Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ireland, Day 1: Cork City

At 3:30 a.m. on June 12, David and I hit the road to Cork. Well, we hit the road to London Stansted, where we hit the air to Cork. Cork is the 2nd largest city in Ireland, 2nd of course, to Dublin....which I didn't care for AT ALL. Dublin was just a dirty, nasty big city with a real lack of the Irish charm you see in all the movies. Cork itself is not much better (a city is a city, after all!) but it did seem less crowded, a bit cleaner, a little less touristy, and best of all, was an excellent jumping off point for lots of other places. We stayed in Cork 4 nights, but we only stayed in Cork 1 day. Follow?
The first day in Cork was a very unorganized day. I didn't want to terrify our cousins Lisa and Joe by completely revealing my insane travel quirks right on the first day. When it's just David and I, I'm able to take full control, highlight routes on maps, write lists and plan an exhausting itinerary for the day. (Just wait until you hear about our upcoming 5-day road trip to Scotland... I have it all planned to the mile and the minute!) But it is one thing to subject David to this behavior, every day of our vacation, and quite another to expose poor Lisa and Joe to "the cruise director" right from the start. So we had an unplanned, casual, go-with-the-flow afternoon in Cork City. And it practically killed me. :)

We went for lunch at a Mexican restaurant, which Lisa & Joe didn't really want to go to, and didn't really think was very good, but for people who haven't been exposed to Mexican food for at least almost a year, it was simply irresistible. (Great, now I will have visions of  very tall girls with their ponytails slicked back and bright red lips dancing through my head all afternoon!)
Anyway, then we headed to the tours office and picked up some maps, bus schedules, and tips. We went to a Maritime Festival and caught the very end of a boat race, and a very very very strange acrobat program. Then we headed to the Street Performers World Championships at a park very close to our B & B.
This was really creepy! This guy just floated there, hanging on to his cane with his eyeballs painted onto his eyelids. Weird! David and Joe knew just how the trick worked, but I was perplexed.
We went back to our hotel for a little bit and then went out in search of a pub (we ended up choosing Bob Fox's) where we could watch the US vs. England soccer/football game. And... David had his first Guinness.
It was  very very hard to find a place to eat after the game! Everywhere that served food was either closed or had stopped serving already, but we were sent by a local girl to Liberty Grill and it was yummy. I had a Halloumi Cheese Burger, which was really a patty of cheese on a bun! With eggplant, peppers, etc. too, but I LOVED that cheese!!  I'm pretty sure we were all fat & happy by the end of this meal and we walked back to the hotel to get some rest for the Ring of Kerry Tour that was on the books for Sunday!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Look what we made!

A while back, I came across a link that changed my life... or at least my kitchen. Knock-Off Wood is a super-popular site where Ana, the blogger, provides plans & inspiration to build your own Pottery Barn (& etc.) style furniture for a fraction of the cost...and then you get to make it the color you want (if you and your significant other are fortunate enough to be able to agree on a color...) and modify it as needed (if you think ahead and wonder HOW on earth a 92" long table is going to fit in the kitchen...or through the front door.) and, most importantly, you get to love it and bat your eyes at it and hug it and take an extraordinary amount of pride in it because... it's YOURS. YOU made it! Not the Pottery Barn elves.

So, I've been totally stalking this website. Drawing diagrams of each room in my house and trying to figure out how I can incorporate one of Ana's projects around every corner.  It didn't take much convincing (in fact, it only took the idea of getting some fancy schmancy power tools) to get David on board. And once I realized that I had a willing partner, I made my list.

My lists are SCARY. Let's just say that this weekend, we accomplished 1/63rd of the list. *blush*
(but it was a big 63rd...a 38.5" x 92.25" 63rd, to be exact)

We used Ana's plans to make a Farmhouse Table a la Restoration Hardware. And we made it our very own. (We kind of didn't have a choice). And we made it for WAY less than $2725. (Although, admittedly, we spent quite a bit more than the $10 Ana managed to do it for!) In fact, we spent WAY less than $2725 (+shipping... and + all the headaches and frustration trying to get the darn thing shipped to an APO would cause!) and got the table AND the power tools out of the deal!  We were aware that wood in England would cost significantly more than wood in the good ol' US of A. And it did. We were pleasantly surprised, though, when our ticket got totaled up... the wood ended up costing us $168. Still not too bad... the cheapest rectangular table at Pottery Barn is $699...and two and a half feet shorter than our table. Even a table 22 inches shorter from Ikea (I like Ikea, but I think it's safe to say their furniture isn't the sturdiest...), would have cost $200. And you can't even argue that we spent lots of time on the table... just about 2 more hours than a trip to Ikea (2 hours in the car, 2 hours in the store, 2 hours coming home). And... we MADE it! All by ourselves!

