Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Simple Phrase

Our Bishop in Church spoke for about 5 minutes and included these words that really left an impression on me.

Be gentle with your children and free with your forgiveness.

I have a child that challenges me on both. I must be more sensitive.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Our Last Hurrah

Well, to cap off the nearly year long adventure we surprised the kids by meeting up with their cousins for an 11 day Mediterranean Disney Cruise. Cruises aren't my first choice for vacationing but for kids this would be hard to beat. They love the freedom to roam the ship. Cruises for me are too confining, too much food, and not enough time at each port. However, I realize there are enough positives that this won't be my last.
There are some FANATICAL Disney folks on this ship and I don't mean those under three feet. Come on, you know them. In fact you might be one. Their future always includes the next Disney destination. I just don't understand it but I guess I don't need to. I guess I also didn't understand all they hype about Joey Fatone and Kim Johnson being on board. It doesn't help that I was too old for the whole N'Sync thing and out of the country for the whole "Dancing with the Stars" thing.
It had me thinking...who would I really be star-struck by? I like to think I wouldn't be fazed but I don't know...I'm still thinking.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Links in Scotland

It wasn't the Old Course at St Andrews, but we can say we golfed in Scotland. I love being able to spend time with my Dad doing something we both enjoy. I wish I were a bit more competitive for him but he doesn't seem to mind. With my few extra hours during the day this Fall, I should be improving my golf game.
The golf course in Edinburgh, Braid Hills, was interesting. Most courses in Ireland and Scotland are walking, there aren't any golf carts, this was one of them. And I can see why, there would be no way a golf cart could navigate this path.

And hills, oh my. We really got a workout on this course.
And some great views
Thanks Dad

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Explore Dream Discover

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain

I am constantly thinking about things to do. All of my kids will be in school this Fall. And while I won't have loads more time for myself, there will be a few more hours in the day I would like to occupy with something new. Maybe college courses, piano lessons, volunteer work, creating a family travel website, are just a few ideas. What are some of things you look forward to doing or starting when the time is right?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Good Candy, Fun Name

I have so many travel blogs to write and pictures to post but even the thought of it is exhausting so instead I bring you these: Curly Wurly They are reminiscent of the Marathon bar from long ago but without the waxy chocolate. This chocolate is creamy and with the caramel is very, very yummy. I don't know if these are available in the States but if you see one, try it. If you can't find them and think you might need one, let me know.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Queen of the Adriatic

We flew into Milan and took the three hour train to Venice. Here we met our good friends, Wendy and Eric for a week in Italy. We spent three days in Venice. We stayed at the Hotel Al Piave, which I definitely recommend. The breakfast is very light but nice and the location superb. Infact, while sitting in the small lobby-type area, who comes walking in, but the travel guru himself, Rick Steves. A good indication, I believe, on my choice of hotel.
After arriving at the train station we purchase our Vaporetto (waterbus tickets). Venice is beautiful and the water mesmerizing and the buildings dream like but I, and only speaking for myself, would get tired of the restricting water. For our three shorts days it was a novelty but if I had to live there I would surely tire of it. And it is just as you can imagine it or have seen in the pictures. Old buildings with window boxes overflowing with flowers, narrow streets, stucco chipping away revealing brick underneath, large shutters, beautiful large doors. I remember seeing houses in Utah now trying to achieve this same effect. It just isn’t even close. What a perfect week to visit Italy, lower to mid 70’s our entire trip with bright sunshine.
Our first day was spent visiting the Church at San Marco square, feeding the pigeons, visiting the Rialto Bridge. The Church at San Marco is massive and covered with gold mosaics made with the tiniest of tiles. The floor is also covered with small tiles which I don’t recall in any other church we have visited. The kids and the adults had a great time feeding the pigeons as they flew up on our arms and even occasionally someone’s head. We headed over to the Realto Bridge that is lined with shops. Our friends, the Reynolds, are getting their first introduction to Europe, walking and lots of it. They had no idea, I’m sure, that there wouldn’t be much relaxation on this vacation.

Sunday we awoke to visit a couple of churches, Santa Maria de Miracoli and S. Giovanni e Paolo. We were able to see Mass in one and a group in traditional dress singing outside the other. Our guest overslept so we went back to get them and headed out to the beach. The Lido is a mainland barrier between Venice and the sea. The public beaches aren’t maintained very well. You would need to go to one of the private resorts to find a really good spot but the public beach was good enough for wading, a bit too chilly for swimming. We walked around the island for a while and took the 20 minute waterbus ride back to San Marco. After dinner Cameron and I decided to walk around. And walk we did. The streets are so confusing. The majority of our walk was trying to figure out how to get back to the hotel.

