Monday, July 29, 2013

Chicago Weekend Getaway

I've always said I love living in Cleveland. We are within a day's drive to so many major cities and destinations.  Within 8 hours, you could be in New York City.  Within 5 hours, Washington, D.C.  And within 6 hours, Chicago.  For my birthday, Greg surprised me with 4 seats to the Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z concert.  Not sure who I was more excited to see as I've been a fan of both for a VERY long time.  I saw Justin when he was with N*Sync in Pittsburgh in 2001 and again when he was solo in Cleveland while 9 months pregnant with Bridget in 2007.  I have never seen Jay-Z in concert, but was over-the-top thrilled at the thought of seeing him live.  And let me tell you, both were AMAZING! Absolutely electrical performances. 

Chicago is just a kick-ass town for a weekend getaway.  Plenty of shopping, food, bars, nightlife, you name it.  We managed to get in some Magnificent Mile time and introduced Bridget to her first full experience at the American Girl store.  She opted to pick out her own doll with brown hair, blue eyes and freckles - just like her. She shopped for her doll's outfits and I even sprung for a pet for her American Girl doll. She was thrilled.  Meg enjoyed the shopping as well and managed to snag some great deals at Nordstrom. Even Greg found a new murse (excuse me, man bag) at Tumi.

If you've never ventured out to Kuma's for their burgers, you really must.  May possibly have one of the best craft beer lists in Chicago as well.  Worth the trip!

And if you stay in Chicago, be sure and check out the Kimpton hotels.  They get customer service right. The manager's reception included complimentary Sangria and the morning coffee is to die for.  I love the in-room yoga with complimentary yoga mat and they provide maps with distances for runners.  Greg and I enjoyed a nice 3.5 mile run along Michigan Avenue to the Lakeshore.  Hot, but so worth it.

Great weekend and great family fun!

Meet American Girl McKenna, the newest addition to our family.
Right before the concert.  We made sure that B wore the Bose headphones to limit the sound.  She was a trooper hanging in there till midnight.  She was so excited that this was her 4th concert this year - Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, and now she can add Justin and Jay-Z to her list.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ashford Castle and Learning to Fly Falcons

Our Ireland trip started in Dublin, moved south to Cork and the Blarney Castle, headed off the beaten path to the southwestern corner of Ireland to Kinsale, then moved north above Galway.  Since we had visited Galway during our last trip to Ireland, Greg (our trip researcher) decided on Cong as our next overnight stay (well, two nights, that is). I could have stayed much, much longer!

Cong was the sight of The Quiet Man, the 1952 film starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara as well as being home to the 5-star, luxury resort, the Ashford Castle.  We enjoyed Ashford Castle's "servant's quarters" as our hotel at the Lisloughrey Lodge.  This may have been one of the most enjoyable and beautiful places I've stayed during our travels.  With the short walking distance to the town, the amenities, and beautiful morning view, I highly recommend the Lisloughrey Lodge.  The grounds of the Ashford Castle and Lisloughrey Lodge are joined by a path, which we enjoyed walking to find our Falconry lesson. Yes, falconry lesson.  We felt so "Harry Potter" and wondered if Hedwig would be sending us an owl post!

Ashford Castle. This picture is so postcard perfect that it's hard to believe it was taken with our iPhone.

We came across a couple, who offered to take our picture.  As we chatted with them, we found out that the wife went to Ohio State and her brother-in-law was from our town.  Small world! What I also love about this picture is that Bridget, Meg and me are wearing our new Hunter wellies. Love B's pink ones!

Can you tell how intimidated she was to have a hawk sitting on her arm? She was so brave and eventually started enjoying herself. Her smile in this picture kind of says, "I don't know about this..."

After a few minutes with the hawks, this "bird lady" couldn't get enough.  In this picture, both birds decided to land on Meg's arm at the same time.  She was so excited - just look at her smile!

The view outside our hotel, the Lisloughrey Lodge, that we woke up to every morning.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cliffs of Moher and the Burren

I remember when we visited the Cliffs of Moher in 2003 and how cold, windy and rainy it was.  For this trip, we were much smarter travelers and made sure we packed our rain jackets.  And, boy, was this a smart decision.  Just look at our picture while we were walking along the Cliffs.  So cold, windy and rainy - not a lot changed in 10 years!

Everyone bundled up, including sinching our hood strings!
You can see how windy it was with our hair blowing all over. Pretty colorful family picture.

