Sunday, February 27, 2011

Home Sweet Home - By the Beach

It has been about a month and a half now since we have moved to California. In some ways it seems like we just got here and in others it feels like we have been here forever. I am glad to say it has been a smooth transition for everyone. I had a lot of people back home in Texas giving us a little grief about moving here and "Why would we do that?", "I would never make such a drastic move with young kids?", "You are going to leave your spacious, beautiful TX home to live in much smaller quarters in CA?", "Are the schools good? I have heard they are not.", etc...and so on and so on. So not that any of those people would be reading my blog, but in case you is why we made the move, and yes we love it, and yes the kids love it, and even the dog is in seventh heaven.

What we love so far:
We live in a beach house - 2 blocks from the sand.
The house is not too big, but not too small, it is just right and has amazing views.
The weather (for the most part) has been great.
We can walk to restaurants, shops, ice cream in less than 5 minutes
We are close to old friends and have made new ones.
The girls love their schools and teachers (their schools are 2 blocks apart which makes drop off and pick up easy peasy).
The sunsets are intoxicating.
We are slowly falling into a regular schedule that will soon include seeing Charlie at lot more.
No pool or yard to take care of.

What we miss:
Family and Friends
Tex Mex and a combo plate that isn't $15.
Our great babysitters that DID NOT charge $15+/hour.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Donegal: Where to Stay and Eat

Even though I don't think Donegal has to be part of your Ireland travel plans, I do have 2 great recommendations for you. The first is the place that we stay. It was a little Farmhouse B&B outside of the town and it was very quaint, charming, but not lacking in amenities. It was called the Coxtown Manor. When you arrive it has a private drive and I felt like I was stepping into a Jane Austen movie or something. It was a very dreary, cold day and the grass and trees were so green, and the farmhouse was so gray, and the yellow light from inside was so inviting. It is basically an old farm that they have turned into a B&B. There is the main house and then the 300 year old back house (where we stayed). Even though our location was the oldest, it had been the most newly renovated. The accommodations were very comfortable and the bathroom very modern. It wasn't until the 2nd day that I heard the owner say something about it being haunted. He actually said some people have said that it is, but he had never really experienced anything. I think when something is that old, there is always the possibility. Regardless, I would recommend it and I was not scared. Of course the breakfast was wonderful with all the traditional fare. The breakfast room was so perfectly proper, I felt like I was lost in a British time warp. In the evenings, they will serve you food and they have a cool bar in one part of the house. A nice place to hang out after being out all day. (Or having gone through all the drama we had while in Donegal.) You can drink and live it up without having to drive back to your hotel. A nice perk.

The back house where we stayed.

We had a great room that they called a "family" room. Plenty of room for us for a couple of nights!

The breakfast room.

Jack and Mark at the bar!

Traditional breakfast

All of their dishes had their logo on them. I really wanted to put one in my purse!

The 2nd recommendation I have is a place called the Castle Murray House.

The funny thing about this place is that is was recommended to us by the people at the Coxtown Manor as a great place to go eat. As we arrived up to it, I immediately recognized it as a place I had suggested we stay at when we were planning the trip. We had decided against it because it was quite a bit more expensive and we were really trying to stay on budget. Now the Castle Murray house has quite a different feel and look to it than the Coxtown Manor. The Castle Murray House sits out on Donegal Bay so it is much more coastal in feel. It has breathtaking views of the bay and was the PERFECT place to go eat dinner. Although I don't recommend Donegal as a tourist location, it might be worth the stop through just to have dinner at the Castle Murray House. Reservations are probably recommended. You have a great view from just about any table in the restaurant and the meal was to die for. I had my first lobster of the trip and it was great. After dinner, I took the girls out on the lawn and we got some photos of the sunset. So pretty!
Aunt Karen and Uncle Mark celebrating their Anniversary!

My first lobster in Ireland...Thankfully I didn't have to do hardly any work to eat this one. By the time we left Ireland I was ordering them whole and am proud to say I now know how to properly eat a lobster! YUMM-O

Sarah and Nana with the Rahan Castle in the background. It dates back to at least the 15th century.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Valentine's Day Wrap Up

Valentine's Day this year was really great for us. It was on of the first I can remember that Charlie was actually home with us. Instead of doing some romantic evening out just the two of us, we decided to have family dinner at home and make it special and fun for the kids. Of course the girls had a blast during the day at their schools having parties, making crafts, and eating sweets. So it is always hard to top the fun that they have at school. SO when they got home I had a little Valentine's table set with goodies for each of them. I then made them breakfast for dinner (one of their favorites!) I attempted heart shaped pancakes, but was having some technical difficulties with that. They loved them just the same regardless of the shape. Whew! Then I made sausage, bacon, and had strawberries and yogurt for them. While all this smelled divine, Charlie and I opted to try the Thai place down the street, so he went and got take-out. We had chicken satay, yellow chicken curry, and chicken pad thai. It was really good, but not as good as Sea Siam in Keller, TX. I will say, though, that here in Hermosa Beach and the South Bay, there are about a hundred different Thai places in a 5 mile radius, so we will find one we love. I am sure of it.

