Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ireland: Day 10: We Meet the Irish McDermotts

Gerry, Marion, Pat and Maura at the homestead milk shed.
So today is our final day here in Ireland and we headed further north from County Cavan to meet some of my husband's McDermott relatives from Omagh and Derry in County Tyrone and County Londonderry respectively in Northern Ireland. It's peaceful there now and the only difference we noted as we left the Republic of Ireland was an occasional British flag near government offices and the change of money from Euros to British pounds. It looked the same: lovely green countryside, quaint towns and cows, lots of cows!

My husband's relatives: Marion, her cousin Maura and her husband Gerry and Maura's sister Pat were delightful people, friendly, warm and full of names and stories too complicated for me to digest. The introduction to this side of my husband's family came about 4 years ago when another relative, working for the Mormon's Historical Archives, met a first cousin of my husband online while she was searching for family connections. Through the wonder of cyberspace these other relatives were discovered.

The homestead in Crackenboy.

Immediately, Marion was struck by how much my husband looked like her Uncle Frank (a brother to his grandfather) and we were equally struck by the remarkable resemblance of my sister-in-law to some of the Irish relatives as Marion showed us some old family photos!

We met for lunch at a restaurant in Omagh and then Gerry drove us to the family homestead in Crackenboy and Greencastle. We drove down the driveway and Gerry reversed the car in case we needed to make a quick getaway. The property had been sold some years ago to a gent who opened his door upon our arrival and sent his 'vicious' mutt out to check us out. I'm kidding, the dog wasn't at all vicious but a slightly snarling, sweet tempered dog who 'wouldn't hurt a flea' (where have I heard that one before?).

Once we passed the sniff inspection, we took some photos and Marion regaled us with her memories from her childhood of life there when she visited Uncle Packy who owned the farm. It was clear to me that the McDermott storytelling gene is alive and well in Ireland...her stories were great!

"200,000 quid, my final offer!"
We moved onto the church (St. Patrick's) not too far away and visited some grave sites (I took lots of photos) and the church where my husband's great grandparents were married. Marion pointed out wooden framed stations of the cross with the wording in original Gaelic. She thinks they are the only ones in existence in Northern Ireland and she was responsible for making sure they remained.

Marion and Maura shared their reminisces of the McDermotts and it was clear from their descriptions that the family shares many commonalities: industrious people, opinionated (hmmmmm?), stubborn and set in their ways. Good hearted people but strict disciplinarians. One that confused me was that the Ireland McDermotts were noted for their musical abilities. I was jealous! My husband's cousin's children from Scarsdale have all those husband's siblings (and offspring, including mine) not so much!! My husband and his brother THINK they can sing (another hmmmm). So I've decided,  everyone's getting a musical instrument this Christmas. Kate, you have the oboe and you have nothing to say about it!

We ended the day with a drive through a beautiful county parkland and a visit to a rock of dubious distinction (Ogham Rock). Gerry, it seems, is a qualified amateur tour guide and a cheerleader for the delights of  Northern Ireland which are many. I suggested that they buy the farm back and make it into a bed and breakfast so the American relatives could visit often whereupon Gerry left a lot of rubber behind as he pealed out of the parking lot, Maura in tow!

Just a note about our travel agent. MyguideIreland handled all of our arrangements and did a fantastic job! Everything went smoothly (except our own slipup at theWaterford Castle) and we appreciated their expertise in getting us around a counrtry we had never been to before. A shoutout to Vivienne Stanley! Their toll free number from the U.S. is 1.800.255.9302. 


My mother did indeed pass away last night at age 86. She was a talented sewer, cook, hostess, glamorous in her day and not shy about speaking her mind! She was the best mother anyone could ask for and she'll be missed.
We head back to New York tomorrow.

Back in  a week.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ireland: Day 9: Cavan, Family Connections and Cabra Castle

The Davenport Hotel in Dublin
We left Dublin this morning under rainy skies but as we headed north to Cavan the sun came out brilliantly and stayed the whole day. Destination: Bellananagh (pronounced balin-a (short 'a')) where my father's family the Fitzpatricks are from. The town is also spelled Ballinagh on some maps for accuracy purposes. Bellananagh is a little southwest of Cavan (actually quite close) and we needed to figure out what Garrymore was since that name appeared on all of the tax records.

We stopped in Ballyjamesduff just to check it out since my father had mentioned it a few times but it seems that is just a larger, nearby town. My great-grandparents wedding records, which we had procured the day before listed a chapel as the place where their wedding took place. A woman in a small supermarket pointed us in the right direction to a town called Kilmaleck We tried to find the priest who serviced both the church in Kilmaleck and the smaller chapel but he wasn't around.

The bell tower from the church where my great
grandparents were married.
We found the chapel easily but it looked a bit new for a wedding that took place in 1884. There was an old stone bell tower that I've included here and I suspect that was part of the original chapel. The church was named St. Joseph's. We checked the gravestones seeing very few Fitzpatricks and moved onto Ballinagh and Garrymore.

