Sunny Scotland?

Edinburgh - View from Hotel

Edinburgh – View from my hotel room

As is frequently the case I have been traveling a lot for work recently – after a week in Phoenix, I jetted off to Scotland for meetings and was met with sunshine – a first for me I grew up in the UK and am used to seeing grey drizzly weather  – every time I have visited Scotland for work it has been the same so I was quite shocked and delighted to actually need sunglasses on this trip 🙂

Dundee - view from Hotel

Dundee – view from hotel room

I started in Dundee where our offices are located, staying at the Malmaison hotel for the first time – nice hotel very stylish refurb of an historic building, hip but comfortable  rooms with lovely views. (However the bathrooms had no lighting and there wasn’t a single plug near a mirror for blowdrying my hair in the entire room – clearly designed by a man LOL)

Not a bad place to work from :)

Not a bad place to work from 🙂

After a couple days in Dundee we headed to Edinburgh to stay at The Caledonian (the perks of traveling with a VP means staying in very nice hotels LOL) This is a beautiful old hotel, right next to Edinburgh Castle that has recently been refurbished – absolutely gorgeous! Since I have some status at Hilton properties they upgraded me to a room with a view of the castle, so I can’t complain too much about the twin beds.

The Peacock Bar in the hotel was a great place to set up for my meetings and get a little work done – all the more exciting since the actor Brian Cox was hanging out here too – my brush with celebrity.

Brian Cox - my brush with celebrity LOL

Brian Cox  sighting

Apparently he is originally from Dundee and has a home in Scotland. I think he is a great actor – I enjoyed him in Red, The Grudge and remember he played the original Hannibal Lector in Manhunter.

Timberyard restaurant

Timberyard restaurant

The first night in Edinburgh, my coworkers and I ate at the Timberyard – fantastic food and amazing and unexpected cocktails with ingredients like smoke, marmalade, pine etc. I had one with a picked elderflower in it – so weird but absolutely delicious. It was called Rumpy Pumpy which is a saucy old British term for sex – if you are a Blackadder fan you know exactly what I mean. Of course, I had to order it – now I can say I had some rumpy pumpy in Edinburgh LOL

"Rumpy Pumpy" Cocktail

“Rumpy Pumpy” Cocktail

The next day my meetings ended in the early afternoon and I wasn’t flying out till the next morning so I seized the opportunity to visit Edinburgh Castle.

Roal Palace

Royal Palace

It is the highest point in Edinburgh and also the longest continually occupied Castle in UK I believe – there are some building from the 12th century right up to some built in the 1800’s I explored the Castle, saw the Scottish Crown Jewels and wandered around Grassmarket before heading back to the hotel for dinner. It was an unexpected treat to get such a clear day and take in the incredible views.

Looking down on the low defenses and Edinburgh spread out below

Looking down on the low defenses and Edinburgh spread out below

View from parapets

View from parapets

The Lang Stairs

The Lang Stairs

Meg Mons - Giant cannon & balls

Meg Mons – Giant cannon & balls

Fireplace in Royal apartments

Fireplace in Royal apartments

The Great Hall

The Great Hall

Grassmarket just outside the castle

Grassmarket just outside the castle

One of the many closes off the Royal Mile

One of the many closes off the Royal Mile (Scottish term for alley)

Former church - now The Hub an event space

Former church – now an event space

St Giles

St Giles and record hall in foreground

Royal Mile Grassmarket

Royal Mile Grassmarket

The Windy City

Sears Tower Sky deck!

Sears Tower Sky deck!

A few weeks ago, I had to fly to Chicago for client meetings and since our oldest is in college there, we decided that we should all go and make a weekend out of it. Chicago is one of my favorite American cities – the museums, the architecture, the location of some of my favorite moves ever LOL

Ceiling of the Palmer House Hilton Lobby

Ceiling of the Palmer House Hilton Lobby

My youngest and I arrived at the Palmer House Hilton on Tuesday night – what a beautiful hotel? It is the longest continually operating hotel in the nation and the brownie was invented here during the Worlds Fair in 1893. It has been beautifully restored and well worth a visit if only to marvel at the ceiling in the lobby or the stunning art deco Tiffany Peacock Doors– these doors originally came from the House of Peacock – an historic Chicago jewelry store.

Peacock Doors

Peacock Doors

We went for Chicago deep dish at Lou Malnati’s on Thursday night which was a big hit with everyone – lots of cheese! My husband arrived that night and even he couldn’t finish it LOL

View from Sears Tower

View from Sears Tower

Friday morning I had client meetings in the Sears Tower ( I know it is officially called the Willis Tower now – but no-one calls it that) so my guys met me at lunchtime and we went up to the Skydeck. They installed glass boxes on the side of the building on the 103rd floor so you could look down to the street without pressing your nose up against the glass (Thanks to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

103 stories straight down - Skydeck

103 stories straight down – Skydeck

It is a little unnerving – your brain keeps telling you you are hanging in mid air but the views are spectacular and it really is an experience not to be missed. I think it is better than the Hancock Tower, although I have not been there since they added Tilt to the observation deck – so probably worth seeing both 🙂

I had it half eaten before I thought to take a photo LOL

I had it half eaten before I thought to take a photo LOL

We had a fantastic lunch at Berghoffs another Chicago classic restaurant started in the 1870s and the historic location is unchanged from the 50’s  – Chicago is such a great foodie town.

