Category Archives: Ireland

What Should I Do With This Junky Treasure?

If you’ve been following along on this blog – and thank you for doing that – you’ll remember I talked about our sidewalks being torn up and the amazing memento I now have from the tree that was cut down during the process.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but our driveway apron was torn up too.

A few weeks after the new concrete was poured, I cleaned out the flowerbeds next to the driveway.

Yes, I occasionally do tend to my flowerbeds. I swear!

Do you know what I found when I was weeding that day?

A glorious junky treasure!

Talk about chippy perfection!

It’s a piece of gate hardware that was embedded in the concrete at the base of our driveway. Part of a latch, I think. We no longer have a gate, so it was not a necessary embellishment.

The city workers tore it out when they removed the old concrete and tossed it aside in my flowerbed. Bless them.

I cleaned it up and for that last 3 months have been moving it around my house trying to figure out what to do with it. I KNOW I can do something fun with it. I just haven’t figure out what – yet.

Perhaps you have some ideas?

I measured the hardware for you. It’s roughly 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches.

(As a total side note: Does anyone from the Pacific Northwest remember the Sprouse-Reitz stores? The last ones closed in 1994. That ruler in the above picture has a Sprouse sticker on the back! No joke! So, of all the things I’ve lost or discarded over the years, somehow I’ve managed to keep a ruler from when I was a kid? It’s got to be 25 – 30 years old! )

At first I thought the hardware could be a stand for a book or a 4×6 photograph, but it’s so deep I think it looks a little weird. It’s also not quite tall enough to be a cookbook holder.

I also thought it could be an industrial letter J.

But! The hardware is top heavy, so I’d need to weigh it down to make it stay in the J shape.

It’s heavy enough to function in a hook or stocking holder-type capacity if I had something lightweight to hang off of it. Maybe necklaces? Or a placard of some sort?

I also need to seal it so that the chippy, rusty goodness doesn’t keep creating a mess.

Now, let’s just all assume I’m not crazy for thinking this thing has potential.

I need some ideas on what to do with this junky treasure. What am I missing? Send me your ideas! Please!

Thank you and happy brainstorming!

 

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Living in Ireland: Festival of Trees

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Before we say goodbye to 2017, I thought I’d share one last holiday-themed post.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed or found the most interesting about living in Ireland is seeing how the locals celebrate the various holidays.

Ireland doesn’t have the Christmas markets that other European countries are famous for, but it does have plenty of other events for locals (and visitors!) to enjoy.

This year a friend invited us to see the Festival of Trees at Christ Church in Bray.

Bray is a cute seaside town south of Dublin. It’s one of the farthest points south that you can live from Dublin and still commute 45 minutes by train into the city center for work.

Christ Church is a protestant church dating back to 1863. The church spire (below) is 175-feet tall and was completed in 1870. Eight bells hang in the spire and are still rung at midnight every New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year.

For this festival, Christ Church set up approximately 40 trees, each decorated by a community group, inside its sanctuary. A Bible verse or hymn corresponded with each tree.

This is what you saw from the back of the sanctuary. It’s a gorgeous building.

I took a few photos to give you an idea of what it was like to be there. I wish you could have smelled the glorious scent of all of those tree! Oh, and please excuse the dim lighting conditions.

Here’s a tree decorated with items pulled out of the recycling bin.

I believe this group was advocating for people do all they can to stop or reverse the effects of climate change.

Here’s a tree made of field hockey sticks, which I thought was clever.

My kids play field hockey on Mondays as part of their school day.

I believe this was a remembrance tree.

There are names of loved ones written on each dove.

This Donald Trump tree was one of the last trees on the tour. It’s labeled the “Golden Fleece Tree” and was decorated by a hair salon.

Donald Trump masks were sold as Halloween costumes at the euro store (like a dollar store) this year. Most people here are either appalled at his rhetoric and/or think he’s a joke.

It was my impression that the tree was not intended to be a compliment.

This is just another reminder to me that our world is much more connected than folks might realize.

The ballerina tree was very pretty.

It looks like Bible verses are written on the tree’s ornaments.

