10 Tips for Surviving a Parade With Kids

Let’s talk parades.

I LOVE parades, which just proves I’m a complicated individual. I don’t enjoy hanging out with large groups of people. I’m not very patient. And did I mention ALL. THE. PEOPLE?

Yet, I love parades!

It’s probably nostalgia knocking on my door. I remember going to a 4th of July parade as a little girl with my grandma and cousins. I remember exactly where we’d sit on a curb with a few trees doing a terrible job of shading us from the July sun. I remember cowgirl princesses on horses and beauty queens in convertibles doing that elbow-elbow-wrist-wrist wave as they slowly passed by. There were restored hot rod cars, old-fashioned firetrucks and best of all, square dancers do-si-do-ing down Main Street. Through the rosy lens of childhood, it was AMAZING.

When I had kids, I was ready to carry on those traditions. Relive it all through their bright little eyes.

But, man.

Childhood Me didn’t realize it’s a little more complicated than just showing up with a 3-year-old and a newborn and expecting everyone to have the most fun in the history of fun.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned in the last 10 years about surviving a parade with your kids and I daresay, even enjoying it! Surviving it is a good start, but parades are awesome! Let’s enjoy the experience too!

Tip #1: Lower Your Expectations

I realize the irony here. I encourage you to aim higher in the introduction and now I’m all “bring it back down, bring it back down.” Remember the complicated individual part?

What I really mean is don’t put so much pressure on you, the day or the event itself to bring about some sort of kumbaya family bonding moment. It’s a parade. And you’re going there with your real family, not those perfect kids from the Gap commercials.

With that in mind, do what you can to set yourselves up for success by planning ahead.

The rest? As much as it pains me to say, you can’t plan your way through everything. That’s why a good attitude can go a long way toward making the experience fun and memorable. So put on a smile in the event something zigs, when you expected it to zag. Remember, it’s just a parade.


Tip #2: Know Before You Go

Knowledge is your friend, folks.

Ask other people who have attended the parade in prior years for their advice for viewing, seating (do people bring chairs or is it standing only), how to get there, when will streets be shut down, where to park, etc. If you don’t know anyone who has attended the parade before, go online to find answers. Or you can be like me and call the local municipality that’s hosting the parade. It’s their job to answer your most burning questions and they love it when someone isn’t calling to complain. Truly.

Also, for the love of your sanity, know the parade route. It will, most likely, be published online. This is good for a variety of reasons such as helping you decide where to watch the parade. It also helps you understand road closures that will impede your commute to and from the event. Traffic is probably going to be messed up, so take a deep breath, allow extra time and just go with the flow detour.

At the recent St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin we understood the road closures, but we were not fully aware of the public transportation closures. Not all of the train stations were open on parade day, so we had to walk a bit further to catch a train home…in the rain. Lesson learned.

The last thing to know before you go? Ask yourself if you and your kids can handle it? Really handle it.

I’ve often dragged my kids somewhere and then been upset because they had a meltdown halfway through. Of course we weren’t having fun then. Neither was I. Their behavior was less about them and more about me putting them in a situation they weren’t ready to handle. If you have really little kids that will miss a nap or won’t stay in a stroller or cannot handle waiting, then by all means, wait another year. This is about making good memories, not about souring them (and yourself) on the experience.


Tip #3: Come Prepared

You need to channel your inner Boy Scout for this one. Be prepared. You could be waiting a good long while for the parade to start. Plus, the parade itself could last over an hour. Food, water and something for the kids to do while you wait will be lifesavers.

At the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, I knew we’d have to stake out our spot if we wanted to keep it. I also knew the parade started at lunch time and the restaurants would be extra busy. That was a hassle I didn’t want to deal with, so I packed a lunch.

As far as pre-parade entertainment, we arrived at 10 a.m. for a 12 p.m. parade. It was closer to 12:30 by the time the parade reached our spot. That’s a lot of waiting no matter if you are 5 or 50. We brought books and tablets to keep the kids busy. Kids might be able to jump on a trampoline for 2 hours straight, but to ask them to stand perfectly still behind a parade barricade for 2 hours is pretty much Mission Impossible. My kids sat on the ground and read their books, played their games, ate their lunch and then popped up every now and then to see what was happening around us. They were entertained and I wasn’t stressed about them getting lost in a crowd of strangers.

How we’ve chosen to handle the parade wait has been different for every single parade we’ve attended. Figure out what works for you given the parade circumstances and the ages of your children.


Tip #4: Bring Reinforcements

Especially if you have younger kids, it’s always good when the adult to child ratio is in your favor. Grandparents are lifesavers when it comes to this!

In terms of keeping kids entertained before the parade starts, there is nothing better than having friends along. Yes, thankfully, friends beat out books and technology in our house. Human interaction for the win!

If you can plan to watch the parade with someone else, it will add to the experience (aka the fun) for all.


Tip #5: Know the Weather

This comes back to being prepared, but you have to know what the weather might do during the parade. For those summer parades, do you have sunscreen, a hat, water, a fan, etc? For the parades where the weather might not be so nice, do you have rain gear and warm clothes?

For the Dublin parade I packed small blankets and even garbage bags. Garbage bags can be versatile if you need to make a dry place to sit, a bag to hold parade loot, or to fashion a makeshift poncho.

