Catching Up

Wow, my last post was March 15th. I’m doing an excellent job with this, aren’t I?

I have no excuses for my absence other than that I just haven’t felt like blogging lately. But, today, I do. Let’s just go with it.

I really want to write about a bunch of fun things that we’ve done in Austin this summer- we’ve been knocking things off my bucket list left and right- but it doesn’t feel right to jump into that without addressing the gap of time between March and August. So, I’m going to speed through that chunk with a quick recap today, moving on to more recent fun the next time I feel motivated to write. Cool? Cool.

Here are my top two favorite memories from each of the past five months:

MARCH

GRRM event

Meeting GRRM. Are there any Game of Thrones fans out there who will geek out with me about this? For Christmas this year, I gave Stephen tickets to a private dinner and tour of A&M’s Game of Thrones exhibit in the Special Collections Library. George R. R. Martin attended too! We’d been looking forward to this night for MONTHS, and it did not disappoint.

Cookies from Make It Sweet

Easter cookie-decorating class at Make It Sweet. My friend Claire nabbed a Groupon deal and invited me to join her. We had an awesome time and learned a ton of easy decorating techniques. I’m glad we were able to take our creations home, because there’s no way I’m ever baking and decorating sugar cookies in my own kitchen, on my own time. Fun, but WAY too time-intensive for this Crock-Pot cook.

APRIL

sunset at the Oasis

Mini college reunion in Austin. The six of my closest friends from college are spread across the country (and Brazil), and this was the first time we’ve all been in the same city since graduation four years ago. We had drinks at the Oasis, rode a mechanical bull on 6th Street, hiked and swam at Reimer’s Ranch and Hamilton Pool, and cried our eyes out when the weekend came to an end.

Dave and Kristy

Oh! And my brother proposed to his girlfriend- my soon-to-be-sister- Kristy this same weekend!

Avon Walk 2013

2013 Houston Avon Walk. For the third year in a row, my aunt Nancy and I walked 40 miles through Houston to raise money for breast cancer. I look forward to this weekend with her all year long. It’s a really special event, made even more special by the help and encouragement of my uncles, my cousin and Stephen.

MAY

Getting Ready

Sasha’s bachelorette party. One of my closest friends from high school got married this summer, and she picked Austin as the destination for her bachelorette party. I was so excited to show the ladies around my favorite city! We celebrated with champagne and silly games, a sunset at the Oasis, SUP on the river, lunch at Whole Foods flagship, and a night out on 6th Street.

Bryce Canyon

Hiking and camping in Bryce Canyon and Zion. I’ve been dying to see Utah’s national parks for years now, and Memorial Day provided the perfect timing for a visit. My friend Tracy (see college reunion above), her boyfriend Stefan, Stephen and I met up in Vegas and drove out to Bryce Canyon and Zion for five days of scenic hiking and back-country camping. This trip really deserves like three blog posts of its own; hopefully I find the motivation to write more about it soon.

JUNE

Girls_Sasha_Wedding

Sasha’s wedding. The same lady who rode a mechanical bull in a tiara in May became a wife in Williamsburg, Virginia less than a month later. Everything about her wedding was beautiful, from the bride herself to her husband’s grandmother’s touching reading from the Velveteen Rabbit. Tears. Everywhere.

Visiting family in Virginia. Stephen and I normally come home to Virginia for two long visits twice a year. We both work remotely, so it’s really easy to pack up our work laptops and log in from whichever city we’re living in that day. With Sasha’s wedding on the calendar, it made sense to extend our trip to include a few weeks with family. Stephen’s mom, dad, and my parents all live within three miles of each other. We’re so lucky!

JULY

Cedar Creek Lake

4th of July at the Reisers’ lake house. The Reisers own two incredible homes on Cedar Creek Lake outside of Dallas. Carrie invited Stephen and I to join for the 4th of July, and we spent the long weekend tubing, swimming, playing board games and eating delicious food. Their lake house is seriously my happy place.

Probus Family Maine

Matt and Whitney’s wedding in Maine. Stephen’s cousin Matt and his beautiful girlfriend (now wife!) Whitney planned an intimate wedding in Camden, Maine a few weeks ago. We were SO excited to attend. The wedding was on a Monday, so we had several days beforehand to explore the area. We hiked in Acadia, explored downtown Portland, and soaked in as much family time as possible.

So, that’s the scoop! Hopefully I’ll be back again soon to chat about Austin fun!

 

Monday Memory: Mt. Croagh Patrick

In May of this year, Stephen and I crossed a big item off our bucket list and traveled to Ireland. My mother’s side of the family is Irish, so I’ve long been curious about the country. We rented a car in Dublin and completed a big counterclockwise loop, exploring castles, eating lamb stew and taking hundreds of photos along the way. It was every bit as beautiful as we expected it to be.

Ring of Dingle Ireland

Our vacationing style is pretty intense; we’re the sort of people that wake up early and go to bed late, cramming as many sights as we can into each day. Over the course of eight days in Ireland, we saw a TON… enough to inspire Monday Memory posts from now until 2015. Before the details start to fade in my mind, I wanted to be sure to recap one of my favorite memories from the trip: our hike up Mt. Croagh Patrick.

