A Photo Tour Through My New Washington Home!

Two weeks ago today we moved in to our new home in Woodinville, Washington (Pinch me! Is this real?!). The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of unpacking, arranging, purging, decorating…and carrying on with life as usual with three young kids. For some reason, even when you literally have to rearrange your entire life children still want to eat 50 billion times per day and need laundry washed about as often. We’ve worked hard, though, and I am proud to report that every single box is unpacked (can I get an Amen?!).

We’ve started to put our stamp on the place (and by “stamp” I mean muddy footprints on the hardwoods, popsicle stains on the carpet, and fingerprints on the windows) and–slowly but surely–it’s starting to feel like home. As is becoming tradition on this blog after a move, I thought I’d give you a little tour of our new digs. In the spirit of helping you feel right at home, I didn’t even clean the house for you. Full disclaimer, the following photos are just “Thursday Afternoon Chic”, exactly as I found the place when I actually remembered to take the photos–so, welcome! Welcome to life as we know it–a even if it is a bit messy at times–and welcome to our new home!

Now, let’s begin.

Our house is on half an acre at the end of a dead end street, so it is very quiet here. We’re talking, I can hear the leaves blowing in the wind and the squirrels mocking our dog down below. The boys can go outside and ride their bikes or play in the front yard and I’m not even worried about anything horrendous happening to them. It’s ideal.

This is the view of our house from the street–to the right of the giant purple rhododendron bush there is a long driveway (I’d guess we could fit 6 cars in it, though it’s capacity is yet to be fully tested) that leads up to the 2-car garage. The landscaping is gorgeous…for now! I’m trying to enjoy the beautiful (weed-free) gardens while they last, because who knows how long they’ll stay in this condition with me and my brown thumbs!

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If you walk around to the side of the house you’ll come to our vegetable garden. Right now there’s not too much growing in there: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, chives, and mint. And weeds. Lots of weeds. If I can get my act together next spring I may try my hand at growing some actual veggies.

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Continuing past the garden you enter the huge back yard, which I have taken to referring to as Peterson Park. The yard backs up to a former golf course, so it seems to go on forever. One of our favorite things to do here is to sit out on our deck or in a hammock (Maybe with a glass of wine…did I mention that Woodinville is known for it’s wine?) and just…be. It’s so quiet and peaceful and beautiful that you don’t even need to do anything to enjoy it. Just being here is perfect. The kids and the dog agree.

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If you were to explore the yard a bit, you’d find all sorts of gems like an abandoned tree house, lopsided bird houses, and a fire pit that’s in need of a bit of TLC.
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We have plenty of plants and trees in our yard, but this little darling is one of our favorites. On one of David’s last days of school in California they had an arborist come to class to share about trees. Each child got to bring home a little California Redwood sapling, and we brought ours all the way to Washington with us. I hope David’s little Redwood will be happy growing in the great Pacific Northwest!

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Walking back toward the house you can see the back of the house and our little storage shed. You can also see the back deck that has become our second living/dining room.

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On nice days, the deck is our favorite place to be. It’s perfect for barbecues with friends…

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Or splashing in a water table (BTW, Hannah is obsessed with water. She literally dumps bucket after bucket of water on her head and stands there with her mouth wide open trying to catch it all in her tiny little mouth.)

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Now that we’ve seen the outside of the house, let’s go inside! This is our front door, complete with our 20,000 pound cement goose that we received as a practical joke but now is part of our family and our Irish welcome sign.

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Opening the front door you now enter our…entry way!

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If you walk straight through the entry way, you come to our kitchen. It’s been nicely updated and I’m in love with the long island.

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One of the most charming (Read: aggravating) features of our kitchen is that it lacks any sort of pantry or food storage arrangement. Look at that photo of the kitchen–there are NO CABINETS! Turns out our family EATS, so we need to store FOOD. And lots of it. So, we’re in the midst of planning the addition of some new cabinets and permanent storage for our kitchen…and in the mean time, our kids (and dog) are loving their full access to all the food, all the time (This is the boys getting caught red-handed feeding the baby graham crackers on the floor).

