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because sometimes you need some awesome.

Battered Knees

My friends and family know this about me:  I am not an athletic person. I am the girl who always got chosen last in gym class for teams.  I am the girl who lacks athletic coordination. I am definitely agile-challenged. I am also in the last year of my 30’s.  See where I am going with this?

Last year, a good friend of mine challenged me to join a sand volleyball team through a work league.  “It’s for fun,” he said. “I haven’t played sand volleyball either.”  Cool! I thought, I won’t be the only person with no experience. Maybe I won’t be the only one who sucks.  Little did I know, this person had experience playing INDOOR volleyball. So here I am, roped into this sport, which I just know I will suck at.  I practiced with him and a couple others at lunch, learning how to “volleyball.” My arms looked like I had been auditioning for a spot in the local Fight Club. People were yanking me aside, asking if everything was okay and who they needed beat up. To make practices and games even more hilarious, the count-down was on to when the ball collided with my face. Every. Time.  Very tragic. But, I am painting a vivid picture for you.

Fast forward, I’m actually not too terrible now! I won’t be in any televised competitions, but people don’t point and laugh. That one step outside my comfort zone opened up a whole new world of Danna.  I actually loved it so much, I ended up being captain of the fall team.  It also led to me joining a bowling league (I am not that great at either). And now, I am captain of a kickball team, with plans to form spring and summer sand volleyball leagues.

If you think I am a rock-star athlete now, you are sadly mistaken.  Still trip over my feet, still flirting with disaster, still working on my skills, still getting punched in the face with the ball (not the bowling ball of course). This wild adventure into the extreme discomfort zone has given me battered knees, but elevated confidence. Not only that, but I have also united teammates that are also on that same expedition with me.  People who lack experience, but yearn for more in their free time than folding laundry and playing video games.

This experience has me hungry for new adventures outside my comfort zone.  With that, I’ll still get battered knees and probably some hits to the face from life.  Going outside your comfort zone may not keep you cozy, but you only have one life. Why not make the most of it and try things that push you to your biggest potential?  In the end, you will have volumes of epicness to share with your friends, family, kids, grandkids, and pets.

What have you done in the last year that has been uncomfortable, but ended in good results? Let me know!

~Danna

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Whirlwind Winery – Watonga, OK

Tasting Glass

Wine tasting is all the craze in Oklahoma at the moment. With the ever-evolving selection of wineries that keep popping up in the central plains, Oklahoma is getting on the map with delicious selections.  Stressed-out mom’s and couples in need of a day get-away are flocking to the many wineries that have opened.  I have been to a couple of tastings myself, but today I am going to focus on my favorite:  Whirlwind Winery.

Nestled in the tiny town of Watonga, Whirlwind Winery is about an hour and a half from Central OKC.  From my house, it’s about an hour drive, and I have made this trek twice. I will definitely make it more.  I originally discovered this winery from Groupon, as they offered a wine and cheese pairing special.  I thought it would be fun to grab a couple of friends and make a day of it. Such a great idea!

After zipping down a country road to arrive in Watonga, “Wine Tasting” flags welcomed us with excited flappings in the wind.  We had made a reservation, so Brad, the owner had a spot ready for us. The tasting room is warm and cozy, offering comfy seats, abundant natural light, and one-of-a-kind art selections to gaze upon whilst you sip.

On both visits, we did the Wine and Cheese Pairing.  Whirlwind Winery takes great pride in their wines, and they expertly pair them with cheeses made from local Oklahoma creameries.  We started off with a delightful Rosé paired with a local goat cheese and finished with a nice dry Red paired with some Raspberry dark chocolate. As Brad walked us through the tastings, he educated us on the selection of wine, its flavor notes, the flavor notes of the paired cheeses, and how the two complimented each other. Satisfaction was achieved with us!

Smoked Cheese and Wine Pairing. As you can see, we liked the cheese a lot. and we bought a bottle of that wine!

Once the pairing was over, we received a full list of wine offerings available and tried some wines that were not present on the tasting. The package that we got that day included souvenir glasses.  Since you can’t purchase Whirlwind Winery wines in the liquor stores, you need to stock up when you are there! We purchased 4 delicious wines and some goat cheese and got a groovy wine bag to put it all in.  Life is great, but wine makes it better.

Whirlwind Winery tasting room is open on Friday and Saturdays. They are located at 109 E Main Street. Watonga, OK  73772.  You can also find them on facebook at @WhirlwindWinery.  Reservations are recommended as seating is limited. You will be thankful you made the trip!

Have you been here? What were your favorite wines?  Drop me a line and let me know!

Happy Tastings!

~~Danna

Post Pairing selfies!

Movie Review: Sing Street (2016)

Rated PG-13, 1 Hour, 46 minutes.

Dannify Rating:  5/5 Stars, yes. perfect score.

 

Ok. Perfect score movie. I have to admit that this hasn’t happened in a while. This movie deserves it though. That is what happens when you take Ireland, 80’s music, and a great story and put them together.

I had this on my Netflix list for a while now.  One of my book club friends suggested that I watch this movie and review it. So last night, I was a little wired. I had just finished playing some Skyrim and I decided that I wasn’t ready to go to bed yet.  I had the day off today, so I started a late-night movie adventure:  Sing Street.

Conor, played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, is a 15 year-old guy who is forced to go to a rough school because his parents are struggling financially.  Since he is the new kid, he is bullied,of course. Fresh meat. One day though, he meets a beauty that lives across the street from the school, and he decides it’s time to start a band.  As the year goes on, tensions at home become greater, while Conor and his band, Sing Street, get better.  This movie is about finding yourself and following your heart.  There is no way on earth that you can watch this movie and not feel happy and hopeful at the end. Sing Street takes place in Dublin, Ireland, set in the mid 80’s when some of the best music was big in Europe and music videos were the big thing!

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is super cute and definitely someone to watch as he is going to be big.  Jack Raynor, who plays Conor’s older brother / musical guru, reminds me of an Irish Seth Rogan. He is a great actor and I am sure we are going to see him blow up the big screen as well. And lets not forget Lucy Boynton! Her character, Raphina, was the beauty who inspired the band and the songs. Her resume is a bit more extensive, but she reminds me of Sienna Miller.

IMDB showed that this move made only a little over 3 million total. It was nominated for a Golden Globe.  It didn’t get much hype, and I feel like the world was robbed. So I am here to spread the word. I loved this movie so much re-watched it this morning when I woke up. And I may have added the soundtrack to my Spotify library.

Have you seen this movie? What did you think? If you haven’t watched it yet, get it on Netflix!!

Happy Watching!

