Valentine’s Day in Ireland

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This weekend was our second Valentine’s Day in Ireland. Last year we were here over Valentine’s Day while Jon attended a local conference and we did some brief house-hunting for our then-upcoming move. Although last year’s Valentine’s Day with all of Jon’s co-workers at a company dinner was a unique experience, this year’s V-day was much more up my alley–the former-Kindergarten teacher in me came out in full force and we had a full day of crafts, scavenger hunts and baking. And I got a special date alone with my valentine, no third-wheel co-workers there to share the evening. But before I get into the details of our festivities, I have to share a bit about the weather this week.

You see, this week has been the most manic week of weather I’ve ever experienced. Ever. And, since the favorite topic of conversation among Irish people is the weather, I thought it would be appropriate to diverge for a moment here. We’ve had a bit of everything this week. One day, it snowed. Big, huge, beautiful flakes blowing in from every direction all at once. It was magical. Then, two minutes later (literally, two minutes) the snow was gone, the sun burst out and the sky turned blue:
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Another day this week brought ridiculous flooding to the Cork city center. Storm surges converged with high tide and the River Lee overflowed its banks right into the middle of the city. The flooding was so bad that people were kayaking down the main street. And inside the shops. It was madness, really.

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And, yet another day, the wind was so strong that trees were being uprooted and trucks were being blown over on the highway:

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We were at an indoor play area on Wind Day and the front door to the building actually blew right off. It was like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz.

Alrighty, then. Enough of the weather, and on to Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is not nearly the holiday here that it is in America. There are no conversation hearts and no Valentine exchanges at school (in fact, they don’t even sell boxed sets of Valentines at the stores here. Or heart-shaped candies. Really, the only thing Valenine-y I could find was red roses and fur-rimmed handcuffs….hmmm…). The holiday is reserved for lovebirds, but I really prefer the American all-inclusive nature of the holiday. I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with friends and, especially, with my kids.

I decided that I was going to just go ahead and do Valentine’s Day my way, even if I was the only one in the whole country making heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast:

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And, by the way, the heart-shaped pancakes were a roaring success! Perhaps the fact that I smothered the ‘cakes with berries and whipped cream had something to do with the rate at which they were ravenously consumed. But, hey, it’s a holiday, gotta go all-out.

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After breakfast it was on to the scavenger hunt. Before the boys woke up I hid clues all around the house so they would have to find their Valentine treats. David thought this was a brilliant game, and he loved “reading” the clues to his attentive little brother:

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At the end of the scavenger hunt each boy found a little treat bag. And, since I couldn’t find conversation hearts or cupid-shaped chocolates, they got plastic army men and soccer ball lollipops.

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We also opened our Valentines that arrived from overseas. Thanks for all of the cute cards, grandparents and cousins!

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Our next activity on the agenda was a bake-a-thon. I didn’t really mean for it to be a bake-a-thon, it just turns out that having a 3 year old “helping” you in the kitchen turns into an all day affair. No bother, though, we didn’t have anywhere else to be (as evidenced by my son still wearing his pajamas in these photos…at 1 in the afternoon.).

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We made a big batch of chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies–heart-shaped, of course! David was my sous chef extraordinaire and, I have to say, the cookies turned out quite delectable.

While the cookies were baking in the oven I made lunch: soup and heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches (are we starting to see a theme yet?).

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By the time lunch and our bake-a-thon were over I was ready to get OUT of the kitchen. We decided to take a little walk to deliver Valentines to our neighbors and get some wiggles out. These are the Valentines we made for David’s friends in the neighborhood–I think they turned out pretty cute:

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David loved playing post man and putting the cards inside his friends’ mail slots.

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After we delivered our Valentines it was time to go back home and make dinner (back to the kitchen again…). We had a nice steak dinner–the boys, however, decided to go vegan and just eat their broccoli. Oh well, more steak for ME!

And, speaking of dinner, we had one more special treat planned for our Valentine’s weekend. For Christmas Jon and I received a gift certificate to a restaurant in a castle near our house. Valentine’s Day seemed as good an excuse as any to dress up and go out on a special date–in a castle. Oh, how I love the castles…

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So, the day after Valentine’s Day we got a babysitter and went out, just me and my valentine.

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We had a romantic dinner at Blackrock Castle–there was candlelight, red wine, and not a single screaming child. It was sublime.

After dinner we headed over to Carroll’s Bar, a pub that is owned by our friend Olivia and her family. Every weekend they have trad  (traditional Irish music) at the pub and I’ve been wanting to check it out for months now. We were not disappointed. The music was lively and they even had a nice, cold IPA for Jon to try (he’s been missing all non-stout beer since we’ve moved here). It was the perfect ending to a magical (Irish) Valentine’s Day.