In case you are wondering, yes, I sometimes feel like a sherpa hauling all of this stuff around in my backpack. But the one time I don’t is the one time I need it.

The guys in the below photo? Let’s just say I hope their arm paint was waterproof because it started raining halfway through the parade. Major bummer, but the show must go on!


Tip #6: Decide in Advance Where You Want to View the Parade

I know plenty of people who never wait for a parade to start. They will always show up 30 minutes late and somehow find a place to stand to view the festivities. It helps that they are tall.

I prefer to view the parade from the start of the route. Especially when you are attending the event with children, it’s just less waiting time. If the parade starts at noon and it starts on time, it still will take several minutes for the parade to travel even a few blocks.

Plus, the performers in the parade are still giving it 110% at the start of the parade. By the end of the parade…they might be a little less enthusiastic. Or they’ve run out of candy to throw. Or they are drenched and their poor fingers are too cold to play the tuba like they usually do.

I don’t even want to know what happens to the poor lady walking on stilts…


Tip #7: Slightly Dehydrate

I’m not telling you to dehydrate yourself or your kids. That would be bad and I’m not qualified to give you medical advice. Not qualified.

What I am saying is it might be hard to find a bathroom at a parade. So if you know you are going to be standing outside for 2 hours before a parade starts, you might not want to give the kids that extra juice box right before you leave the house. Some parades set up extra toilets to handle the demand…some don’t. Or they don’t have near enough toilets.

Better yet, pick a strategic parade viewing spot close to a bathroom. It’s not the worst idea ever. Perhaps that’s what this guy was looking for…


Tip #8: Get in the Spirit

Part of the fun of attending a parade is getting yourself in the spirit. This might mean wearing green to a St. Patrick’s Day parade, wearing a Santa Hat to a Christmas parade, etc.

It also means cheering and clapping when the parade floats go by. I’ve been to parades where the attendees burst out into song and it pretty much made my year!


Tip #9: Be Respectful and Aware

Cultural Respect:
Pay attention to any cultural or patriotic customs that are observed during a parade and be respectful. For instance, in the United States it is customary to stand when the American Flag passes by at the start of the parade.

Other countries may have their own customs. Be culturally aware of what’s happening around you to prevent a faux pas.

Personal Space? Forget About it! So, Be Aware:
Especially if you are going to a standing room only parade, be prepared to have your personal sense of space violated. There will be crowding. Lots of crowding.

If someone is too invasive, then just politely remind them that, for instance, your child’s head is not a tripod base for their cell phone camera. Most people like that will just move on after you’ve gently reminded them to be considerate.

Make sure any valuables are safely tucked away or protected if you know people are going to be bumping up against you. Don’t leave money, keys or phones in your back pockets and be careful about jacket pockets. Just be cautious and aware.


Tip #10: Put Away The Camera

Take a few photos to remember the parade, but after that, put away the camera.

Seriously, put it away.

Be present in the moment.

Watch your children’s reactions to the outrageously amazing floats that go by. Take time to notice all the details that you don’t when you’re viewing life through your phone screen.

The best memories of all won’t be the ones you capture on your screen. They will be the ones you capture with your heart.

Trust me. You won’t regret it.


I do love a parade. I don’t care if they are cheesey. It is incredibly heartwarming to see hundreds or even thousands of people with different backgrounds and viewpoints come together for one moment in time.

And for that one moment, they are all in agreement over the simple premise that parades rock! They enthusiastically cheer on the kids in the marching band, the horses, the pooper scooper guy, the grand marshall in the convertible, the firefighters, the local carpet cleaner’s mascot. It’s a big community love fest and it reminds you of the good in humanity.

If you are thinking about attending a parade with children, I hope one or more of these tips help make your experience happy and memorable.

 

 

 

Happy List #18

Hello everyone! How is spring treating you?

Fun tidbit. We don’t spring ahead for daylight savings time here in Ireland until this weekend! That’s why my posts have been publishing an hour earlier recently. Here’s a list of countries around the world and when and if they do the daylight savings time switch.

Also, Sunday is Mother’s Day in Ireland. I had been wondering why the stores have been carrying Happy Mum’s Day items for weeks. Now, I know! I’m not sure losing an hour of sleep is a very good way to celebrate moms though.

This week I discussed how well my green thumb is working with my newly acquired houseplants. I also showed you some awesome outtakes from some recent attempts at family photos.

Here are all the random things on my Happy List this week.


Sesame Chicken

I made this recipe on Monday night. We all loved it. Even Picky McPickerson – the youngest member of our clan.

I did not put sesame seeds on top because I did not have any, so don’t let that deter you. I’m not going to say it’s super healthy because the chicken is batter fried, but I did add green beans, snap peas and carrots to the dish to make it a one pan meal.

If there are members of your family that don’t enjoy sauce, they will enjoy the “chicken nuggets.”

Get the recipe at RasaMalaysia.

(image)


Built In Shoe Drawers in an Entry

Honest to goodness, where has this shoe storage solution been all of my life?

If you had the right space configuration to build shallow shoe drawers into your wall, it would be amazing. Especially in a split level entry where space is already tight and awkward.

Read more about how they built this brilliant idea at Lemon Thistle.