Danna

Iron Thistle Scottish Festival (April 2017)

For 10 years, The United Scottish Clans of Oklahoma have put on the biggest Scottish party in Central Oklahoma. Nestled at the Kirkpatrick Family Farm in Yukon, the Iron Thistle Scottish Festival is a family-friendly festival in which you can go be Scottish for the weekend or celebrate your Scottish heritage.

I only found out about this fun and festive event a couple of years ago by accident–one of my friend’s liked a picture on facebook of the festival.   Unfortunately, every year since then, I have found out about the festival last-minute, and been unable to go. This year, however, I started investigating early, marked it on my calendar , planned everything around this festival. Through doing some genealogy and questioning of our family historian (my father), I discovered that we are descendants of Clan MacKenzie on my father’s side. How? I still haven’t connected all the dots yet as I am still doing my own research…but he has the clan crest tattooed on his arm!  My husband also has Scottish ancestry from his mother’s side. His maternal great-grandfather’s from the Dick family lineage, which origins are from Scotland. So, long story short, both of us were so excited to see what this festival was about!

Friday night was the Fire Ceremony. I am still learning so much about all the Scottish traditions. Traditionally, when the Clans would attend the Gatherings, they would have a massive fire and all the Clans would announce themselves present and add a light to the fire. After all the Clans had announced themselves present, there would be a ceilidh (party) with music, dancing, brews, and food.  This tradition was carried out Friday night at the Fire Ceremony. Even though none of my Clan was there, it was so inspiring seeing the Clans that were present. Some were represented by numbers and some were only one, but all were proud. Peppered in the crowds of spectators were kilts worn by man and women. Beautiful family plaid was proudly worn. I only had my “Keep Calm and Dinna Fash Sassanach” T-shirt. For those of you who are clueless as to what that refers to, go read the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon.

 

Calling of the Clans
Fire Ceremony

Because there wasn’t a huge representation of Clans at the ceremony, it didn’t last but maybe 10 minutes. Bagpipes were played, battle cries were called, and a fire was lit!  From there, we all sauntered over to the big Edinburgh tent, where Flowers of Edinburgh played some traditional jams and people danced. Beer flowed, babies giggled, meat pies were consumed, and kilts were swaying in the wind.

Later that night and through the most of Saturday, it poured and flooded. My brother, Jeremy was spending the weekend with me and my husband, and we were bound and determined to get out and enjoy the festival at some point. In Scotland, it rains. Nothing stops a Scottish party. If they are cold, they just add more brew and throw a few more logs on the fire. So, I knew there would still be a party going on.

We arrived around 3:45 pm. Strolling through the Kirkpatrick Family Farm, I did feel as though I was transported somewhere else. Cool mist kissed my face and my fingers dipped deeper into my coat pockets to warm. Bright green of spring clashed with the wintery chill of the sky and in the distance you could hear the shouts and cheers from the highland game athletes. Once in the main clearing, we noticed a major lacking of festival goers.  I was saddened by this, as this festival only comes once a year.  I wore my trusty rain boots, while my husband and brother sported their tennis shoes. Needless to say, their feet got soaked. We watched a few minutes of the Heavy Athletic Competition before the cold wind whipped us hard in the face. From there, the festive sounds of the Flowers of Edinburgh promised us shelter from the cold and tasty brew to warm our insides.

Flowers of Edinburgh

As you can see from the picture, there weren’t many people in the crowd, but the band played on just as if the house was packed. Such spirit and pride. Unfortunately, we got settled, just as their set was ending. We did get to enjoy some of their spirited songs the night before though.

 

Belhaven beer

During the short intermission, My husband and I sipped on some Belhaven, because you don’t drink Bud light at a Scottish fest. It was delicious despite the cold wind.  Once the next band set up, we were greeted by the Ravens Three.  Their music took me back to when Eric and I went to Ireland. Traditional music always tells a story–some happy, some sad, but all enchanting. Despite the thin crowd, icy breezes, and lack of beer in their hands, they were quite festive and put their full effort into their performance. We enjoyed it very much.

By the time the set ended, we were numb from the damp chill, our beer was empty, and I needed to use the facilities. So we made our way home.   Today would have been a better day to go, however Sundays are always our crazy days packed full of getting ready for the work week.

2017 Schedule of Events

Listed above was the event schedule for the Festival. As you can see there was more than just music and games. There was dancing, story telling,  archery, sheepdog demonstrations, and Gaelic lessons.  Hungry? Tantalizing aromas from the many food vendors would make a full person salivate for more.  There were also blacksmiths and shopping areas filled with great treasures to take home.  I know in the past this has been an epic event as I have seen videos and pictures. I can’t wait until next year when hopefully the weather will be nice.

I am by no means a professional photographer. My job is simply to get you excited about these events and make you want to take part in them.  Please visit the Iron Thistle Scottish Festival facebook page where you can see videos and pictures from this year’s event.

Did you go? Have you been in the past? What did you think? I can’t wait to hear!

My Top 5 “Go-To” Movies

Good day people! I felt I needed to write something as I haven’t written in a while. So to tide you over until my next big post, I figured I would get the ball rolling with a Top 5 list.  First off, I love movies. LOVE them. Movie marathons are some of my favorite things to enjoy on weekends. Especially when its super hot or epic cold outside.  Now, I rate movies that move me on here, but today, I just want to share my All-Time Go-To’s. There are so many that have impacted me, but these 5 are the ones that I go to on a regular basis if I need cheering up or motivation.  These are in no particular order as I love them all and the degree of love varies on the mood I am in.  So let’s get started.

  1.  The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

 

Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Meryl Streep…Need I say more? Oh, ok, I will.  An ambitious and somewhat naive college graduate gets hired by a very demanding boss at a fashion magazine.  In no way does she fit in personality-wise or fashion-wise. Definitely the odd man out.  This is a story about survival, rising to the challenge, finding yourself, and blowing everyone’s mind with awesomeness.  This movie is packed full of sarcasm, excellent one-liners, great fashion, and epic acting.  I would watch this movie everyday, but there are so many other new one’s to discover!

2. Amélie (2001)

 

I love foreign films.  This one is in French. Yes, it has subtitles, but you don’t notice them after a bit.  Audrey Tautou plays Amelie, who is a quiet, loner-type girl, that enjoys the simple things in life. She discovers a hidden treasure in her apartment that inspires her to start doing good things for other people, hoping to bring them some happiness. Along this path, touches many lives, while finding her own happiness as well.  When you watch it, you will see where Travelocity got it’s inspiration for the traveling gnome in its ads.  After watching this movie, I have no doubt that you will be inspired and filled with happiness as well.

