How to Stay Entertained When You Work From Home

I’ve been working from home for a little over 2 years now.

One of the ways I spice up my workday is by pulling pranks on my husband. My favorite prank is still the time I put a wall of boxes in front of the front door.

However, today I had a stroke of genius when I realized he left his Spotify account logged in on his Mac. (Not that this is anything new, it’s always left open , I just never thought about it until today.)

The Spotify account than just happens to post his activity to Facebook for everyone to see.

That’s when I did this:

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Man was this fun. And as of posting this blog? Adam still doesn’t have a clue 🙂

Driving the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland

Day 3 in Ireland is hands-down the most incomparable day of my life.

We started off with a wonderful breakfast at our B&B, Lighthouse, which our host Mary prepared for us and then we got on the road. Since we were staying 2 nights in Dingle we had plenty of time to really appreciate the views, take some side trips, and soak up this beautiful area of Ireland.

Again, we asked at the B&B what to see, in addition to our plan of driving the Dingle Peninsula/Slea Head Drive, and were told by the couple next to us that we had to drive Conor Pass. Luckily, Dingle sits right in between these two drives so we did the peninsula first, came into town and ate a late lunch then headed up the Pass.

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We didn’t really have a plan once we started driving the peninsula other than to pull over whenever we saw a view or road that looked fun. This turned out to be the best way to go for us. Again, we were so glad we opted to hire a car rather than join a tour group because we could stop whenever we wanted and spend as much or as little time as we wanted at each stop.

Our first stop was the Dunbeg Fort, built in 500BC, and its spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding cliffs.

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As was the norm on the coast, the wind was insane, but not selfie preventative.

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Next up, was a random roadside pull off stop to soak up more amazing views…

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…then trespassing on some poor farmer’s land because we wanted to get closer to the coast.

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We got back in our car and drove just a bit further, when saw a narrow road which looked like it led to a beach at the base of the cliffs. As any inquisitive tourist would do, we turned down the road fully ready to meet a gate or something blocking our way. Instead, we were able to drive down and park on the beach at the base of the cliffs at Coumeenoole.

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We were the only people on the beach for at least 15 minutes, then other brave souls began driving their cars down and parking next to our rental.

Adam and I LOVED this beach, and in typical photographer fashion, we were the first to arrive and last to leave.

After we drove back up the cliff, we turned left and MY DREAM CAME TRUE!

I had told everyone that the only thing I wanted to do in Ireland was drive down a road and be blocked by sheep. On this day IT HAPPENED and I was entirely too giddy about this; but, I wasn’t the only one. There were two other cars of tourists also exclaiming that it was their dream to be stopped in the road by sheep which actually caused a line of tourists freaking out and insisting on getting their picture taken with the sheep in the road.

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Of course, we had to join in.

Driving the Dingle Peninsula and getting stopped in the road by

For the rest of the day, I was annoyingly happy that my dream came true.

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After the sheep were ran into a nearby pasture by their dog and human, Adam grabbed me by the ear and threw me in the car before I took a sheep home with us and I headed off in search of our next Irish adventure, which included more stopping at pull offs on the road and trespassing on farms.

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That is, until we came upon another road that appeared to lead to the bottom of more cliffs.

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We started driving down the road but at the last minute decided to pull the car off into a makeshift parking area right before the final bend to the water.

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Thank God we did that, otherwise our car might have been lunch for the Atlantic, because  it turned out to be an abandoned pier with quite aggressive waves and no place to turn around once the car got down there.

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But this pier? Was AWESOME. Not as serene as the beach was, but exciting and invigorating. We experienced the power of the Atlantic right in front of our faces and nothing will ever compare to it again.

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Huge waves would crash onto the pier or the rocks nearby and swells would force us to run up against the cliffs a few times, but it was such a once in a lifetime experience.

Stay tuned for Part II of Day 3….

Killarney to Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland

Waking up on day two in Ireland we were greeted with rain and wind, but it wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits. After a few cups of tea and coffee and bellies full of breakfast, our host at Sika Lodge apologized for the rain, wind and cold weather. We told her we didn’t mind and loaded up the car for our drive to Dingle.

