From Dated to Dynamite Dresser

Our second apartment on Tortola had this fabulous long dresser in the bedroom. It took up all of one wall, and I absolutely loved it! When we moved back home I knew I wanted a long dresser in our bedroom, so when I found a great deal on CraigsList, we bought it…. before we even decided that we were buying the house! Mom and Dad were kind enough to store it in their garage for a month or two. The dresser needed some loving though. It was one of those Broyhill French Provincial babies that it seemed like everyone had in the 80s or 90s. It looked a lot like this one, actually.

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So very quickly after moving in, I sat down in front of the TV surrounded by drawers and started painting.

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I had a bunch of gray paint samples from choosing the living and dining room colors, and a blue that was leftover from the TV stand.

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The main frame of the dresser got a coat of the living room gray color (the medium dark one) with the lighter gray for the accents and drawer faces, while the insides of the drawers would have the pop of blue. Then I spray painted all the original hardware black.

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My intention all along was to sand down the top and restain it a dark, dark brown or even black, but this was about the time I refinished the dining room table. By the time that project was done, the idea of pulling out the sander was downright repulsive! So, this is how the dresser stayed for almost a year!

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It wasn’t awful. It wasn’t really good though, either. You can see all the nicks and scratches in the original finish.

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Then finally, a few weeks ago, I decided to give gel stain a try. I’d seen a lot of people say they’d used it with great results, so I started reading some blog posts, and I was quite drawn to the idea of not having to strip the current finish! I spent a few minutes giving the top a light sanding. This was a really light sanding. It didn’t even take off any color – just the shiny finish.

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I wiped the dust off and used a disposable sponge brush to wipe the goopy stain on. As directed, I put it on thick! The big difference between traditional stain and gel stain is that the regular stuff is meant to penetrate the wood. You spread it onto the bare wood and the color sinks in, so it works well that it’s so runny. Conversely, gel stain is meant to sit on top of the piece, so it’s much, much thicker. That’s why it can even go on over paint!

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The first coat was pretty uneven, but I was okay with that. I wanted the end result to look like real stain. After a few minutes, I went back and wiped some of the excess stain off with a paper towel, which also helped with the wood grain look that I wanted. The bad news was I had to wait another 24 hours before I could put on the second coat! It went on just as easily though, with one adjustment. Rather than wiping the excess off with the paper towel (which had left scratchy looking streaks when looking from a certain angle) I used a soft rag.

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Since this isn’t a use-it-everyday-must-be-well-protected kind of piece, I just sealed it with some furniture wax. I think it turned out pretty well!

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Man, does that floor need to be cleaned though! Tony did that side of the room after bathroom construction was complete… apparently he wasn’t so diligent with moving the furniture and cleaning underneath! : )

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The sad news is, it doesn’t look like I’ll get to keep this beauty in our room. The false wall that will have to be built to house the pocket door that we’re going to put in (We don’t currently have a door to our bedroom!) will take up too much space. We shall see, I guess!

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Outdoor Armoire with Homemade Chalk Paint

Believe it or not, I actually finished a couple other projects over the summer in addition to the bathroom. I mostly worked on these while Tony was completing tiling, but then I got so busy with finish work, I didn’t have time to get them on the blog!

One of these projects was an outdoor storage piece. Like most everyone else, we have outdoor stuff that needs a home, like sports equipment, patio furniture cushions, and gardening tools, but until we can build a garage, we need a place to put these items… besides the shed, because the shed is scary. So, I started surfing CraigsList looking for an old armoire that could go on our back porch. I found several great looking pieces, but pounced on the one that was right here in Olathe. The girl emailed back and it turns out that we know her! Tony paints with her husband all summer, so even though they were out of town for the weekend, we were welcome to go over and take a look at the armoire. It was perfect (meaning, it was huge and super cheap). Talk about a win-win! It took 2 guys to bring it over to the house as it was so heavy! This is what it looked like after the boys unloaded it.

