Author Archives: annisa

Visiting Ireland: Our Favorite Castle Tour (with kids)

I grew up on the West Coast of the United States. The places and structures we consider old there aren’t old at all when compared to, well, basically everywhere else in the world.

That perspective, in part, is why I find castles so fascinating.

Ireland has a number of castles – some of which date back to the 12th century.

The thing you need to know about castles is they are not one size fits all. They range in size, in function, in grandeur. It’s interesting to visit castles of all shapes and sizes because they each have an interesting story to tell about their place and purpose in history.

When I’m visiting castles in Ireland, it’s never alone. That would make absorbing the interesting historical and cultural information way too easy. I need to challenge the few remaining brain cells that survived that never-ending My Little Pony phase by touring these castles with Thing 1 and Thing 2 my precious offspring (ages 7 and 10).

I’m drinking the Kool-Aid convinced we lead a more enriching life because of these learning experiences.

So far, our favorite castle to visit in Ireland with kids is Dalkey Castle, which is about 30 minutes south of Dublin and easily accessible via the DART.

Dalkey Castle is not the biggest, the fanciest or the most well-known castle in the area.

So what made the tour our favorite?

That’s easy! The specific information that was presented and HOW it was presented.

The Dalkey Heritage Center clearly gets the importance of the entertainment factor when it comes to the overall tourist experience. This was the first time we’ve visited a castle where our tour was conducted by professional actors in period attire.

The eyeballs in my children’s heads about POPPED out of their sockets when Rupert the Archer walked around the corner in the graveyard with his bow and arrow. They could tell this was not going to be your average tour experience.

Rupert shared very specific information about what kind of bow you would use to defend the castle, how far it would fly, what kind of damage it would do to a human.

If it sounds a little horrible, it was and it wasn’t. The 15th century was a pretty horrible time. Rupert the Archer was telling it like it was, but I suspect it was a little downplayed for the young ears.

All the kids and even a few big ones on the tour got to hold one of the bows.

Rupert the Archer also shared other tricks for defending the castle.

There was only one castle entrance, as you can see below, where the stairs are located. Above the doorway is a little rectangle that continues up to the second floor. That’s called the murder hole. Anything and everything, included boiling urine was thrown down that hole onto the heads of invaders.

I’m just going to say it…that would keep me from invading a castle. Regular urine wasn’t bad enough…they had to boil it too?!?

Along your tour you will meet some friends of Rupert the Archer. These might include the Cook, the Barber Surgeon and/or the Coin Minter.

On our tour we met the Cook who also filled in as the Barber Surgeon.

You will NEVER look at a barbershop pole the same after hearing about Barber Surgeons in 15th century Ireland. Trust me. If only they knew one or two things about germs.

The kids did get to mint their own coin too.

They got a demonstration on coin minting and then were able to work the tools themselves.

No fingers were harmed during this process. Although, there was one close call. I still cringe.

On the grounds of Dalkey Castle is St. Begnet’s Church and Graveyard.

Notice the small opening on the far back wall of the church. There on the bottom left?

That was originally a normal-sized door.

Apparently so many bodies have been buried on this site that the ground has been raised up significantly in the past 600 years.

Think about that for a moment.

Even the adults in our group RAVED about this castle experience.

From what was presented to how it was presented, we took away from this experience far more information and understanding about this period of history than we had from some of the other Irish castle tours.

Put this tour on your list and make time for lunch in Dalkey. It’s the cutest Irish village and you’ll be happy you did.

For more information on planning your visit to Dalkey Castle, click here.



Striped and Flower Petal Denim Pumpkins

Bet you were hoping I was done with the denim projects, huh?

Nope! Hahahaha!

I’m 97.328% sure this is the last post about denim pumpkins though, you lucky ducks!

You already know all about the braided denim pumpkin.

I don’t like to play favorites, but there is a reason I shared its textured gorgeousness first.

It wasn’t my first trip to the denim pumpkin patch though!

On my first trip I created a striped denim pumpkin made out of strips of cut-up jeans. I didn’t measure. I didn’t worry about straight lines. In other words, a project right up my alley!

The only thing you’ll need to make this pumpkin is a styrofoam pumpkin, old jeans (or those new ones that look old), scissors, hot glue and twine.

I used shorter strips of denim to cover the majority of the pumpkin and then finished with longer strips to cover up the remaining bits. The longer strips then became the foundation for the stem, which was just wrapped in twine and sealed with a bit of glue.

The last denim pumpkin I made was what I’m calling a flower petal pumpkin. Or maybe it has a slight acorn vibe to it?

I actually like this one more in person than I do in the pictures.

Most everything is better in real life though! Except skunks.

I gave the pumpkin a quick coat of really dark blue paint.

Then I hot glued denim circles around the top of the pumpkin and added a branch for a stem.

Faster than you can drink a pumpkin spiced latte it’s DONE!

These Dollar Store pumpkins are hollow, so it’s easy to cut off the stem it comes with and add a branch instead.

Not going to lie – it was fun to experiment with this project!

It’s a shame I ran out of pumpkins because I do have a few more makeover ideas.

Plus, a half a pair of jeans left!

These pumpkins might not be everyone’s jam. Shocking, I know!

