Christmas · family · Life Lessons · Mom · My Thoughts

Why Knit?

A skein of colorful yarn, two needles and a knitting pattern–life is good! Yes, I’ve been a knitter since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I saw a friend knitting and was mesmerized, so I asked my 4-H leader to teach me and the rest is history!

My Mom and maternal grandmother both crocheted, but I fell in love with knitting. I’ve made a variety of items. I started with slippers, and I remember the pride I felt with the first pair I made. Then my whole family wanted a pair!

I graduated to sweaters, ponchos, vests, socks, afghans, dish rags, dresses, and Christmas stockings. It was my habit to knit when I was watching TV growing up, and I have continued this habit. I loved giving a knitted gift to a family member or friend because spent the whole time I was knitting thinking about that person. I filled it up with good vibes!

Often, my Dad would tease me, saying the sofa bounced with the rhythm of my knitting needles. He used to chide me when I ripped out a huge chunk that had taken hours to complete, thinking I was a perfectionist. In reality, with an intricate knitting pattern, a mistake threw the whole design off, so I had no choice but to rip. This taught me ripping was a part of the process.

When I was in high school, I knitted my dream sweater for my last 4-H project. The project required more than one color and carrying the different colored yarn on the underside of the garment. I made my Dad a sweater with a Hereford bull on the back and his brand on the front. It was the most ambitious project I’d ever done. When I finished his, Mom wanted me.

My Dad’s Sweater

After high school, my life had gotten complicated—I was off to college and busy with my fun-filled college life, so I played a trick on Mom. The first Christmas, I gave her the back and two fronts because that’s all I had completed. The next Christmas, I gave her the sleeves. We enjoyed the craziness of that, and she loved it when I finished it and wore it proudly.

I took an evening class for advance knitting at Trinidad State Junior College and learned some amazing skills that took my knitting to a new level.

I took a break from knitting for several years after I was diagnosed with arthritis in all three thumb joints of both hands. The doctor put me in hand splints to save the joints, but they limited anything I did with my hands. I gave up on them and returned to knitting, and I have had less thumb pain now than then. The movement has helped my arthritic hands, not hurt them!

In 2013 after my Mom died, I returned to the hobby I love and made dish rags, a simple lovely pattern I could make without thinking. The rhythmic motion of the needles soothed my broken heart, and I ended up making more than 40 dish rags in the year after she died. I know it had a meditative quality for me with the repetition. It quieted in my mind and soothed my soul, and family and friends benefited from work.

Last year I had three family and friends having babies, so I made each one a baby afghan. Then for Christmas, I made them each a Christmas stocking with his name knitted into the stocking.

Recently I heard something that confirmed my belief that knitting has healing qualities. I listen to Dr. Bob Martin’s radio show driving to church each Sunday. On this one Sunday, he listed 10 ways to reduce stress and knitting was on the list. I chuckled as I heard him laud the hobby that had been a part of my life for over 50 years—what confirmation for me!

“According to new research by Knit For Peace, knitting could actually improve your health. The U.K. nonprofit organization published findings on the benefits of knitting based on extensive past research, as well as their own — and there are quite a few reasons to start stitching.
 
Health benefits were both physical and mental, and included lower blood pressure, reduced depression and anxiety, delayed onset of dementia. Knitting was deemed as relaxing as yoga, the researchers noted.”


https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/03/14/knitting-health-benefits_a_23385911/

One of the three sweaters I have knitted & I will use this pattern next!

My next project will be a rainbow-colored sweater made out of lamb’s wool and a fashionable pattern I’ve already made three times. I’ve had the yarn for a few years, and I’m anxious to get started!

After that—I bought several skeins of beige Aran yarn in Ireland at the Irish Store in Blarney two years ago, so I will be making an Aran sweater with all of its complexity! I love the history I found about the Aran sweater.

“From its origins, the Aran sweater has been intimately linked to clans and their identities. The many combinations of stitches seen on the garment are not incidental, far from it. They can impart vast amounts of information to those who know how to interpret them. Aran sweaters were, and remain, a reflection of the lives of the knitters, and their families. On the Aran islands, sweater patterns were zealously guarded, kept within the same clan throughout generations. These Aran sweaters were often used to help identify bodies of fishermen washed up on the beach following an accident at sea. An official register of these historic patterns has been compiled, and can be seen in the Aran Sweater Market on the Aran Islands.”


