Tis’ the day to cut down our Christmas Tree

Every December, buying our Christmas tree is a major event in our house.  Okay when I think about it more, it is ME which makes it a bigger deal than it and I love the memories it brings for me and the kids.  As a child, we never cut down our tress – we just bought  one from the local seller and brought it home and put it up.  I have no cozy memories of tree farms  and I want that for my little ones.


Our first year in Dublin, we set out on an adventure to cut down our own tree and ended up at Slade Valley Christmas Tree Farm. and it was brilliant.  The tree was lovely and I want a good experience again this year with a bit more atmosphere.  You can’t beat a real tree which we pick out, cut down and enjoy in our home.  Plus a real, freshly-cut tree looks and smells great.

Only this year we willtry a different tree farm in the Wicklow Mountains – Wicklow Way Tree Farm in Roundstone.  Their  website looks great, clearly a full campaign was put in place.  If for some reason we could not find it, there are several in Wicklow so I’m sure it would be fine.

While it seems far, the drive from our house was just over 1 hour so not bad at all and we were into the mountains.  There was a bit of snow the night before and much more expected Sunday along with the fact that Nils is heading to the US for a week, we took advantage of this one day we had to get the tree in the mountains.

Once we reached Roundstone it was very easy to find our way – these blue signs lead us right to the farm.



The farm was lovely – the staff was very friendly and informative and the instructions were clear.  Tag the tree, flag down a guy in blue and then relax and warm up while they cut down.  We parked the car and got out wellies on as the ground was very mucky and wet.  It wasn’t even 5 minutes before the kids noticed the white fluffy snow which fell last night and they were off and going crazy in it.



We walked a while trying to find the right tree… kids played with the snow while I keep searching for the right one.  A few measurements and we found one that we all liked.


After Soren watched the man cut down our tree, we had complimentary hot chocolate and minced pies & treats while we waited for our tree to be brought down from the field and a net put around it.


Overall the experience was great – we’d highly recommend this tree farm to anyone who is looking to go pick out your own tree.  The cost was very reasonable too at £8. a foot, you can choose how much you want to spend.

Only problem is that our tree this year is a bit taller than before so I don’t have enough lights to cover it so tomorrow, we’ll go buy more led bright lights to add to it.

Will post a photo when completed with loads of new glass ornaments.

And the final decorated tree.

Glasnevin Cemetery Halloween Mid-Term Tales Tour

Today we met up with friends to take the Children’s Mid-Term Tales Tour of the Glasnevin Cemetery.  Glasnevin Cemetery hosted a one-of-a kind Halloween tour for children aged 6 – 12, running  The tour will be given by the Ace of Spades, who will terrifically terrify you with tales of gruesome truths and funny folklore. Are you curious to discover how the legend of the headless horse man came to pass or perhaps you’d like to hear the story of the unfortunate Vincent brothers and the cursed ‘Black Aggie’ statue?   The tour guys Alan and Warren very amusing!


We first ate our lunch at the Whitworth Pub where the kids had their faces painted and then we headed off for a quick look at the decorated pumpkins at the Botanic Gardens.

With their faces painted and costumes on – we set out for the tour with Alan and Warren.

maebh and nina faces

It was really fun and the cemetery is really nice –  after being here for 3 years, it was our first time.   It’s a very peaceful, beautiful place and next time we’re at the Botanic Gardens for a walk through, we’ll pop over here being so close it’s a must.


Fall in Ireland = Blackberry picking

Back home in New England it’s a big tradition to visit farms, go apple picking, pumpkin picking and leaf peeping and eat all things pumpkin spice in the autumn. It’s the season I miss most!! 

Here, sadly, we might spy a colourful tree and  I freak out. There is this ONE tree near the Dart station which I point out each time I drive by on the way home.   f I remember, I’ll take a photo of this poor one tree.  Weather permitting, we’re going to pop over to the Botanic Gardens next weekend – hopefully some nice leaves will be on the trees/ground.

Soren was at soccer practice, Maebh and I set off behind Deer Park and picked some blackberries.

For some reason, all the lovely bushes along Howth Celtic were crushed down by a bulldozer – not sure why but I must ask Michael next home game.


