Dogs on Vacation

Although our dogs come up north to our cottage with us all the time, they usually have to stay at home with a dog-sitter when we go on vacations to other places.  It was a Grand Adventure, then, for all of us, when we brought the dogs along to Beaver Island for our vacation.


Beaver Island is completely dog-friendly - beginning with the island ferry, where the dogs got their own tickets!


Both dogs did just great on the 2-hour ferry ride out to the island (which is in the middle of northern Lake Michigan).  They were well-behaved and pretty relaxed.  (It was tougher on our way home because the water was really rough that day, and they were somewhat uncomfortable about that.  But still good dogs!)


On the island, we stayed in a cottage right on the lakeshore for the week.  It was pretty much dog-heaven -- with the water and the woods and the turkeys and the snakes.  So very much to check out!


One day, the lake was super calm -- barely even a ripple on the surface.  A perfect day for swimming!  


We had hoped for a dog-swimming-day and planned accordingly, packing water toys -- including one of Jenny's favorite blue floatation cushions.  The dogs LOVED swimming in the "big lake!"

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The shoreline of the island is mostly rocky, so it's challenging to "walk the beach" -- but there are a few bays with sandy beaches.  They are very dog-friendly (unlike most of the Lake Michigan beaches nearer to home, where dogs are not allowed - even on leash) and the dogs were welcome.  We were able to let them off-leash where they could walk along with us, free to explore and roam a little.

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They LOVED it!


And we did our part to keep the beaches walk-able for everyone. . . 


It truly was a Grand Adventure for all of us -- J-pups included.

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And, as an update, Jenny is feeling much better.  (She got into the trash at our cabin on the last night of our vacation. . . )  We're still waiting for her to pass whatever "interesting thing" she ate -- but she's eating again, and acting like her usual cantankerous self!

Vacation (Home Again)

We had a wonderful vacation.
(And now we're back home.)


So relaxing.
(And then we came home to a full schedule of appointments and events and meetings.)

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We did a good job of unplugging.
(But now we're making up for it -- catching up on paperwork and email.)


We had no distractions.
(But now we're dealing with our sick, garbage-eating dog.*)


We just listened to the waves and enjoyed the ever-changing shore.
(Now I'm coming to grips with the weeds-gone-wild after 11 days away.)


We sat around and just kicked back every day.  And ate ice cream.  Lots of ice cream.
(And now we're hitting the gym.)

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We're back home.  And happy to be here.
(But missing the relaxed pace.)


(And the beach. . . )


* Jenny eats ANYTHING.  And she ate . . . "something-interesting-but-not-identifiable" while we were on vacation (according to the x-rays the vet took on Tuesday) . . . which will now work it's way through her digestive tract.  (Lucky.Us.)  




A Bit of Pampering

I have returned from my visit to Pittsburgh.

This time, my trip didn't include any sightseeing.  No trips to gardens.  No pilgrimages to special restaurants or brew pubs.  No shows.  Nothing fancy.

Just . . . a bit of pampering!

Erin, as you may recall from earlier posts, is in the Technical Writing graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University.  This program is intense, highly competitive, and quite grueling.  Erin, who works really hard and has Very High Standards for herself, really needed a good rest and some restorative time during her spring break.

Mom to the rescue!

My strategy was to just . . . keep things low-key.

We did some shopping.  (Baby needs a new interview suit. . . )  (And a new pair of shoes, too.)


We enjoyed an indulgent spa day.  (Massages and facials, all around!)


We ate out a few times -- and I also cooked a Mom-dinner in Erin's kitchen.


We had a great time playing with Erin and Keith's silly kitty, Dash. 


There was a whole lot of kicking back and just relaxing.  I even pampered myself -- with some wine and stitching (both knitting and Alabama Chanin) -- back in my hotel room every night.  (Gotta love my hotel wine glass!)


And . . . a special bonus!  While Erin spent some much-deserved sleeping-in time, I met someone very special for a coffee date!


Kat (yeah . . . THAT Kat) and I spent hours and hours chatting and catching up and even getting a bit riled up together at a Starbucks somewhat-near downtown Pittsburgh.  

Time flew!

I can attest that her incredible daily stitching project is even MORE awesome up-close-and-personal than it is on Instagram (and it's pretty dang awesome on Instagram).  I think Kat knit a few stitches while we were together, but my bag-of-sock just sat there on the table for the entirety of our visit.

As always, it's wonderful to meet a blog-friend in real life . . .


My time in Pittsburgh was perfect.  Restful and relaxing -- with plenty of pampering.




Spring Breaking


So it doesn't feel much like Spring out there, I know.  But I'm in Pittsburgh this week, celebrating Erin's Spring Break.


So ... no beach, for sure.  But a little Mom-attention goes a long way at the midpoint of a grueling graduate program!

