We’ve had two solid months of travelling to see friends, and other friends in town to visit. It’s been one of the best falls I can remember, and every day as I’m walking around I remember the little buddy I’m carrying with me all the time and I feel so, so happy.

Incidentally, that little buddy is a lady (buddette?)! No one was more surprised by this news than I was, having for years pictured myself surrounded by dudes. Girls kind of scare me, but also I have tons of beautiful handmade clothes from my grandmother, but then there’s the teenage years, but I had a rough time as an adolescent so I know I’ll be able to relate, and also…okay, I’m just gonna stop here. This could go on for a while.

Our friends Radka and Allan came to visit for a whole week, though with a brief getaway to Quadra Island. They have the cutest Wheaton Terrier named Boston (Allan’s a hardcore runner) and we got to dogsit while they were gone. It took all of my basic human decency not to steal him for myself. Luka was in heaven.

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Canadian Thanksgiving happened while they were here, and we decided to host this year. Probably because of that, our oven chose to break four days before we had to cook a 17-pound turkey, but thankfully between my research skillz and Mark’s amazing handiness, we bought a replacement part and fixed the problem. We had so much help — my mother-in-law brought about four dishes — and we used this foolproof turkey recipe. There’s a reason why it has so many 5-star reviews. I finished this Purl Bee quilted table runner right before Thanksgiving, and Mark had made a beautiful new top for our dining room table, so we had lots to show off.

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After our friends left, we took a quick trip down the Oregon Coast. We both wanted to have one last pre-baby vacation, and had at first considered using our Air Miles and flying to San Francisco or New York and just eating delicious foods, but decided instead to do something a little more spontaneous and easier to cancel in case of an emergency. We hopped in our sexy red minivan, and hit the road. First we made a pit stop at Trader Joe’s, the holy grail of grocery stores (at least to me). We had to pick up road snacks, you know.

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The coast was beautiful, but to be honest, not dissimilar to our own gorgeous coastline. We meandered for a few days, but after several small towns, realized we both wanted the same thing: to make our way home. Not gonna lie, missing Luka was a huge part of this.

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 We ended up in Portland for a day and half, and stayed in Nob Hill, right around the corner from my new favourite bakery, St. Honore. THAT PLACE WAS BONKERS. I have half a mind to drive back and/or move there for the kouign-amann alone. We ended up booting it home from Portland on Halloween day, and as we pulled into our driveway with our stinky, exhausted dog in the back of the van, I realized again how much I love where I live. Two years ago we were on the road trip, eating in crappy restaurants or cobbling together meals from the grocery store every night, sleeping in a van. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, but I’m also so grateful for where we are now.

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This blog has been light on crafts lately, mostly because I’ve been very very awful about adding things to my store. I am making things, just not really documenting them. I have several new products for the store next week, and of course I’m making special items for futurebaby. Here’s a sneak peek at something Mark and I have been dreaming about and working on for her room. Only 113 days to go, but right now that seems like forever.

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We’re back from 17 days in Ireland, and I don’t really know where to begin. This trip was wonderful on so many levels, and I’m still feeling the effects of it, four days after returning. I suspect I will be for a long time.

We started out with a few days in Dublin, then picked up our rental car from an extremely irritable guy who I bluntly told, “You seem really grouchy!” Poor Mark had to do all the driving because I am apparently incapable of driving a stick shift, having tried to learn in Heidi and Alex’s car, during an evening that ended with a trip to the mechanic, and a thousand spluttered apologies.

Before we left, I had really wanted to book all of our places ahead of time. This is due to many factors, but mostly my paranoia about not having a place to stay and also maybe I’m a bit of a control freak? Mark gently persuaded me that it would be better to just get there and go with the flow. I am so, so glad we did this. It meant that we had the freedom to listen to people’s recommendations, and to go anywhere on a whim. We had our GPS, Scout. We had a car to sleep in in the extremely unlikely event that we couldn’t find a bed for the night. We had the small log of sweet Irish butter I insisted on carting around. We were fine.

Galway was definitely my favourite larger town. I had “Fairytale of New York” in my head for two days straight (I wanted this to be the first song we danced to at our wedding but was roundly vetoed by Mark, who insisted that the lyric “you’re an old slut on junk” was not terribly romantic BUT I BEG TO DIFFER). Magic happened in Galway, but we’ll get to that later. The second night we were there, we found a pub having a trad session, grabbed ourselves a couple of pints of Guiness, and soaked it in. We met a very sweet local couple who gave us a bunch of ideas for our trip. The husband asked us, “So, what part of America are you from?” and after telling them we were Canadian, Mark shot back, “I don’t know, what part of England are you from?” They were pretty amused. Also that night: Mark tried some Bushmills 16-year-old whiskey and looked as happy as I’d ever seen him.