Sadly all these bushes were toppled and crushed.

I have no idea what to make with them so they are in the freezer until we decide what to do – probably a crumble.



Ireland Road Tripping: Donegal

Last October during the October half term break, we booked three night stay in Letterkenny, Donegal, but after much consideration, we cancelled it and headed to Clifden at the kids’ request. We agreed, we’d head there during the “summer” in the hopes that we had better weather and could do more exploring.

Now fast forward 9 months and we’re heading that way for a 3 night break.  This time, we’ve booked in the Gweedore Court Hotel, which is located in the Gaeltacht heartland, An Chuirtli. With only 66 rooms, it is not as large or modern as the hotels we would prefer, it’s closer to the ocean than Letterkenny and works for us.  Plus it was the only hotel in the area with a pool, pub and availability for the time we chose. The hotel’s pool seems okay but the kids club is only for kids under 8 so we won’t bother. I’ll post photos of the place when we arrive, but while it’s listed as a 4 star hotel, I am not holding my breath that it’s anything special.  Though all the reviews say it’s a very clean hotel – we’ll see.  The views from the area are amazing.

One day we’re going to have to visit Leo’s Tavern.  It’s supposed be renowned for its music being the family home of world famous musical talents Enya, Clannad and Moya Brennan. Not sure we’ll enjoy a Trad session as it tends to kick off at 10 pm (when kids in pubs are banned).

There is just nothing available in any part of Ireland for the long weekend (well, in our budget!)  Clearly, I was not thinking ahead for this weekend away the way I normally do.  I booked Christmas in July and May at Christmas.


I have “Friday Summer hours”  so once the kids are done at camp and me from work, we’ll head up to Donegal. I suspect it will take a good four hour drive but as it’s a new destination, probably a bit longer.

Gweedore from Dublin

As we’ve never been to Donegal before, I’ve been doing some research on things to do and see while there.   I’ve come up with the following list.

View the Kilclooney’s Dolomen – which, according to my information, we must first knock on the cottage and ask the old couple permission to go up and view it. The kids are going to love that part!

Amazing Beaches:  It’s no secret the area is home to some of the most stunning beaches in Ireland so we’ll be sure to stop off at some.

Killybegs – We’re definitely going to stop by this “town” to check it out. I suspect it will be a combination of Howth and Cobh.  The fishing heritage of Howth but the cruise ships visiting like Cobh.  The tourist information says to stop by the visitor centre and get info on the Killybegs Heritage Trail which will take you on a journey back in time to discover this historic harbour town of years gone by.  Maratime Museum in Killybegs looks like something we’d do too.

Glenveagh National Park:  It looks like a beautiful place to explore.  And on Monday of the August bank holiday (Aug 7th) there will be a family nature walk from Stalker’s Hut.   Their site says to book a place on our trail walkers bus at 10am from the car park.  Enjoy the walk down the Bridle Path and meet the education guides at the Stalker’s Hut from 11 am.  Toast marshmallows by the camp fire, traditional music and nature crafts.  Or another idea would be to rent bikes and cycle around the park and walk to the waterfall. For this we’ll certainly have to book in advance if we do this.

Tropical World:  If it’s really bad weather and we need a place to go indoors, we can visit this place.  But then again at €28.00 for our family to visit, they might have more fun bowling, movies or even a giant indoor water park like Waterworld Bundoran which we’d pay €45 for the four us. At 7 & 9, they’ve visited many zoos and butterfly houses in the past so not sure can justify the costs. 

Now not sure if we’ll get there as it’s 1.5 hours from our hotel, but how cool would it be to visit the “Most Northern Point in Ireland – Banba’s Crown on the Inishowen Peninsula, near Malin Head.  Especially since we’ve visited Mizen Head which we always thought was the most Southerly Point but later learned it’s Brow Head, County Cork (though until I just did a search and this map, I no idea were that is exactly!)

mizen head vs brow head

If we do go that far, then I think we should stop off at Dunree Fort too.

One thing is for sure, my new charger & battery for my “better” camera better be here by then as it’s on backorder.   I want some good photographs from this trip!

This post is a work in progress as I find new places to explore and of course will update with photos once there.  