3.  Shakespeare In Love (1998)

I know, I know. What’s with the sap, Danna? Let me tell you what. This movie. Not a huge Shakespeare fan, but I love this movie. In school, you learn that Shakespeare was married to a woman who lived in another town, yet he was also a homosexual. This movie puts a fun little twist. You learn that yes, he is married, but people may have pegged him as homosexual as his love was a woman who dressed as a boy so she could act in his play. It was against the law in that time for actors to be women, so this of course is a huge taboo when it comes out. The cast is amazing.  Hello, we have Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes, and Gwyneth Paltrow plays the lovely Viola. I get teary eyed thinking about how beautifully it all ends.

4.  Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Based upon Jane Austen’s classic novel, this movie is filled with epic vistas, snobbery, elitist attitudes, and the lost art of Chivalry. Many of men now days are either too lazy, don’t care, or are with women who don’t value it. I am not saying EVERY MAN, so if you are one of the few who still value it, I hope you are being cherished by a woman who appreciates it. Pride and Prejudice allows me to dive into a classic film with the wonderful Mr. Darcy and for 2 hours and 5 minutes I can pretend that I am the one that bewitched him. This film has a spectacular cast and leaves me happy, but sad that it’s over. So, I have to watch it over and over again.

5.  The Full Monte (1997)

If you haven’t seen this movie,  you need to stop what you are doing, and watch it now. Right Now. I have to admit that when it first came out, it didn’t sound all that enticing. But one hot summer day, this flick popped across my HBO, and I happened to be taking a study break from some college class. And my life has never been the same.  This is a story about 5 laid-off factory workers, who are desperate to find jobs, but the market is terrible.  One night they happen upon a club and see that there are hundreds of women lined up and throwing money at some dancers on stage.  They get the bright idea that if they could do it for 1 night only, they could make enough money that they could breathe easy for a bit. The problem is that they are a far cry from what a “typical” male stripper would look like. This movie is packed full of great lines, hilarious British humor, a couple of tears, and some familiar faces! This is a movie I watch when I need a bit of cheering up.

 

I know that most of these films are pretty “old” but they are my classics. I have many more favorite movies, but that’s for a different time, and different genres.  If you have seen any of these, let me know! Which ones do you love?

Stay Tuned for more….

Top 3 Go-To Movies for Healthifying your life

Okay, so it’s the first of the year. What does that usually mean? We SAY we will eat better. Some of us do. Some of us realize to eat healthy, that we actually have to make some sacrifices and lifestyle changes.  “Oh no! Danna, are you telling me that I have to give up my ice cream and eat rabbit food?!!” No, not necessarily.  I am saying that you will need to practice discipline and make your indulgences in moderation.  You will need to make a grocery list and plan ahead.  Some of us are great with that, and the rest of us say “Screw that!” after we have to actually plan our meals and do meal prep.

Eating healthy is not rocket science, but a lot of us are just not educated with the proper information.  I thought I knew a lot until my husband and I sat down and watched some life-changing documentaries.  I know what you are thinking: “Documentaries are boring! When I get TV time to myself, I want to watch cool stuff like football and hot people running around on the beach.” I can attest that I also used to be in that frame of mind.  But lets go back to our goal: To eat better! This requires some sacrifices. So grab a pint of Halo Top Cookie Dough Ice cream and pull up Netflix and focus on these 3 movies!

1. Food Matters (2008)

This is the documentary that changed it all for me. Not only was it gripping from the beginning, but it was as if the wool had been pulled off of my eyes. It all made so much sense.  I am not saying that all of life’s questions will be answered in this movie, but it will make you think twice before you pop a pill or forget to take your vitamins.  This movie forced me to analyze what I was consuming and make some serious changes in my eating habits.  It also gave me a thirst for more knowlege…so we watched the next movie!

2.  Food, Inc. (2008)

If you think Food Matters was informative, this movie is a mind-blowing fact explosion.  It digs deep into the items going into our shopping carts and how they affect our bodies, economy, and our local farmers.  Watching this inspired me to grow my own produce and really pay attention to my food labels. I now shop the perimeter of the grocery store and limit my processed foods as much as possible. Sometimes though, you just gotta get that canned cream of mushroom soup for the Thanksgiving green bean casserole!

3. Fed Up (2014)

Just when you thought you may know everything about that soda you are sipping on, Fed Up prove you wrong! This documentary highlights the sugar industry and how it is leading to the diabetes epidemic in the USA. I had no idea that there was sugar and high fructose corn syrup in so many foods and beverages that we eat and drink everyday.  So what is our umbrella solution as consumers? We will say, “Oh, I am just drinking diet soda.” or “I will get the low-fat kind.” This movie illustrates how the low-fat option is made to taste better with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  It breaks down our daily limit on our added sugar intake and educates us healthier alternatives to our calorie consumption.  Other than hard-core facts, you also see what is going on in our school’s cafeterias, how the food our kids eat affect their behaviors, and how small changes can make a huge impact.

Political points are peppered throughout the films, but there are some massive nutritional info in here that will help you when planning your meals, going grocery shopping, and making smarter decisions about what you put in your body. I need to re-watch these as well.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Farmegeddon (2011)
  2. GMO OMG (2013)
  3. Super Size Me (2004)

There are many good movies available for food and nutrition, but these are my picks.  I hope that you watch them, keep an open mind, and make some changes that your body will thank you for in the long run.  If you have seen these, let me know which ones were your favorite!!  Also, if you have a recommendation for me to watch, please share it!

Happy New Year and good luck with all your nutritional goals!

 

Choctaw Oktoberfest, 2016

Oktoberfest. When I hear that word, 3 things pop into mind:  German, Beer, and Food.

My husband has some German family. I may have some as well…I would know if I made a point to dig deep into my genes. But no matter what, it screams fun. This was my first festival in the “Great State of Oklahoma.” I didn’t really know what to expect, but if there were beer and food, how bad could it be?  I snagged some discounted tickets on Groupon, made the arrangements, and we were off!

The drive was less than poetic. We live NW of OKC, so it actually took about an hour to get to the festival. Off the highway,  numerous signs beg for attention, directing you to the place of beer heaven. Scattered clouds, warm breezes, and the chirping of happy birds greeted us as we parked. Aromas of freshly-popped kettle corn and slow-roasted pulled pork enticed us as we drew near the entrance.  As I got my phone out and ready to show my Groupon, some snarky guy thought he would pop a joke about me being strong enough to carry my special-needs brother out of the festival after all the beer he was going to drink. In his defense, he was probably just trying to be cute.  I didn’t feel the need to make him feel like crap, so I smiled and kept walking.

You pay some nice people at the front. Normal price of the tickets were $5. I got the 4 for $12 tickets off Groupon, so chalk that up to a win for me. We had an extra ticket, so I paid for a strangers way in. My nice contribution for the day was met!