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The thing was fabulous dinged up from the two kiddos in the previous owners’ home, which was just right for me.

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I decided to try chalk paint on this baby. It seems like everybody’s doing it, and I should probably try it out. However, I’m far too cheap to spring for the real stuff! I mixed about a cup of baking soda into my banana yellow paint (the color in these pics is muted because they were taken under the back porch roof when it was bright outside, but the color in the last one is accurate) instead. It mixed in pretty well and didn’t leave big clumps, but it was quite chalky after it dried!

I didn’t want it to have real even coverage, so I just did two coats. Once those two coats were on, I started distressing it a bit with the electric sander.

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With chalk paint you’re supposed to sand the whole thing pretty well after the last coat so it’s nice and smooth, but I actually wanted to keep some of the texture. I knew I’d be applying a darker coat over the top, and I wanted some of the color to stick in those grooves. So I just gave a really good sanding to the edges, down to bare wood, and a really light sanding with a block sander to everything else. I applied a dark wood stain just to the bare wood with a cheap old paint brush.

For the rest of the piece, I found that the dark stain was too dark. It made the yellow look muddy, not the mustard color I was going for. So, I tried another new thing – glaze. Martha Stewart’s glaze was on sale at Home Depot, so I mixed a little of that with my favorite dark wood stain and painted it on with a disposable brush.

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I painted just a little stain on at a time, then rubbed it off with a paper towel, alternating a circular and back and forth motion. I didn’t want to to be consistent. Here you can see how it adjusted the color.

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Once the paint was dry I added some new knobs from Hobby Lobby to complete the makeover!

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The Reveal of The Best Bathroom Ever (About time, huh?)

It’s hard to even picture what our bathroom looked like before. And harder still, because I don’t think I ever took a before picture! It wasn’t a space that we really cared to remember. This is it now, though, in all its pretty, new glory!

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Let’s not forget the amount of work that went into this beauty over the last 10 months. Remember this photo during the destruction phase?

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Now the floor is level(ish) and there’s this awesome new tub as a focal point when you walk in.

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We wanted a new bathroom, and we wanted it to have some of the same old charm that is found throughout the rest of the house. So you can imagine how excited I was to find a corner tub (which I knew would fit the space so well) that had feet! We also splurged for that exterior mount tub and shower faucet. Tony is absolutely loving the rain-shower head!

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And we were able to get rid of all that original plumbing and replace it with new stuff.

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Eww!

The cornice piece above the tub was one thing Tony fought me on tooth and nail. He did not share my vision at all, but was kind enough to put it up anyway. I’m so glad he did! Even he admits, it just really pulls everything together.

IMG_1950.JPG The cornice also helps hide (a bit) the shower curtain rod. We couldn’t use a normal sized rod with such an unusually shaped tub, and ordering a custom one would have cost a fortune. So we used the same trick we did with our custom curtain rod in the living room – conduit! I stood on the galvanized piping while Tony bent it into shape. We were able to curve it all the way around too, since the tub has a curved edge that doesn’t meet the wall all the way. That way the clear curtain liner can better prevent leaks.

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The windows in this space did make design a bit challenging. We toyed with the idea of removing them, but not for long. I love all the natural light! And we did do a light-at-night test to make sure silhouettes couldn’t be seen through the curtains. Once I put a liner on each one, they passed! This little corner is the perfect spot for bubbles and bath salts. The tray rolls right over to the edge of the tub when it’s needed!

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We have no shortage of towel hooks. These are old doorknobs from the doors we used to build the front porch swing. The black glass one is in good shape, but I couldn’t get the rust off the oblong knobs, so I spray painted them.

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With such an open room, and no door between the bedroom and bathroom, privacy around the privy was very important! The idea of a separate toilet room made us both a bit claustrophobic though, so we ended up with just a partial enclosure.

IMG_1644.JPG The shutter door was a last-minute addition. It can be pulled out when more privacy is needed and pushed back in when not in use.