I'll be taking a few days away from the blog.  See you (maybe) Friday!

Party Like It's . . . 1979!!!

We usually do . . . something . . . to celebrate New Year's Eve.  Sometimes parties.  Sometimes just staying home.  Usually going out for dinner.  (That's our recent MO:  a special dinner with friends at Food Dance - one of our favorite Kalamazoo restaurants.)  Whatever we do . . . we always watch the ball drop and count down to the new year together.  

Nice . . . in that kind of quiet and predictable way.

But.  It wasn't always like that!

Let's just send the clock back to . . . 1979 . . . shall we?  Back when this guy (looking a bit Luke Skywalker-ish) and this girl (with her Farrah-'do and oh-my-god-painter's pants) were A Thing.

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Yep.  Tom and I were reunited for Christmas break (he was a senior at Boise State University; I was a junior at the University of Wyoming) -- and we were headed off to San Francisco for the New Year.

Because . . .  why not?  

A friend of ours - Steve - was headed to San Franciso for a medical school interview.  And he needed driving help.  (Isn't this how many adventures happen???)  Tom and I and another friend - Dave - were only too happy to oblige.  It became our most memorable New Year's Eve ever.  

We drove through the night, made a stop in Reno (where the boys all had fun gambling and I got kicked out of every casino we visited -- because they were all 21 - but I was not), and ended up in San Francisco.

While Steve interviewed, Tom and Dave and I took in the city. 

We visited Golden Gate Park (in the fog).

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We climbed Coit Tower and enjoyed its exquisite views.

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And this land-locked Illinois-to-Wyoming girl saw the ocean for the first time in her life.  

This is Seal Rock -- (where we actually did see seals).

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And we spent some time on Baker Beach.*  (The waves kind of freaked me out -- because it was cold and I didn't want my shoes to get wet.)

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And then - best of all - we celebrated New Year's Eve with the crowds (throngs) on the streets of San Francisco.  

It was SO AWESOME -- and so adventurous -- to welcome 1980 this way.

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I'll never forget . . . me and the boys . . . on the streets of San Francisco.  No other New Year's Eve party or gathering will really compare.


*How do I remember - after 37 years - exactly where we were in San Francisco on that trip?  Why . . . because I made sweet little notes on the back of each trip photo.

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This post is part of Think-Write-Thursday.  Be sure to read other New Year's Eve stories here, and sign up for the weekly prompts here.


One Last Look at Dublin


I don't know about you, but today . . . I need a distraction.  So, let's take one last look at Dublin, shall we?


We only scratched the surface of Dublin on this trip -- and actually spent more time out in the Irish countryside than we did in they city.  We didn't visit Trinity College, for example (even though it was just down the road from our hotel), and we didn't see the Book of Kells (we'll have to return).  But we did enjoy a few sites in town.

St. Patrick's Cathedral.


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The Famine Memorial

(This is not my photo.  This haunting and beautiful memorial is spread out over a lot of ground alongside the River Liffey, just as if there were people - many people - walking to their ship to escape the famine.  My photos could not begin to do justice to this powerful memorial -- so enjoy this one instead.)


The Bridges of Dublin -- and, particularly, the Samuel Beckett Bridge

(Again, not my photo.  This bridge is simply breathtaking -- and there was just no way I could take a photo that would begin to show it's beauty.  Really stunning.)


Street artists

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Will ye be havin' a pint?


Dublin is a wonderful city -- vibrant and bustling and full of history.  I'd love to go back!


But, for now, it's time to end this travelogue (at last. . . ).


Goodbye, Dublin!


And please, Please, PLEASE . . . VOTE!


Forty Shades of Green


Feel like a soundtrack for today's post? Click here.

On our train tour of County Wicklow, my sister and I discovered that Ireland does, indeed, have forty shades of green!


Seriously.  Green.


After our tour of the Avoca Mill, we traveled on through County Wicklow, stopping at the Meeting of the Waters, where the Avenmore and Avenbeg Rivers meet before heading out to the sea as the Avoca River.


It's a beautiful and peaceful spot, and a favorite for family gatherings and picnics.


Next, we visited the Wicklow Mountains National Park.


And then the Glendalough Monastic City.


At the gates to the Monastic City, a woman was playing the Uilleann pipes -- and the music was haunting and lovely -- perfect for the site.


This was truly the stuff travel brochures are made of!


So beautiful.  A bit haunting.  And so very green!


After such a magical, mystical day, it was rather jarring to take the train back to Dublin at the end of the afternoon -- where (of course) we promptly got lost straight out of the train station (but found our way quickly and without much turmoil).

Forty shades, indeed!