River Tour - Sears Tower

River Tour – Sears Tower

We headed up the Magnificent Mile where everyone goes to shop, took an architectural boat tour on the river before another great meal in Rosebud on Rush – a fantastic Italian restaurant.

Stuffed French Toast at Beef & Brandy's

Stuffed French Toast at Beef & Brandy’s

Sat the sun came out so fueled up by a great breakfast at Beef & Brandy’s diner, we visited the bean again or Cloud Gate if you want the real name…

Chicago Skyline in the Bean

Chicago Skyline in the Bean

This sculpture really is something else –  I am not sure what it is about it that makes it so compelling – the Chicago skyline reflecting in the curved surface? The odd reflections when walking under it? Or just the ability to take crazy selfies… Whatever it is, it is impossible to resist. (If you ever saw Source Code it is featured at the end)

Visiting the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago

Visiting the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago

Every time I go to Chicago, I go to the Art Institute – it is an amazing museum filled with many famous works of art – things I studied in books when I was at school – plan to spend at least 4 hours if you really want to see it all.  I was delighted to see the Chagall windows again, since the last time I was there, they were in storage during the museum remodel. I confess I don’t love the new location –  the old one was much better (see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off again) They are sort of tucked away in a dark corner, unlike before where you could sit on a bench and see all three at once while the light flooded through them bathing you in blue…..

We had lunch in Millers Pub  – another Chicago classic right under the L on Wabash. Great food – unpretentious and friendly.

Biograph Theater - where Dillinger was shot

Biograph Theater – where Dillinger was shot

After making the guys sit through so much culture I agreed to go on the Untouchables Bus tour (yet another movie reference) This tour took you around some of the famous gangster crime locations in the city the most memorable being the Biograph Theater where Dillinger was shot (watch Johnny Depp in Public Enemies)

Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago

That night we took the L and went to Kingston Mines – a live blues club that will allow minors in with their parents – the music, the food and the atmosphere were great – it was hard to tear ourselves away but we had an early flight the next day…

Sinful dessert

Sinful dessert at the Palmer House

Maybe because I didn’t have the chance to visit Daley plaza this time (location of the final chase scene in the movie where the amazing Picasso public art is) we felt compelled to watch the Blues Brothers when we got home 🙂

Till next time…


Israel Trip

Jerusalem - Old City next to new

Jerusalem – Old City next to new

I travel a lot for work and so don’t normally get too excited about it – in fact it gets pretty old most of the time. Every once in a while however,  I get a chance to go somewhere completely new to me and that gets rid of that blasé attitude in a hurry!

Jerusalem - Old City street

Jerusalem – Old City street

Last week I went to Israel – yes it was for work, but I was really looking forward to the trip – I love to experience the culture of new places and Israel has such a storied history.

Jerusalem - Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

Jerusalem – Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

I stayed in Tel Aviv, which is a lively modern city on the Mediterranean sea – sadly the hotel was not on the beach – next time LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background - fries clearly not authentic LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background – fries clearly not authentic LOL

I managed to get some sight seeing done in the evenings after work The team I was visiting took me out for a traditional hummus and falafel lunch on the first day Yum! A bit more hummus than I am used to eating in one sitting but it was really good.

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

That evening my traveling companion/co worker and I took a cab to Rothchild street to walk around and see some of the Bauhaus architecture that part of the city is famous for. This was a fun street to people watch on – lots of people out for a stroll, taking their dogs for a walk or sitting in cafes and restaurants. We ate at a lovely restaurant called Shulchan which is Hebrew for table. The food was absolutely delicious!

Bauhaus architecture

Bauhaus architecture

Monday night the Israeli team took us to dinner at Jaffa Port – Jaffa is an old fishing town that has now been incorporated into Tel Aviv – however it is a completely different vibe – old buildings with winding streets and stone plazas – I loved it and wished I had been able to spend the day strolling around and being a tourist. Again, we had a fantastic dinner at Kalamata with many shared courses sitting outside in the mild evening air.

Fruit shop near Rothchild St - it glowed against the other darker buildings

Fruit shop near Rothchild St – it glowed against the other darker buildings

Israeli food is a bit of a mix between a few different influences, Mediterranean, Arabic and of course Jewish. There are a lot of fresh vegetable dishes – I even ate beets for the first time in many years and actually liked them!!! I also was told to try a fantastic arabic dessert called kanafeh that has cheese , hair fine pasta (or perhaps pastry), pistachios and sweet syrup – it was as amazing as promised – I will have to see if it is possible to make it myself.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

The next night I took the design team out for dinner and they recommended Kitchen Market in Tel Aviv port – completely different. Much more modern boardwalk along the sea and a lovely little restaurant above a farmer’s market. We watched the sun set over the Mediterranean and again had a dinner with many courses and some amazing desserts!