They also had a wishing tree where the kids could write down a wish. My son wished for snow and he did get to see about 5 minutes of snow this year!

There was also a wood cross where people could write prayer requests down on Post-It notes and add them to the “tree.” The notes were over-flowing onto the ground. It was touching to observe.

I’m in awe every time I step foot into a historic church.

Especially from an artistic and architectural standpoint, you can tell these are special places.

It was also neat to see a church opening their doors to the community in this way.

While we enjoy attending the big, spectacular holiday events in Ireland, it’s the smaller community events that have helped me appreciate and understand my neighbors a little better.

By far, the best part about living in Ireland are the Irish people. Their graciousness and ability to see me as an individual and not as a representative of the political or Hollywood version of U.S. values has been humbling and so appreciated.

Happy Travels!


If you are new to Dublin or visiting Dublin, here are some helpful websites to check to see what’s happening in and around the city.

Dublin.ie   |     Visit Dublin      |     Dublin Town

If you are in the South Dublin area, these websites are helpful.

Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown County Council     |     Bray, Ireland


If you liked this post, here are more posts about visiting Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands with Kids

Galway with Kids

Our Favorite Irish Castle Tour with Kids

Belfast with Kids

Dublin: Talking Statues

Kissing the Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle

Here are some posts about our expat experience of living in Ireland.

Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail 2017

Living in Ireland: Storm Ophelia

Living in Ireland: That Time a Tree Came Down

Living in Ireland: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Living in Ireland: Back After A Month in the United States

Living in Ireland: As Seen On My Commute

Living in Ireland: A Trip to the Hardware Store

Living in Ireland: Spring Flowers In Our Yard

Living in Ireland: Grocery Shopping

Living in Ireland: What to See my Hot Press?

Living in Ireland: Merry Christmas 2016

Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail

Living in Ireland: Groceries

Moving to Ireland: Grocery Item Look Alikes

Moving to Ireland: Primary School 101

Moving to Ireland: First Week of School

Moving to Ireland: The Great Purge

Moving to Ireland: Human Kindness is Overflowing 

Moving to Ireland: House Viewing #1

Moving to Ireland:  House Viewing #2

Moving to Ireland: House Viewing #3

Moving to Ireland: Temp House First Floor

Moving to Ireland: Temp House Second Floor

Moving Tips to Keep You Sane

My #1 Moving Tip

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Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail 2017

We are counting down the days until we celebrate our second Christmas living in Ireland!

Last year I didn’t know what to expect as far as the holidays go and I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone – including retailers – really get into the Christmas spirit here. This makes sense given the heavy Catholic influence in Ireland.

There is no “buffer holiday” between Halloween and Christmas in Ireland, so the holiday decorations starting going up in early November. As an example of how early festivities start, the tree lighting event in our town was on November 18. Santa arrived on a Harley Davidson (why not?) to turn on the town’s Christmas lights. Then there was a fireworks show, which we watched from the pier along the bay. It was pretty fantastic!

Retailers get in on the action too. They don’t miss an opportunity! Perhaps it is no surprise then that Black Friday IS a thing here. It came to the U.K. and Ireland not too many years ago due, in large part, to the influence of American retailers. It happens on Thanksgiving weekend, just like in the U.S.

Today, as I did last year, I am sharing some pictures of Christmas in Irish retail. Mainly just storefronts because I avoid actually going IN stores for holiday shopping as much as possible.

These pictures were taken on my daily commute around South Dublin. The lighting and conditions are less than ideal. Terribly, really. So, in the spirit of the season, please forgive the quality of the images and ALL the window glare!

Come along on my walk…


Here’s a children’s clothing retailer riffing on the magic of the season.

Right next door is a men’s clothing store giving me ALL THE PANIC.

You’ll see why…

Really, people? Really? That typo made me hightail it out of town the mall!

Kidding, but I did leave town to get pictures of the Blarney Woollen Mills during our visit to Blarney Castle.

This is the largest gift shop in Ireland according to their sign.

If I’m going to be in a store this is the type I’d choose!

The Christmas decorations were among the best I’ve seen this year.