https://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters

“As a craft, the Aran Sweater continues to fascinate audiences around the world. A finished Aran sweater contains approximately 100,000 carefully constructed stitches, and can take the knitter up to sixty days to complete. It can contain any combination of stitches, depending on the particular clan pattern being followed. Many of the stitches used in the Aran Sweater are reflective of Celtic Art, and comparisons have been drawn between the stitches and patterns found at Neolithic burial sites such as Newgrange in Co. Meath.
Each stitch carries its own unique meaning, a historic legacy from the lives of the Island community many years ago. The Cable Stitch is a depiction of the fisherman’s ropes, and represents a wish for a fruitful day at sea. The Diamond Stitch reflects the small fields of the islands. These diamonds are sometimes filled with Irish moss stitch, depicting the seaweed that was used to fertilise the barren fields and produce a good harvest. Hence the diamond stitch is a wish for success and wealth. The Zig Zag Stitch, a half diamond, is often used in the Aran Sweaters, and popularly represents the twisting cliff paths on the islands. The Tree of Life is one of the original stitches, and is unique to the earliest examples of the Aran knitwear. It again reflects the importance of the clan, and is an expression of a desire for clan unity, with long-lived parents and strong children.


https://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters

I will finish my lamb’s wool sweater first. I have admired the Aran patterns for years but never attempted to make one because I knew it was a complicated pattern to knit. So, as you can see, the Aran sweater will take me a while to make, but I look forward to the day when I get to wear my two new creations!

Are you a knitter? What have you made? How do you feel when you knit?

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family · My Thoughts

DNA Testing—Why Do It?

I had toyed with doing the DNA testing on ancestry.com for years, but I didn’t know anyone who had done it, and I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money.

Lin and I with the driver of our bus on the Ring of Kerry Tour in Ireland, July, 2017

My husband, Lin, and I went to England and Ireland in July 2017 for my second cousin’s wedding in England. It was Lin’s dream to go to Ireland because of his Irish heritage, so we added the side trip to Ireland to this trip. I had no connections to Ireland, so I let Lin know before we left that the Irish side trip was for him; however, I enjoyed our trip through Ireland and loved the people.

When we returned home, we had a conversation with Lin’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law about genealogy. They oozed with enthusiasm over having just gotten their results from their DNA testing. As they described their experience, I grabbed my iPad, went to ancestry.com and ordered two DNA kits.

When they arrived, Lin and I did the tests at the same time—we each had to come up with enough spit to fill our individual container. As we continued, the vial seemed to grow bigger and my mouth dried up, but we finally finished it.

We had to wait for about six weeks, but finally, ancestry.com alerted us when the results were ready. I nonchalantly opened the file and deciphered the results. Lin did his at the same time—and mine shocked both of us!

I knew I had a strong English ancestry—my mom had done our genealogy for both sides of the family, and she had records for the Horner’s, my dad’s side, all the way back to our immigration from England.

I thought I had a strong German heritage. My Mom’s maternal grandparents were stow-aways from Germany, so I thought this would be the largest statistic.

No! My largest ethnicity group was England, Wales & Northwestern Europe with 36%, so that surprised me, but the big shock was the second largest group – Ireland & Scotland with 32%.

I shared my findings with Lin wondering what his were. Irish would be his biggest group for sure. His silence screamed his disbelief. I asked again. He hung his head and whispered, “I can’t believe this! You’re 32% Irish; I’m 25!”

My mouth fell open, then a belly laugh hit me hard! I was more Irish than Lin!

We have had lots of laughter about this new find, but I love the information I’ve received. We got our first results in August and then received an update in September—no the testing didn’t change. Ancestry.com came up with new data and refined our information.

There’s lots of new data. Ancestry recently announced that they have more than 10 million people in their DNA database. That large population allowed them to use 16,000 reference samples to develop their new ethnicity estimates (up from 3,000 reference samples from the previous estimates). This has allowed for refinements of the existing estimates, as well as the addition of new regions.”


https://www.legacytree.com/blog/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-ancestrydna-update

My DNA results changed from 36% to 70% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, and but my Irish went down from 32% to 21%. My initial results cited Europe West (Germanic Europe, France) as 16%. The update lowered it to 9%.

Lin’s update erased any Irish heritage identified in the initial results. His original results listed twelve regions of ethnicity. Then his update did the same as mine. It shortened his list to four areas.; I had three.

I like the warning ancestry.com has, “Your results are up to date! Your DNA doesn’t change, but the science we use to analyze it does. Your results may change over time as the science improves.”

So, our laughter continued as we shared our new results. I playfully shared my newfound Irish heritage with family and friends any time I could.