(image)


Cat Pillow Covers

These aren’t my thing, but I’m thinking about ordering these pillow covers off Amazon for my daughter. If you know her and you’ve seen her colorful room, then you’d know why she’d love these.

Cat Reading Pillow Cover

Purple Cat Pillow Cover


The Scarcity Trap: Why We Keep Digging When We’re Stuck In a Hole

This story on Hidden Brain explains a lot! If you’ve ever wondered why it is hard for individuals to breakout of a cycle, such a poverty, researchers have a theory. The implications of their research, if applied to social welfare programs, could actually do what we want those programs to do: give people a leg up, not a handout.

“Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing?” Two researchers have dubbed this phenomenon scarcity, and they say it touches on many aspects of our lives. “It leads you to take certain behaviors that in the short term help you to manage scarcity, but in the long term only make matters worse,” says Sendhil Mullaianathan, an economics professor at Harvard University.”

Listen to the entire story here on the Hidden Brain site. It’s fantastic food for thought.


Map Art

I just found a new website called Gale Nation. Gale is from Kansas and she is a hand-lettering artist. How cool is that?

I love how she applies her craft to maps and globes. (All images from her site.)


And if you need a teacher gift, I love this t-shirt.


To Mom

Speaking of children being the future, my son brought this artwork home from school yesterday. It’s the cover for his scrapbook.

The scrapbook is supposed to be about Poland, but he got a little off track, I’d say. In the best way possible.

I love that boy. I’m not sure what he knows about Poland, but I know he’s thinking about me even when he’s at school. Aw, MUSH!


Working With What You’ve Got

Here’s an amazing example of taking something that’s not your style and not in your budget to change (purple countertops) and making it look intentional.

Here’s the before:

(image)

And here’s the after:

(image)

Pretty amazing transformation, right? Whether or not it’s your style is beside the point. The point is this homeowner made it work! She’s far more imaginative than I am.

Read more about it here.


Kitchen Inspiration From the UK

Now for a completely different kitchen!

As much as I swoon over dark kitchen cabinets, I really like the taupe cabinets in this kitchen by UK company, deVOL.

It’s a good thing I’m not building or remodeling anytime soon because it would be hard to decide which direction to go. I’d probably split the difference and go dark on the bottom cabinets and light on the uppers. What would you do?

(image)


Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you have a fantastic weekend!

The Tale of 3 Houseplants

I bought a houseplant.

Yay me.


It’s still sort of alive a month later.

Yay me?


It’s not looking good though, which is a shame because I had to carry it home from the grocery store like this.

People don’t even look at you strange here for carrying home a plant on the train.


I’m not confident the plant is going to survive. Something weird is going on with the soil. And the stem. If we’re going to be thorough, then fine. The leaves too.

As for the obvious question, yes, I have watered it.

And not just that one time.

I have dutifully followed the directions that came on its tag. All 4 lines of the directions, which was considerably more information than I received for the other living things in my care…humans. And they seem to be doing just fine.

So I decided to buy a backup plant.


This one is doing better.

Probably because it survives well with benign neglect.

And it doesn’t seem to mind being shot with Nerf bullets.


But I’m still not convinced it will survive either.

So I did the logical thing and spent €1.49 for a backup to the backup plant.


He’s been home for 6 days and still needs a permanent planter to sit in, but I’m afraid to jinx it.

Keeping indoor plants alive really shouldn’t be that hard. The weeds outdoor plants in my garden seem to be quite happy and robust after all.

Oh, the harsh sting of irony.

Should the first plant perish, I found some good advice on what to try next from this HGTV article about indoor plants that like low light. Except, my house does get a fair amount of light, so I might need to do a little more research.

Maybe I’ll just plant a dandelion. I can’t seem to kill those even when I’m trying.

I Just Want ONE Good Picture

One good picture.

Is that too much for a mom to ask?

We recently went on a hike. It was one of those “let’s go for a walk” moments when Handy Husband dupes us all and we end up hiking 7 miles. I’m fairly certain the entire trip was uphill both ways, but I probably imagined the snow and burning coals part. The mud was real though.

If you can’t tell, there’s a chasm between Handy Husband’s definition of a “walk” and everyone else’s. But we are all healthier for it.

If you ever go on a “walk” with my husband, make sure you pack your survival gear. You’ll probably be outside WAY longer than you anticipated.

But I digress!

Anyway, we finally reached the second summit during this hike and I wanted to get just one nice photo of me and the kids.

Except my son was “having a moment.” Probably because we just hiked up two mountains and he swore both his legs, his pinkie finger and his right butt cheek were broke. And we were out of fruit snacks. He wouldn’t even look at the camera.

And my daughter. Well…

I don’t even know what to say about that. Maybe, it’s always the quiet ones that surprise you? Maybe, she takes photobombing to a whole new level?

I finally wrangled her in closer, but my son was still being difficult. He gets his stubbornness from someone…definitely not me.


I actually liked that one though for a few reasons.
#1: The camera caught me looking down at my daughter with a smile. I don’t remember what was expressed in this moment, but I know it was silly and she made me smile. I’m thankful for her easy-going spirit. Plus, she mixes fabric patterns like no one else.

#2: I am still strong enough to hold my 6-year-old.

I know he’s probably too old for that, but there will come a point when I will never be able to pick him up again. Do you remember the last time you held your youngest child? If I knew it was going to be the last time, I’d be bereft. The gradual passage of time is merciful in that regard.