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

We saw the minister of Justice –Tzipi Livni – strolling along with her husband which was quite a surprise for everyone – she has been instrumental in the recent, but sadly stalled, peace talks that Secretary of State Kerry has been involved in.

Kanufeh - best dessert of the trip!

Kanufeh – best dessert of the trip!

On our last day, a couple of the Israeli team drove us into Jerusalem for a bit of sightseeing before leaving the next morning. It is about an hour away but traffic before the upcoming Passover holiday made it slow going. We drove through some of the ultra orthodox areas on our way which was a little rundown.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

This is a topic of much debate and tension recently – my description of it is likely simplistic since I am no expert but the problem as I understand it, is this –  For religious reasons these families do not believe in working in the secular world and want to practice their life of prayer in peace without any interference. However the challenge is they have little income, the government apparently has to subsidize them and they do not participate in Israel’s draft, citing the same religious reasons. There is a new law that is being passed to say that they must participate in the draft like everyone else. As you can imagine this is causing heated debate. I can see both sides points – on the one hand wanting to live according to your own beliefs, but on the other hand not wanting to subsidize people who do not have to make the same contribution to society as you must.

Tel Aviv Port

Tel Aviv Port

Once we arrived in the old city I was amazed to see so much history crammed into one relatively small place – this is the the most sacred place in a number of different religions and its often violent history makes it a truly fascinating place to be. It is a magnet for tourists and religious pilgrims from around the world. I could have spent a week there alone but I did my best to take advantage of the few hours that we had.

Farmer's Market Tel Aviv Port

Farmer’s Market Tel Aviv Port

We took the underground tour that brings you down to the original street level of the Western Wall – we are talking built in Herod’s time!!! I can’t begin to describe how it felt to be walking on 2000 year old stones and touching the 2000 year old wall. We saw the old cisterns that provided water for the temple and the city above and heard about the history of the holiest place on earth. I am no stranger to history – growing up in Ireland it is common to see castles built in 1100AD etc but we are talking built in 70 BC – anyway you look at it that is really freaking old LOL

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Once back out in the sunshine we visited the more visible part Western Wall – men and women are separated and traditionally you write a prayer or wish on a piece of paper and roll it up and cram it into the crevices in the wall.

Jerusalem - Old City Market

Jerusalem – Old City Market

We wandered around the market where I picked up souvenirs and gifts – you need to be willing to haggle big time here – fortunately I had some no nonsense locals to help me out with this LOL.  I bought a beautiful necklace made from silver and 2000 year old Roman glass for myself. Not being religious, this was the perfect souvenir for me and I got it for less than half what he asked originally.  Mind you, this elaborate, theatrical haggling session involved flinging arms in the air and walking out of the store because the price was so terrible, only to be chased after by the shopkeeper begging us to come back for a new and special deal that was putting him in the poor house – this happened three times – I kid you not! I was having a hard time keeping a straight face and would never have done that on my own.

The Underground Tour

The Underground Tour

On a high after my complete bargain, I picked up some beautiful hand painted Armenian pottery, some intricate mother of pearl inlaid boxes, hand carved olive wood boxes and a few other trinkets to give to friends and family.

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod's time!

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod’s time!

We wandered around the streets and saw he Tower of David and a beautiful park with lighted fountain that the local kids where playing in, before having dinner at Eucalyptus in the Artist Colony. Again this was a tasting menu, comprised of approximately eleventy billion courses that went on for hours LOL. It was  all fantastic but I could barely manage the desserts at the end. We had Maqluba as one of the courses which is apparently a special dish that you have to circle your hand above 7 times and make a wish before turing it out on a plate – it is mostly rice and chicken and quite good. The chef came out to chat with us and it was a great evening.

Artist Colony

Artist Colony

Finally we headed back to the hotel and a 4am start for the 28 hours trip back to the US. Next time I go I will tack a few days on so I can spend more time wandering around and absorbing all the history and, of course, eating at many more restaurants 🙂

Tower of David

Tower of David


Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground

Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground



Rainy Saturday Projects & Escape from Montreal

Arriving at Montreal airport the morning of my escape

Arriving at Montreal airport the morning of my escape

Earlier I was bemoaning my inability to make a semi regular blog post, when my friend Wendy made me realize I didn’t have to write a book every time LOL

Just about enough fabric...