The store had a mixture of high-end clothing and home goods coupled with your traditional souvenir tchotchkes.

Closer to home, here’s the sidewalk outside of a cute flower shop.

I see this every Wednesday when I drop my daughter off for her painting class.

An outdoor retailer opened a new location near us and this is their Christmas display.

It’s been quite cold lately in Dublin, so I’m sure their business is hopping!

I’m pretty sure I shared this one last year, but it’s just such a sweet window.

The animals all move and the kids love it.

This cafe is never open when I walk by early in the morning.

That’s a shame because look at their tree!

You know I’d like to make one!

Handy Husband is a little bah-humbug on the idea. He says things like, “what would we do with it?” And I say, “hang all of our leather flipflop keychains let’s not worry about the details.”

Here’s one of the windows from the bookstore, Eason.

Eason is like the Barnes and Noble of bookstores in the U.K. and Ireland. This is also where you buy things like office and school supplies.

Even thrift stores get in the Christmas spirit. This one is run by St. Vincent de Paul.

There is not one dominant thrift store retailer like Goodwill or Savers in Ireland. Instead, every single charity runs a tiny thrift store. I might have to write more about that at some point.

I also shared this storefront window last year. I just love what this high-end women’s clothing shop does to decorate for Christmas.

You can see a very nice reflection of a church in the window too. These pictures…oh well.

I’m not exactly sure what this place does, but they sure like cold weather creatures.

Not a storefront, but the best use of a trash can I’ve seen in awhile!

Also, they call them bins instead of cans. So, a garbage truck is a bin lorry.

I love the use of greenery on the front of this cafe.

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but they have blankets on each of those barstools so you can wrap up while you drink your latte. I like small touches like that.


As I finished typing this post, I looked up and IT WAS SNOWING! Teeny tiny flakes, but it was snow! That counts. Being right on the Irish Sea with moderate temperatures, it is really hard for it to snow in Dublin.

My kids are at school and I just hope they got to see it. It lasted maybe 10 minutes and, of course, did not stick. My son put a wish for snow on the wishing tree at a local church last week and he would be so happy to see his wish come true.

P.S. If you want to see last year’s Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail post, click here.

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Visiting Ireland: Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle

I finally kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle! Cross that one off the Travel Bucket List!

According to legend, I should be exceptionally eloquent now…but, I think I’m still waiting for the ol’ magic to kick in. Oh well.

Our family visited Blarney Castle on a cold, rainy November day. It was fantastic! Truly.

I could have done without the rain, but then it wouldn’t be Ireland!


History:

The original Blarney Castle was a wooden structure dating back to the 10th century. It’s long since gone. The stone castle you will see on your visit is the third structure on the site and it was built by Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, in 1446.

There are many theories about the origin and history of the Blarney Stone most of which have been debunked. Among those is the legend castle management seems to promoting, which is that the Blarney Stone is half of the Stone of Scone given as a thank you to Cormac McCarthy.

What is the Stone of Scone? Well, it’s a real thing and is also known as the Stone of Destiny. It was last used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It would be cool if this connection to the Blarney Stone was true, but that’s part of the fun of legends. No one really knows.

But how did kissing the Blarney Stone become a thing? Well. That also has many theories. The folks at the castle believe a witch revealed the stone’s power. Once folks knew the stone had ‘power’ it was only a matter of time before people started puckering up, right?

While the historical references are a little mushy, there appears to be evidence starting in the 18th century of people kissing the stone to receive it’s power of eloquence. This is also known as the gift of gab or ability to flatter.

One of the most famous people to kiss the Blarney Stone was Winston Churchill in 1912. This was before safeguards were in place and he had to be dangled by his ankles in order to kiss the stone! Churchill later became known as one of the great orators of the 20th century. Seems like the Blarney Stone magic at work to me.


Kissing the Blarney Stone Takes EFFORT:

The Blarney Stone, if it does have power, was sure placed in an inconvenient spot to receive said powers.