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Directly in front of our kitchen is our (very) informal living room/kiddie playground. This room is complete with a gas fireplace and (nearly) floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the front yard.

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Connected to the living space is our dining room–one of my favorite features of this house is that from a single location on the main level I can see the kitchen, the front door, the back yard, the dining room and the living room–which is absolutely necessary when your kids cause as much mischief as ours do.

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Moving back toward the entry way on the main level you will come to a powder room.

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Just outside of the powder room is a half-set of stairs leading up to the bedrooms (After our temporary housing that had 36 stairs to get from the main level to the bedrooms, I am loooooooving the measly 6 steps that it takes to get up to the bedrooms here!)

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At the top of the stairs is the kids’ bathroom. It has tiles halfway up the wall, which is ideal for children who like to splash their bath water and little boys who like to pee on…well…everything.

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Upstairs there are 4 bedrooms. David has a Pokémon-themed room, complete with his own Pokémon training gym (trapeze). This is what his room looks like after I make him clean it…

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…and this is what it looks like after David gets home from school.

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David loves his new room, though, so that’s what really matters!

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For the first time since they can remember, the boys each have their own room. It’s been great for them to have their own space that they can really make their own.

Next door to David’s room is Jacob’s room: Dinosaur Kingdom.

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Jacob’s room is complete with a rock climbing wall (This little project was our way of smuggling wood into the moving truck…the moving company wouldn’t move raw lumber, but once we drilled those rock holds into the sheets of plywood that we already had in our garage they HAD to move it! Us: 1, Movers: 0).

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Across the hall is Hannah’s room: The Three Little Bears Woodland Wonderland (it’s just a purple room with a few bear things, but feel free to pin).

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Next to Hannah’s room is our master bedroom. I have done exactly zero decorating in here but, man, that bed is comfortable.

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Our bedroom has a unique bathroom/closet set-up. The bedroom is open to the vanity (Double sinks for the win! No more whisker clippings clogging up my sink, thankyouverymuch.) and the…closet rods? It’s the strangest master closet ever with everything just hanging out in the middle of the room, but somehow it works. One redeeming part of the master bath is that there are heated floors. I may or may not go and curl up on the floor next to my sink in the morning while contemplating my response to the shrieking baby down the hall.

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There is a separate little room that has the toilet and the shower. The shower is one of my favorite places in the house–with 3 shower heads and a door that locks, it’s basically paradise.

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That concludes the tour of the upstairs.

Now going back down to the main floor, there is another half-set of stairs right off the kitchen that goes down to the first floor. We are using this entire floor of the house as a catch-all for all the crap we don’t want to put away or deal with right now so…there.

Currently the first thing you come to at the bottom of the stairs is our swingset. Well, at least the boxes full of pieces that will eventually become a swingset. In the meantime, the boxes are perfectly suited as a baby jungle gym.

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The first room you come to on this level is our laundry room. I spend a lot of time here. That’s about it.

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Next to the laundry room is a doorway that leads to Jon’s sanctuary (his office). He actually installed a new touch pad lock on the door last night, so muggles (and children) can’t even get in. He does all sorts of secret stuff in there…I don’t know exactly what, but I’ve heard that there is a beer fridge and at least 3 gaming systems set up within those walls. Since there is a lock on the door, this room also happens to be where we are hiding our few possessions that the kids have not already destroyed with their anti-Midas-touch.

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Next to the office is our…Mess Room? What would you call a room that has a fireplace, a bookshelf, Costco overflow storage, cabinets that we ripped out of a bedroom, stuff I’m trying to sell on Craigslist, and a half-completed floor puzzle? I don’t know what you call this room, but we have it!

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Just past the Mess Room is another bathroom, a couple of storage closets, and the door to our garage. We managed to clean up one side of the garage so that Jon can park inside.

