Author Archives: annisa

Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup

Any Iron Chef fans out there?

Anyone like to try weird food combinations?

Well, buckle up Buttercup, because today I’m going to take your tastebuds on a virtual trip to the beautiful country of Hungary.

I learned a lot about Hungary in the last month because my daughter recently completed the mother of all a very lovely school project on Hungary and Slovenia in celebration of European Union Day. The final requirement of her project was to prepare a dish from each of the countries she studied and share it with the kids and parents at school. No pressure.

For Slovenia she made a braided bread. Read about it here.

For Hungary, we could have gone the predictable route and made goulash. I’m guessing each kid who has studied Hungary for the past 10 years has brought goulash to school on European Union Day. I know this because it was the teacher’s first suggestion. “Just make a goulash and bring that in.”

Oh, no, no, no. I’m plenty predictable about a wide variety of things. But I…I mean, my daughter…cannot bring in the food that has always been brought in. Where’s the originality in that? Plus, cold goulash sounds gross.

Okay…perhaps my response to this situation actually was predictable. But they don’t know that.

So “we” did some research and decided to make another Hungarian favorite, Sour Cherry Soup.

Feast your eyes!


It certainly does have a ‘look’ to it, doesn’t it? Whoo-Whee!!! In the southern U.S. they’d say, “bless its heart.”

Sour Cherry Soup is a dessert soup that is served chilled. It’s actually not at all sour, unless you’re using super tart cherries.

“We” decided this interesting dessert would be best sampled in a shot glass.

Always keeping it classy over here.

For the record, I did purchase cute little spoons, but the parents didn’t use them. I think there might be an Irish drinking joke in there somewhere, but I’ll just let that be.

(I swear she was excited…just not about mom taking her picture.)


This soup would have tasted better to me if I had not seen what it looked like. Does that make sense? Very visual over here. When the soup settled, it had a grainy look to it. I think that might have something to do with the ingredients not mixing correctly? I made the recipe the first time by myself and then tried to correct for this problem when my daughter made the recipe, but it didn’t work. So maybe that’s just how it is? I’m not sure. A visit to Hungary may be needed to answer this riddle.

However, Handy Husband, the man who hates broccoli, cauliflower and celeriac, ate an entire bowl of it and enjoyed it! My daughter liked it too. The parents at school also thought it tasted alright and could see how it would be enjoyable on a hot, summer day. The Irish dream about hot summer days.

The soup kind of tastes like a runny, spiced yogurt. It’s made with cherries, sour cream, cinnamon sticks, cloves, water and sugar. The clove and cinnamon taste is very strong.

The biggest thing my daughter and I took away from this project was that it wasn’t about us.  It didn’t matter whether or not we fell in love with this dish. What was important was to understand why it is enjoyed in Hungary. Different cultures have different traditions, different tastes. If we don’t try, we’ll never know! If we don’t experience it, we’ll never understand. We might not be able to walk a mile in their shoes, but we sure can taste their Sour Cherry Soup.

That said, I’m happy this project is complete. School projects seem to take on a life of their own!

If you’d like to make the recipe, you can find it on the Visit Budapest website.

Wine Rack Upcycled Into a Display Shelf

A million years ago when Handy Husband and I grew up and started purchasing real furniture, we bought a buffet table for our dining room that included a built-in wine rack.

Here it is in our last house. I miss that old house, by the way.


Turns out we prefer a mixed drink over wine in this house and the wine we did keep on hand was properly stored in a wine fridge.

The wine rack has bugged me, off and on, for YEARS. First, half of this piece of furniture is a waste of space. Second, that thing is a dusting nightmare. Third, it looks dumb without wine.

I’ve wanted to take the wine rack out and put something else in its place. A shelf, perhaps? Alas, it became one of those honey-do chores that was put on the way back burner. Until a couple of months ago when I brought it up again. I’m fairly predictable like that. Timing is everything, right?

In this case, the timing was exactly 7 minutes before we had to walk out the door for school.

Of all the places and all the times, THAT is when Handy Husband decided it really was possible to remove the wine rack without damaging the sides of the buffet. I’m trying to get the kids’ shoes and socks on because we REALLY HAVE TO LEAVE and Handy Husband is in the kitchen beating on the buffet with a hammer.


Guess who got the job done faster? That’s right…after YEARS of dragging our feet regarding this project, it turns out it took less time to remove the wine rack than it does for our offspring to put their shoes and socks on.

Why did we wait so long? Why did we do start this project when we no longer have power tools to transform the space? Why can’t my children put velcro shoes on quickly and without whining?

So many whys. But I was so thankful it was finally done! HURRAY!!!

You know what’s going to happen next, right? I just could not let that discarded wood go to waste.


When I got back from dropping the kids off at school, I started playing around with all of those pieces of wood. It was a bit of a puzzle since the pieces were different lengths and some had been damaged during hammer-palooza. I realized I could put them back together in a grid pattern (squares instead of diamonds) to make a display shelf. All it would require was a little trimming to get the pieces down to size.

Normally, I would reach for any sort of saw with a power cord for this project, but we sold all of those before we moved to Ireland. Back to basics then! I took out the handsaw and trimmed the wood pieces down to size.

It took forever a good long while, I must admit.

I sanded the rough spots and my little helper helped me pull out nails that had attached the rack to the edges of the buffet.


The notched pieces fit together nice and tight, so no nails or screws were needed to hold my new creation together.

When all of that was done, I added some trim paint to jazz things up.


I had enough scrap pieces to make two display racks – one for each kid’s room! They were different sizes, but that actually couldn’t have worked out better.

