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upgraded … downgraded…

the other manor

In a mere 48 hours we went from feeling like royalty, living in the lap of luxury …. to common Irish peasants, ready to harvest potatoes.

Adare Manor

This is where we thought we were staying. Isn’t it stunning?

door ways

We booked a two-room cottage next to Adare Manor. This was because two adjacent rooms in the actual Manor were out of our comfortable price range. Way out of our price range!


For some reason, I was under the impression that the cottages were near the Manor and that we would have full access to the Manor itself. Turns out they were more than a mile away. No matter, we didn’t end up in a cottage anyway.


When we checked in, the woman at the reception desk said, “We’ve upgraded you to a villa.”


How wonderful is that? We were upgraded in Dublin to the Princess Grace Suite and now we were being upgraded from a cottage to a villa!

ugly dudly

Even “Ugly Dougly” – as I’ve dubbed him – appeared to be happy for us!

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July 22, 2014   2 Comments

Victorian walled gardens and an Abby too


We visited Kylemore Abby in Connemara, County Galway.

Kylemore gardens

While the former castle turned Abby was wonderful and impressive, it was the walled Victorian gardens that really caught my fancy.

Kylemore Abby and Cathedral

Kylemore Castle was built as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London whose family was involved in textile manufacturing in Manchester, England. Construction began in 1867, and took one hundred men four years to complete.


Other buildings include a Gothic cathedral and family mausoleum.

honey bee

The castle was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909, who resided there for several years before being forced to sell the house and grounds because of gambling debts.

Irish green

In 1920 the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres, Belgium during World War I. The nuns, who had been based in Ypres for several hundred years, had been bombed out of their Abbey during World War I.

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July 21, 2014   3 Comments

Ballynahinch Castle

pretty window

We really didn’t want to leave the luxury of the Princess Grace suite at The Shelbourne, but that’s what we had to do on Wednesday morning.

ireland drive

We loaded up the rental car and began our drive across the center of Ireland, from Dublin, on the east coast, to Ballynahinch Castle on the west coast. It’s about a 4 hour drive, though we took a little longer, stopping in the center of the country, in the town of Athlone.

castle walls

There, we toured the medieval Athlone Castle along the Shannon River.


While the boys played “lawn” chess on the top level of the castle, I was more focused on what was in the background.

Ss Peter and Paul Church

I visited the beautiful Church of Saints Peter and Paul.

inside church

Beautiful, inside and out.

It began to rain, so back in the car we went.

Ballynahinch Castle

We followed the road markers to our destination, turning down dense tree lined lanes until the castle rose out of nowhere in front of us.


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July 18, 2014   4 Comments

luck of the Irish

Ireland green

This is my first view of Ireland, from a British Airlines flight, about to land in Dublin. Shades of green, as far as the I can see, just as I imagined it would be.


Once we collected our baggage and went through customs, we headed for the car rental office. This was to be our (Dave’s really, I have no intention of driving!) first experience with driving on the left side of the road. Dave reserved a car with automatic transmission and with GPS. The car we ended up with had neither.


We paid extra to get the GPS but were still stuck with the manual transmission. Dave had a manual when I met him, but that was in 1982… it’s been a while! Put it all together and you have the uneasiness of driving a manual, in a foreign country, on the wrong side of the road, with a far from modern GPS.


All in all, he did great, at least on this, our first day. I am not being a critic, actually I am giving high praise! If it was me, with my ADD, dyslexia and the fact that I can’t drive a stick – Very High Praise!

antique game table

It was only about 6 miles from the airport to our hotel, but with all that, it was still something of an adventure. You know how travel is, with the security and the tensions and anxiety that foreign travel bring about, we were happy to get to our hotel and even happier when the valet said he’d park the car for us!

lobby flowers

We’d booked a room at the historic (1824) Shelbourne, overlooking beautiful Stephen’s Green. The very hotel where the Irish Constitution was drafted on the first floor in 1937.

free drinks

We were escorted by the bellman to the registration desk and from there on out – it was all gravy!


We’d reserved a “junior suite” so that Dave and I would have the master and Connor would have the suite part of the room. We were informed that we’d been upgraded!