All of us doing our best to look into the camera while being blown all over - great family picture.

Darting back to the car to warm up, we decided to brave the Burren and visit Ailwee Cave. Perhaps the best part about visiting the Burren was that Meg and Greg took a picture in about the same spot as they did 10 years ago.  Look at how much my little girl has grown!

Evidence that they really do grow up way too fast!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kinsale, Ireland - A Great Little Coastal Town

While wandering the Irish countryside, we stumbled upon the most amazing little coastal town of Kinsale, Ireland.  We had been traveling for several hours from our little adventure at the Blarney Castle.  It was pouring rain and we were tired, exhausted, wet and hungry.  Greg had read somewhere that Kinsale was known as a foodie kind of town so we were set of finding it.  And so glad we did!

We arrived late and caught a nice dinner.  Meg offered to watch B so Greg and I could join his parents in a local bar known for not being touristy and having locals gather for spontaneous music. Our B&B owner recommended Dalton's Bar and what a wonderful place this was!  Maybe later I'll upload the song I recorded - it just makes me smile from ear to ear thinking about how much we enjoyed this little pub - the atmosphere, the people, pints and, most of all, the music.

The next morning, we joined up with Greg's parents and took a one hour tour of the town. Our guide had the best blend of sarcasm spun with history.  The town is ruch in stories and beautiful to see.  Might have been one of my favorite moments on this trip.

On our walking tour of Kinsale - such a quaint, coastal town.

I loved how the houses looked like they were stacked on top of each other from a distance, yet up close they were spacious. Beautiful pastel, seaside colors.

How could you not fall in love with this country - the warmth and love that one feels makes you want to come back and visit again and again. The bar was maybe 30 feet long by 10-15 feet wide.  So small and cozy that you could stay all evening and feel like you were visiting family.

Greg snapped this colorful picture of Bridget and I think it's one of my favorite pictures from this trip.  She loves pink and it shows!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Greg, Megan and I had previously visited the Blarney Castle in 2003.  On that trip, Meg was a little too frightened to kiss the Blarney Stone.  Since this was Bridget's first trip to the Blarney Castle, Meg decided to join her and together they would kiss the stone.

We were able to snag some incredible pictures during our day trip to Blarney, thanks to Greg's good camera skills.

On our walk along the castle grounds.

Such a brave little 6-year-old as she kissed the Blarney Stone!

Redemption 10 years later as Meg kissed the Blarney Stone!

Absolutely love the spiraling of the stairs and the way Greg captured the girls in this picture.  Just look at those beautiful smiles!

Me and my guy :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ireland in 7 Days in June

Ireland was such a wonderful whirlwind of a trip that it's hard to describe in print or pictures. And I've been quite delinquent in uploading photos.  Over the next few days, I'll post different days/themes.  We had so much fun visting Dublin, taking in our first pint at the famed Brazen Head Pub, playing in the park with the kids (and the bigger kids), sightseeing around the town, and enjoying a tour of both the Jameson Distillery and Guinness.

Great little park outside our hotel in Dublin (we stayed at the Clontarf Castle). Greg and I were caught playing around while Meg was laughing hysterically (probably at how ridiculous we must have looked!).

At the Guinness Brewery, we learned how to pour the PERFECT Guinness.  What a great experience - even Meg learned how!

When you entered the Jameson Distillery Visitors Center, this amazing chandelier greeted you.  It must have been about 10 feet in height hanging high over our heads.  Wonderful entry piece.

Love this picture and love this girl! Just spending some mother-daughter time in one of the oldest pubs in Dublin on our first day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ohio University Alumni Event

Two degrees, adjunct faculty position, consulting at the Voinovich Center and I still had not attended an alumni event until the other night.  I only went to see one particular professor and I'm so glad I went.  I enjoyed the networking, ran into some old friends and colleagues and totally loved the effort the university made to make its alumni nostalgic for college again.  Great job, Ohio University!

Large canvas for Bobcat graduates to stand in front of and snap pictures. How awesome is this?! Loved eating at Lucky' many good memories.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Indians Game, Family Time and Fireworks

On a whim, we decided to get tickets to the July 5 Tribe game to enjoy the fireworks.  Meg had 2 friends join her from college, so the 6 of us loaded up and headed downtown to see how many dollar dogs we could eat while enjoying an evening of wholesome Americana. While the Tribe didn't win, we did have a fun time, ate too many hotdogs (damn you, stadium mustard for being so yummy), and enjoyed a great round of fireworks.