Garrymore it seems is an area of Bellananagh just a bit south of the actual town. It has very small roads and in some cases no roads at all but my husband's great map following abilities landed us in a spot which was really close to, if not on, the property. A really peaceful place, very untouched by modern times...kind of amazing since County Cavan seems very well off and has many 'mc mansions' dotting the countryside. Cavan looks in fact, like the 'horsey' area of New Jersey (Colt's Neck and environs). Just down the road from the family's bucolic farmland, a subdivision was being built. We didn't see a house or people to talk to...just a couple of sleepy cows!

We did note that there were a lot of Brady's in and around all of these towns. On the tax records which we have, Brady's were my grandfather's neighbors. My great-grandparents were married by a Father Patrick Brady and one of their witnesses was a Brady. There were pubs, solicitors, businesses, fancy gravestones galore and even a singer named Paul Brady, appearing in Cavan town tonight! The Brady's it seems were more prolific than the Fitzpatricks!

Tonight we're at the Cabra Castle in the town of Kingsbridge in Cavan County, another lovely property and we're sitting in a drawing room filled with an incredible teapot collection while a wedding is going on downstairs. Tomorrow we'll drive to Omagh to meet my husband's cousin for lunch.

On a personal note: my sisters back in New York called today to say my mother has taken a turn for the worse and might not make it past the weekend. We're changing our plans and leaving Sunday and I probably will end my Ireland blogs tomorrow night. Thanks to all for reading and will continue 'The Daily Suse' at an appropriate time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ireland: Day 8: Why Discovering Our Family Roots Takes Us Down A Notch

A typical scene in Ireland.

We survived the night at the Davenport  (which really wasn't all that bad after they upgraded our room) and had a sunny, warm day to begin our trek to the Irish Heritage Center across town. We weren't sure what we would find there or if indeed this was the right place but we were pleased to find out it was and we were directed to our very own official genealogist who patiently spent about 2 hours with us going over family names, birth and marriage records.

The Fitzpatricks (my father's side of the family) were from Garrymore in Ballinagh, Cavan. Not sure what that all means but we were able to find the family (we think) and the lot numbers (there were two, one big, one tiny). By April of 1911 it appears my grandfather John had emigrated to the US according to the census. He was the only one in his family to do so. His father's name was James as was my father's and his mother's name was Anne Keegan. Other sibling names were Mary, Anne, Bridget, Philip as of 1901. I think there might have been more children born later but we couldn't find anything.  We found my grandfather's birth certificate and will check out the church records when we get to Ballinagh. We were also able to get a photocopy of a map of the land from the early 1900s.

Birth records for both grandparents...maybe!
The Devaney (or Devanney) side of the family (Bridget Devaney, who my grandfather married in the US) from Galway is still a bit of a mystery. I do have a birth certificate for a Bridget Devaney from Tuam in Galway. Her mother's maiden name was Burke, a name that's definitely in our family. She'll need a bit more research.

The McDermotts on my husbands side (from County Tyrone) have been pretty thoroughly researched by his cousins and we didn't really find anything new here because after 1921 the records were moved to Belfast.  We are meeting some Irish cousins of his on Saturday in Tyrone and will probably get some great photos and information then.

The only distressing thing about all of this was that both families (The McDermotts and Fitzpatricks) were labled 'third class'! The genealogist sniffed a little in a cheeky sort of way when he broke the news to us. The McDermotts, recently of Waterford, third class?  Had he heard about our faux pas at the castle? Was there to be no end to our humiliation?

The research was completed by 2:30 PM and we walked back to an area of Dublin called the Temple District which has the hip ambiance of Greenwich Village or Soho....lunch at the Temple Bar and a visit to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the most impressive library at a college I think we have ever seen.

We're more than halfway through our trip and we've noted a couple of really important things.
  • First, a true travesty.... there are no pretzels in Ireland (not a great call for them we were told)! It appears the Irish enjoy a good 'chip' for a snack. I'm telling the Pennsylvania Dutch when I get back.
  • We haven't come across Irish soda bread anywhere but a delicious brown bread is served with almost every meal.
  • Corned beef and cabbage? Not so much as a mention on a menu!  We think CB&C is to Ireland like chow mien is to mainland China!
  • There are lots of palm trees in Ireland because of the Gulf Stream which keeps the temps temperate all year long. Kind of weird to see.
  • 'Go mall': Words frequently seen on the highway are not a rallying cry for shoppers but means 'slow' in Gaelic.
  • The Georgian area we're staying in in Dublin has the loveliest doors. I attached some of the photos to torture my children. I like to change the color of my front door occasionally and will use these as my guide. Hey kids, how about that bright yellow?

    Tomorrow we leave for Cavan and another castle stay in Kingscourt (Cabra Castle). We'll be checking out the Fitzpatricks and will inform the local magistrate of our 'elevated' status in the U.S. Third class? I don't think so!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ireland: Day 7: If It's Wednesday It Must Be...Dublin?