Monday morning we headed over to the Doge’s palace. This is the seat of government that ruled for 1000 years. It is a pink and white marble structure with apartments, assembly rooms, and the bridge of Sighs that leads to the prisons. We all enjoyed this tour. We then headed over to a Franciscan church, ate a good and cheap lunch at Pizzaria Alle Oche. It is the only restaurant I can recommend. We didn’t have really good food in Venice. We went over to the Ca’ Rezzonico. A home of affluent Venetians. A life of indulgence and enormous rooms. After a small break we headed out for our last dinner in Venice and the obligatory gondola ride. The rides are expensive, about 80 euro for 35 minutes and they get more expensive from there. But it was nice and the kids loved it.
Venice was nice. I didn’t realize how quiet it was until we went to Florence the following day and then I really appreciated the lack of motorized vehicles. Venice was quiet and charming but I must go against the tide and say it wasn’t one of my favorite destinations in Europe.

Pictures should be posted tomorrow

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Lesser Town, Old Town, New Town, Jewish Quarter, Prague Castle. These are the places Jay and I spent our weekend. "You must go to Prague" was the directive given to us by many and it is true. The whole weekend I felt like I was walking around a movie set. The vastness of the architecture, the colors of the paint, the roof lines, the cobblestone streets and sidewalks, and the trams all lent itself to being somewhere else than the real world. I am sure this is contained to the small city of Prague and the rest of the county is probably quite different but isn’t that the case for most major cities in a country. They don’t truly reflect the whole country. New York City, Los Angeles is what most foreigners think America is like. Yikes, let’s not tell them about Knob Noster, Missouri and Vernal, Utah.

I will let the photos tell the story but the weather was great and again so easy to get around, communicate (I am so glad that English is a universal language, well in larger European cities at least), and no strange foods to contend with.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Less Than 3 Months

Where has all the time gone…? It just doesn’t seem fair that we are just now finding our groove here in Ireland. We have learned to navigate without TomTom (our GPS) and drive safely down the left side of the road. We have finally found good food, good weather and met some very good friends. We are getting used to the slow pace, slim pickins’ and life of leisure. We can finally understand most of the different accents we hear and have picked up some fun Irish phrases. We have learned to really appreciate and take advantage of sunny days. We have uncovered some magical places here. As Spring approaches, we are about to see the Emerald Isle shine its brightest. We have strengthened bonds within our family that only being together 24/7 can do and embarrassingly not have much of a life outside of each other. We can now hand over our change confidently without examining each piece and our US currency is starting to look like fake money. We have stopped trying to keep up on the latest music, news and sports and have embraced the music that doesn’t make it across the Atlantic, follow the football (soccer), GAA and cricket. (OK, not really cricket because we still don’t understand it, and I do still watch American Idol twice on Saturdays although it is old news by then) We have found a thousand more places that we would love to visit and know that when we return it will be with jet lag and a rigid itinerary. We can really appreciate a good rain jacket, good duvet, warm slippers and hot cocoa. I don’t mind cookie cutter houses so much anymore as long as you have your own colorful door. I am just now finding the great destinations of mass transit and the power of walking to the neighborhood grocery store. I am finding out we are more the same than we are different. I am finding all these things as I find myself on the homestretch. We have packed our schedule to take advantage of every moment as we sense the close of this chapter nearing. But even with all the new experiences, feelings and people it doesn’t replace the anticipation of returning to the greatest country in the world, seeing old friends, spending time with family and just, coming home.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St Patricks Day!

It was interesting to be in Ireland during this holiday. I was able to find out some interesting facts about the celebrations here. Firstly, this was usually a religious holiday. A break from Lent, a celebration and an extra Mass. Not so much anymore. The first St. Patrick's Day parade was actually held in the United States. And from what I can gather, if not for the US the festivities would not be so big here.

Parents aren't obsessed about getting their kids dressed up in green and the pinching thing...not here. You see more national colors: green, white and orange. I like it more so than just the green. This is the only time I have seen an abundance of national pride and flags coming out in full force. Oh except, maybe the England vs Ireland rugby match a few weeks ago.

The two older boys and I ventured down to the city center to witness the parade. All recommendations say to get there early (we did) and leave early (we did). We stood waiting for about an hour for the parade to start. We were about three people deep, we would have had to show up about 3 hours early to get the front row. And we had about 3 or 4 rows of people behind us. From what I can tell if it weren't for US High School and college marching bands and other nationalities there wouldn't be much of a parade which I am sure is just fine with the Irish. It is lucrative for them to have all the tourist(so much so the festival lasts five days) and gives them a long weekend to do what they do best: PARTY. I heard more Americans around than I have since I have been here. The weather was chilly and we didn't stick around but the atmosphere was fun, apparently that changes as the day lingers. It gets a little crazy if not dangerous when the drink starts flowing and craic sets in. Sorry no photos, I forgot the camera.