I installed the tall, narrow shelf in my son’s room. It is currently displaying some of his favorite Lego characters.

I used Command Strips to affix the shelves to the wall and even after a sleepover, wrestling, Nerf gun wars and the kids rearranging their collections multiple times, the shelves have stayed put.

I love it when these things work out. (Knock on wood)

You’ll notice that this shelf (and the one coming up in my daughter’s room) are hung low to the ground. That’s because my kids (ages 7 and 10) sit on the floor to play with their toys, so having the display shelves at “their level” encourages them to use the shelves for storage AND imaginative play.


This is not a project that I would normally make for myself. I’m not into having lots of teeny tiny tchotchkes to dust and display around my home. But my kids are! (Well, not the dusting part. That’s just something mom makes them do. Can you believe moms are so mean?)

Kids come with stuff though and right now my kids are into tiny things like Legos and Littlest Pet Shop. I’m cool with this because they spend hours in their make-believe worlds, but I do prefer when their stuff has a home.

We live in a small house, so I’m learning to get creative with how I solve storage issues. In this case, the walls have to work harder.


We’ve been living with these display shelves for awhile now and they’ve made a huge difference in keeping clutter off the floor. Not ALL the clutter, mind you. Real life here!

My daughter likes to make videos with her LPS (Littlest Pet Shop) and her display is constantly evolving as her characters come off the shelf to make their theatrical debut.

I’ve noticed my son’s display shelf has changed from Matchbox cars to Legos. It’s fun to see how they take ownership of their spaces when given the opportunity to organize and decorate.

So that’s the story of how I upcycled a wine rack into a display shelf for tchotchkes.

You’re probably wondering what I ended up doing with that gorgeous, new, empty space in the buffet.

Nothing. A big fat nothing.

I spent years dreaming about it and now I’m stuck. Such is my life. When I do figure it out, I’ll be happy to share.


P.S. This is how I hung my daughter’s guitar on the wall. She uses it a few times a week and the hanging hack is still going strong. The rainbow butterfly art was made by me.

P.P.S. The wood arrow in my son’s room was made by us using scrap wood. The display shelf over his dresser is a silverware holder.

Happy List #26: I SURVIVED Edition

TGIF! Finally!

Some of my friends are celebrating the last day of school. Or, as I like to say, the last day of packing school lunches! I love seeing all of those first and last day of school pictures pop up in my social media feeds!

You guys know I crack myself up right? I’m not even ashamed to say that! This week I shared a funny story about the new vegetable my husband hates. Celeriac. Have you had it? It’s delicious.

I also shared an awesome craft, which I’ve aptly called emoji golf balls. My daughter and her friends had so much fun making these. If you have some extra golf balls lying around and don’t know what to do with them – try this project!

Here is what’s giving me all the happy feels this week:


I SURVIVED, THANKS FOR ASKING
Last weekend I mentioned we were doing back-to-back sleepovers for my children’s birthdays. Some of you asked me how it went. I think this sums it up…

I joke. I joke! Sort of. Not really.

The kids all had a blast though. That’s the important thing.

If you need me, I’ll be at the salon getting all my new grey hair covered.


ADVICE FOR MY KIDS

I’ve included the following song on my list this week even though it’s a bit sad. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a sad song with a bit of wisdom.

The line in the song that gets me is “we got the life that we wanted, not the love that we need.”

Particularly as my children are growing up in a social media-ridden world, I want them to take this concept to heart. It is easy to look at the curated version of what our “friends” post on social media and think there is something lacking in our lives.

In other words, we don’t have the fanciest things, the biggest home, the smartest kids, the best swimsuit figure, the coolest job, the most glamorous vacations, etc. You can have all those “things” and still not be happy because the love part is missing. I really want my kids to take that advice to heart when they grow up and choose a person with whom to spend their life.


COOLEST RENTAL HOME EVER

This home was designed with inspiration from the cartoon Tom and Jerry and is located in Bangkok. Now, Bangkok is NOT on my Travel Bucket List, but my kids would LOVE for us to rent this home. In fact, I’d kind of like to rent this home.

“White nets are spread across the five levels of the 4,682-square-foot house like hammocks and trampolines, so users can hang, hide, climb, and tumble along interiors that look and feel like an indoor playground.”

Anyone else wondering how much their homeowner’s insurance is???

Photo courtesy of Wison Tungthunya

Read more about it on Dwell.


GOOD SUMMER READ

I heard all the buzz about HBO’s new show Big Little Lies, so I decided to read the book. The book is always better, right?

Oh. My. Word. (No reading pun intended.) If you’ve ever been a PTA mom or have done everything in your power to avoid being a PTA mom, you will SO get this book. It’s hilarious and just a tad bit scary how Liane Moriarty nails the stereotypes.

Thankfully, no one ever died at any PTA functions I’ve ever attended though. I’ll leave it at that.

If you like any of Shondra Rhimes’ TV shows, you’ll love this book. Basically, it’s like candy for your brain. It’s the perfect summer beach read.


CLOUD BREAD

Has anyone tried cloud bread? Or heard of it?

Cloud bread is NOT bread. It is a bread alternative made with egg whites, cream of tartar, egg yolks and full-fat dairy like cream cheese or yogurt. It’s pretty much carb free.

But how about the taste?

I loved it when Epicurious answered the question, “is cloud bread delicious?” “No, not really. Our food director Rhoda Boone described it as, “A little worse than a rice cake.” Food editor Kat Sacks said she could see eating them if you were “really, really desperate for something resembling carbohydrates.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that review made my day!

