Saturday, November 27, 2010

I LOVE her!

I just thought that she looked darling today...

She was starting to get upset wanting someone to pick her up in the above picture, and in the below picture she is crying and sticking her rear up constitutes a fit.
Much better. Dad rescued her. This is a trick she learned while we were away. She is walking holding on with only one hand.

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Defrosting/brining the turkey in a bucket, because what else does a turkey fit in? We had Thanksgiving today (Saturday). I don't know what to blog about Ireland. On the one hand I want all the pictures on my blog for when I print out the book, and for those who are interested in seeing them. But on the other hand, how do I choose just a handful? So many pictures, and so much to say...
Irish brown bread... make a loaf in an hour start to finish. More like a bisquit, but very dense because it is made of mostly whole wheat flour. I grew to love this bread, and it is perfect for food storage, quick and very filling. No yeast! I know it looks ugly, but this is how it is.
Our Thanksgiving dinner this year minus the rolls which I forgot to make. Pat made pumpkin pies. My favorite was snacking all day on spinach dip. (Pat and I are pretty much alone in that joy.)
What I'm most thankful for is my family. I missed my children of course while in Ireland, but tried to not think about it so I wouldn't be paralyzed and I knew that Grandma Brenda was taking good care of them. But by the time we were almost home I was jumping out of my skin. We got home at 10pm, and they were all asleep so I decided not to wake them, but as soon as I saw Leia's head I couldn't help but scoop her up and hold her and cry. She had been sick while I was gone too. I'm soooo thankful that Grandma took such good care of her. She gave up 11 days to be here so we could go away and I know it was a tremendous sacrifice for her and Grandpa and Pat's younger siblings who had to pick up the slack. Thank you so much! I was sooo glad to get home safely and see my kids again and have a super clean house as a bonus. I thought this picture was funny because Leia Nora and our dog Bella were so happy to see me that they just kept really close to me for a couple days, so finally I had Pat take a picture.
We asked the kids to name three things (aside from our family) that they were thankful for. A person, place and thing.
Dallas is thankful for Jesus, Heaven and electricity.
Samuel is thankful for Dad (we let him get away with that since he didn't want to participate at all), and then with more help Sam is thankful for Mom and Dad's bed where he can go when he's scared at night, and piano.
Dad is thankful for Joseph Smith, Ireland, and his car to get him where from one place to another.
Evan is thankful for Bella (Pat let him get away with that and it's not even a person!), our house because "it keeps me warm", and trees for climbing.
Leia is thankful for Dad (she was touching him), the hospital in case she chokes (at that time she had something in her mouth we had to fish out) and the floor for crawling.
Karisa is thankful for her sister Stephanie her best friend, the temple because it makes me a better person, and music and plants.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Andrea in Ireland 2010

November 22, 2010
I still can't believe I was lucky enough to see this wonderful singer in Ireland of all places!
(Here he is with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir- I like it... just thought I'd share!)

I guess I'll start with the last night in Ireland which was the Andrea Bocelli concert.
My complaints: the brand new O2 venue in Dublin was the ugliest place I'd ever seen. Huge and brand new but it was all made out of concrete!!!! There were no nice chairs or couches or a nice lobby while you waited before you took your seats. Just concrete, people standing around and the harshest BLUE fluorescent lights everywhere. It certainly didn't give the ambiance that this concert deserved. That along with the hard plastic seats just made you feel like you were there for a basketball game. It was TOTALLY inappropriate. I think it was made more for Lady Gaga type concerts.

Now that I got that out of the way, the concert was WONDERFUL! Below I snapped a picture of the program and as wonderful as it was, the best part was that we got Andrea to come back for 5 or 6 encores which is when he sang some of his most popular songs! As soon as he ended one encore, we were all so thrilled and we all went crazy with excitement. I leaped out of my seat yelling, "BRAVO!", "MAGNIFICO!", and "ANDREA!" at the top of my lungs, and screamed and clapped and stomped my feet, and luckily, I wasn't the only one (that would have been embarrassing). It was so thunderous, and we did it after each encore with no sign of being tired or letting up because seriously I could have gone all night. Finally he came out with everyone for the last encore and said something to make us know that there would be no more.

We still tried, but I guess it had to end sometime. Of course I told my seat companions where I was from and showed them pictures of my kids. It was so fun!

After the concert, everyone had to take the light rail back to their various locations, and since it was so packed and since it was our last night in Ireland, and since we were so energetic from the fabulous concert, we just decided to walk back to our hotel- a distance which Pat says was only two miles originally, but we got so lost I think we crossed most of Dublin.

It was around midnight by then, but we finally found our hotel. The map below shows where we should have walked if we had done it correctly. The O2 is right by the water- both the Dublin Bay that leads to the Irish sea, and the river Liffey that runs through Dublin, and most of the way we were walking with other concert goers along the river Liffey.

