Ireland – Day 1

IRELAND!

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When my husband and I found a 7 day/6 night Castles of Ireland Groupon, we jumped right on it! Though we had never been to Ireland and Ireland probably wouldn’t have been top of mind if asked where we’d like to vacation, we had an absolutely wonderful time! This series will detail our trip in hopes that anyone who might like to visit Ireland in the future will have our experience as a reference. I know when I was planning our trip, I read innumerable blogs about packing, international travel, what to see, what to buy, etc.

I’ll start off by letting you in on a not-so-secret insight into my marriage. We LOVE to travel. In addition to travel, we LOVE to drive, especially my husband. So when we realized this trip came with a car rental, we were over the moon! Our plan was to circle the entire Island and see just about everything we possibly could!

Day 1 Itinerary for Saturday, February 20, 2016:

  • 5:00 AM: Arrive in Dublin via Dublin Airport (Aer Lingus)
  • 5:30 AM: Pick up rental car from Dan Dooley
  • 6:00 AM: Drive into Dublin & Park at Q-Park Four Courts (only €4.00 for the day on Saturdays)
  • 6:30 AM: Explore Dublin on foot & via Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus
    • Hodges Figgis Bookstore
    • Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship
    • Merrion Square/St. Stephen’s Green Park
    • National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology – Bog Bodies!
    • Trinity College/Old Library/Book of Kells
    • Kilkenny Shop
    • Grafton Street
    • St. Patrick’s Park/Cathedral
    • Dublin Castle
    • George’s Street Arcade
    • Guinness Storehouse
    • Jameson Distillery
    • Dublin Writer’s Museum
    • Temple Bar
    • Ha’Penny Bridge
    • Kilmainham Gaol
  • Hotel: Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

Little did I know when I planned this itinerary that we would be completely exhausted from not sleeping on the airplane and it being midnight our (Iowa) time when we started the day! Oops. Oh well, you live and learn!

So here’s how the day REALLY went:

We started off by landing in the Dublin Airport which is absolutely beautiful. We had no problems retrieving our luggage (hooray for free checked bags on international flights!) and because we were a bit early landing we were even early to pick up our car at Dan Dooley. The first car we picked up wouldn’t go into third gear (my husband, Nolan, is a fabulous driver, even when everything is backwards, so I knew it was the car when he was having troubles and sure enough the rental guy tried it out and realized third gear was busted) so we got another car, a Ford Fiesta, and off we went to chase down the Dublin sunrise.

We parked at the Q Park Four Courts even though everyone told us not to drive into Dublin and park including the rental car people. They suggested we drop our car off with our bags at our hotel and take a shuttle in. I didn’t want to waste the time and I was willing to pay the €4.00 for the day of parking, so we went against their suggestions and I’m glad we did!

When we got to the parking garage it was still dark and it felt like we were the only people in the city! We realized as the sky began to turn colors that the fog was going to obliterate any chance of a sunrise we might be able to have, so instead of walking all the way down to Dublin Bay, we headed to Merrion Square to check out the beautiful Doors of Dublin!

Merrion Square Park was closed for construction purposes but we walked around it and saw the statue of Oscar Wilde through the fence which was great!

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At this point, we were already exhausted and ready to pass out so we went to O’Callaghan Mont Clare Hotel and had a delicious breakfast with wonderful coffee! Overall, Ireland has amazing coffee and food! The hotel staff was incredibly helpful and understanding of our exhaustion and kept the coffee coming. They even helped us purchase our tickets for the CityScape Luxury Sightseeing (Yellow) Hop-On Hop-Off bus.

A little bit about the Hop-On Hop-Off busses: I researched and planned on purchasing tickets for the Green bus, however, it was much pricier (almost double) than the Yellow bus was so we went with the Yellow bus and it was SO worth it. Our tour guides were amazing, there were busses all over and didn’t keep us waiting long, and the open air seating on top would have been so much fun had it not been raining.

Once we finished breakfast, we walked to Trinity College and took the Book of Kells tour. It was fabulous. The Old Library is breathtaking, I wish I could bottle the smell of the old books, and the Book of Kells is an amazing sight.