Bottom line, if you try it, TELL ME!!! I think I’ll stick with regular bread and exercise, thank you very much.
Picture and the full article from Epicurious can be found here.


STAY IN A CONVERTED CHURCH

AirBnB is full of gems. Elle Decor recently shared a list of converted churches you can rent from their site. Yes, churches!

Like this one in Chicago, which was originally built in 1888. Those beams!

Or this one in Australia, which has a really, really cool interior.

By the way, Australia IS on my Travel Bucket List.

I’ve always thought it would be cool to convert a church into a home. Except old churches are often situated on busy streets, which makes the location less than ideal for me.


BUILT-IN SEATING 

How do you feel about this kitchen set up? Bench seating built into the back of the kitchen island with the table right there?

I’m on the fence…

Image via Becki Owens

On the plus side, my kids wouldn’t even have to get up to clear the table. Wait…I don’t need to encourage them to be lazy.

On the downside, the throw pillows would be a disaster. Only people who never sit there would have throw pillows placed there. In fairness, this set up is possible without pillows and cushions.


BLACK SINK: YAY OR NAY?

Would you install a black sink in your kitchen? I’d have to go with yes, mainly because I had an espresso-colored granite sink once and loved it.

It wasn’t as cool as this sink though. Hubba, hubba!

(Image credit: Domino)

Depending on the material the sink was made of, the only thing that would make me nervous would be hard water spots. My granite sink (this one from Home Depot) was prone to those and I had to oil it with baby oil to bring it back to normal.

More black sink eye candy can be found here.


SUMMER

Summer showed up in Dublin this week! It hit 72 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about as warm as it gets here, folks. But it has been absolutely perfect!

Winter will probably be back this weekend, so we have been spending every spare moment outside soaking up the Vitamin D.


That’s it from my part of this beautiful world! Happy Weekend, everyone!

Emoji Golf Balls

We live about a 6 or 7-minute walk from the Irish Sea. What a drag, right?

A few Sundays ago I took a glorious walk BY MYSELF down to the beach. Moms need that every once in awhile. It was heavenly. When I reached the beach I realized the tide was out. Really out. In fact, I hadn’t seen the tide out that far in eons. (Take “eons” with a grain of salt – I’ve only lived here 11 months.)

I called Handy Husband and told him he and the kids had to come to the beach quickly! The weather was amazing and the low tide had exposed little shallow pools of water with baby crabs and fish.

He endured the whining produced by our offspring and dragged them down to the beach where they proceeded to have the time of their lives. Irony, thy name is child.

We took off our shoes and enjoyed being able to walk in the water without fear of freezing to death. It was one of those perfect afternoons that I’ll hold close to my heart forever.

While we were exploring, Handy Husband found a golf ball stuck under a rock. Then he found another and another. The beach in that area runs into a tall cliff and at the top of the cliff is a park. I’m guessing someone has been having fun hitting a lot of golf balls into the ocean.

By the time he was done, Handy Husband had found 15 golf balls.

“What are we going to do with these?” I asked. Surely he had a plan.

“I don’t know,” was his reply as he dumped the golf balls into the shoe basket by our front door. For a family who doesn’t play golf, I guess that was as good a place as any to put them.

I thought about it and brainstormed with a friend. Ultimately, I decided the golf balls would make perfect emojis, which are all the rage with the tween crowd.

I scrubbed the sea muck off the balls and then headed to the hardware store to buy a can of yellow spray paint.

The balls received several coats of spray paint and plenty of drying time. I actually picked either a terrible time or place to spray paint because teeny, tiny bugs kept landing on the balls and getting stuck. So annoying.


When my daughter had her 10th birthday sleepover last weekend, I asked the girls if they wanted to do a craft. YES! was their enthusiastic reply.

As a side note, a nice, calm crafting session is something that would never happen at a sleepover with 7-year-old boys. I just hosted one of those too and the entire time the boys beat each other up wrestling played, I was praying no one got a concussion. Crafting was not on the boys’ agenda.


I gave the girls a black sharpie, a red sharpie and a white paint pen to work with. Away they went drawing emojis on the golf balls!

I learn so much more about what happens at school from my daughter’s friends than I do from my daughter, so overhearing their chatter while they were crafting was absolutely fascinating to me! Things make so much more sense now.

For this project, ultra fine-tipped Sharpies worked better for detail work, but took more effort to fill in a larger area like a smile. Definitely make sure your spray paint is fully cured before trying to write on the balls though.


“What are we going to do with these?” the girls asked.

This, to me, was a hilarious question.

Mainly because my kids have 50 gazillion little trinkets, scraps of paper, rocks, shells, bookmarks, bottle caps, etc. that MUST BE KEPT FOREVER even though they have no apparent purpose.


“You’re going to take them home and keep them forever!” was my reply.

“COOL!!!”

Well, that was easy.

My daughter’s golf ball emojis are currently displayed on her book ledges.


This project was perfect for 10 and 11-year-old girls, but I’m sure other ages would enjoy it too.

It challenged their drawing skills to replicate the emoji on a slightly bumpy, rounded surface. One of the girls didn’t like how one of her emoji faces turned out, so we just turned the ball around to the other side and she started over! I think any mess ups could be quickly covered over with a yellow paint pen or a dab of acrylic paint. I did not seal these with any kind of clear sealant because the sharpie seemed to be on there to stay!

All in all, the girls did a fantastic job! Most importantly, they had fun!

