The Real Harry Potter World {Edinburgh, Scotland}

You guys rock.

Thank you so much for all your support and input on last week’s post ♥︎ Having a loving community is a gift that fights half the battle.

But it’s been a good while since we’ve caught up! The highlights of this past week include:

1) Celebrating two birthdays of people in my study abroad program. Last week was one with an ice cream sundae party. I brought the peanut butter (and original) Oreos, naturally.

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On that note, I’ve been eating a lot more chocolates than usual here in Ireland. I say I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but Cadbury has a way of making me [literally] eat my words.

Last night, a few of us went out to dinner for another birthday at an Italian restaurant. I got the linguine with meatballs in a tomato basil sauce. Mm.

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Happy birthday to the awesome ladies!

2) Finishing our last final on Friday. Oyyy that was a cram exam, but I think we all did well. Our professor went pretty easy on us, thankfully.

3) Visiting Edinburgh, Scotland!

Megan, Cristen and I packed our knapsacks and set off for Scotland on Friday evening. We started with a 20-piece chicken nugget order from Burger King to share at Dublin Airport for “dinner” first. Twenty pieces for only 5 quid! This is why fast food is a problem.

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But I had not eaten meat this processed and non-filling in so long, and I LOVED IT.

We had just an hour-long flight before we landed in Glasgow. Flights were oodles cheaper into Glasgow than into Edinburgh, but we still had to pay a little over £16 and 2 hours to get to Edinburgh from Glasgow. You could argue that “time is money,” but even the return flight times from Edinburgh weren’t great on Sunday, so I think we ultimately made the right decision.

(Plus, I had more time to read Harry Potter.)

A trip isn’t a trip for Megan and me until we run into some public transportation issue the night we arrive at our destination city. This time wasn’t so bad, but we took the last local bus in the wrong direction, so it took us probably 45 minutes more than it should have as we had to wait for the bus to turn back around.

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adventures with the front pack return

At least Cristen was still smiling. Megan on the other hand was crying and drying her tears with [clean] cat socks.

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she’s actually only crying because something was in her eye

The bus driver was very kind though, and he let us camp out on the bus for the whole round trip.

We finally arrived at our Airbnb pretty late at night, but all things cheered up (for Megan at least) when we discovered that the hosts had a nice cat.

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She was living her BEST. LIFE. I’ve never seen Megan come alive like this.

Sleep was short that night because we had to be up early for our day tour of the Highlands! The days are so short here too. The sun rises at 8:30 am and sets at 3:30 pm, so we entered and returned to Edinburgh city centre in the dark on Saturday.

This awesome breakfast spread from our Airbnb host put a little pep into our morning though.

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We took the Highland Experience Tour, which took us to Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Inverness, and the Cairngorm Mountains. It usually does the route the other way around, but since daylight was limited, they started with Glen Coe and and ended with Cairngorm Mountains, which we thought was wise.

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allllll the haggis at one of our short pit stops

After a couple hours of snoozing and listening to our Scottish tour guide, we arrived at Glen Coe.

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“Three Sisters – Faith, Hope, and Charity”

The history of these places is fascinating (even though I was a sleep/daydreaming for half of it, the parts I caught were cool)!

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our tour guide, Stuart, with everything Scottish you could ever imagine

Ben Nevis as the sun went down:

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Commando Memorial

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I’m gonna miss all the sheep in Ireland 😦

We had our longest stop at Loch Ness, so we grabbed some lunch.

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chicken, mozzarella, pesto sandwich

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very sub-par carrot cake, but it was still carrot cake!

Then we went in search for the Loch Ness monster (aka Nessie).

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idk why I made myself so vulnerable to Nessie here

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There were some trails we hiked up that may have led to lookout points of the lake. We started on them but didn’t have time to finish them, but it was still SO nice to move the legs after sitting on the bus all day.

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Thereafter, the sky darkened quite quickly, so here was my last photo of the trip — Inverness, the capital of the Highlands.

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the RIVER Ness

It was kind of humorous coming back to Edinburgh, because although it was pitch black outside by 5 pm, Stuart kept saying things like, “If you look out to your right, you’ll see ___. It’s a little hard to find it in the dark.”

Poor guy was probably just obligated to say those things, because there was no chance we could see anything at that point.

We arrived back to Edinburgh at around 7:30 pm, so we searched around for a restaurant (NOT a pub) for a while before choosing Mum’s, a cozy British comfort food restaurant.

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We needed to go to a British/Scottish restaurant because Cristen and I were dead set on trying haggis. If you don’t know what haggis is, read here (unless you’re extremely queasy with weird foods).

