Beautiful, Quaint, Galway

IMAG0883IMAG0835_1Gina, my Dublin friend, dropped me off at the train station and I settled in for the 3 hour ride through the Irish countryside to Galway.  Stunning scenery!!  My hotel was perfectly situated, close to The Spanish Arch, The Latin Quarter and the Long Walk.  I dropped my bags and headed over to the Latin Quarter to just stroll the cobblestone streets and check out some of the shops.  It started raining so I slipped into a pub for a pint and some chips (french fries here in the U.S.) and enjoyed a wonderful, relaxing hour of people watching.  When the rain let up I ventured back out, looking to purchase my first (…and maybe only?) Claddagh ring…..and then just wandered the quaint streets of Galway.  I went back to my room to freshen up, walked over to Cactus Jack’s for a yummy, simple dinner of tapas and then relaxed in my room…resting up for the day ahead.

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The Latin Quarter…so quaint!

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A beautiful side street

Day two was my walking and wandering day!….

I strolled The Long Walk on the River Corrib, past the Spanish Arch around to Claddagh Quay, along Galway Harbor, through South Park (yes, there’s a “South Park” in Galway…dang, forgot to include Mutton Island Lighthouse in my lighthouse post), and over to Salt Hill, before circling back around to Galway Cathedral and over the Salmon Weir bridge.  I passed the Galway rowing club and caught the Corrib Princess for a 90 minute cruise up the river to Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second largest lake.  Here’s my journey in pictures…

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The Long Walk

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The Spanish Arch

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Mutton Island Lighthouse

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Beautiful view of Galway Bay

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Galway Rowing Club..established1908, rebuilt 1969

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Galway Cathedral…although it looks really old, it is the most recently built stone cathedral in Europe (dedicated in 1965)

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Views from the Corrib Princess cruise

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views from the Corrib Princess cruise

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Lough Corrib….aboard the Corrib Princess

Day three was a bus tour out to Connemara, Kylemore Abbey and Cong (where they filmed “The Quiet Man” with Maureen O’hara & John Wayne).  The most beautiful, green rolling hills, with sheep everywhere…quintessential Ireland!  I spent the evening on the green in front of The Spanish Arch with some wine & cheese enjoying the parade of swans and the late night sunset.   More pics….

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Kylemore Abbey

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View from Kylemore Abbey

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Irish Countryside

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Cong…quaint village..site of The Quiet Man

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town cemetary…Cong…quaint village..site of The Quiet Man

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…more Ireland beauty

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Doesn’t this look like an Andrew Wyeth painting? I love this picture!

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This was at 9:30 pm!

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Just two of the many swans parading in front of the green, waiting for some scraps to be thrown their way…such elegant creatures.

I got back a bit late to my hotel, but had to have one more evening of Irish music and some craic…so I headed over to An Pucan Pub, which I’d heard was a good spot for dinner, people watching and Irish music.  I was not disappointed.

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An Pucan Pub

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The Claddagh

 The perfect end to a perfect trip!!  I’ll be back!!

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

Ireland…the homeland

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Dublin Castle

In the Spring of 2013 my friend, Gina, who lives in Dublin, emailed me and said it was time to return to Ireland for a much needed break.  I didn’t hesitate and made reservations to visit that Summer.  I was at rowing practice one day and casually said, “Who wants to go to Ireland with me?” and my friend, Marsha, instantly said, “I do!!”  Flights were booked and plans were set in motion.

I have to interject here (yes, I’m interrupting my own story, which I tend to do.)  On the flight to Chicago, our stop along the way, I met the nicest woman.  I’m usually cordial to my seat neighbors when I fly, but usually at some point I like to read, but this woman and I conversed almost the entire way to Chicago.  Her husband had passed away 13 yrs. prior and she was on her way to Chicago for a large family reunion with her 10 siblings…10!!  I told her a little bit about my recent history and she said the most positive thing.  She told me, “it is our time…” to live our adventures, be single for the time being, and enjoy the rest of our time in this amazing life we’ve been given.  What a great way to start the trip!

We landed in Dublin and were greeted at Gina’s home with warm scones and coffee.  Again, what a great start to our trip.  We hopped in the car and made the trip down to County Cork, where she and her cousin, Evelyn, were seeing Bruce Springsteen, and where Marsha
and I were staying at a friend’s home in Ballycotton.  (another side note…read A Moment in Connemara by Annie Quinn, the owner of the home in Ballycotton where we were staying…lovely story!)  We stopped along the way in Gina’s hometown of Cahir, where we met and had lunch with her adorable parents!!  We continued on to Cork City where we roamed a bit before heading to Ballycotton and collapsing after our long day.