I’m cool with that though.

I hope when you read posts like this one, you might feel encouraged to challenge yourself to reuse or repurpose something in a way that brings you a bit of happiness when you look at it, use it or gift it. You never know where the creative journey might take you!


Happy List: #40


It’s OFFICIALLY autumn, can you believe it?

I’m trying to use the word autumn more because if I say ‘Fall’ in reference to the season, the Irish have no clue what I’m talking about. Or maybe they do and they’re just messing with me?

Guess I won’t put up my ‘Happy Fall Y’all’ sign on my front door. Kidding. I don’t actually have one, which is odd considering I lived in the South for a few years.

Before this post goes completely sideways, here’s what’s on my Happy List this week.


I thought this was a totally doable DIY Halloween costume idea from All Things Thrifty!


The art above the bed in Layla’s master bedroom made me stop and go ‘OOHH.’

She has a very calm, neutral bedroom and the green painting is an unexpected and lovely pop of color. I wouldn’t have thought to consider this painting for this room, so I love being surprised.



In 2011, two sisters age 10 and 11 were given a $25 science kit for making bath bombs. 6 years later, they are selling 500,000 bath bombs a month and they are still in high school.

HOLY SMOKES! This is such an awesome story!

Read all the details about how they got started and how they manage the company now on Time.

Image: Via Courtesy of DaBomb Fizzers Caroline (left) and Isabelle (right) Bercaw, co-founders of DaBomb Fizzers 


This is the cutest pencil holder! I could find a spot for it in my office.

I’m not sure my kids have ever seen a real typewriter! Ha!


I’m mad at my Oregon peeps. I was in the state FOR A MONTH and no one told me about the DIY Bar in Portland. It’s a place where you can DIY crafty things and have an adult beverage.

That’s like heaven on earth, people! How could you let me down?!?!

You can make string art, a leather clutch, concrete coasters, jewelry and more. I’d really like to give string art a go one of these days.

Each project costs $39 and I think you get a drink with it. I didn’t read all the FAQs. I can’t do ALL the work here, people.

For more images like these and all the DIY Bar details, click here.


This idea speaks to me. My painting tools are stored in a tub and it’s kind of a drag to dig through it for what I need. Woe is me, I know!

The directions for this organization project can be found at Polished Habitat.



I love a good brick accent wall.

Although, it’s probably a pain in the behind to hang things on a brick wall. But, hey, these people got around that little problem by using a ladder. Clever.

Image by Jessica Klewicki Glynn via


I don’t want to jinx it, but I’ve been doing a REALLY good job at keeping my plants alive. They might not be ‘healthy,’ but they are still alive. Go me!

If I had these carved wood planters from World Market, I might actually take my plants out of the plastic planters they came in and repot (replant?) them appropriately. Aren’t they pretty?


I made this recipe for One Pot Chicken Gnocchi Soup from iHeartNapTime this week. It was pure, rainy day comfort food. I haven’t cooked a lot with gnocchi before, but now I’m trying to use it in ALL the recipes! It was such an unexpected, delightful surprise in this soup.

I substituted the spinach for a grated zucchini and it was delicious. My kids (and Handy Husband) really have no idea how much zucchini they eat. *insert evil laugh here*


Whatever your plans may be for this weekend, I hope you have the best time. Happy Friday!



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Horseshoe Pumpkins Go Mainstream

Questions have come up recently about my DIY horseshoe pumpkin.

This is, in part, because my braided denim pumpkin and the horseshoe pumpkin by extension were honored with a Salvaged Junk feature on Funky Junk Interiors last week.

You know how much I love salvaged junk, so this really made my day!

When I told my 7-year-old son about this good news, I thought he’d say, “cool.”

Instead, he reached over, patted my shoulder and with all sincerity said, “I’m happy for you.”

This might not seem like a big deal to you, but I’m living through a very long season of fart jokes. In that moment, hope sprang eternal that he might someday grow into an emotionally mature young man.

That was, by far, more rewarding than any work accolade.

In the two years since we made our horseshoe pumpkins out of authentic, seen-some-trail-time-on-an-actual-horse horseshoes, it appears this idea has made it into the retail mainstream.

It doesn’t take them long, does it?

A friend messaged me this past weekend with a picture of a horseshoe pumpkin she scored at a store called Real Deals. It looked really cool! It was a little more symmetrical and less rusty than my version. I loved it.

A reader asked me if it was possible to make a horseshoe pumpkin without using a welder.

My gut reaction was “no.” I’m still leaning hard in that direction.

My second reaction was “maybe” because I can’t discount the ingenuity of a determined and creative mind!

It wouldn’t look like mine or any others that are for sale right now though. The horseshoes are heavy, so keeping them in place would be the tricky part. Perhaps you could do it with a heck of a lot of wire and a dowel for the stem? Horseshoes are magnetic, so maybe there’s something possible with magnets? Perhaps you could create a discreet base to secure the horseshoes?

I’m sure someone will figure it out!

Here’s the step-by-step of how we made our version. It’s a lot easier if you have 8 horseshoes that are the exact same size and shape, which you can see, we did not.

