En route to Dublin, Ireland

Our last day of adventure in the Irish countryside finally caught up with us. Much too soon for my liking, but after a quick chat with our B&B host that went something like this:

Him: Where in the US are you from?

Me: Texas. Austin actually.

Him: Oh, like JR Ewing?

Me: Close, he was from Dallas.

we left in high spirits despite the cold, rainy weather that awaited us outside.

DSC00812Because this was a driving day, the rainy weather didn’t bother us much and since we didn’t really have any sights planned to stop at we focused on making good time.

Then, about halfway to Dublin, we hit a break in the rain and took a detour to Birr Castle.

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Birr Castle is home to the 7th Earl of Rosse so we weren’t able to go inside; however, the grounds were open to the public and we took the opportunity to explore them, despite sporadic rain showers and wind.

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Once we had enough of the cold wind and rain we made the final leg of our drive to our hotel in Dublin and what would our last drive in Ireland be without a rainbow?

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After dropping our bags at the hotel and taking our car back to the airport we headed into Dublin for our first night in the city.

It was FREEZING, super windy, and rainy so we didn’t veer very far from the Temple Bar area, but we did manage to peek in and catch a glimpse of Trinity College at night, which was gorgeous.

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DSC00878By this point I was getting cranky, because I was cold and hungry and wet so we ducked in the nearest tourist trap we could find – Hard Rock Cafe – where they sat me, uh I mean us, in the Sting booth.

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If you know me, you know how big of a moment this was for me. After our very American dinner, we headed back to the hotel to chill, the next day we had to hit the ground running as it was Adam’s last day of sightseeing before the business end of this trip began.

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Cliffs of Moher & Galway, Ireland

Leaving Dingle was hard.

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I mean, who would want to leave when this is the sunrise view from the front porch of your bed & breakfast?

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But, more of Ireland was just waiting to be explored, and we had to get an early start.

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One perk of the morning was that we got to drive Conor Pass one last time.

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Let’s be honest, there was no “we” in driving – Adam was the sole driver and I just played naviga-ooh look pretty views, pull over.

Our route today was pretty straight-forward, primarily driving north, along the coast, and taking a ferry across the River Shannon.

Our first stop this day was the Blennerville Windmill which was built in 1800 an recently restored after years of neglect.

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Then we took the ferry across the River Shannon and ate lunch in Kilrush.

While eating the most amazing baked potato of my life (topped with mozzarella and bacon!) a kind older couple chatted with us and insisted we drive out to Loop Head. It was a slight detour on our route but they promised cliff views that rivaled the Cliffs of Moher.

THEY WEREN’T KIDDING.

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We absolutely lucked out on this recommendation not only were the cliffs FREE (Cliffs of Moher charged 6 euro per adult) there were no other tourists there and they remained virtually untouched. The only signs of visitors were worn trails in pastures along the cliff line.

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We walked along the cliffs for close to an hour and could have stayed longer, but knew we still had to book it to make it to the more famous cliffs before sunset.

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And then we pulled into the parking lot at the Cliffs of Moher right at the start of the “golden hour”, which led to spectacular lighting for pictures (Adam’s are amazing).

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We spent another hour or so walking along the edges and taking pictures before it got so dark that we needed to head back to the car and finish up our journey to Galway.

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While we enjoyed the Cliffs – the views from and stature of them were quite impressive, it was the first time on our trip that we were crowded by other tourists and realized just how spoiled we had been up until this point.

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Galway. Oh, Galway. The first time on our trip where our GPS led us astray, not once, but 3 times. But finally, after an hour driving around the city, we found our bed & breakfast – Marless House. Once we parked the car and took our bags to our room, we asked the host for directions to food and pubs – the most important parts of any Irish evening.

We strolled to Salthill about a half mile from the B&B and found ourselves eating in a very popular (and delicious) pizzeria, Da Roberta. After dinner, we walked a couple of doors down to O’Connor’s Pub for a drink.

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This pub was very eclectic and quite busy.

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I loved that we sat on an old church pew and our “table” was an old Singer sewing machine table.