So we can say we have been there, done that and have some great St. Patty's (that is just not said here) paraphernalia for the years to come.

The Red Sox wore green jerseys? It is definitely a bigger deal in the US.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Feeling a bit Introspective

I Did Not Dream This for Myself

I have not accomplished many of my dreams
Yet, I don’t feel unfulfilled.

It was as if there were different dreams awaiting me
That I could not imagine

I have just followed this path
With a listening heart and a wandering soul

I am surrounded by love and friendship
Yet I did not dream this for myself

I have been blessed with an abundance
Yet I did not dream this for myself

I have gone to faraway places that I did not know existed
Yet I did not dream this for myself

Someone’s dreams for me are bigger than my own
And I recognize Him and feel comfortable following His lead

I did not dream this for myself
And that is a dream come true.

What does this mean?

Jay and I both forgot our 14th wedding anniversary?! How does that happen that we both forgot? I think we should buy each other these.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Touring Ireland

Jay’s parents came into town for 10 days and we are so happy to have them here. We spent the first three days letting them acclimate and touring around Dublin. Leaving the kids at home with Breanna, Jay and I set out with them to tour the South and West of Ireland. We had five days and I took a condensed version of many of the recommended drives. We started out from Dublin to Cork (about 3 hours) with stops in Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel and Cahir to see the Castle but the Swiss cottage I was hoping to see was closed.

In Cork, we stayed at the Garnish House Bed and Breakfast. The rooms were typically small but the bathroom did have a jacuzzi tub. It was quiet and clean and the breakfast was amazing. It boasts over 28 menu items and the food we had was delicious. We only stayed in Cork for the night. The city is big and with all the quaint beautiful towns awaiting us we didn’t stick around. We headed over to the obligatory Blarney Castle. It is a great castle on amazing grounds. The steps up to the top were narrow, spiral and of varying widths of rock. They were also wet so a bit treacherous. But we made it to the top (Norma chose not to climb) and kissed the Blarney stone so all of my blogs should now be full of eloquence.

We left Cork and headed for the beautiful town of Killarney. It is between these two towns we saw the most spectacular scenery. Flat lands, to mountains, rolling hills and ocean front. It is still very green and I can’t imagine the vibrancy in the Spring and Summer. It’s hard to believe after being in Dublin for so long that this is the same country. I am a bit sad thinking it’s taken over half of our trip to venture out of Dublin but we have been so busy and all of this does require driving which with four kids isn’t exactly relaxing and fun. There aren’t many stops to make along this way which is perfectly fine since the scenery keeps us busy. We pass the town of Kenmare (that is on the Ring of Kerry (which is a circular drive that begins and ends in Killarney that is famous for its scenery) I wish we would have stopped here as it looked like they had cute shops. We drove part of the Ring on the way to Killarney and that was all that we would do on this trip. The perfect planning would have given us at least two days here. We drove along the lakes (there are three of them) to our accommodations for the night the Lake Hotel. As the name insists, it is located right on the lake and the rooms are large, beautiful and we are on the ground floor with a sliding glass door out to the lake area. Breakfast and dinner was included in almost all of the hotels. Since the meals are so big we really only ate twice a day. Although, I think all of this travelling and amongst other things have sent my internal balance into a tail spin. My body is staging a revolt it doesn’t want to eat or travel. What to do? I am suppose to leave for Amsterdam in 5 days…..

Anyway, the dinner was great in Killarney. The following day we went to see the Muckross house but unfortunately it was closed until April. So we hired a jaunting cart (pony cart) to see the waterfall. The guy that took us up I am convinced is a leprechaun. Listening to him sing and talk was like flipping through a television station every 5 seconds. He knew about 5 words to 15000 songs. But it was entertaining and interesting enough. The falls were gorgeous but he kept reminding us they were not Niagara. We headed out of town and missed the turn off for the Ross castle so we will have to catch that with the kids. We drove on towards Ennis, sort of a layover destination on the way to Galway. We stopped at a Franciscan Friary, (we saw from the road) in that was in partial ruin. But enough remained to really enjoy the architecture. Apparently they used to allow burials within the walls so you would see headstones hanging on the walls. The grounds of this and as I noticed, many other churches and abbeys in ruins are used as cemeteries.