If you are intent on making one yourself and don’t have a welder, I think any auto/machine shop in town could weld one together for you in 10 minutes. Perhaps someone in your neighborhood has a welder that you could trade a plate of cookies in exchange for this very easy welding project?

It’s worth a shot! Everyone loves cookies!

Or, you could try Etsy. I found a bunch of sellers there offering horseshoe pumpkins for $30 – 40. I liked this rustic one and this painted one was nice. If Amazon is more your style, this mini rustic horseshoe pumpkin was less than $15 earlier this week.

This is the third year I’ve pulled out our horseshoe pumpkins and they still make me happy! Hurray for dumpster diving and all the salvaged junk projects out there!



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DIY Geometric Mirror Using Children’s Blocks

A friend and I were discussing DIY fails the other day. Always a cheery topic.

The reality of my life is that some projects turn out and others…not so much.

She mentioned that IF I have flops, I don’t share them on the ol’ blog.

Well, duh! I don’t share pictures of the gravity-defying things my hair does when I wake up in the morning either. But maybe I should. It would certainly shock and awe.

I do try to share the foibles that inevitably come with most of my projects though.

Today I’m sharing a project FILLED with foibles. It’s cup runneth over with what NOT to do.

But if you stand about 10-feet back and squint one eye at the finished product, you might say, “Dang! That looks sweet!” If I’m being brutally honest, a lot of days, that’s good enough for me.

Here’s how the project started…

My daughter has had the same small mirror in her bedroom for practically her entire life. It’s not a good mirror. It has a cheap frame around it and the finish was made worse by me letting a 5-year-old “help” paint the mirror from pink to purple. If you haven’t let a 5-year-old help you paint yet, you’re smarter than me really missing out.

A combination of time, a few moves, cheap construction and a bad paint job made the mirror less than ideal.

This is, to me, what makes a mirror a good candidate for a DIY experiment. One of those crafty ideas you’re not sure will work, but if it did work I would be sure to humble brag about it it would be pretty amazing.

My crafty idea was to see if I could use these children’s geometric blocks to makeover the mirror. Pretty much every preschool classroom on the planet (I hardly ever exaggerate) has a set of these wooden pattern blocks.

My kids loved them so much at school that I bought a set for home use. The kiddos hardly ever used them at home, of course have outgrown the wood blocks, but they are really cool!

Just the wrong color for what I had in mind.

Here’s some more brutal honesty. When my DIY projects flop, it’s usually because I lack the attention-to-detail the project requires. Meticulous measuring? Not my thing. Fine precision? Not my thing. More than 3 steps? Not my thing.

If I had calculated the trajectory to the moon, you would have ended up on Jupiter instead. I would have said, “Ah, close enough! At least you made it to space! I was worried there for a second when you blasted off!”

But I digress.

I started out by playing around with the various shapes trying to see what might look interesting and what might actually fit on the mirror frame.

Then I drew a template and traced it onto the mirror frame. So far, so good.

But! There’s always a but.

It ended up being just a tad off.

If you are a perfectionist you might want to skip over this next part.

Instead of starting over and redrawing the template, I just fudged the blocks a little to make it work.

Classic me.

Adhering the blocks to the mirror frame was a bit tricky. They are slippery little suckers! It was hard to keep them in an exact position. That’s why I decided to use hot glue. Once I attached them, they weren’t going to move.

Hot glue has three downsides for this project

1. Once I attached the blocks, they were weren’t going to move. HA! It was good if I put the block down in the exact right position. It was bad if I didn’t. Please refer to the above list of why my projects flop for an indication of how well this part of the process went.

2. If anything happens to the mirror – Say it gets a hard jolt while falling off the temporary place you’ve hung it, some of the shapes can easily pop off. Yes, this happened to me! And it wasn’t immediately after hanging it. It was 20 minutes later after I’d done the victory dance. I just had to shake my head when I heard the crash.

3) The glob of hot glue raises the blocks up ever-so-slightly. It’s not noticeable until you go to paint the mirror and realize it doesn’t have a clean finish because a shape here and there is slightly higher than another one.

(I think the below picture is from before I glued everything down because it looks wonkier than the final version. Wonkier is a technical DIY term.)

After the blocks were glued onto the mirror frame, I taped off the mirror surface so I could spray paint the frame and finally finish this project!

In hindsight (and by hindsight I mean immediately after I started painting), I would have painted the frame and the blocks separately.

It was a pain to get the spray paint in all the nooks and crannies of this project. And if a block falls off, then you have an unpainted surface underneath and special care has to be made to replace the block in the exact same position.

It also made it difficult to sand any imperfections between paint coats. By imperfections I mean the dust particles or bugs that landed on the mirror. So. many. bugs.

By the way, when the blocks fell off, I had the opportunity (see how I made that a positive thing?) to reattach them with an all-purpose, heavy duty glue.

In small batches, this approach seemed to work well and those blocks are much more secure now. Lesson learned.

I’m laying it bare with how this project went because I want you to know that DIY projects (mine and I’m willing to bet most people’s) are not picture perfect processes. Things happen. Mistakes are made. This particular project had more hiccups than most. 

But! There’s always a but!

That’s how I learn. Fail. Try Again. Fail. Adjust. Readjust. Tweak. Improve.

