Motivational Monday…It’s in YOU

The security of your life’s destiny lies within you.


The secret to having it all is believing that you already do.

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Summer Reading…Some book recommendations!

Do you ever get towards the end of a really good book & don’t want it to end?…don’t want to say goodbye to the characters that have briefly inhabited your world? So you stop reading … And then a few hours later you’re compelled to run back to finish the story. That’s how I felt about some of the books I’ve recently read.

It’s been a very voracious summer of reading and I’ve loved it! I love finishing a book one day and picking up another the next. I’ve realized that I read way more when there’s an actual book, as opposed to my Kindle. There are pros and cons with both…Kindle is great for travel & you can quickly download books…but the tactile feel of a book, not to mention being able to go back quickly and reference previous information, makes me a more prolific reader. It’s been a bit costlier than downloading on Kindle, but I’ve read more…and I rode my bike to the local bookstore, Lido Village Books, (thanks to Austin & Kate for the gc that made me discover the store) and love chatting with the owner. Because it was a bit costly, I decided to put some of the books on my list on hold at the library. It was great for some less popular or older books…and saved me a lot of money….but many of the best-seller ones have a long “hold” list and I’m number seventy-seven or ninety three…yikes!! At this rate I won’t read them until 2020! A hybrid of library books, actual books and kindle downloads has worked quite nicely this summer.

Here are some books I’ve read, with small critique…in no particular order…

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne…a great, although tragic at times, story with lots to discuss at book club. It includes some of my favorite places..Ireland, Amsterdam and NYC! Good book club discussion.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides…a noteworthy underline I did… “The development of our personalities doesn’t take place in isolation, but in relationship with others-we are shaped and complete by unseen, unremembered forces; namely, our parents.”

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens…it’s great and been on the bestseller list for awhile. Loved it…and you should read it!

Educated by Tara Westover….in the same vein as The Glass Castle. I loved it! I’m sure there are a bunch of quotes in there, but can’t seem to find my notes…ugh!

Becoming by Michelle Obama…you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll love this smart, educated, compassionate woman (if you didn’t already.)

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman…good psychological thriller, keeps you going back to see what’s going to happen!

All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr…a lovely tribute to her father (I cried in this one too), and her navigation with addiction. One of the quotes I underlined, “you are not an intrinsically interesting subject. journalism..requires you to leave your place of work or residence, go out and find more interesting than you and then come back and tell your audience about this person, place or thing.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney…longlisted for the Man Booker prize and recommended by a few people. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love it. It seems like a coming-of-age young adult read with alot of back & forth.. he loves me/he loves me not. It kept my interest to finish it, mostly wondering if anything was going to happen. (…but I know so many have LOVED it)

Cottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber…totally perfect, quick, summer beach read.

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore…I loved this summer beach read set on Block Island, where my mom & dad used to go, in their later years (post child-rearing), every year with her sister and friends. Another place I need to visit now!

Lastly…one I just started yesterday and have heard rave reviews! I’ll keep you posted…

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

Have a great weekend! I hope I’ve inspired you to pick up a new book. It’s my last before going back to work and I will savor it!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Hey Jude..and dual-citizenship progress

The Fab Raabs were going on a little baby-moon before #RaaberbabyDeux arrives in late August, and asked me to stop in NY on my way home from Ireland to spend a few days with Jude. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this adorable face?

We had fun going to the park, swinging on the swings and doing lots of reading. She also happens to be an incredible sleeper!

She was at daycare a couple of days, so I used that time to catch up on my jet lag & laundry…and spend a few hours in the city visiting with my childhood friend, Kelley. I have always wanted to visit the beautiful building of the  Irish American Historical Society, so I finally remembered to call to make an appointment for a tour (I tried once by just ringing the bell, but you have to make an appointment) and discuss my quest for Irish citizenship with the curator, Georgette. The building is gorgeous, with Waterford crystal chandeliers and historical pictures, among other things. They host various events and can be rented out for parties or weddings!

original mother of pearl buttons, inlaid in the wood, to summon the maid back in the day

It happens to be right across the street from the MET, where I was meeting Kelley…win/win! Kelley & I went to the “Camp” fashion exhibition at the MET. It is a very well curated exhibition with great use of space…a large room with myriad “camp” offerings. Some of my favorites….