Upon entering, you have to buy tickets for food and drinks. You also can buy tickets for an armband for your kids if they want to go play in the kid zone.  I am assuming this is so the money goes directly to the festival and that the prices are regulated. Also maybe it cuts down on theft? They will card you for a special “Hey, I’m legal to drink” wrist band. And if you are DD, then you get a special “Hey! I’m driving!” wrist band. I guess you get a free beverage for wearing that. No one in our party was considered a Designate Driver, as we all wanted to sample some of the tasty brews.

The Beer Steins
The Beer Steins

There was a huge tent that had German crafts you could buy. My husband and I bought 2 hand-made-in-Germany beer steins. Mine was an Irish-themed stein, and my husband’s was a German-theme stein. Both came with certificates of authenticity. Both were 50% off. We were hoping to find a cat and dog-sized little German hat for our baby beasts at home, but they didn’t have any. Epic fail.  Neville and Roxy, of course, could care less. But it would have been a great Instagram moment.

As the wind shifted, so did the yummy, meaty smells of big-thick brats, turkey legs, and schnitzels. They were calling my name and my stomach was answering. We meandered over to the food tent, which also conveniently contained German dancing, music, and most importantly, BEER. Could something really be this delicious and convenient at the same time? Oh yes. My friend. Yes.

img_20160903_1507581
Schnitzel Sandwich with German Potato Salad

Both my husband and I got the Schnitzel sandwich. I got some German potato salad and he got some sauerkraut. My brother feasted on a big turkey leg and some potato cakes with apple sauce. For desert, we shared some apple strudel. I must say that the food was fulfilling. But the beer stole the show.

 

img_20160903_1506451
Me and my husband enjoying some tasty Ayainger Oktoberfest brews.

We started off with some Ayainger Oktoberfest. This was the beer I could have drank all day. no. problem. It had all the expectations of an amber beer, but Oktoberfestified.  I love beer. Not to get drunk, but to savor. It soothes my ancient muscles and crackling bones and makes me very happy.  I can’t imagine why anyone would stoop to drink 3.2 Budweiser at Oktoberfest. That is a tragic subject I don’t have time to address in this blog.

Our second beer was the Ayainger Celebrator.  It was like Guinness, but there was no head. And it was German, of course. Hints of chocolate and coffee danced around the melody of this beautiful beer song. It was a bit strong, but this was not meant to be chugged. It demanded your attention.

Ayainger Celebrator
Ayainger Celebrator

All the while, as I savored every happy sip of my tasty brew, traditional German dances were being performed. They have different bands and they want the audience to get involved in the dancing and festivities too.  You don’t have to be Fred Astaire to dance a German jig for the crowd. They teach it and preach it.

Moral of the story folks, you need to go to Oktoberfest. Eat, drink, and be merry. I did. The party lasts through September 10th!! You can visit their facebook page here.

Have you gone to the Choctaw Oktoberfest? If so, I want to hear what your favorite part was!!

 

 

Compare and Reset

Here it is, already January again.  For those of us who set New Year goals, it’s the time when we compare what we said we were going to do with what actually happened.  “I didn’t lose 100 lbs, I didn’t retire early, I didn’t do this or that like I said I would. Epic Fail.” WARNING: some of what I say next may be harsh, but my job isn’t to coddle you and blow smoke. I am sure you have enough people in your life that are uncomfortable with getting real with you as it might hurt your feelings.

First and foremost, we get things done that are a priority to us.  If we are passionate about something, we find a way to make it happen. “But Danna, you don’t understand.” Yes, I do. I understand that life happens. I understand that illness, finances, family situations, etc. sometimes cause road blocks.  I have been there. I am still there. So is every other person in this world. As Walt Longmire says, “We all have problems.” When you see other people’s success, it’s because they took the steps necessary to achieve it.  They didn’t just wake up after a day of binge-watching Netflix and were magically set.

Stop making resolutions. You need to make goals. Goals need to be measurable, have a time frame, a plan of action, and be attainable.  For instance: If your goal is to lose 100 lbs and you don’t eat right, exercise, or take care of yourself, chances are that number may be a little too daunting to start out with.  Instead, change your thought process and say “I want to become a healthier person.  I would like to lose 20 lbs in 4 months.”  That bite is a little easier to chew, especially if you haven’t done anything in a long time. You can’t be stagnant for a long period of time and expect to just hit the ground running at jet speed.  Baby steps on that one. Diet and exercise is a whole other blog….

Stop making excuses.  We all have them. It also seems that we all have enablers that help us justify the excuses. Excuses are probably your biggest reason for not getting what you set out to do. At the end of the day, you are right where you started. And each excuse gets easier to make once you have made just 1.  They are lies you tell yourself. Benjamin Franklin said “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Don’t be one of these people. If you are, own up to it and make some life changes.

Start being honest with yourself. If you intended on building up your retirement fund substantially and you didn’t, take a hard look at why.  Did you have a budget? Did you stick to it? Did you do some irresponsible spending? How many times a week did you eat out?  You can throw a pity party and feel sorry for yourself for not attaining this resolution, but get honest with yourself and take responsibility. Stop blaming others, your situation, your speed bumps, the fact that you had a cold for 3 days, or that your in-laws were in town.  You are 100% responsible for your own successes or failures.

There is an awesome book that I am going to recommend everyone, including myself, to read called The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield, who is also the author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  In this book he details a simple life equation:

Event (E) + Response (R) = Outcome (O)

He states that if you don’t like the outcomes you are getting, you have 2 choices you can make:

“1. You can blame the Event (E) for your lack of Results (O), or 2. you can instead simply change your responses (R) to the events (E) — The way things are–until you get the outcomes (O) you want.”   

I know that some of this sounds preachy, harsh, and cold.  Some people don’t like accepting responsibility and like excuses instead. But for me, it’s what I needed to make some positive changes in my own life. I used to blame anything for my lack of successes, and then one day I woke up and took a good look in the mirror and at my life. No one could make the changes except me. Not my mom, brother, friends, or boss. I am guilty of excuses just like anyone else. I am a terrible procrastinator. Because I know this about myself and accept it, I have put some things into practice.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, let me give you a quick run-down of my life.  I work a full time job doing four 10-hour shifts a week. I also have a side party business in which I work 1-2 parties a week, depending on my availability. We live outside of town, so my daily commute is 1.25 hours per day so long as there are no accidents.  I have a husband and 2 fur kids who also need my time and attention.  I work out, cook, and try to work in some relaxation.

Last year I had 6 things that I wanted to accomplish in my personal life.