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 After 2 drinks each, we called it a night and headed to bed, for tomorrow we were off to Dublin!

Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland (Part II)

Annnnd I’m back with Part II of our day in and around Dingle…

After a late and tasty lunch in Dingle, we set our sights on driving Conor Pass. Conor Pass is Ireland’s highest mountain pass and, as we soon found out, quite curvy and narrow. So our full attention was on not wrecking our rental car, but, the views we got while driving it were incredible.

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We also decided to video the road as we drove it so that we could show off this awesome road to family and friends.

After driving the Pass, we went back to our B&B to rest for a bit before hitting the pubs of Dingle.

We talked with our host about pubs she recommended we visit and went in search of those in addition to stopping in at others that struck our fancy as we walked through the higgledy-piggledy streets. I LOVED Dingle and the more we explored and the more people we met the love just got stronger. It’s an adorable little town full of character and friendly people who enjoy nothing more than chatting about their life with you.

Our first stop of the night was Dick Mack’s Pub.

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It opened in 1899 and is still in operation 2 generations later. It’s full of reminders of the past, from tools and nails and tea and sugar bins stamped with the family crest and motto, “As you like it,” which fill the shelves surrounding the bar.

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Of course, I had to continue my whiskey drinking ways…

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…while Adam had himself a pint.

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We had lots of fun talking to the locals who were bellied up to the bar swapping jokes (What’s the difference between a house and a home? A home is where old people go. What’s the difference between an outlaw and an in-law? Outlaws are wanted.) and stories about their day/week/life. It was so laid back and easy we could have stayed there for hours (which if we ever come back to Dingle, I plan to do).

One of the charms of Dick Mack’s were the stars placed on the sidewalk in front of the pub. The stars represent celebrities that have visited the pub. Which means that DOLLY freaking PARTON has been there, and given the limited number of seats in the pub the chances that my bottom sat where her bottom sat are quite high.

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Speaking of Dolly, Ireland is obsessed with her. She’s having a concert there next summer, but it didn’t stop the radio station from advertising it almost once each hour. In addition, just this morning as we were headed to drive the peninsula, they had a live radio interview with her. Of course I made Adam listen to it with me – Dolly’s my hero.

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After leaving Dick Mack’s, we walked down to the pier to have dinner before heading to our final pub of the night. We had planned to stop in at least 3 pubs, but time and sleepiness got the best of us.

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O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub was highly recommended to us by our B&B host because of its great live music. And boy did it not disappoint. Notice that I am in fact taller than the entrance to the pub. And that height difference? Also stayed in place around the bar, which did result in Adam ramming his head into the ceiling once when he got up to get more drinks. The locals then told us it happens all the time, while I was busy laughing. I’m so thoughtful.

We had about 45 minutes to burn before the music began and spent it talking with the locals who had already packed themselves in around the bar. More drinks for us!DSC00635

Around 8:45, kids in costume showed up to trick or treat in the pub. You guys! Did you read that? Parents take their kids trick or treating in the pubs!!! Can we get this started in the US please?

And by trick or treating, I mean singing and dancing in traditional Irish fashion for their candy. These kids were adorable.

Then the live music started and the artists, Caroline Keane and Matt Griffin, were exceptional. Now I want to learn how to play the concertina.

We had so much fun during our night out on the town in Dingle!

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.

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:

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:

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:

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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!

And then there were three…

Meet Senna.

Senna likes to be lazy.

Senna likes to go on hikes.

Senna can shake.

Senna loves toys.

He carries them through the house.

Then settles down in the den.

Within 5 minutes…

The toys will end up like this.

Thank goodness he’s a cutie.

Walt Disney World: Part 4

[Click here for Part 3]
EPCOT

You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging on the rest of our EPCOT travels did you? 🙂

As I mentioned in my first post, the reason for our trip to Disney was to celebrate a sorority sister’s wedding. In the days leading up to the wedding, we had a few events to take part in – but the times still allowed us to have some night park time!

