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Fresh meat

14 Apr

I knew spring had sprung when I looked out the bathroom window the other morning and saw the cattle.  Mary calls fromthe bedroom “what are you doing in there?”  “Taking a picture out the window” says I.


Young, freshly gelded bullocks romping in the field marks the beginning of this year’s meat production cycle.  With it comes Grace’s annual declaration that she is a vegetarian.  That lasted almost a whole day.



26 Feb

When the sun comes out in the West of Ireland one makes the most out of it. Sunday was a perfect day for sun because after a week of long days at work and the MBA program I had promised myself to spend the whole day focused on family related activities.


So with the thermometer at 1 degree we bundled up and headed for the under-15 Munster Rugby final where our friend’s son won the championship. The girls had never seen such brutality up close and Tara had to avert her eyes from the primal sight of males beating the heck out of each other.

After the match we headed up to the Cratloe woods where there is a big play area for the kids and endless woods to walk in.

The walk ended with a picnic on the boot of the car which I continue to assert is called the trunk.

I told them to try and not look like they had food in their mouths…Tara listened.


10 Feb

This is where I row.  How cool is this:


I mean, Boston was great and scenic, and California is beautiful, but when the water in Limerick is low and I can row past secret underwater entrances to the dungeons of a thousand-year-old castle I have to take a moment and think “how lucky am I to be able to row on this river!”

Murrisk-y business

15 Jan


After Christmas, we set out on a road trip around Ireland. First stop was Westport, Co. Mayo, where Mary’s dad is from. The photo above is of Murrisk Abbey which is the ruin of an ancient church where Mary’s dad’s grandmother met his wife for the first time – at the altar on the day of their wedding.
Not so long ago, the small communities on the 365 individual islands in Clew Bay still arranged the marriage of their children to families on neighbouring islands.
I was told that the two fathers had met at a fair in Louisberg on the mainland and the deal was done – thus Edward O’Malley, from Clare Island (descendant of Grace the Pirate) met and married his wife all on the same day.
When I was there the wind was blowing the rain horizontally off the bay so hard that each drop felt like a needle on my face. Mary stayed in the car while I took the picture with the epic mountain Croagh Patrick in the background (I had to climb around on top of the old sagging graves in the cemetery to get this angle). I walked back to the car leaning into the gale force wind at no less than a 25 degree angle – all in all a great experience.

Christmas recap

13 Jan

Just a quick recap of Christmas to start off 2013. (I downloaded the WordPress blogging app for my phone so maybe I will get back to posting more frequently)

A quiet Christmas Eve at home by the fire watching “The Sound of Music” culminated in setting up treats for Santa. Grace wrote her letter to Santa this year in “Viking” – runes she and her cousin had learned from a book he has about Vikings. She said “if Santa is real, he’ll be able to read Viking”
Well apparently he is, because Christmas morning there was a letter written back to Grace in the same strange script.

Christmas morning was a treat for all: Santa brought Grace new skates and a book about wizards, he brought Tara a digital camera. Mary and I got a beautiful morning in a beautiful house and many fine gifts from family and friends.

After a nice morning at Sonas, we headed in for mass at the Cathedral. Town was sunny and quiet. Unlike the U.S. where there are a significant number of non-Christians, in Ireland the entire country closes for business on Christmas Day…all except the Churches.

After mass, it was out to Quin Road and a phenomenal feast with all the Lyons clan and requisite cousins. 15 of us in all – for a very merry Christmas indeed.



25 Sep

When I arrived in Ireland last September, the girls and Mary had been here a month without me and had a whole list of places they wanted to show me.  One of these places was Craggaunowen.  Unfortunately, by the time we got around to getting in to Craggaunowen, it was closed for the winter and not open again until the summer.

This summer, it seemed we were so caught up in the Burren and various Kil-towns that we didn’t get around to Craggaunowen until it was just about to close again for the season – we got in the last day it was open.

At this point, the question you are asking yourself is probably what I was asking myself when they took me there: What is Craggaunowen?  Is it a castle? A museum? A park? What exactly is it?

It isn’t really that simple, but they describe it as a “Heritage Site” or “Pre-historic Park”.  Really, it’s a large forested area with a guided walk upon which you will encounter examples and re-creations of every phase of Irish civilization: the first one you reach is an old 16th Century tower-house/castle that you can run around in, avoid the “murder hole” and pretend-swordfight your way all the way to the top if you’re a lefty (ask Grace about that one).

The path from the tower house leads you to a stone age cooking pit and the remains of an actual dugout canoe from a couple thousand years ago that someone discovered in a bog.  They have also built a reproduction of a Crannog which is like a beaver dam for humans: a sort of man-made island in a pond that was home for ancient folks who needed a little natural defense around their houses.  They have also reproduced a ring-fort which sounds more military than it really is.

Basically a ring fort was an early multi-family dwelling with a couple of huts and a raised earthen barrier around it topped with a fence to keep out unwanted visitors.  My girls made themselves at home.

One of the coolest parts of this walk through the forest is the Sleeping-Beauty-esque glass house that you see through the woods and which looks completely out of place after your stone-age trip through time.

Inside the futuristic glass house (besides people who resist throwing stones) is Brendan’s Boat of “Brendan the Navigator” fame.  Never heard of him?  Maybe that’s because you think Columbus discovered America.  By now though I’m guessing most people acknowledge that Brendan sailed from Europe to America long before most people knew there was a world in the New World, but he was a monk not a businessman so you can see where that went. 

The boat housed here is not the original boat, but it is the original reproduction boat.  There used to be a lot of skeptics in who said that Brendan couldn’t have made it across the Atlantic with the limited sailing  technology available to him at the time, so a couple of guys in the 1970’s set out to prove that Brendan could have done the journey with only the simplest of materials.  The boat in the glass house is the boat these guys sailed to America.  It is made of animal skins and wood and is pretty impressive to see in person.

After Brendan’s boat, the wedge tomb isn’t quite as impressive, but it helps to have your daughter demonstrate how dead people would have been buried in it (Pictured above). 

Pictured below, Tara barely stands for a minute next to a stone that has stood for thousands of years.  The notches carved on the side are an ancient form of Celtic writing called Ogham…I think it says “no loitering”.

I had to wait a year to find time to get there , but it was definitely worth the anticipation.  Sad to say it will be closed until the spring, I wouldn’t mind the walk again on one of these crisp autumn days.

The Americans Visit

19 Aug

It was a strangely disconcerting emotional experience having Mary’s brother and his family come to visit Ireland this summer.

For the first 12 years of our marriage, we lived in S.F.  along with Mary’s other expat siblings and they would all trade news of the family back home, get excited about upcoming return trips or melancholy when the time between those trips grew too long.

This summer, though, we were on the other side.  We were “home” this time to witness the excited anticipation that precedes the prodigal return of an expat child.  There were dinners planned, schedules made, houses cleaned and all sorts of gyrations, but ultimately it was really about the kids.

The most cousins I got in the frame was 7

This was the first time we had 9 out of the 10 cousins together, and it was worth all the effort that the Americans made to get here and all the preparations that those here made to host them.  That didn’t mean there wasn’t complete chaos trying to out-do every preceding dinner.

We spent the week in the Burren house – 13 of us – and we got some fantastic warm sunny days, created a whole host of memories for everyone and at least one epic sunset that I managed to get a picture of.

The cousins instantly fell right in and re-connected, and it was heartbreaking to see them go back to San Francisco this morning.

Their visit was a wonderful chance for us to share and show off all the fantastic wonderful things we have discovered about Ireland,  but it also made us feel all the things we missed about SF – mostly all those family and friends who we haven’t seen for so long.

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