We sort of followed the coast, meandering and stopping to take pictures of the stunning views. It was slightly overcast and there were a couple of times it absolutely poured, but that was okay. I kind of liked it.

We took a daytrip to Inisheer, one of the Aran Islands. The water was so rough that people were throwing up left, right and centre. It was worth the horrendous boat trip, though. The island is only about 12 km in circumference, only 300 people live there, and we pretty much walked around all of it.

Towards the end of the day, we got absolutely pelted with rain and wind. Using the flimsy umbrellas we had brought was futile, so we didn’t even bother, and by the time we stumbled into the local pub, we were completely soaked through. We still had a couple of hours to go before the ferry would come for us, so we ordered some food and drinks, and sat at a table, playing crib and drying off. A group of three very drunk Irish fishermen joined us and it was one of the best afternoons in recent history, resulting in my new favourite phrase (said in a drunken Irish accent): “Aye, Ronan, you’re a failure of a man.”

The Dingle Peninsula was as stunning as everyone had said it would be. At one point we pulled over, climbed up a giant hill, and had a 360-degree view of the water all around us.

We pulled off a hat trick and made it to all three Murphys Ice Cream locations. I am not really an ice cream person — I would take a warm dessert over a cold one any day — but this stuff pretty much blew my mind. Mark kept laughing at the expression on my face the first time I tried it, because I looked so distraught and happy. I got the sea salt flavour every single time and switched up my other scoop. Caramelized brown bread was stunning. I would go back for this ice cream. Mark left this note at the Dublin location:

We found an old deserted castle on the side of the road and snuck inside. For goody two-shoes, rule-abiding Canadians like us, this was very exciting.

I could say so much more, but I don’t really need to. I was in a really anxious, sad state before leaving, and I came back a different person. I know it’s not as easy as saying that Ireland helped me feel better, but what if it is?

(P.S. After repeatedly trying to persuade Mark to buy a bottle of that 16-year-old Bushmills in Ireland, he finally broke down and purchased it…in the Calgary airport.)

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Portland, I love you. I love your adorable half-size city blocks and your fancy drinking fountains at every street corner. I love your Saturday Market with personalized garden gnomes and too many jewelry booths to count. I love your book store, the best one in the world, I think. Most of all, I love your abundance of delicious restaurants and incredible breweries.

We did Portland up right, but I have no pictures to show you because I’m usually super embarrassed about taking photos at restaurants. Instead I offer up a very specific list of things we tried, because I’m a nerd and want to remember this for later.

Pok Pok: I was almost scared to go here because I didn’t want it to disappoint…but it really, really didn’t. Chicken wings were the absolute highlight, of course. I looked like an absolute savage idiot while eating them, but I cared not a whit. They were phenomenal in every way — crispy, sticky, spicy, tender. I feel like an asshole when I try to describe food but holy crap, they were ridiculous. They knocked Phnom Penh right off my carefully plotted chicken wing chart. The other stuff we ordered was good, but next time I would just get two orders of the chicken wings and not have to share with Mark.

Pine State Biscuits: We had this incredible day that started at Pine State Biscuits and ended at Kenny and Zuke’s, with three stops in the middle. It was pretty phenomenal. Believe the hype about this place. It really doesn’t matter what you order as long as it involves fried chicken and a biscuit in some capacity.

Salt & Straw: Directly across from Pine State Biscuits is Salt & Straw. Did my huge biscuity breakfast mean I couldn’t have breakfast dessert? I am insulted that you would even insinuate that, fake invisible reader. Deeply insulted. To be completely honest, I couldn’t even finish half of the single scoop I ordered (and Mark didn’t help at all because he had ordered bacon and cheese on top his fried chicken biscuit and therefore was out of commission for like three hours, which sucked but also gave me the golden opportunity to say, “I told you so”), but that coffee and bourbon ice cream was incredible. I also had a sample of their pad thai iced tea flavour, which sounds absolutely bonkers, but was subtle and so refreshing, and laced with sweetened condensed milk. Yum.

-Then we ate some apple pie at Random Order which was delicious and used an all-butter crust (something I am picky and bossy about) and involved vanilla and salted caramel. I would have enjoyed it more had I not been so full (see: previous two bullet points).

-Drinkwise, we had a lot of great cocktails, but my hands-down favourite was at Teardrop Lounge, a place we were quite obviously not cool/well-dressed enough for, but whatever. I’m really a cocktail novice, and thought about asking the bartender to make me a surprise drink, but then I spotted the Salt-n-Pepa on the menu: chili-infused aquavit, tequila, lime, agave nectar, and fennel salt. I’ve never had a drink like it — it was spicy, but also super smooth, and the fennel salt was so good I would put it on pretty much anything. Shoop shoop.