We were in Ireland, for goodness sake!

Originally, our route to Dingle was driving through the Killarney National Park to see the Muckross House and Gardens and the Torc Waterfall, then drive the Ring of Kerry. During breakfast, we asked our host about our plan to see if she had any additional recommendations and she suggested that we also extend our Ring of Kerry drive to include the Skellig Ring – what a great little addition!

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We planned to take a tour of the Muckross House and walk the gardens surrounding it, but when we got there it was very windy, rainy, and cold and the next tour was not for another hour and 45 minutes. Instead, we bundled up and walked around a bit before calling it a wash (literally) and got back in the car to dry off and warm up.

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Then we drove a few more kilometers through the park to the Torc Waterfall and it was magnificent – very full thanks to the rain and the heavy woods surrounding it helped to keep the rain a bay a bit so we could enjoy the scenery.

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A few times while we were there the wind would pick up and a flurry of autumn leaves would fall around us. It was breathtaking and I could have stayed there forever had the rain not been a factor.

We got back in the car and cranked up the heat, hopeful we would dry out just as we arrived at our next location, Ladies View, which is a car park with a spectacular view of the National Park next to a coffee shop. I’m sure on a clear day it’s absolutely gorgeous, but Adam and I agreed that even in dreary weather Ireland is a stunning country.

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Next up, the Ring of Kerry and Skellig Ring…and also a stop at a handmade chocolate factory complete with free samples. Our favorites, which I might have to start getting shipped to Texas, were the Dark Chocolate Vanilla Ganache Truffles, White Chocolate Citrus Truffles and Marshmallow Clusters. So good!!

One thing we loved about having our own car, was getting to stop off wherever we wanted. This led to us crossing a bridge in a quaint village and me essentially yelling at Adam that we had to get out and walk around. And take pictures, of course.

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Our host back at Sika Lodge warned us that many of the little villages on the Ring of Kerry will have closed up for the winter, which couldn’t have been more evident than in Waterville. We saw hardly anyone out and about, and no shops were open.

This didn’t stop us from taking a picture of Charlie Chaplin’s bronze statue. Apparently Waterville was his favorite holiday spot.

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A bit further up the road, we came upon the Kerry Cliffs and paid the 4 euro each to walk out to the nearest point from which to view the Skellig Islands.

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We finished up our second day in Ireland on the beach in Inch at sunset.

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Perfection!

En route to Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland

Recently, we left Austin for a 2 week vacation/work trip in Ireland. Adam’s company needed him to be in Dublin the first week of November and I decided to tag along. We spent the first week driving the Southwest and West coasts of the country before our week stay in Dublin.

We planned to arrive in Ireland early in the morning and power through the day before hitting the sack for the night.

In theory this sounded like a flawless plan. In practice? Not so much. What we failed to factor into this plan was that our longest driving day would be taking place right off the bat. Also, our plane arrived about an hour early thanks to a 150 mph tailwind and we had to sit around the airport for an hour before our rental car was ready.

We have arrived! Annnnnd we wait. Our rental car isn't ready yet. #bartlettsdriveontheleft

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Once our car was ready and loaded down with luggage we took off on the left side of the road. Adam was the designated driver for our trip and I was happy to play navigator. We only had one wrong turn getting out of the airport, but all it took was a u-turn and we were back on our Irish adventure.

Before leaving the US, we decided that our plan was to not really have a plan, other than knowing where we were ending up each day. This allowed us to turn off whenever we wanted if something struck our fancy. It also allowed us to see quaint drives in the countryside like this:

Irish countryside, I think I love you… #bartlettsdriveontheleft

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Our first official stop was the Rock of Cashel at the top of a hill in little village of Cashel surrounded by farmland. It was our first true introduction to Ireland and what a greeting it gave us. This was the view at the car park:

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We made the short walk to the entrance of the site and I loved the view to the village below.

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One perk of going to Ireland during the time of year we chose was that the busy tourist season was wrapping up, so we never had lines or huge amounts of tourists at the stops; although, some places were already closed for the winter.

