Category Archives: Family

Visiting Ireland: The Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands (with kids)

I can’t believe we waited over a year to see Ireland’s #2 tourist spot, the Cliffs of Moher.

The #1 tourist spot in Ireland, by the numbers, is the Guinness Storehouse. Tourists have their priorities!

As much as we enjoyed the Guinness Storehouse, the Cliffs of Moher just might be my favorite spot in all of Ireland. So far.

When visiting the Cliffs of Moher, most people will home base out of the city of Galway.

I wrote about visiting Galway here. It’s not a big city, so you can hit all of the high points in a day, maybe a day and a half. That leaves plenty of time for excursions like the one we took to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

Since we do not have a car, we booked a one-day guided tour with Galway Tour Company.

We selected them based on careful research luck of the draw, in all reality. They had availability for the sites we wanted to visit on the day when we could visit and a coupon code. I do love a good coupon code! They have absolutely no clue who I am, but we had a great experience.

If you’re curious, we booked this specific tour for the Aran Islands and the Cliffs Cruise.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS:


Riding The Ferry to the Island of Inisheer (Inis Oirr)

(ferry image courtesy Doolin Ferry)

After leaving Galway, our first stop of the day was in the small town of Doolin where we took the Doolin Ferry over to the island of Inisheer.

While the boat does has stabilizers, whatever that means, you are traveling over open ocean. It was a bit rollercoaster-ish, which added to the excitement. It should be noted we were traveling on a relatively calm day!

The good news, if you are prone to seasickness, the ride is only 15 minutes on the express ferry. Otherwise, it takes about 30 minutes.


Inisheer (Inis Oirr)

In terms of land mass, Inisheer is the smallest of the Aran Islands. In terms of people, it is the second smallest. The permanent population on the island is approximately 260 people.

Our ferry had 190 passengers, which means in the course of a normal day, tourists will definitely end up out-numbering the locals.

I couldn’t help thinking about how much I complain about Amazon deliveries to Ireland. I can’t even IMAGINE living on an island where everything they consume has to be ferried over. I saw restaurants, but I did not see a grocery store, so I don’t know how that works.

As soon as you get off the ferry, you will be asked by many different locals if you want to rent a bike (they have kid bikes and helmets too) or take a horse and carriage ride. Either of these activities are 10 euro per person. Make sure you have cash!

I wish we would have rented the bikes because the island is only 3 km wide. It would have been easy to cycle around and see the sights in our allotted time of about 2 hours on the island.

However, we were starving. Okay, it might have just been me, but it was either eat at noon on the island or wait until 3 p.m. for a late lunch. 3 p.m. is like my snack time, people. Not lunch. There was no way me and my stomach the kids were going to survive in good spirits until 3 p.m. for lunch.

So we headed to the pub. Yes, kids can go into pubs in Ireland.

After that, we did some exploring around the island.

Inisheer has a really lovely swimming beach.

I managed to snag a picture without any humans in it, but yes, people were actually swimming on this grey day.

In addition to a beach, the island also has a cemetery, an abandoned church, a small castle, a fort, a lighthouse and a shipwreck you can check out.

The shipwreck is also visible from the ferry just before you dock in Inisheer.

You can see a glimpse of the castle and fort on top of the hill in the below picture.

If jumping on rocks and playing on the beach is not your kids’ thing, there is also a nice playground right behind the beach.


Cruising Along the Base of the Cliffs of Moher

After a couple of hours on the island, we boarded the Doolin Ferry, but instead of heading straight back, we cruised along the base of the Cliffs of Moher.

We had quite a few Princess Bride fans onboard our boat and they were VERY excited to see the Cliffs of Insanity!

I was too! I knew it was going to be cool to stand on top of the cliffs, but seeing them from the Atlantic Ocean just completed the entire experience.

The captain will get you as close as is safe to the cliffs. Parts of the cliff break away periodically, so in the interest of safety, they don’t get too close.

Unfortunately, my youngest kiddo did start to feel a little seasick during this cruise, which lasted about an hour. Thankfully, he returned to normal just minutes after we reached dry land.


Visiting the Cliffs of Moher

After a quick stop for a late lunch for the rest of the tour group (we went to the chocolate shop instead – who are the smart ones now?!?!), we headed for the Cliffs of Moher.

The nice thing about going on a guided tour is that your admission to the various attractions are all included in your tour price.

I think we had about 90 minutes to explore the top of the cliffs.

We felt safe enough taking the kids along the northern cliff route toward the round tower.