Mt. Croagh Patrick County Mayo Ireland

Next to rock-climbing, hiking is our favorite activity to do together as a couple, so we made a point to research popular treks and schedule them into our trip. Mt. Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, nicknamed the Reek, is well-known in Ireland as the site where Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days and banished snakes from the country. Every year on “Reek Sunday”, the last Sunday in July, over 15,000 people climb the hill in a group pilgrimage.

Wanting to beat the crowds, we left our hostel in Westport early in the morning and arrived at the base of the hill around 8:30. I think we were maybe the second car in the lot that morning.

Croagh Patrick car lot

Our guidebook made the climb sound like no big thing, so we left snacks and water in the car, assuming we’d be back within an hour. I even remember thinking I would just pay for 1 hour of time in the car lot before (thankfully) dropping some extra Euros in at the last minute.

Warning at Mt. Croagh Patrick

The owner of the hostel in Westport had told us the night before that we shouldn’t climb if the morning brought thick fog. Well, of course it was foggy, and of course we didn’t listen to her. We’re not in Ireland often!

It was so foggy in fact, that you could only see about a third of the mountain from the car lot. Of course we didn’t realize that at the time. We (wrongly) assumed the summit was just above the fog line.

climbing Croagh Patrick

This photo makes me laugh, because we totally didn’t know what we were getting into. Before we crossed the fog line, we snapped some great pictures looking back out to the water.

Croagh Patrick view

Croagh Patrick view

Croagh Patrick view

Into the fog we went…

foggy Croagh Patrick

Foggy Croagh Patrick

Shortly after the fog line, the terrain started to level out, so we thought we must be getting close to the top. Nope.

Turns out, the trail leads you up a smaller hill and across a ridge before you even begin to tackle the climb to the summit. We had only reached the ridge; we probably weren’t even at the halfway point yet. Of course, with the fog so thick, we still had absolutely no clue how much further we had to go. You couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of you.

foggy Croagh Patrick

Good thing we were in high spirits that morning!

Bathroom on Croagh Patrick

We found some neat things along the ridge, namely this awesome toilet.

toilet on Croagh Patrick

I mean, that’s pretty cool, right? Not exactly warm and welcoming (considering how frickin cold and wet it was that morning), but certainly deserving of a picture.

stone message on croagh patrick

We also had fun trying to decipher the messages people had laid out in stone. I was certain this one read “wanderer” at the time… not so sure about that now.

wanderer croagh patrick

foggy Croagh Patrick

Not too long after the toilet station, we reached the first of three pilgrimage stations on the way to the summit.

Croagh Patrick pilgrimage

Croagh Patrick

The first station, Leacht Benáin, instructs pilgrims to walk seven times around the mound of stones while saying seven Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys and one Creed.

From this point on, the trail was nothing but a steep slope of loose scree, all the way to the summit. It was definitely challenging. Plus, the fog was still thick as soup, so there was no rewarding view of the summit in the distance to motivate us forward. I was leading at this point, and I felt bad every time Stephen yelled up to me, “Do you see anything??”, because I never had a helpful answer to offer.

Tired on Croagh Patrick

This is the only picture I snapped between the first pilgrimage station and the top. I remember Stephen saying, “I guess Saint Patrick has never heard of a switchback”.

Finally, we reached the top. And just in time too, it started to rain almost immediately.

church at the top of Croagh Patrick

There is a small chapel at the summit, where mass is celebrated on Reek Sunday and August 15th (Feast of the Assumption). Here’s what it looks like on a clear day:

croaghpatrickchapelview

(source)

Incredible difference, right?!

St. Patrick's bed

Stephen in fog Croagh Patrick

We didn’t stay at the top for long- both of us were soaked and freezing cold at this point- but we managed to take a few pictures of Saint Patrick’s bed and the second pilgrimage station.

St. Patrick's Bed

pilgrimage station croagh patrick

On our way back down, we finally started to see more tourists. Everyone seemed as discouraged by the fog as we were, so it was nice to be able to say that the summit was just X meters away, even if you couldn’t see it.

backside of croagh patrick

And then, just before we reached the ridge, the wind picked up and cleared some of the fog for us!

backside of croagh patrick

croagh patrick

croagh patrick

croagh patrick

croagh patrick

Not the best pictures, for sure, but at least we could see more than fog!

croagh patrick

Before we knew it, we were back at the car lot. We practically jogged the lower portion of the trail we were so ready for lunch and water. I think from start to finish, the climb took us between 3 and 4 hours. I’m so glad we didn’t get a ticket for short-changing the parking meter!

wet hiker croagh patrick

From head to toe, this was the one dry inch on me.

pub at croagh patrick

pub at croagh patrick

Thankfully we didn’t have to look far for lunch; we found a cute pub just down the street. Fried fish and a warm fire cures all.

fish and chips in ireland

Though it sort of sounds like a miserable hike, we really had so much fun on Croagh Patrick. It was one of our favorite adventures of the trip, and the fog and our lack of preparedness just makes for a better story.