  1. Zero Balance Credit Cards
  2. Good Reliable Friends
  3. Bi-lingual
  4. Zero Balance Car Loan
  5. $100,000 Salary
  6. Organized House

In 2015 I paid off 2 credit cards with over $1,000 balances on each.  Yes, I still have some credit cards that have high balances, but I did accomplish my first goal! I just still have  more work to do. Just because I didn’t wipe them all off the slate doesn’t mean that I failed. I means that I worked towards a goal and succeeded!

I know that number 2 sounds silly, but it seems that as we get older, more and more friends stray away.  Especially as more of my friends have kids and families.  I don’t have kids, yet.  It seems that people that used to be present are now somewhat distant. I realize that is a part of growing up. It’s lonely sometimes though. And yes, I love my husband and he is my best friend, but I wanted to add some positive girlfriends in my life that I could depend on.  And I did!  Friendship and nurturing relationships is a whole other blog too, so I won’t say much more on that. Stay tuned though…

Out of that list of 6, I only accomplished 2.  Why? Because I didn’t take the steps necessary to achieve the others. I am owning up to it.  I celebrate what I did achieve though! I didn’t do as well as some, but better than a lot of others!

So, in closing, now it’s time for all of us to RESET our goals.  That list I had last year was on a post-it note taped to my computer monitor at work.  I looked at it every day.  I will probably keep the same list as last year, but this time I am going to do things different.  I have an awesome new life-planner, to-do lists, and an action plan that I am going to set into place.  I have a very busy life, so every moment counts.  With time-management, budgeting, mantras, and new thought process, I know that I can do much more.

The point of this blog was not to insult you, but rather to help you get real with yourself. Take responsibility, make some life changes, hold yourself accountable, make a plan, and stop making excuses. Set goals and celebrate every victory, no matter how big or small.  I would love to hear from you if this has helped. There are so many tangents I could have twirled out on, but will save those for different full blog posts!

Happy New Year!

As I sit here, looking out at the snow, drinking my hot cocoa, and snuggled in my office, I can’t help but wish I was somewhere else…Ireland! Who am I kidding? I always wish I was in Ireland!…Or the beach. But mostly Ireland.

On September 27th of last year, me and my husband (my boyfriend at the time) made our first journey across the big pond to a country in which both of us have ancestors, Ireland.  We went on an escorted tour with Brendan Vacations that was set up and organized completely by our awesome travel agent at Big Sky Travel here in OKC.  After much deliberation, Eric and I decided that an escorted tour would be the most beneficial for our first time to Ireland, as all we had to do was show up!  Most of the meals, all of the transportation, hotels, sight seeing, etc was covered for one price. Otherwise, I would have had to be the one driving us around everywhere and I wouldn’t get to enjoy the scenery of the land, and I would be stressed out.

We met up with Eric’s aunt Barb, who lives in Portland, OR, in Atlanta, which was our layover airport.  The trip there couldn’t have gone more smooth.   TIP #1.  SLEEP ON THE PLANE!  We were all so excited, the 3 of us only got a bit of a nap on the plane.  When I opened my eyes and looked out the window, I saw the most incredible view.   Green hills, rocks, patchwork grounds.  Inching lower and lower, the plane was being consumed by the cloudy atmosphere.  To some, cloudy equals gloom, but for me, I found it quite comforting.  This is how had imagined it, except it was even more breath-taking.  Seeing the little Irish sheep and Irish cows trotting and frolicking in the farm lands made me smile. Then suddenly, farmland turned to modern buildings betwixt ancient stone antiquities.  Moments like this can’t be captured on camera…they  have to be experienced and replayed in your mind.


Day 1 in Ireland:

Once we got off the plane, we had to go through customs at Dublin Airport, which consisted of us standing in a long line for about 45 minutes.  We were the first flight in, so I know it could have been a lot worse.  After we got out of customs, we found our way to the meeting point where other Brendan Vacation goers were congregated and hopped on their awesome, cozy motor coach.  That’s what they are called there–motor coaches. Not tour buses.  Our driver, Leslie, a man, transported us to our first hotel, the Clyde Court Hotel Dublin, which was nestled in a quaint neighborhood, walking distance to some of the best pubs in Dublin.

We got to the hotel at about 11 am Dublin time, which meant it was 5 am OK time, and we had barely had any sleep…remember this is the NEXT day. You lose a full day with travel.  We were hoping to get checked into our hotel rooms so that we could take a quick nap, as we had to be ready for our first outing with the group at 2 pm.  Eric’s aunt Barb’s room was ready, however there were still a handful of us that had to wait on the rooms to be cleaned.  Eric was beyond exhausted.  He was falling asleep on the couch in the lobby.  We finally got our room at 12:45 pm.  We hustled up to the room, ripped off our travel clothes, and passed OUT! No, seriously, We did.  When my alarm went off, we barely had enough time to pop some clean clothes on, brush our teeth, and whisk off downstairs to the motor coach.

Some of you may be saying, “Heck! I would have just kept sleeping!” Well, it did cross our minds, but we needed to get on Ireland time. AND our first outing was to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College! How can you pass that up? We got our second wind and enjoyed every second.  Dublin is truly a magical place.  It is the perfect combo of antiquity and modern.  Ancient buildings built of stone are meddled in with new contemporary designs.  There is a young and hip vibe that marries with tradition. Just like any large city, you will get the occasional whiff of urine on the sidewalk.

St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral was absolutely beautiful.  This is not a Catholic church though, it is a Protestant church.  It’s Episcopalian and to the Catholic’s they are cousins as so as our Travel Director said.  I wish we had more time to explore this beautiful church which had so much to look at and learn about, but we got there late on a Sunday.  This is still a working cathedral, so Sunday evening service was to begin in an hour, and they didn’t allow tours during that time.  So the experience was a bit rushed.  None the less, it was still beautiful.  As an architecture lover, I wanted to sit down with my sketch book and capture all the the groin vaults with my pen, but time ran out.  Then we were on to Trinity College–home of the Book of Kells!

Sphere within Sphere, or The Big Gold Ball.
Sphere within Sphere, or The Big Gold Ball.

Trinity College is famous for the Book of Kells, which are thought to have been written by monks and contain the 4 gospels.  These are no ordinary gospel pages as they are written with special ink and have very ornate drawings and illustrations.  Trinity College is also FREE to attend! Hmm, maybe I went to the wrong university. Hind sight, right?  Trinity College has wonderful grounds to explore.  We saw some cute Irish birds pecking around, and then I found that big gold ball, also called the Sphere Within Sphere, which was donated to the University by Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1982.  By this time, Eric, Barb, and myself were starting to feel the pain of Jet lag, so we decided to kill our remaining time, by walking around the square across from the college.  There were musicians playing in the alleys, sweet shoppes tempting us with their treats, clothing stores, antique stores, and of course, pubs!  After a bit of a walk, we ended up nestled on our seats in the motor coach, anxiously awaiting the departure to the hotel.