Holding my kids is one of my greatest joys as a mother. This boy still sits on my lap no matter where we are: home, restaurant, train, bus, move theater. He melts my heart with how fiercely he demonstrates his love.

#3: My hair does WILD things when it is windy (and when it’s not windy). You just have embrace it and laugh.

Then we finished the photo session with this gem. Heads cut off, finger over the lens and my husband looks like he has man boobs.

Slap that one in a frame.

Fast forward 4 days.

The kids and I went to the park on a dreary, drizzly afternoon.

“This rain is perfect mom! We don’t like to get too hot when we play.”

Glad we moved to Ireland then, kids.

When we were finally ready to leave I saw a beautiful field of daffodils. I told the kids I wanted one good picture before we left.

This is not what I’d classify as “good.”


Nor is this.

But, again, spot on with the pattern mixing.


And this one take good to a whole different level.

By the way, I don’t post photos that my kids find objectionable. Rest assured, they are quite happy with these photos.

I’m still hoping for just one good one that I can actually put in a frame. You know, if I actually went to the trouble of getting things printed to go in a frame with any sort of regularity. Truth.

If this was a Hollywood-type blog, I’d finish this post with a perfectly-styled family photo. Alas, this is real life. My real life. And sarcasm aside, I’m pretty happy with how it’s going. Faux nose picking pictures and all.


P.S. No bones or butt cheeks were actually broken in the course of our fun family hike.

Happy List #17: Happy St. Patrick’s Day

How cool is it that the 17th edition of my Happy List falls on the 17th? And not just any 17th, but St. Patrick’s Day! I couldn’t have planned it better myself.

When you’re reading this, I will hopefully be watching the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in DUBLIN. We’ve got to do it at least once, right? Be sure and follow A Pretty Happy Home on Instagram to see what all the fuss is about or if we even make anywhere near the parade route.

This week I shared our easy Irish flag centerpiece. You could easily modify this idea for any country, so go forth and celebrate! I also gave an overview of our trip to Belfast, which was so much fun!

Now, here’s my Happy List for this week:


Cups Song in Irish

My daughter’s class is learning the Cups Song in Irish this week. Kids attending school in Ireland are required to learn Irish even though English is the primary language in the country.

Here is a beautiful rendition of the song sung in Irish by a group of school kids. It’s really quite lovely.


DIY Windmill Blades

See these windmill blades? Sarah made them from old FAN BLADES.

Such a clever idea, right?

Read all about how she distressed them at Sadie Seasongoods.

(image)


Deck With A Slide

When we lived in Oregon, we had a 2-story deck and we talked about adding a slide from the  deck to the ground. Our kids would have loved it. I probably would have loved it. Especially after a margarita.

We never got around to that project before we moved though.

My only issue with the below picture is the climbing wall. My kids would climb up the wall and then OVER the railing. That wouldn’t be quite so bad as what they’d do next. Climb over the railing to go down the wall. I’m not opposed to the concept though, just maybe the execution.

The other thing I like about what they’ve done is that it looks like the play equipment can easily be removed after the children transition out of that phase.

(image source. Photo by Deck and Drive Solutions.)


Incorporate Doors Into Storage Solutions

We have some storage issues in our current house, so I liked this article about clever and pretty ways of making your doors work harder from a storage perspective.

Also, that pink door is fun.

See more ideas incorporating doors into your storage plan at Apartment Therapy.

(image)


Health Comes From Within

My kids ask me almost daily when we are going to get a car. “I don’t know” is my standard response. It’s not that we won’t ever have a car again – we will. Whether or not we will have a car in Ireland is a different issue. It probably depends on how long we end up being here.

The reason why I am hesitant to get a car in Ireland is that I like our healthy lifestyle right now. I like that we walk everywhere. It’s so good for our bodies. While I do see overweight people in Ireland, I don’t see the large numbers of morbidly obese people here that I am used to seeing in the USA.

I also see an elderly man with a cane and some sort of leg injury or deformity that walks Every. Single. Day. Every day I see him – rain or shine. He moves slow, but he always smiles and greets me when our paths cross. If he can get out there, there’s not a lot of excuses for me.

(image via)

Is it an inconvenience sometimes? Yes, definitely. Is it a drag sometimes? Yes, especially when it is raining. That’s why I know I’d be tempted to drive more and walk less if we got a car.

This “rant” by Linden Pfeiffer, DC on his chiropractic blog (his word, not mine) had some good points. He’s speaking not about genetics or bad luck, but preventable conditions.

“If we don’t make people accountable for their own health, they will never truly be healthy.  When I ask new practice members how they know if they are healthy, they most often answer because I feel good. The correct answer in my opinion is THEY FUNCTION GOOD. Feeling healthy doesn’t mean you are healthy, being thin doesn’t mean you are healthy, health comes from within your body, its a state of function, how well is your body functioning not feeling determines how healthy you are.”

It’s food for thought. Read the full “rant” here.


Bathroom Vanity

I like the doors on this vanity, which the homeowner built!

I also like the interest the shelf covering the mirror brings.

Read more about it here.

(image)


5 Emails You Should Be Sending

I read an interesting article on a blog called Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Eric Barker’s writing has been featured in TIME, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other places.