When our tour was finished, we did a bit of shopping on Nassau St. There were so many cool shops but we didn’t actually purchase anything at this point since we still had several hours left in our day and we didn’t want to tote everything around with us. Luckily, we were able to flag down one of our busses on this road (apparently they don’t normally stop where they did) and Nolan was able to get some shut eye while we drove around nearly the entire hour and a half route.

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When we got close to the parking garage where we had parked, we decided to go back to the car so I could sleep a bit. We probably slept about 15-20 minutes in the car, took some Tylenol for our feet, and then walked to the Guinness Storehouse in the rain. The weather was definitely getting rainier as the day went on, but we came prepared with proper shoes, jackets, hats, gloves, and an umbrella!

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The Guinness Storehouse was absolutely flooded with people and we had to stand outside in a line that wove its way around the building for about 30 minutes. I was actually surprised with how quickly the line moved! The tour was fabulous and well worth the money spent to take it. The only part that was a bit of a letdown was the Gravity Bar at the top of the building that boasts the best views of Dublin. I’m sure that’s true when they don’t have ten thousand people packed into the room and nowhere to take a picture from. We quickly exited back down the many flights of stairs.

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My attempt at taking a photo from the Gravity Bar windows.

Outside we waited for a Yellow bus to stop and it took us back close to where our car was parked. From there, we drove to our hotel, the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. I have nothing but positive to say about the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. We had a slight error in our booking, we had paid for breakfast but it didn’t come across, and the hotel staff took it upon themselves to contact our travel agent to confirm. Not only was the staff excellent, the food was wonderful both in the Dungeon Bar (where Nolan fell asleep sitting up at dinner) and the morning breakfast. Our room was elegantly decorated, had a beautiful bathroom, and a gorgeous view of Dublin Bay/the Irish Sea.

This ends our first day. It was a wonderful way to start our trip. We didn’t get to do everything we planned on doing but we wholeheartedly enjoyed Dublin. The only thing I wish we could have seen was the Archaeology Museum’s bog bodies. Before I travelled to Ireland, I was given the name of an author that writes mysteries that center around these bog bodies. Her name is Erin Hart and I would HIGHLY recommend reading Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows before you travel to Ireland. They are fantastic and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series!

~Thankfully Exhausted

 

The Secret Playroom

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Moving is such an exciting time. You get to look for a home where your family will grow and expand, your lives will bloom, and many friends and family will visit. Finding the perfect home is something that doesn’t happen very often but when we found our home about 7 months ago, we knew it was something special.

The first time we looked, we thought it was abandoned because there was so much snow in the driveway. We almost didn’t even give it a second thought. Though I was tired of looking through so many homes that were broken down and needed a ton of work, Nolan was adamant that we should at least give this one a shot. I am so thankful he talked me into it! It wasn’t broken down at all, it was GORGEOUS!

With 7+ acres of land, enough room to have guests and gatherings, as well as beautiful views of the surrounding countryside I was in heaven. When we walked through a door attached to the kitchen, I knew exactly how we could use the space to make a special surprise for our girls.

We prayed and prayed that the home would be the one for us. We worked to get ours on the market and it sold in record time. And after a bit of negotiation, we were finally under contract on the home we loved.

I immediately started painting a door with no handle… this would be the chalkboard that would cover the doorway to the secret room – a playroom!

Before the girls could even visit the house, Nolan replaced the door (it’s really handy having a door guy as a husband!) and we were on our way to awesomeness!

Though the girls didn’t think much of the chalkboard, they did ask a couple of times how we could get to the attic (it’s pretty obvious we have an attic from outside the house). We told them since it’s an old farmhouse, the attic had probably been closed up and was probably unsafe – kind of like the corn crib on the property. (This is important to understand Faith’s reaction…)

Over the course of the next few months, we worked on the room sporadically when the girls were out of town. Nolan, my amazing husband – previously referred to as McDreamy, painted the base color (a beautiful grey/blue) and moved all the boxes up while the girls and I were in Ohio. Then I had to wait until the girls were in Colorado visiting my parents to finish the room.