It was well fenced, with a (mainly) paved path and steps. It’s about a 5 – 10 minute walk to the tower.

You can pay an extra 2 euro to climb the 25-foot tower. I felt 700-feet above sea level was plenty high, thank you very much.

The views were – I don’t have adequate words – spectacular.

This below photo is looking back at the south side of the cliffs. Those black specks on top of the cliffs are people.

As you can see, it was a relatively calm day and the water was exceptionally clear. I felt incredibly lucky that we had some blue sky during our visit. That doesn’t always happen here!

Our tour guide told us the south side of the cliff walk was more dangerous and without railings, which is why we started our hike on the north side.

Since our kids did a good job of not going completely crazy hiking responsibly, we told them we would hike up a little way on the ‘dangerous’ part if they held mom or dad’s hand THE ENTIRE TIME.

Well, the first part of the cliff walk on the north side is completely fenced in with rock slabs, so that was safe enough.

There was a point when people jumped the fence and were hiking on the wrong side of the path though. The unprotected side. The side that occasionally breaks off and drops 700-feet into the Atlantic Ocean.

I probably would not have done that even if we didn’t have our kids with us.

It was a good lesson in, if your friends jump off a cliff hike on the edge of a cliff, would you do it too?

NO! Because your mama will find out and ground you until you are 107!

We did get a lovely family picture while at the top of the cliffs.

Yes, I was sporting the always glamorous wind-whipped look.

And my precious son. He was sporting the ‘tongue sticking out of his mouth at the camera’ look.

I did not notice this until much later.

So no, we will not be sending out Christmas cards this year! At least not normal ones where everyone is smiling at the camera.

There is a neat visitor center at the cliffs. It’s built into the earth just like something out of Lord of the Rings. That in and of itself is cool!

There’s also a cafe, gift shop and restrooms.


Coast Road and The Burren

After we finished hiking around the Cliffs of Moher, we boarded the coach for the 2-hour ride back to Galway. We took the coast road back to the city and I had my eyes glued to the landscape the entire time.

You will travel through a region called The Burren. Burren means great rock and I’ve never seen anything like it! I’d like to go back and explore The Burren National Park.

In total, our trip lasted 10.5 hours. We left Galway at 9 a.m. and returned at 7:30 p.m. It was a long, but amazing day. If you were taking a Cliffs of Moher tour from Dublin, you would probably leave around 6:30 a.m.


GUIDED TOUR TIPS:

We’ve been on a couple of guided trips while in Ireland. Both times our kids (ages 7 and 10) have been the only children on the trip, but no one seems to mind and the tour groups almost always offer a child discount. If your trip says kids go free, you still need to book them a spot. Otherwise, they might not have a seat on the bus and you won’t be able to go on the tour. If you have any questions about this, call or email the tour company to confirm your reservation.

The great thing about a guided tour is that your day is completely planned out for you. You don’t have to think about where you are going or how to get there. Just sit back and enjoy. The flip side of this is that you and the kids have to go with the flow and your schedule is not your own. That’s why I always pack water, lots of snacks and plenty of things for the kids to do while on the bus. On a day like this one, you’re going to be on the bus for over 4 hours, so make sure that is something your kids can handle.

A guided tour means the tour guide is going to be talking while you’re on the bus. When the guide is talking, the passengers need to be quiet so everyone can hear the information. If your kids aren’t at a stage where they can do that, you might want to wait before taking one of these tours.

Don’t be late! You’re sharing a bus with 50 other people. Don’t be the person that returns to the bus 5 minutes late. Not only is it rude, but it throws the schedule off for everyone.

These large coaches usually (not always) have a small restroom on board, so keep that in mind and plan accordingly.

Don’t switch seats on the bus when you get back on after a stop. People get really irritated by this. Also, your driver will let you know if you can leave items on the bus and if it will be locked.

If you are booking back-to-back tours with the same tour company, they usually offer a discount, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Last, but not least, take layers! Irish weather – I don’t care what the weather forecast says – is unpredictable. Be prepared for wind, rain, sun…did I say rain? All of those.


Our day spent exploring the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands was even better than I imagined it would be. Partly because we were going to an amazing place and lucked out with the weather, but also because we had a great tour guide who was funny and informative.

All in all, I’m so happy we finally visited this iconic spot in Ireland. Without a doubt it is a true treasure not just for the people of Ireland, but for the world. Be sure and put it on your bucket list!

Visiting Ireland: Galway (with kids)

Over the past year we have spent long weekends here and there visiting different parts of Ireland.

