Happy List #10

Hello! I hope you had a great week.

In case you missed it, this week on the blog I shared my creative use for a shower curtain and what to see and do if you visit Copenhagen, Denmark, with children. This was earth-shattering information, folks. I can wait while you get caught–oh, who am I kidding? I have the patience of a toddler! Let’s get on with it.

Here’s what’s on my Happy List this week. As usual, it’s quite random…just the way I like it.


Papadag – Daddy Day

One day a week, dads in The Netherlands take the day off work to spend time with their kids. Say what???

Apparently, this is possible because while the Dutch work fewer hours than people in other European countries, their productivity is higher. Less time hanging around the water cooler, I guess.

This practice is encouraged by employers and also teaches kids that dads and moms are equally responsible for household duties.

I fully support this idea! Fully.

Why are we all not living in Netherlands?

Read more about it on the blog Kinstantly.

P.S. If you want to know whether the “the” should be before Netherlands click here.


Interesting DIY Coffee Table

The image below if from the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Country Living Magazine. This couple turned a railroad depot into their home. That’s stinking cool on its own.

What caught my eye though was their coffee table. I don’t know where that table came from, but it looks like something a handy person could DIY with an old door, spindles and some furniture feet. I think you’d just need to be careful with the glass panes.

If you build one, I want to see it!


Clever Bookmarks

These bookmarks on Amazon amuse me greatly! Especially the Wizard of Oz one.

I wasn’t amused by the spendy price tag of $25 for a bookmark, but they are handmade. So, there’s that.

If you know someone who is truly a bookworm and still reads actual books, they would probably appreciate the gesture.

Here’s the Amazon link for the Wicked Witch Bookmark.

Here’s the Amazon link for this Harry Potter Bookmark,


World Population Clock

My kids are at a fascinating age where they ask all sorts of random and intriguing questions.

So. many. questions.

I often do not know the answers to their questions.

Earlier this week we were discussing how many people live in the world. To find out exactly how many humans inhabit this planet, I did what all self-respecting parents do in the middle of dinner, I Googled it. My search turned up a world population clock. The “clock” continually moves to track births and deaths. My kids could see, in a matter of seconds, how many people had just been born. Also, how many people had just left this planet. Permanently.

We were able to talk about what the differences in those numbers mean for our world. It was fun and educational – for all of us.

Check out the World Population Clock here.

TOP 20 LARGEST COUNTRIES BY POPULATION (source)

1  China1,385,579,762
2  India1,335,444,813
3  U.S.A.325,415,798
4  Indonesia262,192,685
5  Brazil210,490,350
6  Pakistan194,977,815
7  Nigeria189,646,525
8  Bangladesh163,965,409
9  Russia143,404,071
10  Mexico129,507,062
11  Japan126,170,019
12  Ethiopia103,220,179
13  Philippines103,100,405
14  Vietnam94,978,259
15  Egypt94,389,427
16  D.R. Congo81,102,962
17  Germany80,656,849
18  Iran80,539,744
19  Turkey80,059,854

20  Thailand68,229,824

In case you are wondering, Ireland (where we live) has less that 5 million people. It’s a teeny, tiny country compared to the ones on this Top 20 list!


Architectural Flat Files

The next piece of furniture I’d really like to find is a flat file drawer from an architecture office.

I like the wood ones, but this one is cool too.

(Image originally via: AnnieAnnieVintage sourced via Apartment Therapy)

What would I do with it, you ask? I would put Legos in it. I’m sophisticated like that.

Handy Husband and the kids recently sorted all of our Lego collection by color and type. It was an insane and brilliant project. We now have a Ziploc bag for wheels, a bag for red Legos, multiple bags for grey Legos, a bag for Lego people, etc.

If we could store the Legos by type and color in shallow drawers, it would make the Lego building marathons daddy the kids have been indulging in lately so much easier.

Plus, architectural flat files just look so darn cool.


140 MPH on a BICYCLE. Yes, you read that right. 

Oh, no way! That’s what I first thought when I read about the woman, Denise Mueller, attempting to set a new record as the fastest person on a bicycle. She wants to beat the previous record of 167 MPH set by a man and establish the first speed record as a woman.

(image via Bicycling.com courtesy of Jinna Albright/Denise Mueller)

Her first attempt was done in September 2016 on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. While she has definitely set all sorts of speed records for a female cyclist, she came just shy of the 167mph all-time record. Weather was a contributing factor in 2016, but it sounds like she’ll continue training and make another attempt at the record soon.

I’m rooting for her! I’m also scared to death for her! She has more guts than I do.

Her endeavor is called Project Speed. You can learn more about her attempt and donate to the project by visiting her website. You can read more about her story at Bicycling.com.


AirBnB in Dublin

AirBnB has a new international headquarters in Dublin. I found the images of their new space pretty intriguing and I’m super curious what it is like to work in that type of environment. Not curious enough to apply for a job…but still curious.

I know several people in Ireland who rent out rooms in their homes on AirBnB to make extra cash. Real estate is very expensive over here. It’s a combination of supply constraints and the growing popularity of Ireland as a commerce hub.