It’s located at the very tippy top of the castle in the parapet. Do you know what a parapet is? It is the wall around the roof of a structure. Just imagine the roof is still there…

That’s right, you’re headed for the roof of a castle built 600 years ago. In my amateur opinion, people in the 1440s must have been a heck of a lot more nimble than their present day counterparts. Or way less worried about falling…concussions…broken bones…etc.

As you’re walking up and up and UP the uneven stone steps to the parapet, your handrail is a rope. I’m guessing that’s an upgrade from the 1400s.

When you’re at the top of the castle, you get in line to kiss the Blarney Stone. Or visit in November and there probably won’t be a line.

To kiss the stone you’re going to lay down on your back, reach your hands backwards behind you to grab railings attached to the parapet, tip your head backwards and kiss the wall where the Blarney Stone is located. Approximately half of your body is going to be hanging off into the abyss. Don’t worry. There are a couple of more iron bars and an Irish dude to keep you from falling to your death.

It’s really not that bad. I totally let my kids do it.

Yes, I kissed the Blarney Stone too and I didn’t feel unsafe at all.

But perhaps it was better that I didn’t see how it looks from the ground until I was finished.

If your husband forgets to take a picture of you locking lips with one of the world’s least hygienic tourist attractions, don’t worry. There’s another guy operating the big ol’ camera that’s taking your souvenir photo.

While kissing the Blarney Stone was great fun or craic as they say in Ireland, it was a wee bit anticlimactic. There’s really no soaking in the moment. The staff manning the Blarney Stone had seen this a million times. While they were super nice, they were definitely in assembly line mode calling “next!” right after one person had finished. 

I’m definitely glad I did it though! No regrets!


Experiencing the Castle:

When you’ve finished kissing the Blarney Stone, the walk down is a bit easier. There’s a handrail instead of a rope. So that’s something.

You’re going to be thankful for modern medicine if you do fall on these steps though.

Your tour of the castle is self-guided. You can step out of the stairwell to visit various rooms in the castle on your way up and down. At different points around the castle educational placards are set-up so you can learn about the castle’s history.

I have to admit, I did not spend as much time reading this information as I would have liked because I was focused on the kids and making sure they were being careful. Later that night I had to do some Googling to catch up on what I missed.


Castle Grounds:

While the castle itself might not knock your socks off IF you’ve seen a bunch of castles, the experience is unlike any other you’re going to get in Ireland because of the Blarney Stone.

However, where we spent the most time and were continually delighted at every turn was on the castle grounds.

For instance, they have a Poison Garden. All those nasty plants that kill people in books and movies like nightshade and foxglove – they are growing them. My kids were FASCINATED.

The adults spent a fair amount of time deciding if a) the cage over the cannabis plant was going to do any good and b) if the cannabis plant was actually real. (It’s in the cage on the upper right corner of the below photo.)

Another neat spot on the grounds is the Rock Close. It is a ‘magical place’ that may have been the site of druid worship back in the day. It was pure fun to explore the Wishing Steps, the Witch’s Kitchen, a boardwalk, unique rock formations and more in this area.

Remember, we were exploring in the rain and for the most part were distracted by our surroundings to worry too much about the weather. So maybe it was kind of magical!

I did have to dry the kids’ socks out at the B&B where we stayed when we were done though!

There’s also a small cave on the grounds to explore! It’s called the Badger’s Cave and it was originally a secret escape route out of the castle. How cool is that?

This is the view looking out from the cave’s entrance on the day we visited.

For a full list of gardens and other things to see on the 60 acres of castle grounds, click here.


When to Visit:
The castle is open year-round except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

In late November, when we visited, the grounds were still gorgeous and we walked right up to the stone. No waiting.

Unofficially, our B&B host said lines to kiss the Blarney Stone can be HOURS long during peak tourist season, such as August. I would not have waited hours to kiss the stone. I don’t have that level of patience in me.


Tickets:
It is a little bit cheaper (savings of one euro as of November 2017) for adults to buy tickets online.

Kids 7 and under are free. Family tickets are available.

Audio guides are available for purchase.


How to Get There:
This is one of the times when visiting Ireland that a car would be helpful.