Every place we visit is new and exciting for our family – it’s a perk of moving to a new country!

Our kids are 7 and 10 and they are definitely becoming seasoned travelers.

Last weekend we finally made our way from Dublin over to the beautiful city of Galway.

Galway has a population of approximately 80,000 people. It is also the home of National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway). Approximately 17,000 students attend university at NUI Galway each year.

LOCATION

Galway is located on the west coast of Ireland. The River Shannon is located to the city’s east. To the west is Galway Bay, which opens into the Atlantic Ocean.

Galway is a 2.5 hour train ride from Dublin’s Heuston Station. It is a great hub for tourists who want to visit the Cliffs of Moher (to the south) and Connemara (to the north).

(map)

TOURIST HIGHLIGHTS

Galway is not a big city. In a long day (or a day and a half), you can see all of the major tourist attractions in the city itself. After that, you’re going to need a car or a tour bus to see the sights outside of the city.

For a PDF of a Galway city map with attractions, click here.

Here are some places we visited:


Galway Cathedral

Galway Cathedral is not an old church, but it is impressive.

The church is located along the River Corrib and is free to visit. They do ask for a 2 Euro donation.

This was a good place for my kids to:
1) Practice their inside voice.
2) Not drink the holy water.
3) Not play with fire from the why were there so many?? hundreds of lit candles.

The cathedral also offers a unique opportunity to teach kids about sound and acoustics. In particular, what happens when you make fart noises in an echo-y building. The wrath of God mom. That’s what happens.

The part my kids most enjoyed was the beautiful mosaics on the walls. We had an interesting whispered discussion about how mosaics are made. At least, that’s what I think we were talking whispering about.

By the time our 20-minute visit was over, I was wondering why the tour hadn’t included any communion wine.


Eyre Square

Eyre Square is a park smack in the middle of Galway and half a block from the train station.

There’s a playground, green space, benches and statues/sculptures.

There was also a water fountain around the base of one of the sculptures that would have been  a TON of fun to play in if I had brought a second pair of shoes for each kid, towel, change of clothes, sunny weather, etc. I really dropped the ball on that one.

Eyre Square gave me one of those “thank God there’s a playground” moments though. We can offer kids all sorts of fancy experiences, but simple is usually best.

Look! There’s a swing and something dangerous to climb on! Go have fun while mom and dad figure out where the heck we are and how we are getting to the next place (in peace).

Everyone wins.

The copper sculpture at Eyre Square (above) represents the red sails of the iconic Galway Hooker boats, which are unique to the area.

So, now my kids know what a hooker is!

My work here is done.


Fishery Watchtower Museum and River Corrib Path

Galway has a beautiful path/sidewalk system along the River Corrib. You can walk from the NUI Galway campus down to Galway Bay on these paths. It’s fantastic! Truly.

Plus, if it rains (it will) there are plenty of trees to duck under for a little protection.

Along the way, you’ll be able to see evidence of the fishery system – past and present.

Random fact: the city can let 1 million gallons of water through that dam (below) in 4 seconds!

Be sure and visit the teeny, tiny Fishery Watchtower Museum. Your dining room might be bigger than this museum, but it’s probably not as tall. The watchtower was an actual place from where officials kept track of the salmon count in the river and of any illegal fishing activity.

The museum is free to enter no matter how many questions you ask the staff. I asked a lot! They were so helpful.

Also along the River Corrib Trail you will see poetry plaques such as this one…

The poetry plaques were erected by the Galway Civic Trust and the poems all refer to Galway and its waterways.


City Museum

The free museums in Ireland are really top-notch and Galway City Museum is no exception.

The museum does a fantastic job of explaining the history of the Galway area – including the significance of the Galway Hooker. Much to Handy Husband’s disappointment, we raced through all of those parts and made our way to the hands-on Sea Science section.

Science for the win! But in all reality, our museum visits go much better when I don’t have to say “DON’T TOUCH” 50 gazillion times.

Also, there are decent bathrooms in the museum that don’t cost 20 cents to use. Knowing where free bathrooms are in a new city is super important! I don’t want anyone to have a situation!

(image)


Spanish Arch

The Spanish Arch, one of 4 built in 1584, is right outside of the Galway City Museum.

All you’re going to do is walk through it, maybe do a little parkour if your parents aren’t watching.

It takes 4 seconds.

There is history and significance to the arch though and you can read more about it here.


Latin Quarter and City Centre

I’m not exactly sure where the Latin Quarter ends and the rest of the City Centre begins in Galway. I’m not even sure why it is called the Latin Quarter. Clearly, my knowledge base has limits.

