Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bunratty Folk Park

So, today's activity was to take the kids over to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park - there's a castle there (you may have guessed) and lots of historical Irish buildings from different periods of history - I'm not sure if all of them are actual buildings, but certainly some have been moved from other locations (for instance, a cottage which was originally situated where the main runway of Shannon airport is now). It was pretty interesting, in a touristy way, and I think the kids liked it a lot. Apparently they also do medieval banquets and the like - probably a bit naff, I'm sure you can imagine the sort of thing.

As usual, loads of photos...

Tuesday, part two

After lunch, Cathi suggested that we leave whichever of the kids who wanted to stay at her place, and go out and about either by ourselves or with greatly reduced numbers of kids - Sarah decided to come with us, but the others stayed, so it was a lovely (and fairly quiet) afternoon. We went out to Mountshannon and caught a "ferry" (which was really a small motorboat) to Holy Island, which has a round tower and the remains of 5 or so churches on it. It was lovely, very scenic and remote and peaceful.

There is a also a park in Mountshannon with an interesting maze, so we stopped there and messed around the maze a bit. And then, on the drive back to Killaloe, we stopped at Beal Boru - Brian Boru's Fort - all that's there now is a big earthen bowl, as is the case with many hill forts, but it's very pretty...

Lots more photos of the day's adventures are here...

Tuesday, part one

Did lot of stuff today, but I think I will blog it in two parts, partly because it's not all related, but also partly because some of the photos are taking ages to upload and I just want to go to bed...

In the morning, we took the kids down to the playground in Ballina and then to feed the ducks. Cathi ran some errands and made some phone calls, and her girls came with us. A good time was had by all, especially the littles, who played all kinds of fun games involving enacting fairy tales, like the Three Billy Goats Gruff and Goldilocks and The Three Bears (strangely enough, Alex was Goldilocks in that game. Not sure what that says...)
Here are the rest of the duck photos, and the ones from the playground - tune in tomorrow for some more touristy stuff - Holy Island, Mountshannon, Beal Boru...

Monday, August 27, 2007

King John (somebody told me)...

...was not a very nice man. But then, as Geoff rightly points out, none of them were particuarly nice in that family - and of course, "nice" wasn't a quality so much looked for in medieval kings (or queens).

Today's cultural Irish excursion was to Limerick to see King John's Castle and have some lunch. He never lived there, but it was built while he was Lord of Ireland, and so named for him. Late 1100's. The castle is an interesting example of Norman castles (we have lots of those in England, too, but this one is well taken care of, and has nice towers to climb) and has lots of interesting Irish history, which is something we don't get nearly as much of in England - or rather, we might get it, but not from quite the same viewpoint. Though I think it's fairly widely agreed that King John was not a particularly nice person. Anyway. Also lots of nice views across the Shannon from the towers and so on. And then we had a little trip into Limerick town centre to have some lunch and go to Tesco (also something we have in England, but as it was more a wanting-to-eat-dinner excursion and less a viewing-tourist-sites excursion, still worth doing.)

As usual, more photos await you here...

Dolphin videos

Well, we seem to have solved the video problem - twice over! We made YouTube work by temporarily turning off Cathi's firewall AND we tried out the draft video upload feature on blogger - and so, I think we have dolphin videos - hurrah!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Today's fun activity (and it was!) was going down to the Shannon Estuary to take a boat trip out to watch dolphins. It was totally cool. Here are a few dolphin photos - lots more, and some videos to follow probably tomorrow when I get them all downloaded and uploaded to the appropriate places, but for now, just wanted to share.

edited to say - for some reason I don't seem to be able to get into YouTube from Cathi's house, but here are some more photos of the trip, over on flickr. I'll add some videos when we get home.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The missing Kennedy brother?

This morning we were going to have a little trip up the road to see the Graves of the Leinstermen (some standing stones), but we got about halfway there and saw this. Oh well, we practiced our three-point turning skills instead. Not to mention driving into ditches to avoid a whopping great lorry which was driving on this road (yes, really) - better him than me...

So instead of the stones, we went to a scenic lookout over Lough Derg and then on to a little town called Garrykennedy, where we had a woodland walk, a look at the Lough & harbour and a nice coffee in a pub - or rather, outside the pub.

More photos here, on flickr, of course.

This afternoon the daddies have taken Sarah to the pitch and putt and the mums are staying here with Olivia & the littles (who have been mostly trampolining and watching telly while mummies sewed and stuff). A nice, peaceful afternoon, actually. This evening we may attempt a meal out - we'll see how the moods hold up...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ballina & Killaloe

So, here we are in Ballina/Killaloe in Ireland. The towns are sort of the same town, but divided by the Shannon, which flows through the middle. Ballina is in Co. Tipperary, while Killaloe is in County Clare, in the way of these things.