In the showroom: Waterford napkin rings
Today started off great: breakfast in the castle conservatory with a monarch butterfly flitting from table to table so perfectly it was almost as if he was mechanically engineered by Walt Disney. We made a reservation for afternoon tea and were off to the city to take the Waterford tour.

The Waterford company has been in existence since the 1700s (minus 100 years in the 1800s when they went bankrupt) and also minus six months in 2009 when they went into receivership. They were bought by WWRD (Waterford, Wedgewood and Royal Doulton) a leading or the leading luxury manufacturing company in the world and opened a new visitor's center and factory tour this past June. Waterford City is the oldest city in Europe after Paris and London having been discovered and settled by the Vikings in 914 A.D.
Waterford vase

On the tour, we saw the glass designer's sketches, molds, glass being blown, shaped and then cut. There is so much workmanship involved in even one piece that it's easy to see why Waterford costs so much. Today they were preparing the engraved trophies for the People's Choice Awards probably held later this year. They also had the Pebble Beach Golf winner's trophy ready to be shipped, probably the closest any of us would ever get to it! Pretty elaborate stuff.

After the factory tour we planned to take a walking tour of the historical part of Waterford city but as we sat waiting for it to begin my husband got a call from the Castle staff. Apparently we were only booked for one night and this lord and lady's mini-fortnight was coming to a quick and rather embarassing  end! And it was our mistake, we really thought we were there for two nights.
Who's that in the turret?

Where was our Jeeves? Shouldn't he have alerted us? I couldn't be sure but I thought I saw him and the 'wenches' snickering behind the leaded glass windows from the castle turrets as we hurriedly took our leave. Tea was off! Dinner in the 'Fitzgerald' was not to be.... our castle life was over and we set out for Dublin.  

Three hours later we pulled up in front of the Davenport Hotel on Merrion Square in the heart of Dublin. I won't go into detail but this lady was a bit distressed! The staff was great though and upgraded our room and threw in free Internet service. I don't like to do it but sometimes it pays to complain!

Tomorrow we set out  to discover some details about our families at the Heritage Center.

Seriously, the Fitzgerald Room was totally overrated!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ireland:Day 6: Waterford: A day at the Castle

The Fitzgerald Room
This morning we left Kinsale under sunny skies and a slight breeze and had an enjoyable (truly) two hour drive to Waterford. Pat the husband is now Pat the husband and 'driver extraordinaire'...Pat the bus driver just a distant memory. We listened to music on the radio and actually passed a few slow pokes on the highway! At noon, the radio stopped for the playing of the Angelus..of course I said a prayer...we were still driving! I hadn't heard mention of that prayer for many years... and glad it's alive and well in Ireland!
We passed through the town or city of Waterford which is the largest place we've been so far. We followed the signs to Waterford Castle and ended up at a tiny ferry crossing. It seems the Castle Waterford is on its very own island on the River Suir with its very own 18 hole golf course. But for our purposes we'll call it a moat for once we crossed onto the island we adopted the persona of 'Milord and Milady McDermott'.

The bedroom
The place is enchanting. We have a suite! The suite even has a name: Rose, and it's quite lovely. The windows are leaded glass with medieval looking latches and embroidered drapes with luxe tassels. The bathroom with a footed tub and glazed painted fixtures is the most elaborate we're had so far. The 'comely wenches' who greeted us were straight out of central casting  as was the old gent who took up our bags...if his name wasn't  Jeeves I'll eat my derby!

We made dinner reservations for the dining room with a stop first in the Fitzgerald room. I chose my fanciest frock for the occasion and wondered where my lady-in-waiting was off to? Egad! I had to press my dress myself! The Fitzgerald room is where cocktails and lighter fare is served...note the photo..pretty amazing, yes? The dining room... twice as nice. 

Fireplaces abound..all lit and we're sitting beside one now in the lobby having had our tea and coffee served here...apparently, the castle doesn't have Internet in the rooms. MY LORD! I'm down here with the commoners typing away!

Tomorrow, the long awaited tour of the Waterford factory followed by a walking tour of the ancient part of the town and afternoon tea at the castle then dinner in the Fitzgerald Room....I just love the name and am thinking of renaming my piano room the 'Fitzpatrick'.

The exterior
Milord and I will be retiring soon. Will report on the factory tomorrow and a city apparently steeped in Norman History.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ireland: Day 5: Kinsale, Fort Charles and the Ghosts of Relatives Past?

The warm sun was gone today and with that the tube tops were blessedly packed away for another year. The women were more sensibly dressed, their skin and virtue back in check. All was right again in Kinsale!

After being talked out of kissing the Blarney Stone, the concierge recommended a historic stroll of the town given by Don & Barry. We had Barry and he was friendly chap (local language again!) who was proud and eager to impart (or make up) the historical nature of Kinsale. Walking tours are always a great way to find out about a town or a city and this one didn't disappoint.