This drive didn’t include as spectacular scenery but still beautiful and continued through all the quaint towns with their colorful store fronts and large signage. For some strange reason, the Irish are not afraid to paint their homes and business, ANY color. Bright purple was my favorite but yellow paint seems to be a best seller. There isn’t much cultivation and the only livestock you see are occasional cows (never a herd) and mostly sheep. Our hotel in Ennis was the Woodstock hotel. It also had unique, large Victorian rooms. Dinner was good but nothing truly amazing about this place. From here we visited the Bunratty Castle. It was a great Castle that had period furniture inside as well as cottages and workshops on the ground.

We headed towards our final destination, Galway. We first stopped at the Cliffs of Moher. The weather hasn’t been spectacular but it has been cooperative. However, while usually windy at the Cliffs, it was gale force. This really is one of the most fabulous, breath taking spots in Ireland and I knew this day would be an injustice. And it was. So Gary and Norma had to take the postcards word for it and Jay and I will return with the kids in the Spring.

Now, our accommodations for Galway.. I must admit that I didn’t thoroughly research all of my accommodations for this trip but they have all been unique and interesting. I didn’t realize however that the place I booked in Galway was actually in a town 15 minutes from there on back country roads. Nor did I realize it was an old manor (or that it is owned by Merv Griffin) I did know however that it was pricey as it was taking the place of the Dromoland castle that I wanted to stay in whose price made this manor look like Super 8. As we pulled up to St. Clerans, I was quite surprised. Jay went up to the door and using the huge door knocker waited to see if we were in the right place. Indeed we were. A fellow showed us through the entry and down wide carpeted steps to the two suites on the bottom floor. Spacious, full of antique furniture, heavy window treatments, fireplace, huge bathrooms and my favorite, L’Occitane soaps and lotions. So it has lots of ambiance and character that it will serve as nice ending of accommodations on our first trip around Ireland.

We had a superb dinner and the next morning I was hoping to go to Connemara west of Galway but we first headed up to Cong, a village 45 minutes north in County Mayo. Here was where the movie "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne was filmed and with folks intrigued by that sort of thing we headed over. Well, the cottage was closed as seemed most of the sleepy town but it was a nice drive. We didn't have time to take in Connemara so we headed home to Dubin.

It was an excellent trip with wonderful beds, tasty food and great company.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I asked the boys what they thought

was better in Ireland/Europe...

~Ice cream
~Being seven hours ahead we get to see things earlier like, New Years and breakfast
~We get to wear compulsory swim caps at the pool

~movie theaters are never busy

~School teacher
~Four hours of school
~Nice people
~Going to school with no shirt on
~More history
~Reflective bike vests

Obviously they found this task difficult and didn't give it very much thought.....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I Love This Movie..

I realize everyone has probably already seen this and it is old news. But, it just opened at the cinema here in Ireland. I love the soundtrack and especially the song from Sarah McLachlan. Although can a miracle really be ordinary? The story reteaches us important truths that make it a timeless classic.....

Saturday, February 03, 2007

With much phanfare....

I announce you can now view photos from a much more interesting and interactive site. I will eventually be loading the past photos here as well.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen.....

I put this trip together in about 5 days before we left. I found our apartment from a recommendation on I keep forgetting to take photos of the places we stay but you can see it here. It is the blue apartment. Our trip got off to a 2 hour delay at the Dublin airport so we got into Rome about 7:30pm, a three hour flight. We took a taxi to our apartment from the Ciampino airport that Ryanair flies into. It takes about 30-40 minutes and the cab fare should be a flat rate of 30 or 40 euro depending on the time of day, or you can take a bus into the main train station. I had Rick Steve's Italy 2006 that I relied heavily upon for recommendations.
Our apartment was in a great location but it was on a noisy pedestrian street. The weekends were the noisiest but even on the weekdays it would wake me up. We were near the street level so maybe a higher apartment would have been better. We awoke Sunday morning and I wasn't sure whether to seek our the LDS church or go check out the Pope at the Vatican. I was concerned about getting a taxi back from the ward building but now having visited and how close the chapel was, it wouldn't have been a problem. And we didn't think seeing the pope from his window would be too exciting. Now if he were out and about and we could check out the Prada shoes that would be another thing.

So we set off for our first destination the Pantheon. Just behind our apartment we first run into the cat sanctuary. Many stray cats living among the ruins, however they look healthy and well cared for. We did not venture down there. I am not sure you can. We arrive at the Pantheon and is one of my favorite destinations. I love the dome, the portico and how well preserved the inside is and it's free.

We eat lunch near here at Taverna Le Coppelle and it turns out to be our favorite meal. I had the vegetable zuppa, Cameron the pesto fettuccine, Brianna the cannelloni and Grant orders the same thing the whole trip, Margherita pizza. Everywhere we have the bruschette. We have gelato at one of the more popular locations: Palma and it was the best we had as well.

