Monday, September 24, 2012

House To Do List

So when I first joined Kenny down in Jacksonville after our wedding, I noticed he went for the "sparse" idea when decorating. His defense was he knew that once I got here, I'd want things a certain way. And since he didn't care, he figured he'd just let me do I what I want. Already a good start to our marriage :)

All kidding aside, once we unpacked everything we got from our wedding registry and looked at what he had. We made a list of things we needed to buy/do. We've actually checked almost all of them off, just a few things here or there left to do. I will be updating on the house progress now that there is some.

And here's our list we started in June, things got added as we thought of them, but things are crossed off too!
Half Bath:
- get coordinates
- storage for extra toilet paper, etc.
- towel bar
- Towels
- Pot holders
- Picture Frames for Wall space
- Calendar
- Cork Board
- New Trash Can (with a lid)
- Buffet/Storage for extra serving dishes
- Key Hanger
Dining Room:
- wine storage
- china hutch
- Shoe storage
- Mirror
- Coat Hanger
Living Room
- get a recliner or love seat
- bookshelves for dvds
- Curtains
- Shelves for above couch/picture frames
Stair Hallway
- Picture frames
Guest Room:
- Night stand
- TV Stand
- Lamp
- Redo dresser
- Runner for dresser
- Mirror for dresser
- Pictures
- Curtains
Guest Bathroom:
- Desk
- Printer Table
- Bookcase
- Sleeper Sofa
- Filing cabinet
- Trash Can
- Corkboard
- Pictures
- Curtain
- Pictures
Master Bedroom:
- Hang pictures above bed
- lamps for nightstands
- organize closet
Master Bath:
- Rugs for sinks
- Toilet paper solution
- "Cubby space" solution
- Soap dispenser for Kenny
- Curtains
- Dining Patio Furniture
- Grill

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's been real, Ireland

Saturday morning, I woke up at 4 am. This was after falling asleep around 10 and being woken up every hour by the party going on in the courtyard below my window.

After showering and packing last minute things, I made my way to the lobby to wait for my parents. I was greeted by a VERY intoxicated guy, who gave me a kiss on each cheek before being escorted to a waiting taxi by his also very intoxicated fried. The friend came back in and was like "Want to come have a drink with us?" I was like "Uh, it's 5 in the morning." He explained that they hadn't stopped the night before as it was a wedding reception. And I was like "Ah, so it was you having a good time outside of my window." My parents showed up and he continued to try to get us to go with him to drink instead of returning to America. Crazy Irish men...

Mel helped us load all our suitcases in the van and then drove us to Shannon Airport. We hugged and thanked him and then checked in for our flights. The security line was short - other than the Army Airborne soldiers that were flying through Shannon to get to the middle east, there weren't that many people there yet.

We went to the duty free shop, got some breakfast and then had only a few minutes to relax before they boarded our plane.

Other than a brief moment on the plane when I thought something was seriously wrong with me, our flights from Shannon to London and then from London to DC went well with little turbulence and were on schedule. My medical emergency consisted of being awoken from my nap on the plane with a feeling in my stomach like I was nervous. I was like that's weird, why would I suddenly be sickeningly nervous? And then it's like I could feel the feeling go from my stomach, travel up my body and into my head. I got tunnel vision, buzzing in my ears and I thought for sure I was going to pass out. It all passed within a couple of minutes, but of course my WebMD searching self was all "OMG I'm having an embolism!!" When, let's be real, it was probably a gas bubble reacting to the pressure. So, moral of the story, don't read WebMD, you'll go in thinking "paper cut" and come out thinking "skin cancer."

Anyways, the trip to Ireland was fun, beautiful and good family bonding time. It was definitely a different experience for me, after having traveled around much of Europe. In Italy, you can go to one city (Rome) and see about 20 different things and be there for a whole week. In Ireland, part of the lure is the countryside and the landscape, and cities only have 1 or 2 "landmarks" to see. But, I can't wait to go back. I'm thinking it'll be awhile cause I'd like to take my children back (they'll have Irish roots on both sides) to see where their ancestors come from. And hopefully, I'll know more details about our ancestry once we go back.

