Café Cake Crawl – Skibbereen Edition [@WestCorkIRL]

We all know how a bar/pub crawl works. It’s a feat of stamina, of endurance, and in the end mostly of regret. You might be wondering how I came up with the idea to do a Café Cake Crawl and the story is simple: I was sitting in a café, eating a piece of cake, and I wanted another. Skibbereen has so many incredible little cafés renowned for their baked goods and I thought to myself that this might be the best way to try them all out. Plus, look at that alliteration! How was I supposed to turn that down?

After excitedly planning out the route one afternoon, I opted to push the day of goodness off for another week so as to get a proper start at it. Well, friends… that week was last. And that cake was crawled. In a lot of ways, I felt just as wrecked as if I were drinking beer instead of eating cake. My stomach turned on me like a veritable Edward Cullen, just having to endure it as my blood sugar levels peaked to dangerous heights. But I ask you, what kind of crawl would it be without suffering and perseverance?

Please kindly leave your judgment at the homepage, and proceed to read about the 6 slices of cake I consumed with the aid of 3 pots of tea, 2 Americanos, and 1 mystery coffee. It was not one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, but it was definitely one of the unhealthiest.

As I reached the halfway point I wasn’t sure I could go on, but my best friend sent some encouragement from across the pond: “I believe in you. Mind over batter.” And with that, I found the strength to fight the good fight. I give you my very first Café Cake Crawl! Secondhand enjoy the experience.


Benedict’s Café

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Lemon Drizzle Cake with whipped cream & a pot of black tea

This was the first café I ever visited in Skibbereen so I found it a fitting beginning for my crawl. Benedict’s has an incredible family feel, which I’m pretty sure is due to it being run by an actual family (there is no website to confirm or deny that assumption so you’ll just have to trust me). Most people seemed to be there for the heartier meals, but I had my eyes on a very specific prize. Let me tell you – this was an ACE combo. The tang of the lemon in the icing was a perfect match for my ever so sweetened tea. I can this classic being ordered by the box for bridge night refreshments or book club. I also developed a quick obsession with the style of the tea ware. It’s a habit of mine to absentmindedly hold on to my mug for a while before setting it back on the saucer and that can get uncomfortable with a rounded handle. This set featured a perfect fit for the two fingers it actually takes to support the glass and I will definitely be trying to furnish any future homes with similarly designed goods.

I give this cake a go-to when someone orders “a wee cuppa and cake, please love” out of 10.

An Chistin Beag

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Lemon Sponge & a pot of black tea (guest appearance by some orange juice)

It was an almost unfortunate miss with this café because I literally didn’t know it was there. The difficult thing about Skibbereen is that the eatery attractions are not so easily googleable (is it even possible for me to go through a single post without mentioning Google?) so my research is done mostly via asking the locals. An Chistin Beag, literally “The Small Kitchen,” came highly recommended when I spoke of what I was doing (and let me tell you, trying to explain a solo Cake Crawl puts you in a very funny situation). I can confirm that even though I still have no idea how to pronounce its name correctly, this café’s cake did not disappoint.

They say in heaven cake comes first, and these ladies certainly made heaven a place on earth – otherwise known as the frosting on their Lemon Sponge. The whole café has a comfortable, welcoming look about it with exposed brick, wooden floors, and those word art wooden deco boards but it doesn’t stop there. The comfortable, welcoming attentiveness of my waitress left me thinking “she was just so nice, how can get that nice?” hours later. Basically, all good things to say about my experience here.

I give this cake a sweet dreams are made of these out of 10.

Apple Betty’s Café

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Coconut Jam Slice & an Americano

The number one thing I learned from Apple Betty’s Café is don’t judge a café by its cover. From the outside the place looked to be rather small, similar to an old American deli with a counter and maybe one or two metal tables inside, so I had avoided it on prior trips. Upon entering it for my crawl I found it to be huge! And extremely cozy! The Coconut Jam Slice jumped out as the most interesting choice and I’ll admit I went into it with absolutely 0 idea of what to expect because I don’t think I’d ever seen those things put together before. As Apply Betty’s is known for it’s coffee (there was a sign reading “As long as there is coffee in the world, how bad could things be?”) I had to go for an Americano, though I think tea would have been the better suited companion. Regardless, this was yet another void-of-disappointment stop along my crawl and the raspberry jam gets massive props for that. Also the woman/man (Betty?) who decided to put all the elements together to craft this; she/he rightfully deserves my many thanks.

I give this cake a pleasantest surprise out of 10.

Kalbos Café

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Brown Sugar and Espresso Pavlova with mixed berries & an Americano

Arriving at Kalbos, I was feeling pretty good as I scanned the multitude of options behind and on top of the glass casings. Several more obvious “cakes” jumped out at me for taste testing but look at that thing – I had to try the Pavlova. The outside is similar to a French macaron and the inside is of a softer, chewier consistency with amber sugary drizzles dispersed throughout then topped with cream and fruit. Definitely the most interesting dish of the day and I could not have imagined a more perfect pairing than the rich Americano I ordered to wash it down with.