Regardless, there is plenty for the eye to take in while visiting Galway.

There are a ton of shops (department stores and speciality shops) and restaurants (pretty much any type of cuisine you can imagine) in this area, which is mainly a car-free zone.

And tourists too. So. Many. Tourists. In. August.

When it rains, they will scatter…usually into a pub.

Our favorite restaurant was the Pie Maker.

We ordered our savory pies for takeaway since the restaurant has approximately 2.5 tables. Be sure and check out the copper ceiling…it took 60 hours to install.

If your kids don’t like savory pies, I can pretty much guarantee they will enjoy the apple pies!

There are also all sorts of fun alleys and side streets to walk down in Galway’s City Centre.

I usually tell the kids we are taking a shortcut when I spy an interesting looking side street/alley/crack between the buildings.

Sometimes that ends up being true…


Walking and the Salthill Promenade

Galway is a walking city. Be prepared to lace up your shoes and hit the sidewalks and promenades.

Try to wait until the weather is ‘nice’ though. Walking some of these stretches on a oh no we are going to blow away blustery day isn’t quite as enjoyable.

If you walk down the Salthill Promenade, there is a small amusement park and an aquarium. We did not visit this aquarium because while it received great reviews, we’ve visited a lot of amazing aquariums in the past couple of years. We were on the hunt for something different.

At the very end of the Salthill Promenade there is a diving board. Even on a “cold for everyone else, but warm for Ireland day” there will be people diving off the board into the bay.

I think my kids would have done this. Me? No. Way. No way. Brrr.

(image via Irish Times by Andy Newman)


River Cruise

If you need some time to CHILL and would like to see some scenery too, then I’d highly recommend the Princess Corrib cruise up the River Corrib.

You can sit inside or outside on this boat, so weather should not be an excuse for skipping this excursion.

The peaceful cruise is narrated by the captain (who was driving the boat in his stocking feet), so you can’t help but learn a few things along the way. About the river, not the captain’s feet.

One of the things you will see on the cruise is Menlo Castle.

It has quite the story behind it involving a fire and a missing body.

I was just blown away by how beautiful ivy looks on an abandoned castle.


OTHER HANDY TIPS

Luggage Storage: If you need a place to store suitcases, there are lockers at the train station. However, we used the ‘Left Luggage Facility‘ at Big-O Taxis. It’s right around the corner from the train station and across the street from Eyre Square.

Hop On, Hop Off Bus: We hopped on this bus tour when we first arrived. It was a spontaneous decision and it was SO helpful in getting our bearings on where everything was in Galway.

Train Tickets: If you are traveling with kids, make sure you buy (or at least price out) a family ticket on the Irish Rail site. Sometimes that option takes a little more searching, but it does exist

Food on the Train: These longer train rides do serve sandwiches and snacks from a food trolley. They aren’t the greatest or the most affordable. Dublin’s Heuston Station has great options for buying sandwiches, salads, sushi, etc. to take on the train. The train station in Galway does not, but there is a Starbucks. I’d recommend buying food from Marks and Spencer, Tesco or Dunnes before boarding the train in Galway for the return trip to Dublin.

We definitely enjoyed our visit to Galway! I’m going to follow up this post with another one about our excursion to the Cliffs of Moher, which might be my new happy place.

If you have any questions about Galway, please don’t hesitate to ask. I can’t promise the answers you are looking for, but I’ll do my best!

Oh, The Stories We Will Tell

We have family visiting us in Ireland.

Visiting us! In Ireland!

How cool is that?

Actually, it is literally cool here…62 Fahrenheit in August with a little rain every day just to keep the country’s emerald isle reputation SOLID.

This week I watched my kids play on a 400-year-old tree with an 800-year-old castle in the background.

This tree’s bottom branches had grown down low and were touching the ground, as if inviting each and every child in its vicinity to come play.

(Apparently, this is a sign that the tree was in an area that had never been grazed by livestock.)

I stood there and watched the kids for awhile and it made me wonder about how many children in the last 400 years had played on this same tree. And how many mamas had watched their children, either from the grounds or from a castle window, play on this same tree.

Oh, the stories it could tell.

I’ll be radio silent on the blog the rest of the week because we have so many stories yet to be written. We’re going to take our family on an adventure to explore parts of Ireland that we haven’t yet seen. Most of all, we’re going to be making hearts-bursting-with-happiness memories because I know how precious this time is together.

