Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Horsing Around

This afternoon, we went over to a local riding school, where Ruth had scheduled a jumping lesson for herself. Max and Clay have been begging to get to ride horses, too, so we scheduled a short beginner's ride for them, as well. (But, not Weston, because horses really aren't his thing, and he preferred to sit in the car and read his book.) Everyone was perfectly happy and had so much fun! And, I have to tell you, Clay is absolutely the cutest little horseman I have ever seen! The helmet made him look like a bobblehead, and his little legs just barely stretched over the back of his little pony, Timmy. He was all smiles as he bounced around like a ragdoll out in the arena, and he chatted non-stop with the girl leading him around.

Taking Rupert up and over

Getting the reins just right

Max and Spot, making the rounds

As we were leaving, Clay said,
"Today was my first time to ride a horse!
When do you think will be my next time?"

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Favorites

I haven't done a favorites post in a while, and since it's a cold, wet Monday and the first day of school for us in over a week, it seems like the right time to focus on some things that make us happy.

I have long been a fan of Baileys, but it seemed especially important
to feature an Irish product since we're here in Ireland.

These Icebreaker Merino glove liners are perfect
for adding another layer of warmth, which I am always in need of.
But they also work well as stand-alone gloves when it's not quite as cold.
And, I love that they are thin enough that I can operate my camera with them on.

I was so sad when I lost an earring in South Africa.
But, I ordered these as replacements, and I really love them!
They are a great weight and just the right mix of fancy and casual.

We've stayed at a few places that haven't had coffee pots,
and after seeing me struggle to improvise, Jeff bought me this.
It folds completely flat when not in use, and it makes a mighty fine cuppa joe.

The whole family is engaged in this fun series. Ruth just re-read all the books,
Weston is almost finished reading them, and the rest of us are listening to the audio version.
We have also watched the first movie together and have been to a couple of tourist locations
that had to do with either the books or movies. 

My FitBit fell apart on me a few months ago,
so I decided to upgrade to the Moto smartwatch.
I love the look and the many cool features!

I recently came across this video, and I think T.D. Jakes eloquently and
accurately describes the true path to happiness in just five steps.
I think everyone should internalize this message!

I had a zipper break off of my original toiletry bag,
so I picked up this replacement, which I love.
It has pockets of all sizes, a detachable mirror,
a removeable waterproof pouch, a hook for hanging,
 and it folds up to about the size of a hardback book. 

Since we've been in the UK, we have been gobbling this stuff up.
It is absolutely delicious, and we put it on/in everything!

And, speaking of delicious, we became addicted to sticky toffee pudding
while we were in Scotland. I haven't tried making it myself,
but I'm linking to the recipe, so I can find it easily in the future.
Who knew dates could be so amazing?!
 *The final photo is mine. The others were borrowed from the Internet. I in no way receive compensation for endorsing these products. I'm simply sharing things my family and I enjoy. I'd love it if you'd share some of your favorites with us, too!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Change of Scenery

We optimistically got up early this morning, to watch the Aggies play Ole Miss, before we hit the road and headed south, toward Limerick. It was fortunate that the drive was so lovely, as it helped ease the pain we felt when that game was over.

On the way to our next destination, we made a very important stop at The Cliffs of Insanity, which everyone else seems to call The Cliffs of Moher. Jeff asserts that it was the Cliffs of Insanity scene that truly helped him understand The Princess Bride, which consequently helped me to know he was the kind of guy for me. It just seemed so surreal to stand at the Cliffs of Insanity with my Sweetie, pointing to the cliffs and saying, "See! The Cliffs of Insanity!" which thoroughly embarrassed our kids. Good times.

Our kids also love The Princess Bride, but they were maybe more excited to learn that the Cliffs of Moher was also a filming location for a scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It really is a beautiful place, and we had fun, not only taking a short hike around the tops of the cliffs, but also taking in the exhibits in the visitor center.

We finally made it to our new home for the week--a lovely old stone building, with lots of space and a working pottery studio and shop in the back. We'll be jumping back into to a regular school schedule while we're here, but we may still try to slip in an adventure or two. You just never know.

We had a lovely drive down to Limerick.
Clay insisted the mountains with heavy cloud cover were volcanos.

I love that castles pop up all over the place!

"See! The Cliffs of Insanity!"

There's no bond like a Princess Bride bond!

O'Brien's Tower is the highest point at the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher in all their glory.
(The cave toward the right of the photo is where the Harry Potter scene was filmed.
The rock jutting up from the water beyond that is where Princess Bride was filmed.) 

The other side of the Cliffs of Moher.
(Max loved that the rocks jutting up from the water looked like a mini Stonehenge.)

Fun in the visitor center

Ballymorris Cottage, our home for the week

Saturday, October 24, 2015


In all the hullaballoo of the wreck yesterday, I neglected to give a proper update about our whereabouts. We left Northern Ireland yesterday morning and passed into Ireland (a whole other country), without the least bit of fanfare. No passport control. No border patrol. No drama whatsoever, until the wreck, which occurred three miles from our destination, which happens to be in the loveliest bit of the middle of nowhere you can imagine. The owner of the place we are staying discovered a month or two ago that they had overbooked, so they offered us their larger property, which was available for the dates we requested, at no extra charge. This place is amazing! First of all, it's a huge four bedroom, two bath house, with a full-size kitchen, two eating areas, and a washer and dryer. And, second, IT LOOKS OUT ON THE ATLANTIC OCEAN! And not just a sliver of it, but practically the whole ocean. The couch is super-comfy and offers stunning panoramic views, so we immediately declared we wouldn't move from there, except to eat in the all-glass dining area off the kitchen, the whole time we are here. This has been pretty close to true, though we did take a little walk through the "neighborhood" this afternoon. I wish we were staying longer than just the two nights, but I'm so thankful for this gorgeous and restful stop!
(You can click on the collages to enlarge the images.)

