Christmas

Day 121 – Ian’s birthday and Holiday open house

Hard to believe Ian turned 40 today.. I do remember the day he was born and how traumatic it all was.  I never seem to do things the easy way in life. But believing in reincarnation tells me that there is a lot to be learned through those difficult times. My uncle was a very spiritual man and a devout Catholic and he told me once about how he knows that he had lived before and he knew how he died. It was a great relief to me when he told me his story of going to Mexico and climbing the pyramid there and turning around and seeing the site of his life long occurring dream.  He knew at that moment that he had died while being a laborer on that pyramid as it was being built. He knew he had fallen to his death there and from that day forward that dream that came to him over and over again never came back.  He also knew why he had spent his life afraid of heights.  So I don’t think that it could not be a possibility that I have been around once or twice already.  Since this is a kind of hard road we live on earth and if you believe in a god it makes sense that maybe we need to develop our souls..  When people talk about someone being an old soul, someone filled with wisdom and knowledge – how do you think they got that way? I prefer to think they have been down this road many times and have learned their lessons and I hope one day I will be an old soul.

Anyway, we had a long and fun day today.  Ian and Maya were having a holiday open house, not a birthday party, so the morning was spent getting the house and the food ready.  They were not expecting a large crowd since many of their friends were away visiting family for the holiday. So, I first folded laundry, then cleaned bathrooms and finally was charged with figuring out what bowls and plates to use and to put things on them as they were brought out from the kitchen.  So between us it all worked out and we were ready by noon.

I got to have a visit with two of my brothers today and sister in law Mary. Niece Sarah and nephew Andrew were here also so that was a treat getting to sit and actually have a long conversation with Andrew. He is quite a remarkable man. One pleasant surprise was seeing Chris Holt and his wife and meeting his two adorable little kids. Also met Ian and Maya’s neighbor who just finished her MBA and told her about Kevin Kaiser and as much of his philosophy as I understand. She is going to get his book and see how it fits into her business model for her own business she is starting.  She is a smart woman and has come up with a great consulting idea.

There were tons of little kids all of whom did not have dinner but tons of cookies, chips, fruits, etc.  Lots of 3-5 year old energy around the place. Ian and Maya’s college friend TIm has twin girls who Sol and little Bear love to hang out with and their friend across the street Kennedy and then Chris’ two kids. Endless energy for sure.

It took a bit to get the girls to sleep and in the mean time all the dishes were done, and the only place not cleaned up is the basement which Ian said not to touch until morning. Of course he is going to be out all day tomorrow so we will be there with over tired little girls but it will all happen. At the moment the mom and dad are out doing what Ian loves to do on his  birthday – he is bowling.  Every year we babysit on his birthday so they can go bowling.  It is very calm and quiet here at the moment.

I have pictures to share from the day. It was a fun time.

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Day 120 – A new adventure everyday and inspiration

Everyone was up very early and for some part of the night as well.  Seems Sol had a dream that her sister threw up in the bed and Sol woke up and ran to get help.. Only problem was it was a dream but by then most of us were at some stage of being awake.  Once they all settled down again things were okay until about 6 am.  Have to admit I could use a good nights sleep at this point.

So up we got most of us by about 8. Kids were not interested in taking the Metro to the Zoo or to Union Station or for going out for a walk initially.  Finally “little bear” decided it would be fun to go for a walk with Grandpa.  Sol did not want to go anywhere. After having a bit of a snack and helping Ian do some cleaning up for their open house tomorrow I went out on my own for a walk up to the Health Food Coop.  Had a lovely walk through the town and saw a lot.  I find that having a camera with me at all times makes me more observant of things. I have to say that is one thing I have learned from the Galway experience.  Sort of like stopping to smell the roses. Taking time to look around and actually see what there is to see opens up a lot of the world that most people just pass by.

Up the road there are the most interesting statues in a couple of front yards.  I was so surprised when I saw them that I stopped and then another lady stopped and we admired the work.  And I noticed the enhancement on the sidewalk. I don’t think it is stone, actually almost looks rubbery but that is okay, it is colorful and fun to see. The colors changed as I walked along.

I shopped, at the check out told the woman there that they really need more gluten or wheat free foods.  I could not find a decent bread in the entire store. I hate the frozen rice breads, they have no flavor and they did not have the kinds of breads that they have in Albany or Galway.   On the way back sitting in the window of the Bistro were Maya, her mom and Sol out for some lunch.  They had finished decorating all the cookies and thought the deserved a reward for their good work. They looked so cute out there together.