Kalbos Café has one location next to the Uillinn, or West Cork Art Centre, and (as I’ve described before) it’s very aesthetically pleasing. I had a supremely difficult time choosing which treat to indulge in as my eyes were barraged with an overload of apple and pear and elderflower and chocolate and berries everywhere I looked. The cakes are renowned by the locals as legitimately award-winning (Best Café in Cork – 2016 Irish Restaurant Awards) and it’s been the most recommended Skibbereen eatery to me since my arrival. With a staff as friendly and courteous as they are, I 100% agree that Kalbos is a most fantastic establishment.

I give this cake a finished it in one go out of 10.

The Church Restaurant

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Church Apple Tart with fresh cream and apricot sauce & a pot of black tea

Again, you’ve seen the inner design of this place in my aforementioned Voyages post and this visit around it was in full lunch swing by the time I arrived. Mind you, at this point in the day my stomach was decidedly full with more sugar than anyone needed and I was truly unsure of what treat could possibly beckon my appetite when in such a state. The savoury smells flooding the premises helped to neutralize my stomach ache and as the waitress listed off the options, I jumped at the mention of Apple Tart. I’m not sure why I ever doubted The Church Restaurant, but I sat hoping with fingers crossed that it would be presented warmed up and I was not disappointed. This little slice of homey goodness was exactly what I needed to make it ever closer to the finish line. Not entirely sure, but I’m 87% positive that the sauce drizzled along the side was of an apricot nature and MAN, did I want to take gallons and gallons back home with me.

I give this cake a heartwarmingly delicious out of 10.

Field’s Café

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Double Chocolate Cake & a coffee

An adjoining-a-supermarket café, but I wanted to give it a chance. Field’s Supervalu keeps it simple. It is always the busiest place I visit because it’s peppered with many a weary shopper or gaggle of young children tugged out for a day of errands. I couldn’t see an actual name for this cake so I christened it the Double Chocolate. This beverage is listed as “coffee” on the menu but I’m not sure if that’s coffee in the American right or if it’s really an Americano? I kind of got a filtery taste out of it so if you told me this was good old fashioned drip coffee I’d probably believe you but let me tell you, I’m hard French-pressed to find that anywhere when I travel in Western Europe.

I give this cake a not waking up in the middle of the night for it out of 10. But Little Cassie would give it a *foot stomp* MOM PUH-LEASE out of 10.


At the end of the day I couldn’t imagine taking another bite. In fact, as I sit here writing this a few hours later I couldn’t imagine taking another bite. Further in fact, as I sit here editing one week later I still couldn’t imagine it.

Next time, I’d very much appreciate a friend to share in the sugary fare so let me know if you’ve got any noteworthy cake cities in mind and we’ll plan a trip – first cup of coffee on me!

Voyages: Skibbereen & Baltimore [@WestCorkIRL]

Note: Remember back in the good old days when you’d have to avoid a lot of images on a web page because loading them with dial-up was a nightmare? I wanted to warn you just in case you’re not all initiated into decent wi-fi / 4s / 1080p horsepower or whatever the heck the good internet is these days. This post is extremely photo heavy because I’m combining two voyages into one so sorry not sorry (just reminiscent) about it.


Saturday mornings in Skibbereen are starting to become a routine for me and I’m for sure going to miss them when I’m gone. I love every second I spend in the quaint little market town, which apparently confuses some of the locals who don’t see much to do there, but I’ve only got a short window of time left to enjoy it. This particular Saturday before last was a cold one. The rain had been at it all night long and I was sure it was never going to let up. Shortly after being dropped off in the earlier AM hours, I made the commitment to stay indoors and read for as long as possible until moving on to outdoor adventures in the afternoon.

At one point in the midmorning I overheard a waitress saying to a nearby couple “’tis cold, but ’tis jolly” and I decided that never in a million years could I have come up with a better depiction of Skibbereen on a late February morning than that.

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The streets were bustling on Saturday morning, with locals milling about the farmers market and meeting up with each other in cafes and restaurants. You better believe that the girl walking around with a giant backpack and a camera stood out as “NOT FROM HERE.”

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A few people told me to check out this Church-turned-Restaurant, for aesthetic reasons at the very least, and I was definitely not disappointed. The place was buzzing despite the early hour. Anecdote: I have a terrible habit of not being able to tune out other people around me when I’m trying to read in public places (like cafes) and at one point I overheard the man at the table next to me saying “something about the way they burn the barley makes it neutral… so you can have as much Guinness as you like… that’s what my doctor told me.” I’m not sure who that doctor is, but I’m going to go ahead and rely on that advice which I don’t fully understand (as I do with most doctors) because YUM.

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Take a peep at the interior of Church Restaurant. I could not get over the fact that the cakes and baked goods were all laid out on the altar. Talk about a religion I want to be a part of.

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After some breakfast I went to scout out the local book shop. I mean, come on do I even need to explain why?