Oh, the stories I’ll soon be able to tell.


If you want to follow along on our journey, please follow my Instagram page.

If you want to learn more about where this 400-year-old tree lives, please visit Malahide Castle and Gardens.

 

 

 

Living in Ireland: Back After a Month in the U.S.

It’s flat out STRANGE to visit the United States after living in Ireland for a year.

I tried to put my finger on why exactly.

In part, I think it’s because I’ve changed. Evolved, shall we say? How could you not after moving to a foreign country?

But when I went ‘home’ I realized how much HADN’T changed. There is something comforting in that though.

I also realized that I’d gotten used to being slightly uncomfortable ALL. THE. TIME. while in Ireland.

You can try to look and act local in the face of constant new experiences, but as soon as you open your mouth you see a flicker of “you’re not from around here” pass across someone’s face.

This is especially funny when someone asks me for directions. I take it as a huge compliment that the poor soul assumes I’m a local. Fake it ’til you make it! But then I have to respond to their question and I can visibly see them trying to decide if I REALLY know what I’m talking about. Don’t worry. I mostly do.

When I’m in the United States, I’m not special at all.

Oh, we all know I’m SPECIAL, but what I really mean is I fit in. When I was back, I noticed I fit in, which is a weird thing to be acutely aware of.

That lady at Panera just assumed I’d been in her restaurant quite regularly because I was quick to order. I always get the same sandwich though.

The guy at the gas station just assumed I’d remember what zip code the credit card I hadn’t used in a year was attached to. I did…after a long, awkward pause and a quick prayer.

And the lady at the rental car company…well, let’s just say she should have asked me how long it’s been since I’ve USED my driver’s license, not if I have a valid one or not. Rest assured, I surprisingly remembered how to drive.

Our visit to the U.S. went by super quickly. I’m beyond grateful that I have this quirky blogging job that allows me to be home with the kids and gives me the freedom to work from anywhere. Even from a farm, 10 miles from civilization with slow-as-molasses internet. Talk about roughing it!

I was worried the kids would not want to return to Ireland. Not because they don’t like it here, but because it’s fun being with friends, cousins and grandparents. Thankfully, they were ready to go home. They missed daddy and all the things they normally play with.

Apparently, the neighbor’s cat missed them too. We call her Mittens. I’ve stopped wondering what her actual name is.

(In case you are wondering what my daughter is doing in inside-out pajamas, she is painting her LPS to look like Warrior Cats from her favorite book series. It’s a messy activity best done outside.)

I was a little concerned the kids were having a hard time adjusting when they announced they were going outside to play ‘cold weather survival.’

It was 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

Definitely not my idea of summer temps, I’ll grant them that.

We also needed to stock up on food because Handy Husband’s idea of stocking the refrigerator does not include food things like fruits and vegetables.

I’m teaching the kids how to ring up the groceries because I have dreams of one day just giving them a list and sending them to the store. These are important help your mama life skills.

Now, folks. Jet lag is real and it can whoop your behind. This happened to me the last time we did the 8-hour time change.

I’ve figured out what works for me though. The magic formula is to stay up all day and then sleep for 14 hours straight.

I kid you not, it works every time!

Handy Husband’s idea of overcoming jet lag is to go for a 4-mile hike the day after we land.

He’s so helpful.

I told him the 14 hours of sleep had me feeling pretty good, but no, no.

A hiking we did go!

We did get to see some awesome views of this lighthouse though.

Meanwhile, can you spot which kid and husband are mine?

Finally, we eased back into Irish life by going for a bike ride and discovering my favorite thing of all time a carnival.

This is what happens when I let the kids ride ahead of me.

But!

Here’s the good news. I think.

My boy, who has a healthy fear of these death traps, decided to get on that big sky swing.

If he showed even the slightest sign of being scared, I was prepared to go all mama bear on the entire carnival to shut that ride down, but my concerns were not warranted.

He had a fantastic time. Funny how you blink and they’ve done some growing up on you.

All in all, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to spend time in the U.S. this summer.

The place of your birth has a strange tug on your heartstrings. I realized this when I got teary-eyed listening to the national anthem being sung at a rodeo. Legit tears in my eyes, people.

Someday I’ll be back, but until then I’m happy to be home in my own bed in Ireland.

 

You Know You’re a Farmer’s Kid When…

You know you’re a farmer’s kid when…

Your dad pulls out his wallet to pay for dinner… just a simple, well-worn wallet…

and bits of HAY (yes, hay that cows eat) fly out of his wallet and land all over the restaurant table. All. Over.

