Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Foodie Penpals Reveal!

It's that time again!  Time for my Foodie Penpal Reveal!

This month I switched it up and participated in the European Foodie Penpal swap where I was paired with Miriam, a London based food writer who blogs over at She was very friendly in our emails and I loved the package I got from her. check out the fun British stuff she sent me and her adorable card (complete with illustrations!)

So what was in the box? First off she sent some Oat Crunch Crackers from Harrods along with some Cardamom pods (a spice I've been wanting to try but haven't been able to find!)

Next up was some of Colman's English mustard and some tasty black currant jam (which we've been enjoying on scones and toast!). She also sent some toffee, which was very good but very sticky (she warned me!)

And isn't her note adorable?

Yet another awesome Foodie Penpal Experience :) Thanks again, Miriam!!

If you're interested in taking part next month, click the link below! :)

Our Civil Ceremony in LA Part 1: Engagement Rings and Lots of Paperwork

We're almost at the first anniversary for our wedding celebration, so I figured it's about time for a wedding recap, right? We're going to start with our civil ceremony in LA and then go on to the wedding celebration we had in Savannah a few months later with all of our friends and family. Ready set go!

Three months after meeting each other, Fionn and I knew we wanted to get married (yes, that fast!). The problem was, he had to stay in Germany for a few more years and my job in Germany was nearly finished, along with my work visa, and I had a one way ticket back to the USA. So we started brainstorming. Get married in Denmark? Wait til he came back to America? Try to find a job nearby so I could join him in Germany?

Whenever we brainstormed, we came back to the same conclusion. We wanted to get married. Not so we could live together, not to fix visa issues, not so dealing with the army would be easier, but because we knew that we were done searching for "that" person. We wanted to marry each other, so we started trying to figure out the HOW.

I really wanted to get married in my hometown in Georgia. Fionn was on board with this, but his work schedule was impossible to plan around. He couldn't give me an exact date (or even a general date) so we could start planning the wedding, and since we had guests coming from all over the US and Europe, this was a pretty big problem.

Finally, he suggested we do what a lot of his friends had done-get married at the courthouse, then have a big party later. It was a little weird, admittedly, but it worked for us. So, that's what we did (and as I found out later, what most of my military friends did too).

So, when my job ended in Germany I went back to America to finish my last semester of college, and in December Fionn flew to the US to watch my college graduation and to spend Christmas with my family.

Fionn trying to get in good with ALL of my family ;)

After a lovely Christmas, we hopped a plane to California to meet Fionn's parents and get hitched!
Fionn's parents were so wonderful to us-I really couldn't ask for better in laws. Not only that, but Fionn's mother took care of so many details-organizing the officiant, the rings, the photographer, hair and makeup, and the flowers. She did so much more than I ever expected, and our civil ceremony was wonderful because of it.

When we arrived in LA, they surprised us with a second Christmas, which was really nice. We were pretty tired from the jetlag, but Fionn insisted we go for a walk so we could watch the sunset (which I was not too keen on)...

After climbing to the top of a verrrrrrrry large hill, Fionn asked if I wanted to take some pictures of the sunset. When I turned around from snapping pictures he was down on one knee with a ring in hand. I was ecstatic and of course said yes (even though I'd already said yes before!). Even though we'd gotten engaged months before, the ring was in California the whole time. When another couple offered to take our picture afterwards, it was a little funny to respond, "Yeah, we're getting married in two days!" :)

So now that is was REALLY official (I mean, come on, he put a ring on it!), it was time to seal the deal.

Getting our marriage license...

Step One of Operation Almost Married Complete

A jaunt around Beverly Hills was in order..

Smooch on Rodeo Drive...

The day before the wedding, we all went down to the Flower Market in LA to buy wholesale flowers. Fionn's mom and I ran around trying to pick flowers, decide on colors, find certain was a lot of work! We finally decided on orange-red roses, tulips, and paperwhites, and my mother in law worked tirelessly that night and the next day to make my bouquet, the boutonnieres, and the corsage.

I gotta say, having an artist who also worked in a floral shop in high school for a mother in law is pretty awesome!

The rest of the day was spent running errands, getting blow outs and manicures, and other last minute wedding prep...

And then...the big day was finally here.

Continue to Part 2!

Friday, June 28, 2013

High Tea in Edinburgh

I am a huge tea lover. I drink multiple cups of tea a day and almost always stop to have tea and sweet around 4 pm. So when Fionn suggested Edinburgh for a weekend trip I immediately thought of one thing.

Afternoon High Tea!

The tea! The sandwiches and scones and sweets! The pomp and circumstance! We had to go to high tea.

Luckily I married someone who's always up for an adventure and likes to make me happy. So on our last day in Edinburgh, high tea was had.

There were so many places to choose from, but we were really happy with our choice, Eteaket. Everything was delicious and it was affordable without being skimpy. 

Plus, isn't the outside just adorable?

We chose a plain English breakfast tea for our teatime. They had a million choices, but sometimes the old standby is the best. Don't you just love the mismatched plates and the hourglass to time your tea steeping?

Finally, our tea goodies arrived. We chose chicken and pesto and cranberry and brie for a our sandwich choices. We also got two perfectly soft scones with homemade raspberry preserves and Devonshire clotted cream, and an assortment of sweets-brownies, chocolate oat cakes, and shortbread millionaires.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Fionn loves clotted cream and scones, so he was very happy!

As for me, well, I love everything about this, so I was VERY happy :)

Despite our best efforts, our tea was too much for us, so they kindly boxed it up for later. The only thing better than having tasty high tea in Edinburgh is cheering yourself up hours later with a tasty treat as your flight leaves for Munich. Softens the blow a little bit.