Just about enough fabric…

So here is the brief version of what I have been up to recently. A recent wet and dreary Saturday prevented me from riding my horse, so instead I took care of a few indoor projects…

Bah - hand sewing to close them all in

Bah – hand sewing to close the cushions up

First up, finally finishing the cushion covers for the kitchen chairs – I bought fabric a year ago and covered one then never got around to the other three LOL I made it harder on myself than I should of with the first one – go figure  – so perhaps that’s why I kept putting it off.

Looks good with the leftover fancy designer fabric seat back cushions I made a while back

Looks good with the leftover fancy designer fabric seat back cushions I made a while back

Since I had the sewing machine out, I covered another couple cushions for the family room that had likewise been waiting a year…. I am nothing if not consistent

Some quick family room cushions

Some quick family room cushions

Inspired by all the fun with fabric – I decided to recover the bench in the bedroom too. It was supposed to be grey but it looked very greenish next to all the more blue grays in the room and it bothered me every time I looked at it.

Time for the staple gun

Time for the staple gun

Recently, I had finally found the perfect, inexpensive rug for the bedroom – the floors in there are badly scuffed up and I toyed with the idea of one rug on either side of the bed since I hate paying an arm and a leg for something that the majority of which would be covered up by the bed LOL.  However it just wouldn’t look right – you have to get a rug big enough to anchor he bed properly – the designer in me couldn’t live with two tiny rugs.  I found a great one on Amazon which is actually an indoor/outdoor rug – so a synthetic flat weave, not a fluffy wool rug  – hence the bargain price. But given that here in sunny Florida you don’t need a warm cozy rug and this was the perfect pattern and the right size (9 x 11.5 – you need it big enough to come out to the edge of the nightstands and about the same distance from the foot of the bed – design rules to live by) – it was a no brainer.

Once it was down, the green bench bothered me even more – something had to be done!

Love the new rug!

Love the new rug!

At some point I will have to summarize the entire bedroom project – but lets face it, it is coming together bit by bit and may be another year before I am done LOL

Bench recovered - no more green velvet

Bench recovered – no more green velvet

Back to the bench – I found a shower curtain at Target that I liked and went to town with my staple gun. Big improvement for less than $20

Umm - hoping the plane will leave on schedule

Still coming down – hoping my plane will leave on schedule or at all…

I have been traveling a lot for work recently –  one week ago in San Francisco, followed by a trip to Montreal last week – I nearly didn’t make it back from that one – what with the winter storms making their way up the east coast. My flights there were rerouted and the after the client meeting I spent hours in the airport – delays pushing my flight out over and over until finally it was cancelled 😦

My view from the plane

My view from the plane

They told me I would be stuck there for three days, missing Valentine’s Day with my family -WTF? – not content with that, I found another flight out the next morning. It was touch and go whether it would take off or not – the storms and snowfall meant getting to the airport was a nail biter and then we sat on the runway for over an hour and had to be de-iced before we finally got in the air….

Welcome home to the Florida sunshine

Gatsby welcoming me home to the Florida sunshine

I  was very happy to be home – coming from the grey icy streets of Montreal to the sunshine of Florida in just three and half hours was like Dorothy opening the door to Oz for the first time – suddenly the world was in glorious technicolor 🙂

Poutine - chips with gravy and cheese curds

Poutine – chips with gravy and cheese curds

I did manage to have some poutine in Montreal and maple crepes, unfortunately the only souvenir I brought back was a wretched cold. When I feel better I will finish the post about all the egg recipes I have been making – the ladies are laying big time – we got a record of 11 just yesterday… We are drowning in fresh eggs LOL

DC round 2 – with palatial upgrade


After my last trip to DC was cut short due to hurricane Sandy – the meeting was rescheduled and I did a quick overnight trip recently

It was one of those frustrating travel experiences – overbooked flight – many screaming babies – forced to check my tiny bag – barely enough room for pajamas and a toothbrush but I was in zone 4 so I was SOL by the time I got on. Of course this adds about 30 minutes to your trip since you have to hit the baggage carousel. I travel so much that I never check bags – I generally have work travel down to a fine art like George Clooney in “Up in the Air” On top of that I got a crappy cab driver who wouldn’t take credit cards so had to switch to one that would – all in all nothing was going my way…

By the time I got to the hotel I was in a foul mood. However, I guess I hit a sweet spot in my Hilton Honors points and the desk told me they were going to upgrade me to a suite and give me free wifi. I said thanks so much and expected to get a couch and a coffee table in addition to the usual bed – no big deal

I took the elevator up and had to use my key card to access the executive level – maybe a little nicer than I thought? Perhaps a couch and a chair?

I found my suite – The Harry Truman Suite – cute – political references in DC 🙂 Then the door swung open and my jaw hit the floor – sprawling out ahead of me was a hallway alone bigger than my usual hotel room!

Harry Truman Suite

Harry Truman Suite

Letting the door swing shut behind me I explored – not only did I have a separate master suite, but a had a living room, conference room that seated 12, a second bathroom, and a grand piano!!!! This place was bigger than the house I am renting right now.