While sitting in the tub I can stare lovingly at our beautiful vanity. We found this baby downtown last winter at The Crossroads First Friday event. I’d seen an ad for a long white dresser on Craigslist, so we went down to check it out. The plan was to use the long dresser as a double sink vanity. I couldn’t take my eyes off this one though, and we decided we didn’t really need two sinks!

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I can’t take much credit for the vanity – the painted top and sides and the stained drawers were already done when we bought it. I just ordered the faucet and vessel sink, and Tony installed it all. We did have to seal the top though, which ended up being kind of an ordeal. I scoured the web for how other people were sealing their dresser-turned-vanities, but very few people had a painted top on their dresser, so they could use sealants that I couldn’t use. I asked at Home Depot and was given two different products, neither of which worked. Tony had a little leak when he was installing the sink and the water soaked right through the 5 coats of protective sealer I’d sprayed on. Ahh! Finally we decided to go with a pour on epoxy. Girls at Alpha Chi had used it in college to make study boards, but I’d witnessed what a mess it could make and how poorly it could come out, so I was terrified of messing it up! We took out the drawers and wrapped the dresser in painters tape and plastic, then poured the stuff on.

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Tony went over it with his heat gun, which did an amazing job of popping all the little bubbles.

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The end result is extremely shiny (which isn’t what I wanted originally) and completely water tight (which is what matters), and it looks fabulous!

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From our bed, we used to look at a little hallway and the door to a half bedroom. That “current master bath” is where the bathroom used to start.

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Now we can see the tile, the sink, and the baskets that we installed to fill the empty wall space!

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This project took forever, since it had to begin before the other bathrooms could be started, but couldn’t be finished until they were finished. It was so worth it though. We now have a space that matches the character of our home and better utilizes the space. And it was finished just in time for school to start! Yay! Tony celebrated with a cigar he’d brought back from Tortola a little over a year ago.

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I celebrated with a bubble bath!

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Lindy’s Oasis (AKA her new walk in closet!)

The first part of the bathroom project that was completed was my closet. Finally!! No more clothes rack in front of the window blocking the light. No more cringe of fear when I walked up the stairs that the rack had fallen over, despite the two 20 pound weights intended to keep it upright, and my clothes were all over the floor. (To be fair, that only happened twice, but still!) No more sheets of construction dust covering everything. I could finally wash every piece of clothing I owned, as it would all now have a clean place to live! Clearly, I was quite excited.

The carpet installation in my closet was the only part of this remodel project that we paid someone else to do, and boy was it worth it! The installers came about 6:45pm and were out of here by 7:15 with our $100. Money well spent! Tony and I had the baseboards installed that night, and I caulked, painted, and installed the closet system the next day!

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I did run into a little snag. Apparently the closet system we purchased was just a little too big for our space. Oops! The space to the left side of the shelving in the picture above was supposed to have a hanging rod too, but the rod was 3 inches too long! A trip to the hardware store, and a little help from Tony, fixed the problem though, and now I have a longer rod and a shelf!

IMG_1931.JPG By installing two wooden brackets, I was able to create a piece of “wall” next to the open closet doorway. That gave me something to attach the hanging rod to and had the added bonus of supporting a shelf. I used thick L-brackets to stabilize everthing, and made sure the screws were all supported with anchors.

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It’s a good thing I left the classroom this year! Look how great those baskets fit into that shelving unit!

On the other side of the room I planned to put an old desk as a dressing table. I found the desk months ago in a little antique mall down the street. It was just what I wanted: drawers on both sides for storing extra hair and cosmetic products, and a center drawer for makeup. It wasn’t until I got it home that I realized the color was actually a pale blue, not the gray it looked like in the store! I thought about leaving it but eventually decided to go ahead and change the color.

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Since the desk was just going in my closet, I wanted to go with a bold color. Home Depot and Lowes both had signs all over about purple being the color of the season, so that’s what I went with! The paint lady accidentally mixed the wrong color though, so she gave me that wrong color for free and mixed up the right one for me. Score! I decided to use them both.

