Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Emerald Isle, Day Two Point Five


We finally made it to the top of the hill and got to see this little gem of a castle.

I think this must have been an every day Joe kind of castle. There was not a thing fancy about it. Hardly any windows. One door. Plain stone.

But the views.

Holy moly, were they something.
Have you ever seen so many rocks?

Interesting fact about those stone walls I read somewhere. There aren't any openings in the sections. If a farmer needed to move cattle or sheep, he would simply take some rocks away, let the animals through, and then rebuild the wall. They didn't use mortar to hold the stone together - just the stones.
When we came down the hill, we found ourselves working our way through the rock wall sections of farmland. There wasn't always a road but there was usually a path to follow, meandering along the rock walls. Several times I thought we were going to be trapped inside one of the rock wall sections but we always found a way out.

Of course, we didn't see anyone else walking this part of the island - confirming my thought that we probably should have gone back the way we came instead of plunging headlong into the countryside.

I was fairly certain we were going to run up against a bull in one of those little sections.
Civilization at last.

I've never been so happy to see laundry hanging on a line.
I want street signs like this in the U.S.

They are so much prettier than our plain Jane green ones and they give you so much more information, don't you think?
Not a soul to be seen.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Emerald Isle, Day Two

Day two of our grand adventure to the Emerald Isle.

We took a ferry over to Inish Oirr, the easternmost island of the Aran Islands. Population about 297.

It was easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Solitude.

Quiet.

Peace.
The ferry dropped us off at the harbor and we set off walking, heading towards the castle we could see up on a hill in the distance. 

We weren't too worried about getting lost. It's a small island.

It was a spectacular day - sunny with a few wispy clouds floating by and very moderate temperatures. 

In the eleven days we were in Ireland we only saw two bits of rain. The first was the very morning we landed and we found evidence of wet roads as we drove out of the airport. No rain, just wet roads. The last bit was the day we left. It barely sprinkled for a few minutes as we were driving to the airport. Our host and hostess commented on how fortunate we were to have such a stretch of sunny, gorgeous weather. They told us they couldn't remember the last time they had such a great stretch of weather that time of year.

I almost feel like we didn't really experience true Irish weather. But I'm okay with that. It will give us an excuse to go back. 

Ha.
This view is from about half way up the hill to the castle.

Since we were there in early fall, you can see some of the grass was already looking a wee bit, well, dead.

There was plenty of green on the main island but this island was more gold.
Until this photo. Now you can see some green.

That castle is where we were headed.

And between us and the castle were about 10,000 stone walls. I'm not exaggerating. This is some seriously rocky land, folks. 

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We were almost to the top of the hill, working our way up and up and up, going past the sweetest cottages and most breathtaking views, when we came upon a cottage that had a sign outside the stone wall around their lot. It indicated that it was a bed and breakfast that served lunch to everyone. There were some picnic tables set up in the yard with a few people sitting at each one.

We went inside where we found a couple putting some food together in the kitchen. We inquired about eating lunch and the wife said, yes, we could do that but they didn't have a table available at the moment. We were willing to wait but she said no, her husband would be happy to bring another table outside if our husbands could help him. 

Not a huge problem.

But before the guys could do that, a family got up and left their table. 

Problem solved.

We sat and enjoyed a tasty lunch on the hill under the castle. We were in no rush and just sat in the sun, looking out over the ocean in the distance and watching other tourists walk by as they headed up to the castle. 

When we were finished, we went inside to pay and she had a big bowl of candy for the taking. We all tried one and T and I fell in love with the caramels. Asking our hostess where we could find these treats, she named the market to look for and then brought out a plastic bag and gave us several handfuls to take with us.

A very kind and generous woman. And our new best friend after plying us with caramels. She's lucky we left.
Gaillimh = Galway.



Sunday, July 5, 2015

Telling Stories

Chopped southwest salad with a lime cilantro dressing.

Tangy. Full of cilantro. Delicious on a hot summer day.

~~~~~~~~~~

I've had this recipe pinned for a while and decided to bring it to Sissy's today for our fourth of July picnic.

It made a ton of salad. Enough so I can take it for lunch tomorrow. And probably the day after that as well.
Spent a quiet afternoon soaking up the sun, swimming in the pool, and playing a game of ladder ball. My niece cleaned our clocks, winning every single game she played. Clearly I need to get this game and practice more.

When my nieces and Sissy dragged me down to the lower forty to play, I reminded them that I had never played before.

"I'm on Mom's team!" my niece D yelled.

Her twin sister E looked pained to find herself partnered with her auntie who has never thrown a ladder ball ever.

It's okay, girls. My ego can take the hit.

~~~~~~~~~~

Had dinner with my dad last evening. I love when there is just a couple of us around because he starts telling stories from his childhood days.

Last night he was telling us about one of his father's sisters, Aunt M and her husband, Uncle J. They only had one party a year and it was a fourth of July picnic. They would have about 70 or so people. Not all the aunts and uncles got along so there would be some who wouldn't come but his favorite cousins would be there and the kids always had fun.