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Gina, in dark blue, her parents, Marsha and me

Ballycotton is an adorable seaside resort in Southwest Cork County. The view from Annie’s home was spectacular.  I woke to a beautiful sunrise on the water, with our resident white steed grazing in the meadow across the road.

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Our Ballycotton view

Day 2…We had a full day of sightseeing planned…with visits to the Irish National Rowing Championships, Kinsale and Cobh.  Best to show this day in pictures….

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Kinsale harbor

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Irish National Rowing Championships

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Bright, Colorful Kinsale

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Ballymaloe Cookery School…quick stop here

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Cobh, a tourist seaport town, notably the last stop for the Titanic before setting out on it’s fateful journey.  The Lusitania was also sunk off the coast of Cobh by a German U-boat in 1915.

St. Colmans Cathedral..Cobh

St. Colman’s Cathedral..Cobh

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Old dingy in Ballycotton Harbor…I love the way it looks kind of like a watercolor.

Sunrise in Ballycotton

The next day it was back to Dublin by train, a really yummy dinner at Matt the Thresher (where Michelle Obama had dined with her daughters a few weeks before us) and then over to Merrion Square.  With the full moon rising, we enjoyed an evening of music, Riverdance on the big screen, and the beautiful voice of Brian Kennedy.  We followed that up with a visit to famous O’Donoghue’s pub near St. Stephen’s Green for some traditional Irish music and a bit of the craic.

...with a few close friends in Merrion Square

…with a few close friends in Merrion Square

Look for our dollar bill on the wall at ODonoghues

Look for our  signed dollar bill up on the wall at O’Donoghue’s

One of the highlights of the next day was seeing a world record performance of Riverdance on the River Liffey…check out this youtube video…gives me goose bumps every time I watch it.  It was spectacular!!

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…had to take a picture of this little Irish dancer

We even hooked up with the Phoenix Rowing Club and took out a double for a quick row on the Liffey….

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Its a good thing Marsha was doing the steering…Trinity boat house is in the background

We stayed up until 1 a.m. (very late for us rowers..we were so proud of ourselves) two nights in a row just enjoying Gina & Andy’s cooking and hospitality.  We were joined by neighbors Trevor & Sharon and cousin, Evelyn one night.  Liz, another neighbor, joined us the following evening. The Irish are the most warm, inviting, friendly group of people.

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dinner in the backyard with l to r Trevor, Evelyn, Gina, Andy, me, Sharon

….photo credit: Marsha Teaford

On our last day together on the Emerald Isle, Gina drove us down to Powerscourt House and Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains….gorgeous!!  We had our final meal at Fade St. Social in Dublin…one of he best meals I’ve ever had…amazing!

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Glendalough

Powerscourt House

Powerscourt House

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Cheers to the end of an amazing trip!

 ….Marsha went back to the U.S. to rowing camp and I continued on to Galway…stay tuned!

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

Home Exchange…a great way to see the world for less!

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I LOVE red doors….not our exchange home, just a great Dublin door.

Our kids had gone off to college and it was time to go on some adventures.  I’ve always wanted to sign up on one of those websites to do a home exchange with another family…and my then husband agreed.  I signed up on homeexchange.com and waited for people to start emailing me.  We were looking to go to Ireland…or other European countries.  We had a few interesting prospects, but most Europeans wanted to come in August and stay for three weeks.  Three weeks was a long time to be away and who wants to go to Europe in August when it’s hot and all the locals are gone…probably doing home exchanges somewhere else!

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A cottage we stayed in for a few nights in far west Ireland…not part of the home exchange

So…I got an email from a gal in Ireland asking for two weeks in our home at the end of July and then they’d go off for an additional week, exploring California and the Grand Canyon.  We emailed back and forth, skyped once or twice and decided it was a good fit.  Flights were booked and we anticipated our trip to Ireland, my ancestral home.  On a whim I decided to try to get dual residency, since three of my four grandparents were born in Ireland.  The journey to get the all the paperwork was interesting, time consuming and fun, but I could never uncover my grandparent’s marriage license, I got the wrong birth certificate for my grandfather, and ultimately gave up the fight.  “Why dual residency,” I was asked many times.  Well, really it just would have been fun to say I was a citizen of two countries…and I would have had the choice at customs whenever in Europe (Ireland is part of the European Union or EU) whether I’m a “citizen” or “non-citizen”….and then choose the shortest line!  It was fun while it lasted.  …but I digress.