-I think Mark’s favourite place in PDX is Bailey’s Taproom, a small bar that has 20 rotating taps and serves no other type of alcohol or food. There’s an adorable bartender who looks just like Seth Rogen, and there’s so much thought put into the draught list. It’s the kind of place where you can order pretty much anything at random and it’ll definitely be the best beer ever.

-I could totally keep going, but I have to mention my personal favourite meal, at Grüner. We sat at the bar and had fantastic cocktails, and then shared a plate of malfatti — ricotta and nettle dumplings that were so ethereal and light that they pretty much melted in your mouth. I could have stopped there and been totally satisfied, but we also ordered their famous burger, which was exactly as good as I’d anticipated, and we also ordered a kale salad. That sounds super boring, and when Mark pointed it out, I was like, “Hell no! I don’t have time for salads!” but the bartender recommended it as well, and it turned out to be one of my favourite dishes from the trip. It was composed of ribboned kale with farro, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, asiago and this perfectly creamy lemon-thyme dressing. It was so springy and nutty and fresh and utterly delicious. Of all the foods we ate on our brief trip, this is the one I wanted to replicate the most, and after a bit of snooping around the Internet, found this recipe, which is based on a Grüner salad, though a slight variation of one, I think. I made it last night for some girlfriends (a totally cliché lady dinner party that involved SO MUCH baby talk and also eating chocolate cake straight from the platter before dinner was served) and though it wasn’t quite spot-on, it was pretty damn good. I added a couple tablespoons of sour cream to the dressing, since I remember the Grüner one being quite creamy. This is a perfect spring salad! Make and eat.

All that food and booze was great, but coming home was the best. We picked up our sweet dog from the kennel, and resumed real life. Real, mundane, utterly fantastic life. With a dog in a hoodie.

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I LIVED!!!! To celebrate, here is a GIGANTIC picture of me shortly before my rarely-discussed first wedding. It was the ’80s, so I was wearing a lot of eye makeup.

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I have turned the corner on my terrible case of consumption, though not before having a full on breakdown in the car and sobbing to Mark about how, and I quote myself directly here, “I’m just SO NICE!”. He was pretty good about it, but later that evening very gently said, “I really hope you get better soon”, and I know it wasn’t because he was worried about my cough.

Ahem. Anyway, things are looking up! It’s supposed to be 22 degrees here on Easter Sunday, and I am once again reminded of why I moved away from horrible snowy Calgary to this hippie paradise.

We did make it over to Vancouver. We had originally wanted to go to Vij’s (I’ve been wanting to for years because LAMB POPSICLES), but I refused to go when I couldn’t taste properly. Instead we did a lot of beer drinking, mostly at the fantastic Alibi Room, where we went two days in a row for their stellar beer selection and ridiculously good chicken wings. I also had a flight of whiskey at The Irish Heather, because we’re going to Ireland in June and, like any possible future librarian, I take research very seriously.

The highlight of the trip was seeing the amazing Josh Ritter. This is now the fifth time I’ve seen him live, and he just gets better and better. I love this dude so much that it’s slightly obscene. I once wrote him an absolutely wacko letter and sent him a really ugly green scarf, and he was nothing but gracious in return. Also, the second Christmas we were dating, I told Mark that what I really wanted was a pocket-sized Josh Ritter I could carry around in my pocket. I sent him this incredible picture to illustrate what I meant:

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When we exchanged gifts, he gave me a stainless steel flask engraved with the classic phrase, “I’ve made a huge mistake”, and this adorable 5-inch-tall figurine. I pretty much had to marry him after that.

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Anyway, Mr. Ritter was his usual joyful self. If you’ve seen him perform, you’ll know what I mean when I say that his smile could power a train. He is so unabashedly grateful and happy about what he gets to do for a living, and it’s basically the most endearing thing to see. Aside from this, obviously:

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We also made it to Finch’s, the most adorable little coffee shop. Its tweeness can be a bit suffocating at times, and it’s run by a bunch of hipsters, so it’s not the most efficient place (they forgot my second boiled egg not once but twice!), but the masala chai is amazing (and I’ve had my fair share of chai since I receive at least one or two packets of tea as gifts each year for some reason, and also I’ve had it on the roadside in India), and no one can more artfully arrange an avocado. NO ONE, I say.

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After Vancouver, I took a very short road trip to Seattle with my best friend and a car full of bridesmaids, where we hit up bridal stores, ate a lot of serious pie, and I accidentally bought an $8 chocolate bar filled with crumbled potato chips. Totally worth it, obviously.

Back to reality now and that includes a bunch of recipes I want to share, and also a free embroidery pattern coming soon! Here are a couple more pictures of my buddy for you (no judgment on the bra picture, he was feeling self conscious about lack of exercise).

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