We drove through Connemara National Park yesterday on our way here.
(The last picture shows the place where our wreck occurred.)

Our lovely Irish cottage

The panorama view from our eating area and living room

A lovely walk through the neighborhood
(You can just see the roof of our house in the larger photo, in the top right)

It's a blessed life!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Just a bunch of people from Texas, driving around in Ireland

When you travel, you run into all kinds of people--people from everywhere. Today, we literally ran into a man from Austin, TX. Or, rather, he ran into us. With his car. Just three miles from our destination. We are all o.k. and the car is still fully operational, but, I'm not going to lie, there was a split second before it happened when I knew it was going to happen, and I didn't think we'd be so fortunate. In fact, I closed my eyes and felt fairly confident that I would have a sedan in my lap when I opened them again. Honestly, I've been expecting something like this for months. The unreasonably narrow roads, driving on the "wrong" side of the road, and the frequent rain have all seemed like a recipe for disaster. And, today provided just the perfect mix of each. When we were in Naples (driving on the "right" side of the road, I might add), Jeff finally forbade me to gasp in the car. So, I developed the habit of clearing my throat rather forcefully, which didn't fool Jeff for a minute. He knew I was still gasping in my heart and just trying to make it seem a bit more casual. Today, I didn't gasp or clear my throat. I just closed my eyes and waited for the worst. It didn't happen, and I'm so very thankful. But, I will tell you that I was still shaking a half hour later, engaged in that annoying human habit of asking "what if...?" The truth is, "what if" doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is "what is." Life turns on a dime. There's just no time for "what if." I will hug my people a little tighter tonight and say a prayer of thanksgiving, but I will not let the "what ifs" steal my joy. Instead, I will celebrate "what is" with all my heart.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Giant's Causeway

Today's adventure took us to Giant's Causeway, and, even though a chilly, 35-mph wind almost knocked us off our feet a few times and occasionally made it difficult to hold the camera steady, we still really enjoyed the outing. Giant's Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site comprised of about 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, which are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The coastline and mountains are very rugged and absolutely beautiful! The people who first laid eyes on this place imagined it to be the work of giants, and so, a myth was born about the Irish giant Finn McCool. We got to see a video about he and his Scottish rival in the fantastic visitor's center, as well as enjoy lots of other interactive exhibits.

Checking out the inside of a basking shark

Learning about the Giant's Causeway

Taking a little boat trip

Our first look at the coastline

I loved the way the crashing waves created little waterfalls.

Posing with some of the coastal basalt columns

More of the incredible coastline

Absolutely stunning!

These basalt columns are called "Giant's Gate."

The towering basalt columns on the mountain side of the path

These columns were probably 30 feet high or more.

The hexagonal structure of the columns is so unique!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Goodbye Scotland, Hello Northern Ireland

We hopped up around 5:30 this morning to get the car packed up so we could deliver Nana to the airport for her early flight. We were sad to send her back to Texas but are so very thankful for our time with her in Scotland.

After we dropped her off, we proceeded to drive no faster than about 10 mph from Edinburgh to Glasgow because of construction and rush hour traffic, which was extremely frustrating, since we had to check in for our ferry to Belfast no later than 11:00. We eked into the terminal with just about ten minutes to spare. This was a very fancy ferry, and we had a great time on our 2 1/2 hour ride across the Irish Sea. We landed in Belfast and then spent another hour and a half driving up to Bushmills (of whiskey fame, if you're in to that sort of thing), which is where we will stay for two nights, before heading south into Ireland. (In case you don't already know, Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, while Ireland is a whole separate country.)

Goodbye Scotland

Hello Northern Ireland

Our Bushmills home

The view from my bedroom window

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Two castles and a museum...and everything in between

This morning, Mom and Max and I hopped up and headed over to Edinburgh Castle to have a little look around, while everyone else slept in and took the morning at a slower pace. We got there before most of the tour groups and crowds and were able to wander around at our leisure. We had such a great time!

We made it back to the apartment around lunch time and had a quick bite to eat, before heading out again. Mom and I explored the part of the Royal Mile that our tour didn't cover yesterday, while Jeff and the kids took off in the direction of The National Museum of Scotland, where Mom and I later met them.

We picked up KFC for dinner and then feverishly packed up all our belongings in preparation for our early departure tomorrow. Edinburgh has been a blast, and I'm so glad we got to spend some time in this lovely city!

The outside of the Edinburgh University School of Divinity...

...And, just inside the front gate.

I had so much fun exploring Edinburgh Castle with these two!

The Mons Meg is a 6 ton canon that could, at one time, launch
one of those huge cannonballs about 2 miles!

Looking down on the city from the castle, toward Calton Hill and the Forth.

A tribute to Sir Walter Scott

So much to discover at The National Museum of Scotland

Fun at the museum

Clay was very excited to find Mr. X at the museum.
(Mr. X is a character from a story Jeff made up to tell the kids.)

Holyrood Palace:
The Queen's official residence in Scotland

Seen on the Royal Mile, at a restaurant called Oink

Also seen on the Royal Mile--
I don't even know what to say about this!