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After taking a nice long mid-day break (due to rain, AGAIN), we were able to get gussied up for the Dessert Welcome Party for the wedding. But first, we had to make our reservations at La Hacienda San Angel in Mexico – while braving the rain. This restaurant was recommended by a co-worker’s wife and I’m so glad we knew about it! The atmosphere was wonderful, the service was great and the food was mouth-watering.

To start, we ordered the Queso Fundido – one of our favorite mexican dishes – which was served alongside some wonderful warm flour tortillas. We then split the La Hacienda Parrillada, which included an unbelievable New York Strip, chicken al pastor, chorizo, and grilled vegetables.

This was more than enough food for us to eat and we ended up sending about half of it back when it was time for the next course, dessert!! Adam ordered the Crema de Chocolate “Abuelita” which was chocolate custard served with crunchy buñuelo strips and caramel syrup.

Meanwhile, I was devouring my dish – Empanada de Manzana, a puff pastry filled with sautéed caramel apples, served with dulce de leche ice cream and cajeta. It was heaven.

After finishing our meal, our hopes of the rain letting up was drenched – literally. So we walked across the street to ride the indoor boat ride, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. By the time the boat ride was done, the rain had let up some and we were able to have some picture fun as we headed to the monorail for the Dessert Party at The Grand Floridian.

We had a great time at the Dessert Party catching up with some of my college friends I hadn’t seen since graduating. On our walk to watch the breathtaking Magic Kingdom fireworks show, we passed another banquet room with a band that sounded very similar to Journey. In fact, so similar we had to stop and take a peek. Later that evening, Adam looked up Journey’s website and it was made about 90% certain that the headshots on the website were the same people on the stage. So yeah, we saw Journey at Disney World. No biggie.

After the Dessert Party, we made our way back to EPCOT for extra magic hours. We crammed in some final attractions before calling it a night around midnight. We met Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald!!!

Soarin’

After hobnobbing with the characters, we speed walked to Soarin’, the only ride we had yet to be able to get on due to lines. Lucky for us there was no wait at 11:30 pm. Go figure! So we got to take an aerial tour through California. Adam loved this ride, but I wasn’t entirely a fan. It needed a story. Specifically, a story narrated by Morgan Freeman telling me about the things I’m seeing on the ride. Even with that comment, I did love the “smell-a-vision” aspect of the ride. California citrus smells AWESOME!!

We ended our travels in EPCOT taking the obligatory sphere picture – thanks to the park photographers 🙂

EPCOT Tips:
  • Take full advantage of the Meal Plan. Seriously, it’s worth every penny you spend on it, because it essentially turns your Disney vacation into an all-inclusive resort (with the exception of booze and souvenirs). Best investment ever. Plus, most Disney meal portions are huge so you can easily split entrees among 2 people.
  • Make dining reservations. This ensures that you’ll get a table in the pavilions you want to eat in, at the times you want to eat there. We did this for both Germany and Mexico and it worked out very well for us.
[More Disney memories to come…]

Walt Disney World: Part 3

[Click here for Part 2]
EPCOT

After a fun-filled morning in the Magic Kingdom, we were starving and made our way to EPCOT for lunch in Germany.

Before our trip, we made reservations in 2 countries in the world showcase – Germany for Adam and Mexico for me. The Biergarten in Germany was a total man food heaven while I was happy to eat the mac and cheese from the kids buffet and sip on my Shirley Temple.

The cool thing about eating in Germany was that you got to meet other park-goers. Every table in the Biergarten is set for 8 people, so we were able to meet a family of 4 and a local couple over lunch. Lucky for us, the locals where actually a part of the Disney family, the husband was a cast member in EPCOT and gave us a few tips of must-dos while in the park. At the end of lunch we were treated to a show of traditional German music – which we wouldn’t have known about had we not ended up eating with a cast member. 🙂

Throughout our trip, it became evident that EPCOT really didn’t want us to stay long. Every time we entered the park we had to rush through to avoid getting rained on. So after our lunch in Germany what did we do? Walked really fast through the rest of the World Showcase, snapping minimal pictures along the way, and took the bus back to our hotel. The downpour started immediately after we closed our room door. At least we got to see an awesome juggler in Italy!

