Barcelona Break

Took a very last minute, very quick trip to Barcelona last weekend. It had to come together quickly due to mine and Danny’s work schedules which sees the both of us without days off until the end of summer. I used feel guilty taking time off (so American!!) but after only three years here in Scotland, I’ve come to adapt and love the Euro holiday calendar. You’ve got your spring bank holidays, early summer weekender, late summer weeks abroad, mid autumn time off, two weeks Christmas break, etc. Glorious.

So, Barcelona. I also did this in a very Euro-way by completely ignoring most of the important historical touristy stuff and making it my personal mission to get a tan, lots of drinks and some good grub. I even managed to get in a bit of Spanish discount shopping!

There’s more photos on the fancy camera but this is pretty much my weekend in Barcelona.

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DRINKS. BEACH. DRINKS (in popsicle form). DRINKS. FOOTBALL.

Holiday success.

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Late May Bank Holiday

Bank holiday weekends are a wonderful thing. Lucky me, we get two in May right after a four day Easter weekend. In 2011 and 2012 we got an extra added on because of the Royal Wedding and the Diamond Jubilee. No extras this year, but Britain is still a wonderful bank holiday filled country in the spring. In comparison, this weekend is only a two day and I’m coming up to that fear time on a Sunday evening. Need to distract myself with pictures of last weekend.

I wanted to take a last minute trip for this bank holiday but flight prices were higher than normal due to well, the holiday! Scotland always seems to have good weather during the last weekend in May so it wasn’t too bad to stay home. Last year I was in a bathing suit at Ayr beach! No bathing suit this time, but the sun was out and temperatures reached 20 degrees celsius.

On Saturday Danny and I walked into town for some shopping. He wandered into H&M for some work shirts and we ended up walking out with some work shirts and a new bikini for me. No beach holidays booked yet but this is good motivation!

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We continued our walk to the West End with BrewDog in mind as our destination for lunch. On the way we stopped at McPhabb’s for a Pimm’s and beer, but left after one drink because we couldn’t get a seat in the sun.

Brewdog only had indoor seating but the view, beer and good food more than made up for it.

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I didn’t think I liked beer but trying some from a small brewery makes a world of difference. I got the ‘Punk IPA’ which I would definitely drink again! Their food is also really good. We got a meat lovers pizza which sounds quite down market and pub-y but it had fennel and fancy meats and was delicious. Went too fast for a picture.

As we were eating Danny saw that a few of his friends were on the train into town so we headed over to Ashton Lane to meet up. It was packed. At first it was really weird because it felt like a total dude-fest but then I realized that all the groups of guys were out early for the Champions League game later that night.

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After a few drinks I left my guy to do the same and headed home happy with a Taco Mazama burrito.

Since it was still alright weather on Sunday we headed out for a proper day trip. The weather was kinda overcast as we picked up picnic supplies but it was a gorgeous day in our destination, Oban.

We stumbled upon Dunollie Castle and hearing it was open day, we eagerly went in. The views from the crumbling, old tower were amazing. I need to live in a castle by the sea!

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inside dunollie castle

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After our bit of historical time we drove to the opposite side of town for our picnic.

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In heaven!

On our drive home it started raining and continued to rain for the actual bank holiday Monday. Tis to be expected! I had a brilliant weekend anyway and who can argue with a four day work week?

This is why we can’t have nice things

Interesting weekend.

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Pros:
– Went out to lunch at Brel for a pot of mussels and a glass of wine.
– Had a wee pub crawl around the cute West End pubs while it snowed outside.
– Met up with some friends afterwards for the Scotland v Wales match.

Cons:
– Lost my camera lens cap.
– Lost one of my J.Crew leather gloves.
– Lost my dignity.