Aviva Stadium: Ireland vs. Uraguay

Yesterday we took the kids to see the friendly fixture against Uraguay as part of the 2018 World Cup series the the Aviva Stadium.   Luis Suarez played for like 10 minutes – probably part of his “contract fulfillment”.

We all first met up at the Bloody Stream for a couple pints then headed in on the DART – Howth to Landsdown Road (super easy!). Funniest thing is Soren was at a playdate earlier so he didn’t join us until the Sutton stop.

I have never been there before so was happy that we all went together.   We will do a stadium tour another time.  The stadium is beautiful, new, loads of bars, food stands.  Speaking of stands and bars – there was a rule you could not bring your beer to the stands!  They loosened up the rule in the second half.  But as I am a self-professed​ beer snob, I would not waste my money. Plus, I had two Hoegardens already at The Bloody Stream.

In order to sit together, we swapped our tickets with another coach, so our tickets were in premium section 324 which was great but the rest if the group was up in 511, we moved 1/2 way thru. There the kids would be with their pals and it made going home a lot easier.

On the DART on the way home, some of the boys were cracking us up climbing the poles and trying to do chin ups, etc. A little brother was the best!!

Great night and all was safe – there was a no bags policy in place but it was outside in the crowds which was my most uneasy period.  I did not see one armed Garda – yes, I still have strange feeling about the fact that most of our police do NOT carry guns!!  A few issues with drunk losers but thankfully that didn’t  escalate.  Anyway on the DART, no worries only laughs at the climbing monkies.

Fun time with a great group of kids and parents and awesome that we won!

Ireland Road Tripping: West Cork & Kerry (again!)

This year the kids have a full week off for February mid-term break so we’re taking advantage of it and heading away for a few nights.  We’re huge fans of staycations and make every opportunity to take in as much of the amazing Emerald Isle as we can.  If we ever relocate back to the US [or somewhere else], I do not want to look back at our time here with regrets.

Like we’ve done several times, we found a deal on SuperValue Getaway Breaks and we’ll be staying at the Westlodge Hotel in Bantry.   It’s not a fancy hotel at all and in fact, I’m slightly nervous that we’ll get put in an old room but for the price we’ll have to deal.    3 nights including a FRIDAY & SATURDAY for €245.00!!  The hotel has a heated pool with a kids area and bubble section – which was key decision factor.  Being just outside the town centre, I’m thinking we’ll be able to find a cozy pub and hopefully have live music.

Our Room was #213. It was not a newly renovated Superior room, but it was fine!  It was very warm even in February, so we slept with the window and mesh curtain open as much as possible – but at night you’d have to close the over curtain or those opposite would see right in.  Not sure what it would be like in Summer – might be too hot?!  Our room had two single beds and a double bed. The only two cons of the room – tiny tv and when I say tiny it was like a large computer screen with a MAX volume of 21!  The toilet had some flushing issues oh and it was not mixed taps – so you have either super hot on the left and freezing cold on the right – grrr!

it overlooked the outdoor kids playground area (closed for the season – I assume to regrow the grass around it) and was just down the hall from the kids games room which consisted of some plastic garden houses, a pool table, a football table, ping pong table “like Anthony’s next to the Porsche“.  The Leisure centre staff in the pool area said they had some supervised kids activities, but it was not a “real” kids club where you check them in and they are supervised. One girl was putting some face paint on a kid and that was all the supervision we saw for the 3 days.   So if you are looking for a drop-off, supervised kid club like the amazing one at Clifden’s Station House this is not the place for you.  The kids went swimming twice, once was the four of us and once it was just Nils and the kids (I had a migraine and had taken a pill). The pool area was terrific – sauna & Jacuzzi, a small kids pool, a shallow end and a deep end.