Ancestry.com also chronicles the immigration of my families to the United States to two areas:

Central North Carolina, Southeast Missouri & Southern Illinois, more specifically the Carolina Piedmont Settlers, and Tennessee & Southern States, more specifically West Tennessee, Western Kentucky & Virginia-North Carolina Piedmont Settlers in 1700’s. Then our families migrated farther west over the years.

Another advantage to doing the DNA testing is I have had several new contacts with family members I didn’t know before.

On the original report, after the top three groups, I had 7% Scandinavia, 4% Iberian Peninsula, 2% Europe South, <1% Melanesia, <1% Europe East, and <1% Middle East, but these minor groups were eliminated with the update. Ancestry.com explains it this way: “More data and new methods of DNA analysis have given us a better picture of which DNA sequences are—or aren’t—associated with specific world regions. This means that some regions may not appear in your new estimate because:

  • a region has been replaced by a smaller region or multiple regions;
  • new data indicates that a region does not belong in your results.”

The updated report isolated my heritage to the three areas identified: England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, Ireland and Scotland and Germanic Europe.

All in all, I enjoyed the DNA testing and results. I look forward to how it might be updated and fine-tuned even more. I also anticipate finding new unknown relatives.

Have you done a DNA testing? If so, what happened?

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Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 11 – Dublin, Leaving on to London

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Aparto Binary Hub Hostel in Dublin, Ireland

Our hostel in the downtown area of Dublin, the Aparto Binary Hub, was a short walk up to James street and across it to the Guinness Storehouse, so we planned our tour for this morning because we flew out of Dublin for London at 3:35 pm. We left our bags at the desk for 10 Euros and walked a short trip to the Storehouse.

The Guinness Storehouse tour was fascinating–years ago, I went through the Coors brewery in Golden, CO often, so I knew the brewing story, but the Guinness story is unique for sure. The six story building had something for everyone, and it was obvious that this was a main attraction in Dublin–lots and lots of people.

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9,000 Years Lease in the floor as you enter

“The owner of St. James’s Gate Brewery required 100 pounds as a down payment and 45 pounds per month for rent. On the last day of December 1759, Arthur Guinness somehow managed to get the owner to agree to a lease for up to 9,000 years on these terms. Guinness is still brewed at St. James Gate, and the company still pays 45 pounds in rent each month.” (https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/01/07/arthur-guinness-signed-a-9000-year-lease-for-an-abandoned-brewery-in-dublin-guinness-is-still-brewed-at-st-james-gate/)

Lin thoroughly enjoyed the tour. He was excited about tasting “Real” Guinness beer because he had been a bartender at the Leprechaun Bar in New York City for many years, and any Irish patrons said the Guinness in the USA didn’t taste the same as the Guinness in Ireland. After his sampling, he agreed.

I’m a recovery alcoholic so there were parts of the tour that were hard, but I kept focussed. While he did his sampling, I roamed the gift shop. We ended our time there up on the top floor with a 360 degree view of Dublin–it was breathtaking.

Afterwards, we retrieved our bags and hailed a taxi for the airport, arriving early, so we ate lunch leisurely. Our flight to London left at 3:35 pm, and both of us regretted leaving Ireland. We added Ireland to our trip more for Lin than me, but Ireland and its people captured my heart, too! It had been a delightful experience.

When we landed at Heathrow and retrieved our bags, we had a hard time finding our taxi driver that our travel agent had pre-arranged, but finally Lin succeeded amidst a sea of drivers waiting for arriving passengers. The driver was talkative and informative on the drive to our hotel, The Mornington Hotel.

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Mornington Hotel – our home in London!

The rest of this day was leisure and low-keyed. The hotel clerk, Charlotte, helped us as we prepared for our week in London. She directed us to where we could exchange dollars to pounds and how to get to “The Tube.”

So off we went on a walking tour. First we exchanged money, then we made our way to the Subway station–easily in walking distance. Our tour guide had sent us two Oyster cards preloaded with 20 pounds to get us started–what a true gift!

We returned to our lovely room and relaxed in the evening, excited about our next day’s adventure in London. Our tour guide had set up a wonderful itinerary for our five days:

  1. First day – Total London Tour – Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Tour of London, River Cruise on the River Thames, and Ride on the London Eye
  2. Second day – a free day to do as chose – we chose to see the Charles Dickens’ museum but it was closed. The rest of the day we spent at the British museum.
  3. Third day – Tour outside of London – Enjoyed a day-tour to Warwick Castle, probably England’s finest medieval fortress, Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and the historic university city of Oxford. Admission to Warwick Castle, Christchurch College and a walking tour of Oxford were included in your tour.
  4. Fourth day – a free day to do as chose – We went back to the Charles Dickens’ museum and “Les Miserables” at the Queen’s Theater in the West End of London
  5. Fifth day – Tour out of London – Enjoyed Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury Tour

That’s a quick summary of our time in London. I will go in more detail with each day because they were filled to the brim with adventure.