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After touring the Rock of Cashel we got back in the car and headed to Cork for a tour of the Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery.  This was highly recommended to us by one of Adam’s co-workers and it was a wonderful experience.

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Even if Adam was starting to fight some serious jet-lag in the few minutes we had to wait before the tour.

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After touring the distillery, we were given complimentary whiskey tastings. Adam chose a hot whiskey tasting while I went for the Jameson ginger & lime cocktail that was available – and thus began my love for Irish Whiskey.

Something neither Adam nor I saw coming, because I never stray from an Apple-tini or Sangria.

It’s also possible that this was the first time in history someone drove better after drinking whiskey, as the hot whiskey tasting did a good job of jolting Adam out of his jet lagged state 🙂

Once we were done tasting and touring and back on the road, we made the final push to our first Bed & Breakfast, Sika Lodge, in Killarney.

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It was adorable and ran by Serena and her husband, along with their adorable little baby girl. We loved our stay there and only wish we were able to do more than sleep, eat (exceptional french toast with chocolate chips) and leave for Dingle the next morning, as Killarney seemed like a fun town to explore.

Gratitude

1148977_10100758582606377_1537477582_nHave you ever had a moment where you are overwhelmed with gratitude? As I sit in our upstairs loft, eavesdropping on Adam talking to our dog about “Top Gear” and telling Senna he’s a good pup, I’m overwhelmed.

Actually, it started yesterday, after our weekend guests headed back to Arkansas. As I was driving home from breakfast, I realized I’m grateful for so many things in my life right now.

I’m grateful for friends who bring light into our lives we didn’t realize we were missing.

I’m grateful for our new church – a place that just “fits” – and the people who have since entered our life.

I’m grateful for the city I call home and I’m constantly in awe of – whether it be breathtaking sunsets, amazing skyline views, or the almost perfect fall weather that’s finally arrived.

I’m grateful for our jobs which allow us to travel and see parts of the world we otherwise wouldn’t see.

I’m grateful for our dog. He’s a never ending source of entertainment and stress-relief.

I’m grateful for family and am excited that almost all of them are visiting us for Thanksgiving this year.

I’m grateful for a husband who makes me laugh when I’m at my lowest point, who loves me everyday, who tolerates 6 women in his house for a weekend and never complains, and who holds my hand because it’s there.

This overwhelming sense of gratitude has a smile plastered on my face.

I can’t remember a time I’ve been so content, so happy, so blessed.

A Year in Review

Instead of posting my normal Year in Review list I’ve decided to be a bit more long-winded. Humor me, okay?

This past year was almost like a reset for me. In the best sense of the word.

I moved to Austin in late October of 2011 and adjusted to married life – which I LOVE, but I never realized uprooting and acclimating to a new city would take so long.

I had gotten in a funk when we first moved here. I was adjusting (poorly) to working from home and was resentful for a few months that I had been “forced” to move to Longhorn Country.

Living in Adam’s old bachelor pad apartment didn’t help. I’ve told many friends that it felt like a hotel and not a home, I never felt settled. Luckily, we were able to buy our first house and that is what I consider the catalyst to my “reset”.

Once we got settled in our house, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I could either learn to love this new awesome city I was living in (minus the university just down the road) or be a curmudgeon.I had never been a curmudgeon before – in fact I was usually the exact opposite – so why did I let myself get to that place now?

I learned it took more effort to be unhappy and find negativity in situations and it wasn’t necessarily the most healthy way to go about my day. I was FINALLY married to the love of my life, but I was punishing him because I was being a curmudgeon.

I started doing little things to brighten my day – things I used to love to do. I planted flowers around our yard. I learned to make homemade tortillas. I re-joined Jazzercise. I joined a stitching/fiber arts/knitting group. I hosted parties. I watched the Oscars.

Slowly, I began to feel like my old self and I was happy. Why had I let myself get that dark place when I’m having so much more fun now?

Adam, bless his heart, was amazing. He was patient for this entire year letting me find my place in Austin and our life together. He never became exasperated with my negativity and would force me on occasion to get outside or meet him for lunch. He was truly my saving grace.