We saw some beautiful things on our long walk!
Here's a snapshot of Pat's neighbor's program. They wanted 20 Euro for it! There was a fantastic female opera singer that did a couple songs, and a quartet of female opera singers that sang one of my favorite opera songs- the one by Offenbach in Part 2. I also loved the Romeo and Juliet song.
I wish I had written down his encore songs. They were all favorites. All I can remember is Canto de la Terra. (This is a younger Andrea Bocelli singing Canto de la Terra, but you've got to listen to this if you don't know him.) It's what really got us into him. Before that we just heard about him on our missions singing 'Vivo per lei'. In fact there's a video of me and my companion doing that song for a ward Talent Show that's pretty funny... but I have no idea how to get that VHS tape onto this thing, and it's just depressing to see how skinny I used to be!!!

The next morning we went to the airport and flew home ALL DAY LONG.

Church in Galway

Written by Pat to end Saturday:
We made it to Kinvara and stopped at a Bed and Breakfast but they didn't have a bath (Karisas wanted to soak with her sore legs). We continued on to Galway and it was big and confusing to get around after dark. We eventually saw a Best Western and stopped here for two nights.

We went back out and after getting lost again (we almost stopped for some cheap American food like Papa John's but decided to keep going) we found some parking in the town center. We walked around the very trendy and very busy part of town and passed on several expensive restaurants. We settled on fish and chips from a very famous place. I got the catfish and Karisa got chicken! (I'll never stop making fun of her and she loves fish!  She doesn't even know why she got chicken!) We grabbed desert at a crepe and ice cream place and then made it back to the hotel. We called our children and miss them so much!

Back to Karisa and Sunday:
One of our best days was Sunday. I'll always regret the lack of pictures, but I didn't want to seem touristy, and it made a difference just enjoying.

Got up and had a delicious breakfast at our hotel. Then we went up to the church. At first it was strange because it was in a business park with a Curves and other stores around it, but it was wonderful! Apparently they usually get tons of tourists in the summertime but we were the only ones in the off season today.
We've seen and paid for so many of the attractions that are so popular. But going to church today was my absolute favorite part of this trip.
To be automatically included into an Irish family, linked by the faith we each hold so dear, you cannot help but feel linked together. It is a joyous thing! It was a very small branch, like the ones I knew on my mission, but since people are more well off here and steeped in the Catholic culture (not so much the religion) the work here is very difficult for the missionaries. This branch covers a vast area, and the Irish still fly to London I believe for their temple. The branch had people from Russia, Brazil, the States, and all over.
The branch president (like the bishop) was my sort of person-very direct, powerful, yet humble and kind. (Kevin O'Toole?) After talking with the missionaries a bit it was time to start.
A lady from Utah spoke first about her son who is deaf, the new church manuals, and the importance of families. I wanted to shout in agreement when she said, "You want your family with you!", like when anything important happens be it a vacation, baby's birth, baptism's, a car wreck, temple sealing, baby's birth, and after this life!
I can tell I'm not going to in any way do this meeting justice of the Spirit felt there! So here's the basic notes:
*Bro. Livingston's mission to Russia...Teodore not member like wife and daughter. Did not like the idea of church. If God really cared about all of us, why not kill us right before we turn 8?
*Bro Livingston was inspired to say: You daughter is very good at chess, in fact a Russian chess champion, right? Yes. Do you believe she would be so good if you had taught her from all the chess books and watched videos, and studied moves IF you had never actually allowed her to play? No.
*To succeed you must practice the game. The game of life. This is why we had to come here w/o the memory of our former life, to see if we would choose the good from the evil, and how we would live our lives and treat others.
*He used to read anti-mormon stuff and apologetic mormon rebuttals and finally determined that IT ALL COMES BACK TO JOSEPH SMITH.
*Temple overflowing in celestial room- patrons shushing everyone from their joyful chatter... "Yes but isn't it a beautiful noise!"
* There are some Sundays or maybe long stretches of Sundays where you may not leave church edifyed and uplifted. If you've got kids distracting you constantly and busy callings, you may actually leave more exhausted than when you came! Answer to the age old question of why is attending church necessary? Can't I get to God on my own? Yes, but he's called us to meet together off and love one another and serve and lift one another.
*Bro. Livingston said, Sister ? just did a WONDERFUL primary program last week with 6 children! How can we repay her for that?! It was better that wards with 10times that many kids. We never know when a kind word may affect someone's testimony or simply being there!
*Ever notice how a piece of wood removed from the fire looses it's flame pretty quickly- but even after loosing it's flame, if it is placed back in the fire the heat immediately causes it to burst aflame once more... This is like the Spirit of the gospel how it affects us when we meet together.