Then, without missing a beat, he says…

“It’s just a little seed money.”

Get it…hay seed?

What dad can resist telling a good dad joke?

Truly, I laughed. It was a pretty funny moment.

My dad spends pretty much the entire summer on a tractor making hay. And, yes, that hay seems to get everywhere. And, yes, I’m glossing over how hard this season is for a farmer.

So you can truly understand this hay-in-the-wallet situation, I decided to do a little recreation of the moment for you.

I picked up my dad’s wallet, shook it ONCE and this is how much hay fell out of his wallet and onto the counter.

There was NO WAY I was going to shake the wallet another time. I know there was an entire field more hay in there.

This was enough mess to clean up and I was trying to keep this little experiment on the down low. By the way, Dad, I did not take that $10!

Sometimes I think there are misperceptions about farmers.

Most people know they are hard-working and it can definitely be dirty work. Clearly, they’ve got to have a good sense of humor.

What you might not know is many farmers, like my dad, are smart, college-educated individuals who love what they do.

My parents encouraged me to pursue what interested me – to find what I loved to do. They never made me feel bad about leaving the farm, leaving the state and now, leaving the country to pursue life’s opportunities.

Really, I had the best of both worlds. The freedom and support to explore and follow my interests. Plus, the foundation of a stable home life and a strong work ethic learned from growing up on a farm.

It’s a big, beautiful world and they gave me roots, but let me fly.

I feel so fortunate that I can bring my kids back here to see where those roots were planted.

My kids don’t fully understand it, but they are soaking it all in. They are seeing hard work in action. They are observing how to be good stewards of the land. They are learning to respect Mother Nature. They are hearing your word is your bond. They are learning that even in the middle of hay season, Grandpa makes time for family.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share all of this and more with them. Through it all, I hope my children see I’m happy and proud to be a farmer’s kid.

Be sure and thank a farmer the next time you see one. We couldn’t get by without them.

The Gift of Handmade

I recently said to Handy Husband, “Why did you have to go and make such cool beds for the kids? WHY??”

Despite the fact that it was MY idea (and I probably begged) for him to make the beds.

“It would be a lot simpler to move or change up the look of our house if I wasn’t sentimentally attached to these huge things!”

“STOP BEING AWESOME!”

Just kidding about that last part.

I love him, but I don’t want him to get a big head.

I also have some other things I want him to make, so I kind of do need him to keep being awesome.

Then I’ll probably become sentimentally attached to those things and this cycle will repeat itself.

At least I’m aware of my problems.

The person who doesn’t have any problems is The Junk Whisperer. (Yes, I’m kissing up – do you think she’ll notice?) As I may have mentioned one or thirty-seven times, we have invaded her house been visiting The Junk Whisperer for a longer time than is polite this summer.

One morning, I was looking for something productive for my wild animals kids to do when I spied a checkerboard I hadn’t seen before. It looked crafty and homemade.

Turns out, The Junk Whisperer’s dad made it for her when she was a kid. Her mom stained the board and painted the checkerboard squares. Her parents weren’t particularly crafty or into DIY gifts, so this checkerboard really stands out as something unique.

Cue the collective, “AWWW!” I love stories like that one.

Her dad has since passed away and she told me she’d never get rid of that checkerboard because her dad made it. I wouldn’t either – it’s too special.

Here’s the point of me sharing these stories today – especially the irrational conversations I have with Handy Husband.

If you have the opportunity or desire to make something for a loved one, DO IT.

It doesn’t have to be big and extravagant (like a bed) and the kids probably won’t even appreciate it now. BUT! And I speak from experience, decades from now, long after you are gone, the gesture will bring a bit of happiness and a fond memory to your child’s face.

That, in and of itself, makes the effort worth it.


P.S. If you’d like to read more about the beds Handy Husband made, here are some links to past posts.

Pottery Barn Trundle Bed Knock Off

Pottery Barn Farmhouse Style Bed Knock Off

Pottery Barn Farmhouse Style Bed – ONE YEAR LATER 

 

Fresh Raspberry Margarita

I just decided it is unofficial Raspberry Week on this blog. It might be next week too since my in-law’s said they have more berries! If you missed it, do read about how much we love Fresh Raspberry Pie. If you need a quick salad dressing, I make a Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette using raspberry jam that is divine!

Now, let’s get on with the show…


It turns out, there is a super simple way to annoy your family on a hot summer day.

Tell them you are making delicious raspberry margaritas.

Make the glorious, ice-cold margaritas.

