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…..