Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Got Any Bullying Stories?

My mom's book is getting published!!! Wooo hoo! 

Anyway, the premise of the book is about some kids who are being bullied, and how they handle it. So, she's looking for some real life bullying stories. If you or your kids have any stories, and you'd be willing to share, her email is HollySBeck (at) gmail (dot) com* and put in the subject line "Bullying Story."  The more details the better!  (And, there are loads of different types of bullying, from mean text messages to "mean girls" to getting physically bullied.  All of it is useful.)

Thanks for any help! Smile

*I've put the email address up that way to keep down spam email!

The Full Parade

If you want to see ALL of the photos (the good, the bad and the ugly), They're on my Flickr Account.

Monday, 14 June 2010

An Irish Week (Pt 2)

When last we left our Heroine, she had just returned from spelunking at Marble Arch Caves......

Sunday, Jessie and I were pretty worn out from all our walking on Saturday.  So, we took it easy and had a lazy morning.  We eventually made it out the door around 11.30 in the morning, and went out to Fore Abby Ruins.  Figured, since it was Sunday, we might as well try for something ecclesiastical.  The ruin was lovely.  I was actually surprised how much of it still had a roof.  But, what was almost cooler, was the field you walked through to get up to the ruin was solid yellow irises!  Really lovely.  Only a few were in bloom when we were there, but you could imagine what it would look like all in bloom.

The tiny  baby bunny was awfully cute!

After our Abby Walk we drove through the countryside for a while.  I have this crazy enjoyment of driving down these insanely narrow winding roads.  Jessie indulged my bizarre habit, and we spent a while just driving, and seeing the beautiful countryside.

Eventually we stopped at the Loghcrew Gardens (just down the street from that burial I talked about in my last post.)  They were setting up for an Opera that evening, and that was kind of cool to see.  Also, there was a very fun Alice in Wonderland walk, where they've got all these different scenes out of the book: the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, the Cheshire Cat, Alice talking to the Caterpillar, the White Rabbit rushing down the rabbit hole.... It's pretty fun!  And, there's a fabulous zipline, which was sadly NOT open when we were there :(  But, mostly it was the fabulous flowers and gardens that kept us wandering for 2 hours.

We finished off the day by doing some more driving.  Just aimless wandering again.  It was really beautiful, and so relaxing.  We made it home WAY before the boys (they were 5 hours late!) and Jessie, bless her, decided she wouldn't be a "Proper Irish Mam" if she let me go off without some homemade soda bread.  So she made some!  It was DIVINE!

Monday was a Bank Holiday for Ireland, so we had another relaxing morning.  Originally I'd planned on getting out of Jessie's hair that day to let them get back on schedule for the week.  But, they wouldn't let me leave!  They were so wonderful and kind, and we did have a fabulous day.  We (all) took the boys to McDonalds for lunch before heading to a gorgeous forest.  On the way, we stopped and got Jessie a new camera!  (Her old one was having difficulties, which was annoying because it was brand new!)

The next morning (Tuesday) I got up and drove to the Northern Coast, up to the Giant's Causeway.  This is one of the things I've always said, "I'll go there someday."  Finally!  I've made it!  Woo hoo!  It was pretty awesome.  Unfortunately, it was also the only properly rainy day I had the whole trip.  I hiked around, nonetheless, but did get pretty wet!  I wore my mac on purpose, but didn't have an umbrella.  Never mind, I really wanted my hands free to climb!  After roaming the rocks for a few hours, I booked a place at a Farm B&B.  It was just up the road a little.  The lovely owner offered to hang my jeans on her indoor drying line, as they were SOAKED!  I changed and let her do that for me, and then I went out for a drive.  There was a spectacular sunset that evening, even though it was still drizzly on land.  Unfortunately, because of the rain, the rope bridge which is only 5 or 7 miles down the coast from the Causeway wasn't open :(  That was the only  thing I wanted to do that I couldn't.

The next day (Wednesday) I drove down from the North, back to the Republic and a stopover at my other Irish Family.  I was in a major accident in Ireland 7 years ago (!) and have kept in touch with the Family who rescued me, the O'Tooles (Yes!  Really!)  They're very dear to me, and I stayed over night with them just for the purpose of saying hi.  It's been 4 years since the last time I saw them, so it was way over due.  Sometime during my drive, my mom reached my house in England.  She was originally supposed to come in on Friday, but since she was flying standby, and the flight didn't look promising for Friday, she tried for Wednesday, and made it (just).  That meant she had 2 days on her own at my house, but that's not such a bad thing.  Two days to relax and get over jetlag. 

Thursday, I drove back to Dublin, returned the car and flew home!  It was really nice to walk in my front door and have my mom be there.

So, that's my Irish Adventure!  And.... shockingly... not a single trauma, drama or mishap!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

An Irish Week

Right, so I'm finally getting around to posting some photos of my recent Irish foray.

One of my lovely fellow Scrapbookers is Irish. Jessie and I have been emailing back and forth for the past 4 or 5 years. For some reason, it never occurred to us for me to go there, though we had occasionally talked about her coming here, for a visit. Anyway, a couple weeks ago I just thought, what if I go there?!? I haven't been to Ireland in 4 years, so it was really rather due. I emailed her about a visit, and she said, "Could you come next weekend? It's a bank holiday, so I have an extra day off." So I jumped on the internet and found a flight.

