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A monthly list of good things to see, do, buy, read, watch, and more.

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I hope it’s starting to feel like summer for you – we’re still waiting for those consistently warm days here in the PNW.

However, we have had some lovely, sunny days in between the rain – one of them even got to 79 degrees!

Which is a lot warmer than where we spent the first three weeks of May – in Ireland!

We LOVED Ireland, though we had to laugh when we listened to the radio and heard the announcers warn about the “scorcher” weekend they’d be having where “it might get to 18 degrees (celsius)!” Which is about 65 degrees fahrenheit, lol.

Another weekend was a “heat wave” that could reach…20 celsius. We wondered what words they were leaving to use in case it actually made it into the 70s or beyond!

There were SO many good things about our trip (though not the returning flights…we’re going to need some time to get over that before flying again, ha!) – I’m sharing just a bit with you below, as well as the travel things that WORKED, the books I read, and what we watched after returning home.

As always, I’d love to hear about YOUR good things this month!

Good Things

Cliffs of Mohr-O'Briens tower

Ireland

Ireland’s beautiful countryside and dramatic western coast – the Cliffs of Mohr is above with O’Brien’s Tower – enthralled us.

We spent three days in Dublin seeing the sights – Book of Kells and Trinity College, Dublinia Viking Museum and Christchurch Cathedral, The National Museum Ireland – Archaeology (free and so interesting!).

Kilkenny Castle-Front right wing
Kilkenny Castle that has tours of the refurbished inside.

Then we traveled southwest to County Kildare and the family farm of my cousin’s Irish wife where we stayed for about a week as our home base while we explored around.

We saw castles like Kilkenny Castle shown above (the one thing I wanted to do, not knowing they are literally everywhere, from ruins to tourist stops to hotels – like thousands of them!).

We also visited the lush gardens of Altamont, the beautiful valley of Glendalough with its ancient monastery ruins, c.990s, and the Brownshill Dolmen from 4000 BC (!), among other things.

arched door in room at Kinnitty Castle

Then we decided to stay in one of the castle hotels, but I wanted one that actually still looked old on the inside (many of the refurbished castles have regular hotel-looking rooms).

We chose Kinnitty Castle, since my cousin had stayed there previously, it was close, and was running a “summer special” (it rained while we were there, lol).

I loved the room with its arched window, arched doors, stone walls, and ancient wood floors. Give me old every time. (Um, the bathroom was newer though, and very well appointed, which I did appreciate!)

And the breakfast the next morning was in a dining room with linen tablecloths, a waitress, and menu choices – nothing like our hotel muffin-and-cereal bars (if you’re lucky…).

Such a great experience!

Avilas-Boys in pub booth

Then we took a 7-day road trip with my cousin and his wife through a bit of Northern Ireland up to Malin Head, Donegal, and the wonderful Ulster American Folk Park where you can literally walk through time – before the Irish famine, through a ship to the US, and then how the Irish fared in the US afterwards (one of the my favorite things we did).

We then headed down along the beautiful west coast, stopping at the Slieve League Cliffs, beautiful beaches (where they were surfing!), Galway, Limerick, more castles, and through the many miles of rural Ireland with its stone walls and sheep everywhere.

We ate at pubs and stayed at B&Bs through the trip and it was a wonderful time all around – even with the bit of car trouble we had at the beginning of the trip.

That was just another opportunity to see how kind and generous the Irish people can be (the mechanic who helped us dropped us at a nice hotel restaurant while he looked at the car with instructions to “relax with a cup of tea.” I KNOW that would never happen in the US, lol.).

We felt so privileged to have our own private tour guide in Primrose, my cousin’s wife, as she showed us some of her favorite spots and some things that are off the beaten path. Being with them both made it that much more fun!

**Note: If you have an Instagram account, you can see all the stories I published during our trip in this highlight.**

with teapot in front of Belleek

The Teapot Story

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have seen the story of us searching for a teapot to bring home from our Ireland trip (you can read it here on Facebook – you don’t have to have an account to read it).

Here’s a recap:

Years ago my mom brought us a teapot from Ireland and it magically never dripped when pouring (we’ve been through 7 other pots that all dripped…).

Of course the handle broke in our move (literally one of only two things that broke, sigh…).

So I decided Ireland was the place to get a teapot that doesn’t drip (spoiler – we discovered most DO drip there, too!) and we brought an extra bag just for the teapot and gifts.

The search was on, but there was nothing like my old pot – most in the stores are more modern looking without the classic shape I love.

I finally found one in the gift shop of the Folk Park – just as it was closing. I was assured we’d find another one like it, a simple creamy classic stoneware teapot made by Belleek, the classic Ireland brand.

Can you tell where this is going? Yep, we never saw it again – not even on the Belleek website!

Towards the end of our trip, we were going to be driving by the town of Belleek where the company has their headquarters and decided to stop by on the off chance they’d have this apparently rare pot.

And they did!! It was discontinued, which is why it wasn’t on the website or in other stores. I happily bought the pot they brought out from the back, but we decided to leave it all packaged like it came thinking it would fare better in our checked bag.

As in, we never unwrapped it to check it.

You might see where this is going, too?

Yep, when we unwrapped it at home, the handle and upper part of the pot was shattered – like in many little pieces.

Nothing else in the case was damaged in any way, including two other more delicate vases I bought and Brian’s old records that were on top of the teapot box.