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The other half of the garage…needs some work. In all fairness, the boxes are just waiting for the moving company to pick them up and the bikes will move out to our storage shed…so hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’ll actually be able to fit two cars in our two-car garage!

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And that, my friends, is a wrap! We are thrilled to be here, and we are excited to use this house to bless others. We look forward to hosting you here–whether for a dinner on our deck, a play date in our living room, or even a slumber party in David’s bunk bed 🙂

Thank you for joining me on this tour, and we hope to see you here soon!

A Photo Tour Through Our California “Mountain” Home

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Ah, home sweet home. This week marks one month since we moved into the house we now affectionately refer to as River House (even though the “river” that supposedly runs behind our house is currently only a dry creek bed. I’m sure the massive El Niño they’re predicting for this winter will take care of that in no time, though).

It was a bit of a gamble moving out here–we’re getting a steal of a deal on the rent (by Bay Area standards, not by normal human standards), but the house is in the “mountains” (Californian for tree-covered hills). Even though it is physically quite close to civilization, there is an absolute feeling of remoteness. Though only two miles separate River House from town and the rest of Silicon Valley, the two places sometimes feel like they are worlds apart: Mountain people drive trucks instead of Ferraris; in the mountains you hear crickets and cougars (yes, large wild cats share our property) instead of The 101 or 85; in the mountains your gardener is Jesus, not Jesús from Ramirez Brothers Landscaping. And even though we’ve only been here for a month, I kind of love it.

I know you’ve all been curious to see what life is like out here in the boonies, so here’s a peek inside our little mountain life.

We are probably the only house in the mountains (or anywhere, for that matter) that has a large cement goose wearing a dress and an Irish welcome plaque at the front door. You really can’t miss us.
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Once inside the threshold you enter the Great Room. Turning left you’ll see our living room and school corner. My favorite part of this room is the massive vaulted cedar ceilings and the river rock fireplace (we’ll talk more about the necessity of that fireplace in a moment).IMG_6503

To the right of the living room is the area we’ve set up as the dining room and, beyond that, the kitchen.
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I love our kitchen at this house! It’s spacious and bright and, as of last week, fully functional. See our brand new fridge? This was a gift from our landlords two weeks after we moved in…after our old fridge died. We went 4 days with no working fridge which made storing food and eating fresh food a bit of a challenge. The ordeal gave me a greater appreciation for my pioneer ancestors. With the help of our generous neighbors offering us space in their fridge and a chest freezer in our garage, however, we persevered and survived the Great Fridge-pocalypse of 2015.
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The kitchen is so spacious that I actually have empty drawers and cabinets–and that’s saying something considering we own such obscure kitchen gadgets as an apple-peeler-corer-slicer and a Turkish coffee station.IMG_6519

Remember how we’re living in the mountains, and it’s full of wonderful surprises? Well, no tour of our kitchen would be complete without the inclusion of our little kitchen friends, the ants. And the gnats, but they’re too small and too fast to snap a photo of.IMG_6518

Off the kitchen is one of our five decks. This one is currently housing our BBQ…and a drying rack with our swim gear.IMG_6512

Speaking of the decks, we spend quite a bit of time out on them. This is Bota’s deck (she allowed a guest for the photo op):IMG_6514

And the boys’ play deck:IMG_6130

Back inside the house, we’ll finish the tour of the top floor of the house. Just off of the Great Room/Kitchen set up is the master bedroom (or, if you ask the boys, The Boys’ Second Bedroom):

IMG_6471Notice the utter lack of grown-up bedroom furniture. We had sold half of our bedroom furniture before we moved to Ireland, and then we sold the rest of it this summer so we wouldn’t have to move it. This was before we realized that we actually need bedroom furniture for absurd purposes like HAVING FURNITURE TO USE. Our mattress is currently sitting on the floor, I’m using a Rubbermaid container as a night stand, and I literally found Jon’s nightstand in a dumpster. It’s actually pretty cool, because we feel like we’re in college again. Not to worry, though, because our real Grown Up furniture has been ordered and is en route as we speak (!).