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On the Ha’Penny bridge in Dublin

We arrived in Ireland & drove to what would be our home for two weeks.  We had already arranged to also exchange cars, so we had an easy way to get around too.  I think the number one question I’ve been asked about doing a home exchange is, “What do you do with all your stuff?” and “Isn’t it weird having people in your home?”  The answer is simple…”You’re in their home!”  So, there’s an assumption that they will take good care of everything and you, in turn, will do the same with their home.  Sure, you clear out some closet space and put some valuables away, if need be, but that’s about it.  The idea is that you talk & correspond enough beforehand that you feel comfortable with whomever will be in your home.  I put together a book of things to do, simple maps to get to the grocery store/restaurants, how to turn on the TV, how to use the appliances, etc… and Gina (my counterpart in Ireland) did the same for us.  We were invited over to their neighbor’s homes for dinner and my neighborhood had a “meet the Irish” party on someone’s front lawn.  You get to live like a local, have a full kitchen & home at your disposal and your lodging doesn’t cost anything.  I think Gina and her family will be lifelong friends…I’ve already returned to Ireland, with my friend Marsha, a couple of years ago and stayed with them…and we play Wordfeud so we chat every now & then and catch up via email (isn’t technology awesome!).  It’s nice to know you have friends in far off lands, especially Ireland.  I’ve also done an exchange in San Francisco for a weekend and am looking forward to putting my home back up for exchange when I return to the ‘hood next July.  Oh, the places I’ll go!!

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Traffic stops for sheep crossing in western Ireland

Take the leap…I think you’ll be glad you did!  Feel free to email me if you have any questions.  Oh..and there will be a travel post, with more pictures, dedicated to Ireland.

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Sheeps Head Peninsula…farthest western point of Ireland

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

Books…Quotes…My Train of Thought

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I was searching the internet for something (can’t remember what?) the other day on my kindle-fire, got distracted and decided to just go back and look at the books I’ve read and what I’d highlighted in each one.  I got my kindle-fire a few years ago, right before I went on my solo trip to Paris.  It’s been interesting to see my train of thought over the past three years.  Here are some books…some things I highlighted along the way & whether I’d recommend it.

what alice forgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty“..the right man didn’t complete you, you have to find happiness yourself,”  …”when she woke up the next morning, the day rolled out in front of her like a long hallway for her to meander down, free to linger over the best parts.”  How would your life look if you lost 10 years and you had to re-imagine what you thought you knew….interesting book and concept.

 

 

 

art of hearing heartbeatsThe Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillipp Sendker….“There is nothing, for good or for evil, of which a person is incapable.”…”never say never”…”We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes us uncomfortable.”…”He expected nothing because there was nothing of importance he had not already experienced.  He possessed all the happiness a person could find.  He loved and was loved. Unconditionally.”…..”Why? Must one have seen the world? In this village, in every house, in every shack, you will find the entire range of human emotions: love and hate, fear and jealousy, envy and joy.  You needn’t go looking for them.”  Loved this book!  Probably one of our better book club discussions.  Life lessons and the power of love.

end of life bookThe End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe...“When one sees something especially wonderful, it’s always nice to have someone to share it with.”…”As long as there is paper, people will write, secretly, in small rooms, in the hidden chambers of their minds.  just as people whisper..” ….”We all owe everyone for everything that happens in our lives.  But it’s not owing like a debt to one person -it’s really that we owe everyone for everything.  Our whole lives can change in an instant-so each person who keeps that from happening, no matter how small a role they play, is also responsible for all of it. Just by giving friendship and love, you keep the people around you from giving up-and each expression of friendship or love may be the one that makes all the difference.”…”We’re all in the end-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”…”I often think about the things Mom taught me. …Be cheerful and listen to people, even if you don’t like it. Tell your spouse (children, grandchildren, parents) that you love them every day. …Celebrate occasions. Be kind.”  I really enjoyed this book.  Sweet story.  …and my mom’s birthday was this past Sunday, so this little blurb made me think of her too.

light between oceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman“You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy. How do you do it?” “I choose to,” he said. “I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget.” …”..it is so much less exhausting.  You only have to forgive once.  To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.  You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”…”-we always have a choice. All of us.”  Wow, it really makes you think of lies, morality and the ultimate price you pay for them.

 

 

whered you go bernadetteWhere’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple“The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.” …”When your eyes are softly focused on the horizon for sustained periods, your brain releases endorphins. It’s the same as a runner’s high.” Bernadette is just wacky…and has an interesting relationship with her daughter.  I enjoyed this book and the journey it takes you on.