However, the castle is only 8km from Cork, so a cab ride would be approximately 15 euro from the Cork City Center. That’s an estimate from the MyTaxi app, so don’t hold me to that quote.

Here are the directions from the Blarney Castle website.


On-Site Amenities:
The castle gift shop was one of the better ones I’ve visited. We came away with a little luck from Ireland.

However, just on the other side of Blarney Village from the castle is the largest gift shop in Ireland, Blarney Woollen Mills. It was amazing!! I don’t say that lightly. It had a combination of high-end clothing, some home goods, jewelry and then your regular souvenirs. I only tell you this so you don’t spend all your euros in one spot.

There’s also a cafe on the castle grounds and when we were there a separate coffee cart was open as well.


Kissing the Blarney Stone with Kids:

I called to verify this after our visit and the rules say kids 8 and up can kiss the Blarney Stone. The staff on duty did ask my 7-year-old how old he was, but let him proceed. I guess we lucked out? We didn’t know the age limit when we went.

It’s a height issue more than anything, I think, since you are hanging over a semi-open space with some iron rails for protection. He was tall enough to kiss the wall with help (as you can see the man has a tight hold on him), but not tall enough to bend backward far enough to reach the actual stone. He doesn’t know the difference though. No one tell him!

If you’re unsure about whether or not your kids will be able to kiss the Blarney Stone, definitely ask before you go up to avoid any disappointment.

From a safety standpoint in the castle itself, I was definitely the “HOLD THE HANDRAIL” police. You’re climbing up near vertical, uneven steps holding onto a rope. You need to be able to exercise caution. It would not be my personal preference to do that with a toddler in tow or carrying a baby. Going down is still very steep, but there is an actual handrail instead of a rope.

Just remember, this castle was not built for tourists. It was built as an actual home and fortress in the 15th century. Treating the experience with respect, appreciation and caution is a good learning experience – for all of us.


Would I Recommend Visiting Blarney Castle?

Yes! If you are going to be in the Cork area, then I’d definitely recommend visiting Blarney Castle. The visit, on the whole, offered something that we hadn’t experienced yet.

However, if you have limited time in Ireland, then there are other locations that I’d prioritize first. As small as the country is, it’s impossible to do everything in just a week’s time.

Last, but not least, I am happy – thrilled actually – to leave you with this photographic gem of me kissing the Blarney Stone. See? I do show up on the blog every once in awhile!

Still waiting for that eloquence though…

More information about Blarney Castle can be found on their site.


If you liked this one, here are more posts about visiting Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands with Kids

Galway with Kids

Our Favorite Irish Castle Tour with Kids

Belfast with Kids

Dublin: Talking Statues

Here are some posts about our expat experience of living in Ireland.

Living in Ireland: Storm Ophelia

Living in Ireland: That Time a Tree Came Down

Living in Ireland: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Living in Ireland: Back After A Month in the United States

Living in Ireland: As Seen On My Commute

Living in Ireland: A Trip to the Hardware Store

Living in Ireland: Spring Flowers In Our Yard

Living in Ireland: Grocery Shopping

Living in Ireland: What to See my Hot Press?

Living in Ireland: Merry Christmas 2016

Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail

Living in Ireland: Groceries

Moving to Ireland: Grocery Item Look Alikes

Moving to Ireland: Primary School 101

Moving to Ireland: First Week of School

Moving to Ireland: The Great Purge

Moving to Ireland: Human Kindness is Overflowing 

Moving to Ireland: House Viewing #1

Moving to Ireland:  House Viewing #2

Moving to Ireland: House Viewing #3

Moving to Ireland: Temp House First Floor

Moving to Ireland: Temp House Second Floor

Moving Tips to Keep You Sane

My #1 Moving Tip

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We’re Not Catholic, but I Sent My Kids to Mass

My kids went to Catholic Mass today.

We’re not Catholic.

We’re American expats living in Ireland where the public school system is run by the Catholic Church with public tax dollars. Even many private schools are Catholic-influenced.

Our kids (now 7 and 10) attend a private school that is not Catholic run. As a percentage, there aren’t a lot of these schools in Ireland, but they are growing in number and popularity.