Combine that with the fact that I lost my favorite purple glasses on the flight back to Glasgow and I am starting to feel like I shouldn’t be allowed anything nice! I would usually leave my expensive camera at home if I was going out drinking, but we hadn’t planned to stay out beyond lunch. I actually think I lost the lens cap on the walk home when I took the camera out to take a million pictures of the freshly fallen snow. Upon second viewing, so not worth it! They’re all orangey and out of focus. I’m not sure what happened to my glove but it’s not shown up at any of the pubs we were at so I must have lost that outside as well. I need to start wearing Primark when I go out drinking, I’m a hopeless case.

Not worth the £5 for a replacement cap.

Not worth the £5 for a replacement cap.

The day out was a celebration for my entry back into the working world. I start back on April 2 and funnily enough, I start back at my old job. Yep, same company and same position as the contract that ended in December. My old VP saw my CV floating around the internal job bank and because of a few people leaving and a shift of workload, they need me again! Strange how the world works. Looking forward to my next week of freedom from a job and job hunting.

Wine tasting in Paso Robles

Paso Robles is fast becoming a well known California wine destination, second only to Napa/Sonoma. There are many wineries spread out from the 101 and in order to get the best experience, focusing on one area is key.

Danny and I had done the 46 West a few years ago, so this time I wanted to take him to some wineries around the 46 East. However, this in no way means we’ve “done” the Paso region now. As you can see by the map below, there’s so many more to explore! I can’t remember what winery imparted this fact, but the wine from either direction of the 46 highway each has its own characteristics due to the soil. The 46 west side does great Zinfandels while the 46 east side does better Cabernet Sauvignons. I love Cab and not a big fan of Zin (too jammy, too sweet and cloying at times) so I was in for a treat!

We started at Clautiere Vineyard which has amazing wines, whimsical grounds and a fun tasting room. They’ve gotten rid of their assortment of dress-up hats and wigs but added a cheese pairing with each tasting, so I still love them!

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Clautiere does mostly reds which is right up my alley. We tasted some delicious wines and ended up buying a Grenache and my dad a Cabernet Sauvignon. The girl pouring for us was so nice and personable, and recommended some great places for our next stop. Tasting room pourer – what a job!

First though, we had to take some pictures outside. One of the owners is an artist and constructed the metal fence and sculptures around the property.

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Our next stop was Pear Valley. They’re a fairly new winery with a gorgeous property. I’ve never been to Tuscany but I imagine it looks a bit like this.

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We had so much fun at this place! Danny ended up purchasing a bottle of their Sweet Orange Muscato for this mom. I’m not a fan of sweet wines but this was pretty good. Don’t think I could manage more than the few sips they pour for tasting though.

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Since it was a Thursday a few of the smaller places were closed, so we ended up next at Steinbeck Wines. This winery couldn’t have been more different than the last. A true farming family, their business has been around since the late 1800’s but they’ve only recently started their own label.

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This winery was true county and Howie Steinbeck himself wandered into the tasting room for a chat wearing Levis, a big cowboy hat and a bolo tie. Got to love Paso!

Our last stop was Eberle Winery. We tasted pretty quickly here as we wanted to get a full glass to enjoy out on the patio as the sun set.

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Eberle means small boar in German. My dad also says that wild boar roam the local hills. We may or may not have seen some on the drive to Paso.

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My dad soon found a friend who would not leave his side. Danny, my mom and I were trying coax him over to us, but nope, he was staying put!

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We ended the day with cheese and crackers, a must with all the wine we had consumed that day!

Valentine’s Week

Danny and I have been a bit naughty this week. Even though we just got back from holiday, we’ve been out for drinks or dinner three times. We need to buckle down and be good for the next few weeks – I need to find a job, for starters!

Tuesday night was the Celtic v Juventus game. Celtic sadly lost by 3 points so they have little chance of advancing to the next round in the Champions League. We went to O’Neills in Merchant City, which was packed of course. Absolutely no room to move around and a constant danger of getting a drink spilled on you. I had two vile glasses of red wine (when will I learn to not order wine at a pub?) and ended up with a headache the next day. It was good to see friends though and we ended the night with a Indian garlic chili chicken pizza. Cannae beat it!

