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.


Sláinte Series: The Greenery

See what I did there for 4/20?  I’m so clever.  But really, let’s just legalize it.

I was 16 when I first traveled to Ireland.  That trip is deserving of an entirely separate post maybe later, but as a young lady, I remember desperately wanted to preserve my memories about the things I saw…how beautiful the landscape was, how green and vibrant the colors were. In July 2015, things were positively in technicolor.  It was exactly as I had left it, except better.

Sadly, the instant cameras I packed overseas in 2000 took pretty crappy pics.  The photographer probably wasn’t that great either at the time, and probably too busy flirting with boys and wearing the shit out of her Doc Martens with jeans that were too long.  I’m thankful my skill and equipment (and wardrobe) has improved since then.

Behold, some of the flora and landscapes, and a whole lot of greenery.  These images are were taken from coast to coast; at historic sites, our hotels, the Tralee golf club, and a ton of land once owned by the Guinness family in multiple locations.  Sláinte!

P.S.  I want hedges and mature gardens like this in my backyard, big time.  Someone tell me why I can’t have 8 foot tall boxwoods or a mossy rock retaining wall with 500 year old stones right this instant!?


Sláinte Series: The Falcons

There were a lot of things that made our Ireland journey unforgettable.  I’ll get to sharing many of them, but the first experience is one that will hardly be topped.  As we were researching things to do while at Ashford Castle, we casually looked at the activity section on their website.  The moment I saw it, it was a non-negotiable excursion.  Falconry.

I have this thing with birds.  I’m what you would call an amateur birder, someone who watches birds and in extreme cases, can identify them in the wild.  If you’ve ever seen the movie “A Good Year”, you understand what I’m talking about.  If not, go watch it!  It has Steve Martin in it!

I’m not so dedicated as to know their whistles and calls, but birding was something my grandfather and mother instilled in my young heart as far back as I can remember.  I have two birding books in my kitchen window for immediate identification.  For those really close to me, you know that I have a giant red-headed woodpecker tattoo on my right shoulder to commemorate the first birds I remember watching and identifying in the backyard of my grandparents’ home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then in my childhood home in Higginsville.  Most people find this hard to believe that I have a huge bird tattoo, but alas, it’s true.  And now the internet knows.

Back to the hawks and falcons.  Brian and I were totally pumped to have this hour-long experience on the grounds of Ashford Castle at the Ireland School of Falconry, on top of actually staying one night in the 5-star hotel that is Ashford (more on that later).  We booked our Hawk Walk with giddy anticipation and on the morning of July 26, the day after I turned 32, we set out during the one dismal morning of our trip to walk in the woods with our very own Harris Hawks at the Ireland School of Falconry.  (Please ignore the tent/raincoat I’m wearing in the pics below; flattering ponchos are hard to find.)

We turned over the cameras to Brian’s parents, met our guide, and then our hawks, a brother and sister duo named Joyce and Wilde.  We were told about their history and what to expect, as well as given instruction for releasing and flying our new friends.  Brian and I set off on our walk, stopping every so often to release the birds with a step and a thrust of our arms forward where they took off to the trees to hunt in pairs.  They returned to us with the bait of raw meat, and I kid you not — Wilde and I really bonded.  At least we looked each other in the eye more times I can count and our guide was convinced that he was quite comfortable with me.  I’d like to think we were soulmates.  Sorry Brian.

We traipsed around the woods for an hour or so, releasing and calling the birds back while watching them communicate in the trees, hunting for rodents and rabbits.  These small hawks can actually take down large jackrabbits with their claws by snapping the necks and spines of their prey.  They are weighed three times daily to determine proper flying weight and their diets are carefully monitored.  Our guide explained that these birds can be trained, but they are quite the opposite of dogs and horses who feel obligation to their owners.  Birds merely tolerate training and do certain things when they feel like it, or when their stomachs win the battle over their minds.  They also must trust their handlers immensely, and they are very keen to recognize moods, body language, and voices.  A prime example – one of the guides and and a falcon went for a routine, daily flight and the bird refused to come out of the tree for three days.  Their option was to wait until he was ready to return; no amount of coaxing was going to do the trick.  Understandably, training raptors like this is an exercise in patience and longevity.  Our guide had been working with Joyce and Wilde since they were four weeks old.  Fun fact:  Joyce and Wilde are from Colorado.

After what seemed like only minutes and not enough time at all, our group headed back to the School where we put Joyce and Wilde back into their multi-bird aviaries.  They were to sit for several hours digesting the food from our walk.  Wilde even drank his water in our presence, which leads me to further believe he should’ve come back to Missouri with me.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case and our excursion was over.  I sulked.

While I look a little angry in the photos, know that I am in deep concentration and admiration of the bird on my arm, while trying to not scare him with the crazy grin I wanted to have plastered on my face.  I loved every moment of our Hawk Walk, and am now a lifelong admirer of raptor birds and the complexity of their capabilities.  The photos below were taken by our parents who weren’t exactly comfortable with my camera but they capture the jest of how awesome the the experience really was.

Sláinte Series: The Floors

Taking pictures of your feet on a floor isn’t a novel idea but there were too many fabulous tiles, paths, and carpets in Ireland not to take dozens.  Behold; the flooring will amaze.  Or at least it amazed me at every turn.


Sláinte Series – The Doors of Ireland

The trip to Ireland this past July is too much to write about in its entirety – it would take me hours.  Therefore, I will be posting a series of photos from our 10 days there, many of which had a common theme.  A full library can be found HERE, complete with captions of where these pictures were taken and the subjects therein.  I can’t express just how unbelievably wonderful this trip was, so I count on the photos to do it for me.  So many times I was without words so I decided it best to let my lens do the talking.

The first series is of the many beautiful doors, from Waterford around the country and back to Dublin.


Oh, me.

Okay. Today, I did something that required a fair amount of courage. So much so, that I spent hours upon hours preparing. Upon hours. With multiple edits and saves.

I took a step out on the ledge, put myself out there, and sent out an unsolicited email to my friends and family with a link to my photography site. If you didn’t receive the email, you may be a total stranger. Or I didn’t have your email. It also has a link to this blog on there. Really trying to represent on social media in 2014, folks. Except on Facebook because I think it may be the devil.

The advertisement of my biggest hobby took a fair amount of courage. I think I’ve been spending these past few years in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, especially on this site, afraid I would offend someone or seem preachy. This is a continual internal argument, and after several months and a pretty quiet summer here at Purposely Sidetracked, I’ve decided to go a little easier on myself. About lots of things. And I’m going to stop teasing future posts that may never happen because I really just have to stop doing that. (Here are some pics from my birthday in July, as promised….

The first step was introducing people I love and respect to my photography, for reals, and then opening this blog up to a bigger audience which I assume will happen because people are curious by nature. I know I am. That said, I hope you like what you read. Know that most things on here are meant to be sarcastic, sort of funny in a self-depricating way, and I talk about the things I do because I hope that they resonate with others. If you think I’m being ridiculous, or sound pompous, you’re probably right.

#TruthGunTuesday – 9 September 2014

This week’s truth gun speaks to my vanity.  Something I’m feeling irrational about lately?  I feel a little sad, and a little loser-ish when my Instagram “likes” don’t go into the double digits.  Poor, vain me, I know.  But — help a girl out and like that shit.

#TruthGunTuesday – 29 July 2014

One of my favorite heirloom accessories?


My maternal grandfather’s leather tooled belt with matching gold deer buckle. Worn today belted over one of my favorite things I own, a Zara caftan, with brown leather caged heels. #tiredofboringworkclothes