Yesterday got the best of me, and I missed out on posting my Blogtober Day 5 post! So, to keep things simple, I’ll do both Day 5 and Day 6 in one snazzy new post full of lists.
Day 5 – Your Fall Bucket List
I absolutely love fall. Stereotypical white girl, amirite? I’m not a fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes though, don’t peg me in just yet!
I do love the change in the weather, the colors of the leaves, the layers and layers of clothes I get to wear, and the different “activities” that go along with the change in seasons. This might be my last fall season in New England for a while, depending on when Ben gets his orders to move next year, so we’re trying to make the most of it! With a little bit of his help, here’s my bucket list for things that I want to do this fall:
Go to Martha’s Vineyard
Drive around Massachusetts just to look at the changing fall leaves and beautiful houses: I know, I know, the leaves change color everywhere where there are trees. There’s just something about the colors of the leaves combined with old New England houses and little small towns that is so wonderful and romantic and feels exactly like fall to me.
Drink lots of chai lattes in cozy cafes: chai is my favorite warm drink (sometimes tied with hot apple cider) and is best enjoyed in a cozy local cafe
Rake leaves (you’re welcome in advance, Mom!)
Roast pumpkin seeds: I’m not one for carving pumpkins, as my artistic abilities can be hard to find, but I love roasting the seeds from freshly cut pumpkins with a little salt and pepper (and maybe some garlic powder, too)
Go on lots of long walks all bundled up, before it starts to get too cold and snow
Make pumpkin bread: I always forget how easy it is to make breads like pumpkin bread, or my favorite banana bread (see below) but this year, I want to master the art of making pumpkin bread! One year, I made a really awesome and delicious vegan pumpkin bread that I couldn’t get enough of, but then I lost the link to the recipe, sad face. I’m not vegan, but I found a recipe for vegan pumpkin bread over on Averie Cooks that sounds amazing that I can’t wait to try!
As some of you may know, I’ve been relatively involved in LGBTQA+ activism since high school, when my amazing brave awesome wonderful sister Claire came out. I’ve been president of my high school’s GSA, marched in DC Pride with Metro DC PFLAG, and have been on the executive board of Wheaton’s LGBTQA Alliance since my freshman year. I consider myself an ally, while not a perfect one, and am always trying to learn more about the issues facing people who identify as LGBTQA+ and be a better ally. My mom is super involved with issues like marriage equality, and has been in charge of our church’s equality group for the past few years. She also helped to start a group for LGBTQA+ teens in our hometown of Arlington, VA, and is active in the Metro DC PFLAG circles as well. My dad is involved in this activism as well, and my sister is always helping me challenge my preconceived notions and learn more about issues in the LGBTQA+ community. I think it’s safe to say I have an awesome family.
I wanted to write all of that, not for “props” or to get recognition for anything, but to explain how much it means to my family that marriage equality was just legalized in our home state of Virginia.
It’s pretty dang cool!
My mom is already posting pictures from the Arlington courthouse, where gay couples are starting to get married, and she is posting up a storm on Facebook and Twitter. She’s more active on social media than I am!
It’s nice to know that my sister now has the same rights as me, in terms of the ability to get married in our state. It’s just one small step towards equality; one boundary that we’ve crossed over.
There are countless other issues and rights that LGBTQA+ people are fighting for, and marriage equality is just one of them. For example, there are no laws in Virginia that prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Someone could be fired by their employer, just because of their (real or perceived) sexual orientation. I don’t think this shouldn’t be legal in 2014!
There are so many people working every day to help make changes around these issues, and they definitely don’t get enough credit! I’d imagine that working on issues like these in states like Virginia is pretty exhausting work, as it can take a while for real change to be seen in our laws and in the daily lives of LGBTQA+ individuals and families. There are lots of organizations that need our support, and if you’re feeling generous, take a moment to donate to their causes!
