People Underestimate the Value of a Good Ramble

Friday, June 6, 2014

The UK Trip...Fish Pedicures are a Real Thing

In case you missed's Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6 and Part 7.

By lunch time on Thursday, after our lovely drive down the coast, we reached Durham and met up with another one of my invisible friends, @WatcherMark.

We look adorable, don't we?

We had something to eat and then wandered around Durham, which is old. I mean, old.


This is underneath an extremely old bridge. Like really, really old. Like 1000 years old. So crazy.

Here's another castle we glimpsed from afar. We seriously had no luck with castles in the UK.

Bad news, guys...this is the coffin of St. Nicholas. So,  um, Santa is dead.

And then this happened.

I am sooooo ticklish. Extremely, extremely ticklish. It was such a very weird feeling. I can't even really describe it. Sort of like little tiny fish nibbling on your toes. Yes, exactly like that.

This little walkway somehow looks wider in the picture than it was. It was very narrow. Two people could not walk next to each other unless they were both Twiggy. And maybe not even then.

And that was our whirlwind trip to Durham, cause we had plans to be in York by dinner time. So we bid Mark* a fond farewell and hit the road once again.

*Be sure to check out Rogue Demon Hunters for an upcoming podcast of Buffy ep Earshot where Mark and I guest host together

Next up....York is also very old., maybe even older than Durham

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The UK Trip: Edinburgh Castle Or Bust

In case you missed's Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and Part 6.

So this is the 7th installment, it's taken me over 4 months, and I'm still only talking about Wednesday the 15th.  I have seven more days to recount. Hopefully, I'll live long enough to finish.

We left lovely, peaceful Lanercost and headed up to Edinburgh. We had wavered about whether to go to Glasgow or Edinburgh or somehow both places, but in the time we had it was better to just choose one. During the planning phase, I had found an interesting place to stay in Glasgow and there was a music festival or something going on, but the castle was in Edinburgh.  As it turned out at this point we felt we'd made the right decision, cause we really hadn't seen one castle up close yet. 

But I was really feeling sick that day, plus it was getting colder and damper as we headed North. By the time we got there it was getting on to late afternoon and we had to drive through the city to get to our B&B; the roads were kinda scary and the traffic was backed up and slow going. 

We finally got there and it wasn't so great.  I mean, it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't anything special either. I admit that the entire experience was somewhat colored by the fact that I was feeling ill. But we got checked in and then ran out, got a taxi and traveled across town to the castle.  It was late, but the castle was still open for a couple of hours so we figured we'd have time.

The taxi could only take us to a point off to the side and somewhere down the Royal Mile from the castle. So we started walking...uphill. I could barely breathe and I was not too happy.  We got all the way up there and were just approaching the entrance when they pulled the rope over and told us that the castle was closed for the day.  WHAT??  Ugh!  So just one more castle we didn't get to see. Even worse, they weren't even nice about it. I guess they see lots of people a day, but they could at least have seemed to care about the fact that we had traveled all that way and had to leave in the morning without getting to see the castle. 

We walked back down to the main road and found a place to eat.  It wasn't too nice, but I was about done.  Jeff finally got to try haggis, though, so that was a plus. I wasn't in the mood for anything that interesting. Honestly, all I wanted was a nice cuppa. 

We grabbed a taxi back to the room and even though it was only about 8 pm, I went right to bed.  Jeff went back out to try find something, anything, to do, but it started raining so he just came back and went to bed himself. 

As you can probably tell, Edinburgh was not our favorite place. But it gets better, cause in the morning we left. 

We traveled South down the east coast of Scotland and it was a beautiful day. The views alone made up for how bad the day before had been.

Next up....Durham 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The UK Trip 6: Yo...Adrian

In case you missed's Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5.

The next morning, we drove off from Manchester heading North. 


That was as close as we got to Liverpool...even though my 64 year old sister kept insisting that we should go there to see the Beatles (or as she kept insisting on calling them, The Bee'Ulls. as though she had some weird Brit accent that no one ever sounded like, ever). I'm not sure she believed me when I kept trying to explain that only two of them were still alive and I thought that they both lived in New York City most of the time. 

So as we drove along, we stopped to see a few things.  Like this ruined castle:

It was so cool and the best part, though neither one of us ended up taking a picture of it, was the fact that this was right on the side of the road and across the street was....a McDonalds. Surreal. 

Our destination was the Lanercost B&B in Brampton, Cumbria near Hadrian's Wall. The building was actually made with bricks from a ruined priory that was made with bricks from Hadrian's Wall. It's the circle of life, people.

Of course, by the time we got there, it was just starting to get dark, but we had to leave early-ish to get to Edinburgh so we were determined to go see the remains of the Wall.  We drove around these little twisty lanes, with hedges on one side and stone walls on the other, in the waning light, with giant lorries coming towards us. It was....interesting, to say the least. 

The views were amazing, though.

Our pics of the wall turned out pretty good, even though it was kind of dark out. You can't even tell. My cell phone clearly has a better camera than I deserve. 