After a quick lunch it was back to Brooklyn to pick up Jude. On Saturday & Sunday we went for walks, ate bagels, she took some epic naps, and I got to see some new beautiful parts of Brooklyn.

how cute and creative is this little tree planter fence
always take time to smell the flowers

Georgette, from the historical society, was so helpful and suggested I check out the NY Municipal Archives to get some necessary documents pertaining to dual citizenship. It lead me on a day-long trek to lower Manhattan on Monday, with a visit to three government offices…but I finally got an Apostille certificated copy of my grandparent’s marriage certificate. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in one of the countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention. Who knew that’s what I needed…and I think I’ll need to do the same for the remaining documents I need….another day-long trek next time I’m there. My goal is to have dual citizenship by my 59th birthday in December! Wish me luck!

the government building were beautiful!
the last of three offices…waited over an hour here!

….but got the ultimate reward of #pizzamondaybk with the Fab Raabs!

….the end of an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime trip that I’ll be reliving in my mind for years to come!

…heading back home…love JETBLUE!!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!


Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days, you know that there are better ones coming.

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

48 Hours in Paris

It’s become pretty expensive to fly in and out of Dublin, mostly due to the rise in tech companies who have made Dublin their European base. When I looked at fares, I realized it would be just about the same, if not cheaper, to take a short flight to Paris and fly to NY from there. I have a home exchange friend, Caroline, who lives there, so after confirming that she’d be in town, made the arrangements to stay for 48 hours. You can pack a lot into 48 hours!

I landed mid-day, dropped off my bag at Caroline’s and headed out to do my favorite Paris activity…roaming! Actually I was pretty hungry, so Caroline had recommended a place called Le Bouillon Chartier in Montmartre. I’ve always wanted to meander through the covered passages of Paris, and Caroline said I could see a few on my way to the restaurant. I took the Metro to Les Halles and walked over to Galerie Vivienne, the one I’d heard the most about….then got lost through a few passages that I don’t know the names of…before stopping at the restaurant. The passage & galeries are charming places with restaurants and shops to explore. Unfortunately, there was some construction going on in Galerie Vivienne, so some of the shops were closed, but it was fun and felt like I was taking a secret passage way to get from one street to another.

Le Bouillon Chartier restaurant is over 100 years old and quintessential old Paris. It’s large historical dining room seats many, and there are usually lines out front. I happen to hit it mid-afternoon, so there was no wait, but when you dine solo you sometimes have to be willing to sit with complete strangers at a small table. The couple at my table were nice, but it was obvious they weren’t planning on another “guest” at their table. I had the escargot, which came out very quickly…and didn’t linger, so they could have some alone time.

I continued to wander the streets of the 9th arrondissement and more little passageways for a few hours. It was Monday, so, of course, I had to stop in a corner bistro for dinner along the way for some pizza!

no, i didn’t eat the whole thing…but I was tempted too…it was good!

I knew I wanted to end my day at my favorite spot, St. Regis, a corner cafe on the Ile St. Louis. It’s the epitome of a Parisian cafe and I’ve stopped in for a glass of wine every time I’ve been to Paris. It has a beautiful view of the back of Notre Dame…which, sadly, looks a bit different now due to the recent fire.

not the view from the cafe, but wanted to capture the new facade

The second day I had signed up for a cooking class in a Parisian apartment at 10:45, so took the metro over to the 20th arr. It was fun meeting the others, all from the US,  and learning some new recipes.

Chef Fred
filet de turbot over julienned vegetables with cilantro infused coconut milk sauce
passion fruit souffle

If you want any new cookware E. DEHILLERIN is the place to go in Paris. It’s overwhelming…and awesome!

Tuesday evening I’d signed up for Caroline’s unique Parisian Jazz Club Experience and it was so cool! There were 18 of us in the group nestled in a cozy club for three hours of jazz and a tour of the 17th century part of the building. What a fun, relaxing evening!

There’s a tea that I love called Marco Polo, from Mariage Freres, that Caroline introduced me to the last time I was there and I forgot to pick some up. I hopped on the metro to make a quick trip there and bought a couple of boxes to take home (yes, I can buy them online…and have…but I was in Paris, why not bring some home!) Found some cute passages and cafes along the way.