The one huge issue we had with the hotel is that the pub areas were so un-cozy.   Even their pub was nothing like a lovely, cozy Irish pub – it had a large tv blaring some UK talk tv show, a poor singer shoved in the corner no on listening to him.  We felt so bad, we moved closer to him and watched him for a few songs.  When we left, not a person was there ….  shame that they don’t install a  dimmer switch – the lights were fully on.  We left and visited Bantry where we had a nice drink in a couple different pubs.   1) Ma Murphys – a genuine, untouched, traditional Irish pub with real Irish character, friendly staff.  it’s been in one family since 1800’s and they have a little shop section.  Mary was working and was so personable and welcoming.   2) Bantry Bar – served Paulaner on draft so I was a huge fan instantly!   Music didn’t start until 10 and kids had to be out around 9 so we were out of luck there.  We also ate in the Brick Oven Pizza restaurant and itw as great.  The best part about that restaurant was the two guys who worked there.  One kid had a melt down in the corner and without any hesitation, the guy (I think Matt?) ran over and talked with the child.  He was quite and it was so amazing – my husband was so impressed he mentioned to him that he was brilliant with kids.

The location was great – you could technically walk from the hotel down to the town centre but a 5 minute taxi ride back is easy enough too.

There were some other deals available including Sneem Hotel, Casey’s of Baltimore, etc but Bantry is a great central location not far down any of the many peninsulas.  Two years ago we stayed in Ahakista in December and in August that year our friends visited from Boston so went down to West Cork & Kerry, but have not been since so we’re due a trip down.  One day we drove over to Baltimore to have a look – we ended up seeing a huge gathering of kids doing a sailing course – very cute.   The “town” or village was tiny – a few pubs, restaurants,etc.  But what was cool was the ferry;s out to the islands – we’d love to do that in the summer.


One thing about this trip was that we’re going to try and do/see some new things.  We’ll still do a few of the same things we always do like a stop in Kenmare – one of our favorite places!
I popped in two new charity shops which were not there when we visited last – nothing for me but more books for Nils!  I think he got 12 in one shop alone!!  There was a second hand flog it store half way up the street, but when we were going to enter the man said no kids allowed but we could come in one at at time – ah let me think about that, NO!   I get that perhaps some shitty kids were in his shop before and as an shop owner he has the right to refuse entry but then don’t try to then talk us into coming in one at a time.

We ate in PF McCarthys (again) – kids split a toasty and Nils and I both had seafood chowder and open faced, smoked salmon sandwiches on brown bread – soooo good. Oh and they too served Paulaner on draught, so I had a pint too!  Not sure but I think the barman was an American!  

It was drizzling so we popped in shop to shop from The Nest, Fat Face, Quills and the toy/sports shop up the top.    We love Kenmare & we’ll be back again and again.

We also took a trip down to Schull & Crookhaven to have an open faced, smoked salmon sandwich with seafood chowder in O’Sullivans.


We didn’t bother going to Mizen Head visitor centre – we’ll save that for summer too.  Schull was a bit more dead then it was last time we were there & loads of shops seems to have closed down.  The one group of people we saw walking around went into the Wine Bar across the street from Hackets.   The one great thing about Schull this time was it was low tide and down the by pier was a rocky section normally under water and it was full of sea glass and pottery pieces – I got a LOT in only about 10 minutes.

Boat with flowers inside - Schull, West Cork


All this while keeping I mind it’s February.  Irish say it is spring , but for us we maintain it’s WINTER!   No snow like in Boston, but cold nonetheless but some flowers are starting to bloom – snowdrops are out and daffodils are right behind.

But the new things we could have possibly done included:

A day in Cork City and a wonder through the famous English Market and checking out the second hand shops on North Main Street. We never made it to walking around Cork City, but we did stop in to the Franciscian Well Brewery and had some amazing pizzas.   They lease out a brick oven pizza maker in the back and they were so good!  We got two pizzas but easily could have had a third.  I highly recommend this place and we’ll be back.

A visit to Cobh (pronounced Cove) is on the books too.  Cobh is a beautiful Victorian seaport town & the home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal.  Some 2.5 million people left Ireland for pastures new in North America via Cobh (formerly Queenstown) from 1848 – 1950. These emigrants included Annie Moore and her brothers. Annie was the first immigrant to be processed through New York’s famous Ellis Island facility in 1892 and the family stands facing the United States.  A similar statue of Annie can be found in Ellis Island, New York, representing the honour of being the first emigrant to pass through Ellis Island and standing as a symbol of the many Irish who have embarked on that very same journey.