Then we went back to our lovely room...which I took absolutely no pictures of because I'm stupid....but I did take pictures of our meal. I'm sure it would surprise no one to find that at least half of the pictures in my phone (maybe three quarters) are of food. 

Oxtail pudding.....sooooo good!

When we got home and were showing our pictures, my sister kept saying, Adrian, who's Adrian? To which my husband replied, "Rocky's girlfriend" and our friend Sam asked my sister, "Are you sure you graduated from high school?"

Next up....Edinburgh

Monday, May 26, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I've Missed You, Too

So sorry I haven't been around....I didn't mean for my British vacation story to end where it did.  I have lots more to stay, but sadly life has gotten in the way. Big time.  I think things should calm down a bit after Easter, so I'll do my best to get back here with the next installment.

In the meantime, here's a repeat of a post from a couple of years ago, with an Easter favorite that we make every year:

Easter isn't Easter without Pastia

Pastia is a dish we make every Easter. I always thought my grandma made it up, but just this year I found another pastia recipe that was similar (although it was more of a dessert, sort of a pasta custard).

This is a side dish, but we make huge pans of it because everyone wants to take some home after dinner.

It's also a big mess to make, because you mix it with your hands.  I have to get everything all set up beforehand, because your hands and arms get all covered in goo and you can't touch anything else.

Even though this is full of raw eggs, I still taste it as I go along, but you really don't have to if you aren't comfortable with eating the raw egg. But really, it's got so much cheese and butter, you don't even notice the egg.

We slice it and eat it hot or cold. It's awesome right out of the oven, all warm and cheesy. But it's just as good later, right out of the fridge.

So here goes.....

(we pronounce this Ba-STEE-ya)

6 lbs pasta (I generally use some combination of Rigatoni, Penne, Fettucine, 
                  Bucatini or Perciatelli or Maccheroncelli, and Spaghettoni)
9 sticks butter
3 dozen eggs
24 oz of grated parmesan cheese
8 oz of grated romano cheese
Salt and pepper

Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta.  Be sure to salt the water well.  You can also put a small amount of oil into the water to keep the pasta from sticking.

Once the pasta is cooked, place all of it into a large pan or bowl on a table where you can reach down into the pan/bowl. (I actually use two pans because I don't have one big enough for the whole thing. I just put some of each pasta into each bowl.) Add 1 1/2 sticks of butter to each pound of pasta and mix through with a large utensil. Pasta will be very hot!

Allow the pasta to cook slightly and then add eggs a few at a time (about 6 eggs per pound of pasta). Just break them into the pasta bowl and mix with your hands. Add cheese (a little at a time) and continue mixing.

You are looking for a certain consistency, not too dry (which means too much cheese) or too wet (too many eggs).  Add salt and pepper as you go. It should seem like it's a little over seasoned for it to have enough taste once it's done.

Place the thoroughly mixed pasta into large lasagna pans (butter them first).  This recipe makes two lasagna pans full.

Sprinkle more grated parmesan and some grated black pepper on top.

Bake 375 for about an hour to 75 mins, til solid through and golden brown on top.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The UK Trip 5...Friends and Meds

In case you missed's Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

I developed a wheeze in Cardiff. Not sure if it was allergies or the plane ride or just that the air disagreed with me.  I hadn't taken Airborne or echinacea or anything else like I usually would do before a trip. I had just been sick for almost a month, so I didn't see how I could get sicker.  I was wrong, there was even more sick.  

The wheeze turned into a cough. By the time we got to Manchester, it wasn't terrible, but it was building up.  My lungs were starting to feel like they were filling up with mucous. Ugh!  The cough went on for....well, what day is it today? CAUSE I'M STILL COUGHING!! Alright, not like I was in the UK, but still.

Monday night, after dinner, we had to find some drugs.

But more about that later.

When I realized that we really were taking this trip, one of the first things I did was hop on to one of the Buffy-related message boards where I've been talking to some invisible UK friends for years. And years. And maybe even more years than that.  I was really hoping to be able to meet up with some of them and - YAY! - it happened. 

Ditto invited us to her home for tea and DeeDee was able to come up to Manchester to be there as well.  I'm not sure they even realized how exciting it was for me. 

The best part of a trip to a foreign country is really being able to interact with normal people in their own setting. And now I've made it sound like a visit to the zoo. But you know what I mean.  I got to see my friends, for the first time, and I got to be in their home. In their home! I mean, who does that, invites a complete stranger and her crazy husband over? My invisible internet friends are the very best ever. Clearly. 

We had a wonderful visit. Tilly is a hoot and she kept Jeff busy, so that was good, too.  We stayed so long, they were probably cursing us cause they wanted to have dinner and put Tilly to bed, but the British are so polite, you couldn't even tell.  

Love you guys!!!

So we did try to stop on the way back from Ditto's to get some drugs cause the wheeze was becoming an issue.  Our hotel was right next to this giant shopping center so it seemed like it would be no problem. We drove in to the Trafford Centre and thought we would go in for dinner and to find meds.  But the place was ginormous. We couldn't find the door. All we could find were dozens of roundabouts taking us to vast, full parking lots from which we could glimpse the tops of the buildings in the distance. But no doors.

