Archives for June 2015

On the Road: Ireland (Part 2)

After our two days in Dublin, we packed up the world’s tiniest rental car and hit the road. Our first stop was Powerscourt Estate, which is set against the backdrop of the Wicklow mountains and is known for acres upon acres of landscaped gardens. The house on the grounds was originally a 13th century castle and was renovated throughout the centuries. The most recent renovations took place in the mid-1990s, after the house had been destroyed by a fire 20 years earlier.

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Incidentally, Powerscourt had probably the best cafe of any tourist attraction that I have ever visited. Make sure to stop for lunch if you ever visit.

After that, it was off to Lisnavagh, another estate. I was totally confused when we first arrived because the place was completely deserted. Turns out, this is actually still a family’s home and Chester explained that we were here to visit the tree that he had planted for our 5th anniversary! William, one of the owners/managers of the estate was kind enough to show us the tree and share a bit of the estate’s history with us. In the 1800s, it was one of the most advanced and efficient farms in the country. As the estate system fell away, and Lisnavagh was downsized quite a bit and William and his family developed other ways to sustain what remained, including hosting weddings and making cutting boards out of the timber that naturally falls on the property. The tree planting program also generates a bit of revenue and helps to maintain and repopulate the surrounding woodlands.

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Official owners of an oak tree!

In true Chester fashion, it was truly a memorable and thoughtful way to mark this milestone. I’m glad B got to be there with us, and maybe we’ll all return someday to visit our tree when it’s a bit bigger!

After that, we headed to Cork, which would be our home base for the next two nights. Although it might have been more fun to stay in one of the cute little towns that we passed through along the way, we decided to stick to the big cities with easy access to things like grocery stores and medical care, just in case those things were needed for B. Plus, it was centrally located for the next two major sights on our itinerary: Blarney Castle. More on that next time!

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We did zero exploring in Cork, but at least had a nice view of the city from our hotel window!

Summer Fun

 

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Happy first (official) day of summer!

If you are in and around Philly, like we are, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the warm, long days ahead. We have a few things that we want to check off our list, such as:

1. Hit up the spray parks, since we have a little water-lover on our hands. Although, I also will not refuse a run through a cool sprinkler on a hot day.

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2. Eat lots of ice cream. We’ll have to stop by our old favorites like Bassett’s in the Reading Terminal and Franklin Fountain, but there are a few new spots, like Big Gay Ice Cream and the new Passyunk Avenue location of Philly Flavors, to check out. When we get tired of ice cream, there’s always water ice at Pop’s!

3. Spend an afternoon at Franklin Square Park. We had such fun when we went last year that we want to make this a little birthday tradition for B. Hopefully, she won’t mind posing on the carousel for photos each year so we can see how much she has changed!

4. Visit as many of the cool outdoor spaces as possible, especially since some of them are only around for a limited time. Spruce Street Harbor Park was a lot of fun last year and definitely worth a re-visit (although I wish B was old enough for the roller skating rink!), but the Oval, the PHS pop-up gardens and Sister Cities Park also look like fun.

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5. Spend a day at the beach. Chester and I aren’t really beach people, but we do like to dip our toes in the water and eat junk food on the boardwalk. A great time was had by all last year, and I’m sure B will be even more into it this time around.

6. Check out the Tall Ships Challenge, mostly so that we can see the World’s Largest Rubber Duck.

7. See some fireworks. We skipped this last year because B was still so little, but I think she might be into them this year. We don’t have to travel far for them, as we can see them from our house when they have them at Citizens Bank Park after a Phillies’ game.

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8. Speaking of the Phillies–go to a baseball game. Yes, the team is terrible, but that means the tickets are cheap. Plus, Chester will want to see the Cubs when they are in town later in the summer.

9. Go to the zoo. We have a membership here, so making at least one visit is pretty much a given. It’s just a matter of finding a day that’s not blazing hot. The zoo is so not enjoyable on those kinds of days.

10. Escape to the ‘burbs. I know, I know. I’ve just been going on about all of the fun things to do in the city, but we are just a short ride from some great places to spend a summer day, like Longwood Gardens, New Hope and Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey.

11. Check out museum exhibitions. These might not be the most B-friendly activities, but Chester and I would like to check out the Genghis Kahn exhibition at the Franklin institute and Discovering the Impressionists at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Hopefully Granny won’t mind hanging with B while we have a couple of date days!

That’s all I can think of for now, although I’m sure we will add more adventures along the way. Summer has a way of getting pretty busy!

What’s on your summer bucket list this year?

All photos in this post from a run through the sprinklers last week at the Camden Children’s Garden.

On the Road: Ireland (Part 1)

I wrote a little bit in a previous post about our adventures in Ireland, but I am just getting around the organizing the photos from the trip. With the slow pace that I work on this kind of thing lately, that should take me all summer. But, as the summer heats up around here, I’ll be happy to relive memories of the much cooler climate of the Emerald Isle, starting with this post about our time in Dublin.

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Pre-flight selfie at PHL

The first day of our trip felt like the Longest. Day. Ever. We left Philly at 8 a.m. and flew to Boston, where we had an eight hour layover. We met Bridget and Bill for a quick lunch and then headed back to the airport for our 6 p.m. flight to Dublin. B was great on the flight. She was easily entertained by the goings-on of airplane travel and distracted by an endless supply of cheese crackers. She ended up passing out right around her normal 8:00 bedtime and slept until we arrived in Dublin, very early the next morning.

Our hotel was very centrally located near the historic St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street (one of the main shopping thoroughfares) and the lively Temple Bar. We made our way there from the airport in a taxi at the crack of dawn, but could see that there were still plenty of people that were still happily partying it up at the pubs, even at 6 a.m.!