Pat and I got to pray. We stayed all 3 hours. The Spirit flowed so strongly that tears fell silently from my eyes often. The branch president taught sunday school (Old Testament- Shepherding- Sheep will break your heart) and then the R.S. was taught by a nervous girl who did a terrific job on her topic of the Holy Ghost.
She gave me a bookmark I'll cherish. It reads,

"God allows us to be the guardians, or the gatekeeper's of our own hearts. We must, of our own free will, open our hearts to the Spirit. For he will not force himself upon us."

She told of when she was hit by a car and thrown and after the woman who hit her drove away, she started walking and was about to have a breakdown and the Spirit told her go to EYRE (pronounced Air) SQUARE. She obeyed and found her sister and brother just happened to be there and she bawled and fell into their arms.

Another lady told of her conversion. She kept putting the Elders off because even though she knew the church was true, she was afraid of going under water to be baptized. She said that they often came to her work to verify the time that they were meeting with her later and it always made her nervous because she could be fired for having personal business going on, so she wished they would leave, BUT THIS DAY, she looked up from the store window and saw them standing there, looking at her, and she said it was like someone had poored hot water over her to entirely cover her body as she looked at them and she knew that everything they'd been teaching her was true. They asked her why she was looking at them so funny. She said that they still don't know to this day about her experience.

Towards the end of R.S. the president who was also the speaker in Sac. Mtg. from Utah said to me, "I hope you don't mind me singling you out, but I feel like I already know you and your husband, the minute you walked in." Others in the room agreed immediately. I wish I knew what that meant, but I had the same feeling that something magical was happening this day. All I can say is that it was a wonderful day!
I cannot come close to remembering all the comments, stories, and lessons learned in church today. Nor can I bring down the Spirit upon you to feel what I felt- though I wish...
What a blessing it is to know the truth! What a blessing to have a dark haired Irish man testify of Nephi and the Book of Mormon in his deep Irish brogue. I am so grateful to belong to the church of Jesus Christ...

The Livingston's invited us to dinner after church (Sarah, Jason, kids-Alex, Adam, Kat). They are from Austin Tx. He works for Bio Games running a call center for a new Star Wars game coming out next year (Star Wars-The Old Republic). I don't know much about video games but he showed me some stuff and it looked like nothing I've ever seen before- so above everything else. The Livingston's are both really neat and it was fun to talk to them. Sarah made ham, cabbage and potatoes with cooked, coined carrots on the side. After dinner we walked into town because the Clarinsbridge Hurler team had just won the country finals- going to nationals. UP THE BRIDGE!! The pubs were packed so we crept in and out among the crowds. After that we sat and talked about Star Wars, 80's shows and fashions, etc. They had a really nice house with a stone corridor, skylight and 9 bathrooms!! One in each bedroom and extras. It was the largest most beautiful, modern house I've ever seen.
They had been in Austin Tx the last 2 years and only ended up here 4 months ago but plan to stay here about 10 years. I think it's all very interesting because their kids are kindergarten to 4th grade which means they'll have Ireland as the most significant memory of they're growing up years. They said in Ireland teachers are allowed to yell at the students, and everyone watches out for everyone's kids. They can send they're kids to the corner store with no worries.

Before Tx they lived in Luxemberg (tiny country in Europe) for a few years. She said that her oldest started school at age 3 learning Luxembergese (?). Then in their schools, at age 10 they switch entirely to German, then at a later age French, I think. So WOW. Her son leaves that environment and goes to Texas! And now Ireland for 10 years. I wish I was them!

Cliffs of Moher and The Burren

Written by Pat:

The cliffs of Moher were expensive ($15) but impressive. Karisa's legs/knees were hurting making it difficult to walk from the bike ride so we had to take it slow to get to the top. We walked back and forth at the top and took a bunch of pictures.
All those people past the sign aren't supposed to be up there, but as you can see, no one pays attention.  It's too bad though because the wind blasts over the cliffs with such force that people die here every year.  Some commit suicide and some are accidents.  This gave Karisa nightmares after she heard about a mother jumping off with her 4 year old.  These are indeed, the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride.

After that we started for the fastest road to Kinvara, but it was closed so we had to backtrack a bunch. We saw the edge of the Burren – a desolate part of Ireland, full of rocks and peat moss. They shovel chunks of peat moss to burn like wood in their fireplaces. I ran from a car stop to the ocean, about 20 feet up and took some pictures.

Ferry and Beach

Written by Pat:

We woke up and had breakfast. We had trouble sleeping (woke up at 1:30 – back to sleep at 3:30) last night- Karisa's legs hurting. Slept in until 8:30. Full Irish breakfast (sausage – bacon – eggs on toast). We left Dingle around 10:00 and headed towards Tralee. We stopped at Dunnes and Karisa bought some boots that she needed for the concert since she didn't have any nice shoes to wear. We had to ask for directions to the Ferry in Tarbert because I couldn't find the road. We got going and quickly made our way to the ferry and caught it to Killimer.