For dessert we had chocolate fondue. You can tell by the pictures that the girls LOVED it. Every time we do fondue I ask myself, "Why don't you do this more often?" It is always so good. We had pound cake, strawberries, and bananas with the chocolate. YUM! So it was a nice evening at home and a great Valentine's!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Drama in Donegal

Yea! So I am back to posting about the vacation that happened about a 100 years ago now. We will get through me marathon blogging about this trip together!

So...I mentioned in my last post about the trip that we had sort of a family emergency while on the vacation...well that took place while in Donegal. The night before we got to Donegal we ate at the fish and chips place in Bushmills. Well, the next day Jetta (Charlie's mom) wasn't feeling great. Some sort of chest pain/reflux...we didn't know. So the next day after that was our first full day in Donegal. We started the morning doing a little shopping in the city center. Jetta was still not feeling great, in fact she seemed to be feeling worse. So after about an hour she decides she needs to see a Dr. Now at this point is about the point I clued in that she REALLY wasn't feeling well and that there might really be something wrong here. Now keep in mind we are in a little village and the local Dr. is hard to find. We walked and walked with bad directions trying to find this guy. Jetta was feeling faint, heart racing, etc... Once we got to the Dr. he suggested she be taken by ambulance to the nearest big city with a hospital (about an hour away) in fear that she might be having a heart attack. this is not something you really plan for while on vacation. We were all scared to death. She is having chest pains and being whisked away in an ambulance. Charlie and his Dad are in shock and little emotional and everyone is like what do we do now. So, basically the game plan was for me to head back to the B &B with the girls and everyone else headed to the town where the hospital was. So I spent the whole day in the room with the girls. Thankfully it was a nice place. It was cold outside, so it was nice to be in. I had a computer in which they could watch movies and I had peanut butter and bread so we were set with food. I didn't really get many updates, but by dinner time they were all on their way home. Final diagnosis: She must have swallowed a fish bone that scratched her on the way down and was just irritating her and causing her pain. Thankfully that was all it was, but unfortunately she was uncomfortable most of the rest of the trip with it.

Donegal (aside form the health scare) was not all that much to write home about. Should you find yourself there, or really want to go for some reason, the place we stayed was nice and quaint and we did have a great dinner one night. My next vacation post will be about those 2 places. (I promise that it will be sometime the month of February!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Around the World Party

One of my most favorite parties growing up that my mother threw for me was an Around the World Party. I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I know it was a sleepover, so I had to be 13 or older. (I didn't get to partake in sleepovers until I turned 13. My how times have changed.) It was me and 4 of my close friends. It was simple, but fun. We made posters for the walls representing different countries and she made food from different countries for dinner. I remember how fun it was to order stuff from Oriental Trading like chopsticks, world flag banners, and pinatas.

So this summer after Sarah got to travel to Europe, she became increasingly interested in traveling and learning about other countries. When we brainstormed about her party I gave her some ideas, the Around the World party being one of them. She instantly latched onto that and wanted that to be her theme. I was thrilled and we had such a great time planning it. I originally planned to let her have only about 5-6 of her close friends, but as we got closer and realized we would be moving just after, I decided to let it become a sleepover and she could increase the number of friends. I still had to draw a line so we didn't have 40 girls at my house, but she narrowed it to 10 and that was about perfect!

So here are some photos and specifics! Since the party was on Saturday, January 8th and we moved out of our house on the 10th, it was a relatively simple party for me. I did not go too over board on decor and what not. Less to pack up. It was easy peasy as Sarah would say and the girls had a BLAST!

Party Specifics:
Theme: Around the World
Invites: Handmade Passports individualized with each girls picture and birth date

Countries Visited:
Note-- They got passport stamps in their passports at each country.
France- They got to dress up in fashion, have manicures, and their souvenir was star glasses and necklaces

Italy- Our kitchen was Italy and they made make your own pizzas for dinner

China- We did origami and their souvenir was fortune cookies and Chinese fans

Mexico- Sarah beat her pinata and their souvenir was flowers for their hair and the candy from the pinata

Islands of the South Pacific- They played limbo and watched Barbie Mermaidia. Their souvenir was pink and purple Leis. We also did the cookie cake and had fruit punch with umbrellas in it while visiting this country

U.S.A.- My kitchen was the US for breakfast. They had donuts, yogurts, and strawberries. Their souvenir was a small American flag.
(Was too tired I guess and didn't snap any photos)

Craft: As each girl arrived at my house they made "suitcases" to collect their souvenirs. They got to decorate a suitcase box with travel stickers and colors. This served as their party favor.

Cake: Sarah loves cookie cakes. Got ours from The Cakery in Southlake

Decor: Items came from Party City, Oriental Trading Company, World Market, and various other party sites.

The party was a success. They really loved having the suitcases and gathering something from every country, as well as, having the passports. They stayed up until about 10pm and were early risers for breakfast the next morning at 7am. As the last guest was leaving it started to snow outside and that was the best present Sarah could have ever had. She thought that was so special that it actually snowed on her birthday! We ended up having a late lunch that day with family at Brio and it was a perfect birthday!
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