The other thing I love about this project is it is a creative way to upcycle old golf balls that, in this case, would otherwise pollute the ocean.

I’d definitely give this project the happy face emoji!  😀

P.S. If you don’t have an ocean to search for free golf balls, you can always ask a friend or neighbor who golfs if he/she has any old practice balls you can have. My neighbor saw this project in progress and dropped off a dozen old balls for me! Another place you could ask is a driving range. Or you can always buy 18 golf balls on Amazon for about 10 bucks. Good luck!

Another Vegetable My Husband Hates

Here’s the deal.

1. My husband LOVES when I write about him. It makes sense because he is my favorite writing topic. Well, one of my favorite writing topics. He’s definitely up there in the top 10 with felt, bread, embroidery thread and fabric glue. Oh, and my kids. Can’t forget them.

2. I purposefully picked a sensational headline for this post because I’m curious to see how long it takes Handy Husband to notice. Also, scandal sells.

3. This is an absolutely, completely true story. I should feel slightly bad about how it ends, but I don’t.

First, a little background information. For the entire length of our 20 some odd year (I’m losing count) relationship, Handy Husband has been steadfast about two things. His love for me, of course. And his absolute loathing of broccoli and cauliflower.

He will eat broccoli and cauliflower raw, but he refuses to eat it cooked. He doesn’t even want to be in the same house as cooked broccoli and cauliflower. So when I need a little alone time…

To put this another way, the man ate a dill pickle-flavored mint the other day, but throw a little broccoli in a stir fry and THAT is what makes him gag.

Now that I’ve set the stage with that riveting back story, here’s how it all went down.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing my usual ‘speed walk and shop’ through the grocery store when I spied something new. Something I had never heard of before. Celeriac.


Oh, celeriac.

You had me at distinctive and nutty.

That’s kind of how I describe myself, actually.

The celeriac was €1.50 ($1.50), so I decided that was a low risk purchase for a possible high reward. Plus, we’d be trying something new! Look at us being all adventurous and stuff.

I asked the checkout lady how to prepare the celeriac and she basically told me with her Irish accent to peel, cube, boil and mash it. Just like potatoes. At least, I think that’s what she said. Sometimes the Irish accent can be VERY hard to understand before I’ve had my daily coffee quota.


Handy Husband immediately spied this new oddity sitting on the counter when he got home.

He’s the type of person that reads the manuals that come with everything appliances, so it didn’t surprise me when he went online to learn more about this funny-looking vegetable.

From the other room I could hear him hollering, “celeriac can last 6 – 8 months if stored in a cool, dry place!” Some women get sweet nothings whispered in their ears. I get facts about root vegetables hollered from across the house. Try to contain your envy.


Celeriac is a variety of celery that is cultivated especially for the root. It originates from the Mediterranean, but celeriac now grows wild in Northern Europe and other places.

Celeriac can be eaten raw or cooked.

My daughter and I both tried a piece raw and it tasted almost exactly like regular celery. It gives you a little mind trip to eat something that looks like a potato, feels like a carrot, but tastes like celery.

After I had peeled and cubed the celeriac, I put it on the stove to boil.


By the way, did you notice the ‘hot hob’ label on my cooker (stove)? ‘Hot hob’ and ‘cooker’ are terms widely used here in Ireland. ‘Hot hob’ still cracks me up almost a year later.

I have not gotten around to purchasing an electric mixer since moving to Ireland, so I mashed the celeriac with a muddler. No, I don’t have a potato masher either. Cooking with me is all about the improv! One way or another, I get the job done.


I added salt, cream and butter to the celeriac as I was mashing it – much how I would make mashed potatoes.

Here’s where the experiment went off its ever-loving-rails.

It turns out that while raw celeriac tastes like celery, cooked celeriac does not.


Oh. my. heavens. You’d have thought I was trying to purposefully poison Handy Husband.

“You didn’t tell me it tasted like CAULIFLOWER!” he said.

Oh, dear. Did I forget to mention that part?

In all fairness, we tell the kids they can’t possibly know if they like or don’t like a food until they try it. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that this week in the last decade, I’d be rich.

I thought I should apply the same principles to Handy Husband. How could I possibly know he would loathe, detest and abhor this vegetable?

Oh, I knew. I totally knew.

Handy Husband would have been much happier if I had given him a heads up about the celeriac’s cooked flavor. I should probably feel bad about not giving him a warning, but I don’t. What I feel is a bit of amusement remembering the look on his face! Plus, the next night when I left his dinner plate in the refrigerator (he often gets home super late from work), he gave it a poke and a sniff before asking me if I tried to hide any celeriac in that night’s dish.

I just smiled.

Happy List #25: Happy Birthday Edition

A HUGE birthday shout out to my two kiddos!

My daughter turns double digits today (HOLY COW, TEN!) and tomorrow my son turns SEVEN!

I have to admit, I got a lump in my throat last night when I tucked my daughter into bed. I told her, “this is the last time I will kiss 9-year-old you good night.” Then I gave her a million kisses until she finally said, “MOOOM!”

I don’t want to make this about me, even though I did grow them, birth them and have spent a decade devoted to their whims and whines health and wellbeing. But, really, it’s their day!

After months and months of debate, decisions and changing minds they each (finally!) chose to celebrate their birthdays with a sleepover!

WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!?! This is proof you CAN wear your parents down, kids.

Tonight a group of girls is coming over and on Saturday night it is the boys’ turn. Two sleepovers in a row. Back-to-back nights. Can we make this about me and my questionable decision-making now? P.S. Please send earplugs. Perhaps a stiff drink too.