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Share your thoughts and comments below–I would love to hear your reaction to this post! Have you traveled to Ireland? England? Let’s have a conversation.

Ireland & England · Travel

Day 10 – Dublin – More Hop On & Off

So sorry for the delay. The holidays hit, but I’m back!

Our full day in Dublin was jam packed from the start! Again we used the services of the Hop On & Off bus system, and it worked well.

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Container Coffee Shop

We stopped off at the Container Coffee shop near our hostel for breakfast. Yes, it was a coffee shop in a small storage container and the coffee and service were great.

Our hostel was off of James Street and right across from the Guiness Storehouse, so we stopped there first and booked tickets for their tour for the next morning.

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Killmainham Gaol

Our first bus stop was the Killmainham Gaol (jail). “Many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilmainham_Gaol)

The cells of many of the famous men from the 1916 Easter Rising were identified. A taxi driver specifically asked us if we were going to this gaol which was a major part of their history. I understood why he emphasized seeing it after the tour.

The feeling at the jail was somber–the echo throughout the place was pain and suffering. I’m glad we toured and learned about this part of Irish history.

Our next stop was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. We had been warned that the line might be super-long there, but we arrived at a time it wasn’t too bad and certainly the wait was more than worth it.

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Larada in line for the Book of Kells

The Book of Kells “is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created in a Columban monastery in either Britain or Ireland and may have had contributions from various Columban institutions from both Britain and Ireland. It is believed to have been created c. 800 AD.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells)

The illustrations are gorgeous, extravagant and complex. As we wound our way through the exhibit, we were educated on the Book of Kells. When we finally arrived, people crowded the display, but we had ample time to get a close look at the book and marvel at this ancient document.

Our next stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We did a guided tour and learned a lot. It was founded in 1191 and is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. I thought it was Catholic, but it isn’t. I bought St. Patrick pins for two Catholic friends, and they appreciated them anyway.

“Throughout its long history the cathedral has contributed much to Irish life, and one key aspect of this relates to the writer and satirist Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, who was Dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745. Many of his famous sermons and “Irish tracts” (such as the Drapier’s Letters) were given during his stay as Dean.[11]

His grave and epitaph can be seen in the cathedral, along with those of his friend Stella. Swift took a great interest in the building, its services and music and in what would now be called social welfare, funding an almshouse for poor women and Saint Patrick’s Hospital.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Patrick%27s_Cathedral,_Dublin)

More to come to this full day–we jumped on the bus and toured the city to rest a bit. We had a destination in mine, raced there on foot after hopping off the bus–The Archaeology Museum–before it closed, and made it. It closed at 5:00 pm and we rushed in the door at 4:00–one hour to find the Bog Man.

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Bog Body at the Archaeology Museum of Ireland

The tour guide at Rathcroghan, Daniel Curley, suggested we go to the Archaeology Museum in Dublin to see the “Bog bodies.” “A bog body is a human cadaver that has been naturally mummified in a peat bog.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bog_body) He told us that one of the bodies was found on his farm near Rathcroghan. It was eery for sure.

There was so much to see there but we barely skimmed the surface.

The day ended with a strong desire to eat at the oldest pub in Ireland, the Brazen Head, but it was too busy, so we crossed the street and returned to O’Shea’s Merchant Restaurant again for another delicious Irish meal.

The day exhausted us, so we returned to our room early and packed for our flight to England the next day. We still had the next morning to tour the Guiness Storehouse before we were off to the airport. We loved Ireland and were reluctant to leave.

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Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 7 – Westport

On our way to Westport, we drove through the Burrens, “. . .a region of County Clare in the southwest of Ireland. It’s a karst landscape of bedrock incorporating a vast cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone, with cliffs and caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites. On the Atlantic coast, the precipitous Cliffs of Moher are home to thousands of seabirds, including puffins. Irish: Boireann, meaning ‘great rock’.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burren)

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Our first stop was at Kilfenora and the Burren Center. We also went through the Kilfenora Cathedral and the High Crosses.

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One of the crosses!

From here, we drove through the Burrens and stopped at the Caherconnell Fort where archaeologists and workers were digging–one of my secret passions. A docent shared an informative tour with us.

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IMG_0931 Rock WallThe rock walls of the fort fascinated me.

IMG_0940 Wall & Workers.JPGLook at those green fields!