Took off for Ireland on Thursday, early morning. I landed in Dublin, and collected my hire car. I drove North-ish with the vague goal of reaching Cavan, where Jessie lives, by the late afternoon the following day. This vague roaming is a tradition for me. I love driving along the beautiful country side and randomly stopping off at things which sound interesting. I never have a hotel reservation, either. And only once in more than 10 years of travels has that ever been a problem! I just turn up to a town and either stop off at a B&B that catches my eye on the road, or I stop off at the Tourist Office and have a look at their book of local places. On my drive out of Dublin, I saw a brown tourist sign, and, as it was nearing lunch time, I decided to stop off. Turns out, the place I stopped at, the Hill of Tara, was where the Irish High Kings were crowned. Now, the thing was, this title was NOT hereditary. You had to be chosen for it based on your merit. Nowadays it's just a lovely open field and hills, with big mounds and trenches at intervals.

 The hill structures were used for cremation burials.  The whole vista was gorgeous, and it was fun to get to wander around with little restriction from the powers that be.  No one telling you were you can't go.  No one telling you that you can't touch.  It was just nice.

Once I drove away from the Hill, I entered a town called Navan, where I found a lovely B&B.  The owner, a man named Patrick, who goes by Pat, (Yes!  And there are MORE Patricks in this story!) set me up in the lovely sitting room of the B&B with a pot of tea and biscuits while I pursued the Lonely Planet Ireland Guide.

The next morning I went out to Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre to see the Newgrange and Knowth Burial Mounds.  They're megalithic (mega = large, lithic = stone) burials from the neolithic (neo = new, lithic = stone) period, approximately 65000 BC - that's older than the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt! Anyway, these particular structures are impressively  preserved.  Knowth has been fully excavated, then reassembled.  Newgrange has not been excavated.  The facade has been restored, but the internal structure has not been touched, with the exception of a couple of braces because a few of the stone slabs have cracked.  Sadly, they don't allow photos inside the Newgrange site, and the Knowth site is blocked by some tunnels built in medieval times (around 900 AD).  The mounds were very interesting, though.  And, if you get a chance, I'd completely advise a visit!  The site at Knowth was aligned for spring/fall equinox.  Newgrange for Winter Solstice.  All visitors to Newgrange can put a request in to be a guest for the Winter Solstice.  They randomly pull names for the event.  But... just because your name gets pulled, doesn't mean you get to see it!  The day has to be bright, as well!



However.  I'll let you in on a little secret.  There's a 3rd fabulous set of burial mounds.  And, they're free to enter.  During the summer months, there is a guide up there, but they don't do anything except tell you the history of the place, and point out cool carvings.  Oh... and hand you a flashlight.  They're actually brilliant.  They're very helpful, and even take photos for you!  It's such a beautiful location - the highest point in County Meade.  And, the sun illuminates on Spring/Autumn Equinox.  Now, at Newgrange, the sun illuminates for 17 minutes.  At Loughcrew (that 'gh' is like the Scottish 'ch' - it's a hard 'k' sound.  "Loch" in Scots Gaelic.  Means the same thing.  "Lake") the sun illuminates for an entire hour!  And, there are 4 carvings of suns which the beam picks out on its path.  It's truly a spectacular site, and virtually unknown. 

Loghcrew (The drive up.  It's a fun tiny road!)

The inside of Loghcrew

The view back out (L) and the tiny entrance (R)

The "Witches Thrown."  (L) It's actually one of the border stones that's fallen down.  But, there are a lot of local legends about witches in the area, and this stone was thought to be her seat of power.  One of the other mounds (R), seen from the top of the complete one.  The complete one has had it's roof put back on, but that's the only reconstruction it's had.

I actually ended up spending so much time at the site that I was nearly 2 hours late getting to Jessie's house!  I rang her, when I realised what time it was, and apologised, but she was totally sweet about it, and told me to take my time.  I finally arrived and met her and her DH and two sons.  They're absolutely brilliant!  Jessie's a total doll (which I already knew) and her husband (The other Patrick.  Goes by Paddy!  Yes, really!) just kept me laughing the whole evening.  The boys are also wonderful.  Really enjoyed meeting them.

Saturday, Paddy and the boys went down to his mother's for her birthday party weekend.  So, Jessie and I were on our own for Saturday/Sunday.  We didn't kill our selves getting up early and out the door, just took things easy, checked our emails, had a good breakfast . . . and eventually made out way out the door.  We drove up to Northern Ireland (still part of the UK), which is pretty close to where Jessie lives.  We went to a lovely National Trust site to walk through their gardens.

After our stroll through the gardens, we drove up the road a couple of minutes (honestly, only a couple of miles) to the Marble Arch Caves.  That was pretty spectacular!  I was so impressed.  It's a limestone cave with a river running through it.  They take you down, and you go on a flat bottomed boat for a few minutes.  Pretty awesome.  We really enjoyed the boat ride.  Then, you walk through the cave system looking at curtain stalactites, rim flows, stalactites, stalagmites, columns..... pretty awesome.


After our hour and a quarter cave tour, we did a couple of walks.  One was a ring walk, circling through some very empty (of humans) landscape.  You literally could not hear anything man made.  That was pretty amazing.  We particularly liked the bluebells and hawthorn flowers, and the hazel trees they're trying to reestablish.  Ireland has had hazel trees since the ice age, but they've been cut down for farm land, or grazed on by cows/sheep.  So they're trying to reestablish them in some groves.  My sister's no longer speaking to me, because of all the blue bells.  That's one of the things she has wanted to see for ages! 

After our delightful ring walk, we stopped off at another walking area.  Really lovely!  We totally loved the whole walk, but the best bit was this most amazing waterfall!  At the end of the walk we stumbled across the "Marble Arch" for which the caves were named.  That was a pleasant surprise!  And even better that we hadn't walked down all the stairs from the cave, then hiked back up them, only to discover the arch later, along the flat!


Ok.  It's late.  You'll have to wait til tomorrow (at the earliest!) to get the rest of the adventure.