We had a little walk into Killaloe (which is a bit bigger, at least in terms of shops and things, not sure about residential neighbourhoods) this morning, to browse around and do a little shopping. Compared to where Cathi lived before, where there wasn't much in walking distance, this is a real treat for her to have everything accessible. I took some photos of the scenic scenery (much of Ireland is scenic) - this photo is of some houses along the bank of the Shannon, on the Killaloe side. More photos from our walk are here, on flickr.

Made it

Well, we are here. And despite staying up very late playing with Aine And Aisling, Alex is up at his normal time, watching telly. I had intended to go back to bed, but by the time I worked out the controls to the telly, etc, I was pretty much awake, so decided to blog and stuff.

We had a bit of a hellish journey over - the traffic getting out of Dublin was insane, and then a missed road and a shortcut created more chaos, but all is ok now, we are here and ready to roll. Not sure what we'll be doing today, but no driving - or at least, only minimal driving. :)

More to report ere long, I'm sure!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wild Irish Rovers

Well, I was trying to get a picture of our car with the borrowed roof box on top, as a precursor to setting off on holiday (at present, the box is empty; I will fill it tomorrow morning). But frankly, it just doesn't stop raining, so I have given up. I'm sure you can imagine it - a red Vauxhall Astra with a roof box on it. Not hard! Anyway, we are off tomorrow morning quite early to try to avoid the traffic (we will stop for breakfast once we break free of London and it's not such a stupid time) but I'm sure I'll be checking in, and probably posting photos and such from Cathi's - they are very up to date on technology, so I'll be able to do stuff from there. And now that they've moved, they even have broadband - hoorah!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Small holiday to Grandma's

So... we are now back from our visit to Grandma Lucy's house - lots of fun was had, and a variety of photos taken. On the way up, we stopped at Beckonscot Model Village, as we had tickets from the school fair (we've been before, but the kids still enjoy it - it's pretty impressive as model villages go - lots of very creative small scale scenes) and Ryton Organic Gardens - at left is the kids in front of the largest flower pot in the world (apparently), though it doesn't have any flowers in it.
More photos in the flickr album... and a few videos over on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A few days away...

After a few quiet (except for the sound of arguing children) days at home, we are off tomorrow for a mini road-trip to see Grandma Lucy. The kids and I are going up in the car tomorrow, making a few stops on the way, weather permitting; Geoff will come up on the train after work. We're back on Sunday, and the girls and I will be having a day out to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham - not that far away from Grandma's - on Saturday, so I'm looking forward to the weekend. I shall probably even manage (just) to bear with the lack of internet access... Anyway, hopefully there will be lots of photos to share on Sunday, when we return - and then just a few days at home and we're off again - to Ireland that time (where there WILL be internet access, luckily) to see Cathi and Dave. Cool!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bun disequity

Here's something I've wondered for a while (it doesn't keep me awake at night or anything, I'm not quite that sad) - how come hot dogs come in packs of either 4 (for the fatter ones) or 10 (the skinnier ones) but the buns come in packs of 6? What is that about? And regular sausages (not frankfurters) come in packs of 8, so that doesn't help either. Who decides these things?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mini masterpieces

Today's masterpieces. These two canvases, which the girls painted with acrylic paints, came with the designs pre-printed on them (not with numbers, like paint by number, but a rough sketch - wait, a sec - here you go). But I still think they've done a wonderful job with them - probably better than I could do - I'm terrible at that sort of thing. Anyway, it kept them busy for an hour or so. Alex made a little styrofoam glider shaped like a bug (he coloured it in), but it's gone missing behind a sofa or something, so no photo of that. The rest of the day was spent alternately making up bizarre games and fighting with one another - yes, I hear you say, typical summer holiday stuff...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shed, pickles

Meant to blog this yesterday, but forgot! Anyway, our bike shed is now up and has bikes in it - which is great, as it means there is space to move in the old shed. Which is good. Eventually, we will have a second patio at the front of that shed (actually, there's a slab of concrete there now, but we will eventually pave it and add some chairs or a bench and a small table, etc.)

And also, pickles! We picked cucumbers yesterday at Garsons' (as well as red & black currants, apples and various vegetables - lots of baking in my future). And then we came home and picked blackberries in the next road over, for free. Made some summer fruits sorbet last night and am just off now to make a summer pudding for lunch tomorrow (we have a guest). But we decided to make some pickles yesterday - this time, did the cucumbers and the cauliflower separately so I could put dill with the cuke pickles - some how cauliflower pickled with dill didn't really appeal...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Alex's "art"

This is a giant face installation piece which Alex did on the floor of the computer room this afternoon. He got Olivia to help him draw the facial features onto bits of paper, but the concept and execution were his own. Look out all you Picasso-wannabes out there...

Monday, August 06, 2007

One gone, one "perished"

I love the word "perished" - it's a very evocative word. I particularly love it (in principle, that is - in practice, I'd rather they used words like "in really great condition and not needing to be replaced for years") when used by the guy at the garage to describe the rear box of the exhaust system of my car (my description being "it has a hole in it" - which was obvious, from the sound it was making). Perished is like Victorian fishermen at sea or something, not mufflers... But anyway, tomorrow it goes in to be replaced with a new rear box (and the middle part will be replaced, too, as it was "corroded", which is presuambly what happens before it perishes...)

