Sláinte Series: The Ambassador’s Residence

The capstone of our Irish adventure one year ago was a two-night stay with my in-law’s dear friends, Kevin and Dena O’Malley.  The same Kevin O’Malley who has been serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland in Dublin for the past two years.  The Ambassador’s official residence is called Deerfield, and it is located within Phoenix Park (the public park in Dublin, roughly a bit larger than New York’s Central Park). Here is a cool New York Times article about the residence from 2009, and here is Wikipedia for all you nerds out there like me who appreciate political history and ambassadorships.

Take a moment to let that sink in.  We. Got. To. Stay. In. This. House. Where. Presidents. Have. Stayed.  And Bing Crosby.  In twin beds, nonetheless!  Next door to where President Kennedy slept!

I should back up.

The origin of our trip to Ireland came from Brian and I wanting to take a five-year anniversary trip abroad, perhaps to Ireland or Scotland, coincidentally around January 2015 when Kevin and Dena took residence in Dublin.

Editor’s Note:  Kevin and Dena have been close friends with my in-laws, Dan and Kathy, for more than 40 years beginning with Brian’s mom Kathy and Dena attending nursing school together.  Here is a cool St. Louis Magazine article about their journey and life now as an Ambassador family — it relates to many of the photos you’ll see below.    Everything in the article is true, but couldn’t fully prepare us for the experience of staying somewhere that uses china with President Obama’s official seal and has 24-hour security circling the property.  Surreal understates it.

It was especially exciting that Kevin became the Ambassador to Ireland somewhat unexpectedly and invited visitors to stay whenever schedules allowed.  Talk quickly escalated about us traveling with Brian’s parents so they could visit their friends while Kevin was in office, and making the trip a 10-day excursion of places we all wanted to visit while celebrating Brian and my 5th wedding anniversary.

So we planned.  We watched The Quiet Man to prepare.  We planned some more.  We coordinated with Dena for the best time to visit.  I can’t be sure, but we probably ate some Irish meals just to get us more excited.  Our final itinerary had us touring the entire country traveling clockwise around the coast and ended with a two-night stay with the O’Malley’s in their quaint cottage in Dublin during the last two weeks of July 2015.

Ireland route

Looking back, I wouldn’t change any of our destinations; I really loved being in the Irish countryside and traveling through smaller, awesomer cities.  But, the Jameson in my ginger ale was ending our trip in Dublin with family friends in a residence where a select few people ever get to stay, a place with amazing American/Ireland history attached to it.  It was too wild for words.  Did I mention a that Jean Kennedy was also an Ambassador to Ireland?  Well she was.  So there.

There is a whole album from the photos I took during our two nights at Deerfield with the nicest family on the planet if you want to check them out (with captions of what you’re looking at!); below are just a small selection of my faves.  I got to spend about an hour roaming the 62 acres alone while the rental car was being returned and a tour can be found through the link above.

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This concludes the seven Sláinte Series posts.  Feels good to finally have them complete; a year later is better than not at all.  If you’re heading to Ireland and need some suggestions, I’m your lass.  Sláinte!

Sláinte Series: The Kennedy’s

History was the theme of our Ireland trip.  Did I mention I love history?  Especially Kennedy history.

I’m not entirely sure how much influence I had on the planning of our touring activities with Mom and Dad Schaeffer, but I’d like to think Brian and I had at least 75% input as we worked on the trip itinerary.  One viewing of The Quiet Man and some around-the-kitchen table sessions with three bottles of wine formulated some necessary to-do’s about two weeks prior to departure.  Casual planning at its finest.

It’s hard to pick a favorite history lesson because there was so much badass stuff to go around:  the Titanic museum in Cobh, intricate  and beautiful castles, insane Guinness family-owned homes, charming century-old landscaping and cobblestone streets.  And Muldoon.  (Seriously, someone bring that stuff to America. You’ll thank me.)  But there was something I really wanted to do beyond that.

The Kennedy’s

I knew of a famous trip that took President Kennedy to the homestead of his Irish ancestors in June 1963.  It so happened this site was on our route around the coast of southeastern Ireland.  That homestead is now a museum and preserved memorial of the visit to the birthplace of John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather, Patrick Kennedy (the namesake of the baby they lost just a few months later).  The family still farms there today.

After our walking tour of Waterford the first day in our we hopped into our four-door Citroen, our trusty van/car/go-kart, and headed to the homestead in Dunganstown in County Wexford.  Below are my photos of the museum and property…seeing the genuine notes and memorabilia was a humbling experience.