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There’s just something about wood and books that makes for an intimately relaxed feel. That very feeling here at The Time Traveller’s Bookshop was what enticed me to spend well over an hour perusing the shelves. I even got to hold a first edition copy of “David Copperfield” and subsequently tried very hard not to hyperventilate on it. Seriously considering leaving all my clothes behind at the end of my trip in favor of filling my case with these rare beauties.

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I’m gonna go ahead and make a generalization that a lot of people don’t know that Skibbereen played a huge part in The Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. I was one of those people until Paul, my host, kindly told me a lot more information on the subject (and gave me a great book to read about it). The Heritage Centre features all sorts of resources about the Great Famine years, the marine marvel that is Lough Hyne, and tracing family trees.

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Kalbos Cafe is situated between the West Cork Art Centre and a tiny little body of water flowing down into the larger river which Google Maps is not providing me with the name of. The huge glass windows looking outside were very cool and the cafe itself had a really great, cozy interior style. There is an adjoining deck and I’m betting that all the glass windows open right up to let patrons enjoy the, what I assume to be infrequent, sunshine in the summer.

Later in the afternoon, after a few too many cups of coffee, I met up with Tony from Inish Beg and we set off to check out some of the local attractions outside of the Skibbereen town center. Thankfully the rain had in fact let up a bit, but the cold was still lingering. We braved through it though. First stop, Lough Hyne.

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Another Wild Atlantic Way sign! And this one happens to be situated at the site of the only salt-water lake (“Lough”) in Ireland. Word on the street is that its fascinating ecosystems and marine life make it one of the most studied bodies of water in the world. My hostess Georgie, ever the superwoman, swims at Lough Hyne pretty much all year round.

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We were visiting the Lough at a beautiful close-to-sunset hour and the lighting was breathtakingly reflective. Upon review, most of my pictures were just of the water’s surface. Way off in the distance down that little channel is the area known as “The Rapids” – aka the place where the salt water flows in and out from the Atlantic Ocean. Not really sure that I have to clarify how peaceful of a place Lough Hyne is, but I will just in case.

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Holy wells apparently exist all over Ireland and some quick Google searching has told me that they were of Pagan origin before becoming mostly Christianized way back when. Regardless, there is one nestled back in the trees by a freshwater brook close to Lough Hyne and we took a little hike to seek it out.

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Many people consider the wells to be sacred and spiritual so they come to pray or make wishes or leave offerings, etc. etc. This one happened to be my favorite because come on, you’ve seen my sidebar. I agree that a nice cold Bud Heavy in a frosted glass bottle can feel like a religious experience. Suffice it to say, I took a drink from the well hoping it was filled with the King of Beers but unfortunately it was just water.

After marveling at the Lough one last time, we set off for Baltimore. You might remember my mentioning how the island of Inish Beg is situated between two towns so it was only fitting that Baltimore receive ample exploration time as well. Much smaller than Skibbereen, but in some ways I thought more beautiful.

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We drove over a few hills to get to Baltimore and had to weave our way down towards the water before hairpinning back up to the cliffs on the outskirts. As we arrived into town you could just spot the harbor ahead.

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The hike up the cliffs was sufficiently terrifying and I relied on my zoom to get me as close as I wanted to the edge, while staying physically very very far away. The water and the wind and the cliffs made for such incredible scenery. Fresh sea air unfortunately not included with this photograph.

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This is The Beacon! The very thing we hiked up to see! They don’t mess around when it comes to naming things, these West Corkers (Corkians? Cortians? … *Googles* … “Corkonians” – I wasn’t far off). They stick with the practical: The Baltimore Beacon was (and still is?) meant to guide ships into the harbour. This picture doesn’t do the size justice, but this thing is huge. ~50 ft high huge.

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Another thing I couldn’t get over was the turquoise water, even though it was so cold! And February! I’m used to seeing dark blue borderline black waters in the wintertime Atlantic Ocean but here it looked almost tropical. Not quite enticing enough for cliff diving, but close.

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Tony is the Head Gardener at Inish Beg and we spend a few days a week working together around the estate. He was a good sport about hiking around in the cold with me! Even though he was in Converses and I had on the hiking boots, he was able to climb back down the muddy slopes way faster than I could ever hope to. Can you tell from the outfit (hint: mine was even MORE bundled) how that water is in no way, shape, or form tropical?

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Andddd another Wild Atlantic Way sign. There are tons of islands that people can get to in this part of Ireland and a ferry waits patiently in the harbour to usher around to each of them. My being prone to seasickness and overall aversion to being out on the water in the winter does not make me a good candidate for the experience but it’s cool to know that it happens!

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As we were leaving and the sun was tucking in for the night, I couldn’t help but be struck by the resemblance the empty Baltimore Harbour had to my own hometown and more specifically to the stretch of water right down the street from my house. Seeing this some might think of homesickness, but for me it was more like a fond reminder.

Adventuring around the localities was a day well spent and, as per usual on my travels, now that I’ve finally started feeling comfortable I have to prepare to say my goodbyes sooner than I’d like. A few more short weeks of huddling with my tea and cake in the Skibbereen coffee shops, then it’s back home to my little Rhode Island reminder of Baltimore.