Mum’s fortunately had an appetizer portion of “haggis, neeps, and tatties” (aka haggis, parsnips, and potatoes), so we all shared that.

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it also came with gravy on the side

It’s not bad at all! I like it, but I don’t love it. I would eat it, but I wouldn’t order it. It tastes like pate + shepherd’s pie. That doesn’t sound like the worst thing, right?

My main course blew the haggis out of Loch Ness the water though. I got the venison and redcurrant pie with veggies and chips, and it was everything I had been wanting in my 3.5 months in Ireland/the UK.

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I didn’t think I would be able to finish the pie, but I totally did. The puffy crust was absolutely perfect, and the stew underneath was savory and seasoned just right.

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Mmmm the wannabe-British-speaking part of me was comforted for sure (p.s. I have no idea how to speak in a Scottish or Irish accent still).

Cristen also ordered a glass of rosé for us all to share at the end. I had one sip. Not my jam.

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We finished our night with a short stroll around city centre and the Christmas market right before it closed.

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We knew we had to come back to see it in full the next day!

Sunday morning, we got up fairly early again to go to Mass in city centre at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Then we met up with my friend Mayu and her roommate, who are both studying abroad in Edinburgh. Mayu and I know each other from high school and haven’t seen each other since graduation!

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We met up at a cute French cafe called La Barantine Victoria, where I had vegetable quiche and peppermint hot chocolate.

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It was so good catching up with her for a bit and meeting her friend!

After we parted, Megan, Cristen and I meandered our way through town via the Royal Mile.  There were a couple guys who were playing the bagpipes on the street, so our Scottish experience was complete.

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Edinburgh is such a cool city. The buildings are all old, gothic, and kinda dark, but it works. It’s not depressing; it’s mystical. (Fun fact: J.K. Rowling lives in Edinburgh, and you can definitely see the HP inspiration in this city. Maybe that’s why I love it so much?)

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We made our way back to the Christmas Market eventually, which was teeming with people of all ages, craft stands, and food stands.

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Megan and Cristen got some treats for themselves (including fudge and sugar roasted almonds), and I got these mini pancakes (of Dutch origin apparently) with Biscoff cookie butter drizzled overtop.

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These were so delicious!!! Freshly made, doughy, and satisfying.

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They’re ebelskivers, I think!

We ventured into SantaLand at the Christmas market too, but it was really just toddler land with overpriced rides.

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It was such a fun experience though! We definitely felt the warmth and excitement of the holidays 🙂

Other stops of the day:

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Edinburgh Castle

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we didn’t have time to go inside, unfortunately, but the view from the top was still magnificent!

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we didn’t have time to hike up Arthur’s Seat, but you can see it in the background!

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I also purchased a Scottish wool stole (large scarf) at one point during the day

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how thrilled do you think this new HP fan was to be petting a tawny owl in Edinburgh!?!?

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the moon hangin’ out at 3:30 pm

Before we departed Edinburgh for Glasgow airport again, we stopped by Oink for some pulled pork sandwiches to take away per our friends’ recommendations. Megan and I bought one each to eat at the bus station.

Warning: Vegans/Vegetarians/Animal Lovers, shield your eyes.

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I got my pulled pork with BBQ sauce and onion sage stuffing on a wheat bun. This was delicious!! Super cheap too!

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We said goodbye to the wonderful city that is Edinburgh and then headed “home” for Dublin. Real home is coming in just four days though, and I can’t wait 🙂

So tell me: 

Have you ever been to Scotland?

What is the weirdest animal-based dish you’ve ever eaten?

Have you ever been to a Christmas Market?

Two things you did this weekend!

I Don’t Know How to Exist in a Pub, But I Do Know How to Pour a Guinness

This is the most beer that has ever surrounded me in my life.

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You can tell I’m cut out for the Irish lifestyle.

This past week was fun! Since my long day of work last Monday, work has involved massaging a couple butts (honestly though, I’m loving the massage experience) and Christmas dinner at a teppanyaki place! It was a lot of fun going out with the staff members after hours. They even made me take home the bottle of white wine, which is currently sitting on my desk, since we’re not allowed to keep alcohol in the dorm kitchens. *shrugs*

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my tiny eyebrows are still on my face

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‘Twas a super savory selection of meats and fried rice. It was just a lot of oil and soy sauce, but I still appreciated the Asian flavors. I hadn’t eaten Asian food since New York!

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The music was very international as well. They played “La Bamba” and “Brown Eyed Girl”, which were random but also two of my favorites, so I can’t complain!

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On Friday night, a few of my friends here invited me to join them for the Etihad Skyline tour at Croke Park, which was a tour of the Dublin skyline at dusk from the top of the biggest stadium in Ireland. It was such a unique experience!