And here's a final map of the overall route we took. Maybe next time we'll be able to get up into Northern Ireland.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dromoland & Bunratty

Friday was our last day in Ireland. So we decided to hit up the family homes on our farewell tour. Our first stop was Dromoland Castle.
Dromoland Castle
O'Briens in front of Dromoland
The blood O'Briens
We got out for a little bit and were nosey. It actually is a hotel now so we were all "Don't mind us" as we walked around the halls.
Family Crest in the Stained Glass window
After our tour of the home, we meandered down to the gift shop to see what kind of tourist trap things we could purchase. They also have a golf course on site, so, surprisingly, my dad took the longest in the gift shop buying golf things for himself. Mom and I waited in the car with Mel.

Once Dad was done in the store, we drove over to Bunratty Castle. Also a Castle where the O'Brien clan once laid down their heads.
Gee, don't they look pleased?
Dad and I in front of the Castle.
They have the castle all set up like it would've been back when the Earl lived there. Pretty interesting to walk around and see all the old stuff. And we, of course, had to take the typical cheesy touristy photos.
Here I am, locked in the dungeon.
You can walk up to the top of the castle, on very narrow and steep stairs. Here's the countryside from the top of the castle.
And the Picnic tables, how 15th century...
The Castle
Surrounding the Castle, they have typical Irish houses. They have "imported" houses from Dublin, the southern coast, etc. so you can see how people would've lived in those areas a 200 years ago. They also have a turn of the century village mock up, with a school, a doctor's house, a pub, etc. They also had animals. Goats, chickens, deer, dogs - all kinds of creatures. And, you know our family, we were preoccupied with the animals moreso than anything. And you might think this is a small horse, but it's actually a large dog - an Irish wolfhound.

My mom, feeding the donkey
The Deer family they had. My mom has 7 invigorating minutes of them. Doing this exact thing the whole time. She loves her some deer.
The old pup was tired.
I guess I can't talk about my mom when I have 3 pictures of dogs...but look how cute he is!

After petting the puppies, we went to the gift shop, where I had to convince my mother that buying EVERY!SWEATER! in Ireland was probably not a good idea. We also grabbed some lunch there in the cafeteria.

On our way out of the Bunratty area, we stopped by Durty Nelly's. The family story behind this is that my Memaw and Pepaw came to Ireland in the '70's. They ate at Durty Nelly's and my Memaw (the portrait of Southern Elegance) was just appalled. They call it "Durty" for a reason people. When my Dad and Uncle Gavin came back in 2008, they stopped by Durty Nelly's as well. And then in 2012, we rounded out the story by stopping in.
We took a little jaunt inside to look around and I spotted a VT sticker!
VT Pride all the way in Ireland. The guy in the bottom of the pic cracks me up, nice posing.
After that, Mel offered to take me over to St. Camillus Hospital, where John S. had told us to go for the birth records. Me and my parents walked in and the lady (Jane) at the front desk as how she could help, I explained that I wanted to see if they could release the birth/death records of my family. She told me and my parents to come to her office.

There, she explained that the city of Limerick only have birth records from 1864-On, death records from 1920 on, and marriage records from 1920 on. The other records, births before 1864 and deaths & before 1920, were all manually kept in the appropriate county offices. She wrote down the contact information for the lady that works there so I could contact her for the records that I needed. She then went and searched for my great grandfather's (as well as his siblings) birth certificates. She went away for a couple minutes and then came back and told us that she had found them. We paid her the 20 Euro for the search and the copies of the records. She took down my address and promised to have them mailed to me that next Monday.

Once again, my family and I were blown away by the niceness and willingness of people to help us. If that would've been in America, Miss Bitter Betsey would've told me to get lost the second I told her what I wanted.

Update on this...I just received the birth certificates in the mail the other day. Well, copies of what the registrar wrote in 1884.  The thing I find most interesting about this is the "his mark" on the signature line. Obviously my great-great-grandfather couldn't write, so he had to just x marks the spot. Amazing to see how 4 generations later, things have changed so much....

