Dear Alison… {A Look Back at 2016}

Dear 2016 Alison,

It’s been one heck of a year. A lot of people are hating on 2016, but bad things happen every year. There has also been a lot of good that 2016 brought to the world, such as the canonization of Mother Teresa, the summer Olympics, and a whole lot of other things that you didn’t even realize happened until you Googled it just now.

But look at what God has blessed YOU with in 2016…

January

You tried the highly acclaimed BodyPump for the first time, and it was fine. You also bonded with fellow bloggers and good friends in NYC — with Colby over Lloyd’s incredible carrot cake and with Christine over Asian food (lol). I forgot that you contemplated Whole 30 for a while! But you know dairy and grains aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. On the college front, you learned a little more about how to deal with stress, and you started your little “Five Minute Friday” series! *squishes your cheeks*

February

HAHA remember when your exercise physiology professor pointed her laser at you in front of the whole class!? Of course you do. Your second sophomore semester would not have been complete without an embarrassing story. Bucket listing with Rachel is going strong. You learned in nutrition class that you need more carbs and less protein (about 3x less protein). You gave up makeup (among other things) for Lent, which was hard, but thank God for your friends pushing you to be better. Retreat was this month!! Don’t forget that it is improbable that you are where you are now. Also, you have some dang good looking friends #winemoms.

March

Looking good in that VO2Max test in exercise physiology… But eyyyy, SPRING BREAK! A couple fun road trips with Joe and Louis, good food at home, and a heck of a lot of sriracha. You also snuck into a bar, you rebel! *low key fist bump* But you ordered a Shirley Temple anyway, haha. Sarah, founder of Fit University, invited you to take one of her first Cyc classes, and she kicked your butt. Lastly, Easter was the perfect ending to a pretty spectacular month ♥︎

April

I’m proud of you for finally pulling off a decent April Fools’ joke. Annual swing dancing is always fun, and you should keep it up. This month included the first annual St. Sebastian Cup with the Catholic Center, and it was a BLAST, although you did get beat up pretty badly. Make sure you win in 2017. You convinced some friends to work out with you, which was so fun! Do more of that. Never stop supporting Jordan in her fashion shows. And always make pancakes with Rachel for Marathon Monday like you did this year.

May

Sophomore year — check! And Ben graduated college, go him! You and the fam took a celebratory trip to Stowe, VT, which is a pretty rad place. Hiking, Ben & Jerry’s, special peanut butter, what more could you want? You also stayed at BU for commencement weekend, where you saw a lot of your close friends graduate *tear*. OMG I think my heart breaks/melts/explodes all at the same time when I think about your time with Fiona and Rachel at Fiona’s summer house. 48 hours unplugged never felt so amazing. You started your summer job (that you almost ruined) at a rehabilitation hospital. You also turned TWO DECADES old! Lastly, we can never forget the beautiful Katie Anne, who passed away this month. She was a light and a joy to us all.

June

Poop therapy“, huh? You mean pool therapy, silly. In addition to enjoying work, you realized a few important lessons: you need to simplify your lifeyou cannot let the mirror steal your joyinternet addictions are real, and fitness is more than just skills and numbers. You also learned that the stress of starting something new can cause tummy troubles (you’re not lactose intolerant, hallelujah! but Lactaid was a tasty discovery). Lots of emotions were churning this month with the nation’s tragedies. You got a “Dora the Explorer” haircut according to some people (-_-) You always get mixed reviews on your short haircuts. Go be a tourist in your own backyard more often with some friends!! Really, just go back to get a Levain Bakery cookie again.

July

You started taking initiative with learning more current events. What happened?? Get back on that train! Then came the best vacation ever — a Caribbean cruise with the family and your family friends for your parents’ 25th anniversary! So much food. Monkeys on your head. So many beautiful places. AND YOU MET US THE DUO AND BASICALLY BECAME FRIENDS WITH THEM!!! Another great part of the vacation? Not feeling the need to compensate afterward. You shared everything about your current fitness situation. I’m glad you are, above all, having fun with fitness. I’m also glad that you don’t get as stressed if you’re not hungry before a big planned meal.