Ben and I decided to spend two days and a night on Martha’s Vineyard as a part of our attempt to make the most out of our short time left in the Boston area. We had visited once before for a day trip with people from his office, and loved it so much that we’ve been trying to find a time to return ever since!
We went the “adventurous” route (not really that adventurous – it can just be hit or miss sometimes) by booking a room on Airbnb for the night. We used Airbnb a lot when we were in Ireland, with mixed results, and wanted to test it out here in the states. A lot of Airbnb postings are for a single room that someone isn’t using in their house, so it’s not expected to be like a “true” B&B type experience, and there’s always the chance that the hosts are nutballs!!
I think we lucked out with this one – while a lot of the exterior of the house is under construction by the owners, and a bit of the bathroom is too, it’s so cozy. The construction actually gives it a nice fresh wood smell! Our bed is a king size memory foam mattress, and I had never slept on one before – AMAZING!!! It was a rainy, humid day, so a perfect day for an afternoon nap!
The hosts are really friendly, and immediately gave us tips for places to eat. The first thing they said was, “You have to try back door donuts!” Apparently, Martha’s Vineyard Cafe & Bakery, regular bakery by day, opens their back door by their kitchen from 7 pm to 12:58 am to serve fresh-baked old fashioned donuts, apple fritters, and more. So, no brainer, we went after dinner. I apologize for the crappy photo quality!!
Martha’s Vineyard on a rainy Saturday evening in October is not exactly hopping, and felt a little desolate, but as soon as we rounded the corner behind post office and bakery to find this “secret” place, there were a good ten people all standing around in line and eating donuts! There’s info about it online, like on Yelp, but there are signs at the door telling customers to keep it a secret – it’s just too good to keep quiet about!!
I got an apple fritter, and Ben got a cinnamon roll. They were about $4.00 each, so I had high hopes but wasn’t sure what to expect. And man, those hopes were met, to say the least! The fritter was the size of my head and was warm and fresh, and probably the most delicious dessert I’ve ever eaten. It was crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, glazed, and had chunks of apple throughout it. I may have finished the whole thing myself…
It was so fun to find a hidden (delicious) gem while we were on this short trip. The food was awesome, quick, and it was pretty cool to be able to watch them make everything in the kitchen while we ordered! I’m pretty sure we’ll need to come back to Martha’s Vineyard again – if not just for the donuts!
Today’s prompt: favorite photo you posted on Instagram
Now this is a great prompt.
I like Instagram a lot, even though I’m not an amazing iPhone photographer and I don’t post a ton of pictures. I like the filters and being able to share it on Instagram and across other social media platforms, especially Facebook! I think started Instagramming around April 2012. I used to be reluctant to post pictures because I wasn’t sure how they’d be received – again with my worry of how people perceive me based on my social media and internet writing! I used Instagram a lot this summer when I was in Ireland, as a way to share some of my favorite phone photos with people back home when I didn’t feel like posting hundreds of them to Facebook.
On that note, I think my favorite photo that I’ve posted on Instagram was from the day after Ben and I got engaged. We were feeling goofy and happy and silly at one of the castles we visited, and were taking selfies. We thought it would be funny to take some like I was “punching” him with the ring in full view. And this is what came out of it:
(Also, my phone autocorrects blogtober to vlogtober – I think I watch too much YouTube!!!)
Today’s prompt: one thing you can’t live without.
To me, this feels like one of those prompts that makes you want to show people what a good person you really are. “Oh, my family! Clean water! A good book! Not something vain like the internet or Netflix. Duh.”
So I don’t totally know where to go with this. I don’t want my answer to seem contrived or sound like I’m trying to hard. (I do think that worrying about things like that is something I should do less of, though.)
Aside from the basics like food, water, and shelter, I’d say the one thing that I truly can’t live without is some sort of challenge. Something that makes me think. It would be so easy to slip into the habits of watching mind-numbing tv all the time and to avoid stimulating conversations. But I’d find a life like that to be incredibly unfulfilling! I need to be challenged (nicely) and to have something to work towards. Don’t get me wrong, everyone can benefit from a little break to do something that doesn’t require much thought or effort, and I’ll admit that I love watching terrible shows like Pretty Little Liars, but I find that at the end of the day, I feel best about myself and about what I have accomplished when I spent a good portion of the day thinking.