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To all of our friends and family, near and far: Happy Valentine’s Day! XxX

Stay-cation

As I mentioned earlier, Jon had a crazy month of work in December. He was gone traveling for a good portion of it and, the days he was in this country, they had him working up to 20 hours a day. So he needed a break. We ALL needed a break.

On New Year’s Eve we got the best gift ever: Jon’s company gave him the week off. Since the time off came as a surprise, we had no plans for our time together. There are a lot of things close to home that I’ve been wanting to do with Jon and the kids but because of our crazy schedules have just never done. This was going to be our week to do them all. Bring on the stay-cation.

With bedtimes starting at 7:00 in our house, it’s hard to do many of the traditional New Year’s Eve shenanigans. We decided to just go out for dinner with the kids and be home in time for a peaceful night at home ringing in 2013. Dinner turned out to be amazing. Our friends Scott and Alison were driving home from Mt. Baker and passed through our neighborhood right as we were heading out to the restaurant. They decided to join us for dinner and we had a great time catching up with them (and, as an added bonus, I think our kids’ dinnertime behavior provided these newlyweds with some adequate birth control). Dinner was actually quite wonderful–good friends and good food. Then, to top off the night, the restaurant had a raffle for free dinner right as we were about to leave. And guess who won? Us! Free food for our whole table. Not a bad way to send off 2012!

The next morning was New Year’s Day. It was clear and sunny when we woke up, so we decided to do something outside. We drove down to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and got there right as they were opening. It was a great day at the zoo–no crowds (probably in part because it was 28 degrees out there), lots of animals were out to entertain us and David had a great time running through all of the paths and pointing out his favorite animals.

Me and David with the elephant sculpture.
Me and David with the elephant sculpture.
Well, hello, peacock.
Well, hello, peacock.
Jacob enjoyed his time at the zoo.
Jacob enjoyed his time at the zoo.
Touring.
Touring.

On Wednesday we went to the new Lynnwood Recreation Center for some swimming. They have a great pool (actually, they have THREE pools), a kids play area with splash toys, water slides, a lazy river and hot tubs. David had fun playing in the water until he got cold and retreated to the hot tub. This was Jacob’s first trip to the pool, and he seemed to enjoy all of it just fine. I’m so glad Jon was with me because there’s NO WAY I could ever take both boys to the pool by myself unless they were both strong swimmers. We did havea lot of fun there, though, and we’ll definitely be going back.

Pool time!
Pool time!
Jacob after his first pool swim
Jacob after his first pool swim

On Thursday we went to Normandy Park to visit Jon’s grandma for her 90th birthday. We didn’t get to make it down the day before on her actual birthday because I got locked out of the house. It was great to spend some one-on-one time with Great-Grandma Doreen at her house. She LOVES the boys, so her greatest gift was just getting to see them.

Great Granny Doreen with her David

Great Granny Doreen with her David

On Friday morning we went to the mall to do a little shopping. Jon and I both needed warm winter coats and we found just what we were looking for at REI (mine was even on clearance for 60% off–CHA-CHING!).

My mom and sister came up on Friday night to babysit the boys so that Jon and I could have a night out (Thanks, Mom and Jess!). We had a perfect date in downtown Seattle. We went to a trendy little place called BOKA for a happy hour dinner: a nice juicy burger for Jon and Vietnamese short ribs for me. We had a bit of time after dinner so we headed over to Westlake Center to grab a quick dessert. Then we went to our favorite spa, Ummelina, for hot stone massages. Everything was just wonderful, and I was so happy to get to spend some special time with Jon.

Me and my date enjoying a night out on the town!
Me and my date enjoying a night out on the town!

We decided to drive over to Leavenworth for the weekend to visit Jon’s parents. For those of you who don’t know about Leavenworth, it’s this quirky little town East of the mountains. It’s a Bavarian town, kind of a “little Germany”, surrounded by mountains and snowy in the winter. We had a fun time sledding, checking out the sights in town, visiting with Grammy and Grandpa Pete, and watching the herds of deer that come to their house to graze. It really was the perfect way to end our little stay-cation!

Bota enjoying the snow
Bota enjoying the snow
David playing with Grammy's "yarn balls"
David playing with Grammy’s “yarn balls”
Leavenworth
Leavenworth
Playing pool at Grammy and Grandpa Pete's house
Playing pool at Grammy and Grandpa Pete’s house

Jacob testing out the sled

Jacob testing out the sled

Driving home through Steven's Pass

Driving home through Steven’s Pass

Today is my first day of “back to reality” with Jon back at work. It’s been a long time since I’ve had some of my usual activities like Stroller Strides and BSF, though, so I’m actually pretty happy to be getting back into our routine. I probably won’t be blogging as often now that I’m home alone with the boys during the day again, but I’ll try to get at least one post per week up for you guys.  Until next time!