We head over to the Coloseum and the line wasn't extremely long but we didn't really feel like waiting and plan to return another day. So I follow the Rick Steve's guide and walk through the Forum pointing things out to my followers as if I really know what I am talking about. They know I don't but don't seem to mind. The weather is crisp and sunny. We walk our way back towards the apartment passing other ruins along the way. We eat dinner at a place our apartment owner recommends and is also in the Rick Steves's guidebook, . Cameron orders spaghetti bolognese, you know what Grant ordered and I thought I ordered the special: lasagne. And the waiter said something about tuna. I ask him if it was good and he said yes definitely. Well, I sat thinking about lasagne with tuna and I just wasn't looking forward to it. Well, amidst the language barrier I end up having spaghetti with tuna. Now, some things just don't go well together and for me this is one of them. So, I can't be objective with this place and think I owe it another opportunity with my Italian phrasebook in hand.

We sleep in each morning until 10 or 11 because what I am finding out, is that you can do Rome in as little as two days. Especially with kids. While they enjoyed the trip, there are not many kids activities. We set out for the Vatican. We wind our way through the narrow alleys and take the long way to everywhere but don't mind. We first start at the Vatican museum. I admit we don't take advantage of the full admission price and basically head to the Sistine Chapel. Although on the way there we see impressive statues, tapestries, frescoes but the main event is the Chapel. Grant has been studying the Italian Renaissance so he is familiar with the history and is able to point out some Michelangelo's more famous sections of the ceiling. No pictures here and no talking. Should a flash go off or the noise level rise: take cover. You will hear security yelling from across the room while running over to try to find the culprit. We took the exit from here (it is not clearly marked but read this in my guide) and this allowed us to avoid the long walk back to St Peter's Basilica. This church houses the famed statue by Michelangelo~ The Pieta. It is behind bullet proof glass after some maniac once took a hammer to it. The church is huge and is also one of my favorite sights. Breanna and Cameron take the elevator and 323 stairs to the dome. I decide after past experience Grant probably shouldn't go. So we head over to the Vatican post to send off some post cards and buy stamps for Noah who is collecting them. We eat lunch at another Rick Steve's suggestion near the Vatican called Perilli in Prati. It was OK. We take a taxi back to the apartment and rest up for our walk over to the Spanish Steps.

We take the Rick Steve's recommended night walk from Campo di Fiori to the Spanish Steps with an added bonus of my unintended detours. So what should have been a leisurely 1 mile walk was really kind-of-confusing-longer-than-a-mile-walk. To say the streets in Rome are confusing is an understatement. Here you will find all the shopping (mostly expensive) and much activity, especially on the weekends. I did allow the kids to eat at McDonald's here. Usually when Jay isn't around we avoid it at all cost. But it was the nicest McDonald's I have ever seen with granite, pillars, murals....the food isn't any better. We then walked down to Elevator Rome. It is a 3-D film with your seats on hydraulics and was worried about all the reviews I had read that says how nauseous it makes you. However, you would have to be very sensitive to motion to get sick on this. By the way, Rick Steve's calls this "cheesy and over-priced", he is exactly right and the kids love it.

Our last day in Rome I had planned on taking the double decker bus around but we never got to it. We walked in the morning to the Trevi fountain. This was also one of my favorites but it was also the most tourist packed place we visited. Apparently you should try to get here early but on this trip early wasn't in the plans. But I still loved it. We continued walking towards the Villa Borghese Park. It was all up hill but the day was gorgeous. Spring-like. This park is referred to as a "scruffy Central Park" and I would say that is pretty accurate. We rented a four wheeled bike that we all rode in for about an hour. I then rented the boys bikes for 30 minutes. We ate at the Hard Rock nearby. Their food usually isn't that great and it still wasn't but it was nice to see a menu with American food, and have some Nachos.

We leave the park and take a taxi to the St. Peters-in-Chains church. This was again one of my favorite places. Here you will find another Michelangelo sculpture: Moses and the chains that bound St. Peter. We thought about going to the Coloseum at this point but Cameron was the only one that wanted to go and after some discussion and realizing I had lost the apartment keys, we head back. We ate at a Mom and Pop place near our apartment. The food was good, not great but the owners were so nice and loved speaking to us in Italian with huge smiles on their faces as if we understood each word. We then called it a night and woke up early for our flight back to Dublin. The morning ride to the airport was nice as the huge sun (it does look bigger here, well compared to the sun we never see in Ireland, it would appear bigger everywhere) rising above Rome brought to life all the ruins that constantly whisper its history as you are living in the present. It amazes me each time I visit one of these ancient cities, how people live among these artifacts that are thousands of years old, that bear the names Bernini, Michelangelo, Caesar, Pantheon. And while they rise imperiously to the forefront for the visitor, they somehow for the locals become an unassuming backdrop.
You can find our photos at" .