From the fort, we continued through the Burrens and stopped at the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb. The tomb was constructed from great slabs of limestone over 5,000 years ago.

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From here, we drove to Cong, an added stop to our day. Lin is a big fan of the movie, The Quiet Man, and it was filmed for the most part in Cong. We toured the Quiet Man Museum, sought out places from the movie, ate dinner and walked through this scenic village.

IMG_1005 John & Maureen.JPGThe playful statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara from The Quiet Man.

IMG_0690.jpgLin and I enjoyed The Quiet Man museum and all the memorabilia from the movie.

We had a hard time leaving this quaint village, but we had to; we arrived in Westport at 7:00 pm–the latest arrival of any of our travel days. We found our bed and breakfast, St. Anothy’s B & B, much easier than the other ones. I had finally figured out the GPS. The house dates back to 1820, when it was built for the Minister of The Presbyterian Church. Our room was gorgeous and spacious–right on the Carrowbeg River. In fact, we opened a window and the river was right there.

Our evening was delightful. We walked around Westport, took pictures, shopped and had a relaxing evening after a busy travel and tourist day. And Lin found a place to buy ice cream–one of his passions!

IMG_1109 Lin best.JPGWe crossed this bridge over the Carrowbeg River on our walk, enjoying the beautiful flowers and all the water.

This truly was a glorious, fun-filled day!

Ireland & England · Travel

Day 8 – Navan

We started this day with pancakes (crepes) for breakfast–delicious! I was good to vary away from the full Traditional Irish breakfast for once!

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Our first rainy day on the trip!

Lin spied a church and cemetery on his side of the road in the small town of Tulsk which ended up being the Tulsk Dominican Priory.

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The Tulsk Dominican Priory

The Tulsk Dominican Priory on our rainy day! Thanks for making us stop!

I looked to my side of the street and saw a Heritage Center, so we took pictures and then went into the Center–what a find it was!

We met the manager of the center, Daniel Curley, and he encouraged us to go through the center and then join him on a tour of Rothcroghan ruins. Unknowingly, we had just passed the ruin driving into Tulsk.

The displays were very informative and gave background information for the tour. It also had a great video.

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Lin donned the helmet

Lin donned the helmet and experienced the displays to the max.

Afterwards, we retraced our journey a few miles, following Daniel–we were the only takers for the tour on that damp day.

The Rothcroghan complex is one of the five royal sites of Ireland with many references found in early Irish medieval manuscripts.

Daniel stood in the rain and shared his visual aides (in plastic sleeves) with us. His passion for the site and the tale were evident. He went into great detail sharing “The Tain” from the Irish epic, “Tain Bo Cuailnge.” The display behind him in the picture below shows the path of the tale.

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Daniel Curley, our tour guide

Daniel Curley, our tour guide, shared his knowledge in the rain–before he put on his rain gear!

When it really started pouring, Daniel excused himself and put on his rain coat and pants. I wondered why they were so muddy, but I didn’t ask.

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The actual Rothcroghan ruin

The actual Rothcroghan ruin was never excavated physically but with geophysical survey. “Scientists from the National University of Ireland, Galway, have taken nearly 150,000 magnetic gradiometry readings in the 30 acres around the great mound.” (https://archive.archaeology.org/online/news/ireland.html)

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A replica of Rathcroghan

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Sheep Pasture around Rathcroghan

On our trek up to the top of Rathcroghan we were in a sheep pasture and had to hopscotch over sheep droppings. When we finally got to the top, the rain and wind let loose, so we didn’t stay long.

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Oweynagat or Cave of the Cats

Our next stop was Oweynagat or Cave of the Cats–the entrance to hell in Irish mythology.  The rain continued; Daniel continued his lecture telling us people can go down into the cave. I asked how and he said, “Slide down into it.” Now I know why his rain gear was muddy–thank God our tour didn’t include sliding down into the cave.

In passing conversation we told Daniel about visiting a Bog village when we toured the Ring of Kerry. His eyes lit up and he told us that a bog man was found on his farm and that it was in the Archaeology museum in Dublin. I made a note of that.

I have never been so wet in my life!

We returned to the Heritage Center and warmed up with tea and scones.

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Trim Castle

Daniel suggested we change our itinerary and not go to Newgrange and Brú na Bóinne,  prehistoric sites since we had stopped at Rathcroghan and received so much information there. He suggested we stop at Trim Castle on our way to Navan to see a castle, so we did! This is where they filmed Brave Heart. We did a tour of the castle and our guide was delightful. The stone stairway was circular and steep, but it was fascinating. When we topped out on top of the castle we went outside, and the rain poured again.