It can be hard to go through that process in the public eye. No one wants to share how their freshly spray painted project got attacked by a swarm of gnats because they left it outside to dry! Twice. Okay, three times.

I have to laugh at myself and not take things too seriously. It’s not like I’m sending people into space.

The Internet needs to come with a warning sign similar to the one on car mirrors. “Projects on this website/blog/social media may appear way more glamorous than real life.”

Real life DIY can be messy, imperfect and an oddly-satisfying experience.

I’m not entirely displeased with how this geometric mirror makeover ultimately turned out. Especially if I squint and stand 10-feet back from it!

Most importantly, I learned from this experience and know how to do it better next time.

And there WILL be a next time.

After all, I have an entire bucket of blocks to use up!

Happy creating, everyone!


Happy List: #39

Hello again!

Our mornings have turned a wee bit cool and it’s definitely starting to feel like fall has arrived. Although, I say that kind of tongue-in-cheek because Ireland is always a wee bit cool – even in the summer.

On Monday I shared more about life in Ireland as it relates to ER visits. Thank you for your warm wishes. My daughter is doing much better.

Wednesday was all about pumpkins and denim. If you missed the braided denim pumpkin, go back and read all about it! I’ll wait.

Here’s what is on the Happy List this week. I try to view these things through the filter of “I appreciate it from a creative standpoint” and not through the filter of “I want that, why don’t I have that.” It makes the Internet and social media so much more enjoyable to consume!


What caught my eye was not the ‘deconstructed fall centerpiece’ House Beautiful was showcasing, but that Bus Stop sign in the background.

Have you ever seen anything like that? I think it’s pretty cool. Definitely unique.



Here’s a list of train rides showcasing beautiful fall foliage in the U.S.

Don’t worry, they aren’t all in New England. Although, that part of the country is GORGEOUS in the fall. If you decide to take the one in Hood River, Oregon, check before you go. I’m not sure how the wildfires in the area have impacted fall foliage.



I made this last week. It was even better the second day.

Recipe can be found here.



If I had a Cricut or Silhouette or one of those other personal cutting machines, I’d be all OVER this craft.

If you don’t have one either, but like this spooky sign, you can print out the free image and frame it!

Directions and the free printable are at Eighteen25.



Jelly soaps? Soap that is the same consistency as a gummy bear?

I did not know this was a thing. My kids would FREAK OUT (in a good way) about these soaps.

Directions to make your own are over at Happiness is Homemade.


Russian Cinnamon Buns

Aren’t these the prettiest cinnamon buns? I’m assuming they taste great too. I think you could use the technique for making the hearts on your regular cinnamon roll recipe.

Recipe is at Little Sunny Kitchen.



This kitchen is drool-worthy, but it’s those shelves in the background that caught my eye.

This could have easily just been a plain wall, but they made it functional and pretty. I love unexpected details like this in a home.

(Photo by Reagan Taylor via Domino)


Here is another thing I did not know was possible. Color changing noodles. Science for the win, folks!

Directions and the scientific explanation at Left Brain Craft Brain.


I’m pretty much head-over-heels for this entire mudroom done by Studio McGee, but what I really love is the brick floor.

I don’t think I’d want it everywhere in my house, but I can see how the bricks would work (i.e. be indestructible) in this particular area. Plus, it’s just stinking cool!

Also, that black door! Hubba-hubba!

(image: Studio McGee)

That’s it from me, folks! We have family visiting us from Sweden and Handy Husband will be back from a work trip, so this weekend should be full of fun! 
Happy Friday!
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Braided Denim Pumpkin

I have these illusions that I’m an unique, one-of-a-kind, broke-the-mold sort of person.

But I’m really just like most people. In fact, I’m just like the MILLIONS of other crafty people in the world who have fallen down the rabbit hole known as The Dollar Store and emerged with a styrofoam pumpkin.

Okay, okay. I have six Dollar Store pumpkins. Six. But that’s all, I swear.

And you can’t just buy a Dollar Store pumpkin and be done with it. Nooo. No way. That’s against the code. Something crafty must be done with those Dollar Store pumpkins or you develop an eye twitch and bad luck for 7 years.

Or so I’ve heard.

I decided my Dollar Store pumpkin was a good candidate for a denim makeover. If you’ve been reading this blog in the last few months, you will know I have been repurposing Handy Husband’s old jeans. I’m determined to put this material to good use and this might be my favorite project until the next one yet. (I say that every time!)

To make a braided denim pumpkin, gather up your supplies: old jeans, styrofoam pumpkin, scissors, hot glue gun, needle and thread.

Then you’ll begin the most gratifying part of this project – cutting up a pair of jeans!

It feels a little naughty the first time you do it. Then, it’s sort of empowering. Like you are a superhero saving the entire neighborhood from an accidental flash of your husband’s boxer briefs from the blown out crotch in his jeans saving the planet by repurposing an item destined for the landfill.

You’ll be cutting the jeans into long, thin strips. I pretty much winged it because this is not a project you should over think. It’s a Dollar Store pumpkin, not the Mona Lisa. My strips were approximately 1/3-inch wide by 10-inches long.

I’d say this project took a good chunk of the right leg of this pair of relaxed-fit jeans. Plan accordingly if you are working with skinny jeans.