Both my grandparents came from very large families. My grandfather was one of twelve siblings and my grandmother was one of eight siblings. My dad was telling us that one of Nana's brothers was a musician in an orchestra. They played in clubs throughout the area, including the larger cities. Every Christmas Eve my dad's uncle would have a party and the entire family and orchestra members and their families would come. He said the band would play all night and it was a great time. That's how I remember my Nan's family - loads of laughter and lots of fun.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dad always seems to enjoy talking about his childhood and I love hearing about it. He's as good a storyteller as I am. Must be the Irish in us.








Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day, #239


Quincy Market.

Great flag.

~~~~~~~~~~

Happy 4th of July.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bean Town

Off to Bean Town today. 

The Man and I always choose some revolutionary war site to visit on the fourth of July. We've done some traveling over the years and these trips are usually in the top ten for favorite memories for J and K. I think this year will make the cut.

We added J's girlfriend, L, to the mix. Her younger cousin was visiting so she came along too. 

It was a hot, sunny day. We took every opportunity to duck inside and get out of the sun for a little bit. And sit down.

Mostly to sit down.

There's a lot of cobblestone in Boston. I almost went down several times. The Man and J and K don't even pay attention to it anymore. They just roll their eyes and keep on keeping on.

~~~~~~~~~~

We liked visiting the churches along the Freedom Trail, imagining the families that worshipped there in the past.

The boxes in the churches (no pews) were purchased by families. We couldn't figure out why they boxed people in.  I snapped a shot of K's sneakers against the faded wood floor in one of the boxes and then added my favorite effect - Waterlogue.
A happy crew.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Love Your Momma Day


We are VERY. FIERCE. WOMEN.

Ha.

My friend D and I participated in a 5K color run back in May.

We did NOT run.

We walked. At a pretty decent pace, if I do say so myself. We passed people much younger than ourselves so we definitely weren't walking at a Sunday-stroll-around-the-promenade pace.

D and her daughter, L (J's girlfriend) talked K and I into doing this and I'm so glad they did! It was a gorgeous spring day to be outside with plenty of sunshine and lots and lots of color all around. L and K ran most of the race and finished well before us. They were covered in color. While D and I were walking quickly through the color stations, K and L were lolling around in them absorbing every color under the sun. Then running to the next station to do it all over with a new color.

Think rainbow unicorns.

~~~~~~~~~~

So we took the photo above before the race started and tried to look as fierce as we could, showing off tattoos.

Temporary tattoos. Ain't nobody putting a real tattoo on my body.

A good day. A fun day. An "I'm so happy I finished this" day.
Mother's Day was spent exploring a small hamlet with lots of old buildings.

Chipped paint. Rust and other tell-tale signs of age. Overgrown trees and shrubs. All of this made for some interesting backdrops.
When we had finished exploring we were all hungry so we found a small roadside stand selling hamburgs and hot dogs and french fries and milkshakes.

It's a good thing we don't eat like this all the time. But, boy, did it taste good while we were eating it.

Not wanting the day to end, we found a couple local wineries to visit and came home with some tasty new wines to try. And lots of wineglasses.

Too many wineglasses.

I decided that when J and K get married I'm going to throw a wineglass on the floor and yell, "OPA!" every half hour or so. That will lighten our wineglass population.
One of my favorites from the day. The Man did good.

~~~~~~~~~~

I'm so happy and thankful that J and K still humor me and let me spend a day with them in front of the camera. I know the day will come when they won't have the time or the desire to do this, so I treat each Mother's Day they do it as the gift it is and that makes it extra special to me.

They really are the best son and daughter. Love them to the moon and back.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Emerald Isle



Hi there.

It's been a while, hasn't it?

I feel a little bit rusty writing this post - I'm squeaking like the Tin Man as my fingers flutter over the keyboard. 

Good golly, I miss blogging. I miss sharing my thoughts and my stories. I miss planning the photos I want to use in each post. I miss connecting with all of you. I miss all of it.

But I had to take some time off. I hurt my arm in early fall and have had a difficult time shooting anything with my big, heavy camera. I've had to rely on my iPhone camera. Blech. I don't care what anyone says about their cell phone camera, it is NOT as good as my Nikon. 

Without photos, I was lost. My words went away. My heart wasn't in it anymore. My voice disappeared.

My friends and family have been wonderful. No one has pressured me to start blogging again (what does that mean?) but people have made tiny comments like maybe, someday, you'll blog again?

And now that day has come. 
The Man and I have had some adventures while I was away from blogging. We traveled across the pond and celebrated our twenty fifth anniversary and my fiftieth birthday in Ireland.