 

 

 

tender at the boneTender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl“Hope never hurt anyone.”…”I feel sorrow for the women I grew up with who did not have a chance to discover that they could take care of themselves.”  I savored Ruth Reichl’s memoir…her interesting childhood stories, with recipes laced throughout.  This former editor of Gourmet magazine and six-time James Beard winner has had quite a life!

 

 

 

we are waterWe Are Water by Wally Lamb“Look back on the past but don’t stare.” …”So maybe that’s what love means.  Having the capacity to forgive the one who wronged you, no matter how deep the hurt was.”…”A life I didn’t choose chose me.”…”You know what I’ve always liked?” he says. “The sound of water. It’s I don’t know, kind of comforting or something. ….the rain on the roof, rivers flowing. ..And the ocean.”  Collectively, our book club really didn’t enjoy this book.  Definitely not Wally Lamb’s best. I probably wouldn’t recommend it.

 

 

daring greatlyDaring Greatly by Brene BrownThis whole book is one big highlight!!  You should read it! …or check out her website.  I love everything Brene Brown writes and says…yes, I’d recommend!

 

 

 

 

 

IMAG2321The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brownso many highlights that I did an entire post on it…click here!  Highly recommend

 

 

 

 

There are so many more books and so many more highlights that I could share, but that’s just a really long post!  Just looking at these quotes was so interesting…a walk down memory lane….seeing my train of thought as I navigated my new life.  Some admonished me for being so independent, some validated my feelings, but mostly I think they were hopeful and all reflected on and helped shape my journey.  I feel bad for people who don’t like to read (I’m not judging….everybody has their own thing…I just feel bad for them).  I’ve learned so much, about life, about myself, about the world…and sometimes you just get lost in the adventure of someone else’s fantasy or story, which is just fun!  So many books, so little time.  I’d love to know you’re favorite book to add to my growing inventory of “what to read!”

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

Motivational Mondays…the past

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Don’t look back, you’re not going that way!…Unknown

….basically, keep moving forward.

or…

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Look back at the past, but don’t stare…from the book We Are Water by Wally Lamb

….and ultimately…

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When it’s time to look back, make sure you like what you see!

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

Add Meditation to your Repertoire!

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It’s no secret that my life was a bit stressful a couple of years ago, with the end of my marriage and the death of my mom occurring in the same year.  There were a lot of frantic and anxiety ridden days to get through.  I had made the choice to be happy, not bitter, and I needed some tools to achieve that goal.  Besides daily affirmations, which were my first and very important tool, I also decided to try meditation.  I’ve never really thought about meditating, but my mind was going so fast all the time that I NEEDED something to quiet it.  I have many friends that swear by yoga and I did give it a try, but the classes were just a bit too long for my brain to handle.  I wanted a break from my thoughts…but not that long of a break.  I think a yogi would probably tell me that is exactly why I should practice yoga & take that longer break, but I found meditation to be the perfect alternative.

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My friend, Kelly, a yoga teacher, helped me pick out a guided meditation tape by Dana Conley that’s been just the right fit for me.  There are seven tracks on the CD, but the first guided meditation, Breath Awareness, is only 11 minutes long and it’s the one I do the most.   I’ve tried the Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which is 17 minutes, and the Healing Waterfall Imagery, which is 12 ½ minutes, but that 11 minutes seems to be the perfect amount of time to relax my mind & body and rejuvenate me.  There were times back then in the middle of the day when I’d be at my home computer and literally stop what I’m doing, lie down on the floor, plug-in my earphones and just get lost.  Eventually, after some practice, you get good enough at quieting your mind by closing your eyes and taking in some deep breaths, wherever and whatever you’re doing (except maybe driving!).  Sometimes that’s all it takes to get you through that moment…until you have time to actually lay down and do the guided meditation.  At the beginning I tried to do it every day and it helped tremendously in so many ways.  I highly recommend it! If you need a little bit more convincing that you should meditate, check out this article at the Huffington Post ….  or, for more scientific proof, this one over at Medical News Today

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Last year I slacked off a bit and probably only did it once a month, but I’ve decided that 2015 is the year I get back at it at least 2 or 3 times a week, or more. Why don’t you join me….this weekend is a great time to start!

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

Is Chivalry a possibility?

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I think it’s a pretty natural thing after being single for three years to think to yourself “what are the qualities I’d look for in a new guy in my life?”  Of course there’s the obvious…kind, good person, family oriented, has to LOVE my kids.  But then there are some fun, frivolous qualities that come to mind…it is my fantasy!?