A Day Trip to County Wicklow, Part I: Avoca

On our last full day in Ireland, my sister and I wanted to visit County Wicklow, south of Dublin.  So we signed on for a RailTour.


We had a wonderful day -- and we enjoyed the company of QUITE the cast of characters:  our taxi driver, John (who sang an old Irish tune along with an instrumental song on the radio, thought we were from Virginia - no matter that we explained where we were REALLY from, and warned us repeatedly about the dangers of traveling in crowds) (yeah) to our tour guide, Paddy (seriously) to Dave (just a guy on the train from County Wexford who was eager to talk about American politics with Real Americans).  All of the people we met in Dublin were wonderful.  Friendly, welcoming, helpful, and really interested in conversation.  It was so refreshing.

Our first stop was someplace I'd really looked forward to visiting . . . the Avoca Mill.


The Avoca weaving mill has been around since 1723.  The sheep farmers around Avoca Village became known for their woven blankets -- and especially for the bright vegetable dyes they used on the wool.  


These bright colors became Avoca's "signature."  


We had a tour of the mill, and got to see all aspects of the weaving process in action.


It was all quite fascinating -- and their weaving is just gorgeous.  

We did a bit of shopping after the tour (I got myself one of their throws -- this one -- and it is just lovely), and ate lunch in the cafe.

Everything about Avoca was Just. Charming.  (Apparently, a television program - Ballykissangel - was filmed in the village of Avoca.  Another set of sisters on our tour were Big Fans -- and headed into the village instead of the mill.  Neither my sister or I had ever heard of the show before.  Apparently, it is a Big Deal in the UK and Australia, though.)


It was a perfect first-stop on our day-long trip to County Wicklow.


One Morning in Ireland

My sister and I booked a private tour with a driver one morning in Dublin.  His name was Kieran, and he was just delightful.  After giving us several options of possible drives we could do in or around Dublin, we chose to drive south . . . stopping in a few coastal towns and ending up at (you guessed it. . . ) a world-renowned garden at Powerscourt Estate.


We stopped for a bit of a walk in Dalkey, a charming seaside resort town.  (And, according to Kieran, a very desirable - but very pricey - suburb of Dublin.)


It was quite early in town that morning, and the weather was a bit gloom-ish.  Things were very quiet.

But absolutely charming!


We would've loved to visit this shop, but it was closed.  (Best sign ever, non?)


Bono lives in Dalkey; we saw his driveway. . . and his "local" (pictured below).  (Apparently, author Maeve Binchy lived and wrote just down the street from the pub.)


Dalkey Island is just off the shore . . . 


The island is close enough that people regularly row or kayak out and spend the day -- climbing the tower, exploring the shoreline, having a picnic, etc.  Kieran regaled us with tales of kayaking bachelor's parties!


He also mentioned that there are dolphins in the waters here, but we didn't see any during our visit.


We drove further down the coast . . . to Powerscourt.  As we drove, the clouds were getting heavier and heavier!


I figured we'd be visiting another garden in the midst of rainstorm. . .  

(and, really . . . Ireland is THAT green!)

No worries, though.  We got through all of Powerscourt before the rain hit.

My first view. . . 


and then . . . looking back up at the estate house from the pond.


There was a marvelous Japanese garden. . . 


with a gorgeous little moss-y grotto. . .


(Seriously . . . The Green.)

I was kind of giddy . . . 


There was a Pet Cemetery . . . 


All of the family's beloved pets were buried here -- dogs, cats, ponies, even a cow!  The headstones were so sweet . . . 


The gardens were spectacular.

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The grounds were over the top!  (Kieran told us not to miss the 3-D garden gate.)

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And, in the end, the sun even came out!  (But only briefly.)

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It was a wonderful morning in Ireland!








Will Ya Be Havin' a Pint? (Part I)

My sister and I spent the last 3 days of our trip in Dublin, off the cruise ship and on our own.  One of our first items of business?


Why. . . a trip to St. James Gate, of course!


You can't actually have a tour of the Guinness brewing facility at St. James Gate, but you can visit the Guinness Storehouse -- which is a pretty marvelous "museum" that tells the history of Guinness, and walks you through the steps of their brewing process.  With, of course, a couple of opportunities to sip a pint or two along the way.

Our first pour. . . 


and my sister's first sip!


Now, my sister is pretty much a wine-drinker . . . and she had never tried a Guinness before.  She loved it -- and so much more than the whisky!  


You start the tour of the Guinness Storehouse on the main floor . . . and you work your way up and up and up . . . until you're on the very top floor -- which is a pub with a 360-degree panorama view of Dublin.


(Here we are, with the Trinity College campus behind us.)


We had a great time!  


History.  Education.  Fun.  Plus . . . Guinness.


Really.  What more could you be askin' for?


(Stay tuned . . . for more Dublin.  And more Guinness!)