Friday, February 02, 2007

I'm It

I have been tagged to reveal 5 things about me that you may not already know. So...

1) Despite my love of travel, and five years working for Southwest airlines, I don't like flying. It makes me nervous and anxious.

2) As a freshman in highschool we had to write a report on the career that we wanted. I wanted to be a television journalist. For some reason, I was researching how Barbara Walters got into the industry and decided to call her. What?! I think I called the studios where she was working, they asked me who was calling and put me through. Barbara answered and was shocked as how I got transferred to her. She answered a few of my questions then directed me to the Who's Who in the library. The only reason I can think they put me through is they heard "Jodi"- apparently that is her daughter's name.

3)I once tried throwing change into a toll basket in Dallas without stopping. I missed.

4) I have owned 4 cats: returned one, closed the garage door on another, a dog got the third and the last one we gave away. No more cats for the Beans.

5)I have only recently joined the sudoku craze.

This was incredibly difficult. During this moment of introspection I can either not remember anything or I am just not interesting or both.

Monday, January 29, 2007


We were going to take the month off but I just couldn't. I read that Italy was experiencing Spring-like conditions and I had wanted to get to Rome before the heavy tourist season. Well, I wouldn't say it is Spring-like more like the beginning of Fall. It isn't bad. It beats the heat of the summer and the masses of people. Breanna, Cameron, Grant and I flew in Saturday evening and will go home on Wednesday morning. We are staying in an apartment in the Campo de Fiori area and while it is more noisy than I would prefer, the location is great. We can walk everywhere and only occasionally grab a taxi. We are adhering to a strict schedule of sights and the gelato keeps the kids going. I will add specifics when I get home and add photos since the only internet access we have is an internet cafe. But it is another great trip in a city with more history that one can wrap their mind around. Arrivederci!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Supporting a great cause: My mom and sister

My mother and my sister both have MS. My sister Jaclyn is doing the MS walk in Kansas City and you can sponsor her at this link. Look for your local MS walk, they are usually sometime in April. It is a great way to support a cause that has yet to find a cure and enjoy the outdoors at the first signs of Spring. I looked here in Ireland for the MS walk. There are three: One in Nepal, Peru and Chile. What!?! Although it does look fun, couldn't they find something a little closer.... Dublin, Limerick, Cork?

Friday, January 12, 2007

How Could I Forget

She kept trying to bend the rules of the giveaway~but came through with a suitcase full of goodies. So just for you Mom...choose one or all!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Alright, You Win!

Well I am happy to report that we had a number of people take advantage of our one and only desperate giveaway. I am fairly confident that most of them had no idea that they had qualified but will be surprised and joyful, I am sure, when their prize arrives. I apologize for the poor photos. They really are pretty bad

It is with great honor that I announce the first winner is Melinda S. She has sent many packages and we are so grateful. Her prize comes from The Louvre in Paris. And fitting for her, it is this statue of Bastet, a cat goddess from Egyptian mythology, circa 6th century B.C. Here she is portrayed with her kittens symbolizing maternal love but a watchful expression ready to attack if necessary. There are many legends of this goddess but we will leave it at this gentle one and not the "female devourer" which is the literal meaning of Bastet.

Our second winner is Eric accompanying his Christmas card was also a box of Lucky Charms. I love this gift and I know he will appreciate it: a set of ball markers from the last 5 Ryder Cups and a divot repair tool. FORE!

I am pretty sure Majbritt had no idea she would be receiving a lovely Christmas linen and candles from Germany. These were bought at the Christmas market in Nuremberg. I love the material and large candle. Thanks for the card and the picture of your beautiful family. Hope to see you this Spring in Denmark!

Lily who has been so busy this year still managed to send out the loveliest Christmas card and I was able to catch up on everyone in the family letter. Lily is a great cook and hopefully she will be able to find time to use these great finds from London by Cath Kidston. A fun striped apron, a very cool double oven mitt and an adorable peg bag for clothes pins. I know she probably doesn't hang many clothes out on the line but I'm sure she can find it useful around the house.

The next winner gets a couple of things for 1) sending a card with her very cute kids on it and 2) for being a comment supporter on my blog. Being the chocolate connoisseur that Jenni is, I think she will be impressed with Demels, who have been making excessive and decadent sweets for over 200 years in Austria. Although ,it will be hard to tear these open as the packaging is gorgeous. And because we both know the Nutella in the States is not nearly as good, here is a jar.