Kinsale is the furthest southern point of Ireland and for that reason, back in the 1500-1600s, it was a major jumping off spot for ships heading out to the Americas or any of the many wars England was involved in. It became a major shipping supply port for salted fish, meats, dry breads and water or 'grog' (water mixed with a little whiskey to preserve it better) and to this day their wooden wine barrels are world renowned mostly for wine.

It was from Kinsale that the ill-fated Alexander Selkirk, a Scotsman,  (a.k.a Robinson Caruso) left Ireland and would not return for 8 years, four of them spent alone on a deserted island off the coast of South America. Author/journalist Daniel Defoe chronicled his story giving him the name of Caruso and making up many other details along the way. Kinsale is also noted for the nearby sinking of the Lusitania in May of 1915. Barry alerted us to an upcoming Discovery Channel piece on the controversy surrounding the sinking and loss of well over 1000 lives.

Barry suggested a trip to Fort Charles, allegedly a 30 minute walk from the town. We opted for the car because it looked like it might rain and discovered that the 30 minute walk was up the side of a cliff! Funny he never mentioned that!

The fort was particularly interesting not only because of it's amazing views of the charming town of Kinsale but because we saw some family names listed as being instrumental in the history of the fort. One, Captain James Archer, was the builder of  Fort Charles. He was from Kilkenny and a Catholic. The Archers are on my mother's side of the family and James is a name that recurs often. Will check that out! We also saw a Col. Fitzpatrick ( Protestant though) who fought bravely in a battle at Fort Charles. Barry mentioned that anyone with the surname Fitzpatrick are almost assuredly descended from the Normans.

On my husband's side of the family, there was an officer (O'Neill) from Tyrone where the McDermotts are from who would have won the Battle of Kinsale if his co-commanding officer had listened to him. He argued for calmness in the face of adversity, a personal trait of my husband that might be inherited from the Tyroneans. We'll see, we visit there next week.

Tomorrow we're off to Waterford. Before our Australian friends in Killarney made off with their bottle of wine, they told us that they loved the Waterford tour and they were able to ship gifts home for a reasonable price.

Aye!  Anyone need a new chandelier??

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ireland: Day 4, Kinsale, County Cork

As we sadly left the Cahernane Manor House in Kerry this morning on our way to Kinsale in County Cork, we decided to make a stop at the Muckross Mansion and Gardens just a bit south of our hotel but on co-joined property since this was all part of the Herbert Estate (those rich, English folks who used the Irish as their slaves and servants). The mansion,  large and impressive, was strikingly similar to the place where we stayed for three nights and the tour guide gave us some interesting facts on the Herbert family. They made their money in minerals and were so rich that Queen Victoria planned a visit to the estate with her beloved Prince Albert. The Herberts were given six years to prepare and pulled out all the stops redecorating and importing furniture, drapes and crystal from all of Europe. The point was to extravagantly wine and dine the Queen so she would grant them a more impressive title and increase their land holdings. As if they needed more, really! 

Victoria and Albert did come but only stayed for two days. When they returned to England, the Herberts waited to hear from the Queen but as luck (bad luck, that is) would have it, The Prince died about two months after visiting the estate. The Queen went into mourning for an extended period of time and forgot all about the Herberts. They spent so much money and were so overextended that they had to sell the estate and all of their property. An American family from California eventually bought the property as a wedding gift for their daughter who had married an Irishman and they lived there until she died unexpectedly. Her heirs eventually donated the property to the Irish government.

After the tour, Pat the husband, was back on the road and maybe because I'm getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road, the two hour trip to Kinsale resulted in only two major 'eeeekks' from me. He's doing much better and so am I! But Pat the husband, also checked out our new hotel last night and portrayed it as a kind of motel with some bad reviews given by people who had stayed here. Needless to say, my expectations were low but typically when that happens, expectations are exceeded. And they were! The Trident Hotel is not like the's modern, more American-ish...but it's new, clean with a very friendly staff and situated on a beautiful harbor in the seaside town of Kinsale, a very Hamptons-like town with lively restaurants, boutiques and shops of every variety. The weather was warm and sunny today, unusual I suppose, and the Irish ladies were out with their milky white skin wearing tube tops, sitting in the sun, risking cancer! I'm trying not to judge...but tube tops? Really!

We had dinner just a little while ago and set out for live music in one of the pubs. I decided to wear a dress, mostly to see if one of them still fit after scarfing down the scones at the Cahernane. Luckily it did, and we enjoyed a dinner of goat cheese and salmon, fish stew and risotto. Seriously, the food here has been great even in the pubs.

We did have one pub story I'd like to share. On our first night in Killarney, we went to a pub recommended by our daughter and son-in-law called Danny Mann's. The music was great! The next night we went to another closer to our hotel. The music started at 10 p.m. and a lovely couple around our age (er, that'd be youngish)  sitting next to us introduced themselves. They were from Australia, travelling to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England over six weeks.The husband was drinking dark Guiness but my husband and I noticed that the woman had a full bottle of red wine all for herself. When the music started in earnest, they moved to the bar to 'see the musicians better' but I suspected that maybe she didn't want to share her bottle, since I was also drinking red wine and my glass was nearly empty. When my husband went to pay the bill at the bar he reported that she was 'three-sheets' as they say! Not sure if she can keep that up for six weeks...they may end up penniless like the Herberts!