Joking aside, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that in the course of this school year the kids have made all new friends and have been welcomed into this community. It’s a pretty amazing thing. In each of the places we’ve lived, my kids have made long-lasting friendships with incredible people that enrich their lives and I’m sure will continue to do so for years and years to come. In short, we are blessed.

It’s hard to top all of these birthday blessings, but here is what else I’m digging this week.


THE FARM CHICKS VINTAGE AND HANDMADE FAIR

I really need someone in the Pacific Northwest to go to this fair and tell me if it is everything vintage and handmade dreams are made of. NEVER MIND. Don’t go. Don’t tell me. If it’s as awesome as I think it is, I don’t think I can handle missing out again. Disregard this message.

Oh, all right. If you really want to go, here’s the info. Just don’t send me pictures. But you can buy me a present. Oh, yes you can! Hint. Hint.


FLYING CAR DRONE

We’re trying the drone thing. Again! My son is getting this drone for his birthday. I thought perhaps if we got him a drone with wheels that can supposedly “find its way home,” then maybe we’d have a better chance of not losing this one on a roof, in a tree, etc.

All this proves is that yes, I sometimes live in a mild state of delusion. It’s that same feeling that has me convinced that someday my kids will put the lid back on the toothpaste.

P.S. I somehow missed in the product description that this drone is for ages 14+. And I was JUST saying to my husband “let them be little.” Oh, the irony. I’m not certain why it received this label…something to do with the camera maybe? Those age labels are just “suggestions” anyway, right? Kind of like how the serving size on a pint of ice cream has no relevance whatsoever when you’ve had a rough day is also a suggestion?


BUYING A USED RUG

I have friends who are really good at scoring amazing deals at thrift shops. They visit these shops frequently. They have a system for how they shop and I’m always in awe of what they find.

I walk into a thrift shop, declare it all rubbish and then don’t go back for 6 months. Therefore, I do not find the good deals. Don’t be like me.

Young House Love scored an amazing rug at a thrift shop…that didn’t smell!

(photo)

It does beg the question: would you buy a used rug? I think I’m in the “it depends” camp.


SHOE MAKEOVER WITH PAINT

Paper and Stitch made over 3 pairs of shoes for summer with acrylic paint. I’m wondering how this holds up over time. Anyone know?

They used a custom paint mixture with a Testors Acrylic Paint Spray Set that doesn’t have the best reviews so far, but it seemed to work for them.

Basically, I’m skeptical about this makeover, but I’d really like it to work because the results were pretty neat looking.

(photo)


TREE STUMP TABLE

I was reading an article about SheSheds and what caught my eye was this table base made from a gigantic stump.

How did they get it in there? Maybe it is the camera perspective that makes it look wider than the door. Maybe they built the shed around it.

Either way, it’s gorgeous! The entire room is amazing.

Jason Kisner, 2014, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved


TONE-ON-TONE

The below photo from The Hunted Interior caught my eye for two reasons.

First, I’m intrigued by the dresser that is the same color as the wall. They painted it that way so that it didn’t visually break up a small space. I haven’t tried that trick yet.

Second, look at the closet doors. They did that with Frog Tape and A LOT of patience.


LIVE EDGE SHELVES AND COUNTERS

We had a live edge slab of wood in our home growing up. It didn’t look this cool.

And dusting the nooks and crannies of the live edge was a pain in my…dusting rag.

(Image credit: C Magazine)


BILL GATES’ GRADUATION SPEECH ON TWITTER

You should really read what Bill Gates said to graduates via Twitter.

Definitely some nuggets of wisdom there for all of us!

One of the things he said: ” @melindagates 8/ Like @WarrenBuffett I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, & by the difference I make for others.” – Bill Gates

He also recommended that all graduates read this book, which is now an instant bestseller! It’s on my list.


PAPER POPPY BACKDROP

Guys. This paper backdrop is just the sort of crazy project I would do. In fact, someone hide my scissors.


Image and directions from The House That Lars Built.


With that, I am off to collect a wonderful group of girls (and one fabulous boy) from school for the weekend’s first sleepover! Oh, happy day! Seriously. I truly meant that in a non-sarcastic way. Sometimes I feel the need to qualify my statements. The sarcasm will come later. Possibly around midnight when I’m still awake.

 

*affiliate links contained in this post. thanks for the support. over and out. 

Vintage Key Project Inspiration

I about tripped over myself with excitement when I realized the keys to our Irish house were old-fashioned.

It’s probably my favorite part of the house, even if it did take me two weeks to figure out how to unlock the back door. True story. Vintage locks are tricky!


We recently got a new back door with a boring modern key. Sure, the door is more energy efficient and secure, but couldn’t they make the keys just a little more interesting to look at?

Now I have two vintage keys that are of no use to anyone, but me!! That’s also why I feel okay sharing pictures of these keys on the internet.

I’d like to do something with them to commemorate our first year in Ireland. The what, how and when are still up in the air, but I’ve been wasting time scouring the web for inspiration.

There’s an Etsy shop called Symbolic Reflections that makes Christmas ornaments with keys.


The ornament idea is a great idea for a first time homeowner, by the way.

While I think this is clever, especially since I like music, I’m not sure I’d make it for myself.


I don’t know the original source of the music art, but the photographer is listed there.

I could always wear the keys as a necklace.

This one is also from an Etsy shop called Loving Lola.


How about a magnet? That’s a possibility. As long as no one expects me to put the magnets on the front of my fridge. I can’t handle the clutter.