Another great family photo accompanied the card from David and Liesl. Since I don't expect to see you out here in the Emerald Isle, just for you, I have chosen the "This is Ireland" book (I love the whole series that covers many different cities) and the Discover Ireland game. Have fun!

One thing we have found is that food is just better here in Europe, especially the sweets. For Mitch, we have the famed and very yummy official Mozart candy "Mozarkugeln" it has a core of pistachio and almond marzipan surrounded by nougat and covered in bittersweet chocolate. It was invented in Salzburg in 1890 and named after Mozart who was born there. While I wasn't able to get the original Mozarkugeln recognized by the blue and silver packaging this is still very good. Enjoy!

Chocolate covered wafers from Manner's, delicious meringue, and chocolate covered cookies with nonpareils (by the way, it is a Dutch custom to put "sprinkles"on children's sandwiches. Bread with nutella and "sprinkles" we will try that tomorrow) but I digress, all in a cute Christmas tin for Derek. Thanks for the card and the pancake mix!

These wafers from Manner are soooooo good. The original ones with hazelnut are addictive. I am so glad to be able to give these to Jed and Nyla for sending a card all the way to Ireland.

A cute card with kids that are growing so fast from Travis earned him these great mugs. 4 awesome colors with fun prints which we picked up in Spain.

I was surprised and excited to see a photo and a card from my dearest Aunt Patsy. My giveaway wouldn't be complete without some Waterford Crystal! (I have to add this photo later!)

I hope you all enjoy your gifts. Let me know here:)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mind the Gap

Jay and I just returned from (another for Jay) weekend in London. We drove over Thursday evening spending the night in Preston. Friday we attended the Temple and drove the remaining two hours into London. After dropping the car off near Heathrow airport we took the underground into Westminster station. As I came out of the underground onto the sidewalk there in front of me, in all his glory, looking larger and more impressive than print or television stood Big Ben surrounded by the Parliament. We didn’t do any sight seeing on this trip as I will wait to bring the family back but I will say that London is massive and daunting and will take a couple of trips to even scratch the surface of this amazing city. We stayed at the Marriott County Hall with a view of the London Eye. A great location and nice hotel.

We were able to see two shows on the West End. I LOVE live theatre. I love thinking that I could do that if only I could sing. And dance. We kept seeing posters everywhere showing Don Johnson starring in “Guys and Dolls”. While this wasn’t a real motivating factor (maybe 20 years ago, did I just say that? I am not old enough!) I did think it would be interesting to see him. So we bought tickets at the same day discount booth and although the seats weren’t great the prices were, half priced. Well, what all the posters failed to tell us, me, is that Don Johnson wouldn’t actually be appearing until the day after we leave. So, no Sonny Crockett but it was still entertaining. The second show was “Blood Brothers” which has been running for 20 years and spent a couple of years on Broadway. It was a more serious and sad show with a bit of humor but we liked it as well.

Right now is a great time to be shopping in London assuming your currency of choice is the Pound. There were great sales everywhere but after doing the conversion to dollars it just didn’t seem like a great deal after all. We stopped into Harrod’s and the place was a zoo. So many people and so many floors. We took advantage of the luxurious water closet and headed out figuring we wouldn’t be buying anything there anyway. I had about 5 stores I wanted to visit: Liberty, Waterstones, a stationery store, Sephora and Designers Guild. Our first stop, Designers Guild where they were having a huge sale. So much fabric, bed linens, home décor, I was in heaven. However, Jay was not. While he was a hero being my shopping cart for linens, I knew I couldn’t torture him by looking through bolts of fabric. I really need someone to walk through the shops in Chelsea with me. The only other store I made it to was the very cute store of Cath Kidston. But both were such great finds, I will save the others for another trip.

Just as a side note on eating: We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Leicester Square, Chiquito, and while it wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t familiar Mexican. A vegetable wrap and shrimp fajitas with hardly a spice but that is Europe for ya. We had the Sunday buffet at The Blue Elephant at the Fulham-Broadway stop. Very good Thai food.

The weather was expected London winter but nothing an umbrella couldn’t help. I am thinking that the British are very concerned for my safety. On the elevators you are constantly warned “Doors opening” “Doors closing” “Doors opening”. On the Underground, painted along the platform as you enter and exit the train reads “Mind the Gap” with a constant recording reminding you as the doors open and close. Hence the the title of this blog. So my first glimpse of London did not disappoint and I am looking forward to going back.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Our First Guest and Guest Blogger

Thanks for coming to visit Gene. It was great to have you here!