So…here goes!  It would be great if he likes watching football, LOVES the adventure of traveling, reading the Sunday paper together and the interesting conversations & banter that go along with that….and chivalry.  I’ve never really been one for chivalry, but I’ve been watching a couple of newlywed friends my age and my brother-in-law with their spouses and I’ve become a fan!  It’s no surprise that I’m pretty independent and I can just hear myself saying in my head, “I can open my own door” or “I can carry my own bags.”  The lack of chivalry in my marriage was my own doing….but this is my “fantasy” guy, so I can change that and hopefully change myself in the process.  Isn’t that what adjusting the sails is all about…making choices to change when it’s needed.  It’s okay to let someone do something nice, even if it’s just holding a door open now and then.  I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now!!  I know I can’t change my independent spirit, nor would I want to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace these small gestures that make one feel taken care of and allow you to rely on someone else.  It’s the little things, right?

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Okay…so it may be a stretch to find someone who’s chivalrous in this day and age (..and it wouldn’t be a deal breaker), but a girl can dream, can’t she??

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

Funky, Fun Interior Design

Have you ever been over someone’s house and you can’t even imagine where they came up with some of their incredibly creative decorating ideas?  I was over my friend Kym’s house during the holidays and left there in awe of her and her home.  She’s one of those people that just changes things around in their home on a whim and it always looks so darn cute and cozy…and did I say creative!!  Now I’m sure you’re dying to see what I’m talking about!  Enjoy….

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The first thing you notice when you walk in the front door is that the old entryway closet has been converted….to an English telephone booth…SO cute!  Check out the stacked vintage suitcases on the overhead shelf.

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It’s too bright to see, but that’s a lighted “telephone” sign above the bench.

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…and who would think of painting an old iron hall tree and hanging old phones on it?? Kym!

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Then you look up and this is the chandelier!  Ridiculously creative!

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The first bathroom…a little lamp with neckties for a lampshade and tied around the base.

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Turn to right in the same bathroom and this fun clock is affixed to the wall.

IMAG3113Continuing down the hallway to the first bedroom dressed all in white…look at those lights that illuminate from behind the curtains…that’s a statement headboard!

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….and the bedside tables can always be used as chairs if necessary.

IMAG3116This is creative bathroom #2 with a couple of trees crafted from paper and a window jutting out to the side yard over the bathtub.

IMAG3117yup…this is the view from the toilet of the paper tree.

IMAG3118This is another bedroom with faux fireplace…black, white and green motif.

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Office/library/exercise room #3 is wallpapered in maps….I should have taken more pics of this room….she made a Christmas tree out of stacked books and lights sitting atop an ottoman…

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On to the kitchen….more adorableness!

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a mirror in the bar area surrounded by fruits and vegetables…yes, they’re fake, but so realistic.

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Signature Holiday Sangria…the tablecloths were black chalk paper…everything on the menu was written on the tables.

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Kitchen Christmas tree….a tree in every room.

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Twinkle lights in the kitchen fireplace give the illusion of a fire…without the mess.

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over the door to the backyard

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On to the living room…an old pew…re-imagined…spectacular!

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extra chairs at the ready up on the wall…with more Christmas trees of course!

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This picture does not do this piano justice….decoupaged, with faux TV on top holding an ipad that plays music (a new kind of “player piano”)  The sheet music holder has been yarn bombedand behind the piano is a iron headboard holding a Merry Christmas garland. So much going on in this pic!

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a little closer view.

IMAG3115Let’s step outside…this is the cozy side yard with fountain, twinkle lights and seating.

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Step through this arbor & small bridge to the summer veggie garden (out of sight on the left).

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…and what would an adorable backyard be without a softly lit gazebo?

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Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour…there’s so much more to see in this gem of a home…I’ll have to go back again with my camera!

Thanks for letting me share your little slice of heaven Kym!  You are an amazingly creative person and I always love seeing the treasures you’ve transformed in your home!

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

Motivational Mondays…it’s alright in the end!

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Golden Gate Bridge with fog

(oops…I scheduled this for Monday delivery, but I guess forgot to “save” that, before clicking “publish…Happy Sunday everyone!!)

Everything will be alright in the end….if it’s not alright, it’s not the end!….Patel, Hotel Manager, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

This quote actually helped me as new snags were thrown into the mix throughout my divorce process.  Basically, as your life is falling apart just know that it will get better and everything will be alright in the end!

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