The concierge here talked us out of going to kiss the Blarney Stone which is a nearby attraction so instead tomorrow we're going to a British fort across the harbor and will take a walking tour of the town. After that, on to Waterford!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ireland, Day 3:The Dingle Peninsula, Kerry

After our fabulous tour of the Ring of Kerry yesterday, we decided to take a day to see the Dingle Peninsula also in County Kerry but just north of the Ring. And since we both enjoyed the leisurely bus ride, we booked again with the same company and were pleased to see Pat the bus driver pull up again this morning in front of our hotel. He's a little hard to understand, truth be told, and I didn't really enjoy the comment about my hair (though it was the truth) but he was a safe driver, knew the area well and he had some great stories.

Today, in place of our Italian-American friends from Connecticut was an Irish couple from County Wexford in southeast Ireland. They were farmers with 80-90 head of cattle and as many sheep. They grew grain to feed the livestock and they were off on a 'holiday' to the west of Ireland. They never did say their names but they were friendly and nice to talk to. The word of the day was 'aye' and between the farmer, Pat the driver and the farmer's wife I think I counted at least 300 utterances before I made myself stop!

Our first stop was alongside the road to see ancient 'Bee hive' dwellings (about 1300 years old). These small buildings are made only of gritstone built with a dry rubble masonry technique shaped in a hive that have never leaked to this day - pretty amazing given the winds and rain that this area of Ireland gets. American builders could take a page from the early Irish natives! This set of buildings was situated next to a private home and Pat warned us that the old woman who lived there would come out immediately to collect 2 euros. Well, she must have a set of ears like the border collies from the day before because the door opened in a shot when the first people off the bus crossed the street. Pat said she winters in Boston with her sister, no doubt paid for by her intimidating ways!

Next stop was a beach so big that they could have filmed the invasion of Normandy or had the invasion here and really surprised the Germans! This is where Pat's storytelling expertise kicked in. The reason this beach was famous (in his mind anyway) because the former Bishop of Galway was caught here with his American mistress by people on the beach who recognized His Excellency even in a swimsuit. Apparently, and this was not new news to the farmer and his wife who snickered knowingly throughout the telling, Bishop Sean Casey was quite the gadfly...drinking, driving sports cars, vacationing in fancy homes not to mention his philandering..until he was outed. The American woman in question, Annie Murphy, must have quietly went back to the states where in due course she discovered she was pregnant. She didn't return until the boy was 17 years old when she needed money for his college education. A scandal! In Dingle! My word!

Despite the juicy gossip, the scenery here was the better story. It falls into the category of..'if you think the Ring of Kerry was nice...' ...this was truly breathtaking! On the ring, Pat showed us a mountain that was used in the scenery of "Far and Away' but on Dingle, they built an old Irish village on a rocky cliff and used that and many of the surrounding areas in the movie. Tom and Nicole were there for a while apparently. They also filmed 'Ryan's Daughter' here too. We vowed to re-watch both when we return.

We made a lunch stop near the Blasket Islands, as remote a part of the world as you could imagine. The Bishop and Annie should have vacationed here!. The islands are so remote that in late 1953, the last residents were whisked off the Island because they would not have survived the winter. There were a couple of playbills in the restaurant for (depressing) summerstock local theater one entitled 'The Cripple of Innisfree'. My sister, who I believe thrives on miserable Irish stories, would love it! Maybe it'll come to Broadway.

We made a stop inthe town of Dingle and I was thrilled to finally get into a woolen shop, though I now realize after only three days in Ireland, that they're as common as nail salons are in the U.S.

Tomorrow we leave for Kinsale on County Cork and say goodbye to this lovely hotel (albiet with the lousy internet service), Pat the bus driver, the charming town of Killarney and the most spectacular scenery I think I have ever seen. The Cliffs of Moher have a lot to live up to.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ireland:Day 2, The Ring of Kerry

Today started off bright and sunny - and I mean me - I was in a much better mood having shaken off my jet lag and thrilled with the prospect of someone else doing the driving. We signed up yesterday for an all-day tour of the Ring of Kerry one of three promontories to the west of Killarney.

We were the last on the bus and the driver was coincidentally named Pat (my husband's name), probably not so much of a coincidence given the part of the world we're in...but he seemed very nice, very local (that's always a plus when you're dealing with treacherous roads) and my Pat wouldn't have to put up with my left seat driving, a happy day all-around!

And it really was sunny - and unusually quite clear as we climbed into the hills on the Ring - so Pat the bus driver told us. The trip would take all day, from about 10 AM until 5 PM. We were scheduled for a few stops, an old bog village (that was very similar to Amish farmhouses, minus the shoo-fly pie, that I remember visiting when I was young) whose main attraction, besides the peat bricks from the bog, was an impressive pair of Irish wolf hounds (there will be photos, I promise!). I liked the statue of the Blessed Virgin in the window of this touristy stop, a nice touch for us Catholics.