These Sláinte Series photos aren’t the best of the trip, but it was one of my favorite activities.  Those who know me probably find my Kennedy obsession a bit strange, but it was evident that the Irish are equally fascinated with the Kennedy family – they were everywhere.  And me?  I loved it all.

Sláinte Series: The Architecture

It’s been four months since the last Sláinte Series was published, and we’re coming up on the anniversary of our journey (and my 33rd birthday, ahem).  I had grand plans to get at least three more Sláinte Series posts written before the anniversary had arrived, and come hell or high water, it’s going to happen.  Read my lips.

After seeing the themes of my photography during the Ireland trip, we’ve seen the doors, the floors, the scenery and greenery, and now we arrive at the buildings, cathedrals, light fixtures and attention to detail.  So. Much. Detail, and this is just a sampling.  There is an easy and elegant way about Ireland — they embrace natural textures, materials, and beautiful design.

On deck for the sixth Sláinte Series?  The Kennedy connection.  In the hole?  The capstone….the Ambassador’s Residence…still hard to believe this amazing trip actually occurred.  Remembering it a year later still makes me proud and happy. To see the entire trip, go HERE, if you just can’t wait.  Otherwise, hold tight until the finale.


Second Quarter TPS Reports

I just realized it’s been three months since I’ve updated this trusty blog.  I’m embarrassed.  I don’t even know where to begin, so I’m going to try and discuss all the great things that have been happening in bite-size pieces….bullet points because that’s what I seem to be doing a lot of lately.

  • My job as the Director of Marketing has been challenging and rewarding.  I’ve been working my flat ass off!  Seven months in, and going strong.  I get to do challenging work, I learn something new every day, and I am making a lot of progress in a short time not only in Marketing, but in business analysis, customer segmentation, and helping form a new sales and marketing strategy for business development.  My VP of Sales calls me “Pistol”.  I’m thinking about getting that tooled into a leather belt.
  • My oldest and dearest friend, Kerri, just took her final medical boards exams yesterday, and graduated from urology residency last month…10 years of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and no sleep.  She’s now about to start her attending career at KU Med Center and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  I wanted to give a speech at her party, but I cried before I even started talking.  #cantgivespeecheswithouttears
  • And speaking of badasses, I want to give some props to all my lady homies lately.  I have friends who are growing and raising babies, working full-time, running companies and school districts, traveling the world, succeeding at their own businesses, lawyering the shit out of things, saving lives, teaching and counseling people in need, and generally being wonder women.  I’m quite proud of all my gals.
  • I had back surgery on March 31.  Long story short, they snipped off a piece of my spine that was compressing a nerve.  They called it a “decompression”…makes sense, no?  For about two years I had a lot of pain in my left hip and down into my leg, and the fine folks at Laser Spine Institute really patched me up.  I walked out of the surgery building that same day, and had a solid 12 weeks of very mobile recovery.  So thankful for the relief of chronic pain.
  • I’ve taken less photos in the past eight months than what is normal for me, but what I’ve not taken in my personal time I’ve made up for on the professional side.  I took some fantastic head shots for people at work, and I’ve been slowly building a portfolio of stock images for our marketing materials and website.  The fact that I actually get to take the photos we will use as a company, and that I am in the position to decide how they are used (sales pieces, office art, and generally everything you want proprietary images for in the marketing world) is pretty rad.
  • I did, however, just get all my photos from the last year updated on Smugmug.  Check the link at the top to browse around.  More to come under Travel/Trips.
  • My little brother Colton is growing up.  He has been accepted to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, and I am so excited to have him nearby and out of the Higginsville/Warrensburg scene.  Both Brian and I are looking forward to having him close so we can spend more time together and experience a lot of the fun things St. Louis has to offer. And so he can do his laundry for free.
  • I mentioned a while back that my husband and I are going on an Ireland adventure, and we have only 2 days left before we depart with my in-laws.  Can’t. Wait.  We’re staying in some awesome places, and I will be trying to blog while on our trip.  I plan to take about 8,390 photos, so just get on board and enjoy the trip with me via Instagram.  Did I mention we’re staying at the Ambassador’s residence?  No big deal….just kidding, it’s a huge fucking deal.  Brian and I are so excited we can barely stand it, dahlings.  I’ll tell the story of why we get to do such a thing once we get there, so stay right there on the edge of your seats.
  • Kerri, my friend who’s a doctor from a few bullet points up, will be in Ireland with her entire family the same time we will!  A happy coincidence indeed, almost too good to be true.
  • July is basically the best month to be born.  Three nephews, my father-in-law, my grandmother-in-law, my own precious mother, and my sweet husband have all turned another year older.  I will turn the page on year 31 in a week. Seems like a good omen or something to start year 32 in such a beautiful place.
  • We sent our puppies away for two weeks to Higginsville on Wednesday, so they could get some exercise and stick together while we were overseas.  These nights without them have been hard, but probably harder on us than them.  They are running around lawless and jumping in ponds!  We’ll survive….I guess.