And the one gone is my mother, who the kids and I took to the airport this morning - by now she's no doubt home and probably exhausted, but sorting stuff out and unpacking and watering plants and all that sort of thing partly because she's like me, unable NOT to do that stuff, and partly because 6.30 is just way too early to go to bed. Another hour and a half and she might well crash. Despite my mom leaving it was a very family seeming day, as I had a phone call from Andy (who the kids call Grandpa Andy, as I still consider him my stepdad, even though he isn't technically...) who I hadn't talked to in ages (he only has a cell-phone, which makes international calls more complicated). Great to talk to him, and even had a quick word with my step-brother Robert, who is home in Virginia briefly during a deployment to Iraq (he's in the navy). So there you go.

I'm sure we'll have a bit quieter week this week, without her here (and by quieter, I mean not noise, which will no doubt still be high here, but going out and doing things, which we did a lot of while she was here). Tomorrow we have the huge excitement of taking the car to the shop and going to look for school shoes. We might make a little detour as Krispy Kreme is right across the road from the garage... And Wednesday or Thursday the guys are coming to put up the bike shed (concrete was poured today, hoorah - finally managed to get the concrete lorry down the alleyway). Gosh, my life is just too exciting. We might go down to Garsons and pick corn on the cob (and other stuff) too.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sunny day = sunprinting

Finally, it's like summer here. Hot and sunny, that is. Took advantage of this to do a little sunprinting - I still have to do some more for my swap, but at least August looks likely to provide some more opportunities for it. The kids each did a piece and I did three, of which one is pictured here, and the other two on my quilting blog. Sarah's friend Kirsty was still here from sleeping (I use the word loosely) over last night, so she and Sarah worked on one together (bottom right); Alex's is the top right, Olivia's the top left. It was a little windy, so we had some incidents with stuffing blowing around, hence the clarity is less good than it might be. Mine here is just random letters (foam shapes); the other two I did were scrunched and salted, two of my favourite effects.

Now, I am catching up with email a little, Olivia and Alex are in the paddling pool and Sarah is watching a DVD and having a little rest before we have some friends over for a barbecue. Soon I'll start doing a little food - some marinated veggies for kebabs, a plum crumble for dessert. Yum.

Oh, and get this - a knock on the door right before lunch and guess what - it's two guys to deliver the shed. Apparently in whatever alternative universe they inhabit, it's Wednesday today. But I did feel sorry for them - they had been stuck for 2.5 hours on the M25, poor things. And they DID deliver the shed, even carried it into the garden instead of leaving it at the back gate. At least it's here - now if only the concrete lorry can get into the back lane (they couldn't on Friday, due to bad parking at the top of the road), we'll be sorted.

Friday, August 03, 2007

South Bank

The "beach" - a small bit of sand and gravel along the banks of the Thames - only visible at low tide. The river itself is pretty yucky, but the beach part is ok. The kids thought it was cool, walking along looking for shells and interesting bits of glass. This is what we did after lunch, after going to the Hayward Gallery to see the Anthony Gormley exhibit (highly recommended). The kids liked most of the exhibit, particularly the fog-filled room and Event Horizon, which is all the figures placed along the London skyline. A few more photos here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Frogs, snakes and birdies, oh my

Today was definitely a frog day - lost count after a while, but we had fun spotting them lurking amidst the duck weed at the London Wetland Centre. Also saw the usual lots of birds and even a little snake, which was very cool. I knew they had some snakes there - they have created habitats for them - but never seen one in person (in snake?) there. This one was camping out inside a little viewing area for worms (by which I mean, a place you can get a view underground to see what the soil looks like when worms have been digging it up). I took a photo, which is here on Flickr, with lots of other photos, mainly taken by Olivia, but it's not brilliant. Still, you can tell it's a snake!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Shedloads of stuff - literally

Given that it was due to be sunny all day and we had to stay home to wait for the new shed to be delivered (which it wasn't, but that's another story) I decided we should clean out the shed, and make sure everything was dry after all the flooding. Our shed is a bit Tardis-like: a lot more can fit in there than it looks like from the outside. Here's most of it, on the grass in the sun. You can't see all the pots on the side, but trust me, there are quite a few. The washing, of course, wasn't in the shed, either before or after...

And now, we have a tidy shed, relatively free of cobwebs (for about 3 days, I reckon) and a pile of stuff to go to the tip at the weekend (not my job).

I should add that we none of us really minded being at home today (Sarah was at tennis camp anyway) as we had a busy day yesterday - Olivia & my mother & I went shopping in Kingston, including a very civilised lunch outside in the sunshine at a pub along the river and Alex spent the day with his friend Nancy, playing in the morning and at a birthday party for a mutual friend in the afternoon - frankly, we all were happy to have some downtime, it's just annoying when things aren't delivered...