We made it to Navan that evening in good time to our hotel, Newgrange Hotel. It was gorgeous. We had a delicious dinner and I spent the evening drying my tennis shoes with a hair dryer. I had only one pair of tennis shoes with me for the trip, so I needed the dry for the next day!

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My shoes before I thought of using a hair dryer.

Of all our days on the trip, this day stood out as the serendipitious adventure of a lifetime–Rothcroghan wasn’t on our itinerary. It just happened, and I became one of the highlights of the trip!

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 3 – 4 Kissing a Stone and on to Killarney

01 Larada Kissing the Stone.jpg

…go forth with the Gift of Eloquence!

Our wonderful trip continues in Ireland!

The next day we enjoyed our first Irish breakfast at our hotel in Dublin, but we didn’t have explanations for everything yet. That came the next morning in Blarney. After breakfast, we lugged our bags up the hill to the train station. We traveled to Heuston station, then we got a taxi and went to the Hertz car rental.

I could feel the tension mounting for Lin about driving on the left side of the road.  I managed the transaction with the agent while Lin visited with other customers. The agent encouraged us to upgrade to accommodate all our luggage, so we did, but the upgraded car was smaller than the Jetta we originally had rented, so we changed back. We did buy the Super insurance in case of an accident. What would happen with driving on the left side of the road, we wondered?

The car lot was bumper-to-bumper! We needed help figuring out the key and how to get in the trunk, so a pleasant attendant directed us through everything unfamiliar.

Lin’s nervousness about driving rose to a crescendo as we tried to get out of the car lot. My nemesis was adjusting to a Tom-Tom GPS–I’m used to a Garmin. The rental agent set it up for our first destination–Hotel Blarney Woollen Mills. Finally away we went, holding our breaths. Right off the bat, we missed the first turn, but the GPS rerouted us and away we went–on the left side of the road.

The drive to Blarney went smoothly. Quickly we were out of Dublin and on a nice interstate-type road. I was amazed–the gas stations and rest stops were on the left side of the road. When we arrived at our hotel in Blarney, the entrance to the Blarney Castle was across the street.

Now Lin faced the hardest part of driving on the left side–parking the car. It was the most difficult task. After a couple of tries, he parked the car and let out a sigh of relief–something I became familiar with anytime he walked away from the car.

That afternoon, we climbed up a winding staircase to the top of Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone.  (See picture above of me kissing the stone.)  That’s not an easy feat for sure. You have to lay down on your back, a man supports you, you grab onto two metal bars then arch your back backwards, duck your head down and kiss the stone behind you.  Wow, I was glad they had a metal grate underneath me, but I could see the ground below through the grate, and it was a long way down there.

Legend says that you receive eloquence after you’ve kissed the stone. We’ll see. We enjoyed several comical plaques around the top of the castle explaining the difference between Blarney and baloney.  This lens and screen cloth I bought highlights some of them.

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After this much awaited event, we walked around the top of the castle and marveled at the beautiful view of the lush green all around.

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I bought a journal in the Blarney castle gift shop and recorded the whole trip.

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That evening we ate gourmet sausage sandwiches in a local pub and drank our first Club Orange soda which became a favorite. We returned to the pub later in the evening because they advertised traditional Irish music at 9:30 pm, but the singer sang country and western, so we didn’t stay long.

The next morning we had another full traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, grilled tomatoes, ham (bacon), sausage, and black and white pudding. The waiter explained the difference between the white and black pudding because I asked: the black pudding comes from the pig’s blood and white pudding is the rest of the leftovers of the butchered pig. I had researched it before we left but forgot.

We shopped in the “Largest Irish Store” and bought mega souvenirs because they would ship home them for us. I loved all the wool yarn–I’m a knitter and the colors were warm and inviting me to create something new, so I bought some.

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We drove to Killarney with a near mishap–I thought I had forgotten my iPad at the hotel in Blarney, so we stopped. It had slid under my seat, so we were set.

The drive through the countryside was a variety of greens. I felt a wall very close to me for most of the trip because of the narrow road.

I had trouble with the GPS and setting the address in Killarney. We found out that Ireland doesn’t use street numbers, so we asked for help and were a couple blocks away from our bed and breakfast.

Pat and Mary were our hosts–what a lovely couple. After we got settled, we toured the Ross castle and the Musross house. Pat booked a Ring of Kerry tour for us the next day; Lin was relieved that he didn’t have to drive it.

In the evening, we walked to downtown Killarney and searched for Traditional Irish music. Delightful Irish tunes filled our evening in a neighborhood pub. We did some shopping and Lin had his favorite treat–ice cream. What a wonderful evening in a fascinating town!

