Sunday, September 14, 2014

Goodbye, Ireland.

 Monday morning I woke up and ate breakfast with the boys.  I strayed from the usual oatmeal/porridge and had Cocoa Crispies.  You can't eat breakfast with a Kellogg's Executive every morning for a week, and not have at least one bowl of Kellogg's cereal.  The Cocoa Crispies were the BEST ever, of course.  I loved that they turned my milk to chocolate milk...  I mean, I would've taken an Ethan Brownie for breakfast too if it were offered, but the cereal was perfect.  With perfect company.

After breakfast, I packed my suitcase.  We were heading out to a few more places before I had to be at the airport that afternoon. Our first stop was the Malahide Castle and Gardens, which was the castle about a half mile from Joe's home that Aurora and I sprinted around the day before.  I got to see the castle this time... 

We walked a little around the grounds and took some pictures before the tour of the inside started.  The really cool thing about this castle is parts of it were constructed in the 12th Century, and it was the home of the same family, the Talbot family, until 1976.  Almost 800 years.  Amazing.  The tour was awesome.  There was so much old furniture with fascinating stories, 
really cool old paintings, the decor in the rooms was amazing.  This room was aptly named the Oak Room- all the walls were solid oak.  Dark oak.  And they had amazingly detailed carvings on them.

the windows (and the way they opened) were so cool, and the view out them to the gardens was spectacular.

  A few of the things in this house that I thought were super cool:

The "save face" screen: 
Hundreds of years ago, women would come to parties at the castle, wearing face makeup, of course.  Only their makeup was much different than what we have today- it was very waxy and thick.  They would come in out of the freezing cold and naturally want to sit by the fire to warm up.  The only problem with this was the fire would literally melt their face off.  So they would sit next to the fire with their face behind this screen to warm up while saving their face.  It is believed this is where the phrase "to save face" comes from.

The other thing I loved was what the tour guide referred to as the "flirting couch":
It was like a little love seat with an extra seat on each end.  During gatherings, people of status would never come alone- they were always accompanied by a chaperone of sorts.  So if a couple wanted to sit and chat, get to know each other, there was a place for their respective chaperones to sit and listen in, make sure the conversation was appropriate.  So funny! 

I was also infatuated with this little alarm clock on the nightstand in one of the bedrooms that began making tea when the alarm went off.  Clever.

The wallpaper in this little office room was painted and embossed leather. It was so cool.

I loved it all!  I just soaked it all in- all the history and stories of the all the rooms and the people that once occupied them.  Again, made me grateful for all the simple, modern things we take for granted, like running water, flushing toilets, makeup that doesn't melt off your face... The little things.
After we toured the inside of the castle, we went out and walked all around the gardens.  Joe took pity on me and let me walk as slowly as I wanted.  I was certainly in no hurry.  The weather was incredible. Sunny and cool, I relished my last moments in Ireland walking around the Malahide Gardens.  
The grounds of the Malahide Castle were amazing.  Acres and acres of gardens.  

Walled gardens, secret gardens, little houses in gardens, crazy.  All of the gardens were fairly recently created (1940's-1970's), and there are more than 5,000 plants, many of which were transplanted from all over the world.  I even recognized a few from home: Palm trees and agave plants. 

There was a Eucalyptus tree there with a sign saying to smell the leaves.  There were no low- hanging leaves, but that didn't stop Joe from tree climbing... In his work clothes. Awesome...
It was amazing walking through all the gardens.  At the foot of an 800 year old castle.  Amazing. 
Malahide Castle blue skies sunny selfie:

We ate lunch in the Avoca cafe there on the castle grounds.  
We ate out on the patio next to the gardens we had just walked through.  I had soup and bread, per usual, with a tomato/cucumber salad.  Joe had this baked potato with a ton of super delicious goodness piled on it.  I had immediate buyer's remorse about my soup/salad choice.  He kindly let me have a bite, (heaven) then I resorted to eating my own lunch.  It was actually AWESOME!  You know what was more awesome?  The after lunch carrot cake. 