Special shout out to Tony, Paul, and Georgie for their excellent West Corkonian benignity!

A List of Cooking Tips For A Novice Like Me [@WestCorkIRL]

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Go ahead and ask anyone who knows me and they’ll happily laugh in your face if you ask them about my past baking escapades. Nutella chocolate chip cookies? Apparently adding a whole jar of Nutella to the regular recipe is not how you do it. My misfortune extends into general cooking as well – I have a longstanding fear of chicken after all the times I’ve messed it up.

Now, this isn’t to say that I haven’t tried tried again over the years, because believe me I have. I find that I always get too experimental while baking, which requires being more exact, and too exact while cooking, which allows for being experimental.

Let’s quickly talk about the encore though because that certainly is something I excel in: I’ve been eating very well while here in West Cork. Georgie, my hostess, makes sure of that with whatever her berry crumble compote with homemade vanilla ice cream was last week (which I can confidently say I ate about half the pan of). And then there’s Fiona, the housekeeper here at Inish Beg, who (amongst many other kind things she does for me) has graciously invited me to family birthday gatherings with the headliners being her scrumptious cakes. If I didn’t know any better I’d say I’ve stepped right into the only child version of Hansel & Gretel.

This past weekend the Estate (Georgie & Fiona) was literally catering to a very large hen party and I had the extreme pleasure of being allowed to help out. Friday afternoon was spent preparing soup, main course, and dessert (though they call it “pudding” over here) for 26 hungry hens. While I helped with little bits and pieces of the main dishes, the two things I worked on in full were the loaves of Ciabatta bread and Parmesan Shortbread cookies (“biscuits”). Thankfully, Georgie & Fiona were constant fixtures in the kitchen so I was never lost for guidance. They’re seasoned professionals (are you having that???) in cooking and baking so many a word of wisdom was offered to a novice like me.

Throughout the afternoon I made a mental note of those little tips they told and showed me. While I’m confident that a few of them slipped through this flour-sifter-excuse-for-a-brain of mine, I hope you’re able to learn something useful from the list I’ve compiled here!


Check your ingredients before you start the cooking/mixing/baking/any preparation process. Seems pretty obvious, but I’ve messed this up with cereal before and that’s literally only two ingredients so I try to keep drilling it in and maybe you should too.

Pour the uncooked rice into the pot of boiling water, don’t pour the boiling water onto the pot of uncooked rice. This prevents the rice from sticking to the pan. However, you should also stir it to be on the sticking safe side because it can still happen. Not speaking from personal experience here, definitely not.

Clean your kitchen as you go. This was especially relevant given the amount of cooking we were doing throughout the day but in general I can see how nice it is to have everything tidied and put away when the fruit of your labor is ready to be enjoyed.

When a recipe calls for warm water, it means it should be on the border of just warm enough to not burn you when you put your fingers in it.

As you roll your dough, rotate it in a circle to keep it from sticking to the table. Assuming you already know to flour the surface you’re rolling on, put some flour on the rolling pin to keep it from sticking to that too. Also a little bit on your hands can’t hurt…

Pack your tablespoons.

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Oil everything when letting bread sit to rise. Similar to the whole flour concept, it’ll just make your life easier when you’re pulling it out of the bowl. Dough is incredibly sticky, who knew?

Save the foils from butter to use as an easy tool for greasing pans.

Give your bread a little tap on it’s underbelly when the bake time is up and if it sounds hollow, it’s done. The loaves we made were a bit thicker than the recipe had called for so Georgie turned them onto their backs for a few minutes to make sure the bottom cooked all the way through.

Fan ovens work best for baking. I’ve actually never even heard of a fan oven until I came over here. The circulation of the heat is really great for making your cakes and things bake evenly.

Egg whites are finished being whipped when you flip the bowl upside-down and they stay put. I had a mini heart attack watching Fiona test this one, I’ll be honest. Also as a side note, imagine how long it took to whip egg whites back in the pre-electric mixer days…

Taste test everything.


One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced is watching the loaves of bread, my loaves of bread if you will, come out of the oven all goldened and ready to eat. It’s one thing to dump a box of mix into a bread maker; it’s a whole other thing to work in all the individual ingredients and watch it rise before coming to fruition in a good old fashioned oven.

These tips have certainly helped inspire me to feel more confident, but I can’t say I’ll be hosting any 5-course dinners at my place in the near future. It was so much fun to watch and learn from two incredibly talented women such as Georgie & Fiona and I got a lot out of the experience.

But my favorite thing of all that I learned about cooking and baking?

It’s as easy as bread & biscuits.

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Voyages: Welcome to Inish Beg! – Part I [@WestCorkIRL]

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Apparently the Wild Atlantic Way is a 2,500 km drive along Ireland’s West Coast and these signs mark popular spots to stop and take in the scenery! Doing the whole drive is definitely something I’m adding to the bucket list so, who wants to come with?

With a little less than a week gone by since I left the States, being at Inish Beg has already made me realize that it’s not so much the time to be alive as it is the place to be living. I absolutely adore this new short-term home of mine and I’ve been receiving many impatient inquiries as to what it’s like.