This next part may or may not have been necessary. It’s just what happened while I was winging my way through the process. Since I didn’t want my braid to come unraveled before I attached it to the pumpkin, I held the 3 strips together and secured them with a couple of stitches of blue thread. I probably could have used hot glue, but this just seemed easier and less glue-stringy at the time.

Then I braided the denim and secured the other end of the braid with a few more hand stitches.

I repeated this process about twenty or so a million times.

The last part of the process was to hot glue my braided strips onto the pumpkin.

I did not want to add bulk to the bottom of the pumpkin, so I never glued an end of one braid on top of another braid. No overlapping, I did get the braids as close together as I could though to hide the orange styrofoam.

As the gaps between the glued-on braids started to close, I ended up cutting my braids to size because I didn’t need the final braids to be as long as the ones I started out with.

My original intent was to trim the very first and longest braids to fit close to the stem. However, I decided I liked the curly-Q effect, so I left a few.

Here’s how it turned out…

I also gave this faux pumpkin a stem upgrade! It’s super easy! I used a craft knife to cut off the styrofoam stem.

It turns out the pumpkin is hollow! That’s one mystery solved.

Then I shoved carefully inserted a branch into the pumpkin to act as a stem. I had intended on glueing the branch in and may need to in the future as the styrofoam breaks away, but for now, it doesn’t need it.

I love the texture the denim braids provide.

And since denim goes with everything, this pumpkin works with a variety of color schemes.

I’m smitten with this pumpkin. Absolutely adore it.

Beyond that, I’m happy I took an hour of “me time” to sit down and create something pretty for my home. This time it was a braided denim pumpkin. Next time…who knows?

Living in Ireland: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

When our family moved to Ireland 15 months ago, I did what I could from a medical perspective to make sure our transition was as smooth as possible.

Today I’m going to share what I did in the hope that you’ll find my list helpful should you find yourself in a similar situation.

Then I’ll get to the dramatic part tell you how it all went to hell a story of what happened last week that showed the drastic gap in my planning that most certainly contributed to a new patch of grey hair.


Prescriptions: Before I left the states, I arranged to “buy-out” the remaining months of our prescriptions. In our case, only one of us was taking a prescription and it was valid for another 4 months. The pharmacy told me our insurance would only cover one month at a time, but there was a significant discount for me to buy out the remainder of the prescription. I’m not sure why, but I learned it is always worth asking. This afforded me a longer grace period when we arrived in Ireland to find a doctor and get a new prescription.

Contact Lenses: We also visited the eye doctor before we left and stocked up on a year’s supply of contact lenses.

Dentist: The timing worked out right for us to all visit the dentist in the weeks right before we left the country. This gave us 6 months, barring no problems, to find a new dentist. Although, in Ireland, they seem to recommend only yearly cleanings.

Health Insurance: Because there was a gap between when my husband would be starting his job in Ireland and when the kids and I would join him, we worked with his employer to keep him on the U.S. payroll for an extra month so that we could maintain our health coverage and not have to go on Cobra. You know the minute we dropped our insurance would be the minute one of the kids broke an arm. I couldn’t tempt fate!

Medical Records: I also procured copies of important medical records that I thought we might need in Ireland. For example, immunization records.

Life Insurance: This is sort of medical related – after medicine doesn’t help you any longer. I called and confirmed that our life insurance policies were valid no matter where we resided.


Insurance: Straight away when my husband switched to Irish payroll we enrolled in the private health insurance program his company offers. Having private insurance offers a few benefits – like bumping us to the front of the line for procedures, private hospitals, etc. Irish residents are entitled to state-sponsored insurance, but I’m not an expert on the details of how that works.

Family Doctor: Within a couple of weeks of moving into our new home in Ireland, I made a point to ask neighbors, our landlord, really anyone who would listen for their advice on family doctors or pediatricians. I took the list of suggestions and started calling to see who had availability to accept new patients. While there was nothing wrong with any of us at that moment, I wanted to be certain we were patients of record with a doctor’s office before someone got sick.

Our decision on which doctor to go with had a lot to do with who was accepting new patients and location. We don’t have a car, so I needed to find a doctor close to our house. It worked out that I liked the first doctor I saw, but I was prepared to keep searching.

Also, I had to adjust my expectations for medical care. Our doctor’s office (or surgery as they call it) is located in a townhouse. The doctor’s desk with his mountain of paperwork is in the room with the exam table. Immunization schedules aren’t as rigorous. Well child visits are few and far between. The doctor called pee/urine “waterworks.” Little things like that. And, yes, that last one still makes me laugh.

I do like that Irish doctors post their price lists on their websites. You are never surprised by what things cost (it’s not a lot, either) and we submit the receipts to our insurance for reimbursement.

999: When we moved here, I taught my kids what to do if mommy or daddy is hurt and they need to call for help. In Ireland and the UK, the emergency services number is 999, not 911. I’m not going to say this has been an easy transition. The kids had to learn a new street address, mommy’s new phone number and a new emergency number. Just the other day when I quizzed the kids, my son said 9-9-1?

*sigh* So close, but so not helpful. We’ll just keep working on it!