I'm waiting to hear back from Betty about the other records, but hopefully they will help me get closer to the the information I've been hunting all this time.

And lastly, a map of our day's travel.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cappamore, Galway to Adare

We actually had some time in the morning to not get up at oh dark thirty for breakfast. So we took the liberty of our time to head back down to the pedestrian shopping area of Galway for some...what else? Shopping!

PS. Do you remember when you were a little kid and your mom would be like "OH, look at that (insert something interesting or pretty here), GO stand next to it so I can get your picture!!" Maybe it was just me, cause I'm an only child. But, you would think at 26 years old my mother would've have let me grow out of that. But nope, here I am with "the pretty flowers" behind me...
And of course, here I am with Oscare Wilde and his brother.
After my one woman photo-shoot, my mom did some work at helping out Galway's economy. My father's wallet says you're welcome, Galway.
With my mom's purchases. Who knew so much could fit in such little bags...
The next part of our journey was to Cappamore.This is the village that my great-grandfather was born in and emigrated from.

I am huge into ancestry. I have an account with, and have been trying to find out more and more about my Irish roots (there's really limited documentation on them). Last year, all I really had to go on was my great grandfather's name and his birthday which we definitely knew. And we definitely knew his dad's name and brother's name. Other than that, not much else. So I went out on a limb and contacted the Parish in Cappamore. The lady there (Eileen) was such a wonderful, helpful lady and actually went through the church's old baptismal records to find my greatgrandpa and his sibilings. She gave me names and birthdates to work with.

Once I knew we were coming back to Ireland, and making a trip to Cappamore, I contacted them again. This time a woman named Winnie, was also helpful and pleased to meet me. She directed me to meet John Sheehy at the "Presbytery, Parochial House, Cappamore" in Cappamore at 2 o'clock.

So, we find ourselves at 2 o'clock in Cappamore at the church. Cause we know that presbytery = priest's house and usually the priest's house is near the church. But such luck. So, we see a lady walking down the street and ask her where the Presbytery is, she answers "in Doon." Doon is another village, so we probably looked at her all crazy and she's thinking "Stupid Americans." So then my dad is like "No, no. The Priest's house - Father Browne's house." And then, with a look of recognition, she tells us it's just down the street and around the bend.

While all this is going down, my mom busies herself with taking pictures. This is a monument to the children lost in the Famine.
So we decided to walk "just down the street and around the bend." And we see just a hedge. So my dad makes me go ask these ladies sitting in their driveway, who, knowing I'm a stranger are giving me the hairy eye ball. I, politely, ask them where Father Browne's house is and they lighten up and tell me it's just over the hedge.

So, we take the sketchy, one lane road to a house. Where I ring the doorbell and a friendly looking face answers the door. It's Winne, hooray, someone I know! She explains that Father Browne wishes he could be here, but he's doing 2 weddings and a funeral today. She also explains that John S. is running late but will be there shortly. She brings us into her office where she proceeds to give me a list of all the cemeteries in Cappamore and a list of their names. There are lots of O'Briens, but none of the first names that we need.

While we're waiting for John S., Winnie takes us to see Charlie Browne. That is Father Browne's bull that weighs over 2,000 lbs. My mom, of course, was obsessed.
Then John shows up. And you know how people say that Southern Americans talk fast? They ain't got nothing on John. I think I caught like every 5th word. I just kept smiling and nodding. And when I heard things like "James" or "John," I would spout out the corresponding birthdays to go with their names.

We explain to him that we can't find any of the names in the list of Cappamore cemeteries. I give him the back story...James O'Brien and Hanora Shanahan got married and had 5 kids. After the last kid, Hanora died (in Ireland), then James took the kids to America. After the kids were all settled in America, he came back to Cappamore to live out his last days in Ireland. John S. asks when Great-Great Grandpa came back, I give him an estimate of between 1910 and 1930. John explains to me that John (another one) is 90 some years old and knows everything - we should go talk to him to see if he knew GGGpa James.