Before I get into it, I wanted to give a little bit of a rundown on the history of the area in which I am currently living. Inish Beg Estate is on the island of Inish Beg in West Cork, Ireland. It is situated just about halfway between two small towns, Baltimore and Skibbereen. The island itself has been inhabited for many centuries but the estate as a structure was not finished until 1899. The current owners, my wonderfully kind hosts Paul & Georgie Keane, moved to Inish Beg in 1997 and began restoration and development of the estate and island into a self-catering retreat (check out the website for more images of the actual properties).

Now, I already gave a quick explanation of what I’m doing here in a previous post and the only real amendment I wanted to make to that is my obvious accessibility to the internet! The weather has not been too kind, although it’s less up and down than New England temperatures seem to be at the moment, so adventuring around with my camera was a bit difficult. I did my very best for a lazy Sunday afternoon, but expect a possible Part II when the weather cooperates. Today’s goal was to get my bearings via walking around the outer paths of the island.

Also – the salty air from the nearby Atlantic Ocean was beckoning and I couldn’t bring myself to stray far from the water’s edge.


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The trees here are absolutely breathtaking. There are over 50 different species and the reforestation process as part of the estate’s rehabilitation is ongoing. Unfortunately, the harsh winter Ireland has had this year continues to wreak havoc on the older specimens but many of the big guys like this one are still standing.

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Take an extra close look and you’ll see an old church off in the background across the way… which I have quite the hankering to explore.

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The water was at relatively low tide today but patches of wildflowers spruced up the view when needed.

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There are dozens of little… I can only think to call them peninsulas but some were islands in their own right I suppose… with undisturbed tall grasses, hanging around the edges of Inish Beg. My wellies pretty much made me invincible so I ventured around a few and found some different fresh water streams to jump across.

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Weird anecdote: back in my messing around on photoshop days I used to be obsessed with frames. Any silly little collage I’d throw a random gilded frame into because apparently I liked the aesthetic and I find myself still leaning towards that framing theme when taking pictures now. However, this time my frames just happen to be trees.

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I couldn’t resist walking down to the water’s edge and I think the Atlantic knew I was coming back to visit it because every step sunk me deeper into the shore. Once it started crossing over my ankles I started to panic and turn back, though I desperately wish it were warm enough to keep going.

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I wanted to climb on this so badly!!! Can you imagine a better reading perch? Here, let me help you with that – no, no you cannot! This tree was l i t e r a l l y beckoning to me but I resisted possibly being the bough-breaker and sated myself by snapping a picture. *sigh*

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This is a little nook called Pumpkin’s Puddle. A beautiful magical wonderful little place and that’s all that needs to be said.

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I’m told this is a spot where many people like to get married on the estate, but I’m going to choose to believe that it’s actually a faerie ring and henceforth spend all of my free time coming back to hopefully catch a glimpse. If I can’t become the Banshee of Wigtown, the Faerie Queen of West Cork is certainly an equally attractive alternative.

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Sheepies! Still a little too traumatized from my kinder years of chasing them around the Scottish hillsides so for now I’m keeping my distance. They were very curious to see if I was coming up here to visit the…

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Horsies! Meet Thor and Loki! Not their actual names, but apparently people call them a lot of different things so it’s up for discussion… I think mine are first rate though. These guys are an absolute riot. Every morning and afternoon we bring them some sweet oats and they pick up on who brings the bucket verrrry quickly. Like I said, I’ve been here less than a week and I barely crested the hill to the stables when they started whinnying for me. They’re sweet little Shetlands.

And there you have it! This is just a quick glimpse of the adventure island I get to call home for the next 6 weeks, but you can bet I’ll be showing you around some more as soon as I can. But for now…

Welcome to Inish Beg!

Real Moments: Shipping Up to… Ireland!

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My Essentials: new Helly Hansen jacket & Timberland hiking boots (thanks Mama!), more heavy sweaters than anyone really needs, the camera I rarely find an excuse to use, and a selection of stimulating reads (that copy of ‘Wuthering Heights’ goes everywhere with me)

“What are your plans for after graduation?”

Drinking game to how many times college seniors get asked that question in their final semester. A few months back, I shrugged my shoulders and avoided talking about it. My career plans were set almost a year ago: I’ll be moving to North Carolina in July. But as for the six months between finishing up school in December and embarking on that move down south – I wasn’t really sure.

Well, now I get to announce a change in that – I’m heading off to Ireland for seven weeks!

Those of you who follow my Casstastrophes may recall a quick gloss-over reference to a very stressful trip I took to Dublin last summer. Have no fear; I love that part of the world so much that even that experience couldn’t dissuade me from returning. I’ll be, as the kids say, WWOOFing in Ireland for a little while. What does that mean, you may ask? WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOFing is agreeing to be a volunteer on one of those farms in exchange for room and board.

Caveat: my personal experience will be a little different from what you might be envisioning after reading the word ‘farm.’ I’m actually headed off to help out on the gardening team of an estate in County Cork.