Blissful.  It was a perfect last supper in Ireland.
After lunch, we stopped by a little market on our way to the airport to pick up a few things I wanted to bring home: Hobnobs, Kellogg's Crunchy Nut, Black Jacks, Haribo Jellies, Lynx spray, ect. I went to pay, and they didn't like my credit card.  Evidently, of the billion places that accept Visa, this place wasn't one of them.  Actually, I think maybe they accept Visa- if you have a European "chip and pin" card.  Whatever that is.  Joe had to buy my groceries.  Embarrassing.  The lady asked me if I wanted a bag.  Yes, of course I want a bag!  I just bought like 20 pounds of junk food!  Joe: "No, she doesn't want a bag.  We'll just carry it."  I guess they charge for grocery bags there... What a way to end the trip... Ha.
Drive to the airport summary: I cry because I'm a girl.  It makes Joe uncomfortable because he's not a girl.  The end.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sunday Freezing Sunday

The band U2, one of my all-time faves, is from Dublin, Ireland.  Their song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" references a bit of Irish history.  One more reason to love Ireland.  They make the best musicians.  My Sunday, though slightly painful, wasn't bloody:

Sunday morning was all about getting ready for church, which was at 11.  I had been warned by Tyler,  though, that if you aren't walking out the door to the car on time, (I think 10:30), you're riding the bus to church.  Oh, the pressure of being prompt!  My dress needed ironed, and it was at this moment that my Christmas List started.  They have a SERIOUS iron.  It's like attached to this big steam machine that steams while ironing.  It was AWESOME!  Serious iron envy. 

 I didn't really understand it, but Tyler helped me figure it out. Look at that kid pressing my dress.  A most impressive picture, and a most impressive teenage boy.  (Joe's sons really raised the bar of teenage boy expectations, unfortunately for Chandler...)
My dress has never been so finely pressed...  

I didn't really think too hard about what dress to pack for church in Ireland.  I basically just grabbed one that looked simple and tossed it in with a few accessories and a pair of shoes.  Done.  I really should've considered the fact that summer in Ireland would feel like a frigid winter to an Arizona gal.  Plus, church is generally cold wherever you are anyway.  Needless to say, my cute dress did nothing in the way of keeping me warm during church.  It would be impossible to overstate the freezing.  My dress was knee length, I had on little sandals.  Perfect Arizona church outfit. My poor legs?  Bare.  My feet?  Bare.  Arms?  Totally bare.  It couldn't have been more than 50 degrees in that place. Now, Joe...really shouldn't have been at church at all.  He was still so sick from the day before.  He walked out of Sacrament, and I didn't see him again for the rest of church.  And while Aurora seemed completely unconcerned, I was actually really, really concerned.  Where was he? Was he coming back? Was he okay?  Was he dead somewhere?  Most importantly, was he sitting in the warm car where there was a heater, while I was suffering mild hypothermia in Sunday School?  I just wanted to go find him!  And steal his socks, at least!  At one point, I seriously went to the restroom just to warm up under the hand dryer.  No wonder all the women, including Aurora, were wearing like long sleeves, long underwear under their skirts, and boots.  If only I had ANY of that stuff.  I wear sandals comfortably nearly every Sunday of the year in Arizona!  I wished desperately that I would've brought my new Birthday Avoca blanket with me...
Church was... about the same as home.  Only colder.  And with Crazy Mike.  Joe's name- not mine.  Nevertheless, well-deserved.  Every ward has a Crazy Mike, though, so I felt right at home.  Except the freezing, Irish-accent version of home. 
After church, we drove home and I was scowling at the back of Joe's head the whole time because he didn't even come rescue me, and in spite of my teeth chattering, he didn't even crank the heater up.  When we got home, I practically sprinted to my room and piled on all the clothes and socks in my suitcase.  I thought I might never be warm again.  The afternoon and evening were pretty laid back.  I think Joe went back to bed, and I visited and had dinner with the boys and Aurora.  I loved every moment visiting with them.  Aurora has such a great perspective on life and mothering.  I thoroughly enjoyed talking with her.  Aurora, Ethan, and I went for a walk to and around the Malahide Castle near their house.  It was beautiful!  Aurora, though.  That girl does not mess around when walking.  My idea of a Sunday walk, ESPECIALLY around a castle, is a nice easy stroll.  Aurora- no.  Extreme speedwalker.  I'm sure she must've thought I was moving at a glacial pace, because I was compared to her, but I literally was thinking I must watch where I'm going or I WILL fall flat on my face.  We did slow down just enough for me to catch a glance of my first live game of Cricket.  It was odd.  I couldn't really get a handle on what they were doing.  Anyway, like five minutes (and 3 miles) into the walk she was like, "well, that's it.  Let's head home!"  And I was like, "Wait...Where was the castle?" Seriously.  And come to find out, Joe warned her that I didn't like to walk fast, so that was her slow pace.  I don't get it.  She's tiny, too.  I just don't get it.  
So back at home, I wanted to see Aurora's plans for her dream home.  It's so fun to dream... She had a binder FULL of ideas for her dream home.  Every detail planned out, down to how to store the kitchen knives.  Pictures and notes everywhere. It was AWESOME!  It must've taken us an hour to go through this binder.  Then we saw the pictures in color on Pinterest.  I was so amazed.  I mean, the time and thought was incredible.  I hope I get to see it in real life sometime- right down to the heaters in the driveway that melt the snow.  No pressure, Joe...
For dessert, Ethan made some brownies.  Actually, brownies don't quite describe... They were made from scratch with Nutella, and chocolate chips, and I'm sure like 6 pounds of butter.  And sugar.  They were something else.  They were super thick, just the right amount of doughy, super rich chocolatey awesomeness.  Seriously world-class brownies.  The best I've ever tasted.
After the dream home tour and the brownie feast, my arm was twisted (not very hard) by Ethan into another episode of "Sherlock".  Loved it again!  After "Sherlock", Aurora and the boys went to bed, and I forced Joe to stay awake and keep me company.  It was my last night in Ireland, and I didn't want to go to bed!  We just visited and watched various videos that ranged from an outstanding sing and dance rendition of "Lean on Me" performed by Joe and friend, to episode clips of "Impractical Jokers".  I laughed my butt off.  At both. Ha.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back to Beautiful Ireland