As we climbed higher and higher into the mountains we started to chat with a couple from Connecticut, who were on the tour for the same reason we were...divorce prevention. It was their first trip and they were of Italian descent. I asked them why they chose Ireland (since we couldn't get our Italian friends to come here) and they said because they heard the scenery was spectacular. They weren't disappointed and neither were we!

At one of the stops, the bus had a flat tire, not to worry. Pat, the driver, called ahead and had another bus driver who was a wee bit (note the use of local language) ahead of us at a sheep viewing demonstration (really!) drop his passengers off and come back for us. While we watched the sheep, Pat had the bus repaired and picked us up at the end of the demonstration. No one made a fuss, sighed heavily, threatened to sue, wanted their money back...we're in Ireland after all. Amazing!

But back to the sheep. In this part of Ireland grazing and raising livestock is the main occupation. The land is too hilly and rocky for anything to grow so there are cattle, sheep, goats grazing everywhere. To get the sheep down from the mountainsides, too steep for us humans to climb, they use trained border collies and this was what we were to see while the tire was being changed. First off, I didn't know there were so many varieties of sheep and secondly, I couldn't even remember everything the sheep herder told us but to simplify, there are sheep for eating, wool and tweeds. We saw about 15 varieties from all over the world. The dogs are trained to fetch the sheep by a series a whistles and voice commands that they can hear from very far away. These dogs are bred for this and their hearing ability is seven times that of a human. It was amazing to watch! The sheep sheepishly follow them in whatever direction the dogs are instructed to turn and the dogs, while quick and wiry looking, would never harm the sheep. They also wouldn't make good guard dogs all because they are strictly bred for asheep herding.

After travelling a bit more we stopped for lunch in a small town where the actor Charlie Chaplin vacationed every year. If the point was to get away from his fans, then he surely was successful. The Ring of Kerry is a primitive area of such natural beauty that photos (if I can ever get this PC to cooperate) would never do it justice. One area, at the very highest point that cars or buses could go, was freezing. Pat the driver said that the best day here is a bad day anywhere else, an understatement. He mentioned that my hair was a bit tussled when I got back on the bus, another understatement.

We ended the trip with a viewing of a mountain where some of the scenes from 'Far and Away' were filmed (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman). I hope she had a great hairdresser!

Tomorrow we'll be back on the bus to visit the Dingle area, just north of the Ring of Kerry, and the ancient town of Dingle where the Irish language is still spoken. Tonight we'll eat in a pub in town and catch a live music show. In the meantime, I'm working on the photos!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ireland: Day 1

Killarney, Kerry

A couple of quick observations on this, our first trip to Ireland:
  • Everyone should fly business class (of course we'll probably never have the opportunity again but it was truly great).
  • Upon seeing Ireland from the air for the first time: It's really, really green!
  • Shannon Airport is very small.
  • My husband is trying to kill me in the car driving on the other side of the road and all.....You read it here first if anything happens to me!
  • Whoever said Irish food is bad, doesn't know what they're talking about!
  • I forgot what is was like to be cool, no heat wave here.
OK, that's off my chest. This morning we checked into our first hotel: a manor house in Killarney called Cahernane House. It's the former home of an English family called the Herberts who ran this property and another nearby estate called Muckross. Of course they abused their Irish slaves back in the day, but they're all dead now and their frizzy haired portraits adorn the walls of the halls and dining room. Did I mention, the family is also penniless? Revenge is sweet!

The hotel is lovely, a delightful blend of shabby chic and English counrry house with large, high ceilinged rooms, sitting rooms scattered here and there, fireplaces glowing (its cool here), a 5-star dining room where we just had a fabulous dinner, and white cows in the back acres. Ok, there is a rooster who was getting on our nerves but if you forgot to bring an alarm clock, he's here to accomodate.

Tea rules. Everytime you sit someone offers to bring you some, and with real cream yet (those white cows earn their keep!). We took a drive to Kiloghen for the Puck Fair but other than the uniqueness of the celebration of the goat, the fair was pretty American-like (balloons, jewelry, t-shirts). On the way back we saw a sign for the Kerry Woolen Mills which sounded interesting. We drove for a couple of miles down deserted, winding farm roads and only met a few cows along the way. Maybe a sign or two to encourage you to keep going would have been nice? In any case we turned back and will try another woolen mill.

We signed up for a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry, mostly to insure that I live another day. Will post a critique and photos tomorrow.  Meanwhile enjoy the photos...we're off to the pub in town! (note: photos will be uploaded later today...PCs are the worst!!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Pack a Suitcase

Roll. Roll,. Roll!

Since my husband and I were going on a two week vacation to Ireland, I was determined to extend my new, practical, simplified way of living to packing for the trip. Usually, theres more in the suitcase then what's left in the closet and truthfully, it all doesn't get worn.