(Image: Donal Murphy)

If you want to see more of the space, here’s the article on DesignBoom.


This concludes another installment of the Happy List!

A big shout out to my baby brother who has a birthday today!

Go forth and conquer your weekend! See you on Monday!

Travel: Copenhagen, Denmark With Kids

One of our goals when we moved to Ireland was to use our time here to explore as much of Europe as possible.

We were able to visit two countries during the holidays: Denmark and Sweden.

Since we spent the bulk of our time in the Copenhagen area, that will be the focus of this post.

GETTING THERE

Thus far, we’ve had good experiences finding relatively inexpensive airfare on the budget airline, Ryan Air. All 4 of us were able to fly round trip between Dublin and Copenhagen for less than what we have been used to paying for one roundtrip ticket on most any of our travels in the continental U.S. Airfare is so much more affordable in Europe for some reason.

It’s fairly common in Europe to board the plane on the tarmac – from the front and the back. It does make boarding and deplaning much quicker, but it can be a little chilly in the winter!

Off we go!


This isn’t our plane, of course, but this is the view when flying into Copenhagen on a grey, winter day. We found the immigration screening process to be quick and public transportation out of the airport, at least the trains, were easy to find and use.

There are kiosks at the airport for buying train tickets for travel around Copenhagen. There are separate kiosks for buying train tickets to Sweden. Everything is clearly marked in English.


We arrived in Copenhagen around 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Denmark loves to celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks. I don’t know when they started, but I can definitely say fireworks were going off all around the city between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. I fell asleep after that! It was a special way to start our visit to this amazing country.


PLACES TO VISIT IN and AROUND COPENHAGEN WITH KIDS

National Aquarium Denmark 

This was one of the best aquariums we’ve ever visited. Not quite as spectacular as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, but close.

We watched the sharks being fed, walked through an undersea tunnel, watched seal otters play in buckets of ice and got up close and personal with sea life in the touch tank.

As is typical of my children, their favorite part of the aquarium was the outdoor playground. Even though the water had been turned off to the playground for the winter and the temperature was 37F, that didn’t stop my kids from playing outside three different times.

And yes, he does have a coat. And gloves. And a hat. And a strong stubborn streak.

In regard to children’s meals in the cafe – fish and chips was the most kid-friendly option. They did have juice and chocolate milk. The chocolate milk came in a can, so that was a fun, new experience for my kids. And I told my son the fish was chicken. Everybody was happy.


Hans Christian Anderson Fairytale House

The famous author, Hans Christian Anderson, was from Denmark. Did you know that? He wrote some works that you may be very familiar with: The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes, among others.

In the fairytale house you can listen to condensed versions of Anderson’s most famous fairytales. The displays were mainly static with lights and sounds adding to the dramatic effect, but my kids seemed to enjoy it.

The below scene is from The Emperor’s New Clothes. Don’t worry…the buns were as risqué as it got and we all had a good chuckle over it. Especially me. We are that mature in this family.

You’ll spend less than an hour in this attraction. It is located across from City Hall and in the same building as the Ripley’s Believe It or Not attraction.

Guinness World Records

My kids are obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records. They got the 2017 book detailing the most recent records for Christmas. When they realized there was a Guinness World Records attraction, well, there was no dissuading them from including this in our itinerary.

Honestly, I was prepared for a completely lame experience. I was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong. (It does happen from time to time!) There were interactive activities for the kids and adults around every corner. We probably spent 90 minutes there – at least.

We did get the double admission ticket to the Guinness World Record attraction and The Mystic Exploratorie. The Mystic Exploratorie would be too scary for young children. It’s dark, creepy, a little disturbing and there are things that jump out and make scary noises. It’s also not something that I would pay admission for as a stand alone attraction. It’s a short and sweet thrill experience.

You should know that both of these attractions are affiliated with the Ripley’s Believe It or Not organization and you can buy a combo ticket to Ripley’s, Guinness, The Mystic Exploratorie and the Hans Christian Anderson Fairytale House.


Tycho Brahe Planetarium

If mom and dad need a nap break in the middle of the day, let me recommend a stop at the planetarium.

We watched a fascinating IMAX show about the planets. I only understood a dozen words during the entire show, since it was in Danish. Three quarters of those words were the names of the planets. Uranus is still a funny word – even with a Danish accent.

While you can purchase headphones that will translate the show into English for you, my kids didn’t seem to mind watching the show in Danish. My husband didn’t mind either because he was recharging with his eyes closed and missed most of the show.

There are also quite a few other science and space-related activities for the kids to enjoy before and after the IMAX show. We learned how much objects weigh on the different planets, we tried to launch a satellite and make it land in the correct spot and we got hands-on with other experiments too.

Maritime Museum of Denmark

The Maritime Museum of Denmark is one of the most gorgeous museums I’ve ever visited. It’s built into an old dry dock and the museum’s architecture in incredible.

However, this was more of a ‘stop and read about things’ museum instead of a ‘touch everything’ museum. The two things my kids (ages 6 and 9) really enjoyed were climbing on this upside down wooden boat…


…and drawing sailor tattoos on their arms.