Twice a year our school offers the children an opportunity to attend a community-wide Mass during school hours. All the various primary schools in the parish attend.

Of course, as parents, we have the right to opt our kids out of this event.

I chose not to.

not catholic but sent kids to mass - St Anne's

Here’s why.

While Catholicism is not our religion, it is the religion of almost 80% of the people in the country in which we reside. As of 2014, there were over 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world. Billion with a B.

That’s a lot of people.

When any religion is tightly woven into a society it impacts moral codes. It affects why people do what they do, believe what they believe, marry who they marry, vote the way they vote. Understanding not only what people believe, but why they believe it – even if you don’t – is important to building mutual respect.

While my kids are American citizens by birth, I hope when they grow up they will consider themselves to be citizens of the world. I want them to be curious about other cultures. I want them to dive into history, so they can understand how the past affects the present. I want them to be respectful of varying customs and beliefs, willing to try new foods and languages, empathetic to the struggles of others, open to listening to various viewpoints.

I’m not naive enough to think that them attending Mass twice a year is going to magically do all of these things. Of course not.

not catholic - church door

But in this instance, given our current cultural and historic surroundings, it is a start.

It is them (or them with my gentle nudge) taking the first step – making an effort toward approaching life with an open mind, thoughtful consideration and respect for others.

That’s all I ask.

Make the effort.

This is but one small example. There will be countless other ways they can make the effort to see the world from someone else’s perspective in their lifetimes.

We talked openly about this learning experience and the reasons for attending before the kids went and after. I listened to their feedback and answered their questions. Before I give you the mistaken impression that this was some sort of transcendental experience for my kids, let me keep it real. My 7-year-old thought the whole thing, which in his mind lasted 27 hours, was boring.

I’ve felt that way about many a church service, so I can’t really fault him for that.

not catholic - cathedral inside

Boring or not, my kids are learning things about the world that I didn’t have the chance to learn and embrace until I was an adult. In fact, I’m still learning.

Just imagine what could happen if instead of feeling threatened, insecure and instantly disagreeable to an idea or viewpoint that is different from ours we stopped and listened and learned. Through the course of listening and learning it is possible to remain true to your core values and find areas of common ground or at a minimum, mutual respect.

It’s not easy, but imagine how different our world might be then. Imagine how much kinder it might be. I have no doubt it is something worth striving for one human interaction at a time.

My hope is that my children will walk through life with integrity and an open mind. That they will place the well-being of humanity over the bottom line. That they will be adaptable, intellectually curious and empathetic. That their lives will be filled with purpose, meaning and happiness.

My husband and I don’t have all of the parenting answers. What works for our family might not work for another family. We’re learning as we go, figuring it out together, making changes when necessary and listening to our gut. Basically, we’re like parents everywhere trying to raise decent human beings.

Let’s hope we succeed.

 

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Visiting Ireland: Talking Statues

If you’re visiting Ireland or the Dublin area anytime soon, there’s a cool new feature in town.

Statues that talk!

And I’m not talking about the ones that ‘talk’ after you’ve spent the night at the pub.

I’m talking about ones that can call your phone.

visiting ireland oscar wilde

With a lot of support, an initiative called ‘Talking Statues’ was commissioned by Sing London, whose projects “set out to connect people to each other and to the public spaces we share.”

The statues use humor and drama to tell a story and connect the listener with Dublin’s history. Plus, these stories are written and recorded by some pretty famous folks whose work you might have read, heard or seen.

10 statutes in Dublin now ‘talk’ including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw.

I’m excited for the next time I take my kids into the city because we have the opportunity to engage with history in a way that sounds different and fun.

visiting ireland - hear joyce here

If you have no plans to visit Ireland, why not never fear. There’s one city in the U.S. with 30 talking statues – Chicago.

How cool would it be to hear from The Tin Man, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Leif Erikson, Nicolaus Copernicus or Benito Juarez while walking around the city? Pretty cool!

Some of the people involved in Chicago’s Talking Statues are David Saltzman, Johnny Galecki, Steve Carell and David Schwimmer. Oh, you know it’s got to be good!