Every time I travel, I’m never sure about how the internet and modern technology situation will translate so I may or may not be able to maintain this blog while abroad. I’ll try my darned best and if I can’t, well you’ll have that much more to look forward to when I return!

So. Many. Voyages.

Learn Stuff: Luke’s (Chicory Nutmeg) Coffee

Lorelai: Mmm. Luke, that is an exceptionally good batch of coffee.

Luke: Yeah?

Lorelai: Hello!

Luke: I added a little nutmeg.

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There aren’t many things held most dear to this here heart of mine, but a hot cup of coffee sure is one of them. My love of brewed magic has been a slow development over the years. I try to know more than I do, and avoid the people who actually succeed in that (no one needs your hipster elitism – just help me understand why this air needs pressing!), but until the time comes when I take an actual class in brewing I’m just going to have to content myself with at-home experimentation.

Another ardent holding? Gilmore Girls. It’s my all time favorite TV show and ever since I first saw it I’ve been dying to try a cup of Luke’s coffee. I feel pretty confident that I’m not the only fan who yearns for that. Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up with what feels like an insatiable thirst for some piping hot caffeine? For me, that craving is always what I associate with what Luke’s coffee must taste like. Unfortunately, Amy Sherman-Palladino never really takes you through the recipe and it’s not like Luke has his own real brand for direct purchase (someone please create that Kickstarter) so it’s all left to the imagination. Luckily I’ve got one of those and so I hereby deliver to you a dice-ily researched recipe for Stars Hollow’s very own Luke’s Diner Coffee.


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The Coffee Base

A few fans out there on the internet did a little sleuthing via paying attention to the small details and determined that at one point in the show Luke is using Hills Bros, a San Francisco brand of coffee. Do I wonder the motivation behind that? Of course. Will I question it and look for/use another brand? Of course not. East Coasters (or maybe just Rhode Islanders) might have difficulty like I did in securing the apparently very well recognized brand so know that it’s Amazonable.

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The Additives

Now, as my graciously provided quote from the series (Season 1 Episode 12) has demonstrated – Luke was into experimentation with his brewing recipe. Nutmeg was added and pleased Lorelai’s taste buds so who do I think I am to remove it? That’s right, no one. The nutmeg stays.

Want to talk a little bit about preconceived notions, though? Here’s mine: Luke’s coffee is actually made with a bit of chicory too. Now, I know he’s lived all his life in Connecticut but he seems like an olden days, classically gruff kinda man and to me that equates to the famously-New Orleans roasted root. After many days spent researching what this mysterious substance is and how to find it, I went ahead and made the commitment to add chicory to this recipe of mine. Roasting and grinding it from scratch seemed to take a lot of work (definitely not a Lorelai move) so I took the easy root and ordered 16 ounces of organic roasted chicory granules from Frontier Co-op.

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Let me stop right here and warn you that chicory ain’t no joke. That stuff packs a lot of taste for such a tiny granulated substance and I’m just looking out for the both of us when I say use it sparingly. It’s best known for being a type of coffee additive/flavoring down in New Orleans or as a healthier coffee substitute when steeped (although, it has no caffeine so take “substitute” for what you will). I wanted to integrate it to give the coffee a bit more of a woodsy taste because well… Connecticut has trees and Luke likes the outdoors so logic. It took me too many tries to figure out that a little goes a very long and astringent way.

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The Recipe(s)

I’ll save you my experimentation narrative (which happens to be many days long) and direct you straight to the good stuff: my winning combination.

The method of choice was good ol’ drip brewing since that’s how they did it in the Diner. While the stubborn fan in me insisted that this brew had to be tried Lorelai style, that is to say – black, the chicory’s pretty powerful taste creates a none too pleasant bitterness and I found that adding a tiny bit of milk helped smooth it out. But also, coffee preferences are one of the most personal things an individual can have so feel free to add whatever you need for this to taste like what you imagine Luke’s would.

1/2 cup of Hills Bros, Original Blend ground coffee to every 2 mugs of water

Had to break out the math conversions for this one but with canister-provided instructions of 1 tbsp to every 6 oz of water, increased to every 4 oz because I like my coffee strong, with my Luke’s mug serving as approximately 14 oz of water… ouch, Charlie. Just get a moderately sized mug like mine and you’ll be fine. This gives a little over a single serving so increase accordingly.

3/4 teaspoon of Roasted Chicory Root Granules

A liberal pinch of nutmeg

Bonus: the recipe can easily be converted out of the woodsy chicory taste by… get ready for it… removing the chicory. All else remains and you’ve still got Luke’s coffee.


While I’m sure any coffee tastes better in my Luke’s mug, this recipe feels particularly at home. I’m also very excited to work chicory into my daily rotation. Now all I need is to enjoy a cup on the front porch of 37 Maple Street, watching the first snow of the year with my Girls named Gilmore.

23 Thoughts On Turning 23

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I started working on this list a month or so ago, jotting down thoughts whenever they struck me of what I wanted the coming year to be like. Most are silly, some are serious – coincidentally how I would also describe the LinkedIn “photo shoot” outtakes I’ve included here. Realized it’s fun to document these things, especially for the sake of looking back a few years from now to see the changes.