Pinterest was the main inspiration for the room, in fact, I had an entire board dedicated to it! Some of the inspo I used:

We bought a bunch of the stuff at Walmart, IKEA, and Target as well as off of Amazon but a large majority of the items were things we already had, just repurposed!

This was the most fun I’ve had decorating in a long time and honestly the reaction the girls had was better than I could have hoped for. They have spent most of their time up there playing, creating, and even sleeping. Our house has officially grown and I couldn’t be happier!

Check out the video of the big reveal:

Virtual Races: Fab or Fad?

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The first time I heard about virtual racing, I thought to myself, “Why?”

Why would I want to pay money to run by myself? Can’t I do that for…

wait for it…

FREE?

Well, the answer is yes, but I decided to try it anyway, just to see what the big deal was. And I was astonished by how much FUN I had. The race director had an interactive Facebook Group and Facebook Page where I was able to chat with other participants and meet new racing friends. I also received the coveted race medal!

But the best part was that I didn’t have to leave my family for a weekend to participate in a race that they had no interest in. I didn’t have to travel, try to find parking, walk more miles to get to the start line than I would run during the race, deal with crowds, etc.

I DID get to take my dog, listen to my music, and pick my own course (flat and fast, baby!). It was exhilarating and fun. The medal was awesome. So though I’m not sure whether virtual racing is a fad, it is most definitely FAB!

Find some virtual races at www.mkt.com/RCFVirtualRace and if you use the code “RCF Fans” you can get $5.00 off any upcoming race or race series!

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I’ll be running the Summer Race Series, will you join me?

~ Thankfully Exhausted

God Answers Even the Tiniest Prayers

It all started when I read a blog that suggested families should pray together. They had a system worked out where every day each family member would write individual prayers on an index card. They would date the card and as time went on they would pray each of the prayers on the cards until they saw God answering the prayers. Once a prayer was answered, they would write about it on the back of the card, date it, and remove it from the rotation of prayer.

  

 

So last night we started our own prayer box. We each took one brightly colored card and wrote down something we had on our hearts. Unlike the children who continued to ask for more and more cards, I had a harder time thinking of prayers. In my mind I needed a simple prayer that would have a distinct conclusion so the kids could see God working. Therefore, the only thing I could come up with him was to pray that God would help me find my favorite capri workout pants. 

  

When the children heard my prayer, they giggled aloud. As a matter-of-fact we all giggled aloud. When the giggles subsided, my husband reminded all of us that God doesn’t only answer big prayers but also the smallest, tiniest, most insignificant prayers that we pray because God cares about every single part of our lives. 

We finished up our prayers and tucked our cards neatly into the box to pray over again on another day. About an hour later, my husband came walking over to me with a pair of black capri pants, the ones I had searched high and low for for weeks. The girls were ecstatic to see how quickly God had answered that prayer.

What little things are you keeping from God because you’re afraid they’re too insignificant to pray about? Pray for those things today and allow God to answer the prayers in your life. 

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Runner Review – Bondi Band

Today I will be reviewing Bondi Band. Bondi Band is super simple! It’s an armband that you can put stuff in. The reason I’m reviewing this is because it is THE ONLY thing I have found that works well for me to carry my iPhone 6 Plus in while I run. It’s simple, easy to use, doesn’t move when I run, doesn’t squish my arm, and they come in multiple sizes and colors.

Check them out online!

Runner Review – Sweaty Bands

Today I am reviewing Sweaty Bands. Okay ladies, how many different hair bands do you own that just sit in your drawer because they don’t work. And when I say don’t work, I mean slip off within five seconds of putting them on. Join the club! I have tried so many different bands and they never stay on my head. Enter Sweaty Bands! These velvet backed headbands in so many different colors and styles and the best thing IN THE WORLD!

I ran a 15K in this one and it didn’t move a bit! See the picture for proof!

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The other amazing thing these do is they keep the sweat that accumulates from my hairline from dripping down my face. I used to finish a race with mascara everywhere, my face bright red, and my eyes on fire from all the sweat in them. I’m a believer and you should be too!

Find them online!

Link Roundup – Week of December 29, 2014

Link Roundup – Week of December 29, 2014

Exercise:

Running:

Beauty:

Health:

~ Thankfully Exhausted