Tag Archives: Ireland

Dear Summer 2013 #MyWANA

Ross Castle, Killarney IrelandI loved you. You were a life-changing summer.

I started in Ireland, the most beautiful place on earth, ended at the computer writing and designing book covers and formatting books so everyone has access to the Mary Beth Lee and Liz Lee books, not just kindle owners.

I survived the summer cold from hell, discovered Zeal, spent July in yearbook camps, said goodbye to a fellow J-adviser who’s retiring after 31 years in the district.

I found a new favorite author: Sarah MacLean <3, finished Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and reread the SEP books I love so much.

I re-embraced Pilates since it helps with the pain caused by the purse and fall-inflicted shoulder injury AND I learned the chiropractor hurts like heck, but makes the pain better eventually.

I wrote and wrote and wrote some more and edited and edited and edited some more and had a blast with Mom and Dad and learned to play dominoes with an ancient set of the game that had been in the bottom of our game closet in the old house.

I rediscovered the anxiety of an empty nest and the joy, too. And learned that blue sticky tack is from hell.

I lost big at poker, but decided the stop at Fischer’s in Muenster was worth it.

I fell more in love with the dog and she fell more in love with me. There’s a chance this is a codependent relationship. We’ll see when school starts Monday.

I slept in late and stayed up late working on books and maintained the weight loss from last year and stuck with the low carb lifestyle.

I had a blast writing the third Sharlene Gallagher book and rewriting To Trust a Prince. I coveted Karen Kelley’s new RV and decided one day DH and I would have one, too.

Thanks to DD’s insistence I finally saw Pitch Perfect and learned to my surprise that no, it’s NOT a baseball movie. I saw I Love You Man and laughed and laughed and laughed some more. And I started Scandal. Wow. Just wow. Shonda Rhimes is a genius.

You were a great summer. I’ll miss you. But it’s time to restart the day job. I love it, even though it’s frustrating some times…especially these days when the powers that be, people who aren’t in classrooms or campus admin jobs, keep asking for more and more and more to the point that effectiveness suffers system wide, but as a former principal told me once: you do what you can do. That’s my non-summer goal for the day job this year. Do what I can do. And try to continue last year’s “keep in positive” goal by focusing on the good part of the job: the students.

Goodbye summer. I’ll miss you. xoxo


From Poison Gardens to Traffic Jams: Ireland

Ross castle was in the town we stayed at first on our trip. We knew Ireland was special when we saw this view in the distance. Leaving Killarney broke my heart just a little.

Ross castle was in the town we stayed at first on our trip. We knew Ireland was special when we saw this view in the distance. Leaving Killarney broke my heart just a little.

The very first picture I took in Ireland is probably my favorite.

I loved Killarney so much. The people were incredible, the town so beautiful, the food fresh. The air felt clean. It might’ve been cold and rainy, but it made me so happy. Leaving made me sad, but we had more to see and do.

We weren’t staying in Dublin for that part of the trip. Instead we were staying in the seaside village of Bray, which sounded fine and dandy to me. Off we went on the new adventure early Sunday morning. In Ireland. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, you know what that means. We had no idea.

2 Blarney Me 3 Blarney CastleFirst stop though: Blarney Castle. ON and I climbed to the top so she could kiss the Blarney Stone. I thought about kissing it too, but after climbing all the stairs in the rain, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get back up. You have to lay down on your back all the way at the top of the castle. Once you’re on your back, you wiggle backwards while someone holds you up and you kiss the stone. Kissing the stone is supposed to give you “the gift of the gab.” Supposedly after you kiss the stone you can convince anyone of anything. So yeah, not something I needed to do. But I didn’t regret climbing to the top of the castle.

4 Poison Garden at Blarney 7 Wolfsbane 6 Henbane 5 PG MandrakeWhen we got down, we walked the Blarney’s Poison Garden. FASCINATING. Mandrake, Wolfsbane and Henbane were all there. The historical novel reader in me was thrilled, not to mention my inner Harry Potter fangirl.

9 Rock of Cashel, Celtic Cathedral ruinsWe left Blarney and headed to Bray, but first we needed to make another stop: The Rock of Cashel, a celtic cathedral ruin. I loved Cashel. They had a potato famine wall and The Rock felt ancient. They’re restoring part of it now.