My conference room

My conference room

Naturally I phoned home immediatley to tell them how the other half lived and bemoan the fact we didn’t get that upgrade last time LOL



I high tailed it down to the exec lounge for as many complimentary hors d’oeuvres as possible before they realized their mistake. I then took a shower lounged in every room in my fluffy robe and played chopsticks on the piano – which by the way was played by Harry Truman when he entertained people in that suite!

I guess I need an entourage next time LOL

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Reflecting Pool

My work travel is normally a fairly solitary thing. I fly in, meet with clients and fly back out but recently the stars seemed to align and I was able to tack some family fun onto a work trip to DC.

My husband and youngest son flew up with me the weekend before the meeting and we flew our oldest in from Chicago to meet us – what could possibly go wrong?

Vietnam Memorial

The first day was a blast – we walked miles taking in the monuments on a glorious fall day. Proper fall is a rare treat for us – in Florida you just have an endless summer (not that I am complaining) Seattle and Ireland were both so rainy that the leaves just ended up sticking to the pavement and getting gooey and slippery – Yuck! So walking through crisp golden leaves in the sunshine was wonderful

White House

Thanks to Senator Bill Nelson I scored a White House tour – so very cool. I planned to prank my mom who was watching our dogs by buying a gag gift from the airport and telling I had stolen her a hand towel from the president for her as a souvenir LOL

City at Night

My guys were so enthusiastic they even went out again at night to see the monuments lit up – feeling old and decrepit I stayed behind in the hotel and rested my aching legs. They came stumbling back to the hotel, completely exhausted, several hours later but with some great photos to share

Capitol Building

Sunday was a little grayer and we started the day with a visit to the Holocaust Museum. Emotionally draining, wrenching and haunting – but a very necessary reminder to never be a silent bystander in the face of such evil.

I have no adequate words so I will just post this

First they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

View from Old Post Office Tower

Later we visited the Ford Theatre were Lincoln was shot and also the Old Post Office Tower which is the second highest point in DC and with the Washington Monument still closed after the earthquake, the only place to get 360 degree views of the city. It’s a beautiful old building and well worth a visit.

Box number 8

However our weekend was about to change dramatically – with Hurricane Sandy on her way my meetings were cancelled and they started to shut down the city. Our oldest got out on one of the last flights Sunday night before they shut down the airport but the rest of us were stuck.

National Archives

Don’t get me wrong there are much worse places to weather a storm than a Hilton Hotel and we were extremely fortunate, unlike so many friends and co-workers in New York. Our power stayed on and we had internet and salty snacks – so we battened down the hatches and waited for the worst to pass.

The next day we woke to find the city and airport still shut down and after long conversations with the airlines we realized that if we wanted to get out that week it was not going to be by plane – that just left trains or automobiles….

So we rented a car and headed due south – I think it was South Carolina before we got out of the bands of driving wind and rain – it was so good to see a glimmer of blue sky.

Our plan was to cross three states and at least make Savannah Georgia that first day – taking it in shifts we did just that. I have always wanted to see Savannah so we stayed in a hotel in the Historic District – might as well make the most of the situation right?

We had a late dinner in Belford’s in the City Market before getting some rest. I had Fried Green Tomatoes for the first time which were great!

Honestly, I have tried grits a few times in the past and always hated them – but amazingly enough the shrimp with grit cakes I had at Belford’s were pretty damn good –  I guess I just needed to go to the right place 🙂

Savannah Steet

The next morning we were up at sunrise, determined to see a little of the city before jumping in the car again. Savannah is a city built around squares most of which have been restored so we dashed around the streets taking in as much as we could in 90 minutes

Beautiful architecture and homes around every corner – I even found The Armstrong House – I was about to knock on the door and tell people I was home now and they should move out asap but there was nowhere to keep my horse so I decided against it 🙂

Forsyth Square

We will definitely have to come back soon and explore properly but the road was calling our names, so we jumped back in the car and headed home, making it just in time to hand out Halloween candy to the trick or treaters

900 miles and 5 states in a day and half was not exactly how we planned to spend our time but we certainly wont forget it in a hurry and it was so good to get home

Renewing the promise

Pegasus – sweetest horse evah!

Life has a way of becoming crazed – despite our best intentions sometimes we find ourselves running full speed ahead from place to place, forgetting to live in the moment, taking no time out for the things that make us happy…

This is a constant struggle for me – there are only so many hours in the day and so many things that need to be done and like many working wives and mothers the first things to go by the wayside are the very things that keep me sane!

Like most little girls, I had always loved horses – or rather the idea of them –  growing up in a flat in Belfast meant I rarely saw grass, never mind any actual animals. My family drove me out to the country every so often, so I did see farm animals close up occasionally – was led around on the obligatory donkey on the beach etc.