In all my time spent not blogging because I’m writing so much at work, I do read far more than I ever have on many different subjects.  I’ve been saving some links that made an impression on me.  Maybe you will too!

Writing is simply monotonous, repetitive work.

Dooce sums up the whole blogging thing in 2015 – It’s just not the same as it once was, and I know my hiatus had something to do with the overkill of social media and marketing tactics people are using today.  I’m directing the marketing for my company, but I am so over people trying to sell me things I don’t want.  This blog for me will continue to be a journal of my life, the fun things I do, and a place to comment on things that resonate with me.  So take that, sponsored content!

270 Reasons Women Choose Not to Have Children.  My reason #271 would be that I haven’t felt a strong feeling either way, and so I remain on the fence.

This one touches my heart a little.  Mainly because I know someone incarcerated at a prison similar to the one where Jeff Ross roasted the inmates.  I applaud his efforts, and I appreciate the glimpse into a comedian’s thoughts after this experience.

I’m stressed just reading this.  

Ryan Dunn…ain’t gone as long as he shines…I really liked this guy.

Nancy Sinatra throws a great party.

D.G. wins again.  Can’t wait for his August show in STL.

A Sunset Surprise

For two months I planned a surprise party for my red-bearded, glasses-wearing, golf-playing husband.  For two months, he was oblivious to my scheming, and it. was. awesome.  A few Saturdays ago, my sweet father-in-law helped me get the birthday boy to the party after they had played a round of golf — stopping by say hi to your wife sunning at the pool and instead finding your closest friends and family gathered to celebrate you really worked out pretty swell.  Some faves below, and the full gallery is HERE.


Editor’s Note:  If you were in the gallery in a swimsuit, as I was,  I hope you can appreciate me trying to share some positive body image vibes.  And big ups to my sister-in law Claire for rocking a swimsuit at nine months pregnant!  She crushed it and should get an award.  I’d like to mention all pics of me have been taken after a few sandwiches, at least six moscow mules and two beers.  I’ve looked better, like when I weighed 130 pounds, but lately I’m trying to be a little easier on myself when it comes to pool season.  So, enjoy what some real people look like at a pool party.  I know I had a blast.  Brian did too.


Truth Gun Tuesday – 15 July 2014

To follow up from last week’s TGT, I wanted to report with gladness that no bones in my foot are broken. It did turn some awesome colors though.

This week’s TGT is a little more pleasant and definitely more precious.  Last week, my sister-in-law gave birth to her third bouncing baby boy, Henry.  Holding this sweet babe tonight for quite some time made me shift a bit further towards the positive side of the “I-could-maybe-do-this-once-o-meter” for having a baby.  In several years.  I mean, just look at this precious boy:

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Heart.  Melted.  I also know they aren’t always this angelic, but goshdangit.  Look at those teensy toes.

Mari + Jon = 4ever

My youngest first cousin was married in Mexico this past June, and I was asked to photograph their hometown reception.  I was a little nervous, having never really shot an actual reception.  I charged my batteries and hoped for the best.  Turns out…I did pretty well and they thought I did too.  Beginners luck?  Maybe.

It was a pleasure to do this for my cousin Mari and her new husband Jon, and their sweet little girl Molli.  The full reception gallery is on my SmugMug site, but below are just a few of my favorites.  Happy wedding memories ahead!

IMG_1203 IMG_1283 IMG_1309 IMG_1349 IMG_1359 IMG_1399 IMG_1483 IMG_1500 IMG_1547 IMG_1578 IMG_1683 IMG_1687 IMG_1705 IMG_1771 IMG_1790 IMG_1808

To have or not to have. That is my perpetual question.

To The Women Who Choose Not To Have Kids.  Gosh, this ranks up there as one of the better articles I’ve read on the subject of not having children.  Still not sure, although today I’m about 72% sure that I don’t want kids.  But that’s just today.

I Don’t Want Children.  This one is also good.  I do get tired of that look and comment people make that combines “are you insane?” with “you’re just being dumb, children are priceless treasures”.

The 5 Best NEW Pieces Of Relationship Advice We’ve Heard.  While I’m at it, here’s this too.  I love a lot of these because they make common, practical sense.

free investment advice

Some days you get mail in your mailbox that totally renews your faith in, well, a lot of things for me.  Below is the thank you note we received on Friday from our niece Celia, thanking us for the birthday money we gave her.