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The tour guide took us to the top of the stadium, which has a walkway all along its border, and then she pointed out all the landmarks around Dublin from there as the sun was setting.

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We lucked out with relatively warm weather and no wind!

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She gave us harnesses for one point on the tour when we were standing on a slightly precarious balcony that looked straight down to the stadium.

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As long as you’re a competent walker, you don’t need the harness, but it adds an element of danger and fun 17 stories up, ya know?

The tour ended with a complimentary tea/coffee/hot chocolate, and we of course all chose the hot chocolate.

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I hadn’t had hot chocolate in forever, and this Cadbury one was the bomb. The marshmallows were the best part.

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Highly recommend the Etihad Skyline tour for something different in Dublin! We loved the view, the experience, our tour guide, and the hot chocolate 🙂

Saturday was pretty productive (WHOA!). I studied a bit, worked out, did some homework, did laundry, FaceTimed Madre, and went grocery shopping. In the evening, Megan and I did a mini mobile soup kitchen inspired by our friends back in Boston, who give out sandwiches, socks, blankets, and other goods to people who are homeless every. single. week. They are so full of love; we had to bring the love to Dublin too, even if on a smaller scale!

Then we headed to Mass at our favorite church and dinner. We had a pub called P.Mac’s in mind, but when we arrived, our plans slowly changed.

We got to P.Mac’s at around 7, and they were serving food until 7:45. Not a problem, except the atmosphere was definitely more bar than restaurant at that point. No one was eating food, and when we tried to find a table, people gave us weird looks. I asked a waitress if we could eat…then how we should go about eating…and where we should get a table. Basically, HELP US DO PUBS.

After probably only two minutes of walking around cluelessly, we decided that we weren’t cool enough for P.Mac’s after dark and left for a different restaurant. *sad trombone*

It’s okay though, we found American BBQ.

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Pitt Bro’s BBQ was bustling (and had good reviews on Yelp, to be honest), so we waited for a table and dug into some satisfying pulled pork!

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Megan got the pulled pork bun meal with mac and cheese, and I got the pulled pork meat meal with salad and mac and cheese.

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The pulled pork was awesome, but the sides were just meh. The mac and cheese wasn’t cheesy enough, but nothing some pulled pork can’t fix up.

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What a hero.

We ate prettttty quickly because we were hungry hippos by the time our food arrived, but we had room for the complimentary, swirl-your-own vanilla soft serve!!

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CLASSIC. It was so good. What a way to increase my itch for America.

We actually went back to church after dinner, because they had a prayer service with Adoration, confessions, and music going on. Better yet, it was hosted by young people our age! There have not been many people under the age of 60 at Mass in Ireland. It was a beautiful and unexpected night.

On Sunday, we brunched per usual 🙂

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My friend Cassandra invited a few of us to White Moose Cafe, which was so cute and HILARIOUS. They had a “breastfeeding corking fee” (because they allow breastfeeding there, and they are known for their satire).

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My food was delicious too! I had their spinoff of huevos rancheros, which was two baked eggs in a spicy sauce with chorizo, peppers, and kidney beans, served with homemade tortilla crisps.

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Megan and I also split an order of silver dollar pancakes with berry compote and mascarpone cream. They were denser pancakes, but I enjoyed them.

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Afterwards, Cassandra and I headed to the famous Guinness Storehouse! I don’t even like Guinness, but it’s an Ireland staple, so why not?

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The museum itself was amazing. It’s self-guided, but the layout is seamless as you ascend the museum’s seven stories.

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peep the bottom right quote: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” -graffiti

I didn’t see what that had to do with anything, but Guinness has a giant fish riding a bike.

Of course, the tour includes Guinness itself. We first learned HOW to taste Guinness. I had been doing it wrong (the two times I ever sipped Guinness).

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At the end, we learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness and left as certified pourers. BOOM. Someone sign me up to be a bartender.

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#unimpressed

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Lastly, we drank our perfectly-poured pints up at the Gravity Bar, which overlooks all of Dublin.

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Like I said, I don’t love Guinness, but this Guinness was a lot better than the previous ones I’ve tasted. Something to do with the freshness (and my pouring skills), I’m sure! I could still only drink 1/4 of my pint. It’s a lot.

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I’m glad I went though, because if there’s anything I learned in Ireland, it’s how to pour a Guinness. And that hops are plants.

Have a wonderful week, everyone! I have a more serious post coming for you on Wednesday… ooooooooooo.

So tell me:

Do you like Guinness? What is your favorite beer?

The best thing you ate this weekend!

Have you ever stepped into a place that felt too cool for you? 