Cashel was the first place it quickly because apparent Ireland on Sunday wasn’t like Ireland other days. Only one tiny tea shop was open.

When we got to Bray we were a little disappointed because we weren’t right on the beach. Our guide told us it was a short 30 minute walk to the ocean, and we decided we’d kick ourselves if we were that close and didn’t go check it out.

10 BRay Susan A 11 Bray BHalf way there it started raining. When we got to the beach, we realized Ireland really does close shop on Sunday. The casino on the beach was open. Nothing else. My friend Susan frowned and told me it looked just like Dover. We visited Dover two years before. I was fine with it looking just like Dover. Pretty rock beaches make me happy. Pretty rock beaches in Ireland make me even happier. When it started pouring on our 30 minute walk back to the hotel, I tried to focus on the positive. It was pretty tough, though. We were cold, walking uphill, and a little bummed that nothing was open. Susan told me she was never listening to me again about getting out of the hotel room and going to check out the scenery.

But we laughed about it the rest of the trip.

12 Dublin and Michelle ObamaThe next morning we woke up and headed into Dublin and the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The trip was supposed to take around 20 minutes. It took 2 hours. The traffic was awful. At first we thought it was rush hour in the big city, but then we learned the truth. Michelle Obama was in Dublin and the city streets were almost at a standstill.

When we made it to Trinity, we learned Michelle Obama was there, so the display was closed. Bummer.

We did eventually make it in to see the Book of Kells display. Fascinating stuff. And we got to shop Dublin. I’d like to go back some day and do the Viking tour for sure. Maybe see an Irish dance show. But not on a day the First Lady is visiting. Some in our group actually got her picture. We all laughed at the fact that they had to go to Ireland to see her.

Our night closed with the only bad meal of the trip: Carrot Curry. It was so bad it was funny, though, and that made it okay.

When I went to bed that night, I repacked my suitcase and sighed. I’d completely fallen in love with Ireland. I didn’t want to leave. But we had Wales, Scotland and England to go. #


If you like my blog, check out my books on Amazon! Find me on twitter @marybethleeybnp


The Ring of Kerry: I Left My Heart in Ireland

God’s Country. Ancient. Amazing.

1 First pic of Ocean and RocksThose were my thoughts as we reached the water on the Ring of Kerry drive in Ireland. I loved Ireland before. Now, it surpassed Paris.

The scenery here took my breath away and gave me chills. I could not believe how gorgeous it was. We were on bus full of people, half of whom were teenagers, and silence reigned for a moment when we turned the corner and saw this.

After quite awhile of breathtaking scenery, we stopped for the sheepdog 2 sheepdog demonstrationdemonstration. Our tour guide, Paul, told us he’d never seen it before, but he’d been told it was amazing. We learned to trust Paul.  The sheep and dog owner started the demonstration by telling the teenagers to think before they got a dog. He told them dogs need people, so don’t get one if you’re not going to be home. AND he told then to be aware of their space before they get a dog because Collies like his need lots of space and they’re super smart, so they need to be doing something all the time. Small space=small dog. Busy and gone all the time = no dog. Finally, he told them to never let someone else train your dog. He said YOU can go to training with someone else with your dog, but never to give the dog to someone else to train without you. I loved the demonstration, but I think his dog advice was worth the 5E admission.

Next we headed to lunch at the Scarriff Inn with Ocean views. 3 gorgeous 4 me and ON Paul made our reservations here instead of the place EF suggested because he said the ocean view was the best on the drive. I believe him!

5 Ocean 6 At the beachAfter that we made our way to the sea.

Thankfully, it was sunny. Cold still, but way better than the icy rain we’d experienced regularly up until now.

7 River at Sneem

After lunch we made a few stops, but my favorite was Sneem, Ireland. We were prepared for this quaint Irish village with a great Woolen Mill and other shops. What we got was the O’Sullivan Clan meeting. Wow! The place was packed. Security waved us into town and waved others out. Little O’Sullivans walked around in WANTED shirts with their pictures on them. Food carts were everywhere and the pubs were full. The river in Sneem reminded me of the river in Duluth, so I took a picture.