Then let the family know they can’t drink the margaritas until you’ve take one billion photos so you can write about this crowd-pleasing drink.

I’ve never seen so many hovering people.

Handy Husband actually made these raspberry margaritas.

He’s the bartender in the family and he takes his job VERY seriously.

He’s charming AND he makes delicious adult beverages. I can now see why he’s the popular one.

Since he does take his bartending duties so seriously, Handy Husband was equal parts enamored and HORRIFIED when he asked The Junk Whisperer where she keeps her blender and she whipped out this beauty…

The Osterizer. Dual Range. Touch-a-matic.

It’s a classic!

After a quick glance around to make sure we hadn’t time-warped back several decades, he said, “does it work?”

That earned him THE LOOK from The Junk Whisperer. “Of course it works!”

I don’t know if the Osterizer can grind up golfballs and iPhones, but it purées raspberries like a dream.

Here’s the recipe:

Handy Husband’s Raspberry Margaritas
(we usually serve these on the rocks, with sugar on the rim)
2 parts tequila
1 part Patron Citronge (or any orange liqueur)
1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
1 part puréed/mashed raspberries
1 part simple syrup (recipe – it’s easy!)

Now, if you just want to make regular margaritas, here’s the recipe:

Handy Husband’s Classic Margarita
(we usually serve these on the rocks, with salt of the rim)
2 parts tequila
1 part Patron Citronge (or any orange liqueur)
2 parts fresh squeezed lime juice
1 part simple syrup (recipe – it’s easy!)

He uses “parts” as a measurement so the recipe can scale however large you want. So, parts can mean ounces or 1/4 cups or 1 cup, etc. It just depends on how many you want to make and how large your glasses are!

Please drink responsibly. Yes, that means you.

In case you were concerned, all annoyances about my impromptu photo shoot were forgotten after tasting one…or two of Handy Husband’s Raspberry Margaritas.

And he was perfectly happy to continue being the popular one.

Happy 4th of July

Do you know how I feel today?

I feel blessed.

This week I have the privilege of being back on U.S. soil to celebrate the 4th of July in my hometown with the people I love.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been “home” for the 4th of July and I’m excited to share this day with my friends and family, but especially my kids.

I picked out festive shirts for the kids to wear to the parade we will attend on the 4th. I used my stern mom voice to ask my son, “will you REALLY wear this shirt to the parade? Because I’m not buying it if you won’t wear it.”

And he said, “is the 4th of July like St. Patrick’s Day when you get to pinch someone if they aren’t wearing red, white and blue?”

You can imagine his extreme disappointment when I said sure, pinch away “no.”

I kind of like his idea though!

I’m heeding my own advice this week (shocking, I know!) to “always take the trip” because I’m acutely aware of how quickly my children are growing.

I do not take these moments with them for granted.

I’ll probably be back to regular blog posting next week. How about I keep you in the loop on that?

In the meantime, Happy 4th of July!

P.S. Last year I posted a free printable of the above eagle print I created. You can find it here.

Always Take The Trip

I read an article recently where the author shares the best parenting advice she ever received was to “always take the trip.”

Here’s an excerpt from Annie Reneau’s article:

“My friend Kelly has three stellar kids who are a bit older than my own three. I consider her and her husband to be model parents, so one day I asked her for her best piece of parenting advice. I thought she’d say something about love or discipline or consistency, so her answer took me by surprise.

Always take the trip,” she said. “When you question whether or not you should go on the vacation, just do it. Spend the money. Take the time. You only have a limited number of years together as a family before your kids get busy with lives of their own, and building memories and having new experiences together are things you’ll never regret.”

I took that advice to heart. And now, when I think back on my 16 years of parenting so far, the times we’ve traveled as a family stand out the most. It’s not just about “being on vacation,” but about the various positive ways travel affects us, both individually and as a family unit.”

Yess-ity, yes, yes, YES!

I never received this advice, but I have to agree with the thought process.

In large part, it’s why we decided to move to Ireland when given the opportunity.

For our family, travel means time for bonding and shared experiences. Travel means exposing all of us to cultures, experiences and ways of life that we might not otherwise see in our day-to-day routines. Travel means broadening our world view and gaining understanding of how interconnected our world is. With travel comes empathy, resilience, flexibility, confidence and fun.

I don’t always equate travel with vacation – especially with young kids in tow. But, I think we’re reaching that point. I hope. HA!

Let’s talk reality though.

Travel might seem impossible for some given life stage, finances, circumstances, etc. We’re all adults here with real responsibilities and sometimes that sucks.