Two very good friends came with us and we had a grand time. We rented a car and a cottage - the most beautiful cottage in the most beautiful seaside town on the east coast of Ireland. Each day, we drove all over God's creation on that Emerald Isle and came home at night to a warm, cozy cottage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was real.

~~~~~~~~~~

I was enchanted by the gorgeous red vines climbing a most spectacular hotel designed to look like a castle. A rather large castle. We stopped to visit on our way to the cottage after we landed in Shannon. We walked the grounds and gardens, took lots of photos, and then snuck inside to use the powder rooms. 

But it wasn't a real castle. And I wanted to see a real castle. 

So we got back in the car, driving on the left (wrong) side of the road, and took off in search of a real castle.
We looked in the travel guides we had with us and found a castle not too far from where we were. The castle was a little bit off the beaten path and it took a some time to find it. We kept driving past the road we were looking for and must have turned around at least three times. These are not easy roads to turn around on - very narrow and stone walls along each side, with no shoulder at all. Once we got on the right road, we drove up to the castle and found parking.

We had some trouble finding the "front" door. It was a castle, for Pete's sake. It had lots of doors but none of them were open. We kept trying doors until we found one that opened. Calling out "hello!" as we walked in to a foyer area, we didn't see anyone around. No sentry waiting to collect an admission, no security guard, no one at the entrance at all.

We kept walking further inside, finding room after room to explore. Signs on the walls helped us to figure out what each room was used for and when it was built or added on to the castle.
The colors on the tapestries in the dining hall were stunningly vibrant. Being a needleworker myself, I was thoroughly taken with these fabrics and could have stayed in there admiring them for hours. My companions were not as entranced as I was and they kept moving. I had to run to keep up with them. Can't be left behind in a hundred bazillion room castle.

We worked our way through several more rooms, reading signs as we went along. After a while, we heard a voice a few rooms away. A gentleman came around the corner and found us exploring.

"Aaach! Ye canna be in here!" he exclaimed. "We are closed!"

Oops. That might be the reason why most of the outside doors were locked.

He went on to explain that the fire inspector was completing his annual inspection and no one was allowed inside while that was happening. We didn't see the need to tell him that we had already toured a whole lot of rooms. We apologized profusely, smiling and waving as we left.

We came into Ireland with a bang.

Trespassing.
We got back on the road and headed east, toward the ocean, to find our cottage. We drove through several small villages, stopping in one of them to pick up some groceries. The market was much different from our markets in the United States. Not as much variety to choose from. Meat was very expensive. We walked around for a while, looking at different things, picking and choosing a few items for breakfast and snacks. Beer and wine. Chocolate. 

You know. The essentials.

~~~~~~~~~~

We had lunch across the street from the market and got our first taste of fish and chips. We chatted with the owner and found out that her brother in law lives in the U.S. just a few towns away from us.
It really is a small world.
We finally came to the {very} small village we were staying in and found the restaurant where we were to meet the owners of the cottage to get the keys. They also own the restaurant which has a bed and breakfast attached to it. Apparently they are very successful business people in the hospitality sector. 

The wife greeted us warmly, full of smiles and good cheer. Everything was going smoothly until she said something about us checking in TOMORROW. 

What?

I reminded her that we had corresponded with each other, confirming our arrival date. She was very gracious, certain she had made a mistake, and checked her email account. 

She discovered that we had, indeed, arrived on the right day. But she had forgotten we were coming and had booked the cottage for that night.

Gulp. Now what?

She told us their bed and breakfast was full up and the other cottage they owned was being used. She offered to put us up at another bed and breakfast for the night. We had no problem with that, as long as we had somewhere to sleep for the night.

She asked for a few minutes to make some phone calls. We waited outside, walking up and down the road admiring the scenery. Every view was a postcard view.

Beautiful. Green. Rolling hills. Sweeping views of the ocean. Rocky cliffs.

After a bit, the owner came out and had good news. The couple in our cottage was leaving early and she could have it ready for us in a few hours. Her husband suggested we visit the Cliffs of Moher while we were waiting. He gave us a map and off we went.
We walked for a couple hours along the cliffs. Literally.

There are no railings or fences along the edge. The Man and I got brave and went as close to the edge as we were comfortable with. He stood.

But I'm not confident enough in my ability to NOT fall off the cliff so I sat down.

These views kept taking my breath away. I think we could have walked forever along that narrow path, looking out over the ocean and soaking in the gorgeous scenery.

The farther we walked, the fewer people we encountered. Most of the tourists only walked a short distance from the main viewing area. Not us. With our two active, outdoors-y men, T and I found ourselves walking and walking and walking. Eventually we found ourselves walking alongside some pastures that belonged to a local farmer. 

We looked at each other, eyes wide open. "I can't imagine owning farmland that abuts the OCEAN. And neighbors the CLIFFS OF MOHER!"

Surreal.

Our roadside view while we were waiting for the rental situation to work itself out.

If you look down the road, you'll see a white building with some red trim at the end. One of the local pubs we hung out in during the evenings. That one was a particular favorite. Great local feel to the place and the trad music was fantastic.

My favorite dish? Cabbage and bacon. The bacon is thick cut and looks and tastes just like ham. And the cabbage was mouth-watering. I had it several times while we were there.

Tasted almost as good as my Nana's.

Almost.
Our next door neighbor.

She came over to visit any time we were outside.

The only thing separating us was a {very} low stonewall. I was sitting at the picnic table when I took this photo.

Up close and personal. She was a very friendly gal.
Our wonderful host and hostess left us a basket of homemade treats to sample. Breakfast for several days. And a welcome one at that. Breakfast is hard to come by in Ireland.

But I'll leave that story for another day.