Sing London has also animated statues in London, Manchester, Leeds, Bedford and now Dublin.

visiting ireland - o'connell statue

Whether you are a tourist or a local, this is the type of engagement with history that I love. It’s free. It’s entertaining. It doesn’t take a lot of time. And you’ll probably learn something new.

Happy Travels!


Learn More: Talking Statues Dublin 

Learn More: Talking Statues


Here are more posts about visiting Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands with Kids

Galway with Kids

Our Favorite Irish Castle Tour with Kids

Belfast with Kids

 

 

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Living in Ireland: Storm Ophelia

I had planned to share a delicious recipe with you today, but food isn’t on my mind.

Coming from me, this is pretty shocking, I know! I’m always thinking about food.

Storm Ophelia, the remnant of Hurricane Ophelia, pounded Ireland on Monday. It was predicted to be the worst storm in 50 years to hit the island.

The island, which includes two countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is the size of Indiana in terms of land mass and approximate population.

If you’re thinking it is extraordinarily rare for a hurricane – even one downgraded to a tropical storm or depression – to make it this far north, you’d be right. It’s definitely not normal.

At first, just a handful of counties on Ireland’s west coast were expected to be adversely impacted by Ophelia, but by Sunday night that changed. A red weather warning – the highest category – was issued by the Irish government for the entire country.

This declaration prompted school and government office closures for Monday. My kids were THRILLED to have a day off.

In the Dublin area, where we live on the west coast, it had been unusually warm for 3 days prior to the storm hitting. It was awesome, but a little strange. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll remember I mentioned that on Friday when I was in Dublin.

If you’ve lived in Ireland for longer than two seconds, you know that bad weather is to be expected and you do not squander warm, sunny days. It’s an unwritten code or something. So we did all the things you do when Mother Nature gifts you warm days in October – go to the park, walk on the beach, play outside, do yard work, etc. It was awesome! Well, maybe not that yard work part.

The red weather warning and subsequent school closure notice didn’t come until maybe 8 p.m. on Sunday night. All the things I had planned on doing on Monday were definitely not happening.

Because my internal body alarm likes to show me who’s boss, I was up bright and early on Monday. Why can’t that happen every Monday? At 7:30 a.m., I walked to the store for milk. It was still unusually warm and there was a mist in the air, but hardly any wind.

Buses and trains were operating, but there weren’t many cars out and about. Although, it was 7:30.

Strong gusts in our area started around 11 a.m. just as Handy Husband made it back from work. His company had issued an evacuation notice ahead of public transportation shutting down at 2 p.m.

If you got stuck in the city after the trains and buses shut down, I’m sure it was not pleasant trying to find a way home.

In the mid-afternoon I took this photo out my daughter’s bedroom window.

I was fully anticipating our power to go out based on the winds we were experiencing, which continued well into the evening.

News reports were rolling in all day of power outages. At the peak, 360,000 were without power due mainly to trees falling on power lines. The morning after the storm, 245,000 were still without power. 3 people died. There was flooding and wind damage in various areas along the west coast.

For our family, this storm became a great exercise in being smart and prepared, but hoping for the best. We had water, food, flashlights and back up batteries for phones. We’ve lived in areas with earthquakes, snow storms, ice storms and tornadoes, so we have a healthy respect for Mother Nature.

This is the view I woke up to on Tuesday morning. What a difference a day makes, huh?

I’m glad public officials operated with an abundance of caution in shutting down schools and government offices during the storm because you just don’t know. There’s no reason little kids should be walking to school when winds are strong enough to uproot trees.

I am extraordinarily thankful that the storm left our neighborhood relatively unscathed. I’m so happy for the unexpected family time too. We had dinner together – all 4 of us – on a Monday night, which never happens. I’m also saddened for the people who lost their lives and for those who suffered real damage. It’s a weird thing for us human beings to carry so many conflicting emotions at one time, isn’t it?