This is Gene Gray, Jodi’s brother, going to let u know what’s happening here in Ireland. I came over from December 24-January 3 to spend Christmas and New Years’ with the Bean family. We spent Christmas here in Dublin which was great but just felt different because their werent’t lights everywhere like there are in the States. Of course, it’s all about spending time with family and making sure the kids have a good time which they did. They had plenty of presents and Santa was very kind, also. I was able to attend church with them on Sunday, Christmas Eve morning which is the day that I arrived. I want wish to all of u, as the Irish say, ”Happy(Merry) Christmas”. It was a very long flight but well worth it. The Irish are very nice and outgoing people and the city of Dublin is a great town with loads(lots) of old buildings, bridges, churches, and pubs for sure. I will be putting in some of the words or phrases that the Irish use from time to time with the meanings after them. Sometimes they can talk very fast but I seemed to start understanding them but had to really listen hard if they spoke quickly.

On Wednesday, we were headed for London because ever since I saw Peter Pan as a young lad(kid), it was a place that I had always wanted to visit. I truly love my sister and her family very much and am very thankful for the opportunities to spend time with them in such grand(great) places. It was Jay, Grant, Noah, and yours truly that took the road trip to England because Jodi wasn’t feeling well so Cameron and Tori stayed home. Hey, don’t feel bad for them too much because they will be taking the journey later on in the new year. For those wondering about Brianna, she was able to go home for the holidays to visit her family in Colorado. Anyway, we took the van by way of the ferry over the Irish Sea and had to drive what was supposed to be about 4-5 hours but took almost 8 because of the holiday traffic. The drive was worth the sight-seeing because we were able to drive down part of the coast which was amazing with water on one side and rolling hills plus mountains on the other. There were some castles and some terrific views of the countryside with horses and lots of sheep. We were on the motorway(freeway) for most of the time with some country roads mixed in between.

We arrived in London at approximately 9 p.m. and stayed at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel which was just sensational. The building was very old but had been refurbished in 1998 which had a beautiful courtyard and staircases that had several different kinds of marble. It was very lovely(nice). We went around the city on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday by Taxi, the Tube(subway), and the Big Red Bus which had an opening on the top deck. On Thursday, we took the bus around quite a bit of the city streets and saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, and got off on the stop for the London Eye. This was built in 2000 and it looked just like a wheel similar to a huge ferris wheel with big viewing capsules that went around very slowly to view the entire city. It was a perfect place to take pictures and hopefully u will be able to view some of them. The wheel went probably as high as the St. Louis arch with only one exception being that u could see everything from the front and sides of the capsules. It was very crowded and took about two hours to get tickets and actually get all the way around the wheel. We proceeded on by going to a merry-go-round for Noah, who thought that was the best thing about London. After Noah and Grant rode on the grizzly bears, the next stop was across the bridge to the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben and the Westminister Abbey. I had always wanted to see that big ol’ clock but it was even better than anything on tv or books where I had viewed it. The Abbey was exactly what u had seen on tv and resembled the Salt Lake Temple in size, just absolutely amazing. If u have never been to London, it is a trip u have to do someday, it is a lot like New York City. Now, one thing I will tell u is that with the exchange rate everything costs double what it does in the U.S. Many Brits will travel to New York City just to go shopping to save money. I never realized how lucky Americans are but trust me I will never take for granted our roads, grocery stores, shopping centers, and even gas prices ever again. Other than the high prices though, London is a lot like New York City with tourists from all over the world and their cabs and phone booths are very unique. We have a lot in common with Brits and are very similar in a lot of ways.
Anyway, I am starting to get tired of typing so I will go through this a little bit quicker. During the next few days, Noah got sick at Hard Rock Café, Grant and I went to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, Jay and the kids went to the Science and Natural History Museum , I went to Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, Horse guards, Green Park, National Gallery, and Trafalgar Square. On Sunday, we went to Kensington Palace and Princess Di’s fountain but finished off with what had brought me to this grand city, the Peter Pan statue. I knew so much about London even without that movie but just having my picture taken in front of that statue really meant something. We left London on the morning of New Year’s Eve and stayed the night in Birmingham but also stopped at Costco’s. So we spent New Year’s Day driving back and taking the ferry and returned to Dublin about 6pm. On my last day here, I was tired from so much walking so I took it easy and we went downtown to one of the oldest pubs in Ireland to eat or supposedly the oldest but I’m not one to argue when your buildings been there since 1198. I guess that really shows what is so neat about these places, they have been around for thousands of years.
My sister and her family are so lucky to be able to stay in Ireland for a year and travel to these other countries but they still won’t be able to see everything because there are so many places over here. But I’ll just leave u with this, U know u are somewhere special when, I am standing amongst these buildings I have seen on the tele(tv) or in the movies and I actually have to pinch myself to remind me that I am really here. I just want to let the Bean family know how much I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with them in such a believable place, I can truly say that can’t I…..