From the bed you can see our two private decks and gas fireplace–once you look past the Rubbermaid nightstands, it’s quite the retreat. IMG_6469

The white door you can see to the left of the fireplace is our closet. It’s a massive closet with ample storage for our clothing (and our full suitcases and boxes full of clothing, because it turns out bedroom furniture like dressers are actually useful for things like holding your clothes).IMG_6473Continuing on through the master suite you come to the master bath. The soaking tub is so inviting to my achy pregnant body but, unfortunately, I can’t use it. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but California is in a DROUGHT, which means there are water restrictions in place. And by water restrictions, I mean our mountain home is basically siphoning water from the city through a straw and if we go over our allotted amount, the water police will come knock down our front door. And they’ll fine us thousands of dollars, but whatever. Alas, the soaking tub will have to wait.
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Finishing up the tour of the master suite is our…office corner? I don’t even know what to call it. We have a dresser, filing cabinets, boxes of crap we don’t want to unpack, a bookshelf, school stuff, and a random office chair (with no desk) crammed in there.At least there’s a pretty little deck to go stand on if you want to get out of the mess!
IMG_6472This is also where we house our modem (for the world’s slowest internet) and our landline telephone (because we don’t get cell phone reception at the house). See, it really is like we’re in college again.

That wraps up the top floor of the house! Now, down to the first floor.

The boys’ bedroom is the first room you come to at the bottom of the stairs. We have their bunkbed set up so they can practice their climbing and diving skills from more precarious heights.
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Opposite the bunk bed is the boys’ dresser and reading corner. Pay special attention to the most important addition we’ve made to the bedroom: our eye in the sky camera.IMG_6496

Since the boys are now residing on a different level of the house from the parents, we considered it prudent to install surveillance apparatus. The camera allows us to capture all of the bedtime moments when the boys are anywhere but in their beds.IMG_6425

Next door to the boys’ room is the nursery/storage room/guest room/play room (don’t ever let me be your interior designer). This is the nursery side of the room (Yes, we are 4 months early, but it was just easier to set everything up than store it):IMG_6475

The closet in this room is stacked floor to ceiling with baby paraphernalia: IMG_6477

The opposite side of the room is currently acting as the boys’ play room (because this room has a door that locks, thus containing the mess and the temptations).

(Not pictured: the center of the room, the “guest room”, where we will set up our blow-up air mattress for anyone who wants to brave a visit).
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Also downstairs is the boys’ bathroom. It’s cute, but it smells like pee, so I try not to go in there.IMG_6474

We also have a lovely laundry room downstairs with a utility sink (an absolute necessity with children, I’ve decided).IMG_6479

One whole wall of the laundry room is lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. The cabinets are chock-full of electronics equipment (What, that’s not what you store in your laundry room?)IMG_6480

Outside of the laundry room is a linen closet and our game closet. We rarely play games, so I find it absurd that we own this many. Anyone want to come over for a game night soon?
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If you go down the hallway past the laundry room you come to our garage. It’s pretty well organized with storage along the walls, infinity toys on one side, and a narrow sliver of empty space down the other side where Jon can maneuver his car inside to park (it’s a very shallow garage, so it’s quite amusing to watch this transaction take place).IMG_6494

Outside the garage we have our yard. Yup, that’s it. Our property line extends 6 feet on either side of the house and is backed by the (dry) creek and a canyon wall, so this is the entirety of our outside space.IMG_6488

You may have noticed a wooden fence in front of the house (see the photo at the top of this post if you need a refresher), and you may have thought that was a nice little fenced-in yard. You would be wrong. What that is, my friends, is the propane tank enclosure. Because we live off the grid in the mountains, our main heat source for the house is propane gas (what?!?!). Since moving here, I have had to endure propane safety lessons with the gas company and join a propane users support group. True story. Thankfully it’s still FREAKING 100 DEGREES EVERY DAY HERE, so we haven’t had to try out the whole propane gas heat thing yet.IMG_6482