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Ireland & England · Travel · Writing

Day 6 – Lahinch

Our day began again with a traditional Irish breakfast again.  We especially loved it here in Killarney.

Our route from Killarney to Lahinch changed because Pat, our host at the bed and breakfast in Killarney, suggested we go up to Tarbert and take the ferry across the River Sharon. Originally we planned to go through Limerick, so this new plan shortened our travel and gave us a delightful ferry trip. IMG_0599.JPGThe drive through the countryside in Ireland dazzled me with all the variety of greens!

IMG_0607 Lin in the car.JPGLin waited in line to get on the ferry. Yes, he drove on the left side of the road–some say the wrong side, but he did a great job.

IMG_0606 ferry.JPGThe ferry we rode across the River Sharon.

IMG_0647 cattle BEST.JPGArriving at the other side of the river, the scenery was breathtaking with cattle grazing in lush green pastures. The hedge fences accentuated the symmetry of the pastures–a magical line drawn around each pasture.

From here, we drove to Lahinch. Again we had trouble finding our bed and breakfast, but Lin listened to his gut and we found it. Susan Harrington was our hostess and provided us a beautiful room.

Susan suggested a great lunch spot a long the way–Vaughn’s, so we stopped and had a seafood platter that was mostly mussels. It wasn’t my favorite meal of the trip for sure, but Lin loved it.

Our next destination was one of Ireland’s most popular:  the Cliffs of Moher and what a sight–gigantic vertical cliffs plunged down to the Atlantic ocean abruptly.

IMG_0717 Weeds Focused BEST.JPGI loved to focus on trees or plants in the foreground on a picture like this.

IMG_0721 Close up.JPGThe beautiful cliffs unobstructed.

IMG_0737 w:sunflowers.JPGAnother one of my pictures with something in the foreground.

Lin and I hiked the path that wove its way near the edge of the cliffs, but we didn’t walk the other direction because he was dealing with plantar fasciitis the whole trip. It was here where the pain affected him the most! And thank God–I couldn’t have hiked the other side of the cliffs anyway (the direction of the above picture).

IMG_0797 Several Paths.JPGThe path we walked to arrive at the sheer cliff below.

IMG_0804 Far Edge with bird.JPGThe birds soaring between the rock face and me highlighted this view. This was our destination. Standing on the edge of this cliff overwhelmed me–usually I’m OK with heights but the sheer drop off took my breath away.

IMG_0830 green grass shocked.JPGOn the walk back, I marveled at the cattle grazing on such lush green grass and tried to get this picture. Being a rancher’s daughter, I’m always captivated by green grass and cattle. I reached down to focus on the grass and touched a hot wire and was electrocuted, screamed and blacked out for a second. The pain was piercing!

IMG_0829 Lin.JPGLin rested his elbow on the fence that electrocuted me! He didn’t touch the hot wire like I did!

IMG_0832 cow on the hill.JPGOne of the cows that caused me to reach across the fence and get shocked!!

We spent a restful night at Lahinc reading and relaxing. Our hostess’ children played in the backyard which added a familial feel to our stay–this truly was a bed and breakfast in someone’s home.  The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast to send us on our way!

Coming up next – a drive to Westport through the Burrens!

Ireland & England · Travel

Day 1 – Our Travel Day from Hell!

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Our much-awaited trip started on July 12, 2017. I got up at 4:00 am to shower and be ready to leave, hopefully before 6:00 am, but it was a little afterwards. We decided to travel with a medium size suitcase and a carry-on instead of one big suitcase and that benefited us with our two rental cars.

We arrived at the airport later than I like–they were boarding the plane when we arrived at our gate. We were in the B group, so we were OK. I had to pinch myself to see if this were real! We had planned this trip for six months, and here it was!

Immediately on the plane, I took selfies of Lin and me to start a notebook journal about our trip–sad to say it only lasted a couple days, but I did buy a journal in Blarney and took notes the whole trip.

Back to our first travel day. Lin and I regularly use our Southwest credit cards, so we had free flights to New York, but we had to travel through Midway in Chicago. The flight was uneventful at first–Lin napped, but I couldn’t! I was too excited. Sometime into our flight, the pilot announced that a thunder storm had hit Chicago and both major airports were closed and they were diverting us to Kansas City. I started praying!

When I had booked our tickets, I had allowed ample time to facilitate a transfer because we were flying into La Guardia and British Airways flies out of JFK. I knew we were in trouble now. The prayers continued.