I like watching documentaries that challenge my preconceived notions about something or some group of people. I like learning about current events and slowly formulating my thoughts on them. I like reading books about peoples lives and seeing what I can learn from their lived experiences. And I (most of the time) like conversations with people about potentially uncomfortable topics.
Having the chance to be challenged and to think and learn on a deeper level than I thought possible is probably what I value most from my time spent in college, and I know I’ll miss it when I graduate. I know that I will always aim to surround myself with people who want to think and discuss and learn, because those conversations can help build bonds and community. I hope that I can find a job that allows me to do all of this, too!
As a way to challenge myself to write more (and to have topics to actually write about!) I have decided to participate in #Blogtober14, which is a challenge to write a blog post every day in October, complete with prompts!
I’ve never done anything like this before, and have never participated in any of those “link up” blog challenges that are apparently a thing people do. The challenge is hosted by two blogs that are more “lifestyle” than anything I’ve attempted before, and there are a bunch of beauty/fashion/etc prompts – again, that’s an area I’ve never wandered into on this blog before, so I’m a little nervous!
I’m a day behind, since it’s October 2nd, but technically I blogged yesterday – just without the prompt!
Today’s prompt is… Dream job when you were little/ what is it now?
Classic Margaret, it has been almost two full months since I last posted. Last time I wrote a blog post, I had just about finished up my internship, and my boyfriend Ben was coming to visit me in Ireland for a week of traveling and adventures.
That week resulted in this:
Credit to http://michellebgphotography.com/
We’re engaged!!! And we couldn’t be more happy 🙂 it was a wonderful surprise and he proposed in such a beautiful place. Wedding planning has been taking the back burner to school/work for us, and we’re not sure of the date yet, but it has been heartwarming to hear/see the reaction of all of our family and friends. We have such a supportive, loving network of people that we are so grateful for.
Now back to the purpose of this blog post… DECISIONS!
One place we went while traveling around Ireland in our tiny, but speedy, rental car was the Brú na Bóinne, a World Heritage Site in County Meath. This area has been inhabited for over 6,000 years, and is the site of some pretty dang awesome prehistoric stone tombs and other old things. We only had time to visit one of these sites – Newgrange.
Some of the ancient art – you can’t take photos inside!
Outside of Newgrange
Newgrange is estimated to have been built around 3200 BC, so well before the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge. No one really knows who built it, or what the exact purpose of it was, but it turns out that it’s aligned with the rising sun during the winter solstice. As they demonstrated (with electric lights) when we got the chance to go inside the stone structure, the light floods the passage in and makes it all the way in to the center of the chamber – which is even more impressive when you realize that the entrance passage is curved and the light enters from a roof box above the entrance stone. Inside the chamber, there’s all kinds of amazing carvings and Neolithic rock art as well.
An illustration of how the sunlight shines into the chamber during the Winter Solstice
An image from the 2004 Winter Solstice – http://www.knowth.com/winter-solstice_2004.htm
To be able to experience the Winter Solstice here, you have to enter a lottery at the visitor center, where they choose 50 winners at the end of September. Each chosen person can bring someone else, and they get assigned a day to come over the 5 days that the sun is scheduled to shine through – weather permitting. Ben and I thought it would be fun to enter, so we sat at the visitor center for a good fifteen minutes filling out a bunch of applications, smiling and joking that it was a waste of time since we would never get picked. I think we may have put in ten each!
As time went by and the excitement of the engagement overwhelmed us, we totally forgot that we entered – fast forward to Tuesday, September 30th, at around 9:20 am, when I was checking my email while heading to class. Ben had forwarded me an email that said…
I am writing to you from Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre to let you know that your application form to attend the Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Co Meath, Ireland was one of those picked out by local school children on September 26th 2014. There were 30,532 applications altogether. Many congratulations!