Don’t worry. My son did not want the tattoo of the busty lady.

Neither did my daughter.


If you have older kids or kids who are really into maritime history, this is a museum to visit. If your kids do better in an environment where they can get hands-on with their learning, then skip this attraction.

The museum does have a cafe. The kid-friendly option on the menu is a fish cake served with a side of raw parsnips and cucumbers. One of my children had this meal. The other one ate a chocolate muffin and chocolate milk.

Just keeping it real…

Kronborg Castle

Seeing a castle while in Denmark is a must. There are a bunch of them. Kronborg Castle is right next to the Maritime Museum of Denmark and happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its importance as a Renaissance castle in Northern Europe.

You can walk through the castle and see a little bit of what life might have been like several hundred years ago. You can also go underneath the castle into the casements…kind of like the castle version of a basement. It’s dark, creepy and awesome.

Krongborg Castle is also known as Hamlet’s Castle because it was, to quote Wikipedia “immortalized as Elsinore in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.”


This is the view from the very top of the castle at the town of Helsingør. I wish we had had more time to explore this little town. We did stop in at the cafe at the base of the library to have hot chocolate for the kids and a latte for the parents, but I was ready to see more!

Unfortunately, our kids were tired, it was brutally cold and my son had tripped on some stone steps inside the castle, so we cut our losses and caught the train back to our hotel.


National Museum of Denmark

The National Museum of Denmark is the country’s cultural museum. The primary reason we visited the museum is that it has an entire section devoted just to kids.

My husband went off to explore the main part of the museum while I hung out with the kids in the Children’s Museum.

There was a full scale replica of a Viking ship. There was a section devoted to medieval history where the kids could dress up like knights, complete with wooden swords. There was also an old-fashioned school room from the 1940s where the kids could get hands-on with learning and playing. There was a room where the kids could sit down and color pictures then hang their artwork on the wall for everyone to admire.


The Children’s Museum also had an entire section devoted to Pakistani culture. I was surprised about this (in a pleasant way) and I asked one of the museum staff why Denmark’s cultural museum would devote such a large and permanent part of the museum to Pakistan. She told me, in perfect English, that they want all children who visit the museum to feel welcome and to learn about the world around them. I did a little Googling while my kids were playing and as of a few years ago, Pakistanis made of the 5th largest group of immigrants and descendants to Denmark.

The Children’s Museum was staffed with employees who engaged the kids with the different parts of the museum. They explained how a Pakistani market was run or how the Vikings sailed in rough seas. They also were around to make sure the kids didn’t get too rowdy with the wooden swords.

Keep in mind the child in front of the counter hasn’t learned English yet. My kids don’t speak Danish. They are playing in a Pakistani grocery store. And everyone had an amazing time. It is possible to overcome our differences, folks. Kids are proof of that.


Other Places to Visit

There are other kid-friendly places to visit that we did not get to because they were either closed for the season, the weather wasn’t conducive to the experience, or we just ran out of time.

Tivoli Gardens
Legoland Denmark
Copenhagen Zoo

For a full list, check out: VisitCopenhagen.com



SHOPPING, FOOD AND PLAYGROUNDS

We don’t typically go shopping, other than stopping in a souvenir shop, when we are traveling with kids, but sometimes we walk through shopping areas on the way to various attractions.

What I liked about Copenhagen is that we stumbled on multiple playgrounds scattered throughout the city during our explorations. Perhaps it was our good luck, but you need a bit of that when traveling with kids.

Below is the famous pedestrian street Strøget.


We did stop in at the Lego store on Strøget Street – mainly to look – because Legoland is closed during the winter.

This was a pretty underwhelming experience. I didn’t find it to be any more special than any other Lego store. We opted not to buy anything because we can find most of the Lego sets at home for less money. The store was also packed to the gills with shoppers. The security people were friendly though. Ha!


Every once in awhile I like to be the fun parent, so when I saw these chocolate covered waffles on a stick at a shop on Strøget Street, well, we had to stop.

See? I can be spontaneous!

My kids look so, so tired in this picture. I guess that’s what happens when you travel and then try and stay up late to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Sugar should fix that!

Also, I now need a waffle maker. And some melted chocolate. You can keep the sprinkles.

In general, we found food to be WAY more expensive in Denmark than what we are used to spending. Especially when it came to eating in restaurants. It was not unusual for us to spend 80 dollars/euros on lunch during this trip. And I’m not talking about a two martini lunch at a fancy restaurant either. I’m talking about kids meals and salads. That’s INSANE.

We found it was more affordable to buy prepackaged salads and sandwiches from grocery or convenience stores. 7/11 is super popular in Denmark. Yes, THAT 7/11, home of the slushy. But it’s not the convenience store like you are used to in the United States. They sell plenty of freshly made, healthy food in addition to chips and sodas. My kids are pretty content to eat peanut butter and jelly, so we also bought a loaf of bread at a grocery store and ate sandwiches a few nights. We are super glamorous that way.

If your hotel room rate includes a free breakfast, definitely consider that option. I know that by opting for the combo deal, we definitely saved money.