The next afternoon, we finally got a few hours in to enjoy EPCOT without the threat of rain. During this time we got to take full advantage of the International Flower and Garden Festival that was taking place throughout the park!

The flowers were absolutely breathtaking and we had a fun time goofing off as we made our way throughout the park.

Mission: SPACE

After we spent sometime taking pictures, it was time to ride some rides. First up? Mission: SPACE. We had heard that there were 2 tracks to take in this ride and we chose the calmer of the 2 – The Green Team. This was the perfect choice for us pansies and we really enjoyed being the crew of a mission to Mars. The video the showed throughout the ride really made us feel like we were in space – I’d definitely ride this again we we come back!

Spaceship Earth

Yep, it’s in the iconic EPCOT sphere.

Call me crazy, but this might have been one of my top rides in all of Disney. I really enjoyed the trip through history and the slow-pace of this ride. My favorite part was at the end – it’s still etched in my brain. I’m not sure if the developers of this ride intended it to have such symbolism, but at the very end your “car” turns around and you face the parts of the ride you just went through. I immediately leaned to Adam and said “I love the symbolism.” He looked confused, so I continued, “You know, how you have to look back at your past to move into your future.” Who knows if this was the goal of this ride, but it’s what I got out of it.

An added bonus was getting to create a movie about your future that you could then email to yourself for future laughs. Very, very cool!

Our final evening of having a park pass also proved beneficial because it was Extra Magic Hours at EPCOT and within an hour we were able to speed walk and see all the attractions we had missed or were too impatient for earlier in the afternoon.

[More Disney memories to come…]

Walt Disney World: Part 2

[Click here for Part 1]
Tom Sawyer’s Island

After surviving all those rides without a breather, Adam and I decided to start the calm part of our Magic Kingdom tour. Off we headed to Tom Sawyer Island where we could go at our own pace and take pictures of whatever caught our fancy.

Tom Sawyer’s Island was like an oasis in the middle of family friendly madness. No lines to take the raft over from the “mainland” and we didn’t really run into another soul while we explored the gorgeous trails and made our way through the dimly lit caves.

As soon as we arrived on the dock, Adam began the soundtrack of our tour on the island – Rush’s “Tom Saywer”. Which I’m sure is EXACTLY what Disney envisioned as they began developing this attraction.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to snap a picture (or even think to get video) of the Barrel Bridge. It was truly one of my highlights of the Island…or maybe it was Adam’s shock when the barrels became unstable as soon he tried to cross. HILARIOUS!

Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

One of my most vivid memories from Disney when I was 7 was climbing through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. I have always loved the movie and remembered the treehouse as being really awesome.

I also don’t remember any other families being around when we went up in it, unfortunately that wasn’t the case when we toured it. It was PACKED, you really couldn’t stop to take in all the elements because there was a steady stream of people right behind you. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it and really liked being in the treetops above the park. I’d definitely climb it again!

The treehouse concluded our tour of the Magic Kingdom, because we had lunch reservations in Germany! But we couldn’t leave the park without the quintessential park picture, could we?

Magic Kingdom Tips:
  • If you get the Unofficial Guide that I recommend in the previous post, follow the plans to the letter. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for any ride because we used it religiously.
  • Need a family portrait with everyone in it? Ask any park photographer hawking the Photo Pass to take your picture with your camera. Not only will you get everyone in your photo, but you won’t have to pay Disney prices to get copies after your trip. Additionally, the photographers are strategically placed throughout the park to get the best background in the shot! I’ll admit we felt a little weird taking advantage of this the first couple of times, but after a few awesome shots we never thought twice about asking and this works in EVERY park!
  • Start early! We got there when the park opened and were able to get in all of our must dos before lunch. Sure, we easily could have spent the entire day there, but since we only had 2 days in the parks we had to cram in what we wanted quick and early.
[More Disney memories to come…]