It is very inspiring that an eight year old has the awareness to practice such wonderful money management philosophies (and gift acceptances) that I too, believe in:  saving a bit, indulging a bit, and doing your best to remain humble while doing so.  And because it’s just the cutest damn thing.  And I LOVE thank-you notes, in general.

(It should also be noted that Brian and I have been rather obsessed with personal finances lately, and it’s become one of those married people things that has to be talked about and dealt with because so much rides on being agreeable in the finance department.  Officially, I am proud to say that my husband and I are 90% on the same page with our investments, accounts, and money management.  One small step for marriage…)

We give each of our nieces and nephews $50 on their birthdays for their parents to deposit into savings (or wherever they feel appropriate).  Brian and I do this largely because we were party to a full Saturday helping some family clean, purge, donate/burn 20 years worth of “put that in the basement, we’ll go through it sometime” junk in storage.  Enough to fill a flatbed trailer of things to burn, because in the country, you just burn shit and that’s how it’s done, y’all.  Things like games with missing pieces, deflated basketballs, keepsakes that became less keepsake-worthy, clothes, documents, sporting goods, and things that could be flammable like bottle rockets, as an example.  Basically everything you couldn’t donate.  It was a. lot. of. shit.

After the hot and laughter-filled summer Saturday that was more enjoyable than I anticipated, I thought a lot about the gifts we give one another for birthdays, anniversaries, christenings, Christmas…the list goes on.  Frankly, I saw a lot of waste and a lot of unnecessary excess.  So I proposed the $50 birthday idea to Brian, and he agreed.  Badabing.  Our hope was for the parents of Peyton, Thad, Emma, Celia, Adele, Matthew, Peter, and Baby #3 to use the money we would give year after year to further their children’s educations, or savings accounts for their first car, to spend a few bucks on something nice for themselves if they want, what have you.

I think Brian and I are lucky to have had people in our lives who set up savings accounts and helped teach that managing money well was important.  Our parents had foresight to be financially savvy  in many ways – Brian’s family business and its succession planning,  and even as I showed pigs or won money for my 4-H projects, those small investment practices grew up with me.

I guess the long-winded point is that we do have a lot of kiddos that we want to dote on in real ways, even if they aren’t our own sons and daughters.  So, we give savings, and hopefully set a financial example that money management is cool.  And then, with notes like the one above, you get a little back yourself with the reminder that our eight year old niece is the coolest philanthropist I know…and humanity is not lost.  It was a lovely note.

Snow, snow, snoooowwwww.

It’s snowing here at Purposely Sidetracked.  I forget every year, and every year I gasp at the fun snow that falls while reading.  It’s one of the small things that make me love this blog, and writing in December.   I have lots of things to talk about and pictures to show off, so this snow is just the perfect incentive to GSD.

I feel a little more put together lately, but the anxiety monster is still lurking in the shadows.  This evening, for example, had me in a panic attack on the way home thinking about all the decorating I needed to do while my mom was coming over to help me.  It was likely left over from the stressful day I had helping some ungrateful colleagues out with a presentation.  Some “small edits” took up my entire day.

Having my mom there to bring me back down to Earth and help decorate for the season after a yucky day was easy, and enjoyable.  Together, we styled three mantles and lit the tree, leaving Brian and I to spend tomorrow going through our ornament boxes, making sappy comments about all the trips we’ve taken as we hang Christmas-themed memories/ornaments on the tree.

I should care to mention something special about my mom.  She “retired” last week, and I want to publicly acknowledge the hard work, determination, and sass she’s put into decades of work; not only as a full time farmer’s wife and mom to my sisters and I when we were young, but as a small business owner, employee, and patron, and also a retail customer service guru who was always thinking of others before herself.  My mom is the greatest, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have her retired and able to spend much more time with her family who loves her.  Tonight was just the start of that, fingers crossed.   So proud of you, Diane!

Anywho, aside from my house looking like a festive wonderland, there is a lot of change swirling around me right now.  I’m hoping for a change in jobs (officially) by the end of the year, a change in Brian’s role has been foundering for a while and we’re waiting for the next step on that, holiday shopping, birthdays, and parties also have our calendars filled until 2014 it seems.  Brian and I plan to change our status quo money budgeting in the new year, and that is making me a little anxious too, although I know it’s something we have to do as grown-ups who want expensive things…you have to plan for them!  Who knew?

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, more of people lately than things.  I will be doing some posting of those pics (some Canon, some iPhone) very soon.  But for now, I must hit the hay.  More tomorrow!