I felt like it came that way and I should’ve checked in the store – so I shared the story on social media and tagged Belleek.

The company responded within a day, saying their procedure is for the checker to unwrap things when they bring something from the back – AND they are sending me one of the teapots they still had!!

I’m thrilled – both with this great company and the the Irish teapot we’re going to have to remind us of our Ireland trip!

Best travel products

Favorite Travel Products

Since I know many of you may be traveling soon, too, I thought I’d share the travel products that worked out best for me – and actually have been for awhile since the only new things were the solid shampoo and conditioner bars.

After trying many (many!) toiletry bags that would work in our carryon (we usually only fly carryon – this was the first time we checked a bag and it was just for gifts going and coming – and it did miss our flight and was delayed getting to us by a day!!), I’m confident in saying this is the one that WORKS:

  • BEST Toiletry Bag – the one that actually holds all the things I need, including my hairbrushes, and still fits in my carryon.

A flatiron is necessary for my bangs on days I don’t wash my hair – and finding a small one with a heat-proof holder was a game-changer for me:

To lessen the liquids in the separate bag, I’ve been experimenting with solid shampoo and conditioner bars. I found this trial pack for a good price and the small sizes were perfect:

  • Sample Size Solid Shampoo and Conditioner – one heart-shaped bar of shampoo lasted the whole 3 weeks of washing every other day and I only used half of the conditioner since I only use it on my ends. Using them was so easy!

Not pictured is my hard-sided suitcase and the small packing cubes that I super appreciated this time as we were packing up every day to go to a new B&B and they made it simple to stay organized and pack quickly.

(I put all my shirts and tops in one cube, my socks, underwear and jammies in another, and my button down shirt, sweater, and scarf in the third. Pants were flat and shoes fit around everything.)

May Reads

May 22 Reads cover images

The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah. I listened to this on the plane and while I can see that Ms. Hannah is a good writer, I found this to be sad and depressing. I realize it was set during the dustbowl and great depression, but it was all so terrible from the relationships to what happened to the characters. All through the story straight to the end. And I didn’t even really find a character to like. Maybe the in-laws/grandparents, but they were absent for much of the story. I realize this could be just me, but I hope to find some spark in even the bleakest circumstances in books.

Someone Perfect, Mary Balogh. This is a sweet little regency romance that’s in a whole series of “someone” books this author has written. It’s one of those books that you enjoy hearing about all the other characters you’ve met previously, even though not every book in the series is well done. This was one of those – it was repetitive and seemed like the author was just putting in time, if you now what I mean, since there wasn’t much in the way of plot. But hey, we read these for a bit of light escape with a HEA ending, right? (Just what I needed on our stressful flights home!)

Maybe in Another Life, Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’ve loved everything I’ve read of this author’s current offerings, so when this backlist title came up on sale on Chirp, I grabbed it. While not as engrossing as the current things I’ve read, this was still a pretty interesting story and concept: a girl meets her high school boyfriend years later one night and then two alternate timelines are explored – one where she goes home with him, the other when she doesn’t. Once I got into it, I enjoyed seeing how one decision could impact a life so differently.

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard. I’ve had this book in my Kindle for awhile and I totally enjoyed reading about this young family moving spontaneously from Paris to rural France and what life looks like living slower and knowing all your neighbors. Also, I did find a few recipes I’d love to make!

The Bookshop on the Shore, Jenny Colgan. I’m not even sure where I heard about this book, but I had it on hold at the library and when it came in, I was pleasantly surprised at how I got caught up in the story. It’s about a single mom of a 4-year-old with a deadbeat dad in London who gets a chance to move to Scotland to work in a book van and as an au pair for a reclusive Scottish laird in his big house with three kids. It was pretty emotional by the end with pretty deep themes, yet had an upbeat vibe and a happy ending (even though I felt it was a bit rushed).

God on Mute, Pete Grieg. If you have ever prayed for something and God has remained silent (which I’m guessing is just about everyone of faith), then this book is for you, like it was for me. The author uses some of his personal suffering through his wife’s ongoing health issues, as well as many well-known heroes of the faith and people he has come into contact with. It’s sobering and uplifting at the same time and I felt not alone in the wondering of unanswered prayer and our reactions to it. This was the most helpful quote (though I wrote down quite a few):

“Christian maturity requires God to remove Himself at some point (like a parent removing their hand so a child can ride a bike freely)…At such times we may be sure that God is weaning us off adult supervision but He has NOT abandoned us altogether.”

Watching

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Operation Mincemeat, Netflix. Brian had read this book and was looking forward to the movie. I thought it was good and I really enjoyed it, he thought just okay because he felt they didn’t capture the excitement of the book as the elaborate ruse unfolded.

Outer Range, Amazon. We had high hopes for this from the trailer and first couple episodes, but it went downhill fast for us (slow, making things out of nothing, weird) and we’ve abandoned it. What did you think?

The Essex Serpent, Apple+. Another show we watched just two episodes of before bailing. It just seemed to go nowhere and there were too many things that didn’t jive with the time period, plus things seemed to be way over-dramatized with music, scary eyes, etc. And I could see where things were going with the married vicar and widow – no thanks. Sigh.

That’s it for another addition of the Good Things List!

If you’d like to see more of what I’m enjoying, you can check out all the Good Things Lists here. I’d love to know what you think – if you’ve tried any of these or what you’d recommend. Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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