A whirlwind, fun 48 hours in Paris!

coming up…four days in NY with Jude!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Saying Goodbye…on to Dublin

I met Padraig, Grainne and the grandkids at the ferry for our journey back to Westport to catch the train to Dublin. The grandkids, Liam and Roise, live in Dublin and I said to Grainne a few days prior, “why don’t they ride with me on the train, so you don’t have to make the drive?” She agreed! ….but we had one more stop to meet a relative who lived in Westport.

Padriag, Liam, Roise and Agnes, my dad’s first cousin.

As we said goodbye on the train I got very teary-eyed saying goodbye to Padraig & Grainne…my newly found family. The train to Dublin is through the gorgeous, green countryside and it was fun to have the kids along…and meet their mom in Dublin. I will definitely be going back someday…and have extended an invitation for them to visit California!

After delivering the kids safely to their mom, I hopped in Gina’s car for the start of my three night stay in Dublin. You know those friends who you don’t see hardly at all, but you just pick up where you left off?? Well, that’s how I feel about Gina and Andy. I hadn’t been to their home since 2013 ….although we do keep in contact via WhatsApp now and then…but we chatted the whole way to her home, as if it were yesterday. The first night she had invited her neighbor, Liz (whom I’d met), over for an amazing dinner…Gina is quite the chef! She asked if I liked oysters…and I don’t…but she convinced me to try them baked, not raw. I’m a convert! She made this gorgeous plate of food…just the appetizer…

I will definitely be ordering cooked oysters at restaurants now! She also made yummy steak for dinner and we stayed up ’til 1am chatting (they are late night people!)

I’d been to Dublin a couple of times before, but still wanted to walk around and go to a few favorite spots. It was a gorgeous day to stroll the streets, hopping into little shops and pubs along the way. Here’s day two in pics…which I now realize is mostly food…

little church on my walk to the Luas from their home
breakfast at a little cafe on the River Liffey

wandered the stalls of Georges St. Arcade

lunch at one of my faves, the gastro bar at Fade St. Social…foie gras burger with skinny fries

I returned to the house for the afternoon, before heading back out for dinner in Dublin at the rooftop restaurant Sophie’s at the Dean Hotel. There was recently a controversy about their swings in the lobby of the restaurant…read about #swinggate here.

outdoor deck area

I’d heard there was a lighthouse in Howth and that it was a cute seaside town, so Gina graciously offered to take me up there for the day. We walked out to the lighthouse, had lunch at King Sitric’s and spent a couple of hours just sauntering the area.

huge, intricate, wood sculpture in St. Anne’s Park on the way to Howth

Howth Lighthouse

Apparently there’s a gorgeous hike/walk out to Howth Head peninsula, with Bailey Lighthouse at the end, but it takes around 90 minutes to two hours to get there, & back, and we didn’t have time (note to self for next trip to Ireland!) We did get some delicious seafood for dinner. Gina, once again, cooked the fish perfectly….along with a bunch of potato cakes for an international food fair at her school the next day.

I also learned that I loved fennel…had it two or three time on this trip!

Thanks to Gina & Andy for their warm & hospitality. I loved seeing their kids this trip!

….on to Paris for 48 hours and then four fun-filled days with adorable Jude….

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday…pounds

Dedicated to Pizza Monday and, this past Saturday’s, National French Fry Day
both events that bring people together!

Those extra 5-10 pounds…that place where your body naturally wants to be…that’s your life. That’s your late night pizza with your loved ones, that Sunday morning bottomless brunch, your favorite cupcake in the whole entire world because you wanted to treat yourself. Those 5-10 pounds are your favorite memories, your unforgettable trips, your celebrations of life!

Those extra 5-10 pounds are your spontaneity, your freedom, your love.
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

(thanks to Taylor for sending me this little quote)


Stay in a Lighthouse…the Irish adventure continues

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know that I LOVE lighthouses! I love their majesty as they look out towards the sea. I love the idea that they guide ships and help people navigate (although many are now out of commission). I love the view you get from the top. What’s not to love??