Ian, Denis and LIttle Bear had gone out to the doctors to have LB’s glued together rather than stitched hand looked at and re-bandaged. Seems the glue they stuck her together with was not staying the way it should. Then they went to the market for food for tomorrow.  So I was home first and it was so lovely and warm out I sat outside knitting for a while and when Sol got back she and I sat out there doing a puzzle and chatting. She was in a silly mood so it was a fun time.

Later in the afternoon Maya’s sister and family arrived to pick up Mor-Mor to take to their home in Virginia over night before returning her to Baltimore.  I don’t think they plan to come to the open house tomorrow. The new baby was cute, just about three weeks old so very tiny.  The other two kids were cute and seemed excited to see their cousins and get presents.

As soon as the family left we told Ian and Maya to pack up and go out for the evening as they had wanted to for his birthday so off they went and we got a pizza for the girls and ate very late for them.  I gave them some ice cream bites for dessert and then we did a quick kid clean up and had videos and stories and then bedtime.  I read two  Fancy Nancy books. They are really fun to read and I love the use of “big” words in them.  And including names of famous artists and their work. Very nice way to slip in educational material when kids least expect it – or maybe parents and grandparents don’t expect it.

Soon it will be time for sleep. Don’t know how late the kids will be out. Hard to believe Ian is turning 40. I sure remember 40 years ago. What a traumatic couple of weeks those were! But I won’t go into that now.

Here are some pictures from today..

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Day 119 – Butterfly kisses, Roller skating and hitting the wall.

Merry Christmas or as they say in Ireland “Happy Christmas”.  Up at 6:30.but I think for Asta it was more about getting something to eat but for Sol it was about wanting to get her stockings down from the door where they were hung.  She was gung ho to get going with presents.  Grandpa and Daddy slowed her down a bit with a plate of Christmas cookies.  I mean who wouldn’t eat cookies at 7 am in the morning on Christmas.

Once they got into the swing of things it turned out to be Asta who was the present opener champion, at least for awhile.  Once she  came upon her butterfly wings it was all over. We had two butterflies running from one end of the house to the other and it was wonderful and funny.  By about 10:30 they had finally opened or at least skimmed over their presents and had had a little real food in their tummies.

We all got dressed and then went for a walk around Tacoma Park MD to see the stores and various sites as Sol tried to roller skate and fly at the same time.  Hard to do really but it was an adventure for all.  What a beautiful day with family and such fun to share a Christmas morning with little kids. Been a long time since we had little kids and a Christmas tree and this kind of a day.  Quite fun. We also skyped with Norah so she could see the girls open their presents from Norah and Andrew which were a collection of wonderful books and then Dan so he could watch them open his gift which Grandpa had to supervise their play with later since it was mouldable sand.

At noonish we had “brunch” of pancakes, waffles, sausages and the last of the maple bacon we had been snacking on all morning. It was all very good.

Asta and I took a couple of hours nap. First we read the book I brought the girls about Paris and showed her the places we had visited and then a book of her choice. Then we both conked out until 3:20  when her dad came up and said if I was going to church I better get up.

I took Mor-Mor over to the place she is going to be living in which is about 10 minutes from the kids house.  A lovely facility which will make it easier for visiting her and having her over for sunday dinner etc.  There were only about 12 people at the Mass so it was very nice.  The Priest was a Benedictine Monk who comes there to help out.  We also made it back without getting lost.

Christmas dinner was wonderful. Salmon, Pork, veggies and mashed. Then more play.  Asta was playing teacher and was taking the roll.  She was very firm about people speaking up and telling her they were present. It was cute to watch and to answer properly.

There are tons of presents under the tree. So I think everyone had a good day.  I was glad to get to Mass as this Christmas has not been feeling alot like Christmas since we were not with our home community and the house was not decorated and it was like watching other people celebrate the holiday and just being on the fringe of it.

I also realized today that I do have some jet lag.  Life has been so busy since we got off the plane that even with good nights sleeps I am beat. I hope by the 28th. I will be in better shape.  Just tired of being tired.

A few pictures from Christmas festivities.