I'm thinking, Great, a dead end. Why would John want to talk to us? Well John S. calls up other John and finds out his at the "daycare." Now, I won't lie, when I heard this I found it a little bizarre that a 90 some year old man is hanging out with 4 year olds, but whatever floats your boat. So John S. is all "get it my car, I'll drive you down to the daycare so you can talk to John!!" and practically skips to his car. My parents and I exchange glances and get in the car (the exact thing they've always told me NOT to do, get in cars with strangers) and John S. drives us down to the daycare. Which, by the way, was a 5 min walk from the church.

So, we get to the daycare, which turns out to be kind of like a nursing home. A bus comes every morning to pick up the old people, takes them to this place, they hang out during the day and then go home. Which, way less creepier than what I had going on in my head. John S. asks to see John. And here comes the CUTEST old man, with no teeth, all dressed in his sweater and suit. John S. explains to John why we're there (he was giving us the hairy eyeball too until then), and then asks if he knew a "James O'Brien." You could almost see John's wheels turning in his head as he started thinking. He talked about the O'Brien's that owned the Pub, the O'Brien's that were thatchers. But he couldn't recall someone who went to America and then came back. At the end of the conversation, he seemed really sad that he couldn't help us. But we thanked John.

As we are walking out of the daycare, John S. is like let's go back to the Father's house and look through Baptismal Records and see if that will  help us find anything. So back off to the Father's house we go...

Once we get there, John S. is like "OK, help me find these books." And starts opening doors of the rooms downstairs. I was standing in the hall, a little uncomfortable with going through this guy's stuff when John S. yells at me from in the room "Well, help me!" So my parents and I go in the room and I almost died. There was stuff EVERYWHERE. My parents who thought my teenage room was bad, almost passed out. I don't think there was one inch of carpet not covered in paper or crayons or just something. The three of us just slowly backed out of the room.

Winnie came back then, and told us where the books were. In another room, that was just as bad. We were only able to find a Baptismal book for a certain year span, but it covered my ggpa's brother's birthday. And I not only got the name of his God parents, but that they didn't actually live in Cappamore proper but in a subdivision of it.

As I'm looking through this book, John S. is calling every O'Brien he knows. Cause he's going to ask them if they knew a James O'Brien. My dad insisted that it wasn't necessary. So John S. tells us we should go to a cemetery in Doon, cause there are some O'Brien's there. He offers to drive us, but we said that's ok, we have Mel. He then tells me to check at St. Camillus Hospital in Limerick, that's where they keep birth/death records for Limerick County.

All in all, it wasn't that successful of a trip. I was actually hoping, miraculously, to find the grave of my gggpa. But it provided a good story that will be passed throughout the family, and I can't say enough about the great people there. They were so friendly and so helpful, and wanted nothing more than for me to find what I was looking for...

After our adventure, we took some touristy pictures and then stopped in the local pub for a drink. We had a Cheers for our family roots.
Dad and I, in front of the Cappamore sign
Mom & Dad with the town center behind them
The stained glass window in the Catholic Church. My dad took it as a sign.
After our pint, we got back in the van and headed to "The Old Cemetery" in Doon - John S. had given us directions there. We took our time looking through all the old headstones, and I kept apologizing as I was stepping on the graves. Am I the only one who feels bad stepping on people? Who knows, our relatives could've been there, there were so many old headstones that didn't have writing on them anymore cause the elements had wiped them clean.

Mel helped us look through the cemetery for familiar names. There were a lot of people vested and hopeful that I would find something. Disappointingly, we didn't find anything there.
The Cemetary
After about 45 minutes of not finding anything, we decided to call it a day. Like I said, I was kind of disappointed that I hadn't found out anything concrete. But I loved being able to go back to where my family came from, and meeting the people we met was definitely worth it.