Pharmacy Visits: In Ireland, you go to the pharmacy for over-the-counter pain meds, cough syrup, makeup, etc. Over the course of our time here, I’ve familiarized myself with the fact that medications are called different things. Ibuprofen is Nurofen, for instance.

I’ve also come to accept that pharmacy staff are trained to be either very helpful or very nosy. It depends on your perspective. For instance, I bought two different types of children’s cold medicine a few months ago. The pharmacy clerk – not a pharmacist, but the lady who rings up your purchase – quizzed me about if my purchase was for two different kids? I responded, “yes, I have two kids.” Now, in all reality, I just didn’t know which, if any, medication was going to help the one kid that was sick. Basically, I was stocking up so that I’d be prepared for anything.

Also, I cannot buy a Costco-sized bottle of tylenol or ibuprofen here. I can buy 10 tylenol pills at one time. I cannot buy 2 packages of 10 pills at one time. For someone who doesn’t like to shop, this is all very annoying.


Last Tuesday after school, we went to the park. This is something we do probably 4 times a week if it’s not raining.

Our routine play time was disrupted when my 10-year-old daughter fell off the one thing all the kids climb on, but really shouldn’t. Especially when there’s a large group of them.

As a mom, you can tell the difference in your child’s cry. The I’m-pretending-I’m-a-baby cry, the my-pride-is-hurt cry, the this-hurts-but-I’m-really-okay cry, the I’m-going-to-cry-and-my-sibling-will-get-in-trouble cry, the I-didn’t-get-my-way-and-life-is-unfair cry and the HOLY-HECK-THIS-IS-REAL-PAIN cry.

My daughter had that last one. I thought her tailbone was what she had really injured, but it turns out her arm/hand was the real culprit.

This was one of those situations where you’re not going to call an ambulance, but you know your kid probably needs to be checked out. And we’ve all been conditioned to avoid the hospital ER at all costs. No one wants to go there and THEY don’t want you to go there unless you’re really, truly having an emergency. Thankfully, urgent care clinics have filled that gap in the market for the urgent, but not dying stuff.

Now, let me paint you a picture. I’m in the park with two kids, two backpacks, two scooters and no car. I’m nowhere near my house. It’s late in the afternoon and I’m trying to decide what I should do. At a minimum, I know I need to get ice and ibuprofen.

A friend (who happened to be at the park) offered to drive us to the urgent care clinic in our area. She’d been there before and knew they had an x-ray machine on site.


Going to a private clinic was exactly why we procured private insurance! Along the way, I tried to call our insurance company, but they wouldn’t let me ask my question about clinics and coverage because I didn’t have our member number – it was on my phone. So I had to hang up and write the number now. By that time, we were at the clinic so my friend dropped us off and I hauled two backpacks, two scooters and two kids up the steps and into the clinic.

That’s where I encountered THE SIGN on the door. The sign that said, in essence, as of September 1st the clinic would not help anyone that was not a member of said clinic. We were not members. I missed the window of help by 4 days. Frickity Frack.

Trying to explain this development to my daughter who was still sniffling with pain and holding her arm at a weird angle was not fun.

I called our insurance company (again) and asked them to tell me where the closest clinic with an x-ray machine was located that would help my daughter. They gave me directions to the clinic, confirmed my pediatric question and informed me it closed at 6 p.m., which was in one hour. The most efficient way to get to the clinic would be via a cab.

As soon as I hung up the call, I opened my phone’s taxi app to hail a cab. Except, I couldn’t get a cab. My app was searching and searching and no drivers were available. Just great.

I could feel my blood pressure rising while we waited, which wasn’t being helped by the fact that my son was bored and decided to start sliding down a banister in front of the clinic that wouldn’t help us. One hurt arm is all I can handle at a time!

After about 10 minutes a random cab pulls up in with a passenger. I flag the driver down and ask if he was accepting fares. Of course he said yes. I explained how odd it was that I couldn’t get a cab when I know we were close to a shopping mall. He said, “oh, I know what it was. The drivers in the taxi rank were too lazy to get out of line to go pick up a fare. They’d rather wait for shoppers exiting the mall.”

To recap. My daughter is hurt. I have one hour to get her to the clinic before it closes. The quickest way to get there is by taxi. The taxi drivers are TOO LAZY to pick us up.


I’d also like to mention that it is now 5 p.m., which is getting close to the dinner hour and I’d already given the kids all the food I had when we were at the park. Nothing good happens when my kids are hurt, tired AND hungry.

I’m fairly certain I can actually FEEL the grey hairs growing out of my scalp now.

Anyway, the cab driver gets us to the second clinic in 15 minutes. I hop out with the two kids, the two backpacks and two scooters to find the emergency department, which was on the opposite side of the building from where we’d been dropped off.

I walk up to the reception desk, explain why we are there and the lady says, “I’m sorry. We only take patients 16 years and older.”

*insert a whole host of expletives here*

Thankfully, I did not say those bad words out loud.

If I hadn’t felt like crying at that point, I probably would have laughed at the ridiculousness of this situation. Bad timing. Misinformation. It was a complete fiasco.

I did calmly and politely ask the lady who would not help my hurt child who was standing right in front of her where I should take my daughter for help.