One memorable occasion, a old farmer tried to get my grandfather to buy me a donkey – I must have been around 6 years old. When asked where we were supposed to keep it – the old man said “the kitchen” LOL  Given the fact that my mom wouldn’t let me have a dog or cat growing up I don’t think a donkey in our 4th floor concrete jungle’s kitchen was ever going to happen…besides I didn’t want a “donkey” I wanted a Palomino! Not that I had ever seen a real live Palomino – but I thought they were the most beautiful horses….

Fast forward many, many years, my husband and I were figuring out the family vacation for the year – wanting to show the boys the beauty of our National Parks we chose to go to Glacier and found an awesome place with cabins in the woods near Whitefish, Montana –  Gaynor’s Ranch.

On a whim, to indulge my childhood fantasy, I made my men a deal – if we were staying on a ranch then they had to go on a trail ride with me! When the time came to make good on their end of the bargain, they were somewhat reluctant but dutifully came with me. The grizzled ranch hand looked us over a little mournfully when we admitted that none of us had any experience – I am quite sure he rolled his eyes and wondered how he had drawn the short straw again that morning.

He brought out 4 half dead asleep trail horses and showed us how to get on, get them to start and stop – pretty much unnecessary since these guys just followed the horse in front and had taken this same trail a bazillion times and really needed no directional assistance from us. But I didn’t care I was on a real live horse, riding a Montana trail and I was thrilled!

Our trail guide, who kept calling me “Sherry” had a steady stream of conversation going – eventually I gave up trying to correct him and just listened to his stories while enjoying the ride. Over the course of the 2 hour ride he started looking at me a little weird – I thought I must be doing something wrong…. Finally he asked me if I had a hobby back in Washington? Sure, I responded – waiting for the punch line.

“Well whatever it is, give it up and get yourself a horse – you are a natural” I  think my jaw must have hit the trail floor – he then spent the rest of the ride telling me what sort of horse I should be on the lookout for when I got home as if this was all a done deal.

Afterwords, the kids kept asking if we were getting a horse now. “Of course not” I said but we went back the next day for a second longer trail ride…

Back in Washington, I came to the realization that I didn’t have to go all the way to Montana to ride a horse and despite being in my late 30’s there was no reason why I couldn’t learn a new trick and do something I really enjoyed. So I looked for a barn near my home that would give lessons. But no way I was buying a horse! That was crazy talk!

So every Wed night I went to the barn and rode a variety of horses – all beautiful, though none of them were a Palomino 🙂 Over time I decided that perhaps I should go ahead and lease a horse – that way I could ride much more often….. and so the slippery slope began. It wasn’t that long before I ended up buying a beautiful 4 year old  3/4 Arabian mare, chestnut with a long flaxen mane – not quite a Palomino but so much better because she was mine and the sweetest horse evah!

Fast forward a little more –  several years of Natural Horsemanship at barn close to home in Washington, then a cross country move to Florida later – Pegasus (or Honey) has settled in beautifully at a fantastic barn – just not as close as I would like – where no one does that whole “natural thing” Other horse owners there look at me with kindly bemusement….

The goal is to buy a home with acreage so I can have her on the property and have tons more horse time. Horse time is different – things slow down – you have to be completely present and in the moment – there is no room for other thoughts and distractions. All the work or life stresses and politics melt away… Horses have no ulterior motive or agendas…they just want your love and leadership and maybe some of those yummy treats they know you keep in your pocket LOL

This week I finally spent some much needed time with my horse and even though it had been too long – she was happy to see me and was the perfect partner – calm, trusting and steady. So even though it is tough to find the time, I renewed the promise to her and myself…

I will make the time to do what I love and work on my relationship with my horse. It is an investment that pays dividends and one I can’t afford to ignore.

St Pete’s and melting clocks

My men on the giant beach chairs

Been a little while since I posted – life has been a little busy lately –  but we did get to take a few days away for a quick family vacation last week.

St Pete’s Beach is just a couple hours away from us and there was a little retro beach resort I had wanted to try called Posctcard Inn. So I called them up and booked 4 days with them after discovering they were indeed dog friendly. We packed up two of our 4 critters – the well behaved ones (4 dogs in a hotel is just not doable not if you want to maintain your sanity)


On arrival I was delighted to find the hotel every bit as cute and quirky as I had hoped – the rooms and the styling of the whole place was causal, 60’s surfer chic –  I loved it!

However, I was much less delighted to discover that apparently the cast of Girls Gone WIld – Spring Break Madness spend their off time here…. I have never seen so many stripper heels with bikinis and tramp stamps alongside falling over drunken frat boys congregated in one place.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge – too scared to take pictures of the tramp stamps

We consoled ourselves with the notion that it was a sunny Sat on the beach – school was out and maybe the next day things would quiet down and sure enough after a noisy evening, the next morning was peaceful and quiet – of course the partiers were likely sleeping it off till noon.