(image via)

He argues you can make your life better in 5 fundamental areas by sending 5 simple emails.

He advocates for sending an email:
1) every day thanking someone for something
2) every week updating your boss on what you’ve been doing
3) once a week to a potential mentor
4) every two weeks to make plans with a friend
5) to someone you know, but not well, to check in. These ‘weak tie’ contacts lead to future jobs.

Read more about his reasoning and research here.


My Ireland

The poet Stephen James Smith penned a poem for Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Festival. Listen to it read by the poet…

Learn more about the festival here.


Markings on Measuring Tapes Have a Purpose

This article deals mainly with measuring tapes in Europe, but I found similar marks on my measuring tape purchased in the USA.

Also, I never thought about how accurate my measuring tape is from a quality control standpoint. That could explain a lot of mistakes during our DIY endeavors. That seems way more likely than either of us measuring incorrectly, right???

Since I’m feeling all thorough and everything today, if you reside in the USA, here’s an article from the Chicago Tribune about tape measure markings in the USA. If you live anywhere else in the world, I have failed you.

(image)


Happy St. Patrick’s Day

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing

Saint Patrick was a gentleman, who through strategy and stealth
Drove all the snakes from Ireland, here’s a drink to his health!
But not too many drinks, lest we lose ourselves and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick, and see them snakes again!
~Author Unknown

From our family to yours – Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.

Travel: Belfast with Kids

When we were considering a move to Ireland last year, we took a bus tour through Northern Ireland. Our bus stopped in Belfast for approximately one hour. Long enough to grab a sandwich, but not much else.

Earlier this month we took a long weekend and headed north to spend more time in Belfast.

GETTING THERE FROM DUBLIN:

It is approximately a 2-hour train ride from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Belfast Central Station. I recommend booking your tickets in advance if you are traveling with a group. This just saves you the headache of finding a seat all together. Plus, the kids get to see their names above their seat (that’s how you know it’s reserved).


These type of trains have a food trolley, a bathroom and outlets to charge iPads. In other words, my kids have no reason to ever leave… or look up when mom wants to take a picture.

You can also take a bus from the Dublin airport to Belfast. Buses leave regularly outside of the arrivals terminal and you can buy a ticket when you arrive.

WHERE WE STAYED:

We stayed at the Radisson Blu in the Gasworks District. We didn’t have a particular reason for choosing this hotel other than we had points to apply to the stay, breakfast was included in our rate and we could walk to the hotel from the train station.

This is the view in front of the hotel:


What was great about the Radisson Blu for kids? Well, let me tell you. The kids got a welcome packet when they arrived with “jellies.” Jellies are gummy bears or fruit snacks. The packet also included an activity book and a scavenger hunt. Their favorite part of the packet was the vouchers they could use in the bar to buy popcorn and hot chocolate.

Yes, kids are allowed in bars in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Hotel bars are pretty tame by bar standards though. In this case, you have to walk through the bar to get to the breakfast area.

This was the first time my kids spent “money” by themselves at a bar/restaurant. They did not want me to go with them, so I watched from the lobby. It took an extra long time because 1) my kids are shorter than the bar and 2) the bartender thought the kids were with the other patrons who were ordering drinks.

But they accomplished their mission and were completely tickled with themselves. It was a good life lesson for them in being polite, how to order food, waiting patiently, etc.

And no one seemed to find it strange that the kids were alone. In the bar.

When in Northern Ireland, I guess…

As for a negative, the hotel restaurant had good food, but the service was slow. They seemed either unorganized or understaffed the night we ate in. Also, if you want to stay in the heart of downtown Belfast where a large number of restaurants and shops are steps away, this hotel’s location is not going to be as ideal for you.

NOTE ABOUT CURRENCY:

The Republic of Ireland (Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, etc.) uses the euro. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, which includes Great Britain, Scotland and Wales. The  currency in the U.K. is the pound.

EXCEPT. In Northern Ireland, banks can print their own bills. So, there might be 6 different 5 pound notes in circulation. Different colors, different sizes. It’s confusing. All of the pound notes from all of those different banks are accepted at retailers, attractions and restaurants in Northern Ireland.

The only caveat is if you go back to London. Only the Bank of England notes are accepted there. You can’t use money you got from an ATM in Belfast back in London. But you can use the money from an ATM in London in Belfast. Like I said, confusing.

Many attractions will quote you prices in pounds and euros. Also, some places will accept euros, but will give you back change in pounds.

Here’s more about that situation.

WHAT WE DID:

Remember, this is a post mainly about traveling with kids, so keep that in mind. 


W5 

W5 is an interactive discovery centre or as I like to call it, a hands-on science museum for kids. The W5 stands for who, what, when, where and why. Clever, right?

The museum features a really cool climbing attraction – a sort of 3-D climbing sculpture. This was my 9-year-old daughter’s favorite part.

There are hands-on learning stations on different levels of the museum with a big emphasis on architecture and motion.

We built cars that moved, we built forts and buildings with blocks, we learned how to fly a plane in a simulator and so on.

There is a cafe in the museum, but you can exit the museum and reenter during your visit. The museum is located inside a mall-like space called Odyssey Pavilion. I don’t remember any shops, but it had several restaurants and a movie theater. It was nice to be able to leave our coats and backpacks tucked away in a locker in the museum while we went to lunch.