“Oh, well, you have to take her to a children’s hospital. She can’t go to a regular hospital A&E.”

I’m not sure what A&E meant at that moment, but I assumed it was the ER.

*insert another list of newly invented expletives here*

Thankfully, I did not say those bad words out loud either. But I did text them with very angry fingers to my husband.

Just keeping it real.

In my mind, getting my child help should have been a simple process. It wasn’t. And it was made worse by me not knowing how the system worked when it comes to urgent care.

Looking back, I should have just called our family doctor. And looking back even farther, when I met with the doctor the very first time, I should have inquired about what to do if there is a non-emergency emergency. Then I would have had a plan in place and would not have carried around the guilt and utter frustration associated with not being able to get my child help. This is one of those times when it shouldn’t have been so hard and I’m lucky that it all worked out okay in the end.

24 hours after the incident, my daughter saw our family doctor. He, bless his heart, told me “if you would have come in yesterday, I probably would have told you to come back and see me in 24 hours.” I’m not sure if that’s true or if he could see the parental guilt coming off me in waves, but I appreciated the sentiment.

He, predictably, referred us to the children’s hospital for x-rays.

I also told the doctor about how I woke up in the middle of the night and asked my husband, “so if a child was stabbed in the parking lot of a regular hospital, that hospital would not help that child?” The doctor rolled his eyes and said, “I know, I know. The system is a little messed up. They probably would give the kid pain meds, but they would call an ambulance and have them sent to the children’s hospital for treatment.”

*insert a picture of me shaking my head in disbelief at how asinine that is*

We ended up having a really fantastic (if you can call it that) experience in the hospital. We were in and out with x-rays and a cast in about an hour.

I did learn that children’s hospitals in Dublin are all public. So the benefits of having private insurance – unless she ends up needing a room – are negligible.

I’m sharing this story because I want you to know I have a really brave kid. And she feels much better now.

I also acknowledge there are parents out there dealing with medical situations far more horrific than a broken wrist and my heart goes out to them because I know that burden must be indescribably heavy.

Most of all, I’m sharing this story for anyone who is moving to a foreign country. I hope you can learn from my mistakes. Kids get sick. Kids get hurt. Knowing what to do in those situations – whether they be minor, urgent or a true emergency – can help you direct your energy where it needs to go the most – to your child.

As we left the hospital on foot to catch the train home, my daughter, sporting her new red cast said, “It’s a good thing I didn’t break my leg! That would have been a lot worse!”

She found the bright spot in this situation and I’m happy she reminded me it was there all along.

In truth, she’s my bright spot.

P.S. As you can see, I’m still learning the ins and outs of the medical and health insurance system in Ireland. I am in no way, shape or form an expert. Please do your own due diligence before moving to Ireland. It really is a fantastic place. I wish you the best of luck! 



Happy List: #38

It’s Friday and my week has had more drama than usual, so I feel ready to EXHALE and regroup.

On Monday I shared my happy little golf ball pumpkins. The hardest part about this craft is waiting for the paint to dry.

On Wednesday I shared the books my kids read over the summer. One of our favorite books involved a Flying Diaper. What’s not to love about that?

Here’s a big dose of the random things this week that made me smile, nod or say, “That’s such a great idea!”


Here’s an AMAZING free printable for you all. It was designed by Ashley from The Handmade Home.

Enjoy the little things – it’s a great reminder, isn’t it?

This graphic prints out in a size up to 30×36. If you framed it for someone, it would be an awesome gift!


As a new school year starts, so does an entire new round of volunteering.

This is a sign that should be in a lot more places.

Be kind to the volunteers out there serving in our communities, schools and other organizations.


This pantry by David Heide Design Studio was carved out of the narrow and shallow place between the wall studs.

if you have a spot to create this in your home, it would be a storage game changer. A space like this could serve as shoe storage near a front door too.


Doesn’t this breakfast look heavenly?

And that’s lemon whipped cream on top of the lemon poppy seed waffles. YUM!

Get the recipe at Two Peas and Their Pod.


I am a big, mushy sucker for a craft with my children’s handprints.

I would have saved this shirt forever if one of my kid’s had made it in school. If you turned it into a pillow, you could bust it out at Halloween for years to come!

Tutorial for this DIY shirt can be found at The 36th Avenue.


Recycling bins are necessary, but they can be space hogs.

I never thought to make a simple wall holder like this one! Clever!

This is also a good example of how a project doesn’t necessarily have to be “pretty” to really improve how your space functions.

More info on this idea here.


Angie from Knick of Time has been making book page bows, which are super cute. I don’t know where I’d use them, but I like them all the same!

She has a great tutorial on how to make your own.


I love a dramatic ceiling.

I also find it interesting that the kitchen island in this photo doesn’t have seating.

This space is featured in the design portfolio of 2to5 Design.


It’s hard to tell in this picture, but this is not real rock candy!

The tutorial for this magnet craft is at Handmade Charlotte. My daughter would think this was a cool idea.

Thank you for sharing part of your Friday with me. I know there are much bigger things going on in the world, so I’m happy you found your way here today.

Enjoy your weekend and I hope you have time to create something that brings you joy.