Finally we headed back to Killarney, this time through the Killarney National 8 Torc Waterfall at Killarney National ParkPark so we could hike up to Torc Waterfall. And by hike, I mean ouch. There are more steep hills in Ireland than anywhere I’ve ever been. Still, the view was totally worth it! One of the dads nearly died here, but as he started to fall off the side of the bank with a 12 ft. drop, he did some super human upper body jump that propelled his whole body forward. He lived. 🙂

The walk down to the bus from the waterfall was way easier than the walk up, so I was able to look around an enjoy the scenery instead of thinking DEAR GOD WHAT AM I DOING while trying to play off the whole out of shape, breathless thing I had going on.

9 Fae home 10 Fae in hidingI’m glad I could look around because this is where I got the magic. After this, I totally understood fae, leprechauns, fairy godmothers. One of these trees is hiding wood fold. I’m sure of it. The other is a fae home. Look at the ground around the trunk.

When we got home, we walked around Killarney window shopping. Tis was our last night in Killarney. Dublin was next. I was excited for Dublin, but I knew I’d be leaving my heart in Killarney. I think it’s still there! #

If you like my blog, check out my books. I write Christian Fiction as Mary Beth Lee (Grace is Enough, Letting Go) and Young Adult as Elizabeth Lee (Dead Girl Walking, Honor and Lies). New book trailer coming soon!


A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad deal AND God’s country

Our first full day in Ireland, I was “late” to the bus.

Anyone who’s ever traveled with me can tell you this is a big deal. A very big deal. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad deal. I HATE being late, and I hate when late people end up costing me opportunities.

In reality we weren’t really late, but everyone else was early, so they hurried us along, which was fine except the only seats left on the bus were in the very back.

You know what happens in the back of the bus, right?

Yeah, we were the wild ones, I guess.

Break the ass with a ham

Break the ass with a ham

You can tell how wild we were by how much joy we took out of this sign on the back of the bus, which we would have never seen had we not been running on time (just later than everyone else) that first day.

Sandra and I are old travel buddies. 20 years of trips makes for an interesting friendship. This was our third vacation overseas together. Thankfully, we had Susan to point out this great emergency sticker disaster. It led to much laughter.

Irish Wolfhounds. Beautiful, but I think they were bored.

Irish Wolfhounds. Beautiful, but I think they were bored.

BUT I still felt bad about being late—r than everyone else. And I felt bad because Sandra was sick. In fact, I felt a little like these guys (Irish Wolfhounds), stars of our first stop: Kerry Bog Village.

Kerry Bog Village is one of those places that shows how life used to be. No actors, but the houses, tools and flowers were cool. It was raining when we got there, so I ran into one of the villager houses.

Peat fire!

Peat fire!

My first choice was a great one because a peat fire was burning and that Irish rain is freaking cold.

I’ve always heard about how stinky peat is. WRONG. It was lovely. A little smokier than wood, but a good kind of smoke. I could definitely live with peat fire on a regular basis.

4 dont throw out baby with the bathwater

Once I got warm I turned around. What I saw made for a laugh out loud moment. I guess maybe I should’ve known the origin of the saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” I didn’t. Now I do.

All the Kerry Bog Village houses had the horseshoe on the door for luck. It’s interesting how many cultures put something on their doors. One day I might research the history of these totems. Maybe.

The rain stopped and then started and then stopped and then…you get the picture. If you go to Ireland, make sure you take an umbrella or be willing to walk around wet and cold. Thankfully, my trusty umbrella was with me constantly.

5 peatPeat was piled outside the village house like we would stack wood. I thought that was interesting. I also loved the tools and pots and pans outside the house.

Yes, I know. Flowers and pretty pretties.

Yes, I know. Flowers and pretty pretties.

While I wandered around the village, I couldn’t help but admire the gorgeous foliage. I took 5 bajillion pics of flowers. I won’t share them all. This one was interesting because of the wheel. I wonder if villagers would actually leave the wheels propped up against shrubs or if I fell victim to a staged picture point. If this was a staged picture point, I’m cool with that. It’s pretty. I like pretty.

After about 20 minutes I left the village. It’s definitely one of those tourist trap type places. But, hey, I’m a tourist, so that’s fine. Still, it’s not an in-depth look at life in Ireland.   20 minutes is more than enough time to make your way through the place. (I stand corrected. If we had more time there, I might have noticed how historically accurate it was!)