If you are moving to a new state, region or country, I encourage you to figure out right away what the local news sources are in your area. It can be frustrating or uninteresting to read about local news when you have no idea what they are talking about and it’s hard to relate to the information. However, it is important to know where to go for trusted information should a local emergency develop. This includes signing up for news or emergency alerts for your area. You don’t want to be caught unaware.

Since I’m dialed into my local news, I now know that Storm Brian is on its way.

*sigh*

I was hoping for a slightly happier story about baby kittens or something.


Here are a few local Irish resources, but by no means an exhaustive list.

An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s National Police Service)

The Irish Meteorological Service 

Office of Emergency Planning

Irish Times

Irish Independent

Bus Éireann

Irish Rail

Dublin Bus

Luas

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Living in Ireland: That Time A Tree Came Down

In mid-August the Irish village I live in started replacing sections of sidewalks (aka footpaths) on our street.

It’s now October and they are still working on it.

One might assume I live on a really long street.

Nope. Not at all. There are probably 14 houses along this stretch of road.

One might also assume this construction crew is juggling projects all over the area.

Wrong again! I know this because I finally broke down and asked.

Anyway, the point is I like to judge things I have no expertise in I don’t understand why, but it’s taking a really long time to replace the sidewalks.

So imagine my surprise when I left the house one afternoon (not much was happening in the way of construction) and I come home two hours later to find an entire tree that was right in front of our house has been chopped down and wood chipped.

(The cherry tree to the left of the machinery. This was taken a few days prior to Tree-pocalypse.)

WHAT?!?!

Prepare a girl!

I smiled and waved hello to James, Sean and the rest of the crew. Yes, they’ve been working here long enough I’ve learned their names. Then I casually sauntered up my driveway like trees being cut down in front of my house with no notice happens all the time.

I spent about 5 minutes unpacking my groceries and debating with myself on what I should do next.

Do I want to feel like an idiot? Or will I regret doing nothing more? Hmm…

Choices, choices.

Not a fan of the idiot feeling, I must say. Or the dumb American feeling.

But, I went out there.

And I asked the group of worker men, very sweetly, if I could have a slice of the tree’s trunk that they decimated was laying there in chunks outside my house.

I know they understood me because I’ve been told Americans speak very slowly. But it took a half a beat for them to process my request. Like, why in the world would she want a slice of the tree?

But, one of them – not the guy who would do the work – said, “sure!” And sent his subordinate off to the truck to get the chainsaw.

It took two of them and one mess-up (he didn’t make a straight cut for which he received merciless ribbing), but I got my wood slice.

They asked me what I was going to do with it and I said in a not-at-all-idiotic way, “I’m not sure. Yet!”

Honestly, I was so excited – ridiculously excited to have a slice of this cherry tree – that it was all I could do to not GIGGLE like an Irish school girl.

I tried to beat a hasty retreat after they gave me my tree slice, but who knew it was going to be so freaking heavy?!?

Not 5 minutes after I brought my treasure inside did I look out the window to see the wood chipper truck pulling away. That’s how close I was to missing out on this treasure.

It still boggles my mind that anything happened THAT quickly in this construction zone, but it just proves…I’m not sure what it proves, actually.

Draw your own conclusions.

The slice is drying and it did crack, but that’s okay. I love that wood slice. Someday when we leave Ireland, I will be able to take a piece of the island, from right where I lived, with me.

In case you are wondering, I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the wood slice. I’ll be happy to overshare all the details when I do figure it out though!


P.S. James and Sean said they’d plant a new tree with less invasive roots to replace the one that came down. I’m still waiting. But the new sidewalks are fabulous.

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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.

favorite castle tour - bowman

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.

favorite castle tour - crossbow

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?!?

favorite castle tour - diagram of castle

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.

favorite castle tour - minting coins

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.

favorite castle tour - minted coin

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?

favorite castle tour - church

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.

favorite castle tour - stocks

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.

 

 

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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.


BEFORE WE LEFT THE USA:

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.


WHEN WE ARRIVED IN IRELAND:

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.


HOW ALL MY PLANNING FAILED ME 15 MONTHS AFTER OUR MOVE:

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.

Done!

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.

Awesome.

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. Things change. Our situation is unique. 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! 

 

 

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