I remember just starting out in life and not having two nickels to our name. Or not having paid vacation time.

I remember being a kid and hardly ever taking a trip because someone had to milk the cow(s) and feed ALL the livestock and how do you find a house sitter to do that? I’m sure finances played a role too, but let me assure you, farm life is not for those with wanderlust in their souls.

It seems to me the SPIRIT of ‘always take the trip’ does not mean you have to spend your life savings and a year traveling the world. A big chunk of people don’t have money saved for even a small emergency, let alone a trip.

Here are some alternatives to spending thousands of dollars that I think help achieve or start you down the path of achieving what the spirit of “always take the trip” means. Mainly these alternatives are through the lens of cultural experiences, as that’s what we are currently most interested in with our two kids.

  • Day trips to a place new to you – city, park, tourist attraction, etc.
  • Hike and picnic in a park or national forest.
  • Go to a festival or fair.
  • Visit a museum. Many museums off free or reduced rates on special days during the summer. Reciprocity membership agreements between museums can be a fantastic way to save money too.
  • Watch a travel show together to learn about different parts of the world.
  • Go to the library and check out books on different countries.
  • Practice charting routes on a map. Google Maps is great, but there’s something special about unfolding a paper map. How many different ways can you get to a dream destination? How long will it take? What can you see along the way?
  • Spend a night or weekend camping. Or sleep under the stars in your backyard.
  • If camping isn’t your thing, try house swapping for the weekend. Here are some tips on this practice by Rick Steves.

  • Start learning a new language. Listening to music in a foreign language can be a fun way to learn too.
  • Try cooking food from different regions of the world  – maybe corresponding with those books you checked out from the library.
  • Visit a church different from your own religion.
  • Host a foreign exchange student.
  • If you don’t normally take public transportation – try it! Try taking a bus or train and let your kids help figure out schedules and tickets.
  • Spend an afternoon volunteering as a family. Volunteer Match is a site that helps you find volunteer opportunities tailored for particular age groups: kids, teens, etc.
  • Start a family saving jar where you can put money aside for a trip.


Bottom line? Whether you are in staycation mode or vacation mode, you won’t regret the times you unplugged and spent time with your kids.

If you have more ideas to add to my list, please let me know! I’d be so happy to hear how you spend time with your kids in the spirit of “always take the trip.”

Memory Rocks

“Tell me a story, mama.”

Every night when I go through the bedtime routine with my son, he asks me to tell him a story. A real story.

THE PRESSURE!!!

He likes stories with drama and danger the best. Like that time I got a flat tire going 60 mph down I-84. Or when the security guards at JC Penney used to duck behind garment racks when they were trying to catch someone stealing.

The problem is my memory is TERRIBLE when it comes to these little, every day memories and experiences. Especially ones from decades ago.

I’m not sure what I’m doing with all my brain cells, but saving up countless stories to tell my 7-year-old is definitely not on the list.

I have found the more I tell him stories, the more I jog my memory about something else. However, my life has not been THAT exciting. I’m running out of G-rated danger and drama stories for the blood-thirsty kid.

Tangible items also help jog my memory. Seeing a picture from a trip, for instance. Or picking up a childhood momento or souvenir.

One such ‘souvenir’ that inevitably makes it home from day trips, vacations and walks around the block are rocks.

If you’re the parent of little kids, you probably have a washing machine full of rocks. Oy!

For the rocks that are purposefully collected, I typically dump them into a special bowl. The pocketfuls of gravel…those go back to nature.

It dawned on me one day (thanks, brain cells) that if I write a date and location on the rocks, I’ll have another way to jog my memory about a really cool moment in time.

I have this rock from 2004, which I collected in South Dakota while on a road trip with my dad. We saw Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore and hundreds of miles of fields.

I have this rock from my mom. It was purchased, not found.

She gave me a handful of heart-shaped rocks over the years. I had moved away from home when she started this gesture and I think it was her way of telling me her heart was always with me. Or, perhaps, I was never far from her heart.

Either way, message received and cherished.

Here’s one from recently.

My son found this rock on the beach in Ireland.

It was one of those perfect, freeze time sort of days. I hope I will always remember his little voice saying, “Mama! Mom! Look at this one!”

I could show you more, but you don’t have all day and I’m getting uncomfortably sentimental over these darn memory rocks.

Happy collecting, friends. Your memory will thank you later.

….

P.S. Don’t swipe rocks from places where it’s not allowed. The planet thanks you. Over and out.