Upon the the arrival back at the hotel, we had a few minutes to freshen up, and meet back downstairs for our Welcome Dinner, which was included in our fee, and some free beer! You know we stayed awake for that.  Ladies and Gentleman, If you get nothing else from this blog, please know that Ireland is the best place for food, sights, and beer.  Nothing can bring a tear to my eye like an ice cold beer after a long hard day.  My first Guinness in Ireland was amazing. It takes a few moments to be properly disbursed into your glass. Don’t want too much foam at the top.  Dinner was amazing. Everyone who was on our tour with us were to sit in one area, and we all got to chat and learn about where everyone was from.  Most of us had family or ancestors that were from Ireland and were looking to see some of the places that we had heard about.  There was a good mix of ages on this trip, including a family of 9 with young children.  So a lot of the younger people went pubbing that first night.  NOT us. We excused ourselves around 8 pm, and we went to sleep! Oh, what a great night of sleep it was. We woke up feeling refreshed and ready for another journey…of course we got a nice breakfast in our bellies first.


Day 2 in Ireland:

St. Kevin's Kitchen
St. Kevin’s Kitchen

Our tour guide got us out of the hotel and onto the road just in time to beat morning rush-hour traffic in Dublin.  It’s a good thing too, as we got to our first visitation sight in Glendalough (pronounced Glen-da-lock).  This is one of the most popular destinations in Ireland. It’s no wonder why either.  This is an ancient monastery that is the burial grounds for St. Kevin.  I could have spent an entire day here sketching the hills, the gravestones, the trees, everything. It was absolutely beautiful. We got there as the morning light danced upon the crest of the hills, casting soft shadows on the the trees and land.  All was hushed and serene. Crisp chirps from freshly-woken birds harmonized with the whispering water that was close by.  In this  moment, no cars, crying babies, or email notifications from cell phones could be heard.  Only the sigh of tranquility that nature brings.  I did not miss facebook, the internet, my phone, or work at this moment. I was completely content, except once again longing for my pen and sketch book, which I foolishly forgot at home.  We were the first tour there, so we got to explore the grounds for about 30 minutes before the other tours started showing up.

Grave Stones
Grave Stones
Round Tower
Round Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our time at Glendalough, we headed to Waterford, home of the Waterford Crystal Factory and shop.  Prior to our tour of Waterford Crystal, we all had a bite to eat at a local mom-and-pop eatery/gift shop. We had the seafood chowder and fresh-made Irish Bread. Fun Fact:  Ireland uses NO preservatives in their food. Everything is fresh and you can taste it.  I didn’t feel so bad about being a glutton over there as the food was so fresh and good. Man, I am  hungry now…and I want a Guinness.

We took a guided tour of Waterford Crystal.  The tour began with a little video that was a bit strange. We walked into this dark room that had TVs. They were playing some techno song I had never heard of, with fireworks going off on the screen, then images of people talking that we didn’t get to hear what they were saying.  This went on for what seemed like an eternity.  Eric, my husband, whispered to me “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I got out there and started dancing right now?”  This made me laugh pretty loud and I am sure people thought I was being disrespectful, but the thought of him getting out there and getting his groove on in the middle of a room with people we didn’t know made me chuckle.  It made Barb chuckle too. But he didn’t do it. We were on our best behavior. Yes, it was kind of cool to see how they made this awesome and expensive crystal, but this is not something either of us would have paid money to see.  I would have rather spent more time at one of the other places, or gone sight-seeing around the town of Waterford.

Mmm, Smithwick's
Mmm, Smithwick’s

After Waterford, we began the long drive to Cork County, where Eric’s Hogan side of the family is from.  We stayed in the Rochestown Park Hotel which was supposed to be walking distance to an awesome bar our Travel Guide kept talking about.  After a delightful dinner, the 3 of us decided that we wanted to walk to this awesome bar she was talking about, and have our first beer in an Irish Pub.  Well, we followed the directions from the lady at the front desk and found the first pub, which apparently was in the city limits of Douglas, and we didn’t get the warm Irish welcome we were hoping for. Tip # 2: Don’t go to an Irish pub on a Monday night in a small town.  The pub was dead. This was O’Driscolls and there were like 5 people in there. You know on movies when the character walks into a bar or restaurant and people stop and turn and stare??? Yeah, that happened here. Oh! look! American Tourists, on a Monday night…in Ireland. Can’t imagine what they would be doing here at 10:30 at night. Hmm, maybe hoping to live it up like the Irish? I guess in this town, people actually go to bed at a normal hour.  Our bartender came over and asked us what we wanted, gave it to us, then asked for our money.  We kinda wanted to start a tab, but whatever. So we sat there, drank our beer, and noticed as he started turning the barstools upside down onto the tables…even internationally that means that they are closing. So we sucked down our Smithwicks and Guinness, tipped the lad, and was on our merry way back to the hotel, where we lived it up in the dead hotel bar.  The bartender at the hotel was at least pretty cool and kept the beers coming.


Day 3 in Ireland:

Lots of fun and driving this day.  We left from our cozy hotel in Cork and ventured out into the pouring rain to see the Heritage Center in Cobh (pronounced Cove).  This place was really awesome.  It has info, videos, vignettes and more about the Titanic and the Lusitania ships.  You see what conditions were like for the people who migrated to the US from Ireland.  They have old videos, memorabilia, etc on a self-guided tour.  You really appreciate what people went through to come to America. There is also a great little gift shop and cafe that you can sit and have a coffee and pastry.  Eric was able to get a family history scroll of the Hogan’s here complete with the family crest.  You see these types of souvenirs all over Ireland, since we are all trying to find our Irish roots. Might as well make some money off of it!

By the time we left the Heritage Center, the rain was just tapering off to a nice drizzle.  Tip #3:  Dress for 4 seasons when travelling to Ireland.   Once on our motor coach, we were off to Blarney to visit the famed Blarney Castle!!  Arriving in Blarney, the sun had shied out from behind the clouds, and was shining on the rain-glistened trees and flowers, illuminating all that was once cloudy and grey.  There was still a nice crisp in the air, but the birds had come out from hiding and were chattering among themselves.  I can only imagine what they were saying.  “Oh, look at that weirdo.  What’s up with Americans and Ranch Dressing?”

Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle

 

The village of Blarney was already bustling with anxious tourist longing to capture epic photographs of the gardens, or make the long hour and a half climb up the tower to kiss the famed Blarney Stone.  Tip #4:  Don’t kiss the Blarney stone.  Apparently the locals told us that drunkards will sneak into the castle at night and wiz  on the stone. When you see the stone, it’s all discolored from people touching it and kissing it. I mean, the chaps that hold you whilst you lean back and kiss it do spray sanitizer on it first. But really, you are still kissing a stone that millions have kissed or pissed on. I opted out of that, but Barb and Eric didn’t. I captured it all on camera. It was pretty cool being in an ancient castle. This was another place that I would have just liked to have sketched for a day.

After the castle, we stopped into a gift shop and I bought a wool hat that was made in Ireland, and some finger-less arm/hand warmers.  Those were the 2 things I really wanted to get while there.  We wondered on to a highly recommended cafe to have lunch called the Lemon Tree, located in the Blarney Castle Hotel.  After lunch, we popped in to the Blarney Chocolate Factory and bought some sinful liquor-filled chocolate truffles.  Fun Fact: You can order them online! Our bellies full and our feet longing for rest, we scurried back to the motor coach, settled in our seats, and headed for the wonderful town of Killarney, AKA the Vegas of Ireland.

Before getting to our hotel, our tour guide arranged for us all to stop into this great shop that was known for its phenomenal Irish coffee, fantastic pricing on jewelry, and superior customer service.  It hit all those marks. We had hot Irish Coffees waiting on our arrival, which was much needed.  I wanted to buy a piece of Irish jewelry as well and the woman who helped me was great. I told her what price range I was looking at, and she found me a selection of Irish necklaces that were beautiful and meaningful.  Barb got her a nice blingy Claddagh ring that sparkled so much they probably could see it from space!   Tip #5:  Always ask for the tax free price.  You pay VAT taxes in Ireland on purchase over 25 Euros and you get them back at the end of your stay.  Most shops will fill out the tax form for you.  You just keep your receipts until the end of the trip, and put them in an envelope at the airport.  Your account will be credited after it has been processed.

Now, on our tour, we were able to book some extra side excursions that were not included in the price of our trip. It works exactly like a cruise. We chose to do everything they offered. Both of the extras were going to happen tonight! As you can tell, our day had been fun-filled and busy, but that was not keeping us down! We arrived at the Killarney Avenue Hotel in just enough time to freshen up and meet downstairs for our first excursion.

Ross Castle, Killarney National Park
Ross Castle, Killarney National Park

Our first extra was a horse-drawn carriage ride into a park with a guide that took you places you wouldn’t see otherwise.  It was so romantic.  Eric and I got in our carriage and took it all in.  For most of the day, we were able to keep our jackets off, but now, the weather was getting cool as the sun was beginning to say it’s evening good-byes.  The sun was beginning to sneak behind the peaks of the tall hills in the distance, casting the most elegant shadows among the field.  Our guide took us to Ross Castle on the edge of Killarney National Park.  It was amazing.  We got out, walked around, took some great pictures, and

Dock at Ross Castle
Dock at Ross Castle

huddled back in after about 20 minutes of exploration, and took a nice winding path back to the hotel.  It was the perfect, relaxing end of a day…or so we thought!  Tip #6:  It is polite to tip your guide a few Euros after something like this to show appreciation.  Many Irish make their money on the Tourist season, and this will pay for their wages for the year.  So if they show you a nice time, thank them. Thank their families too. Taxes are high there. There is a price to pay to live in fairytale land.

Back from our carriage ride, we had about an hour to kill before we went on our other extra excursion.  We were going to an Irish pub for a 3 course meal, brews, and a local band was to play.  Some dancers were going to come and clog along to the music as well.  Little did we know when we woke up that morning, that this was going to be the highlight NIGHT of the trip.

The pub was amazing. I had the Fish and Chips and a piece of heavenly cheesecake for desert, along with a couple of Carlsburg ales.  We were feeling pretty good by the time we left, and decided when we got back to the hotel, that we weren’t ready to retire yet. So, we chatted it up with our tour guide and driver and they took us to some local hangouts there in Killarney. Since Killarney is the Vegas of Ireland, it has plenty of night time activities that don’t shut down at 11 pm.  I don’t remember the name of the first pub we went into, but it was packed. There were about 8 of us from the tour group that went out together that night, and we had the BEST time.  After a beer or 2 at the first pub, we went to the Killarney Grand where another band was playing called Deuces Wild.  They were awesome.  Eric is a music enthusiast, and wanted me to include their set:

  • Guns n Roses – Sweet Child ‘O Mine
  • Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines
  • CCR – Proud Mary
  • Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven
  • MGMT – Kids
  • Eminem – Love the Way You Lie
  • Darius Rucker – Wagon Wheel
  • Ricky Martin – Livin’ La Vida Loca
  • The Killers – Mr. Brightside
  • The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There For You
  • Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer
  • Magic! – Rude
  • The Isley Brothers – Shout
  • Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping Up to Boston
  • The Lumineers – Hey Ho
  • Ram Jam – Black Betty
  • One Republic – Counting Stars.

The thing we thought was funny though, is that they were playing all American music.  And all the Irish people there were loving it.  Even “Wagon Wheel” which blew my mind. Why would Irish people like country music? After several beers and many songs, my voice was hoarse from singing and laughing, my feet hurt from dancing, and I found Eric talking politics with a local. SMH. It was definitely a night that we look back fondly on.  Somehow we managed to make the short walk back to the hotel, while other parts of our group got lost, but made it back as well.  We had only a 5 hours to sleep before we had to be at breakfast and on the bus for our tour the next day! What a day!


Day 4 in Ireland:

The Ring of Kerry.  What can I say about it other than AMAZING.  Really.  If you don’t have a bucket list yet, you need to make one, and put this destination at the top of it.

This next day was going to be long, as we were feeling a bit hung-over from the night before, and we were sitting in the back of the motor coach today, which meant that all the curves and hills were going to be amplified, and if we weren’t careful, we could get some motion sickness.  Thankfully, nothing like that happened.  We had a yummy breakfast of eggs, sausages (the best sausages in the world are in Ireland), waffles, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, coffee, yum yum!

20141001_084846The sun was coming up, but still too early to see it’s full presence as it was still hiding behind the hills.  Our tour guide snuck us all to a secret favorite spot of hers just on the outskirts of the Ring of Kerry.  It was immaculate.  The views here set the tone for the rest of the day of travel.  The dew was still dancing on the blades of grass.  In the distance, horses from an adjacent farm pranced up to the fence to inspect us curious folk.  The lake in the horizon was calm from the evening slumber.  All was quiet. No cars, no crying babies, no cell phones.  Just the horses, the light rustle of the autumn trees, and the sweet scent of a new day. For many moments we all just stood there, breathing it in, capturing this moment, taking pictures, wishing that this moment would last forever.  This was one of my favorite spots that we stopped at and I have not yet met it’s match on beauty.

