opened Rise of the Resistance and we didn’t pay for any of the experiences. So, at this point its not worth talking about too much since it’d be out of date. Our exposure was basically to walk through it. It was visually nice, but at the time felt lacking.

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Room View!!!

As for the Grand Floridian, its an amazing hotel, but not our favorite. Its definitely Grand, it feels fancy and is actually very big. But, it also felt like a tourist attraction. I told Rob after that it never really felt like it was “our hotel” due to a fairly consistent string of people just passing through. I will say that our view of the fireworks was amazing, definitely hard to beat. In the end though, I would choose the Wilderness Lodge as my first choice.

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