We spent the morning on the beach – picked up a few nice shells – read my Kindle – got a little sun – had a couple beach cocktails – all seemed perfect…. till we headed back up to cool down and were greeted by a 50ft inflatable of Captain Morgan! *Facepalm*

Captain Morgan – Harbinger of doom

I knew we were doomed. They were in full party set up mode complete with DJ stage and pop up bars all over the place – we had to fight our way back to the room through the crowds. Sunday night was apparently Captain Morgan All You Can Drink Pool Party Night – who knew?  Well, all of the afore mentioned tramp stamps and frat boys did and they brought all their friends and distant acquaintances….

Don’t get me wrong – having a few cocktails at the beach bar on vacation is my idea of fun too – but I am (sadly) not 22 anymore and MTV Beach Party was never my style – even worse when you have your 15 year old with you. “Hey honey – this is what I don’t want you to do ever – or you are grounded till you are 30!” My God I sound like somebody’s aged mother LOL

Tired Grumpy Hotel Puppies

The party went on till 3am and amidst complaint calls to front desk I spent most of the evening hiding in our room searching for an alternate hotel. I was finally saved by a Hilton – not on the beach but inland close to the Dali museum that we were planning to visit anyway.

So next morning we packed up our tired crew and unloaded at the HIlton – not so stylish but mercifully quiet with a nice pool and we headed out to the Dali Museum.



I have been wanting to visit since I moved to Florida – they have the largest collection of his work outside of Spain and although I am not a huge fan of Surrealism, as a designer I always enjoy a good art museum.

Dali Museum

The Dali Museum did not disappoint – what a fantastic building in a great setting on the waterfront. Very modern, box like structure with natural stone accents and some organic glass billowing out.




Helix Staircase in Dali Museum

The interior is centered around a soaring helix staircase with great views and of course several galleries of Salvador Dali’s work.

View from staircase

We picked up some souvenirs in the obligatory gift shop and headed outside to the gardens which were really lovely – modern and almost zen like but with a little color and natural chaos thrown in.

Melting clock with mustache sculpture in background

No self respecting Dali museum could be without a melting clock – believe me it was hot enough to melt clocks – we were dying out there but wanted to be sure to see everything. I made everyone pose with the iconic Dali mustache sculpture and we walked though the “labyrinth” which was a little disappointing since it was really more like a spiral path – if you have no choices to make on which direction to take when walking through, then you can’t really consider it a labyrinth or maze IMHO

Adding to the collection

My favorite element of the garden was the wishing tree – you are supposed to tie your wishes to it and everyone seems to use their wristbands from the museum. I loved seeing all the fluttering colors moving in the breeze so we added ours.

Wishing Tree

There is something sweet and touching about adding to a living, growing collection of dreams and wishes – even if it is just proof of a shared experience.

The next day we drove to Busch Gardens to try their latest roller coaster Cheetah Hunt – it was a blast – really fast and fun. They actually have a lot of great rides and seeing the animals up close is fantastic. I particularly love the tiger enclosure.

Dear God somebody save me from this heat! said the Meerkat

It was ungodly hot  – 95 degrees and about 90% humidity so were were exhausted and sweaty in no time – not even the water rides could provide much releif and whatever effort I had made around hair and make up were quickly rendered futile

Clever Snow Tiger

Even the animals were conserving their energy – mostly lazing around in the shade or laying in the water like this smart snow tiger

Peacock Display

Eventually we had had enough of the heat, but since we had taken advantage of the Florida Resident Deal we can come back as often as we like till the end of the year for free (Seaworld too which is much closer to us and also a fun park)

Feeding the birds

Before we left we wandered through the aviary and got to feed the birds which put a smile on everyones face.

Happy Teen

Our vacation may have had a bumpy start but it all worked out in the end 🙂

Sunrise Shell Patrol

Sunrise Shell Patrol

I have been wanting to visit Sanibel Island since we moved to Central Florida over a year ago and we finally made it. It is the best shelling beach in the US – third best in the world (some place in the Philippines is the best followed by South Africa, if you were curious)

We arrived at the Waterside Inn  – a great little retro beach cabin resort – on Sunday in plenty of time to watch the sunset on the beach and pick up a few shells – speaking of which I have never seen so many shells….. You have to understand, growing up in Ireland where the seas shells were either black, grey or white and came in two basic shapes, the idea that beautiful, colorful shells in a multitude of exotic shapes would just be laying around underfoot is mind-blowing!

Sunset complete with dolphin clouds - much less bitey than shark clouds

I few months ago I bought a large glass vase that I wanted to fill with shells I pick up from the beaches now that we are new Floridians, but to be truthful it is currently pretty pitiful looking. Even though we go to the beach often on the Atlantic side there haven’t been that many shells – the waves seem to be rougher and pound those shells into sugar fine sand. On Sanibel Island, I picked up more shells in 15 minutes than I have picked up in the past year!

So like a couple of crazy people, Eric and I got up the next day at low tide to go shell hunting – may I add that low tide was at 6.30am – BEFORE DAWN!!!! Amazingly enough there were people already out there with flashlights, so I guess we weren’t the only loons on the beach.