The magnet is also from an Etsy shop. Way to go creative Etsy people, you rock! The shop is called Hoity Toity Designs.


I would not do this with my vintage keys, but I thought one of you out there might be inspired to make this key rack with bent keys. Step-by-step on Instructables.


I like the idea of incorporating a map of Ireland into whatever I end up doing. That was my first thought, actually. String art. Stained wood. The ideas are all floating around in there. The map of Ireland is a wee bit complicated though – at least for hand painting.

This home and key print is from a shop called Wandering Fables.


I have no idea how I’d work this particular design into my home or this project, but this map of Ireland is incredibly vibrant and happy.

The artist for this print is Micheal Tompsett.

Sorry the below picture is super tiny. Best I could do. It’s from a website called Harper Grayce Signs.

I could perhaps run with the adventure theme because that’s, in large part, how I encapsulate this time of our lives.

Simplicity calls to me. I could follow the lead of the girls from the DIY Playbook and put my vintage key(s) in a frame.


As you can see, I have a ton of ideas rattling around in the ol’ cranium. That’s kind of how this process works for me.

Eventually, there will be an eureka moment.


Until then, I’m going to “artfully” tie my keys around a vase or something design-y like that.

The best part of this whole process was when I stopped to take photos and realized the gold key was stamped with the name of the hardware store and the town where the key was made. I am super happy about that little discovery! That alone makes this whole brainstorming exercise worth it.

Slovenian Braided Bread

Here’s the cool thing about going to school in Europe. You get to learn about European countries and history in great detail and so do your parents.

Your parents get to learn so. darn. much. with. these. school. projects. Aren’t they lucky?

European Union Day was on May 9th. Or 9 May as they would type in Ireland. I’m fairly certain I’m one big walking typo around these parts. Oh well.

EU Day is intended to celebrate peace and unity throughout the countries in the European Union. Admittedly, the unity part of this day has been put under some strain of late. Hello, Brexit, I’m talking to you!

On 9 May, my daughter and her class presented their European Country Projects to the rest of the school and the parents. In addition to a written project, each student prepared a food from their assigned country.

One of the foods we made was a braided bread from Slovenia. Slovenia is located in Central Europe and is next to Italy, Hungary and Austria. You’re going to have to read more about this fascinating country on your own because this post is about bread.

Which reminds me…I feel the need to share with you this song.

For those of you that watched that (or started to), how much do you hate me right now? HAHAHAHA. You’re welcome! HAHAHAHA!

To quote the song in the above YouTube video that WILL get stuck in your head, “B-R-E-A-D I love bread and bread loves me.” If you hear my children singing this song over and over and over, now you know where they got it from. I just can’t imagine why this song hasn’t made it on the Top 100 list yet.

Although, I do love bread. So, let’s get back to the very important topic at hand. Slovenian Braided Bread.


My daughter and I made two types of Slovenian braided bread. Teaching my children to bake and cook is on the list of things I’m trying to get better at. Mainly because I want them to move out some day enjoy the benefits of cooking tasty meals when they have a home of their own.

Since we were baking the day before the project was due and didn’t make time to test the recipes in advance, I decided we’d make two different recipes and take whichever one was the best to school.

The first loaf was an adaptation of a traditional Slovenian recipe for Bosman (braided bread) and it came from Slovenian Roots Quest. This yeast-based recipe includes eggs and I agree with the author, it turns out kind of like a challah bread.

After mixing the dough I was skeptical this recipe was going to turn out well. My dough seemed tough even after kneading it for 10 minutes by hand. In ‘bread kneading time’ this pretty much feels like FOREVER. I was worried the dough wasn’t going to rise, but it did. PHEW!

I served this bread warm from the oven with homemade soup. It was tasty smeared with butter and the kids liked dipping the bread in their soup. I tried the bread as toast the next day and it was good, but not as good as the day before.

The recipe creator said they used it to make french toast. I can see how that would be a great fit with this bread as it had a dense quality that would soak up the egg and milk mixture nicely.


The next braided bread recipe came from Global Table Adventure. The author called this one Pleteno Scre, which is an ornamental braided bread shaped into a heart. This is a bread that would be served at weddings or baby showers – special times.

I skipped the more ornate decorations that are typically put on this braided bread because, again, I was trying the recipe for the first time. My patience skills have their limits during special times school project time.

This recipe is yeast-based and includes eggs and sugar. Also, rum. How can anything be bad if it’s made with rum…and served at a school function?


This bread was definitely sweeter than the first recipe. I wouldn’t call it a full-on sweet bread, but it was trending in that direction. Like the first bread, it was denser than a typical white bread.

Again, I thought this bread was best served fresh that first day. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on the bread or on my attempt at baking it. Maybe all bread is best fresh out of the oven!


My biggest takeaway from this school project experience was that it was fun, interesting and rewarding to try a bread that is quite literally foreign to me. As I explained to my daughter, it’s not so much about whether or not we like the bread (even though we did), but in understanding what other cultures enjoy and what they serve to commemorate happy milestones in their lives. Those milestones, quite frankly, are similar throughout every culture and country. The traditions might be different, but the intent of showering love on those important to them is not.

Happy List #24

Why, hello again!

This week was started out as a blur of gorgeous weather. Today is has fizzled a bit. On Wednesday when the weather was amazing, I shared pictures from my commute in Ireland. It was filled with all the good, the bad, the weird and the pretty that I’ve seen in the last couple of months. On Monday, I shared a 15% off coupon code for Anonymous Jewellry. It’s a subscription service that I tried and enjoyed recently. It would be a great Mother’s Day gift and something you can do last minute for all of you pick-up-a-card-on-the-way-to-mom’s-house types. You know who you are!