This year helped me prioritize my life and my interests. I learned to drop the baggage of unhappiness and find the sun everyday. I learned a smile is the best way to change my attitude and I thank God everyday that I have a husband who can make me belly laugh for hours.

I can be awesome, everyday, and I owe that to myself and to those around me.

Less Traveled

I’m an over thinker to a fault.

It leads to worry and questions of what if.

It’s something I’m trying to be better at.

Because of this, I am always multi-tasking. Always keeping my mind busy so it’s less likely to over-think and lead me down a path of questions and what ifs for which I have no answers. I never allow myself to just be – be in the present and absorbing where I am without distractions.

This weekend changed all of this.

Within 10 minutes of our house is possibly one of the best kept secrets in Austin. A lovely hiking trail and park along a creek. As I was mindlessly following the trails this weekend I chose a path that appeared “less traveled” and in a direction I had never been before. It was scattered with rocks and had roots twisting up through the dirt creating trip hazards. Bordered on each side with thick cacti. I pressed on not knowing what to expect next.

It’s funny that I chose this path. Normally, I’d choose the clear path. The one that had no obstructions and looked totally reliable. Soon the path become a narrow passage through a dry forest of vines and branches, which eventually led to a steep downhill section and followed by a fork in the trail.

To the right, I heard cars speeding by – that would take me back along the road.

To the left, I heard nothing and I knew a creek was close by – I’ll choose that way.

The path continued and soon began to have little offshoots leading into the water. Eventually I ended up here:

#atx I love you and your wonderful surprises. #spring #nature

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I cannot even begin to describe the peace, solitude and contentment that I experienced as soon as I saw this opening. Small calming waterfalls, large dry rocks in the middle of the water to sit and relax on and no one around. The water is shallow enough to take your shoes off and get your feet wet as you wade through to the dry rock or deep enough to get a little swimming action in (as evidenced by the rope swing). The only noise was of the water flowing over the rocks – near complete silence that forced me to just be.

This place quieted my soul and mind in a way I have never experienced before. I was present and free of distraction with nary an over thought in my mind. It was pure bliss and much needed.

I’ve gone back 2 more times since I found this and each time I find myself craving the silence and peace more and more. I never want to leave – but eventually I look down, notice that time has gotten away from me and I head back to reality – refreshed and revitalized.

That trail “less traveled?” Truly made all the difference.

Christmas Eve Pajamas

I’ve written previously about the traditions my family had during the Holidays and also about the unfortunate turn of events that has surrounded some of them, like the fiery Advent wreath. So it wouldn’t be Christmas without yet another story to add to the family history, right?

Every Christmas Eve, my family has a routine. We play games or work a  puzzle (or both if you’re really lucky) and fill up on Christmas goodies like Hairy Eyeballs, Cookies, Buckeyes, and any other sweet you could imagine. Then, we gather in the living room around the Christmas tree and open one gift each.

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Every year we expect this and we don’t pack this because we know it will be supplied to us shortly.

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We open Christmas Pajamas on Christmas Eve.

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And this year, I even bought a similar present for the pups of the family, my sister’s dog Lilah and our faithful pup, Senna.

Well, we usually do.

This year my mom asked my dad to keep the gifts separate from the others so they would be easier to find on Christmas Eve and he kept them so separate that he forgot where he put them. So instead of opening a pre-determined gift on Christmas Eve, we got to pick one gift from under the tree to open and if we got lucky they’d be pajamas. None of us chose correctly, so instead of this awesome picture I had in my mind of my sister and me in our pajamas with our dogs, we got this:

Taylor's Twinkies!

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This picture is equally awesome because my sister and I had on our matching Canadian tuxedos, but it’s not the same as all of us in pajamas.

On Christmas morning, after all the gifts were unwrapped and none of us ever opened up pajamas, my dad went on a house search for the missing packages. They were found in an upstairs hall closet on the top shelf and had “Christmas Eve” written on each box.

Guess we’ll have 2 pajama pictures to take next year!