On Valentine’s Day we hemmed and hawed about whether to go out or not but finally decided on dinner at Roma Mia – a cute family run Italian only 5 minutes from our flat. We’ve been there before, but I appreciate it so much now that we’ve been to Rome. It really does feel like you’re in Italy at this place. I got buffalo mozzarella with rocket and tomatoes to start and pasta puttanesca for my main. Danny got shrimp ravioli to start and some sort of special with sausage and tagliatelle for his main. Dessert was chocolate! A whole box to myself as Danny’s cutting out the bad stuff from his diet.

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Friday night we met some friends in town for a few drinks. We had originally planned to just meet at Wetherspoons and then head elsewhere after one, but we ended up there until closing time. I think it was mostly to do with the fact that we all had seats at ‘spoons and didn’t want to give them up and stand in another crowded bar. I had wine of course, but Wetherspoons serves drinkable wine so it was all good. We ended up having a great night – good conversation and a lot of laughs.

Soooo, this weekend has been a quiet one. Grocery shopping, Netflix, and some coconut chicken curry in the slow cooker for tonight.

 

I used the above recipe but added a lot more garam masala, more curry powder, ginger and more vegetables in the curry itself. To be honest, I think it’s going to turn out better than the original – I mean, who puts carrots in a curry?!

Edna Valley Wine Tasting

One of my most favorite activities EVER is wine tasting. Not only do I love wine, but my hometown’s local wineries are full of memories and make me feel like I’m truly at home. Growing up with vineyards and wineries practically in my back yard I always took this for granted. As a teenager I was dragged on countless wine tasting trips when relatives were in town and had nothing more to do than browse the gift shop. But I think those pre-legal years were slowly influencing me because once I turned 21 I was a full convert. Wine tasting is like a posh pub crawl – it’s fun, it’s perfect for any occasion and there’s no gross bar bathrooms to deal with.

I’ve been wine tasting with girlfriends on Valentine’s Day, wine tasting for pick-up parties with my dad and I even organized a pre-wedding wine tasting day for 20 people from around California and Scotland. Every time I come back to the States, wine tasting is definitely on the schedule.

This year, we took an afternoon to hit our favorite Edna Valley wineries and then took another day to drive out to Paso Robles and explore the wineries off the 46 East.

Edna Valley is home to one of my favorite wineries, Tolosa. Edna Valley’s climate is conducive to great Pinot Noir and I think Tolosa’s Pinot is the best. We went on a Saturday so they were quite busy, but we kept ourselves occupied with the photobooth while waiting. I had trouble locating the camera both times and my dad wasn’t fully in the shot, but we got there, sorta!

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After Tolosa we continued on to Claiborne and Churchill. They’re known for their Alsatian style whites although we ended up buying more Pinot Noir and a very cool wine grape varietal chart that’s going up in our kitchen. It looks really classy but it’s basically a scientific periodic table for winos.

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Fun fact – my dad built this winery. It was one of the first straw bale buildings and naturally insulates the room to keep the wine barrels at the optimum temperature.

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Our last stop of the day was Baileyana. We quickly tasted here as they were closing for the day and then my mom and I went outside to photograph the area. It’s so beautiful there. I miss it. I miss it more every year I’m gone. I’m not ready to hop back on a plane to California tomorrow but I know it’s in my plans for the future.

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Goodbye 2012

2012 has been a great year. I started and ended 2012 without a job but this was also the year that I learned to not depend on work so much. I had a job that paid the bills, allowed me to enjoy time outside of work and I kept my friends from my previous role. The best of both worlds! Danny and I also had the chance to travel loads, book a trip back home, get new jobs and get really fit (Danny).

I started this blog in January but had sporadic posts during the first half of the year. Thought I would take a chance to focus on the (iPhone) highlights of 2012 and I look forward to continuing this in 2013 with more pictures and more posts!