It’s a nice stopping off point early on the Ring of Kerry Drive.

Homesick moment

Homesick moment

While waiting on everyone else to finish looking at the village or to get their Irish coffees (the sign on their shop said they served Ireland’s Best Irish Coffee. I didn’t try it there, so I don’t know the veracity of that statement), I wandered around the parking lot and ran into this scene. It made me a tiny bit homesick because it looked like Texas, only super green because of all the rain.

But just a tiny bit homesick because I was in Ireland! I never really planned on a trip to Ireland. England and France were on my bucket list from the time I was a teenager. One of my students wanted to go to Ireland, though, and EF made that option possible (Thank you, EF Tours!). I’d been to England, France and Italy already. The student who wanted to go to Ireland had been on one trip with me already, and one of my friends who traveled with me to England and France told me Ireland was God’s country. My student who wanted to go to Ireland loved being there from the time we landed at Shannon airport. I liked it alright, but at this point, I still ranked Paris as my all time favorite city.

8 a hint of what's to comeAnd then as we continued on the Ring of Kerry drive, I saw this.

Before long I knew my friend was right. Ireland is sacred. It’s beautiful. It’s awe inspiring. It truly is God’s country.

Low Carb in Ireland? Hah!

Packing for Ireland, I was prepared. I had my handy dandy almonds and beef jerky. I planned on keeping up the low carb lifestyle.


From the minute we landed it became quite clear that the potato is still very much part of the Irish culture. And whisky…it’s everywhere.

So after 1 day I gave in and let low carb living fall to the wayside for this trip.

Totally worth it.

Irish Coffee

This was my only Irish coffee while there. It was amazing. We’d walked down to the beach and got caught in the rain on the way home. 58 in Ireland is like 32 here. We were so freaking cold. So I indulged. And it warmed me right up. 🙂 I told the bartender to make it like she would for herself. She added Powers instead of Jameson. It was yummy. And warm. And it made me happy.

The Best Coffee Ever

This was the coffee in our hotel rooms in Ireland. Instant coffee is the norm, and it’s not all that bad. We had an interesting group with us on the trip. One of the ladies told us she never drank coffee but the little man at the station across the road from us in Killarney made the best cup of coffee she’d ever tasted, way better than what was in our rooms. She said he made the coffee individually in his office and it was handcrafted. I cajoled my friend Susan into going with me to get that cup of the best. coffee. ever.

She ended up in front of me in line and ordered her coffee first. The sweet little old man took her order then promptly grabbed a cup from the back of the store and added steamed water to the instant coffee, stirred and served it up hot. Just like the free coffee in our rooms. Hand crafted. I didn’t order one. But we got a big laugh over that best coffee ever the rest of the trip.

An aside here: ON really wanted to go to drug store in Ireland because she read online that she could get Irish makeup in a drug store. So she and her roommate asked the sweet little old man where the closest drug store was. He leaned in close to them both and whispered, “What are you looking for? Hash?” They about died! When they told him they were just looking for some Irish makeup, he probably about died, too.

Back to low carb and giving it up for Ireland.


This was my first sandwich on bread since March 2012. I don’t know why I didn’t take photos of the potato soup, potato puree, fried potatoes, friend mashed potatoes, potato pancakes and other potato yumminess on the trip, but I didn’t. No. I took a picture of this beautiful work of art. It said it had mayo on it. It had mustard. And not mustard like we have here. I have no idea WHAT that mustard was, but DANG it was hot. I still ate it. And the bread. Everything in Ireland tasted super fresh, super delicious, super amazing. Well everything other than this strange carrot and potato curry some people ended up with in Dublin. I don’t think anyone liked it, and we all like curry. Very odd dish.

Even though we hiked a few miles every day, the decision to eat carbs resulted in a 7 pound weight gain over the course of the trip. I lost all 7 pounds within a week of being back on low carb. I thought it would be hard to get back to the no sugar lifestyle I’ve embraced. Nope. Easy Peasy. #


If you like my blog, check out my books, exclusively on Amazon. I write inspirational women’s fiction (Grace is Enough and Letting Go) as Mary Beth Lee and young adult (Honor and Lies and Dead Girl Walking) as Elizabeth Lee.