After the cemetery, Mel drove us to our hotel in Adare. We decided to take a walk through the town before dinner.
Our hotel
My dad was like "Wendy, why don't you take a picture with PEOPLE in it?" So she turns to me, and takes this picture. Even my dad is in on the solo picture conspiracy.
Adare is known for its houses with the thatched roofs. My mom loved them. No, seriously, she took like 100 pictures of them. But I'll just show 1.
After our walk, we headed back to the hotel for dinner at the restaurant there.
Dad, with his drink at dinner.
And a map of our day's travel...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Killarney to Galway

This morning it was up and at 'em for our trip to Galway. As we drove along the coast, Mel kept asking me if I wanted to stop and take a swim in the ocean, 14 degrees Centigrade, that would be about 57 degrees Farenheit. thank you.
Here are some crazies, swimming in the ocean.
Our first major stop was Lahinch, yes, a Golf course. Apparently it's world renowned. The guy who took the picture below was an American who's been coming since the '70's and is a member. My dad was practically green with envy.

Not too sound like a snob, but the clubhouse amenities weren't as nice as the country club my parents belong to. But I guess they spend their money on what matters most, the course.
Family at Lahinch.
Dad, with the course behind him.
The green/fairway.
After Lahinch, we drove past and stopped at a memorial for St. Brigid. Apparently, other than St. Patrick, she is the bomb diggity saint in Ireland. In the picture below, you can see a white wall with an opening in it. If you walked inside it was like a little cave, where people would put mementos of loved ones lost, candles, rosaries, etc.
On the other side of the road, is a monument to and the grave of Cornelius O'Brien. Good old Uncle Corney decided to build O'Brien's Castle at the Cliffs of Moher (pictures farther down). And built this little statue in memory of himself, he also wrote his own epitaph. He was, humble, if nothing else...
'Sup Uncle Cornelius?
We then made the drive over to the Cliffs of Moher. They have a visitors center you can walk through before hiking up the Cliffs. It explains how the continents shifted, resulting in the formation of our current continental set-up. And how, with sea levels rising, and more shifting the eastern/southern half of Ireland will be under water in 150 years. Hopefully the inhabitants of that area get the memo. It also had a 3D video of the animals/birds that live in and around the Cliffs, and you know our family, can't resist watching cute animals swim/fly around.

After touring the visitors center, we made our way to the main attraction.
Family at the Cliffs of Moher
So pretty
O'Brien's Castle
I wanted to go up to the top of O'Brien's castle, but that required 2 Euro (which I did not have). I tried the whole "can I get a family discount?" the guy looked at me like an idiot and sent me on my way. I'm sure he gets that all the time...

My attempt at doing some National Geographic work

I mean, how pretty! Good work Mother Nature!

On our way to Galway from the Cliffs of Moher, we drove past the Benbulbin. Now, I don't know if there is a secret Irish name for this but Mel kept calling it "The Burn" or at least that's what I thought he was saying. Apparently I need to work on interrupting my Irish accent...he also referred to it as "that God Damn rock" - so I just rolled with that.

We also stopped to take a look at St. Brigid's Well. I told you, they love them some St. Brigid. Looking at that Wikipedia page, I feel like I didn't do it any justice. Mel literally pulled the car over on the (wrong) side of the road and we just stared at it for a minute and then drove off. He didn't explain what a big deal the well seems to be, sorry St. Brigid!
St. Brigid's well.
We made it to Galway in the mid-afternoon. My mom decided to take a nap while my Dad and I took a walk around the city and scoped out our options for dinner.

After our little walk, we got back to the hotel for enough time to power nap and then head to dinner. After dinner, we decided to walk down the pedestrian/shopping street. We wanted to figure out our options for the next day's shopping spree and have a plan of action mapped out.

Also, I found a real life no kidding European gelato place. I cannot even begin to describe my excitement. I went to look at their flavors and my heart stopped beating. They have "After Eight" - which is basically mint chocolate chip but 1,000 times better. I hadn't had any since Italy 2006. Then I saw that they had Nutella flavored too...I, may or may not, have done a little happy jig right there in the gelato place.
Expressing my excitement about the Gelato flavors.
The Pedestrian Street
After Gelato, we walked around some more and then finally found our way back to the hotel.

A map of the days adventures...