I questioned a flight attendant about what we should do. She had no idea because we weren’t the only one affected. When we landed in Kansas City, they ushered the passengers traveling to New York off the plane first. They put us on a flight leaving at 1:30 pm, but it wouldn’t arrive in New York in time for us to transfer from La Guardia to JFK. My prayers continued.

I panicked but did what I do in a crisis–act! I was on the phone with British Airways for well over an hour trying to solve our problem. I couldn’t understand either agent I talked to. He repeatedly put me on hold and said, “I will be back in a couple minutes.” This went on and on. This agent did know there would be a fee for missing our flight and booking another one at such a late time. He transferred me to a second agent, and he told me it would be over $1600 each to rebook–I was shocked! I hit high gear on praying. I knew my God was in the midst of this and would handle it for us, but I was so worried. It’s hard to let go at time like this.

I spent all my time on the flight to New York on the Internet searching for a flight that would work and a price that would work–there wasn’t one that would work because all were over $1500 each. Lin was adamant that we do nothing until we got to New York. My panic increased–were we going to miss our flight to London? We were to arrive in London at 7:10 am and had a flight to Ireland at 10:30 am. Would it all get screwed up because of a summer thunderstorm in Chicago? I had to keep trusting it would work out!

Again I talked to the Southwest flight attendants, and they helped us move up from the back of the plane to the front and helped move our carry-on bags too. We deplaned quickly, I retrieved our bags, and Lin hailed a taxi with a determined driver.

It was slow going from La Guardia to JFK because we hit rush hour traffic, but the taxi driver drove like a maniac–like they do in New York. I had to close my eyes several times because I was sure that he was going got to clip the car he passed. He also took my phone and talked to British Airways as he drove, trying to help us.

We arrived at the British Airways ticket counter a few minutes after they stopped accepting passengers for our flight–for International flights, they close the gate twenty minutes before the plane’s scheduled departure.

Determined to deal with this in a positive way and get to London on time, we talked to a British Airways agent and she sent us to a manager. Lin calmly shared our sad tale. She wasn’t interested in our lament about a thunderstorm in Chicago that delayed our Southwest flight.

She stated, “We don’t care what happens to you before you get to British Airways.”

I swallowed and shot up a barrage of prayers.

Then she softened some as she searched the computer screen, “Let me see what flight I can get you on.”

I knew the answer: I had memorized the flights from my earlier search. I  interruptted her, “I know what flights are going out. . .’

“Stop,” she said as wiggled her finger at me, looked me dead in the eyes and exclaimed, “I’m trying to help you. Don’t go there.”

Lin grabbed my arm and pulled me back and agreed with her, so I stepped back, shut up and continued my litany of prayers.

We couldn’t have hoped for a better ending:  she got us on a flight that left about twenty minutes after our original flight, so we had to scurry to the gate. Lin offered her a kiss and she giggled. We ended up not paying anything more. Thank you, British Airways for taking care of us–and thank you, God!

Have you ever had a travel day like this ours? Share your experience in the Comments section below!

Travel

A Trip of a Lifetime!

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Lin and I just got home from a three week trip to Ireland and England. I would like to share some highlights with you from that trip. I’m going to start at the end of the trip that was spent in Bury St. Edmund’s, a beautiful quaint city north of London.

The picture above is in the Abbey garden and the cathedral shows in the background on the left.

We attended a family wedding there and the Brit’s really know how to party. My cousin, Meghan Berg, married Mike Edwards at Raven Hall. All of Mike’s family and friends were so hospitable and made us feel welcome. Meghan had lots of family members in attendance which was fun.

While in Bury, Lin and I toured the city and saw the movie, “Dunkirk.” It resonated with us in a different way by being in England. We attended Anglican church Sunday with the family at the St. Edmundsbury cathedral and again the people were so friendly.

As a large group, we went to Cambridge by train and what an experience that was!  Bicycles everywhere! We did a city tour and saw many of the colleges that make up Cambridge University.

We loved the Traditional English breakfast–I have pictures to share.

Lin and I drove to Lavenham, a medieval city south of Bury for an all day adventure. We toured the St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church, Guide Hall and the Little Hall. At the church, we were surprised to see the American flag and a memorial to a unit that was stationed near there during World War II. Many of the medieval buildings still stand and again the people fascinated me with their pleasantries.

Lin drove from London to Bury, to Lavenham and then back to London. He had driven in Ireland at the beginning of the trip and did well, but he was hesitant to drive in the London area. He did a great job in both countries–I coached him when turning with mantras a friend had taught me. Driving on the left side of the road is a challenge, but he managed it admirably.

Have you ever been to England and Ireland? Leave me a comment!