In my pursuit to see lighthouses around the world, I’ve occasionally come across ones where you could stay overnight. Some of them book up pretty quickly, so I’ve never timed it quite right…and sometimes I just forget to look up lighthouses before a trip when I’m doing my research. (in doing a little research for this post I found this site…and now I’ll have a “passport” to keep track of the ones I visit…ugh, why didn’t I find it before I visited all those lighthouses?!) I digress…

I decided to look into staying at a lighthouse when I was in Ireland and I found the perfect one on Clare Island in County Mayo. It was decommissioned in 1965 and fell into disrepair, before being purchased by a German pathologist, Goesta Fischer, in 2008 (he stopped by while I was there!) It reopened, after extensive renovations, in 2013. I contacted Roie McCann, the lighthouse manager & interior designer who helped renovate the place, and there happened to be a room available for the two nights I had free…. following the dinner with the cousins and before heading to Dublin to see my friends, Gina & Andy. It was meant to be! I booked the William Flanders room and couldn’t wait for this part of my trip. Padraig & Grainne had never been to Clare Island, so they decided to book a B&B closer to town and brought two of their now I even had a ride to the ferry from their home outside of Galway….perfect!

a quick stop on the way…before boarding the ferry for the 20 minute journey to the island

A stay at the Clare Island Lighthouse includes a well-appointed room with beautiful views, a lovely welcome at the big pine table in the kitchen where you meet Roie and the other guests; a delicious breakfast; before dinner drinks in the cozy living room with a roaring fire in the fireplace; and a multi-course dinner prepared by a great chef. Here are some pics…

such a cool kitchen, where we were welcomed with scones and a meet &  greet
the view towards Achill Island from my room

We all took a tour of the lighthouse…Oh, the views!!

…and just relaxed and read until dinner. The food was so good….Clare Island Salmon one night and lamb the next, all artfully presented…

find your seat with the name of your room on the napkin holder…clever!

We were treated to an AMAZING orange sunset to cap off a fabulous first day!

Day Two I roamed the island…with a gorgeous walk past rural sheep-raising farms into the little town for lunch….

…the only restaurant on the island….yummy seafood chowder

…..and then another pastoral walk, with amazing views, out to the 12th century Abbey, where it is said the remains of the famous pirate queen, Grainne O’Malley, are buried. There are also cool medieval wall and ceiling paintings.

I would definitely recommend a trip to Clare Island and a stay at the lighthouse (two nights was perfect for me). Roie McCann, the lighthouse manager is so warm and welcoming. We had such nice conversations by the fire and I even invited her to California for a visit…wouldn’t that be fun! She was just putting some final touches on an adorable new little room that would be perfect if you’re traveling alone (my room was great, but big for just one person). She’s calling it “The Snug” and gave me a quick tour…

Look at this view of the lighthouse from the Snug!! I’ve had so much fun reliving the experience of my breathtaking stay on Clare Island…I hope you’ve enjoyed it too!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!


The World Got Smaller Part II…My Irish Cousins

As I’ve said numerous times here on my little blog…I love writing here to document some life events, travels, favorite recipes, Monday motivations etc… that can someday be read by my grand kids long after I’m gone, so please indulge me as I share (hopefully not bore) with you my new found family that I’ve come to know and love.

Day three was all about our ancestral homesteads and meeting the rest of the cousins. Our first stop was at our cousin Mary’s home a short ride from Padraig’s home. We had a quick visit with her, her daughter, Susan & husband, Pat….

…before continuing on to pick up my dad’s first cousin, Colm, who’s 89 and sharp as a tack! Side note here…Colm had gone to England on Friday (or Saturday??) to attend his granddaughter’s confirmation and usually stays up to 2 weeks. When he heard I was coming he changed his return flight and came home Monday night to meet the relative from California, me. I was so honored and humbled by this sweet gesture. He was the one that remembered some notable events in my dad’s family (his brother drowning in the Hudson River) that made Padraig and I realize we were truly family. I was looking so forward to meeting him.