I Tried Counting Calories Again and I Didn’t Like It

I am currently typing this in a lawn chair in front of my house!

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The sun finally came out to play this weekend after a rather gloom and doom week. I’m just trying to keep my laptop from overheating and keep myself from spazzing out every time a bug flies past my ear. I’m also (hopefully) getting a nice tan on the front half of my body. #twoshadesofAlison

What’s been shakin’ since I talked to you last?

On Thursday night I took Pop out to dinner for his birthday! He chose a local Italian restaurant, where we ate copious amounts of {delicious} dairy and salt 🙂

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bread and olive oil to start // to share: burrata salad + field greens salad with gorgonzola, bacon, and walnuts // my entree: grilled swai with sautéed spinach and rice pilaf

Dessert was my favorite, as is often the case.

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warm apple tart a la mode with a side of birthday singing

‘Twas a joyful celebration indeed!

Unfortunately, one thing bothered me while eating this fine dinner. For the first time in a long time, I thought about the number of calories I must have eaten during that meal. I didn’t let the the thoughts affect how much I ate, but they definitely made me quite anxious.

I’ve eaten several big dinners in the past year yet never worried about calories. Why was I anxious all of a sudden? I suspect that it was because of the fact that I’m not exercising nearly as much as I was just a few weeks ago, so I feel guilty eating that much, even though the guilt is completely unwarranted.

I keep reminding myself that need to eat a lot right now, and that’s what I’ve been doing. For the most part, I very happily do so! Like on Friday when I met up with my beautiful friend Fiona at the mall. I had a tasty late lunch at my internship, shared some of Fiona’s fries, devoured a cup of Cold Stone ice cream, and then ate dinner at home, despite being kinda full from ice cream.

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I don’t know what the peanut butter supreme Quest bar tastes like, but it’s not peanut butter

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mint Oreo is my go-to amazingness

Some people like to track their calories when they are recovering from an eating disorder or gaining weight for health reasons (like me!). In all honesty though, I’ve had no interest in counting calories in order to make sure I’m eating enough. I’m trying to eat as much as I can and as densely as I can, but I have no idea how many calories I eat every day.

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overnight oats smoothie: oats, Greek yogurt, milk, cinnamon, chia seeds, peanut butter, frozen banana, greens, topped with lots of trail mix

The reason I don’t want to count calories is pretty simple: I counted calories throughout my eating disorder, which led to restriction.

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night snack: full fat Greek yogurt, berries, cinnamon raisin WB Kitchen cookie, spoonful of pb

Of course, my mindset is in a much healthier place today. This weekend, I figured that I should probably gauge the number of calories I was eating on a given day to make sure I was eating enough. Thus, on Saturday, I counted my calories, keeping in mind that I want anywhere from 2500 to 3000 calories per day.

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Saturday breakfast: big toast with sunflower seed butter, peanut butter, banana + full fat Greek yogurt with berries + almond coconut milk

So I went about my day analyzing the portions and calories I ate after each meal and snack. If I tried to count before eating, I knew I might be tempted to hold back. I didn’t feel anxious throughout the day fortunately. By eating completely freely, I actually ate about 2800 calories— right in the range.

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afternoon snack smoothie: almond coconut milk, half a banana, big spoonful of pb, and Quest strawberries and cream protein powder // and then another spoonful of pb after

It was helpful to know that I’ve been eating enough, and I feel at peace with how much I’m eating, but I still didn’t like counting calories. First of all, it’s time consuming and tedious. Secondly, it reminded me of when I counted calories during my ED, and I feel that if I did it consistently, I might fall into stupid guilt again, just like I did at my dad’s birthday dinner.

My main points: It’s good to have a general idea of how much I’m eating, but I don’t want to overthink it by counting calories. I don’t think I ever want to count calories again if I don’t have to. It works for some people, but I’m not one of those people.

This was Saturday’s dinner, loaded with delicious and {mostly} nutritious calories.

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I used this recipe for slow cooker pulled pork, and it was heavenly. We ate it on top of sweet potatoes with a side salad dressed with homemade honey mustard vinaigrette.

It was also one of the easiest things to make ever! The slow cooker is one of those pieces of technology that deserves all the praise it gets. Also, the satisfaction of the pork falling clean off the bone as soon as I took it out of the slow cooker— everyone must experience that satisfaction.

Alrighty. It’s time to grab a snack and then go for a walk before this sunshine goes away.

Hope you all have a beautiful day! Do what works for you, whatever that is.

P.S. I made a vlog with Daliza this weekend. Coming soon to a post near you.

So tell me:

Calorie counting— like it or leave it?

Do you have a slow cooker? Any favorite recipes you like to make with it?