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The hooks and mirror were both items we’d had for years in our townhouse, but didn’t have a place for here. A quick coat of spray paint changed the mirror from black to white. The shelf was scrap wood from the one over the hanging rack, with shelf brackets from Hobby Lobby. Everything was ready to go and ready for move in! I really did wash nearly every piece of clothing I own, then started hanging it all up!

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The hooks and shelf over the desk hold scarves and jewelry.

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Initially the wall where I put the desk was longer, but I knew I wanted a place to store those big plastic tubs that hold Christmas decorations and our costume box, etc. Since we don’t have a basement, those items are either stored in the attic (which has a very rickety ladder) or in a bedroom. So I had Dad and Tony wall that little corner in.

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I’ll install shelves in there so I can actually access those tubs when I need to, but most of the time they’ll be hidden away by that beautiful gray and white polka dot curtain!

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The sheer curtain on the full length window was lined with blackout liner, so it lets in just a bit of light while maintaining total privacy. This is certainly my little oasis!

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Now we’ll just have to see how long I can keep it clean!

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Tony the Tiler

While I was building my window table, Tony was tiling the floor in the master bath. You may remember what a great job he did on the walls!>

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Tiling is a tremendous amount of work, and Tony did the whole room over a three day weekend… All by himself! I swear, I did offer to help! Lucky for me, he didn’t take me up on the offer. Also lucky for us, Tony’s coworker let us borrow his tile saw. Thanks LeBar! Tony would lay a few tiles, then he’d go out back and cut a few, then he’d go back upstairs and lay those. And repeat all day for three days!

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When he finished, the tile looked fabulous! I was so impressed!

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I knew that once the floor was finished, the rest of the bathroom project would just fly – we could start installing fixtures and this thing would be usable. And believe me, I was ready for usable! So I let my little imagination run wild with how speedy we were going to be at completing this project… which didn’t quite happen. Our floor progress suffered several delays – some positive and some negative.

Our positive delay was a trip to Tony’s hometown of Winner for the Family Reunion/Memorial for Grandma/Paint Grandma’s Old House Weekend. We don’t make the eight hour drive very often, so we packed a lot into the three days we were there! When we drove into town Grandma’s house looked like this:

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This paint job was probably 10 years overdue! So the next few days we got up early, before the family reunion activities began, to scrape, prime, and paint. Then we’d join the fam, most of whom I’d never met before, for games and meals later in the day. Yay for Mafia!

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The weekend was a great success on all fronts, and Grandma’s house was much improved! Won’t it be cute with a big front porch? That project’s several years down the road though.

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After our hiatus from the bathroom, it was back to work! Tony did take me up on my offer to help grout. It’s too bad I forgot to take a picture of myself with those hot knee pads on! Grouting went great – use the float to squish sandy stuff into the cracks, then wipe it off. We were done in no time, or so we thought. Grouting always creates this gray haze on tile which has to be sponged off a few times. I think it took 5 or 6 wipes on the wall tile. After 5 or 6 swipes on the floor though, they didn’t look any different. My beautiful gray tiles, which Tony had painstakingly laid, were completely obscured by this foggy gray blah-ness no matter how hard we rubbed. We tried vinegar and water, a method oft-praised online. Nothing. We tried specially formulated haze remover, scrubbing it into the tile on our hands and knees with oversized toothbrushes. Still no improvement. Finally we went for straight cleaning vinegar and large scouring pads – victory! About three scrubbings with the vinegar lifted the haze so we could finally seal the floor and add the baseboards. This process set us back at least a week, mostly because our knees could only take so much time on the hard floor. Here’s the result though, with the baseboards installed, caulked, and a final painting complete.

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Here you can see our really tall baseboards. We have a chimney buried inside one of these walls, so we had to match the height of the existing trim that goes around the chimney. When you go to Home Depot looking for 7 inch baseboards they practically laugh at you, but as politely as possible. The solution was to choose two separate pieces of trim and layer them one on top of the other. I like it!