British 2x4s aren't actually 2x4. I'm SO confused... when you buy wood, you buy in meters, or millimeters or something. But when you buy nails, you buy in inches. Huh? Why not just stick with one? And why not have it be inches so I know what I'm talking about?? So, David and I are following the plans and then I get antsy. I want to see what the table is going to LOOK like. Because I'm easily excitable when it comes to this sort of thing. So before we screwed the legs together, I decided to show David what our table legs were going to look like when they were all put together. This is one time when antsiness REALLY paid off... because we realized that cutting 3.5" notches for a 2x4 to fit in weren't going to work with British 4x2s, which are really... I don't know... BIGGER than a 2x4. I'll have to measure one tomorrow!

Anyway, the important thing is that the difference in that measurement made EVERYTHING different... lots of extra cutting that we weren't counting on. Including David cutting one looooooooong straight line down an 81" piece of lumber. It was scary! I got yelled at for squealing. I was just so nervous though!

Another little setback when we realized that the 4" wood screws we bought were flat not Phillips. This was a problem because we didn't have a flat bit. So we went to the hardware store. The very very overpriced hardware store. And there, David realized that he DID have a flat bit. But just in case, we bought some Phillips head screws. Then we went back home and David got all sweaty. Screwing the looong screws in was definitely the most intense portion of the building. The Phillips screws weren't going in properly (I think the bit wasn't the right size for them? or maybe the threading on them wasn't right for the wood?) but the flat were too hard to keep on the bit without a "sleeve". (Hardware store didn't have one). Finally David got all the screws sunk, but we hope nobody inspects the inner underside corners of our table. Because it's not pretty under there.

But you know where it IS pretty?  Everywhere else!

Tomorrow, we stain it... and add a little special something that I thought of all by myself. I am, after all, the brains in this operation.

And then... we attempt to get it through the door.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Around the Town Tuesday: Best Food

I missed two weeks of the Around the Town Tuesday blog hop (one week I was in Morocco...the other ????)
And now, the blog hop has been discontinued (at least for the time being), but I'm still going to post the two posts I missed...and try to come up with a few "topics" of my own. I like getting out in town & I like that you can see what you're missing by not visiting me. :)

On to the Best Food in town...

I've eaten at a few places in town and haven't really had a bad meal. There's a place called Marvela's that David and I like for breakfast. Next time, I'm definitely getting "bubble & squeak". I was intrigued by the menu item, but unsure what it was, so I decided against adding it to my breakfast. I've eaten at Tall Orders, a little cafe/sandwich place in town and had some chips from the kebab shop.

 Just this weekend, we went to The Bell for the first time. The Bell is a little bit nicer, a little bit pricier, and had yummy food! David wasn't that hungry (we'd been munching at the Cambridge Beer Festival all day) so we split "Chicken Wellington" which was served with a creamy leek and bacon sauce (although it was NOT as good as the creamy leek & bacon sauce I made last week!) and dauphinoise potatoes.

There's the Chase, where we used to go every Wednesday for 4.95 curry & a pint which I always enjoyed. We stopped going to the Chase (because it was always crowded & the guys in our dinner crowd wanted a more "pub-like" experience) and started going to the Dolphin.

The Dolphin had good food... but then it closed for a while and the staff from the Dolphin all moved to the Black Horse... so we did too! We eat at the Black Horse every Wednesday and my favorite things on the menu are the pies-- usually chicken & stuffing or chicken, leek & bacon...occasionally I'll have a seafood pie if they have it one the specials board-- and the bacon sandwich on a brown baguette. Yum yum!! Since we're regulars and pretty well-liked, the chef, Simon, makes us special appetizers not available on the menu and sets them out for us every week! On nice evenings if we're both home in time, we usually walk since it's only between 1/2 and 3/4 mile away from our house.

Our other "usual" restaurant is the Phoenix House Chinese Take-away place. We get delivery almost every Friday! We love it... David likes the Won Ton Soup & Vietnamese Spring Rolls and usually some kind of Chow Mein. I love the Singapore Rice Noodles & Shredded Chili Chicken!

There are lots of restaurants in town that we haven't tried yet... a few fish & chip shops, several Indian places, a Thai restaurant, etc. Unfortunately, between our Wednesday dinners & our Friday take-out, we don't get much chance to try other places in town!

(We don't have to try Subway in town... we've got one on base!)
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