August

Can you make this artichoke chicken pasta dish again?? I forgot you made that. Also, make that Brazilian cheese bread soon. Working at the rehab hospital definitely helped you become more of a grown up, I’d say. This year’s Olympics were pretty stellar (especially on the US women’s gymnastics front!). You had zero emotions regarding leaving for study abroad in Ireland… If only you knew what was in store. Your grandparents celebrated their 50th Golden Anniversary!! How inspiring. And you celebrated three short years of blogging. It’s been a great adventure though. You also got your first stethoscope from the physical therapists at work, oooooo!

September

You flew to Ireland to study there for 3.5 months! But first your family + family friends did some serious foodie work in NYC. Wowza. In Ireland, you faced some comparison trap struggles, but you powered through. Ugh, I miss the scones, greenery, and mayyyybe even the ability to drink alcohol in Ireland. Also all those desserts. You had your first Aibnb experience in Galway (still the best Airbnb ever)! Howth and the Cliffs of Moher were two of the most beautiful sights you’d ever seen. You finally learned that education should be about a desire to learn, not a desire to “just do well.” You were also challenged in your beliefs, which was scary but actually very fortifying for your faith at the end of the day.

October

“Booze and Grooves” (coined by your friend Ben) commenced during your class field trip to Northern Ireland. You really started settling into your routine in Ireland at this point. I know that saying “yes” isn’t always easy for you, but you really learned how to do that more while abroad. You even went out on a whim and planned a last minute wine and cheese night for everyone in the program! Then came the European trip of a lifetime, which started with Zurich, Switzerland (so expensive). Then to Padua (where you got to practice your Italian right away), Assisi (BEST PLACE ON EARTH), and finally, Rome (thank God for priest and seminarian friends/family and Pope Francis!). I’m proud of you and Megan for traveling on your own through foreign countries. ALSO proud of you for starting Harry Potter together!!!

November

Brunch game in Dublin was so strong. You did some more exploring in the gorgeous country of Ireland. This was also your first Thanksgiving away from home, but Friendsgiving with the people in your program was so heartwarming (and yummy). You also started your internship at a physiotherapy clinic in Dublin this month! You learned all about dry needling, myofascial trigger points, and massage therapy. And now you give great massages 🙂

December

Congrats! You know how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. More importantly, you know that 100% recovery is possible. Now that you’re a Harry Potter fan, Scotland was one of the most magical places you’ve ever visited. And just like that — your semester in Ireland flew by in the blink of an eye. You grew and learned more than you could have ever imagined in those 3.5 months. Coming home was so sweet though. And now you’re finishing up a food-tastic vacation with the fam in Florida!

Keep working on being a good listener to other people.

Keep an open mind.

Keep pursuing a deep relationship with God.

Here’s to a new year,

2017 Alison

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.

img_6081img_6080img_6082

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.

img_6288

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.

img_6088

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.

img_6089

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.

img_6091

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.

img_6095

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.

img_6102

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.

img_6103

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.

img_6108img_6115img_6119img_6124img_6139

“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)!

img_6207

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

Ben Nevis as the sun went down:

img_6154img_6155img_6156

Commando Memorial

img_6165img_6160

I’m gonna miss all the sheep in Ireland 😦

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

img_6169

chicken, mozzarella, pesto sandwich

img_6168

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

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

img_6186img_6192

idk why I made myself so vulnerable to Nessie here

img_6175

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.

img_6193

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

img_6194

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.

img_6195

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.

img_6196

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.

img_6197

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.

img_6198

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.

img_6199

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

img_6206img_6203img_6205

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!

img_6221

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

img_6219img_6218

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.

img_6216

img_6224

img_6211img_6213img_6223

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?)

img_6234

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

img_6226

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.

img_6229img_6230

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

img_6227img_6228

They’re ebelskivers, I think!

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

img_6232img_6231

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

Other stops of the day:

img_6243

Edinburgh Castle

img_6249

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

img_6245img_6265

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

img_6246img_6270

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

img_6274img_6239img_6240

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

img_6276

img_6278

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.

img_6277

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

img_6282

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!