January

1. Steak dinner at Grill on the Corner for Danny's birthday. 2. Birthday boy 3. Flowers from my colleagues after I got laid off 4. Did a lot of cooking in Jan, including cemitas

1. Steak dinner at Grill on the Corner for Danny’s birthday. 2. Birthday boy 3. Flowers from my colleagues after I got laid off 4. Homemade cemitas for dinner

February

1. Light dinner at The Bungo 2. A stop on our neighborhood pub crawl 3. Passed my Life in the UK test and sent away my ILR application 4. My local library

1. Light dinner at The Bungo 2. A stop on our neighborhood pub crawl 3. Passed my Life in the UK test and sent away my ILR application 4. My local library

March

1. 40th anniversary party for Danny's aunt and uncle 2. Mother's Day diner at Guidi's 3. Got Fernando a leash and he hated it 4. Day out at the races with some friends

1. 40th anniversary party for Danny’s aunt and uncle 2. Mother’s Day dinner at Guidi’s 3. Got Fernando a leash and he hated it 4. Day out at the races with some friends

April

1. Looked after Lucy 2. Easter dinner in Londonderry after a day of driving through N.Ireland 3. Night out at the Garage 4. Homemade burgers and chips

1. Looked after Lucy 2. Easter dinner in Londonderry after a day of driving through N.Ireland 3. Night out at the Garage 4. Homemade burgers and chips

May

 1. Spent the night at a castle for my 26th birthday 2. Tequila shot sampler for Cinco de Mayo 3. View from our castle room 4. Finally got my ILR 5. Sangria tour in town for my birthday 6. Beer garden for the amazing weather we had the last weekend in May

1. Spent the night at a castle for my 26th birthday 2. Tequila shot sampler for Cinco de Mayo 3. View from our castle room 4. Finally got my ILR 5. Sangria tour in town for my birthday 6. Beer garden for the amazing weather we had the last weekend in May

June

1. Rome 2. Ate Italian food for most of June 3. Sunset at 11 pm on the solstice 4. Had to evacuate the airport due to a fire drill

1. Rome 2. Ate Italian food for most of June 3. Sunset at 11 pm on the solstice 4. Had to evacuate the airport due to a fire drill

July

1. Orange walk 2. Olympic women's football match 3. Tried the new Brazilian steakhouse 4. Betting on the final game of the Euros

1. Orange walk 2. Olympic women’s football match 3. Tried the new Brazilian steakhouse 4. Betting on the final game of the Euros

August

1. Our B&B in Spain 2. Sangria in Seville 3. About to leave for Portugal 4. The beach in Nerja

1. Our B&B in Spain 2. Sangria in Seville 3. About to leave for Portugal 4. The beach in Nerja

September

1. Sunday roast 2. Drinks at T.G.I. Friday's 3. Library books 4. Homemade prosciutto and arugula pizza

1. Sunday roast 2. Drinks at T.G.I. Friday’s 3. Library books 4. Homemade prosciutto and arugula pizza

October

1. 3rd wedding anniversary flowers and cards 2. Beef bourguignon 3. Looked after Lucy again 4. Alumni reunion drinks

1. 3rd wedding anniversary flowers and cards 2. Beef bourguignon 3. Looked after Lucy again 4. Alumni reunion drinks

November

1. Thanksgiving dinner 2. Poppadoms and dipping sauces at Dakhin 3. First snowfall of the season 4. Lentil soup prep

1. Thanksgiving dinner 2. Poppadoms and dipping sauces at Dakhin 3. First snowfall of the season 4. Lentil soup prep

December

1. Christmas Eve 2. Family night out at the Christmas fair in Glasgow 3. Christmas day 4. NYE's curry

1. Christmas Eve 2. Family night out at Christmas fair in Glasgow 3. Christmas day 4. NYE’s curry

Scotland v Serbia

Even a year ago I honestly never thought I’d be committing so much time to watching football. I hated the game and thought it was really boring and a time waster (I already have too many of those). But since the beginning of this summer I’ve watched and attended more games than I ever have in my life!