BIKES

Bikes in Copenhagen are everywhere. I can’t emphasize this enough. By and large, bike lanes are as wide as car lanes. It seemed like we saw more bikes crossing an intersection during rush hour than we did cars.

On pretty much every corner and outside every office building you could find bike racks packed with bikes.

This is a terrible photo showing how prominent bikes are, but I just liked all the bricks. The bikes are off to the side. Squint and you can see them.

If you’d like to try cycling while in Copenhagen, your hotel most likely offers bike rentals. Ours did and some of the bikes had child carriers attached. I’m not certain what the helmet laws are in Copenhagen, as I saw most people riding without helmets.

Often times I had to remind my kids that where they were walking was a bike lane, not a sidewalk, so they needed to be careful and watch out!


PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Transportation is always a concern when traveling to a foreign country. Copenhagen’s public transportation system was, by far, one of the nicest we’ve experienced so far.

Trains leave directly from the airport, which makes getting to your hotel a breeze.

This is Copenhagen Central Station, which is right across the street from Tivoli Gardens and near other attractions. Not all of the stations are this way, but this one had multiple fast food restaurants and coffee shops, including Starbucks. It also had an organic grocery store which was handy when we picked up dinner to eat back at the hotel.


My son is obsessed with trains and pretty much ALL of his 6-year-old dreams came true when we, by chance, got to ride on a double decker train.


There isn’t always a place to scan train tickets at the train station – especially if you are traveling on a tourist card – so be prepared for train employees to come around checking your ticket during your ride.

If you are traveling with a stroller or a bicycle, there are special spots in the train cars where you can park these bulky items.


THE “MUST HAVE” WHEN VISITING COPENHAGEN

The thing you MUST GET when visiting Copenhagen is the Copenhagen Card.


This card covers admission fees to over 70 attractions plus ALL of your public transportation in the greater Copenhagen area.

Plus, KIDS are FREE with the card. So, kids 12 and under get into attractions for free and ride on public transportation for free. This saved us so much money. I wish we had something like this in Dublin.

We were in Copenhagen for 5 days and purchased two 120-hour cards for our family of 4. Our total was approximately 225 euros, which is roughly the same in U.S. dollars. The only attraction we spent money on was the Guinness World Records place and we received a discount on that because we had the Copenhagen Card. Everything else I detailed above we did not pay extra for. For everything we did and the number of trains and buses we rode on, this was a heck of a good deal.

Just beware – we were not able to purchase this card at the airport because we arrived late in the day and the tourist office was closed. We ended up buying the Copenhagen Card the next day at the Central Train Station.

Learn more about the Copenhagen Card here.


We thoroughly enjoyed visiting Copenhagen. Even in the dead of winter the city was a vibrant place. Everyone we met spoke perfect English and it made getting around, ordering food, etc. much easier. We are so happy we rang in the New Year in Copenhagen and we would love to go back when it is a wee bit warmer.

If you’d like to see more photos, arguably better photos of our trip, check out my Instagram feed.

Hide Computer Cords With a Shower Curtain

If you’ve ever met my husband then you’ll know why we have so many computers.

I’m sure we aren’t the only family with this issue, but I could be wrong.

We might be the only one using an outdoor dining table for a desk though and trying to make everything fit in one little area. It’s still not the worst problem to have. I’m well aware.

When we moved to Ireland we sold our desks – multiple desks. Handy Husband told me this wouldn’t be a problem because he streamlined our computer situation.

Uh huh. We’ll just go with that.

I streamlined my shoe collection too.

And that’s how a marriage works, folks.

Despite all of that “streamlining,” we still had one gajillion quite a few cords and CPUs. This is just one part of it. It’s enough of a visual demonstration, don’t you think?
Now the area looks like this…

And all was right in my world.


Those are shower curtains covering the back of the desk and hiding all of the computer components. Yes, shower curtains.

These particular curtains came with grommets/shower rings already attached. I simply trimmed the curtains to my desired length while they were hanging in place. I’m very exacting like that.

I would have preferred to have installed a tension rod underneath the table and have the curtain slide along the rod, but this particular table design doesn’t allow for that. Handy Husband built this table a couple of years ago for our deck. A section of the table’s top can lift out to reveal a space for ice buckets, which is super cool. However, that design means part of the table drops down underneath and messes up where a tension rod could go. A normal dining room table or desk wouldn’t have this issue.

That wasn’t going to stop me though! I screwed cup hooks into the underside of the table and attached the curtain that way. It’s a more awkward solution than I would have preferred, but I find that’s not unusual in my DIY projects!


We have been living with this solution for a few months now and thankfully, it is working. By working, I mean the cords stay hidden and my blood pressure no longer goes up when I walk in this room.

Even when Handy Husband pulls the CPUs out to fiddle with do important work on them, I can always slide them back behind the curtain. I’d like you to think that he’s just as concerned as I am about hiding all of the cords and components, so I’m not going to ruin that fantasy today.

I do wish the wrinkles were out of the curtains, but I didn’t want to tempt fate by trying to iron that plastic-y material the shower curtains were made with. Sometimes the most important part of DIY is knowing when to stop.