I called him immediately and we started freaking out about how amazing this opportunity would be. Ever since I left Ireland, I’ve wanted to go back. I miss being there so much, and being able to attend the Winter Solstice at Newgrange together would truly be a once in a lifetime opportunity. The chances of us getting chosen were so slim, and we never expected it!
Now comes the decision part… Flying to Ireland, finding a place to stay, getting a rental car, and generally traveling are all so expensive. We just got back from the expensive trip to Ireland in August and hadn’t really budgeted for paying for a second one in December. Our parents have graciously given us engagement presents which would help pay for the trip, and we could dip into our savings to finance the rest of it. We have the time to go, but spending the money isn’t necessarily the most financially responsible thing to do right now.
But… it would be a dream come true to be able to travel together and see something that so very few people get to experience. We will always have a special place in our hearts for Ireland, especially since we got engaged there and have an insane number of happy memories from that week long trip. I’m sure this trip would be something we would never forget.
I hate hard decisions!
So here’s where you (the reader? Do you actually exist? Or am I just pretending that people actually read my blog…) come in. Help us decide what to do!
Some noteworthy that have happened since my last blog post:
Day trip to Connemara and Galway with friends
This included a lot of sitting on a very bouncy bus, with stops at a peat bog, Kylemore Abbey (so beautiful it looks fake), an hour long cruise from Killary Harbor around Ireland’s only fjord, a tiny little town where I got a handmade leather wallet, and an hour in Galway city (where we could’ve spent a lot more time!). Overall, it was a good trip! (PS – I haven’t edited all any of the photos from my nice camera, so a lot of these are just quick phone snapshots!)
Lots of legroom on the bumpy bus!
Selfie in a peat bog
Selfie with the Kylemore Abbey
Spent time drinking delicious tea and reading
Some days after work, I spent some time sitting in Bewley’s Cafe or in the friendly, hip Accents Coffee & Tea Lounge, sipping on tea and reading. While I’ve been here, I finished Looking for Alaska by John Green. It was a quick read and was well written for a young adult novel (his debut novel as well!), but I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I didn’t really like any of them, and felt annoyed with the narrator (a 16/17 year old boy) most of the time. The ending of the book was the kind that gave me goosebumps because it closed out the story so well, and the story itself was pretty gripping, but I just didn’t come away from the book with a great overall feeling. John Green gets a lot of praise for being a great YA lit author (and a lot of hate/criticism, some of which I really agree with), but this book just didn’t live up to the hype for me. It’ll be interesting to see the movie version of it! I am now reading It’s Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice. It’s already incredibly moving and powerful!
At Accents with a vanilla chai latte – I sat here for a good three hours, just reading!
Tea time at Bewley’s
Went to Longitude Festival with my friend Sara
My boss was kind enough to let me take a half day on a Friday to go to the Longitude Festival out in Marlay Park! My friend Sara and I had looked at tickets for it earlier in the summer, since we both love Bastille and they were playing on the main stage, but had decided back then that the tickets were too pricey. One week before the festival, we impulsively decided to go! Bastille doesn’t tour around the US very often, so this was a great opportunity to see them. We left Dublin via coach bus around 2pm, and spent the day watching new (to us) bands perform and getting excited about Bastille. The set-up for the festival at the sprawling Marlay Park was awesome – there were different stages tucked in random wooded fields and there were tons of delicious food stands. It was forecasted to rain that day, but it was barely even cloudy – we lucked out! Bastille was excellent (aside from the tall annoying man standing in front of me) and they’re even better live than they are on their album. I also discovered Hudson Taylor, a brother duo from Dublin who perform folksy-indie original songs that make me very happy to listen to! It was a long day, and we got back to Dublin around 11:30pm after a lot of walking, but it was definitely time and money well spent!