And with new airline regulations and higher fees I really was determined to pack 'light'. Our destination - Ireland - coud be considered a bit more  rural than traveling to someplacelike Paris, Rome or London, but if the hotel websites were any indication of how to dress, then we needed a full range of dressy and casual.

One of thr great things on this trip is that we're moving around a lot - 5 hotels over 12 days so repeating outfits was definitely an option. And lets be honest, this is all about husband is on his own!

I selected 5 dresses, two dressy jackets, 6 pants, 6 golf type shirts, 2 blouses, 3 skirts and only three pairs of shoes (two comfortable and casual, the other spikey and dressy but would go with all of the dresses0! One dressy white evening bag will have to do. Acouple of belts, some wraps and loads of jewelry. I didn't skimp on the jewelry because they can change up an outfit easily for the smallamout a real estate they were goingto take up.

I used a duffle-type bag, smaller than i usually pack, to help me stick to my plan. I think it worked. We didn't get charged anything extra though it seemed very heavy to my husband and I.

My basic technique was to roll everything. I rolled three dresses together, then two other whiote ones with a white dinner jacket. I put these in a dry cleaning bag to keep them clean (and unwrinkled). I folded the pants in half and lined the bottom of the suitcase with them,then placed the rolled dresses on top. I rolled the golf shirts and the skirtsand layered them next, the blouses, jackets and nightwear went on top. Undergarments we used as fillers on the sides. Shoes and bag topped it off.

The side pockets were for accessories (belts and jeqwelry. Toilet articles wereoin the other side.
I added two lightweight, wrinkle-free raincoats and two umbrellas (I did in the end consider my husband!) in my carry-on.

All in all, my best packing job ever. Off to Shannon and the Emerald Isle!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hemming Jeans

We're leaving for vacation tomorrow so tonight is the perfect time to hem a new pair of jeans that I've had all summer. Procrastination is my middle name! 

I thought I'd do it as a tutorial because it really is quite easy and will save you $10-$15 at the tailor. 

Casual jeans that will be worn with flat shoes should break slightly over the front foot. 

If you plan to wear heels with your jeans the hem should be longer, about 1/4 inch off the floor in the back. Only the toe of your shoe or boot should be showing.  

  • You might need help with the pinning but once you have your measurement (mine needed a 5 and a half inch adjustment to the length) subtract a half inch (the existing hem of the jeans will add the half inch back). With a tape measure, mark the inches all around with a pen (or tailor's chalk if you have some).
  •  Make a fold along the pen line toward the stitching on the original hem, leaving the original stitching showing. 
  • Pin along the fold line.
  • Thread a needle and join along that line using a blind stitch. (You can, of course, use your sewing machine but I wanted to watch the Yankee game tonight so I decided to hand sew.) 
  • Press and trim folded denim. 

Tomorrow: We're leaving for vacation, so I investigate the best way to pack a suitcase

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wrapping Up the Wrapping Center.............

Done. Well, almost....why is it so hard to complete a project?

Today, in the sweltering heat, I decided enough was enough...I needed to finish this project, the first furniture redo of my blog. The heat had it's benefits though, I worked faster and the paint dried quicker! The piece needed two coats and maybe a spot or two will need a little touch up.

The green knobs were more difficult than I thought because they were so small but they look great and only cost $1. each! I had the perfect green paint left over from an accent wall in my living room. The white paint was also leftover so my expenses were minimal.

I purchased additional rods today in Target and they're ready to mount. I worked just outside the garage and my daughter helped me carry it back into the finished basement where it will reside.

I'm still looking for basket to attach to the side to hold tall wrapping paper rolls. In the end, I may just use  the plastic wrapping container that I already have, but I'm not sure yet.

Here's the final painted chest. Dowels will be mounted in the morning and the ribbons, tape, scissors, boxes and paper will move into their new headquarters soon after.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vocabulary, Part 2

Here'a a couple of words I found this week in the Wall Street Journal 
and the New York Times. 
If you're like me, you might have read these words over and over 
again but sometimes
we never stop to think about what they really mean and 
I usually guess the meaning by the way they're used in a sentence. 
Sometimes I'm right but many times I'm wrong! 

See how you do.


non proliferation: a. A round chocolate candy with white sprinkles 

                            b. something without holes in it

                            c. ban on nuclear weapons

ignominy: a. not smart

                 b. dishonor

                 c. doesn't know someone's name

loquacious a. talkative

                  b. a quiet duck call

                  c. not gracious

protagonist a. person(s) having a garage sale

                   b. political activist 

                   c. main character in a literary work

anomie a. lethal weapon

             b. social instability

             c. low-energy

panna-cotta a. floor tile

                    b. world wide 

                    c. Italian dessert


1. Answer: C
non·pro·lif·er·a·tion (nnpr-lf-rshn adj.
Of, relating to, or calling for an end to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by additional nations:

2. Answer: B
ig·no·min·y (gn-mn, -m-n)
n. pl. ig·no·min·ies
1. Great personal dishonor or humiliation.
2. Shameful or disgraceful action, conduct, or character

3. Answer: A
lo·qua·cious (l-kwshs)
Very talkative; garrulous

4. pro·tag·o·nist (pr-tg-nst)
1. The main character in a drama or other literary work.2. In ancient Greek drama, the first actor to engage in dialogue with the chorus, in later dramas playing the main character and some minor characters as well.