Saturday afternoon was the Scotland v Serbia World Cup qualifier game. Scotland hasn’t been in the World Cup since 1998 and they really, really want it. Danny and I watched the game with a friend of ours, Stevie and we were absolutely packed into the pub. I met Danny and Stevie about halfway into the game and had to phone Danny at the entrance of the pub to find out where they were standing. We went to The Auctioneers, just off George Square and I don’t know if it was so crowded just because of the game or if it was because of the game and the fact that The Auctioneers has cheap drink. As per tradition they also offer a free halftime buffet. Usually pubs will just put on a round of meat pies but this place had sandwiches, sausage rolls and pizza. I had just eaten lunch but Danny was well impressed. They also started playing a bunch of Scottish songs like The Proclaimers, Runrig’s Loch Lomond, Simple Minds, etc to get everyone into the spirit. Unfortunately we tied! Scotland will continue to play matches against Macedonia, Wales and a few other countries in our group in order to see if we make it to Brazil 2014.

After the game we met up with another friend, Davie, who had just finished playing a football game of his own. While deciding where to move onto next, someone suggested cocktails and we ended up at Glasgow’s favourite American import, T.G.I. Friday’s. I got a huge long island iced tea to start but could’t finish it and ordered a Silver Mercedes instead. It was delicious! I think it was champagne, vodka, some sort of fruit juice and orange sherbet.

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Just some photos off my iPhone. I’m trying to be better about taking pictures even if I do get some weird looks off Danny’s friends.

Craving Coffee

I’m craving coffee. Black please. I think my last cup was one month ago on my last day of work. Tea is just too easy to make in the morning when neither Danny nor my dad are here to make me a cup of coffee.

Even though I loved to moan about the vile tasting coffee from the office kitchen, I had a cup everyday without fail. Our canteen had a Starbucks/deli station but the 2.80 latte didn’t taste that much different than the free stuff from the machine.

I’ve not found a great coffee shop here in Glasgow. I still rely on the occasional Starbucks when I’m out in town but my coffee consumption is nothing like what it was in the States. I don’t start my Saturday mornings with a latte and I never grab an iced latte for a mid afternoon pick-me-up. Oh how I miss Blackhorse.

I remember the first time Danny picked up instant coffee at the supermarket I was absolutely aghast. That kind of stuff does not belong in our house! But it belongs in a British household and we didn’t have a coffee machine yet, so I relented. And sometimes when making tea Danny would ask for a cup of coffee and I had to learn how to make the instant stuff.  I get it, it’s really easy. It’s also devoid of any real coffee taste. When I was in high school one of my best friends was a big fan of the sci-fi/modern romance novels written by J.D. Robb. The books were set in the mid-21st century where coffee and butter were scarce and considered the ultimate luxury. The affordable stuff was fake coffee made of vegetable oils and other substitutes. I had never had instant coffee in high school but I now know what sort of dystopian reality the author was talking about.

We eventually got a coffee machine and grinder for our flat. The next hurdle in this quest was procuring quality coffee beans. In the States, getting coffee means a trip to your local coffee shop or grocery store where you can get whole beans or your choice of espresso or regular grind. If you’re already in the coffee shop for your daily cappuccino, perfect, no effort necessary!

In the UK I don’t think I know anyone else with a proper coffee maker. The love of the kettle (to be discussed in the future) has probably prevented the coffee machine from gaining in popularity here. It would also explain the half aisle of tea selection and the half shelf selection of whole coffee beans. Danny and I have bought a couple of different types of beans and our favorite has to be the purple bag of Fairtrade Colombian beans from Asda.  The best for nice, simple, black cup of drip coffee, grinded and brewed by my husband on a Sunday morning with the papers.