Sunrise with moon

In fact someone was way more alert and creative than I will ever be before dawn and I almost fell over their handiwork…

Sandy the mermaid

We came prepared with a divers mesh bag to put our shells in, which I thought was genius till I saw other people out there with not only the same bags, but also a little mesh net thing on a stick – dammit! I soon discovered why…. After several hours performing what the local have dubbed “The Sanibel Stoop” (people stumbling along with backs bent and noses on the ground) I discovered that how quickly it turned into “The Sanibel Screaming Spine” Those smug smartypants with their nets on sticks. I must get one to be taken seriously as a true shell hunter…

Eric waded into the shallows and found the bigger heavier shells which tumble in and out with the waves and I walked along the tide line picking up the smaller ones – before we knew it we had walked several miles and were carrying about 10lbs of shells.

One of my favorite finds

It was a beautiful morning we watched the dolphins and pelicans playing, I found a crazy leopard print crab, we jostled for space with the tide birds and watched the day begin.

Calico Crab - looks like leopard to me but what do I know?

We collected several fist sized conchs and about a million colorful scallop shells that I later discovered are called Calico scallops. We ended up going to the local shell museum – yes there is such a thing!  – where we picked up a book to identify our new collection and I discovered, to my disappointment, that the weird tangled masses on the beach were not the entrails of disemboweled sea beasts but actually egg casings from the conchs and whelks  – I still prefer my explanation but oh well….

Clearly sea monster entrails, right?

Eric got some bait for surf fishing (shrimp so big I would have called them lunch) and we also scored a couple of the nets on sticks that I was so envious of.

Bait?? I say lunch!

I now have the complete shell hunting kit – another mesh bag so we don’t have to share, nets on sticks, water shoes (those shells are tough on the feet), laminated shell identification and beverage of choice in a colorful koozie. Not pictured but also recommended – sunscreen, polarized sunglasses and embarrassing pink sunhat. I wear mine with pride and it makes it easier for Eric to spot me on the beach LOL

shell hunting essentials

We walked the beach for hours, twice a day picking up lightning whelks, Florida fighting conchs, calico scallops and clams, kitten paws and spiny jewel boxes to name just a few…  Eric caught a sting ray while fishing and even found a sea urchin in his net one day.

Sometimes even the broken pieces were too beautiful to leave behind – the intricate internal structure of a shell is natures’s finest example of the fibonnachi sequence if you ask me. On our last beach walk of the trip I went to pick up what I thought was a fragment only to dig up the biggest conch find of the day – it was just covered in sand and everyone had been walking right past it – I was delighted!

I also learned that I cannot resist a calico clam – my eye is drawn to them and despite having approx 8 million of them now, I kept picking them up – big, small, endless variants of colorful markings…. Maybe it is because it is a classic shell shape used in design and decoration since the beginning of time – it is, after all, the shell Venus stood on when she rose from the waves in the famous painting. Perhaps it is hardcoded into my brain as a symbol of beauty? Who knows – I just can’t seem to leave them behind – they belong in my glass container with all of their pretty friends – they would be lost and lonely otherwise. This kind of thought process may also provide insight as to why I have 4 dogs *sigh*

Regardless “All your shells are belong to us”  LOL –  Once home I filled that giant glass container with shells to spare >8)

Mission accomplished

The rest of the time I sat on the beach reading while Eric fished and we watched the sun set before heading back to our room to pore over the day’s finds. Truthfully you don’t even need to walk to find beautiful shells – plonk yourself down by the tideline and sift through the the heaps of shells at your fingertips and you will find a million tiny treasures. But there is something addictive about seeing what is just ahead and something very timeless  about waiting to see what the next wave will wash in…

Being a beach bum is the life for me....

It’s a frothy drink kinda day!

Ultimate beach drink!

I have been traveling so much for work lately and getting sick every time I get off the plane that I haven’t been blogging as often as I mean to.  Basically, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired right now – which is way too boring to write about.

However the good news is I am planning on a few days off soon at the beach with my husband and as soon as we get the chance I am ordering a frothy drink with fruit, and flowers served in something silly like this little number from Coconuts at Cocoa Beach.

It is a truly foolish beverage – I know it screams tourist – but nothing puts you in the right vacation frame of mind like this – this is what I am dreaming of while counting down the days till I get to chillax.

After my foolish cocktail I am going to lay in the sun – just like Sunny likes to do. Nobody knows how to relax like a lazy dog and Sunny is the chillaxin king. He has relaxation down to a fine art and I think we could all learn a thing or two from him.

it's a dog's life

He also likes to watching TV from the couch

Don't touch that remote

We are going to head over to Sanibel Beach – apparently it is a world class shelling beach and I need to add to my new collection – perhaps I will find a conch shell big enough to use for my foolish cocktail – who knows?

Here’s to frothy drinks and being lazy dogs every once in a while….