Saturday morning, I slept in a little because Joe had to go pick up Tyler, who was flying home after spending the summer in Utah, from the airport.  I got up around 8, I think.  Had a delicious bowl of oatmeal with berries that Aurora had made, then we headed back out.  Joe was planning on staying a little closer to Dublin today, and I was planning on going wherever I was taken.  This plan had yet to disappoint.  
Our first stop was Steven's Green Shopping Centre in the heart of Dublin. 
Yet another cool clock... Not sure what it was with me and clocks.  loved this giant gold and glass one:
 We parked and walked through this crazy store- Brown Thomas.  I'm not sure what it would be comparable to in the US- maybe like Neiman Marcus?  Very expensive, high end store.  Our favorite find while playing "Price Is Right" in this store was a little black dress that literally weighed 40+ pounds.  It was €500.  On clearance.  I should've tried it on... It could've been my arm workout for the day lifting that beast over my head.  Oh well, opportunity lost.  One place we totally shopped in: Butler's Chocolate Cafe. My kind of store.  We got some dark chocolate hot cocoa that was just ridiculous.  It was so delicious.  Like drinking a smooth, melted dark chocolate bar.  Incredibly rich.  Perfect. 
  Now I can never have a regular cup of cocoa again.  And I have a firm understanding of why Butler's refers to themselves as "The Purveyors of Happiness."  Perfectly described.  We were coming back to this store later, because some of the chocolate here was going home with me.  For sure.
The cool thing about this part of Dublin, (and maybe every part- I don't know), is at and around this mall, the bottom level of the beautiful buildings are stores, and the upper levels are... Apartments? Offices?  Both?  It was cool.  All the buildings were so beautiful!  Some completely covered in green ivy, all with amazing brightly painted doors.
  It was fun walking around, looking at everything, doing some shopping.  
We walked through the beautiful St. Stevens Green Park.  These statues were cool:
The park was so beautiful.  We made our way to the National Museum of Ireland- Archeology and History.  This place was so cool!  There were so many amazing things from the history of Ireland.  Some of my favorites were the bog people, who had died during the Iron Age (2,300 years ago) but because of where they were buried in Ireland in these bogs, the composition of the ground preserved these bodies almost perfectly.  