Now, I mentioned earlier that the fireplaces were important, and now you know why. With propane being our main source for heat, and propane being VERY EXPENSIVE, we are told that we will be relying on those fireplaces more and more as the seasons change. As such, we are stockpiling wood scraps and collecting them in aesthetically-pleasing boxes around the outside of our house. You’re welcome, neighbors.IMG_6483

Now, with all drawbacks (bugs, propane, water restrictions, slow internet, no cell service, no yard) aside, River House really does suit us well. Every time we walk out our door we are greeted with nature’s playground:IMG_6493

We have woods and canyons and creeks to explore. It feels very much like the Northwest, and very much like home.IMG_6441

And, though you can’t see the houses or the people very well in this photo, we have incredible neighbors. Neighbors who invite us over for dinner and let us borrow their fridge when our fridge dies and who invite us over for bonfires and s’mores and whose kids have Power Wheels drag races with our kids in the street. The neighborhood is teeming with children the same ages as our boys and we’ve all made fast friends. It’s a wonderful tight-knit community, and we feel lucky to live here.IMG_6486

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through our mountain home, and let us know when you’re ready for a visit! I’ll even blow up the air mattress for you.

A Photo Tour Through My Silicon Valley Home

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Ah, home sweet home. A few short months ago when we found out that we would be moving, I started dreaming about the kind of home we would have in California. Little did I know that finding and securing a house in Silicon Valley is about as easy as walking backward on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Oh, and you have to pay a ransom of your entire life savings to do it.

In the end, though, we did find a house that we are now making our home. Since the STARTING price of a home in the area is a hair over $1 million (seriously, people, I do not understand this craziness), we decided to rent for awhile so we can feel out the place. Even if we did have that kind of money to shell out, we weren’t going to do it right away. Moving with three-week’s notice halfway around the world with two young children was enough drama for me to handle in one summer–no need to throw in real estate agents and endless house tours on top of that.  Now that all is said and done, we are quite happy in our new pad. It’s a great house in a cute neighborhood and, as long as we only eat peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni, we can even afford the rent.

This weekend we’re having a housewarming party at our new house but, since most of you won’t be able to make it in person, I thought I’d give you a little tour here. So, welcome! Welcome to our home.

We usually enter our house from the side door because that’s where our garage is. If you come in off the street, though, you get to use our front door that is usually reserved for guests and my Amazon Prime delivery guy.

IMG_0659Turning to your left from the entry way you see the door to our mudroom/laundry room and our playroom.