Here’s what’s on my Happy List this week.


Good Fences Make…Me Happy

The fences I see in Ireland are usually made of stone or concrete. Highly durable, yes. Pretty to look at? Eh…sometimes.

I like the look of this horizontal fence. If you don’t need complete privacy and I’m trying to think when that might be, these horizontal slats offer a cool aesthetic look.

(image credit: Mark McWilliams Photography)

Again, here are horizontal boards offering more privacy than the above picture, but what I really LOVE is the living wall concept. Assuming I could keep it alive, that is. This is a small detail to this aspirational gardener.

If you’re wondering where I’m at on the journey to becoming an actual gardener, I am  somewhere in the “sit in my bed with my laptop and look at pretty pictures” phase of gardening. But, I’m feeling there might be progress. Maybe not soon, but eventually.
(Image: Jeeheon Cho; Design By: Guido Keller, Lotus Gardenscapes)

For more about these ideas and other fences, read this article.


Super Bookshelf

I’ve been birthday shopping for my offspring and this bookshelf on Amazon looked super cool. Pun intended. There’s a boy version as well.


AIRSTREAM CAMPING

I stumbled upon a campground called Autocamp.com. Someone has been refurbishing old Airstream trailers and created a campground with them. Such a good idea! They’ve set them up in an old RV Park and you can rent them – just like you would a hotel room. No need to pull around a trailer. No need to worry about parking a trailer. Just show up and enjoy all the perks.

This is a great business idea. I might even do this kind of camping. They have showers, right???


AutoCamp has two locations in California. It’s not cheap though! I randomly checked mid-week in October 2017 at the Russian River location and it was $275/night.

But it’s so cute! And they have bikes!

Anyway, check it out. It’s Autocamp.com and all pictures are from their site.


Melted Crayon Rocks

This is something I’d like to try with my kids – melting crayons on hot rocks. What could go wrong? HAHAHAHA!

The inner child in me would like to try this project too. The inner child in me would also like someone to carry me when I get tired, but we know that’s not going to happen! So, rocks it is.


Read about it at Artfulparent.com.


Cool Design

There’s so much to love about this photo featured on Caan Design.

If I got over my annoyance with fingerprints on windows, I think I’d really love that bridge. So would my kids.

The inside of this house is really neat too!

Architects and photo credit: Shiflet Group Architects and Glynis Wood Interiors


When You Don’t Have a Mom on Mother’s Day

In the hustle and bustle of Hallmark holidays, we can forget that not all holidays are happy for everyone. Mother’s Day can be a tough one for so many people who do not have a mom in their lives.

There’s a child at school who doesn’t have a mom to come to Mother’s Day Tea. There’s a friend who’s mom has recently passed. There’s a neighbor who hasn’t had contact with his mom in years.

This little world of ours if full of people who could use an extra hug on Mother’s Day. It’s a great day to open our arms a little wider to those around us – just like our moms would have done.

Don’t watch this video if you just put on your mascara. It will make you cry.


Plot Twist

I’ve been following along as Ashley from Under the Sycamore and her family spend 10 weeks in China. What she wrote this week had me saying “YES! THIS!”

To quote her, “An attribute that has always been important to me to instill in my kids is adaptability – in relationships, situations, goals and everyday life while still remaining consistent in their core beliefs and values. The ability to adapt and change as needed will not only open the door to some pretty incredible adventures, but it also makes day to day life far less frustrating.

Since they were all tiny, Chris and I have tried to teach them to approach change and the unexpected with a positive outlook…to be able to smile and say, “Plot twist!” when the unknown and unexpected pops up in the story of their days.”

(photo: Under the Sycamore)

Isn’t that great? Adaptability is KEY to making life so much less stressful and so much more incredible. I’ve seen my kids demonstrate this ability as we’ve changed houses, states, schools, countries. In fact, I think they do better with change than even my husband and I do.

My kids and I LOVE a good plot twist in a book and this phrase is something I’m going to steal to help defuse those tense situations where your day or your travels just don’t go as anticipated. Usually I say, “oh, it could be worse!” But I like “PLOT TWIST!” so much better!

Read the whole post and see Ashley’s incredible photography here. She’s also on Instagram.


Constellations

This was a fresh take on the glow-in-the-dark stars we used to put on our ceilings as kids. In fact, I put them on my daughter’s ceiling at one point.

I can’t imagine where I’d ever do this, but I really like the idea. It would also be a cool wall treatment for a restaurant.

Image credit: Nathan Kirkman and Anna Knott for Domino and more info from here.


Butterfly Wreath

I don’t have a wreath up right now and I feel like I’m slacking.

This wreath from Design Improvised is so darn happy looking! Isn’t it?

It looks easy to make too. Bonus!

(photo)


To all the moms in the United States, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. (Mother’s Day in Ireland happened a couple of months ago.) Take care and enjoy!

Living in Ireland: As Seen On My Commute

Most of us make a daily or weekly trek somewhere.

My commute has become a lot more interesting since we moved to Ireland.

In the morning I walk the kids to school. It’s 3/4-mile to the train, then a 10-minute train ride and finally about another 3/4-mile walk to school. The kids ride their scooters because it goes faster that way and this is the important part: there’s LESS WHINING.

In all of that back and forth during the day, I have the opportunity to see some interesting things. These are just snapshots. I don’t have the context around what I see. I don’t have the backstory. I don’t know the characters. I’m not making fun. It all just makes me wonder.