In looking over the things to do, we had to decide what to do.  A quick look what there is to do as tourists and seems there is a lot. Some of the attractions in Cobh include the magnificent St. Colman’s Cathedral which is a beautiful photo rather famously shown in many brochures of Ireland.


This first photo I pulled from the Internet – the houses were not as vibrant and lovely as shown – probably photo shopped.   Anyway, the following photos are all mine. We parked in the free parking lot behind the church. Loads of steps up and down so for those with small kids and old people don’t bother – go down to the “waterfront”.

There is Titanic Trail, self-drive harbour cruise boats, Spike Island tours, the Lusitania memorial, the Cobh Road Train, Cobh Museum and many other places of interest.   They have two charity shops, so we popped in – Nils got more books, Soren a Beano book and Maebh a headbands game – which we played that night in the hotel lobby.

One option would be to visit The Queenstown Story at Cobh Heritage Centre where you learn a bit about the Titanic, Lusitania, Genelogy, Emigration, Cobh’s Maritime & Naval History, etc .  The admission fee is €25.00 for our family.

But my main drive to Cobh is to visit the Titanic Experience which is also €25.00 admission – no way would we do both.  Upon check-in you will receive your boarding card. Your boarding card will have the details of one of the 123 passengers who came to the White Star Line Ticket Office on Thursday April 11th 1912. These were the final passengers to join Titanic at her last port of call in Queenstown, Ireland. (Cobh was renamed Queenstown from the period of 1849-1921 in honour of Queen Victoria’s visit to Cobh and so they refer to Cobh as Queenstown for much of our story.) Did you survive? The final element of the experience located in the story room, is where you will learn the fate of you as a passenger and all the Queenstown passengers. We also feature a selection of interesting artefacts from Carpathia, The Odell Family Collection and some original serving pieces from the White Star Line fleet of the early 20th century.  The kids are so curious if we survive or die.  I am not sure – I think we may survive but Nils says probably die and that only in the US would we survive.

When we arrived, I asked the lady to at the counter to be sure that she gives us two people who live and two who pass as it would be exciting to see what happens.

I was Mary Madigan, Soren was Maurice O’Connor, Maebh was Ellen and Nils was xxxxxxxx.

The guided tour was about 30 minutes long and then you are brought into an area with artifacts and videos, etc.  and in the end you learn of the fete of your passenger. Like I said before two lived and two died – turns out it was the two ladies who lived and the two guys who died One body was recovered, one never found!  All in all it was good.  When we finally get to the Titanic Museum in Belfast where the ship was built, I’ll compare the two.

So when we arrived in Cobh we were hungry and all the places were just not appealing to us. I then suggested we visit The Titanic Pub downstairs from the museum.  Nils was assuming it was some tourist place with mediocre food but turned out to be excellent.  Seafood chowder was an 8.5 – excellent – a tad bit salty but still very good.  The only issue we had was that it was 8.95 so from a price standpoint it is a bit high.  I had an open faced smoked salmon sandwich and Nils had fish & chips.  The place was surprisingly good – highly recommend.

Prince August – Toy Soldier Factory

On Sunday on our way back from our trip we stopped in for a visit to Prince August – Toy Soldier Factory.  I booked online and saved 10% but they offer a great deal of 50% if you book in the morning before noon. This didn’t work for us this time, as Nils was meeting a friend from 20 years ago in a nearby village so while he was having drinks with them, we went onto the place.  Being allergic to paint, we thought this was the best part.  I have to upload the photos from our time there & will post shortly.

My TripAdvisor review:

I visited with my 7 and 9 year old kids on the way back to Dublin. Was a great way to end our weekend in West Cork. Both kids cast and painted items – my daughter their newest item – an elf. My son choose a soldier on horseback. They loved it and asked me to promise a stop each time we are in the area. Next time I’m going to join in too 🙂 The staff are all lovely and very helpful. We booked online and saved 10% but if you book before noon you can avail of 50% off (amazing deal) – I suspect it is quieter in the mornings too – though being a Sunday nding a mid-term it was not to busy My youngest pointed out that if we lived closer you could even have your birthday party there.

I’d say it’s best for kids 6 & up. The little ones would not be doing to pouring of the hot metal rather painting only.