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Day 114 – One day and counting – tears and sadness and fond goodbyes

Denis was up and out by 4:45 am to go to see the students off.  There were lots of tears and no one wanted to get on the bus. They each sat alone on the bus probably to hide their tears and to go back to sleep on the ride to Dublin.  A few of them were not leaving with the rest and some of their Irish roommates came to see them off. Very nice at that hour of the morning although it could be that none of them had been to bed yet.  Denis returned and went back to sleep.

Arabica for breakfast was our first stop of the day.. Denis wanted to eat a full Irish Breakfast before we left.  It was way more than he would normally eat and he could not finish it all.  Looked good but was way too much for me.  Even the bowl of granola and yougurt was too much for me.  But it was nice to be there and we will probably be there again tomorrow.

We got up to another day of packing, sorting and going to the post office to mail what we thought were just too heavy to put in the suitcases.  The books we bought for ourselves are going via ship so we won’t see them for several weeks. The other items will be at the house in about 7 days.  Wow, what a life.. We also went to the Farmers Market to replace Eleana’s gift and get it right this time. Spelt her name wrong the first time. We were not shopping for food and the temptation to purchase other items was so strong.  We enjoyed that walk and felt better once we had sent off that box of books.

I set up a date to meet Irene for coffee at 2 pm.  Denis went off to the post office again with one more package and then he met us at Arabica.  It was a lovely visit and I am so sad to be losing this new friend.  Irene is so warm and friendly and has helped me so much during our stay.  She is a Kerry girl and so proud of it.  Her sister also came along and we got to meet her as well.  I gave Irene some little gifts and she answered our final questions – things like where to put the keys to the apt, where to store the items we are leaving for the next professor etc.

We then took a walk out on the Promenade, will try to go again tomorrow but if it is raining too much at least we walked a bit there today.  Denis plans to run the distance and kick the wall tomorrow – that is running all the way to Salt Hill and there is a wall there that they say they kicked which signifies that they did it.  We walked back up Shop Street. There are so many people there this weekend shopping. Wall to wall people.  We stopped in a couple of shops and said farewell to some of the folks we have gotten to know a bit.

At 6 we are going to the Spanish Arch for dinner so will finish this when we return.  Just wanted to start now.

We went to the Spanish Arch for dinner. Fish and Chips for our last meal in Galway.  It was very good and we had a lovely dessert which was called something else but certainly tasted like “Death by Chocolate’. It was sooooo good.  We stayed an hour longer to listen to the music and talked about what we liked about our stay here.  One thing for sure was that the time we spent together in evenings was actually more like dating. We shared wonderful walks along the water, and in town and stopping to shop or to have a drink in a pub.  As we left the Spanish Arch we got hugs goodbye which was nice.  We have enjoyed listening to Feedback and are bringing back their cd.

The Irish people have been so kind and welcoming to us and it has been nice as we walked around the town having people say goodbye and wishing us well..  They remember when we were leaving and have been so good to us and helpful all the time.

Well, going to try and post some pictures of Galway I took today of some of our favorite places and sites.

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Day 107 – Such a day….. or why nothing works! But we still had fun… and you never know who you will meet!

Well, waking up to still having no internet was like going into full blown withdrawl. I am really hooked on my network.  So what to do. Sarah who went to bed very early in the morning was finally up before noon, I woke her at 10:30 thinking she had gotten in at one time when in truth it was much later.  But being a trooper she got up. We called Gerald about the internet being out and he said he would be down to work on it.

We went to the farmers market and met up with five Union/HWS students.  They are such lovely young people, how lucky are we to have them with us. We got some of the wonderful yummy  donuts and a few little gift items. Denis got his bagel and I got some muffins for tomorrow on the bus to Dublin.

We went back. Sarah went to the coffee shop to write and we went up to see about the internet.  We finally were able to connect to the net in the apt next door and turns out our internet machine was blown. So no wonder it has not been working very well.  Once that was fixed and we had a bit of a visit with Irene and then Gerald and Sarah returned. First she went out and took pictures of the Farmers Market and then the three of us went to Charlie Byrnes wonderful Book Store and then to the Christmas Market.  We finally had some of the little Belgian pancakes with lemon and sugar. They were yummy, like the donuts this morning, bad for one but so good to eat.