Books My Kids Are Reading Part 5

First week of September and I am up to my eyeballs in lunch boxes and homework!

Before I completely forget everything that happened this summer, I want to give you the rundown of some books we enjoyed while school was out.

It’s not the entirety of what we or they read, but the ones worth sharing. These are the books my (kids age 7 and 10) enjoyed and said, “just one more chapter! Please!”

AniMalcolm by David Baddiel

We stumbled into the world of David Baddiel when I picked up this book at the airport back in June. AniMalcom is a book about a kid who doesn’t like animals and then gets turned into an animal himself. Finding his way back home taught the boy some important life lessons.

My kids adored this book and had so much fun trying to guess which character the boy would turn into next.

The Parent Agency by David Baddiel

Honestly, I wasn’t too sure about the premise of this book. I didn’t want to give my kids the idea that they could interview and pick out their parents. You’re stuck with me, kiddos!

It turns out this was a light-hearted way of showing kids the grass isn’t always greener with another family.

My kids enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t their favorite David Baddiel book.

The Person Controller by David Baddiel

The kids’ favorite David Baddiel book, so far, is The Person Controller.

A Mystery Man gives a brother and sister a game controller that controls people. The kids use it to rescue a pet, teach the school bullies a lesson and win a school soccer game. Ultimately, they learn they don’t really need the controller. They just need to believe in themselves.

I could see my kids’ imaginations running wild with the possibilities presented in this book. What’s not to love about being able to do flips in the air like a computer game character? In the end though, they were the ones who “got” the point about believing in yourself. As a parent, I appreciate books that are fun, engaging and have a strong moral at the end.

Skellig by David Almond

Skellig (The Owl Man) was a book way out of the realm of what we normally read. It’s about a boy who moves to a new home and while his parents are distracted with an extremely ill baby, he discovers a strange being in his crumbling garage. This discovery changes his life forever.

This award-winning book is definitely geared for older kids and not necessarily my 7-year-old. This is mainly because of some complicated relationships and the very real, raw feelings that can come out in those situations. It’s not a fast-paced, action-filled, heavy plot points book, but it’s insight does keep you turning the pages. It’s hard to explain! You’ll just have to read it!

This was book was made into a movie a few years back. We watched the movie after we read the book. Here’s the trailer:

Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things

This Dinkin Dings book (there’s an entire series) is definitely geared for the humor of young boys. I appreciate this because I have a young boy and while he doesn’t mind reading, he hasn’t reached the point where he’s picking up a book on his own yet. He’s capable, but resistant. This type of book is right up his alley.

Dinkin Dings is scared of most everything – except the monsters who live under his bed. Dinkin suspects his new neighbors are zombies in disguise, so he concocts a plan to reveal their true identities. Quite an adventure unfolds from there.

I’m definitely going to look for more books in this series for my son to read.

The Owls of Blossom Wood (Books 1-3) by Catherine Coe

My daughter loves all the animals of the world.

She saw The Owls of Blossom Wood series in one of those Scholastic magazines that comes home from school in the United States. I never got the book order turned in on time. Oops! Fast forward 2 years and imagine my surprise when I saw these books at a TJ MAXX in Ireland.

I snatched them up and my daughter plowed through them – even though she’s probably out-grown them. If your kid likes the Magic Pony/Kitten/Puppy series, these will be a hit.

Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides: Dublin by Terry Deary

Horrible Histories is a series about, well, history around the world. We happened to read most of the one about Dublin.

History can be written in a very dry way. This book was jam-packed with information, but it was definitely not dry. There are pictures, cartoons and an emphasis on the gross factor. If anything, this series probably portrays history in a more accurate way instead of the sanitized version we usually read about in textbooks.

How I know the information (or some of it) stuck in my children’s minds is when we visited a museum and they said, “Look, Mom! We read about the Battle of Clontarf!” So, thank you Horrible Histories!

If learning about Dublin history isn’t your thing, there are a bunch of books in the Horrible Histories series as you can see from this 20 book set: Horrible Histories Collection 20 Books Set Pack.

Wheelnuts! Complete Collection (5 books) – by Knife and Packer

I have to give grandma credit for buying my son 3 of the Wheelnuts! Craziest Race on Earth books from one of those online book parties. By the way, grandma, we need the rest of them now!


One of the race cars was named the Flying Diaper. The driver of the Flying Diaper was named Burp. When you’re a 7-year-old boy, it doesn’t get much funnier than that.

The books are all about the antics of a crazy race where there are no rules.

This was a book my son could read (he reads a page, I read a page), but because the story was entertaining, the font was big enough and there were pictures on every page, he didn’t complain about reading. That makes this book – even if I had to read about a river of drool – a win!

If you love reading, you’ll appreciate this slightly tongue-in-cheek article titled 15 Things Book-Lovers Do Better Than Anyone Else. I can certainly relate to some of them!

Happy Reading!

And as always, let me know what we should read next!

Here are past posts on children’s books we LOVE

  1. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 4
  2. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 3
  3. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 2
  4. Books My Kids Are Reading Now (Part 1)
  5. Two Children’s Books That Made My Eyes Leak – Cried my eyes out. Still my favorite books.
  6. Star Wars Phonics Books – These worked miracles at encouraging my son to read

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