Thanks for having me, 23. I’m super excited to be here.


1) Stop rounding up your age before you get there. You’ve got all of next year to be that old.

2) Eat more potatoes.

3) Eat less chocolate.

4) Always give your little brother a hug when you come home.

5) Keep poison out of your heart.

6) Another year gone by, another every-Sandra-Bullock-movie-marathon gone undone. JUST DO IT.

7) Hydrate.

8) Don’t force it.

9) Tell your friends that you’re proud of them because you are.

10) Have courage & be kind.

11) Crush that new job.

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12) Stop assuming the worst – sometimes the friendly stranger is just a friendly stranger.

13) Remember to miss the snow every once in a while.

14) Make yourself laugh every. single. day. (you’re very good at this, shouldn’t be a problem)

15) Follow those gut feeling first instincts. Instead of not doing that and immediately regretting it 99.87% of the time.

16) Don’t pet the sweaty things.

17) Never give a half-hearted hug. Bear or bust.

18) Surround yourself with more plants, they make you very happy. Just try to stop naming them, cause then they make you sad when they inevitably die.

19) Ask people to tell you their stories.

20) Learn some natural remedies.

21) Be prepared to lose arguments and practice taking it graciously.

22) Bite to ten. Your heart will feel happier after not saying what your flip-switch temper wants you to.

23) This is the year… to listen to more Incubus. (2009’s “Monuments & Melodies” – ENOUGH SAID)

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Follies & Fixations: January 2016

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“Cassie” for every day, “My Pearl” for Sundays, and “Cross-stitching Goddess Divine” but only on very special occasions.

Mama Bear’s Homemade Knitwear

My mom is crafty! You could go back in time and show that sentence to 6th grade me and I would laugh right in your face because wow, I never saw it coming. Every year she gets more advanced with her knitwear so I really like demanding cool presents from her for no reason. My current stash is a few of those cool head wraps, a beanie, and I’ve got a thick pair of socks on deck. She also made my uncle an Icelandic sweater. Her creative prowess has inspired me to take up cross-stitching (see above) and I’m a huge fan. The world needs more dated hobbies.

Ursa Major Face Wash

Pretty sure this is for men, but I’ve been using it for about 2 years now and get ready for this: I only just ordered my 3rd bottle. Super long lasting, great smelling, and it’s all natural. Credit where credit is due, I found this through United By Blue. Caveat: it bears a strong scent resemblance to tequila so make sure to have a back-up wash for those adult mornings when that is absolutely the last thing you want to be reminded of.

2 Parts Seasonal Brews, 1 Part Christmas Horror

Not sure where or why I got it in my head but I did and one of my best friends kindly obliged and agreed to do this with me. We picked up a variety of beers that sounded remotely wintery (personal faves: Tröegs Mad Elf and Blizzard of Hops). Then, movie-night theme: Christmas Horror. Yes, that’s a genre. We opted for the “cult classic” Silent Night, Deadly Night. Everything it sounds like and more. 10/10 recommend. Definitely looking forward to this tradition for many more years to come.

Family Game Night

A new Sunday night activity for my parents, my two siblings, and me. It gets heated, it gets competitive, and I’m 99.98% positive that my younger brother is a Game of Life hustler.

“The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer

Collectively, this series probably took me all of a week to get through the first 3 books. To break it down it’s some of my favorite fairy tales re-imagined in a futuristic society kind of way: complete with wolf/man hybrids, cyborgs, moon people, and SPACESHIPS. Unfortunately because I’m a book-owning snob, I’m forcing myself to wait for the paperback of the final book,”Winter,” to come out before officially finishing the series. I’m not worried. Kinda worried. Not worried.

Downton Abbey – The Final Season

RIP MY HEART OUT, PBS. I live every Sunday in fear that my favorite characters are going to get the ax. Honestly, the suspense is worse than Game of Thrones. My best friend and I had some major bonding times over marathoning this show, so the final season is especially dear to my heart.

Tuneage

You are all in for a huge playlist treat this month. Since my birthday is in January, I decided to look through the Billboard Hot 100 from good old 1993 and pull together a few of my favorite jams. I’ll be honest, some of them were added just because they made me giggle. I hope they do the same for you.

Learn a Book! – 20[16k]

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“Seize the moments of happiness, make them love you, fall in love yourself! That is the only real thing in this world – the rest is all nonsense.” – Leo Tolstoy

For those of you who followed along with last year, learning some books was quite an accomplishment. In 2015 I read 30 books and racked up almost 12,000 pages. This year, rather than upping the same old ante again by tacking on a few more books to the total, I decided to shift the challenge over to those page counts. It’s something I track anyways, so why not make it the focus this go-around?

20[16k] pages. Let’s do this.