Considering we spent close to 6 hours at W5 (I know, CRAZY) , we feel we really got our money’s worth out of our less than €36 family admission fee. I would recommend starting your visit as soon as the museum opens to avoid crowds and school groups.

W5 Website


Titanic Belfast

Visiting the Titanic museum is reason alone to go to Belfast – even if you don’t have kids.

(You’d probably get more out of it if you didn’t have kids in tow, frankly. Or that could just be my experience with 6 and 9-year-olds. I’m sure yours stop and patiently read every display.)

Titanic Belfast is broken into 3 visitor experiences:

1) The Titanic Belfast museum experience: Walk through displays covering the building of the ship, what the ship looked like, what went wrong and the search for the sunken ship. This includes an amusement park ride (it’s not fast or scary), which was my children’s favorite part.

While the museum is fairly interactive, to get the most out of the museum experience, you have to be willing to stop and READ. That part tested the limits of my 6-year-old’s attention span, but the rest of us really, really enjoyed it.

This video will give you the best overview of what’s there. (Hopefully the link works.)

2) SS Nomadic: The SS Nomadic was, among other things, the Titanic’s tender. The vessel has been preserved and sits in dry dock next to the Titanic Belfast museum.


Touring the Nomadic was quite interactive for my kids. In other words, there were plenty of things they could touch! The self-guided tour illuminates the experience you would have received 100 years ago on board the Nomadic while being ferried to the Titanic.

You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the work the ship performed in the decades after the Titanic sank.

3) Guided Discovery Tour: This is a one-hour guided walking tour (much of it is outside). You’ll learn about the drawing offices where the plans for the Titanic were designed. You’ll also learn about the hidden meanings and metaphors behind the museum’s design. The thought and care that went into constructing this museum – not just as a tourist attraction, but as a memorial – was astonishing.  My kids were fairly attentive for 3/4 of the guided tour – mainly because they got to wear headphones.

If you want to do the Discovery Tour, you need to book your tickets in advance. We purchased a combo pack that included all three experiences. It included 2 souvenir photos and an activity packet for the kids. Considering those souvenir photos were the first family photos we’ve had taken in a long time, it was totally worth it. Cheesy, but worth it.

If your kids are toddlers, I’d wait before spending money on the Titanic Belfast. They (and you) will get so much more out of it if they are just a little bit older.

We ate in one of the museum’s cafes and had a great meal. The Belfast Baking Company is right across from the museum (really good scones, by the way) or you can walk over to the W5 building to eat in a restaurant there.

Titanic Belfast website


River Lagan Towpath (Walkway)

If you’d like to walk along the River Lagan, there is fantastic paved trail through the heart of Belfast. You can walk from the Botanical Gardens to the Titanic Museum and beyond. Bridges cross over the river at several points to get you back and forth to various tourist attractions.

Depending on when you’re out walking, you might see something like this:


Ulster Museum and Botanical Gardens

We walked through the botanical gardens, but it was raining and February, so we did not get the  full experience. We also did not go inside the Palm House, which is part of the gardens. Mainly, we were on a mission to get to the Ulster Museum.

The Ulster Museum is free. They ask for a donation, which we were happy to give because it was truly a great museum – especially for a free one.

The museum offers a little bit of everything: natural history, art, science, geology, animals, native people and history.
My kids had fun exploring the exhibits, touching animal pelts, looking at rocks, trying on masks and more.
I had a teary-eyed moment reading about The Troubles. That is what Northern Ireland refers to as the 30-year period of conflict beginning in 1968. There was so much tragedy. So much loss.

I was in my early 20s when the peace accord was reached. All I really remember were the bombings all over Belfast. I didn’t understand why people were driven to do what they did.

Understanding the “why” is important in preventing such unrest from happening again or something like it from happening elsewhere. Ulster Museum helped me understand the “why” and refreshed my memory on the facts as they happened chronologically.

My kids didn’t fully understand this part of the museum and for now I’m okay with that. Let them be little.


Victoria Square

If you like to shop, Victoria Square is a good place to visit. It’s mainly indoor with an outdoor vibe. We popped in there to pick up a cord from the Apple Store. The mall has sit down and fast-food restaurants if you need sustenance. I’m not going to say the restaurants are all authentic – there is a TGIFridays after all. Crazy, I know. No, we did not go there.

You can also take tours of the glass dome, which shows off views of the city.

Learn more.


The Big Fish Sculpture

Along the River Lagan is The Big Fish, which was commissioned in 1999 to commemorate the regeneration of the River Lagan. The skin of the fish is made out of ceramic tiles, which show historic images of Belfast. The sculpture is approximately 30-feet long, so it makes for quite the photo opportunity!
I still don’t know why she wanted to kiss the fish. My kids have very robust immune systems.

Learn more about the fish.


Beacon of Hope Sculpture

Also along the River Lagan is the almost 60-foot tall Beacon of Hope Sculpture. It was built in 2007 and the lady in the sculpture stands on a globe representing peace, harmony and thanksgiving.

The sculpture’s artist, Andy Scott, said of the sculpture, “I hope that the figure is adopted by the people of Belfast as a symbol of peace and reconciliation, and as a shining beacon of modernity and progress.”

Learn more.