We had trouble deciding about dinner, one place we wanted to eat in had a 40 minute wait so we decided to get a pizza and go back to the apt. So Denis went to get a pizza and Sarah and I went to get a bottle of wine to go with the dinner.  Sarah was hoping to do out with a new friend but that fizzled out.  We went to a concert at St. Nicholas Church and she stayed at the apt to take a nap. The group singing was the Cois Chadaigh. They were wonderful. They sang some lovely music from Spain, Ireland, Scotland, England etc. All Christmas themed music but not the normal Christmas Carols.  The concert was a fund raiser for a homeless aid organization called Galway Simon.

Now here was the interesting part, aside from the very good music, acoustics and setting.  At the start this woman asked everyone to shake hands with the person sitting next to them that they did not know – I turned to the fellow sitting next to me and he said his name was John and I said I was Margaret Brennan, He laughed and said well guess what? I am John Brennan. I got Denis’ attention and introduced them.  Then John says he has an Uncle Denis who lived in Albany NY.  Just then the concert started and he said he would tell us more afterwards.  Well for those of you who know the Albany Diocese, you might know about the story of Denis Brennan. Turns out that he was the uncle of this fellow and we knew the story of Denis’ going from Denis to Denise. It was quite the coincident.

Anyway, great evening for sure.  Ah the adventures of life. wonder what life will be like in three weeks when we are back home with Denis getting ready to start teaching and me getting the house back together and figuring out the next stage of my life.  Back to Tai Chi, Chair Yoga, no more Trad music, Jamison and Ginger, walks by the Bay, oh my dear, what is life going to be like…. bah… hate to think about it so will stop doing it now.

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Day 101 – Last Day in Paris and Farewell to the Kevin Kaisers

Got up and Kevin cooked a lovely breakfast for all.  We had a grand discussion while he cooked. Then we took some pictures of Kevin putting the star on their Christmas tree. Really fun to see how much Kevin enjoyed Christmas and decorating etc. Lovely really and we talked over the weekend about having Christmas in Canada one of these years.  it would be fun being down at the lake and up at the school house with Christmas trees and decorations making it all a very festive time and being with the extended family.

We then all got in the car and headed for Paris.  The Kaisers were going to see Hunger Games and then meeting up with Ian and Margie who had arrived in Paris in the morning.  We got on the bus to Charles De Gaulle airport.  We had time to get a cup of coffee and a sweet and then we headed onto the plane. It was a good flight and the plus ride back was pleasant. We both read.

It was raining when we arrived back in Galway but we walked back anyway. Right, It rains in Galway so why change our behavior. It was nice being back.  We had sandwiches in the apt for dinner and a couple of glasses of wine while watching Inspector Lewis.

Thoughts about Paris, There seems to be at strong negative attitude towards english speakers. Also driving out to the airport I saw so much garbage thrown around the roadways. it was shocking. It appears a lack of pride in their environment. Was wondering if the junk which was so much came from the Roma’s.  Yet in the downtown area it was lovely and welcoming.  I loved the architecture.  The food was good, the bread of course was yummy although I found I could not eat too much without upsetting my stomach. I want to come back and go to more of the museums. The apt we rented had great views, was inexpensive and near to subways and of course the Tour Eiffel.  Basically a great city to visit with so much to see.

PIctures of our last day in Paris and views from the bus as we went to the airport.

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Day 100 – Fun with the Kaiser Family

Sunshine started the day. The first sun we have seen since arriving in Paris.  We finished packing and cleaning up the apt and headed for the subway.  That part was easy.  Once we got to Gare De Lyon the problems began. It is a huge place and no one in any of the information booths. We found a place to purchase tickets out of a machine but could not find the train we were suppose to take. Something was obviously wrong.  Finally I found a woman with a train jacket on that said something about assistance.  She was very good, took us to a ticket machine for the train we wanted to take but it would not take our credit card since it was a US card with no chip in it.  Finally she found a ticket office and a fellow who helped us out. Then she took us to where our train was leaving from which was very helpful. So we did make the second train after not making the first one.

I called Kate and she met us at the station. It was so great seeing her again.  Then we went to their home stopping along the way at the Bakery to get bread and a dessert.  Kate had lunch ready and Kevin called to say that he and his friend would be along shortly.  So David and Kevin arrived and we had a delightful lunch and I really enjoyed the discussion about corporate life and how to make change in companies with poor leadership – always changing directions or their minds and not really knowing what they want in the end other than that something happen.  LIstening to the success stories make we think of at least one person I know who should start doing some reading on this and maybe take a course.