The laundry room is quite the unique feature for a home in this area, as most people seem to have their washer and dryer out in the garage. After 13 months of walking through the rain to my garden shed to do laundry in Ireland, though, I could not be more thrilled to have everything conveniently located inside my house again.  There is a door from the laundry room that leads outside to our back yard, but we’ll get to that in a moment.IMG_0662Just outside of the laundry room is our ginormous play room and book nook.
IMG_0660 Yes, we have a playroom. In our pre-kid days, this probably would have been our living room with a big screen TV and surround sound and all kinds of pretty, breakable knick-knacks on the shelves. In reality, though, the children have taken over our lives…and our home. As a result, the kids claim approximately 90% of the home’s square footage as “their space”.IMG_0661There’s a little hallway off the playroom that we use to access the “south wing” of the house. The first room in the south wing is David and Jacob’s bedroom. We decided to have the boys share a room in the new house because we wanted to reclaim the third bedroom for ourselves. It’s a pretty simple room, mostly because the boys make it their mission to destroy anything they can get their hands on (Case in point: the bookshelves. I’d been wanting to hang these vertical shelves on a wall for three houses now, so I was ecstatic to finally put them up in the boys’ bedroom. It took only a few short hours, though, for a boy to attempt climbing the shelves, rip said shelves off the wall, and fall into a scream-y, shelf-y, book-y heap on the floor. We re-hung the shelves and nobody’s tried to climb them again since.)IMG_0683 We also got the boys bunkbeds for their new room. They mostly use the bunkbeds for mountaineering practice, as they climb up anywhere BUT the ladder, and flying lessons, as they find their way down any way BUT the ladder. IMG_0684 Next door to the boys’ room is their bathroom (a.k.a. the target practice room).IMG_0682 The last room in the south wing is our office. Despite our best efforts to make this room into “our space”, we have already set up the Pac ‘n Play (“baby cage”) for those nights when the boys’ “sharing a bedroom” just isn’t working for any of us.IMG_0687 Moving right along, now. If you were to turn to your right from our entry way, you would enter the “north wing” of the house. There’s a big wall that divides the space in this section of the house, and I had a lot of fun decorating it with family photos and memorabilia.IMG_0681Right behind the family collage wall is the master bedroom. To be honest, I have put very little thought into this room. The only important thing was that we finally get to sleep in our own bed again, so we didn’t really care about anything else. The room has a lovely assortment of mismatched Ikea furniture and Rubbermaid storage boxes lining the walls–Martha Stewart would be so proud. There’s also a bathroom off the master bedroom that has the home’s only bathtub. As a result, it is always full of bath toys and hooded bath towels.photo (24)Just outside of the master bedroom is the kitchen and Great Room. Even though our house was built in 1941 it’s seen a few upgrades over the years, including the kitchen’s white tiles and florescent lighting (circa 1993) and stainless steel appliances (circa 4 months ago).IMG_0679The kitchen’s island opens up to our Great Room, a shared space for our living room and dining room. Our family spends almost all of our indoor-time hanging out together in these rooms.IMG_0674The dining room has double doors that open up to a patio, a breezeway to our detached garage, and our back yard.IMG_0671 The back yard is one of my favorite features of the house. It’s a large yard with plenty of room to run around and play. And, since it’s sunny and 70 degrees every day here, we pretty much live out here. Our dog, Bota, is queen of the yard and will only come inside the house now if we entice her with food that the boys have thrown on the floor at dinner time.IMG_0665IMG_0666Another spectacular feature of our house is the garage. It’s huge, and we’ve crammed stuff into every square inch of it (40% of the shelves contain baby paraphernalia and kids’ clothes, 40% contain Jon’s tools and electronics gadgets, and 19% contain holiday decorations and outdoor gear. That leaves 1% of the space for my stuff: a pair winter boots and a box of mementos from my childhood.)IMG_0667The garage also houses a shop sink, a stand alone freezer, and a second fridge (mostly used for Mommy and Daddy’s beverages).IMG_0668That’s it for the house, but as you’re leaving this is the view down our street. The road ends at a dead end where there are two elementary school–a standard public school and a parental involvement charter school. With David starting Big School NEXT YEAR (?!) this could come in handy.
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Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed your tour. Let me know if you’re ever in town and we’ll blow up the air mattress–er, set up the guest suite–for you!

Killarney Day Trip

We’ve spent the last couple of weekends laying low (really low…we’ve been sick). Now that everyone is back on two feet again (or, in Jacob’s case, two knees) we were itching to get out and do something fun. A few days ago I met some tourists from New Zealand who told me about an amazing place they had just visited–and I knew right away that it would be our next adventure.

Welcome to Killarney. Or, as I will be referring to it from now on, The-Most-Beautiful-Place-On-God’s-Green-Earth. It was fascinating.

It took us a little over an hour to drive out to Killarney–practically on our back doorstep. Killarney is part of The Ring of Kerry, a 100-mile loop through some of the most incredible scenery you will ever witness.

We started our day at the Gap of Dunloe, a narrow mountain pass that winds though a lake-laden valley. There is one teeny-tiny road that goes through the Gap, so you can’t drive your car through. Instead, many people were hiking (and, if we didn’t have two ticking time bombs called toddlers with us, we probably would have done the same). We decided to go with the other popular option, a horse-drawn trap. The trap was basically a small carriage with bouncy little seats and a friendly driver. It was wonderful. Before we got on our trap, David got to meet some of the live transportation:

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When it was time to board our horse-drawn trap, we all climbed in and held on. Our horse’s name was Kinny (he was 12 years old and very good-natured) and our driver’s name was Dan (he was as old as the hills and called me ma’am).