Like glitter boots at 3 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.


I only found this interesting because I don’t know when I would ever put on glitter boots. So the fact that this woman was rockin’ the glitter boots on a Monday afternoon makes me curious about her personality.

This is what I usually see on the train (below) – at least in the morning. Business suits and tennis shoes. Everyone is on their phones with earbuds in. No one talks – except my kids!

For reference, we get on at the second stop of this particular train route. This is how busy the train is after the third stop of the morning during the 8 a.m. hour. It’s not too bad. After we get off is when it becomes a human mosh pit.

Since we get on the same train car every morning, we see the same people. I have names for them all: book guy, breakfast-on-the-train girl, doing-her-makeup lady, etc.

These passengers have kind of gotten used to our routine, or so I’d like to think! Mainly they just ignore us.

Sometimes when I’m on the train I will glance around and wonder what the heck decade am I in? Did I just have a Back to the Future moment?

Fashion from the 80s and 90s is definitely making a comeback. As we speak, I’m wearing high-waisted jeans. Oh, yes I am! Let’s not call them mom jeans though, okay?


My train rides during the middle of the day are pretty empty, which is why I happened to see this guy collecting stumps from the train station after Iarnrod Eireann had trimmed the trees by the train platform.

I’ve collected trash off the side of the road to decorate my house, so I’m not judging. I did wonder if he was going to use them for art or for his fireplace. Either way, he was putting in a lot of effort.

I see a fair amount a horrendous amount of graffiti in Ireland. Is that normal for a metro area?

All I know is my kids have learned some really interesting 4-letter words since moving here. I apologize in advance if they share them with you.


This is the view out the window on our train ride. That’s the Irish Sea. You’re feeling super sorry for me, I’ll bet.


And those people down there at 9 a.m. in the morning? Let me zoom in on that picture from the train and show you what they are doing…

Swimming.

Naked.

At least, the person on the left is.

People here swim in the ocean all year long. I see this sight almost daily. My kids get a BIG kick out of looking for the naked man. I’ve given up trying to convince them that there is more than one person that does this.

Closer to home where everyone wears their clothes in public, our neighbor was very kind to put this sign in the grass next to the sidewalk. My kids thought it was funny that the sign, which was held in place with a screwdriver, was in a different location in the grass each morning.

This neighbor, by the way, is in his late 80s and he has bought my kids chocolate for Christmas and Easter. How nice is that? And now I feel super bad for not getting him anything.

Oh! This next one is super special.

Here’s a picture of me carrying a new frying pan, price tag and all, home in my backpack.

There was a time when I might have found this embarrassing. Not so much anymore.


Sailing is pretty big in the Dublin area. There’s even a school near us that teaches kids as young as 6 to sail.

My kids don’t seem interested in putting on a wetsuit and a heavy jacket to learn how though. I don’t know why not? HA!


I don’t like to freak out about things, but I found it highly alarming that the park near us has been WATERING THE GRASS and flowers WITH A SPRINKLER. You know I live in a place that is famous for its rain, right? So famous you need a rain jacket year-round.

It has been especially dry in Dublin this spring and the grass and flowers are feeling it, I guess. Is this climate change or an anomaly?

I keep asking the locals when the last time was that they saw someone watering their grass and they all look at me with a blank stare. Then they repeat the question back to me like they can’t believe I asked something so dumb. “Water the grass? We don’t do that here.” Uh huh.


Here’s another part of that same park on a sunny day. Gorgeous, right?

Sometimes I forget I don’t live in a tropical climate.

Then I take off my coat.


I’m not in the habit of taking photos of random kids, so please don’t think I’m a creeper.

This kid was unidentifiable, so I thought I’d share. Contrary to what this photo looks like, he’s not crying. In fact, this kid was happy as could be. I watched him for awhile playing with his mum. Then she gave him a bread roll for a snack and that kid just laid down in the bocce ball gravel and was happily eating away.

What I’m trying to say is, I GET THIS KID. Totally get him. All the time Sometimes I feel the same way about carbs.

Also, I have never once seen anyone play bocce ball here. But every single morning I see the grounds crew at this park blow the rocks back into the bocce ball area that the kids throw onto the sidewalk.

This next photo was a first for me. That’s a guy waiting for the train with a pitchfork.

If this was in the United States, people would probably be FREAKING OUT and calling 911.


There are countless miles of stone walls in Ireland. The below wall is located along a pedestrian path we take to school.

I am always amazed when I see gorgeous flowers growing out of the stone and concrete.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


An enterprising gentleman has been making sand sculptures on the sidewalk near my grocery store.

He’s pretty good, right? I wonder how much he makes by doing this. I wonder if he needs a permit. I wonder if he can make anything other than a dog because it’s been the same thing for MONTHS now.


The location in the photo below is at the start of a long pedestrian pier. I’ve only seen the Irish Sea act this way once. You’d think it would have been grey and stormy this particular day, but it wasn’t.

Usually it is completely calm in this area and we walk and scooter down where the water is washing up onto the concrete.

It was a spectacular sight to see. Not long after this was taken the Garda (police) shut down the pier to pedestrians.

Last, but not least, this is a cool bike I saw in Dublin’s City Centre. The River Liffey is behind it.


So there you have it, pictures from my commute. These were all taken in the last few months, so I am quite entertained on a regular basis. Living without a car has been an interesting life experiment. I can’t say I’m always happy and cheerful to head out on this commute – especially when the weather is dreadful. I can say it has forced me to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me though.