After lunch we started decorating their huge Christmas tree. Have never seen one that big in a house. Always living in a small house guess it would not be our normal. Looked great in their lovely big room. I liked that they had so many ornaments like we have that the kids made or were gifts from friends etc. It was fun looking at them as they were hung.

Kate and Alexandre left early to get prepared for their concert this evening. Kevin, David, Denis, Andreas and I went out to dinner at a crepe place. It was lovely and I wish I had taken some pictures when we arrived as it was very busy when we left and I really could not take pictures There was wonderful atmosphere in the lovely old building.

Then we went up to this very old Church where Kate and Alexandres concert was taking place. Kevin dropped us off and we went in and got seats.  It was a lovely concert, Benjamin Briton music and nice to see a community group with adult and youth singers. They did a great job.  AFterwards we took a little ride around Fontainebleau. Saw the chateau, the main streets etc. It is lovely and I know I want to return there when I come to France the next time. We dropped David off at the Insead as he is returning to the US in the morning. We came back and sat in the Christmas room and enjoyed the wine, conversation and just being with family.  Lovely evening.

Kevin went on line and got us our boarding passes so we just have to get ourselves to the air port tomorrow. They are driving up to Paris and will drop us off at the train station to take the air France Shuttle bus to the airport. Then it will be back to Dublin and the 2 hour bus trip to Galway and walk home and to bed.  But this week in Paris will be a very happy memory of our time here.  We both really enjoyed being here together and seeing as much as we did was really perfect. And getting to see Kevin and Kate was a perk.

Pictures giving me a hard time uploading so will add more tomorrow. sorry.

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Day 97 – Notre Dame and the Louvre and acky feet… oh yeah and Creme Brule again

Getting up this morning was really difficult since we did not get to bed until after midnight due to skyping with Asta to sing her Happy Birthday. Important for three year olds.  Have not heard how she made out with the presents yet. She was not in a chatty mood anyway.

So, we dragged ourselves up and ate breakfast here. We had shopped last night for some goodies so we made out okay. We walked up to the Eiffel Tower and caught the subway there and got off at Notre Dame.  We walked over and lo and behold they had a lovely Christmas tree in front and an advent Wreath set up outside too.

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Before we toured the Cathedral we went and toured the Catacombs.  I thought that was what it was going to be but no, it was a museum about the original buildings on the Ille de Cite.  They have uncovered the moat, the baths, and many other remains of pre-christian parts of the city.  It was very interesting.

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Then we went inside. There was a Mass just starting so I thought I would participate in that and Denis went off touring. It was interesting to hear the Mass in French and realize how lost one gets when out of your own language.  But it was nice to be there with a group of people celebrating.  Then I toured around and met up with Denis.  We sat for a bit then decided there was no way I was going to climb over 422 steps up to the towers of Notre Dame. He could if he wanted to but no way was I going to do that climb. my feet already hurt and I had a lot of paintings I wanted to see.

To say Notre Dame is gorgeous is an understatement.  It was truly beautiful and considering there were four architects designed it over 200 years it is pretty amazing.

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So after than adventure we headed over to the Louvre.  We first had coffee and a roll which was nice but I really should have had more since later it really showed that I was hungry and had low blood sugar.. but what the heck.  We decided to get the audio tours and to split up for a few hours and meet again at 4:30.  I saw so much. Saw some of the biggies like the Mona LIsa, Venus de Milo, but I was really looking forward to seeing the French painters but it seems that section just kept avoiding me. I did see lots of Rubins, Van Goghs, Rembrants, many greek and roman statues, french ones as well and then I found the Royal Rooms, wow, was all I could say and whistle a bit. Such opulence. I mean really. No wonder there was a revolution with people living like that while others were starving to death. So impressed with it all. You could spend a week there and not see it all. By 6:30 I had had it so we took off towards the apartment. We found a place to eat and again the meal was so so but the Creme Brule was very good so who cares about chicken that appeared reheated. Well actually since I was very hungry it was kind of frustrating.  Then we walked back until we found a subway station and took the train back.  So here we are, 10 pm and very tired.  Still have not decided on what we will do tomorrow. Want to make sure we accomplish our top list of things. Having the pass for the transportation and admission to each venue is making this easier even if they make out on our purchase.

So here are more pictures from the Louvre… dream and then make your dreams come true.

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