We had 2 1/2 days to spend in Belfast. It really was not long enough – especially since we spent most of our time at W5 and Titanic Belfast. We barely scratched the surface on things to do and explore in the area, so we’d love to go back!

I am happy to have had a second chance to explore this city and highly recommend you include it on your Travel Bucket List.

To learn more about things to do in Belfast, click here.

Irish Flag Centerpiece

Our celebration of St. Patrick’s Day would not be complete without showcasing the Irish flag on our dining room table!

Isn’t this festive?

My flag holders are milk bottles filled with green mung beans, white basmati rice and orange split lentils.

My son and I poured the dry ingredients in the milk bottles in color order as it relates to the stripes on the Irish flag.

The simple design of the Irish flag was very helpful in this regard.


The Irish flag, also known as the Irish tricolour, has been in existence since 1848.

However, it didn’t become Ireland’s national flag until the rebels hoisted it over Dublin’s General Post Office during the Easter Rising of 1916. It later became the flag representing the Irish Republic during the country’s war for independence beginning in 1919.

In 1937, the flag was finally given constitutional status as the official flag of the Republic of Ireland.

The green and orange colors in the flag represent the different groups and traditions that clashed over the years. The white in the flag is a symbol of the truce forged between these groups. (Learn more here.)

And you thought you were just going to look at pretty pictures today!


This centerpiece is a riff on a flag centerpiece I did pre-blogging for the 4th of July in the USA. That time, I dyed rice red and blue to complete the red, white and blue theme for the American flag. The layers of colored rice looked really cool in my milk bottles.

Since I did not want to waste rice – even colorfully dyed rice – I started using it in meals after the holiday. It turns out rice dyed red and blue makes purple rice when cooked! You just can’t get around those rules of color blending.

We ate very colorful stir fry for MONTHS.

This time, I think we’ll be eating a lot of soup.

My pack of 10 Irish flags came from my local euro store.

There are euro stores in Ireland and the U.K. These are a lot like dollar stores in the U.S. with the same type of merchandise. Except products usually range in price from €1 to €5.

My pack of 10 flags was €1.50. Since the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the euro is almost equal right now, you can equate this price to $1.50.

Well now. I’m feeling quite happy with how we’ve started this Monday on an over-achieving note. We’ve discussed decorating, history, science, culture and economics. That’s pretty good considering some of you haven’t even had coffee yet!

There’s really only one thing left to do on this Monday. Research recipes that include mung beans, rice and lentils.

I guess I’ll be finding out what mung beans taste like.


P.S. My milk bottles are super old from Pier 1, but here are some similar milk bottles on Amazon.

P.P.S. The how-to on the felt shamrock flag can be found here.

P. to the S. to the P. If you’d like read about my adventures in refinishing my dining room table, click here. I’m happy to report, the finish is still holding strong. PHEW!

Happy List #16

Why, hello again!

I hope the first week of March has treated you well!

The ol’ blog posts have been Irish-themed this month. Give me a theme and I will run it into the ground. This week I shared an easy felt shamrock wreath craft and some mostly authentic Irish recipes. Someone needs to make the Guinness Brownies – STAT! Okay, I will make them.

Today’s Happy List is largely home-focused. While I love Ireland, my Irish home has me feeling a little meh. I’m determined to get out of this decorating funk one way or another and I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration online lately. It’s not always inspiration that helps me solve problems specific to my house, but it might help you! I’m a giver.


Front Yard Makeovers

I love a good exterior home makeover. Don’t you?

I found a good collection of inspirational exterior before and afters. And not ones where you need Chip and Joanna Gaines to make it all happen.

Like this one…BEFORE…

And…After

(images via)

Removing the satellite dish from the front of the house alone would have improved the home’s exterior, but the paint and landscaping took it over the top!

See more before and after pictures from HGTV here.


Fence Window For Pets

First, why am I just now learning this is a thing? Imagine the possibilities?!?!

Second, window for pets…window for kids…potato, potatoh.

Get it here on Amazon. 


Attic Conversion

If you have the ability to turn an attic into useable living space, it can be a game changer for your home.

I love what this couple did with their previously unfinished attic space. I could relax there, for sure!

Image: Sara Parsons Photography)

See all the pictures, including the before and in-progress shots here.


Plant and Sip Nights

I have friends who do the “wine and paint” nights where you go to a studio, drink some wine and paint a picture. They love it! It’s a fun girls night out activity.

Here’s a new take on that. Plant and sip. Sip some wine and plant a tabletop terrarium to take home. I like that idea!

This would be a good way for gardening clubs to boost membership and introduce novice gardeners to the hobby. I see some synergy here with gardening clubs and wineries. Someone needs to run with this idea!

(Image: plantnite.com)

To see if there is a Plant and Sip night near you, visit Plantnite.com.


Hidden Washer and Dryer

I may or may not have squealed when I saw this laundry room picture with the hidden washer and dryer. Then I turned to Handy Husband and said, “the next time we have an actual laundry room, I want to do this!” He was noncommittal on the idea, but I’ll get him on board.

I am getting used to having my washing machine in my kitchen though. It takes multitasking to new heights.


This creation is from a basement makeover done by Finecraft Building Contractors. I originally saw it here.


Letting the Beauty of Wood Shine Through

I saw this picture of a modern wood table with a matching bench, but what caught my eye was that the wood was all gorgeous and natural looking.