I often drag my feet on these small projects. I’m not sure why because when it comes to creating a pretty home that works for our family, it’s always the small changes that make me the happiest. Buh-bye cords! Hello epic family computer game night!

Friday Funnies #3

Well, we survived our first week back to school after the holidays. Just barely.

Humor gets me through it all! Here are some moments, pictures and stories that made me laugh out loud recently.


BUSINESS ADVICE FROM KIDS

6-year-old Son: How many subscribers do you have, mom?

Me: On YouTube? I haven’t posted any videos, so zero.

Son: What about on that other thing you do?

Me: My blog? Probably 3? I don’t know. I don’t pay attention.

Son: Wow. That’s bad. That’s really bad. You should work on that.

Me: Thanks, kid.


INTERVIEWING 101

If I ever go back to the corporate world…

(source: @leahgay on instagram)


Yep. This. All of this.

Especially back in the days when I had to wrestle kids into car seats.

(image)

I haven’t driven a car in 6 months though, so let’s just hope I remember how…


LIBRARY CONVERSATIONS

The scenario: sitting on the floor of the library reading a book about knights with my son. I’m not sure why this book prompted the following conversation, but I’ve learned to just go with the flow on these random interruptions.

Son: Jumping jacks are really good, mom.

Me: Yes, I know.

Son: Do you know why?

Me: Well, it’s good exercise…

Son: No, mom. *he sighs heavily like he can’t believe he has to explain this* Because if someone is shooting bullets at your feet, you know how to jump really good so you don’t get hit.

Me: I was going to say that too.


CRAFTING PROBLEMS

This is something my husband would say…


READING FOIBLES

Last month we were reading a book about trains. One of the pages showed a picture similar to this one of Union Station in Colorado.

(image via)

In a burst of excitement, my 6-year-old pointed to the Union Station sign and triumphantly said, “Mom! There might not be a pickled onion museum, but there’s an ONION station!”

Then I died laughing.

To his credit, the letters u-n often make the “un” sound instead of an “you-n” sound.


I always enjoy the best parenting tweets of the week on the Huffington Post. This is a sampling of what they deemed to be the 50 best parenting tweets of the year.

Honest to goodness, Kate Hall nailed our weekend activity planning on the head. Then, after all is said and done, whichever kid whined the most inevitably says, “that was the funnest activity EVER.”

Then I’m all, “that’s nice because we’re never leaving the house again.”

Yep!! Just what Amy Dillon said. When I ask my kids what they enjoyed most about (insert any activity they were dying to participate in here) they inevitably say, “snack.”

I should just hand them a fruit snack every Saturday and call it good.

If you’ve met my children, then you’ll know that 97.3% of my life is telling one of my kids to put their clothes back on. Don’t even get me started on the shoes.


I hope you had a great week filled with plenty of humor! Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!

Books My Kids Are Reading Part 2

The other day my 6-year-old son was standing in front of his bookshelf and I hear him holler out, “Mom! You need to get me some history books!” I was so shocked to hear this come out of his mouth since he spends most of his time talking about farts, Legos and Minecraft that I didn’t even mind that he forgot to use the word please. I have no idea what prompted this declaration, but the next time we go to the library we’ll be sure to head straight for the history section.

In the meantime, here are some books my kids and I have read together recently that they loved – even if they weren’t about history.

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

We are currently working our way through The Wind in the Willows. I’m not going to kid you, it’s going to take awhile. A book written over 100 years ago uses more flowery language than my feeble brain is used to reading. My kids are constantly interrupting me to ask what certain words mean, which is awesome. Vocabulary building for the win! But it does slow down the actual story reading. A few times, so far, the animals have called each other an ass and so I change it to “naughty boy” or something clever like that! Despite all that, I think it’s worth it to continue making our way through this story.


THE UNLIKELY ADVENTURES OF MABEL JONES

This book starts with the premise of what happens when kids do “The Deed.” The Deed is when a child picks their nose and eats the booger. If this happens, the child can be taken by a band of animal pirates (pirate animals?) to another dimension where an entire series of wild adventures occur.

My kids loved this book. If the main characters weren’t animals, some of the plot points would be oh, no way! Being kidnapped by pirates, for instance. I think the over-the-top ridiculousness of the situation made the scenarios and the pirate battles fun, entertaining and too far-fetched  to be taken seriously. Plus, the hero of the story is actually a heroine who demonstrates how to be brave, smart and a good friend. But if your kids take things literally, you might wait on this one…unless they eat their boogers.

KIDS’ PAPER AIRPLANE BOOK

My son has had this book for about a year. It was packed away when we moved and he recently rediscovered it. The book is written by a world record holder for paper airplane throwing. Who would have thought there was such a thing?!

While my son can now read the directions, what I like most about this book is how good it is for building manual dexterity. To be able to cut and fold in an exact manner is a good skill to work toward. The more he performs these tasks, the better he gets and the better his airplane flies.

GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS 2017

I like that the Guinness Book of World Records inspires kids to believe that anything is possible. If you love paper airplanes, then you can set a world record for flying paper airplanes. Why not?