  1. “Scarlet” by Marissa Meyer [461 pgs]
  2. “Cress” by Marissa Meyer [550 pgs]
  3. “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [308 pgs]
  4. “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater [408 pgs]
  5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee [323 pgs]
  6. “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt [139 pgs]
  7. “Dr. Franklin’s Island” by Ann Halam [245 pgs]
  8. “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss [662 pgs]
  9. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë [524 pgs]
  10. “Skibbereen: The Famine Story” by Terri Kearney & Philip O’Regan [84 pgs]
  11. “The Trial” by Franz Kafka [210 pgs]
  12. “Dubliners” by James Joyce [192 pgs]
  13. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë [326 pgs]
  14. “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy [464 pgs]
  15. “Memoirs of a Mangy Lover” by Groucho Marx [224 pgs]
  16. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows [240 pgs]
  17. “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater [437 pgs]
  18. “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff [94 pgs]
  19. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews [295 pgs]
  20. “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater [391 pgs]
  21. “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George [370 pgs]
  22. “Lights Out Till Dawn” by Dee Williams [341 pgs]
  23. “Opening Belle” by Maureen Sherry [352 pgs]
  24. “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis [270 pgs]
  25. “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss [1,000 pgs]
  26. “hush, hush” by Becca Fitzpatrick [391 pgs]
  27. “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides [406 pgs]
  28. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway [127 pgs]
  29. “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard [383 pgs]
  30. ** “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton [180 pgs]
  31. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut [215 pgs]
  32. “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee [278 pgs]
  33. “The Last Star” by Rick Yancey [338 pgs]
  34. “Ghost Fleet” by P.W. Singer and August Cole [379 pgs]
  35. “Rapture” by Lauren Kate [466 pgs]
  36. “Northanger Abbey” by Val McDermid [343 pgs]
  37. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne [308 pgs]
  38. “Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir” by Alan Cumming [282 pgs]
  39. “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King [251 pgs]
  40. “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley [482 pgs]
  41. “Diary of an Oxygen Thief” by anonymous [151 pgs]
  42. ** “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman [286 pgs]
  43. “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller [143 pgs]
  44. “Between Two Thorns” by Emma Newman [327 pgs]
  45. “The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide” by Stephenie Meyer [543 pgs]
  46. “As Old As Time” by Liz Braswell [484 pgs]
  47. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling [309 pgs]
  48. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by JK Rowling  [341 pgs]

Total Pages: 16,323


Bolded books come recommended by yours truly. Please do reach out if you want to know why.

** This signifies an absolute must read, irrespective of genre or author or any other segregating factor. I consider it the top recommendation I could ever give to a book – so definitely go pick up a copy right this instant.

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads as well. I don’t write reviews, I seldom remember to rank the stars, and you won’t see a status update from me until the book is moved from “Want to Read” to “Read.” So… enjoy that.

 

A Hometown Holiday [@NewportRI]

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Iconic Giraffe Tree Makes Fashion Statement – Newport Daily News headline, probably

Sitting by the fire playing board games. Curled up on the couch watching movies. Waking up groggy after late night wrapping to greet anticipating little ones at 6am. Christmas passes differently for every family. Mine happens to be on the busier side of life, with a lot of time spent in the car traveling to visit pretty much every relative we realistically can. But according to the song it’s the holiday season, not just the day, that warrants celebration.

22 years of my life have been spent calling Newport my hometown, but I never take advantage of appreciating it during the holiday season. Being away at college means I miss out on a lot of that festive time at home. We pick out our tree right after Thanksgiving and I don’t see it again until after finals. But some of Newport’s best spots are right at my neighborhood’s fingertips – in the downtown area – so this year I decided to spend a little bit of time walking around this wonderful City by the Sea to gaze upon my favorite December decorations.

I’m no professional photographer, but I wanted to share these spots with you in hopes that they inspire two particular things: 1) you’ll want to come visit this beautiful little seaside haunt next Christmas season and/or 2) that you’ll go out on adventures to appreciate your own hometown holidays.

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Newport Wharfs get a lot of twinkle light bling around shop windows for Christmas. Not to mention an abundance of trees inside of said windows.

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Everything is prettier with a wreath! – Winston Churchill, probably

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The entirety of December features garnished boats floating around the harbors – a particular specialty of a seaside Christmas.

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Even our docks get decorated. This one at the end of Bannister’s Wharf houses one brave against the waves Christmas Tree.

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Only in Newport would a giant mast serve as a better decoration than a giant tree. My vote is to keep it lit all year round.

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A dockside skating rink which I’m very glad was brought back for the townspeople to enjoy this year. Plenty of wonderful memories spent teaching my little brother how to skate down here.

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The wave is an iconic Newport monument and if you look closely you’ll see two snuggly feet poking out of it.

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America’s Cup meets Thames Street

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If you ask me – the mansions on Bellevue need a little more Clark Griswold to them. The Elms was the best decorated in my personal, professional, and holiday emotional opinion.

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Hometown Hometree

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Newport Bridge – the best Christmas lights of them all

To you and yours – have a blessed (in any way, shape, or form) Happy Holidays and keep love in your hearts. Looking forward to sharing more Tales of Casstastrophe with you in 2016!