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The road took us through a grassy valley filled with sheep of every color. Well, the sheep themselves were mostly white, but they all had colorfully-painted backs. Each owner paints his sheep a different color to keep the herds distinguishable, and the end result was a rainbow of baaing onlookers as we rolled past.

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We rode out to five different lakes, each enchanting in it’s own magical way. Everything was so pure and still and beautiful. The photos really don’t do it justice.

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We paused for a walking break at one of the lakes and got to poke around some (400 year old) cottages. What a beautiful place that must have been to live!

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We all agreed that our ride through the Gap was one of the most magnificent tours we’d ever been on. And, oh! Our day was just getting started.

From the Gap we drove back through the town of Killarney to Killarney National Park. The Park is huge–over 25,000 acres. We parked near one of the entrances and went in for some lunch and a little walk. There were beautiful gardens:

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And a marvelous place called Muckross House:

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The boys were starting to get antsy at this point so we decided to cut our time in the park short and head out to one final destination: Ross Castle.

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I really can’t get enough of the castles here in Ireland, and you can see why. They’re incredible! This castle is perched on the edge of a deep blue lake surrounded by mountains.  You can take boat rides out from the castle to explore the lakes and islands (one of which has the ruins of a 6th century monastery on it), but we were running short on time (that is, time before one of our children exploded).

Ross Castle was built in the late 1500’s as a personal residence, and today it has been restored for people like me to come and gawk. The castle is mostly intact, so there were lots of fun places to explore. We had a great time exploring the grounds and touring the interior of the castle. We may have even scaled a few rocky walls.

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Thank you, Killarney, for the beautiful day and the incredible memories.

Dublin, Day 5: Viking Museum and Kilmainham Gaol (Jail)

Today was our last full day in Dublin–tomorrow morning we will get up early and go collect our weary dog from her overseas travel (poor thing, she didn’t even know what she was getting herself into joining our jet-setting family). There were still several attractions we wanted to see but, alas, time was running out.

First thing this morning we walked down to a restaurant my fellow traveler-friends have been raving about: Queen Of Tarts.

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And now I see why. The shop sells every sort of baked scrumptiousness that you could ever hope to find in one space. For a sweets addict like myself, this place could be big trouble if I lived close enough to visit every day (because I’m pretty sure I would go there just about every day). This morning We all had raspberry scones with raspberry preserves and cream. They were simply divine.

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After breakfast we walked across the street to Dublinia , a Viking and Medieval museum. Since Jon comes from Viking lineage, he really wanted to learn a bit more about his barbarous ancestors and their role in Irish history.

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The museum was really great. There were lots of interactive exhibits and period actors who kept things engaging for even the squirreliest of toddlers (mine). David got dig for Viking artifacts, sit in Medieval gallows, and try on Viking helmets.

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When we’d had our fill of Viking paraphernalia, we walked down the block to Dublin Castle. Dublin Castle was built in about 1200 and it was later used as the seat of British rule in Ireland until the 1920’s. It is now a major Irish government complex.

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We looked into going on a tour of the castle, but the wait was several hours. In my experience, waiting and little boys don’t typically go well together, so we counted our losses and moved on.

Our next destination was the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). The gaol was built in 1796 and housed many of Ireland’s most notorious criminals (and loads of other people who did terrible things like steal bread when they were starving…). Several leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned–and executed–here.

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We were able to snag spots on one of the last tours of the day. When we purchased our tickets we were forewarned that if our kids were being disruptive during the tour that we’d be locked in a cell and left overnight.

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Just kidding (kinda). Thankfully Jacob fell asleep in the Ergo halfway through the tour and we kept David busy with videos on my iPhone so we could actually make it through one whole tour on this trip. Hey, don’t judge. It worked.