Since it was ridiculously early, there was not a room ready for us. B made sure we all knew how displeased she was about being awake at such an early hour. Chester and I tried to keep her calm and eventually, the hotel manager even resorted to bribery, giving her milk, a banana, an orange and a Kit Kat (all of which I’m pretty sure were from his own lunchbox) in an attempt to get her to shut up.

Finally, to keep from waking up everyone at the hotel, we went down the street to a cute little café to have breakfast while we waited for our room. Trying to keep a jet lagged toddler from a full meltdown while in a restaurant is an experience I will be happy never to repeat again. If it was just Chester and I, I’m sure we would have pushed through the exhaustion, loaded up on coffee and just wandered the neighborhood for a bit. But, with B in tow, the only thing I wanted to do was park myself in chair and hope she would fall asleep. So, we returned to the waiting area of the hotel to do just that and thankfully, our room was ready by mid-morning.

We all felt much better after long naps and headed out to explore in the early afternoon. Dublin is an eclectic mix of medieval and modern (there’s even a 24-hour Starbucks!). As you stroll through the main streets you feel like you could be in an U.S. city. But, then you round the corner and you catch a glimpse of Dublin castle or an old church and you remember all of the history contained within the winding streets.

Our first stop was Dublin Castle, which was originally built as a Viking fortress during the 13th century. It was destroyed and rebuilt throughout the centuries and served as the center for British rule in Ireland until 1922.

4The tower at the right is the only surviving remnant of the medieval castle
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Riding in style

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A pretty empty courtyard on this particular day, but the following week it would be packed with people as the announcement was made that Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage after a popular vote

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Old + new

Then, it was down the street to visit Christ Church, the he oldest building in Dublin, dating from 1028. The exterior is probably quite impressive, but unfortunately, much of it was covered in scaffolding for renovations at the time of our visit. Still, the stained glass and wall-to-wall mosaic tile floors inside made the visit worthwhile.

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Further on down the road is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a bit younger (dating from 1191), but it ultimately won out in the race for supremacy with Christ Church, and serves as the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland. Fun fact: Johnathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and former cathedral Dean, is buried here.

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We ended the day enjoying some Irish music and pub fare at the Old Storehouse, one of the more family-friendly pubs in Temple Bar (i.e. one of the few places not overrun with the bachelorette party crowd).

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The next day, we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (tip: purchase your tickets in advance, and skip the line at the door). There is an interesting exhibition that explains the symbolism behind and the process of creating the lavishly decorated 9th century manuscript of the four Gospels. Pages from two volumes of the manuscript are on display. Just as impressive is the Old Library, which houses more than 200,000 books.

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And, after that, we just wandered a bit more, taking in all the sites. I’m pretty sure that B’s favorite part of Dublin was meeting a real live leprechaun!

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52Ha’penny Bridge, the first pedestrian bridge to cross the Liffey River

We barely scratched the surface of what Dublin has to offer in our two days there. There were a few museums that we would have liked to check out, but we’ll save them for next time when B will appreciate them a bit more. I can’t wait to go back!

#tbt: Wedding Edition

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This is a big year for Chester and me–ten years together, and five years married, as of today! In honor of this milestone, I put together a little #tbt post about our wedding.

I’m kind of glad that we got married in the dark ages, before Pinterest was a thing. I didn’t feel the pressure to DIY everything or incorporate certain elements just because the Internet told me that they were on trend. I didn’t really have a theme or a color scheme. I just picked out things that I liked and that reflected our style.

There was a ton of pink, the best bridal party that anyone could ask for, family and friends to share in our joy, a dress that made me feel like a princess and a delicious cake (I’m told that the rest of the food was delicious too, but I was too excited to eat anything!). Glen Foerd, a Victorian era mansion located along the Delaware River, provided an amazing backdrop and the rain held out long enough for us to have our outdoor ceremony.

Although the event itself flew by, I remember nearly ever single minute of it like it was yesterday. I wouldn’t change a thing…especially not the person to whom I said “I do!”

Here are a few ton of my favorite photos of the day, as captured by the fabulous Kamila Harris.

chicken dance 2The traditional chicken dance to kick off the festivities.

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spanxA true friend will crawl under your wedding dress to fix your Spanx.

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My mom has never really been into parties, but she got more into planning the wedding than I expected she would. It would not have been as much fun to put everything together without her…

and my aunt

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L and M 2 He would never admit it, but my brother teared up while walking me down the aisle. I waited until we got until the end to lose it.

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L and C cordWe incorporated a variety of Filipino traditions into the wedding, including the veil and cord ceremony.

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bridal partyThere was a small ditch in the front lawn of the mansion. Chester found it!

dinnerOne of the few moments we sat down all night!

cake smashI promised Chester that I wouldn’t smash cake in his face. I lied.

danceOur first dance was to Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” We took dance lessons to prepare, and its safe to say that we were the worst students that Arthur Miller had ever seen. I think we dropped out halfway through the classes, actually.

RFkOn the other hand, there was our friend Richard, who I’m pretty sure has never taken a dance lesson to perfect his moves. Insane doesn’t even begin to describe his performance. When people talk about our wedding, he never fails to come up in conversation.

carSneaking away at the end of the night

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Happy Anniversary, Checkter! Thank you for making sure that B and I have everything we could possibly want and/or need, supporting all of my crazy ideas/hopes/dreams, sharing your ice cream (and seeing through me when I pretend that I don’t want any), putting up with six seasons of Glee (especially towards the end when it was really a hot mess), being the numbers guy because I suck at math and just generally putting up with me day in, day out (for ten years. I really don’t know how you do it. I get tired of me sometimes.). You are my other half and everything is more fun with you by my side. I can’t wait to see what the next five years have in store for us!