5. an·o·mie or an·o·my (n-m)
1. Social instability caused by erosion of standards and values.2. Alienation and purposelessness experienced by a person or a class as a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals.

6. Panna Cotta: Panna cotta is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing this with gelatin, and letting it cool until set. An Italian phrase which literally means "cooked cream", it generally refers to a creamy, set dessert from the Northern Italian region of Piedmont.

TOMORROW: Finishing the Wrapping Center

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Poem or Two

A nice way to end the week...two poems that I by a friend about friends, chairs and phases of life and another by John Geenleaf Whittier that is just 
a joy to read during the summer. It conjures up a time when summer for children was just about play, not the scheduled or overscheduled lives our children now lead. Enjoy them both...

The Chair

by Terri

Two hours..sitting in a chair.. It seemed like minutes

sitting with friends

who had sat together many times before.

We sat in auditorium chairs, folding chairs, beach chairs, 

kitchen chairs, 
church pews, diner booth, chairs at weddings and chairs at wakes.

Too many chairs to count, so many hours spent, 

so quickly it passed.

Three decades since we first sat together,

time passed, children grew, grandchildren born to some and 

somehow the chairs seem heavenly cushioned filled with kindness, 
acceptance and support ….

So grateful for this gift, so difficult to leave this chair.

The Barefoot Boy

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

BLESSINGS on thee, little man, 

Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan! 
With thy turned-up pantaloons, 
And thy merry whistled tunes; 
With thy red lip, redder still 
Kissed by strawberries on the hill; 
With the sunshine on thy face, 
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace; 
From my heart I give thee joy,— 
I was once a barefoot boy! 
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man 
Only is republican. 
Let the million-dollared ride! 
Barefoot, trudging at his side, 
Thou hast more than he can buy 
In the reach of ear and eye,— 
Outward sunshine, inward joy: 
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy! 

Oh for boyhood’s painless play, 

Sleep that wakes in laughing day, 
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules, 
Knowledge never learned of schools, 
Of the wild bee’s morning chase, 
Of the wild-flower’s time and place, 
Flight of fowl and habitude 
Of the tenants of the wood; 
How the tortoise bears his shell, 
How the woodchuck digs his cell, 
And the ground-mole sinks his well; 
How the robin feeds her young, 
How the oriole’s nest is hung; 
Where the whitest lilies blow, 
Where the freshest berries grow, 
Where the ground-nut trails its vine, 
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine; 
Of the black wasp’s cunning way, 
Mason of his walls of clay, 
And the architectural plans 
Of gray hornet artisans! 
For, eschewing books and tasks, 
Nature answers all he asks; 
Hand in hand with her he walks, 
Face to face with her he talks, 
Part and parcel of her joy,— 
Blessings on the barefoot boy! 

Oh for boyhood’s time of June, 

Crowding years in one brief moon, 
When all things I heard or saw, 
Me, their master, waited for. 
I was rich in flowers and trees, 
Humming-birds and honey-bees; 
For my sport the squirrel played, 
Plied the snouted mole his spade; 
For my taste the blackberry cone 
Purpled over hedge and stone; 
Laughed the brook for my delight 
Through the day and through the night, 
Whispering at the garden wall, 
Talked with me from fall to fall; 
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond, 
Mine the walnut slopes beyond, 
Mine, on bending orchard trees, 
Apples of Hesperides! 
Still as my horizon grew, 
Larger grew my riches too; 
All the world I saw or knew 
Seemed a complex Chinese toy, 
Fashioned for a barefoot boy! 
Oh for festal dainties spread, 
Like my bowl of milk and bread; 
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood, 
On the door-stone, gray and rude! 
O’er me, like a regal tent, 
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent, 
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold, 
Looped in many a wind-swung fold; 
While for music came the play 
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra; 
And, to light the noisy choir, 
Lit the fly his lamp of fire. 
I was monarch: pomp and joy 
Waited on the barefoot boy! 

Cheerily, then, my little man, 

Live and laugh, as boyhood can! 
Though the flinty slopes be hard, 
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward, 
Every morn shall lead thee through 
Fresh baptisms of the dew; 
Every evening from thy feet 
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat: 
All too soon these feet must hide 
In the prison cells of pride, 
Lose the freedom of the sod, 
Like a colt’s for work be shod, 
Made to treat the mills of toil, 
Up and down in ceaseless moil: 
Happy if their track be found 
Never on forbidden ground; 
Happy if they sink not in 
Quick and treacherous sands of sin. 
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy, 
Ere it passes, barefoot boy! 

Over the Weekend: Vocabulary, Part 2