We drove up the coast and stopped at a beach in Lahinch. We had to climb down some huge rocks to reach the sand. I grabbed a small handful of shells and we walked barefoot in the freezing water. We got back in the car and drove on to the cliffs of Moher.

Bike ride around Dingle peninsula

Woke up at 8:30am and ate breakfast and went to rent a bike. Two places were closed for off season, but then we found a loofly (lovely) man in a shop who told us to go to a bar. It's open, he said, people already in there drinking. So we went in to the bar called Foxy Johns and we did indeed rent a bike for each of us, and sure enough there were men drinking already.

I have to say I loved my bike! They are cute bikes with big seats for us fat Americans. Very comfortable and easy to use, which was good since I hadn't ridden a bike for at least 10 years. We set off on our 30 mile bike ride around the tip of Dingle Peninsula. (By the end my butt was soooo sore.)

Pat will write for a while:

Passing the Ventry harbor was beautiful, long beaches with sheep roaming in the close foreground. We stopped for a few minutes at Dunbeg fort – a fort from 500 B.C. It was small and impressive. There were some very nice costal cliff views from the fort.

We continued on and saw some bee hive huts (ancient) lots of fields surrounded by stone walls (some just laying fallow) - before easy access to fertilizer they plowed into the ground and added seaweed to get things to grow.  There was a stream crossing the road. We stopped for a minute at Shea Head and saw the nice crucifix there. After that the up-hill portions got harder. We biked/walked through some nice views and after about 20 miles ended up in Ballyferriter and into a pub for lunch (mushroom soup, ham sandwiches and fries). Food never tasted so good.  After lunch it was starting to get cold. We had our hardest up-hill stretch and then a few miles back down to Dingle town- 10 miles altogether. We dropped off the bikes and got some ice cream (Karisa had brown bread ice-cream) and then went to a shop (Super-Value) for some snacks for tonight. The hot showers back at the B&B never felt so good.  Below are all the pictures we took on the bike ride. 

View out our window.
Ventry Harbor

These are the reeds that they make their roofs with.
I loved these living walls bordering the roads.

Look at those amazing rock walls!

Dunbeg Fort

Do you see the island Skellig Michael?

Beehive house, not a speck of mortar.  Great picture of me.

Slea Head
Aren't our two bikes romantic?

That night Karisa's legs/knees would hurt her terribly making it difficult to sleep and they ached so cold but there was nothing we could do to get the room warmer. She really needed a heating pad just on her legs.  No bathtub either to soak.  That's what you get for getting on a bike suddenly after 10 years and riding 30 miles.  She said she'd do it again though, because it was so amazing.  By the way, they said the average rider will do this in about 3 hours.  We were gone for 7-8 hours and Karisa really wanted to stop at one beautiful beach and rest but I had to make her to keep going because we didn't want to get back after dark.  We got back just as it was about dusk.  If we ever go back to Ireland she still wants to see that beach.  We collected shells and rocks along the way to take home to the kids. 

Beara Peninsula

BEARA was beautiful and definitely the road less traveled. Very barren hills, until you got nearer the tip and then it was lush and green and the narrow road wound around homes and lands and you really had to watch out for the sheep. We went to the very tip and saw a cable car (hanging in the air on a cable) that crossed the ocean to the island not far off called Dursey (about 1/4 mile off the coast).
Pat wanted to pay to cross. I wouldn't let him and I certainly wouldn't go with him. The wind was fierce, the waves were choppy and frankly terrifying. Not to mention all we'd do is turn around and go back since the man said only 6 people lived over there. This was so beautiful though! I was glad we got to see such a beautiful place. What a neat thing for the people who get to live here!

After finishing Beara, we ended up in Kenmare a cute town where we got dinner. I ate sea trout (not river trout- it was red like salmon), and Pat ate lamb stew. Then since it was already very late we headed onto Dingle. I was sure tired, and so glad that Pat just kept on driving. He was really a hero.
We arrived in Dingle Town at about 8pm and for the next hour looked for a place to stay. It took an hour!!! Off season. I said, "No" to the B&B that we finally found open, because it was very old, cramped, no T.V., and the old lady that ran it made me feel weird. Pat was mad again. We got turned down at several other places and some places we turned down. The expensive hotel we both had to turn down, but finally we found Bolands B&B. Very nice people and decent place. Much newer furnishings and the owner had mostly grown children (just one young son left at home). She even let us sit in her kitchen since she didn't have phones in the rooms and call our kids which is always a long phone call. It was a little cold for me, but once again, we went in the off season. I'm sure it's great in the summertime. Our room looked out over the town and the bay. The houses were so colorful and the town reminded me of Chile a bit. It's just a tiny bit from the center of town, but withing walking distance easily.