Jealously guarding my treats...

So obviously high tea was a major success. I am SO ready to go back to Scotland!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Weekend in Scotland: Climbing Arthur's Seat

The day before our trip a friend of mine suggested we add climbing Arthur's Seat to our Edinburgh to do list. She said it had been one of her favorite parts of the trip, so I happily suggested it to Fionn and we decided to tackle it on our last day in the city.

Arthur's Seat is what remains of an extinct volcano and is essentially a mini mountain. It's big. It's craggy. I was more than a little intimidated when I saw it up close.

I should also point out that I am, admittedly, totally out of shape. I suck at sports, I can't run, I'm not sporty by any stretch of the imagination. My friend who suggested it is a former cop turned personal trainer. So...there's that :)

Fionn, who is in very good shape, took one look and announced we could climb it in 30 minutes. I wasn't so sure, but I really did want to climb it, so up we started!

Full disclosure: I am a terrible mountain climber. Fionn was way ahead of me while I gasped for air and tried to push myself forward. Man I am out of shape!

Luckily for me, Fionn was encouraging but also wouldn't let me quit. He didn't harass me or try to leave me in the dust, he just gave me an encouraging word and waited for me to catch up, which I eventually did.

Halfway there

Finally, we made it! It took us a little over 30 minutes, so Fionn was right. He was also right about the view, it made the climb worth it!

Fionn, barely breaking a sweat

Wild Mountain Thyme and bloomin' heather, just like the song :)

Channeling my inner prickly thistle

After climbing back down (which took way less time) we happened upon a diner and had a big Scottish breakfast. Oh, how we've missed diner food!

My reward :)

I guess I'm getting the hang of this outdoorsy thing!

How about you? Will you be adding climbing adventures to your itenerary? :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Weekend in Scotland: The Highlands and Loch Lomond

My mom's family is all Scottish or Irish. My brother and I grew up listening to Irish music, playing Irish music, going to Irish festivals and sitting in on sessions-it was a huge part of my life and still is. I knew I had Scottish ancestors, but I didn't know much about it beyond a few Scottish tunes and going to the odd Scottish festival. I liked Scottish culture and history, I just wasn't as entrenched in it the way I am with my Irish roots. Visiting Scotland was a really cool experience because it made me feel like this other part of my heritage was suddenly all the more real to me.

Before our trip I researched where my ancestors had traditionally come from, which turned out to be the area around Loch Lomond. I booked a day trip though Highland Experience that would take us to Loch Lomond and the surrounding area plus all the way to the west coast since Fionn was really interested in seeing the Highlands.

While Fionn doesn't officially claim any Celtic ancestry, I'm pretty sure he has some. We even found a clan tartan with his surname on it! I'm working on bringing him into the fold-by the time we have kids he needs to be able to handle me dragging them to Irish festivals and teaching them "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Johnny and Molly" as their first songs... ;)

Anyway, Sunday we were up bright and early to start our adventure into the Scottish Highlands. After a quick drive through Glasgow, we made our first stop-Loch Lomond!

It was fiercely windy and threatening rain, but we took our chances and took a short walk along the yon bonnie banks and braes, even meeting a few ducks along the way. The surrounding mountains  were so impressive, we were disappointed we didn't get to see all their colors in the sun!

So this is where my people come from, eh? I can deal with that view...

From there we continued to the seaside town of Oban, where the seafood is super fresh and the wind threatens to blow you over the first chance it gets!

Oban has its roots as a Victorian seaside tourist town, so the buildings look newer than other villages we passed (and by new I mean less than 200 years old...)

We stopped for lunch at a local seafood restaurant where they listed each seafood item, the local fisherman who catches it, and where they caught it. Pretty cool, right?

I decided to face my fears and order the seafood platter, refusing to let my seafood poisoning nightmare in Barcelona last year ruin any tasty opportunities.

Don't worry, no one got sick this time! :)

After lunch Fionn and I explored Oban. We gave into temptation and tried the amazing caramel-chocolate-shortbread treat we'd seen in all the bakeries in Scotland. It was SO good!

From there we walked around a bit more and stopped into another Scottish military history museum where we met a very friendly old veteran who'd once trained in Germany. He was full of funny stories, but we had to continue on!

Next stop was St. Conan's Kirk, an old church perched right on the edge of Loch Awe. It was beautiful. Can you imagine getting married there?

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Bunnies for rain gutters!

From there we stopped for some views of castle ruins...

Then we moved onto the town of Inveraray, a town in Argyll on the shores of Loch Fyne. It had a nice castle, but we decided to see the town instead. Our guide described it as a "very Presbyterian town" with only black and white buildings. Having grown up Presbyterian, I got a laugh out of that one ;)

Inveraray Castle

Proper Presbyterian streets

We stopped there for some tea and scones and got to listen to an impromptu pipe band performance (there was a bagpipe and drums competition going on that day) before heading to our final stop, way up into the Highlands.

I look like my mom here!

The Thistle, the symbol of Scotland

It was crazy windy up there, but it was incredible. The soaring mountains, the wind, the dramatic sky-it was everything you imagine the Highlands being, and it was incredible imagining the kind of people tough enough to make a life there. Probably the kind who decided to up and move to the rough Appalachian Mountains and make a life in the new world. Hmmm... :)

That was the end of our highland tour! We got back late but happy. What a great day :)

Oh, I nearly forgot! We saw the Elephant House on the way back to our hostel. For Potter fans out there, this is where J.K. Rowling did some of the early writings for Harry Potter! :)

More Scotland adventure updates to come!