DanTDM: TRAYAURUS AND THE ENCHANTED CRYSTAL

The popularity of this book will only make sense if you have kids who like to watch other people play Minecraft on YouTube. Yes, instead of playing Minecraft themselves, they are watching other people play Minecraft. It makes no sense to me either, but now I wish I would have thought of the idea because I think being a YouTube star pays quite well.

DanTDM (Dan Middleton) is a popular YouTuber and he wrote a graphic novel. My kids were over-the-moon to get this book for Christmas. This is not The Wind in the Willows type literature, by any means, but any time a child willingly picks up a book is a win in my mind.

THE BOLDS

My kids found this book WILDLY entertaining – beg me to keep reading one more chapter entertaining. It’s all about the idea of what if animals could pretend to be humans? In this story, a family of hyenas does just that. How do they pull it off? Does anyone discover their secret? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

That’s the sampling of some of the books we’ve enjoyed lately! It always makes me happy to see my kids engaged in a good story.


P.S. If you want to read my last post about books my kids have read, click here.

P.P.S If you want to see which children’s books made me bawl my eyes out, click here.

The Easiest Way to Make a Pretty Home

I thought I’d go for a sensational headline to kick off my 2017 blog posting. I’m baaack!

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about after my Christmas blogging break. I didn’t do much that was project or craft-related. I tried to feed my kids cereal three times a day instead of cooking. I stayed off the computer more than normal. The days were lazy and unscheduled, which is needed from time to time.

Well, except for that one day when we went hiking and Handy Husband swore this was a trail.


That’s totally a trail, right? Needless to say, that wasn’t a lazy day.

I did flip through a few home magazines during the holidays and the pages were filled with trends for 2017. What’s hot! What’s not! Color of the year! Projects to try! Win a dream home!

Stop the MADNESS!  No, really. Stop it.

It’s easy to get swept up in the latest and greatest home trends out there. As we speak, I’m preparing to cover everything in my home in chevron patterns. Wait…what’s that? Chevron is out? Shut. Up.

I can’t believe I missed it.

I truly hope you’re not coming to this blog for current trends. Yeah. That’s going to be a bit of a problem.

How about a story and my unsolicited opinion on home trends instead?

I started taking down Christmas decorations at 8 a.m. on December 26. Yes, I’m a Scrooge.

The Command Hooks I used to hang our Christmas stockings, which should have been damage free, ended up removing a tremendous amount little bit of the paint on the mantel when I pulled them off. Admittedly, I got a little hasty with the tidying up, but it was just so exciting to put all the clutter away and let the house breathe again!

I might have been a little bummed about that fiasco or even irritated because Handy Husband was giving me that “I told you so” look, but the mantel already had a few chips and nicks when we moved in. You had to look close, but I noticed them every time I dusted.

Yes, from time to time I do dust. It pains me greatly, but I do it.

I could no longer ignore the chipped paint on the mantel. It needed to be taken care of, so while my family immersed themselves in a Lego building marathon, I got out the sandpaper and smoothed down the rough edges around the chipped paint.

Once the surface felt smooth, I cleaned the dust up and gave the mantel a couple of coats of fresh paint.

The process was pretty cathartic. I hadn’t painted anything in months and it felt exhilarating to bust out the paint brush and improve how my home looks. While I had the paint out, I moved on to repainting a few shelves and a picture frame too.

That’s when it hit me – figuratively speaking. The easiest way to make a pretty home is NOT the most glamorous. It’s not by following trends and buying all the fancy things.

The easiest way to make a pretty home is to simply start by taking care of what you have.

Do paint touch-ups as needed.
Wipe the handprints off the walls.
Replace the gross caulk around your sinks, showers and tubs.
Vacuum. Not just the floors, but use the wand to get cobwebs out of the corners.
Dust. While you’re at it, wipe down doors, moulding and lampshades.
Clean your windows. Especially that gunk in the windowsills. That’s gross.
Get the leaves out of your gutters.
Fix that one roof shingle that was damaged during a storm.
Pull the weeds in your flower beds.
Recycle or give away stuff you don’t use.
Throw away or recycle broken items.
Fix holes in exterior vents or siding where rodents can get in. Rodents in houses…not good.
Clean the grout. Seriously. Get out the toothbrush and go to town on that grout.
Pull the refrigerator and stove out and clean underneath them. You know it needs to be done.
Fix the door that squeaks or the drawer that doesn’t slide properly.
Change the filter on your furnace and refrigerator water dispenser.
Replace rotting fence boards or siding.

All of those things you need or want to do to sell your home or to get your deposit back from your landlord. Do those things now so that you can enjoy the benefit of those improvements.

I realize home maintenance isn’t always fun. Sometimes it isn’t easy. But it is where you need to start. You can buy the newest home decor items and create the neatest DIY projects, but if your home is dirty, falling apart or otherwise neglected – none of that stuff will matter.

A home that is well-maintained and lovingly tended to will outshine all of the others. Every time. No matter its age. No matter its style.

It will be a place where you like to be. A place where others like to be. A place that brings you peace and comfort in a world of crazy.

I’m not saying your home needs to be spotless and sterile. I’m not saying laundry isn’t going to pile up. I’m not saying messes won’t happen. I’m not saying your family won’t have epic Lego building marathons that give you all the twitches.


