Friday, March 30, 2012

100th Post!

It's hard to believe that I've been in England for more than seven months. All of Dan's co-workers say that the three years we're here goes WAY too quickly. I agree! That's why I'm trying to cram in as much as I can while I'm here. I think I'm doing a pretty good job :)

Thanks for joining me on this journey. Here's to the next 100 posts and 100 adventures!

High Tea and Castle Tour

One of the coolest parts about living in Europe is that there are tons of castles to explore! I've been to quite a few already (here, here, here, here, here); each one is unique and so interesting. This week I got the chance to have a private tour of a local castle. How cool is that?

Allerton Castle is only half an hour from where I live.  Doesn't it remind you of Downton Abbey?

Allerton Castle

In terms of castles, this one isn't that old; it's from the mid-1800s. It was built adjacent to a mansion that the Duke of York built long before that though.

Our tour guide was the castle's owner. He bought it in 1983 and has been renovating it since then. I'd say he's done an impressive job. Check out some of the bedrooms:

  I loved the billiard room and the grand lounge.

Just relaxing in my new living room

Halfway through the tour we broke for high tea. I wish I could do this every day. It was everything you want high tea to be: finger sandwiches cut into triangles with the crust cut off; scones with clotted cream and jam; victoria sponge cake; and macaroons.  Yum!

Don't you wish this was your dining room? I am completely in love with the paint color and the ceiling details.

After lunch I saw the coolest chair I've ever seen. It's even cooler than my telephone chair (sorry buddy!). It's called a "courting chair" and is from the 1700s. Here it is looking prim and proper:

And here's what happens when mom and dad leave the room:

The chairs swivel towards each other! Can you believe this chair has been in use since the late 1700s?!

The icing on the cake were the views outside the castle. High tea, a castle tour, and lambs? Does life get any better?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Workout

I saw this on pinterest and decided to stop browsing and start doing. I got right off the couch and followed this plan.

from here

It took me about 20 minutes and I was definitely huffing and puffing by the end of it. The hardest part were the pushups, but that's also the exercise I need the most. My friend used to motivate me to work out by asking how my chicken wings were. (Sounds cruel, but I asked him to do that.)

I feel really good now, so I'd like to keep this up. I'm going to try and do this a few times a week in addition to my cardio. I'll let you know how it goes!

New Vegetable

Thanks to my organic veggie deliveries, I am eating all sorts of new things.  Tonight, I tried purple sprouting broccoli for the first time.

image from here

It was pretty intimidating when I got it in the box, but after doing some online research, I found out that you pretty much treat it like regular broccoli.  I trimmed it, steamed it, and drizzled a little olive oil and seasoned salt on it.  It was delicious!

I can't wait to see what I get in this week's box!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Daylight Savings

I know some people hate the "spring forward" part of daylight savings, claiming they lose an hour of precious sleep.  While I understand that argument, I feel the complete opposite. I LOVE daylight savings!  It means that spring is officially here--warm weather, flowers and, here in England, lambs!

We changed our clocks this weekend and I couldn't be happier.  I'm looking out the window right now, at 7:50 p.m. and there's still a little bit of light out!  This is a dramatic change from the middle of winter when it got dark at 3:47.  I could get used to this.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sushi and Hunger Games

Yesterday was such an awesome day! It was pretty simple, but aren't those days always the best?

A few of us drove in to Leeds to watch the Hunger Games and eat sushi. We had some difficulty finding the sushi restaurant and were running short on time, so we switched plans and grabbed a "light" lunch. Of course, we were too hungry to make it an actual light lunch, so we gorged ourselves on pizza and pasta and...hey, why not...a bottle of wine.  It was indulgent, but delicious :)

We were running a bit late for the movie. Normally, there are thirty minutes of commercials before the trailers even start, so we thought we'd be fine. Unfortunately, we still missed the first few minutes. I have read the books though and I don't think we missed too much (thankfully).

The movie absolutely lived up to all the hype! I LOVED it! I won't ruin it for anyone, but it really did the book justice.

After the movie, we finally found the sushi place. We called earlier to confirm they'd be open. There was an embarrassing misunderstanding though when we got there and found out they don't close at 6 like we thought, they open at 6.  When we called and asked if they could squeeze us in at 5:45 (i.e. before they close), we were actually asking them to open early for us.  Oops.  

Thankfully, they were very nice and accommodating and the food was delicious.  I would definitely recommend Wasabi Tepanyaki in Leeds if anyone is looking for good sushi!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Success and Master Bedroom Mini-Tour

While I wouldn't declare myself a seamstress (yet), I had a second success with the sewing machine. I made another pillow, and this time there weren't even threats of violence.


Envelope Closure

Using a regular cotton fabric instead of t-shirt material made the whole thing SO much easier.  The project took me less than a couple hours, but it would have taken less if I didn't break the sewing machine.  Good thing Nick fixed it!

The pillow now lives in my bedroom, which I realized I haven't showed you yet.

What is that adorable chair in the background, you ask?  Why, it's my telephone chair!

People use to put their telephones on the table and keep their phone books in the drawer. I got it off Gumtree (UK's Craigslist) and I love it.

I'm so happy with how my sewing projects are turning out. I already know what my next project is. Hopefully I'll have details next week!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Has Sprung!

It's officially spring, and Harrogate isn't afraid to show it. The town is in full-bloom and it is absolutely gorgeous!

Crocuses on the Stray

Neighborhood Cherry Blossoms

My Front Garden

I say, bring it on! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Moroccan Adventures: Part 2

We spent the second half of our Moroccan adventure in a remote part of the Atlas Mountains. It was definitely a contrast from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, but it was exactly what I needed. (Catch up on part 1 here.)

It was a three hour drive to Bin el Ouidane and we got some cool views on the way.

Moroccan flag made from stones

Atlas mountains

Lake Bin el Ouidane

Our resort, Widiene Suites and Spa, is a one-year-old development on Lake Bin el Ouidane.  We bought a three-night stay using Groupon; the deal included a boat ride around the lake; a three-hour hike; a cooking class; and a traditional hamam.  Not bad, huh?

View from the pool

The hotel is so new that parts of it are still under-construction, which is why they're using Groupon to bring people in.  The construction didn't bother me at all, but I would love to see what this place will look like in another year.  

I didn't expect a lot from our hike or our boat ride, but they were actually both amazing. Our guide for the hike only spoke French (of which I speak none), so it was mostly about taking in the scenery. There was a French couple on the hike who tried to translate some information for us, but their English was only a little better than my French.

Bin el Ouidane Dam

The hike was pretty strenuous, but so rewarding.  We even saw a herd of goats at the top of the mountain.  

The boat ride was equally fantastic. I thought we'd just take a quick trip around the lake, but we ended up in this secret cove.  It was beautiful!

The resort was in a tiny village with no real infrastructure.  Most people do their grocery shopping for the week by bringing their donkeys down the mountain and loading up at the weekly market.  Visiting the market was one of my favorite things we did in Morocco.  It was so incredible to see how regular people live.  We were even able to interact with some locals when we stopped for a mint tea.

I loved all the spices for sale, but I was pretty disturbed by the chickens (and possibly goats) that were being butchered on the spot.  At least you know it's fresh, right?

I wish that our cooking class had gathered our ingredients from the market.  That would have been fun.  Instead, four of us met in the resort's kitchen to learn to make a veggie tagine; a Moroccan salad and a traditional dessert.  We enjoyed ourselves and the food was pretty good. 

We spent the rest of the time doing this:

Oh, Morocco...I miss you already.