Overall it was great, and its an activity that parents and children can do together at the factory and at home (if you buy kits to make at home). We didn’t visit the battle of Waterloo exhibition, but heard it’s amazing.

They have a small area with coffee/tea & crisps for the parents to sit while the kids paint.

We hoped to take a small walk around Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve but didn’t get there.  Too wet. We’re not a huge hiking family with Nils’ bad knee, we’re not going far but we’ll take a short walk and see what we can spot.

We did have a great drive over the Healy Pass!

Visit Donkey Donks at The Donkey Sanctuary just outside Mallow.  Wonder if we can bring them apples?  Over 5,200 donkeys from all parts of Ireland have been taken into their care.  It’s free to visit but rely on donations, so we’ll be kind.  You can also adopt a donkey for a year for €25.00!  Don’t worry, you don’t take the donkey home with you!

As  I am always up for sea glass hunting on a nice rocky beach,  so when I hear about The Coral Beach in Sneem near Gleesk Pier which is a rare geological gem and one of only 2 coral beaches in Ireland, the other is near Carraroe in County Galway.  While most Irish beaches are made of sand, this beach is made up of tiny pieces of desiccated and sun-bleached algae.  This type of coral is not like the coral you might find in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

coralbeach coral-beach-sneem-ring-of-kerry

While Fota Wildlife Park is a great place to go with kids, we’ll skip that until much warmer weather.

So for now this post is finished,  I’ll update with photos and fix why the layout is wonky!

Little Museum of Dublin

Last week, I was attended a special guided tour of the “Little Museum of Dublin” with a women’s social group to which I belong.

It is located in a lovely Georgian house just opposite St. Stephens Green, down from the Hibernian Club, where the club’s monthly meetings take place.  A person from the museum came to the club and spoke about the museum – unfortunately, I was not able to attend that, so when I saw the tour, I jumped on it.

After this tour, I’ll bring the kids back for a visit.   Soren would especially enjoy the U2 exhibition.   They have worksheets available at the museum for children of all ages that can help you get more out of your visit.   Plus the tour guides in the museum can give your children some special attention pointing out a fewinteractive artifacts in the museum, they let your kids handle – but do ask!  Take a photo of them in the old Dublin school desk, or making a speech from JFK’s lectern. The more they get involved, the more they learn.  They do things with schools too.

The Little Museum of Dublin tells the story of Dublin in the 20th century.    All items are donated  or are loan which makes it even cooler. They are always looking for interesting items, so if you have something historical here in Dublin – reach out to them!  

While we waited for the tour to start, we were free to explore the room downstairs which was a photographic exhibition. Then upstairs, a guide named June, brought us into two large rooms where you navigate your way from the early 1900’s to the 1990’s.  There you’ll see the story evolution of the society, from a political, social and cultural point of view.  She pointed out some key things.  Unfortunately when I tried to get back into the first room, to take photos, there was a private tour happening, so I could not re-enter.  The reason I didn’t take photos at first is 1) I wanted to pay attention to what she was pointing out and 2) there was way too many people. In addition to our group there were 6 additional adults, so photos would be an issue as there would no doubt be a person in the photo.  Having learned my lesson, I did manage take some photos in room #2.

There are more than 5000 artifacts on display, from bicycles, newspaper articles, photographs and rare objects like the lectern (stand) used by John Fitzgerald Kennedy when he visited Ireland and a first English edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

There is a permanent exhibition about the famous Irish band U2 up on the second floor. There are a lot of photographs, signed albums, concert tickets and other memorabilia on display. There’s even a Trabant car in the middle of the room which I took a photo of – yep with a person in the corner, but no matter how long I waited, I was NEVER alone for a second in any room.

I highly recommend visiting this museum whether you are from Dublin, Expat like our family or just a tourist in for a few days. They do a great job showing how Dublin has evolved over the last hundred years and the tour lasts 29 minutes – so even those strapped for time can squeeze it in.
I just saw that in addition to visiting the museum, they offer a 60-minute walking tour with an expert local guide Donal Fallon called WALK THE GREEN MILE.  It takes place on the weekends.  If interested click on the link and book in – they sell out.  In fact, all tours of the museum sell out often so best to book online.