The three of us started our journey to Castlerea, Roscommon, an hour’s drive north, to see our ancestral homesteads and for me to meet all of my cousins. At one point Padraig asked if I remember my grandpa John (they called him Uncle Johnny, but they’d never met him since he moved to the US before they were born) and I said I didn’t remember much about either of my grandparents because I was only 7 & 8 when each of them died. One thing I did remember was a song my grandma sang to me as she bounced me on her knee….my mom sang it to my kids and I now sing to my grandkids and they love it! It’s called “up, up a horsey”…that goes like this…

Up, up a horsey
Up, up again sir
How many miles to Dublin town?
three score and ten sir
Will I get there by candle light? (then you have them do a fake fall off your knee)
Yes, and back again
Up, up a horsey
Up, up again

Apparently the original is a bit different, but similar enough and everyone has their own Irish (or London, etc) version. So, I’m telling Colm and Padraig and as I’m starting to sing it they join in! It was truly a spiritual, unifying moment as I sat in that back seat singing this decades old Irish children’s song with my new found family. WOW! I later asked my friend, Gina, from Dublin if she’d heard of it and she hadn’t. It’s truly a song that originated in the west of Ireland ( many miles to Dublin town…). It was the first of many moments that took my breath away and made me a bit teary eyed.

Lough (Lake) O’Flynn, Ballinlough

On we go to Castlerea, Roscommon. Our first stop was Lough (lake) O’Flynn in Ballinlough where our great, great grandparents, Daniel & Mary Egan, lived, and where my grandpa and his siblings used to go as children to visit. After my great, great grandpa passed away, Mary was asked to come down the street to help with the delivery of Austin McDermott and never returned to her home down the street. It is said that Austin become her “pet” and before she died in the early 1900’s, she waited until Austin came home from school to say goodbye and pass away. The weird thing about this story is that Austin is not a very popular name in Ireland…and that is my son’s name!! Blew us all away!

where Austin McDermott was born and where my great, great grandma lived for years.

Next we drove around the lake to visit Sean Vaughn, a relative from my great grandma Kate Kenny’s side of the family. We were just going to see a property down the street where she was born, but lo and behold they invited us in for tea and sweets, as well as some yummy Irish brown bread with butter. We chatted for awhile and then went down the street to see the old home where great grandma, Kate, was born. The hospitality of the Irish people never ceased to amaze me and warm my heart.

Padraig and I in front of Kate’s birthplace…pretty big stone cottage back in the day.
Sean and I…same property. Isn’t it so cool & amazing how they leave all these homesteads on their property & don’t tear them down?

Next was a drive through Main Street, Castlerea, where my grandpa and his siblings were born, where Colm and Padraig were born and where some of the relatives still live today. Colm, although he doesn’t presently live in Castlerea, is so enamored with his hometown that he has written volumes of pages on the history and goings in in Castlerea and Roscommon. It holds a special place in the hearts of all my family members….and now with me. Here’s a pictorial tour of a few notable family places…

vintage Main St, Castlerea
same street, present day…hasn’t changed much!
grandpa’s home when he was born
where my grandpa walked to school…St. Patrick’s
St. Patrick’s church right next door, where they went to services and were baptized

baptismal font where they were all baptized

On to dinner and meeting all my cousins! When we arrived at the restaurant there were already a few of them there having cocktails. A long table was set and as I went over to look, there in the middle of the table was a cake….

I excused myself to go to the bathroom, so I wouldn’t totally lose it in front of them! How sweet & thoughtful is that?!
left to right…Edel, Enna, Maura (back), me and Anne
Dympna,Brian and Enna (Keaveney)
Maura, Padraig & Anne
the whole gang…yeah, I know it’s blurry, but gotta take what you can get.

It was a lovely evening and dinner, with lots of questions and conversation! As the evening was winding down, Padraig stood up to give a little speech reminding us of our relationship to one another and saying that we all came together because of me. I reminded him that he was the one that contacted me and it wouldn’t have happened without him. He replied, ‘yes, but you came!’ Another moment I had to hold it together! Lastly, and the most special, Enna stood up and said they had all gotten together to get something to remind me of my heritage and new family….

a beautiful Celtic knot.

I was pretty speechless and barely held it together to thank them all for their hospitality and love. I had a whole new extended family in Ireland!!

If you’ve read this far, thanks for indulging me and reading about my journey to meet my new cousins. (there are many more little stories I could tell, but I’ll stop Day 3 here) It is a day I will remember forever…and even when I can’t quite remember it anymore, I’ll come back here and relive it as if it were yesterday!

Thank you to Padraig and Grainne for opening up their home & hearts, and to all my cousins for their welcoming arms. You are always welcome in my home here in California!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!

Motivational Monday…Two-fer

Because I just couldn’t decide which one today!
Happy Monday…make it a great week!

Do everything with a good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out…John Wooden

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!