Jeff was all for just parking and finding our way in. At that point I just wasn't feeling it.  No way I was going to hike three miles from the parking spot to the building to have to then wander around it aimlessly looking for a way in, not even knowing if where we ended up would put us anywhere near food and/or drugs.

So we went back to the hotel, ate there...the food was just so/so and I only had a - quite expensive - burger, so we may just have gone across the street to the Burger King or whatever...and then had to ask how to find a store where we could get medicine. They kept pointing us to the shopping mall. Um....NO!! Finally, a nice lady sent us just down the street (through maybe only six roundabouts) to the Asda. Basically, this is a Walmart. I mean, it actually says Walmart on it, but for some reason they call it an Asda. I have no idea.

I was able to purchase medicine, but not before having to explain all my symptoms to a pharmacist or clerk or something behind a counter, because they don't sell cold meds or cough syrup in the actual store. You have to get it from behind the counter. So strange.

We also bought a bunch of random cakes and goodies, cause it was my birthday, after all.

Coming up next....Hadrian's Wall

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The UK Trip...Shakespeare and Birthdays

In case you missed's Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

One thing I realized right away about actual England and my ideas about England is that I am a romantic.  Who knew?

For instance, in Bath I expected ladies with parasols and long sweeping Regency dresses (a la Jane Austen novels) to be walking down the streets on the way to the lending library or to take tea at the pavilion or even for Prinny, the Regent himself, to be holding court in the assembly rooms.  In Stratford, I was looking for gentlemen in Elizabethan dress with side swords who would bow and lay their cloaks over water puddles for me.  

It wasn't like that.  

We didn't even see one kilt in Scotland. 

Instead, there were Burger Kings and McDonalds and KFCs on the corners and lots of random nationalities wandering in large, chaotic groups, talking in foreign languages a mile a minute and bowling over anything in their path. Seriously. Of course, this is more London, but there were tourist groups pretty much everywhere.  The nerve. 

So we drove through the dark and the rain in traffic on the way to Stratford. Now Jeff knows how I feel when I have to drive at night.

We woke up in Stratford on January 13, my 50th birthday, and took a lovely walk along the Avon to see Shakespeare's grave in Holy Trinity Church.  

Then we strolled back through town, passing Hall's Croft (where his daughter Susannah and her husband Dr. John Hall lived), New Place (where Shakespeare and his family lived, which is basically just a garden on the corner now) and John Nash house (which is where his granddaughter and her husband lived).  We didn't go in any of them for several reasons.  

Mostly it was because of time. We needed to be in Manchester by tea time. Also, we didn't want to spend more money than was absolutely necessary and so we choose what we wanted most to do and that was to see the town and to visit the grave. The walk along the river was beautiful.

Oh...and a bird pooped in my hair. That's like a good luck thing somewhere, right?  Right??

But we did see the gardens and then drove past the birthplace - twice, cause we missed it - and Anne Hathaway's cottage, where we got a glimpse of the thatched roof among the scaffolding while rolling past. 

No matter what we heard about British food, everything we had was good. Of course, I had fish and chips several times, plus a lovely steak and onion pie.  Jeff was more adventurous; he had bangers and mash one night and even had haggis in Scotland.  He was really enjoying the sausages, especially in Stratford, where they had fresh local sausages from a butcher just across the street.

Breakfasts were a little strange. I mean baked beans and tomatoes sounds more like a picnic to me, plus I personally don't eat either one of those things. But I did fall in love with porridge and brown bread.  I've tried to re-create porridge several times since we've been back, but I can't quite get it right. 

I'm open to any and all suggestions.

My birthday continues with more invisible friends next.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The UK Trip...Doctor Who?

In case you missed's Part 1 and Part 2.

I keep trying to tell this story in a linear manner, but it's getting harder and harder to not wander off topic down quaint little alleyways of nothingness. I'm super good at that. 

Once in Cardiff, we drove around lost a while and accidentally found our way to the Doctor Who Experience.  

Oh, and it turns out that at some point, possibly when we missed the correct turn off into Cardiff off the M4, we got a speeding ticket.  So far we were only charged the £35 administrative fee from the car rental place.  Not excited about finding how much the actual ticket ends up being.  

I got the full swag at Doctor Who (stuff like a t-shirt, postcards, stickers - one is a sonic screwdriver! - and a certificate of completion), and we had a fun time, wandering around the museum area, taking lots of pictures and videos.  

Yeah, so that took a while.  

We had wanted to get to Stratford-Upon-Avon before dark, if possible.  Of course, it didn't happen, but because we wanted to pretend it might, we had to leave pretty much right after the Doctor Who Experience and so we didn't have time to really get to see Cardiff or tour the Castle. 

We probably wouldn't have been able to find a way in anyway.  

As it turned out, it got dark well before we got to Stratford and not only was it dark, it was raining.  Plus, there was a lot of traffic coming towards us on these little windy roads. 

I tried to make it fun by singing along (loudly) with the radio, but Jeff didn't appreciate that at all.  At all. 

Shakespeare's bones coming up next...