That’s life. That’s real.

The beautiful chaos that comes from filling a home with life, laughter, memories and happiness should be celebrated.

I used to work in the homebuilding industry and there was always a joke about “putting lipstick on a pig.” In other words, you can waste money and time trying to superficially make something look better, but if what’s underneath it is rotten, dirty, not functioning or falling apart – all that effort will be wasted.

It goes back to my point. I don’t care if you are renting, owning or living in your parents’ basement. The easiest way to take make your home pretty is by simply taking care of what you have. After that, you can build from there.

And don’t forget, pretty is in the eye of the beholder. Home trends are driven by the big marketing machine. Be true to what you like even if it’s no longer trendy…if you wait long enough, it will come back around anyway!

Happy 2017, everyone! Please come back on Wednesday for more unsolicited advice, sarcasm, humor and maybe an idea or too as well. If you need me, I’ll be following my own advice and re-caulking the shower today. As much as it pains me. It needs to be done.

 

 

 

Living in Ireland: Merry Christmas 2016

Here we are.

The eve of Christmas Eve. My kids are busting with excitement!

Today, instead of my usual happy list, I thought I’d show you some of my recent Instagram snaps of Christmas lights around Dublin.

Plus, a few more random gems for good measure.

Seeing Christmas lights makes me so happy. I love how this building in Dublin’s City Centre is lit up in red and green.


In the distance in the below picture is the Ha’penny Bridge  – a famous pedestrian bridge that crosses over the River Liffey in Dublin.


Here’s my girl at the ice skating rink that was set-up near us just for the holidays. She loves to skate – just like her dad.

And that hair…my goodness.


We took the kids to Grafton Street in Dublin to see how the city was lit up for the holidays. Despite being there with thousands of other people, which is normally my worst nightmare, it was a magical night.


Along our walk through the city we saw a special video snow globe. If you stood in the exact right spot in the street, it would look like you were standing in the middle of a snow globe.

Then your mom would lean over at a really weird angle to try and snap a picture of you without actually ending up in the picture herself. That worked marvelously, but the random stranger in the background didn’t get the message. Oh, well.


Below is the famous Temple Bar Pub. We didn’t take the kids in, although that is perfectly legal in Dublin until a certain time at night.


In case you are wondering what kind of delicacies you can buy at Christmas time, well, feast your eyes on this.


No, I did not buy the chicken liver parfait. You’re a little disappointed, aren’t you?

Moving on. I am thankful the days are now getting longer because the below shot of city hall in the town of Dun Laoghaire was taken at 4 p.m. That’s too early for the sun to go down, my friends. Way too early.


This last one is the perfect juxtaposition of old and new in South Dublin.

On the left is St. Michael’s Church. On the right are a couple of shopping centers. On the very bottom of the photo you can see some double-decker buses. Straight ahead about 4 blocks this road dead-ends into the Irish Sea – you can just make it out in the distance.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas. Thank you so much for sharing this little spot of the Internet with me. I’ll be taking some time off from writing until the second week in January to soak up as much family time as I can get while the kids are on a school break!

Christmas Tree 2016

It’s hard to wrap my mind around how fast time flies.

We’ve been in Ireland almost 6 months.

We’re getting ready to celebrate our first Christmas in this beautiful country. I’m convinced that the true beauty of Ireland is not its scenery, but in the spirit of the people who have welcomed us with open arms.


Now, let me segue out of the mushy stuff into some practical matters.

We downsized DRASTICALLY when we moved from the United States to Ireland.

I cannot emphasize how drastically.

Have-no-furniture-to-sit-on drastically.


One of the things left behind in the downsizing was our fake Christmas tree.

Haters can hate, but I am firmly in the fake tree camp when it comes to Christmas trees. Not because I don’t like the smell or look of real trees. I do. So much.

I just don’t like the mess. I have enough messes to deal with around these parts. And Handy Husband likes the idea of getting a strong ROI on a Christmas tree investment. It’s so romantic when he talks that way. *sarcasm alert*

From a practical nature, getting a real tree home, not to mention disposing of a tree without a car requires more ambition than I’m ready to expend.

I did see a family carrying a 6-ft. tree down the sidewalk the other day. I’m not sure how far they had to walk, but they were already a 1/4-mile from the nearest tree stand. The dad had the tree. The mom had the crying toddler under one arm and the toddler’s bike under her other arm.

I’m thinking the dad got the better end of that deal.


What I did spring for this year was a basket instead of a tree skirt to go around the base of our tree. It was like a present to myself that I get to stare at with big hearts in my eyes for 4 weeks.

The basket actually came in 3 curved sections that are bound together with leather ties. That will definitely make the basket easier to store until next Christmas. See how practical I am? Tell my husband, will you?

Being away from family and friends during the holidays is bittersweet, as many of you have experienced. We’re happy to be where we are, but pieces of our hearts are definitely left behind in Georgia and Oregon.

The other day the kids put together cards for some friends in Georgia. They spent time writing their messages and drawing pictures. More time than I anticipated they’d spend on the endeavor.