20141001_093113From here we began the 112-mile drive along the Ring of Kerry.  This is a must-see scenic drive in County Kerry.  It takes you through different ecosystems there in Ireland.  There are lots of places to stop and take pictures, eat lunch, have a coffee, etc.  One of our stops was obviously meant for tourists.  There was a man dressed in what most Americans would expect an Irishman to dress in.  He had 2 little donkeys, and on the back of one stood a little Pomeranian pup greeting everyone.  It was a happy little Irish dog, prancing on the back of the happy little Irish donkeys.  We also stopped at a little house that had a traditional straw roof.  It served coffees and teas and pastries.  I got a Bailey’s and Coffee, while Barb got a hot tea.  Lunch was at this great shop a long the way that had the best Lemon and Mint infused water.  I almost bought an Emerald Green hand-made coat there! I am still kicking myself for not getting it!

It all ended back in Killarney National Park, where we took a hike to Torc Waterfall and Muckross House.  We got some great pictures of the grounds, but by the time we made it back to the motor coach, we were exhausted!  It had been a long tiring day, and we were still feeling the affects of the night before.  After dinner, we had a couple of beers in the hotel pub, then we made it an early night in.


 

Day 5 in Ireland:

We woke up early, had our breakfast of champions, boarded the motor coach, and we were headed to Foynes to see the Flying Boat Museum to take a tour and learn the proper way to have an Irish Coffee.  The coffee was delicious, of course, and it was really interesting to see a flying boat, as I had never heard of them before.  This, again, was not one of the places that I would pay to ever go back to.  For a pilot, this would be an epic experience.  For me though, I didn’t really take that much interest in it.  We were there for about 2 hours, then we had to catch the ferry.  The ferry was pretty cool. it was about 30 minutes across the River Shannon.  The sun was shining and the wind had picked up, leaving our noses quite pink from the chill.

Cliffs of Mohr
Cliffs of Mohr

Once off the ferry, we were on to the Cliffs of Mohr.  This was one of the places I was so excited to see.  When you Google images of Ireland, the Cliffs of Mohr always come up. We were on our way to see them today!  It was definitely crisp, windy, and cloudy out.  Ireland was gearing up for winter and she was letting us know!  The drive was long, and curvy, and when we finally got to the Cliffs, it was packed! So many tourists. We were starving and we didn’t have but an hour to get out and explore.  This kind of sucked because that didn’t give us much time to eat and really take it all in. We got some pictures outside, but the wind was beating us up pretty bad. Our stomachs were rumbling and reminding us that they needed some nourishment.  So with what little time we had left, we went to an ATM, got cash out, and had some delicious seafood chowder.  We wolfed it down in time to trot off to the tour bus and be on our way to Bunratty Castle.

Bunratty Castle
Bunratty Castle

 

Bunratty Castle was the last stop before getting to Limerick where our last hotel was awaiting our arrival.  Some of our tour group were leaving us at this stop as they were spending the night in a medieval castle.  We considered doing that, however it was like an extra $700 per person.  Uh, no. Maybe next time.  Instead, we stopped at the shops in Bunratty square and walked over to Durty Nelly’s pub which was right across the street from Bunratty Castle.  We choked down a quick beer at the bar, and reminisced our time in Ireland.  It was coming to an end and it felt like we just got there! Such a sad moment. On our way to Limerick, the sun had made it’s way out of the clouds just long enough to wish us a good morrow, and slowly began to sink beyond the trees and hills.

Our motor coach made its way into the 3rd largest city in Ireland, Limerick.  It is nestled along the River Shannon, and is as lively as Downtown San Francisco on a week night.  We had a nice and trendy room at the George Boutique Hotel.  Dinner was not included this night, however they did have a 3- course special that Barb, Eric, and I chowed down on.  Tonight was the birthday of one of the girl’s on our tour, and originally we had planned on going out with her.  Barb seemed like she was tired and  going to go back to her room.  Eric told me that he would rather us do our own thing as we hadn’t gotten to really be alone at all during the trip.  So we decided to dodge the partying crowd that was gathered in the hotel bar, and go for a walk in the big city.  We found our way to the River Shannon where they had a monument park along the river dedicated to the shipmen and workers who helped build it and use it.  Eric and I walked along, kind of sad that this was our last night in Ireland.  We sat and took in the city sights. The scent of city and salt from the river lingered in the air.  The city was a live this Thursday night, but we found a cozy spot to snuggle.  A man walked as his little Irish dog trotted along side.  If he could talk he would have said “Look at me! I’m an Irish dog!”  We walked along the river, not wanting the night or the trip to end.  We found our way to the end of the board walk, and stood in an elevated “podium” in which I imagined performers would sing and dance on during the weekend.  In the distance, a couple of drunk lads peed on the sidewalk. Classy.  Even in Ireland you can’t escape immaturity.

We finally decided to head back to the hotel, and as I turned to walk away, Eric pulled me back only to find him kneeling and proposing! I was so excited. Of course I said yes.  He is the love of my life and he couldn’t have chosen a better place to propose than in Ireland.  We made our way back to the hotel, where some of our group had decided to stay in.  Eric’s aunt Barb was there too!  We told them the good news and we all celebrated for an hour with champagne and strawberries.  It was a great night and the perfect ending to the perfect trip.


Day 6–Leaving Ireland:

We had our last breakfast and our last ride on our lovely motor coach.  It was raining and cold.  It was as if Ireland was sad we were leaving!  We were sad too.  So many special moments, new friends made, inside jokes had, and about what felt like 10 pounds added to my waistline.  The Shannon airport was a cinch to get in.  All our i’s were dotted, t’s crossed, VAT tax receipts turned in, coffee in hand, ring on my finger. It was all good, except for the fact that we were leaving.  I did miss my own bed. I missed my animals and my family.  But I knew I would definitely miss Ireland.

I won’t bore you with the details of the plane rides and delays upon getting home.

I WILL say, that if you ever decide to go to Irealnd, I highly recommend Brendan Vacations. And if you are in the OKC area, I highly recommend using Judy at Big Sky Travel.  All the ladies there are helpful and nice. They took the stress out of planning  a trip that big.  If you have been there before, and you know what you want, maybe you don’t need to go on an escorted tour.  I say to just skip the web scouring for the best rates etc. You get what you pay for most of the time.  Save time and stress and let a travel agent help you.

I hope this blog has help paint a picture of the beauty that Ireland has to offer.  Brendan Tours was like an Irish History lesson on Wheels. I learned a lot whilst I was there.  I can’t wait to go back!

 

 

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