It was crazy how you could still see their hair, the form of their hands... Crazy amazing. So, so old! Fascinating stuff. Also hidden in the bogs for thousands of years were several gold hoards, or collections.  The thing that was so amazing about these gold pieces were the intricate detail in them. They were beautiful!  And some of them have very fascinating stories.  
The crowning exhibit of the museum was for sure the Cross of Cong.  
It was built in the 1200's for a King, and it was originally made to house a small portion of the True Cross, or the cross that was used to crucify Christ.  The relic has since been lost, but the cross is amazing.  The craftsmanship and detail is incredible- considered one of the finest examples of metalwork and decorative art of its time.  
After the museum, we walked around and shopped a bit more.  We picked up some more chocolate at Butler's, I got some Irish things to take home with me, Joe got me an early birthday present- an Avoca throw from the Avoca store.  Avoca has quite the history in Ireland, and it is the oldest operating business on the island.  This blanket is so beautiful, and made from lambs wool in Ireland.  It's like a permanent Irish hug.  The perfect gift!
After our shopping/museum excursion, we headed to Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow. Prepare for some serious pictures, because this place...better described by pictures.  Though the drive there wasn't very long, it was pretty curvy.  My belly didn't love it.  The drive was insanely beautiful, however.  Kind of up in the Wicklow Mountains, a little different landscape than I had seen this week. to describe this place?It's a huge Estate home surrounded by several different gardens with different themes.  The grounds were huge.  HUGE.  And breathtaking.  The cobblestone terrace leading down to the various gardens was incredible.

There were cool statues everywhere. 

The flowers were something else.  

I was totally infatuated with the hydrangeas.  
And the giant roses.  

And every other gorgeous flower there.  There were several different gardens we walked through, each one just amazing.  I think my favorite was the Japanese Garden.  From the top:  
Walking down:
There was a little stream with water trickling down the side of the wall, everything was so green and beautiful. 
It was so serene feeling. It was incredibly beautiful everywhere we walked, and surprising how varied the landscape was from one garden to the next.  

 Probably would've been perfectly fine sitting here all day:

 This was a little tower called Pepperpot tower.  Cute name, right?  
 We walked up it:
Amazing view from the top.

It has totally been Senior Portrait Season on Facebook lately, so Joe came up with the idea of recreating Senior Pictures... of me. Ha. While the setting couldn't have been more beautiful, and totally kills the setting of my actual senior pics, I'm certainly no young thing.  It was fun though.  We got some looks.  Probably almost earned ourselves an ASBO...  But, good fun, good laughs. 

 To Angelic. Ha.
Favorite selfie?  Joe trying to teach me the "smolder selfie".  He should've tried a little harder...
This place is what Heaven looks like, I am sure of it.We drove from The Estate and gardens over to Powerscourt Waterfall.  At around 400 feet, it is the tallest waterfall in Ireland, and it is stunning.  

The pictures pale in comparison to seeing it in real life.  I mean, I had seen a waterfall before, (though not often- I live in Arizona.  We make fake waterfalls here) but this waterfall was so... Green.  Covered in green.  Surrounded by green.  We walked across and all around the falls.  I really just wanted to stay here forever. Pure contentment.
I wasn't allowed to climb the waterfall.  I guess some danger signs you follow:
There were people here, but it wasn't super crowded.  The weather was perfect. And we walked.
There has never been a more perfect day to be at a waterfall in Ireland.  And we walked.
Then... Joe forced me to walk away.  So mean.  As we were walking back to the car, I just had to turn one more time and take it all in.  I tried to memorize in my mind's eye the beauty and majesty of all of these amazing places we had been over the last several days, but this place was truly special.  
They had a little concession area by the parking lot.  My stomach was still not feeling great, and I knew we had to drive back down the windy mountain, so since Joe forced me to leave the waterfall, I forced him to buy me a Coke.  My Coke can said, "Share a Coke with your Bestie."  
Joe was definitely  my bestie this week, but I didn't share my Coke with him.  He doesn't share drinks.  Bestie or not.  But, I guess since he bought it, he kinda shared it with me. 
Sign we saw on our way out:
  Good thing we avoided at least most of our usual "antisocial behaviour" 
We headed back home at about dinner time with the intention of going to get fish and chips with Aurora, Tyler, and Ethan, but Joe... got sick.  So sick.  He went home and went to bed.  I was suddenly grateful I didn't share my bestie Coke with the sicko.  Although, I certainly wasn't feeling amazing.  In any case, I happily ate quinoa and black beans with Ethan, and they got me hooked on a new show: "Sherlock".  Loved it.