When it was all done, my son said, “you know what my favorite part of the day was?”
“No,” I replied. “What was it?”

“It was sending happiness to my friend.”

It’s not always easy to teach a 6-year-old that it is better to give than to receive. In fact, there have been times this season when I was sure we were failing miserably on that front. There will probably be more of those moments, but my encouragement to you today is to keep trying. Those brights spots are worth it.

My Christmas Decor Hacks

I’m not sure if hack is the right word.

How about here are three of my favorite Christmas decor work-arounds?


ALTERNATIVE TO GARLAND

Don’t have the time, patience, space or money for a Christmas garland?

No worries.

Free greenery clippings from your yard, or the neighbor’s yard, or the park (can you do that??) placed in a shallow bowl can achieve a similar effect.

christmas-mantel-2016-1



DON’T HAVE STOCKING HANGERS? NO PROBLEM.

I do have Christmas stocking hangers, but one of them is broken and I haven’t found anything else I like better for hanging our Christmas stockings.

Last year we used hooks screwed into the bottom of the mantel.

That won’t work this year and we are renting, so I don’t want to damage anything.

That’s why our stockings are held up by Command Hooks. I don’t know what Santa is going to put in the stockings this year, but if it ends up being too heavy (my 6-year-old thinks Santa should fill the stockings with pirate’s gold), the stockings might just rest on the floor on Christmas morning.

Until then, the Command Hooks are working brilliantly.

hang-stockings-with-command-hooks



MAKE STORE-BOUGHT STOCKINGS LOOK COMPLETELY CUSTOM

I bought stockings at Joann Fabric last year. With a big coupon. Of course.

I still like their knitted goodness.

christmas-mantel-2016-6
To give them some personal flair, I added wood tags from the craft store that I stained and stenciled our names on.

christmas-mantel-2016-5
The possibilities are endless for personalizing stockings to fit your style. And if my style changes in the future, which it will, I can easily remove the tags and start over.


Most of all, my favorite Christmas work-around is to not sweat the small stuff – like how this post would have been way more helpful 2 weeks ago. Ha! It makes the holiday season so much happier.

 

 

Happy List #9: Christmas Crackers – You Can’t Eat Them

Nine days until Christmas! Are you ready?

Am I ready? *insert hysterical laughter here* Uh, let’s not talk about it.

Instead, let’s talk about what’s on my Happy List this week.


WORK-LIFE BALANCE?

Work-life balance is the unicorn of the grown-up world.

To my surprise and skepticism, apparently, this unicorn a work-life balance does exist in Denmark.

We are planning a trip to this fascinating country soon, so I was curious to read all about why Denmark is a great place to live and work. It cracked me up that the author thought her husband lost his job because he was coming home so early each day! In fact, it was quite the opposite.

(Image credit: Thomas Hoyrup Christensen via Visit Denmark)


MOST POPULAR HOLIDAY COOKIE ON PINTEREST

I like to bring you the most relevant news to impact your day. Here it is. According to this article, the most popular holiday cookie on Pinterest is the Jam Thumbprint Cookie from the blog Chew Out Loud. So far, the recipe has more than 240,000 pins.

I’m going to admit, I’m in the minority on this one. Jam thumbprint cookies (or any cookies that involve thumbprints) are not my first choice. I haven’t tried this particular recipe though, so I reserve the right to change my mind. I think some additional sampling research is in order.

(source)


HUSBAND BUILDS 7-FT. TALL ADVENT CALENDAR FOR WIFE FILLED WITH PRESENTS

Holy smokes! Talk about a sweet gesture.

A man in London had received amazing gifts from his wife over the years, but let’s just say gift-giving was not his love language. To up his gift-giving game, he constructed a 7-ft tall advent calendar and filled it with presents for her. Cue the collective “awww.”

I wonder what he’ll do next year?

Read all about it here.

(image)


CAMERA MEMORY CARD READER THAT PLUGS INTO YOUR IPAD/IPHONE

This is what I need to get for Handy Husband for Christmas. I can’t believe we don’t have one yet. At $29, it’s not an expensive gadget, but it is a handy one for traveling. A lot of times we want to take photos with our good camera, but it’s anticlimactic to wait until we get home to download the photos. With this gadget, you can plug your camera’s memory card into it and then download the photos onto your phone or iPad.


SIGN MY TABLE

I love, BIG FAT LOVE this idea. Emily from Emily A. Clark has her guests sign the underside of her dining room table when they visit.

If you are at all sentimental about your dining room table, I think this practice would be a special way to commemorate all of the meals you’ve shared with family and friends over the years.

(image)


CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

Christmas crackers are not a food. At least not in this context. Instead, they are popular festive activity in the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries.

The common way to open a Christmas cracker is for two people to each hold an end of the cracker and then they pull. When the cracker is pulled apart, it makes a popping sound. There’s a prize inside and whoever ends up with the prize gets to keep it.

You can read more about it on Wikipedia if you want.

My kids have been talking about Christmas crackers nonstop this month. We are going to embrace local customs and give this one a try. When in Ireland…

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, I found Christmas crackers on Amazon.


That’s it for me this week! Happy Friday everyone!