The iPhone came in handy again after our tour when we boarded our bus back home. We barely managed to squeeze on to the overcrowded hop-on, hop-off tour bus–it was so full that we literally put David up on a shelf. He was seated between some boxes of tour pamphlets and a nice Swiss woman (who also managed to find a perch up on David’s shelf. Did I mention those dang “convenient” tour buses were crowded?). Anyway, Nice Swiss Lady let David play with her iPhone the whole 30-minute ride back to our bus stop. She taught David how to use this ridiculous app that makes all sorts of obnoxious sounds. David, of course, loved it.

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And just like that, our whirlwind tour of Dublin was over. We had many new experiences, a few incidents that I’d like to forget, and many great moments. I’m glad that we live close enough to return to Dublin some day, because it really is a wonderful city.

Until next time, Dublin!

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Dublin, Day 4: Double-Decker Bus Tour to Trinity College and The Guinness Storehouse

Dublin is a very difficult city to drive in: parking is a nightmare and the roads go in crazy patterns (so if you miss your turn, it could be half a century before you find your way back). Because of this non-drivability, we’ve been walking everywhere. Today, though, we decided to mix it up and try a hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tour.

While it was fun riding the bus and convenient getting dropped off at each destination, I think the big red bus actually caused us more trouble than help. It took a long time to get places (the loop through the city took over an hour). My kids don’t do well sitting still–and remaining content–for more than two micro-seconds, so that was a bust. Plus, most of the buses we “hopped” onto were super-crowded and I had to give puppy dog eyes to comfortable-looking passengers in the hopes that they’d sacrifice their seat for a distressed mother carrying a baby, a diaper bag, a stroller, 3 jackets and an ankle-grabbing toddler. In the end, though, the experience did make for memories (and a cute photo).

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The first stop we departed our bus for today was Trinity College, a several centuries-old university in the heart of Dublin. As a former college tour guide myself, I just had to go on the student-led tour of campus.

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Our tour guide was friendly and witty and loud enough that I could hear her over the two screaming banshees we were pushing along in our stroller. It’s a beautiful campus full of interesting architecture (one dorm didn’t get running water and electricity until the late 1990’s–and now the entire dorm shares one measly bathroom), traditions (graduations are–and always have been–done entirely in Latin. The poor graduates can’t understand a word of their own ceremony), and colorful histories (a group of discontent law students murdered their law professor–and got acquitted in court. Hey, at least we know the late-professor taught them well…).

The most famous piece of history that we saw at Trinity College, though, is The Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a gospel book written in Latin by monks in the year 800 AD. It contains the first four books of the gospel, and it is beautiful. There are ornate drawings throughout the book and the text itself is so fancy you can hardly tell there are supposed to be words on the page. We almost didn’t wait around to see the Book of Kells because there was a horrendous queue, but I’m sure glad we did.

After we viewed the Book of Kells, we went upstairs to the long hall of the “Old Library”. It’s a massive room with hundreds of thousands of volumes of literature dating back hundreds of years (this library has a copyright agreement that entitles them to one copy of every book printed in England or Ireland every year–that’s a lot of books).

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After our tour of Trinity College we hopped back on our bus for our afternoon adventures. Jon was really excited to go to the Guinness Factory but, since neither me nor the boys enjoy drinking beer yet, we decided to part ways for the afternoon. Jon had a great time learning about Guinness brewing and learning how to pour (and drink!) the perfect pint.

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While Jon was at Guinness, the boys and I returned to the zoo to visit some of our favorite furry/feathery/scaly friends. The boys’ favorite part of the zoo today, though, was playing in the sand and hitting bushes with some sticks they found on the ground. Ah, cheap thrills.

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To round out our day we made one last stop in Temple Bar for dinner. We went to a restaurant that a friend of mine recommended called Boxty’s. A boxty is a bit like a potato crepe stuffed with savory fillings, and it is delicious. Really, really scrumptious.

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Another busy day of adventure–and I wouldn’t have it any other way!