Is there anything better than hearing that you’ve upgraded?! It is THE BEST!

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July 17, 2014   13 Comments

London and drama

London Park

Today I’m sharing images of our last three days in London. But before you see that, you must hear all about my “passport saga” – because a trip isn’t a real trip until you have a dramatic story to tell!

guard changing

It’s a long, but rather entertaining story, with a lesson attached. That being said, I’ll intersperse the story with my London photos… just to add a little lightness and joy to it instead of all ulcer-inducing – which is what it is.

Big Ben

Our flight to Heathrow was scheduled for 7:40 PM on Friday, July 11th.  At about 1:00 PM on Wednesday, July 9th, I received this email from Dave;

“I’m sure you have already thought of this, but just making sure that all 3 of our passports are on site and you don’t need to go to the bank to retrieve them from the safe deposit box.”

Of course, I’ve already thought of that. In fact, I retrieved all three of our passports back in March when I got mine out to go to Spain. I was pretty proud of myself and was going to grab the passports from the shelf above the kitchen desk, where they had resided these last 4 months. Instead, I responded to another email from Dave about another issue and then I had to do some research and followup on that issue. Once I was done with that, about an hour later, I got up to get the passports. I looked at each one and then I saw it…

buckingham palace gates

OMG! How could this be? There is no way this is true! I can’t believe I didn’t notice this when I took out the passports four months ago! Connor’s passport was expired! EXPIRED! It expired in February of 2012! Holy Sh#t! Now what am I going to do!?!

London bus

When the four of us (Marissa included) last got our passports, either new or renewed, back in 2007, they were good for 10 years! How could Connor’s be expired!?! Mine doesn’t expire until 2017. Dave and Marissa’s expire in 2017. How can his have expired in 2012?

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July 16, 2014   4 Comments

someplace new

never been before

As you read this, I am someplace I’ve never been before.

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July 15, 2014   1 Comment

the rest of the pot luck dishes…

RWB Patio

Peggy, Sloane and Katie all brought dishes to the 4th of July BBQ. Even though I don’t have (or in some cases, need) recipes from them, I don’t want to leave them out.

pool time

Peggy brought watermelon slices. It was some of the sweetest watermelon I’ve ever enjoyed.


Plus she shucked, cleaned and boiled corn on the cob that Dave later grilled.

grilled corn

Then there were the berry-themed desserts…

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July 14, 2014   1 Comment

grill-master fail

One of the appetizers that I planned to serve at the 4th of July party was these cheese-filled grilled mini peppers.

Cheese-Stuffed Grilled Sweet Mini Peppers

Don’t they look yummy? My guests never got a taste, let alone a glimpse, of them. This photo is lifted from the web. That’s because, my grill-master husband turned the 30 little peppers, that I lovingly spent time and effort cleaning out and stuffing, into charcoal.

Photos of his burnt-to-the-crisp peppers at the bottom of the post.

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July 13, 2014   2 Comments

salad color

easter egg radishes

If you can find Easter egg radishes and colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes at your grocery store or farmer’s market, this perfect colorful summer salad!

heirloom tomatoes

If not, I’m sorry for you but it will still taste fantastic without the “fancy” vegetables.

IMG_1713 copy

Isn’t it pretty?

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July 12, 2014   No Comments

Oven Roasted BBQ Chicken Thighs

platter of thighs

These mouth-watering BBQ chicken thighs were inspired by a recipe from the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.

Basically all I did to make them my own was switch out peach preserves that she used to kick up some purchased BBQ sauce with red pepper jelly to really spice it up. The result – fantabulous!

These are what I was baking while the haboob rolled into and over Scottsdale and did a number on my 4th of July decorations the night before the party.


I neglected to let you know how all that turned out … it was fine. I spent the latter part of the night trying to track down all the blow up stars that had been hanging from the front pillars. They were blown all around our cul-de-sac. I found about 2/3 of them that , the dark, and the rest the next morning. I was able to hang up and repair all the damage from the storm. So all’s well that ends well!

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July 11, 2014   1 Comment