I’m not sure what type of wood that is, but it has an amazing grain, doesn’t it?

(image via Good Housekeeping)


Ballard Design Mirror Knock Off

Layla at The Lettered Cottage make a Ballard Designs mirror knock off using those cheap door mirrors from Wal-mart. It saved her about $500!

Here’s the step-by-step.

She’s since updated the project with a fun addition on top of the mirror. Be sure to visit her site.

By the way, Walmart is giving away free cupcakes on March 12 between 12 – 4 p.m. in their Supercenters. Not the regular Walmart stores. It is some sort of birthday celebration and they want you to buy more stuff. Like mirrors.

(image)


That’s it! Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! Happy Friday!

Recipes (Mainly) From Ireland

I’ve done some “research” and came up with a sampling of Irish recipes I’d like you all to try in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. If I tried them all in the next week, I’m sure my body would protest in one way or another. So let’s spread the love around!

While I tried to skew this list in favor of authentic Irish recipes, I did make a couple of exceptions in the interest of culinary expressionism. In other words, I lead with my stomach.


Irish Cream

The Irish do love their whiskey and Irish Cream is typically made with Irish whiskey. This recipe from Good Housekeeping is not from Ireland, but it looks delicious. There’s a non-alcoholic version as well…which is probably why the recipe is not from Ireland.


Irish Brown Bread

Brown bread is served with almost every meal in Ireland. I exaggerate, but not by much. If you are ordering soup or salad in a restaurant, it will be served with brown bread.

Brown bread is a baking soda-based bread instead of a yeast bread. I’m not completely sold on the brown bread concept, but that’s mainly because I find the results completely inconsistent from restaurant to restaurant and bakery to bakery. When it’s good, it’s quite enjoyable.

I have not tried to make Irish Brown Bread myself, but that’s mainly because I’m still infatuated with my Dave’s Killer Bread knock off recipe and I can buy brown bread in any grocery store or bakery here in Ireland.

Here’s a brown bread recipe from an Irish site.

(image)


Irish Stew

What I liked about the recipe for Irish Stew on We Love Donegal was the author explained the history of Irish Stew and why it was made the way it was made. Modern day versions that include alcohol cannot claim to be traditional Irish Stew because peasants in the early days prior to 1759 would not have had Guinness. 1759 is when Arthur Guinness started brewing beer.

Even if you don’t plan on making this stew, learning about its origins is interesting. Really.

(image)


Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes)

Another food that’s not hard to find at a restaurant in Ireland are potato pancakes. Locals will probably refer to them as Boxty.

The recipe is easy to make, but this one requires using raw potatoes and leftover mashed potatoes. Having leftover mashed potatoes on hand would require some planning for this household.

Get the recipe at Irish Central

(image via)


Irish Barmbrack

Barmbrack is a sort of fruitcake-like bread that is really popular in Ireland around Halloween. However, you can buy it in Irish grocery stores year-round. I saw it this week!

When the recipe refers to a “fruit mix,” it’s largely talking about raisins and sultanas. To me, raisins and sultanas are all dried grapes. Technically speaking, raisins are dried white grapes. Sultanas are dried white seedless grapes from Turkey. Huge difference, huh? Here’s where I learned so much about dried grapes. I am committed to the cause of sharing the smallest details with you. You’re welcome.

Get the recipe at Donal Skehan.

(image)


Guinness Brownies

I have to include a recipe with Guinness, don’t I? Guinness is based in Dublin, if you weren’t aware. We (along with the kids) have toured the Guinness Storehouse and we all enjoyed it. Even us non-beer drinkers in the family. And no, we weren’t the only ones who brought kids on a tour of a brewery.

Guinness often finds its way into our house, so this recipe is on my to-bake list. I think Handy Husband would be okay with sacrificing 3/4 cup of Guinness for some delicious tasting treats.

Get the recipe at Life, Love and Sugar.
(image)


If this list seems a bit overwhelming to you, might I suggest it would be easier, albeit more expensive, to travel to Ireland and experience this country’s cuisine firsthand. You’ll be so happy you did!

Quick and Simple St. Patricks Day Wreath

My kids are counting down the days until they get the day off from school to celebrate Ireland’s biggest holiday – St. Patrick’s Day.

Waiting is oh, so hard!


Until then, they did help me make a super simple felt wreath to decorate one corner of our home.

We traced shamrocks onto green felt, then cut them out and hot glued them on a wreath form.

Super simple and not overly obnoxious! Those are my two main criteria when it comes to holiday crafting.

I used a wire wreath form like this one so I could easily remove the felt shamrocks if I want to reuse the wreath form in the future. You can also buy flat craft rings on Amazon. If you don’t have a wreath form, a cardboard box or cereal box cut into a ring shape would work too.


While I opted for the minimalist approach, there are endless ways to trick this wreath out.

You could add a Happy St. Patrick’s Day sign from the dollar store, rainbow ribbon, a leprechaun hat, etc.


I’ll end with a quote that is appropriate for this craft. I don’t know if it is truly Irish or who to attribute the saying to, but It sounds good.

“For each petal on the shamrock, this brings a wish your way: good health, good luck and happiness for today and every day.”

Nice, right?

It sure beats the other anonymous quote I found: “God created liquor to keep the Irish from conquering the world.” Although there may be some truth to that…