Once all that (tile, grout, and trim) was finally done, the rest of the bathroom did fly together. It’s almost ready to show you!

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Window Table

Remember when I etched that old window and hung it over the front porch swing?

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At the time I’d been planning to create a table to go in that area as well, and I finally got to it the week after we returned from our Europe trip. The process was a little more involved than I’d initially planned, but the result is beautiful and extremely sturdy!

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This is what I started with – my 2 for $10 window from the Gardner City Rummage Sale. (I did a little negotiating! : )

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The window’s casing (I think that’s what it’s called) was a little narrow, and I was afraid that drilling the holes for the legs would break the glass, so I built a very simple frame out of 2x2s.

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I wanted a bottom shelf as well, which I knew would increase the sturdiness of this table, but did lead to some design challenges. Lucky for me, Tony is great with those kinds of things. He gave me some ideas, but I made this whole table all by myself over the course of a few days! The bottom shelf was constructed from simple 1 by 4 boards from Home Depot. My initial plan was to use reclaimed pallet wood… but the time and effort required to break those pallets apart was preventing me from completing this project, and the new wood cost all of about $10. That’s money well spent in my eyes! So the base was super simple to do – just cut the boards to the same size, lay them all out next to oneanother, lay two cross pieces on the back side (I used left over 1x3s from the downstairs bathroom remodel) and screw them all together. I didn’t even have to pause my audio book while using the electric screwdriver! (That’s my phone in the glass. The hard surface amplifies the sound coming from the speaker on the bottom of the device so I can listen without needing a dock or earphones.)

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By now I had two main pieces – the upper shelf of the table made from the window and the lower wooden shelf. The paint actually went on the top shelf before I attached the frame, since there was a little overlap and it would be very difficult to get into some of those narrow spots later. My initial plan was to make this table yellow with a little blue peeking through the aged spots, which is why you don’t see everything painted, but it just didn’t look right. I was trying a new technique of distressing that uses vaseline – not impressed. So the table became blue instead with a little bit of yellow peeking through.

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Once the paint was dry I went over the whole thing with the electric sander which would give the stain a place to stick to. It’s just so darn easy to distress with stain, that I can’t really bring myself to experiment with wax yet. Once the sanding was done, both pieces were painted with a quick coat of dark walnut stain with a foam brush, and almost immediately the stain was rubbed off with paper towel.

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The table legs (8 in all – 4 short ones and 4 medium sized) had previously been stained and coated with polyacrylic, so all that was left was to start putting this thing together! The medium sized legs screwed right into the holes I drilled into the now-enlarged window frame.

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I also drilled holes into the bottom of those legs and inserted a 2 1/2 inch two way bolt. You can see them sticking up through the upside down shelf. The idea was that a larger hole would be drilled into the bottom shelf so that it would slide over the bolts and that shelf would be held in place by shorter legs. It sounds confusing, I know, but it worked perfectly.

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The short bottom legs already had two way bolts in them, so I removed those with a pliers, applied a little wood glue around the bolts already in place and twisted until my arms were sore and the legs were securely attached. The result was even better than I’d hoped!

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The little sign in there was picked up at the Junque Drawer Studio’s Independence Day Sale and says, ” If you think you’re too small to make a difference, then you’ve clearly never spent the night with a mosquito!”

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The rug was a freak steal from Target last month. I don’t know why it was marked down 60%, but I didn’t ask any questions. I just took my deal and got out of there! The chairs were both freebies – one was set out for the trash and the other came from Mom’s basement. Thanks Mom!!

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Eventually I’ll get around to painting Mom’s old chair black to match the junk picked one, but I’ve been focused on finishing the bathroom. More on that to come soon!! For now let’s take one more look at this great lemonade-sipping-reading-a-book-on-the-porch spot!

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Ireland

Top ‘o the morning to ya!

Ok, no one in Ireland really said that…maybe ever. I don’t know. But I also don’t know how to say hello in Irish, so I went with what I knew! As previously mentioned, Ireland was our final European destination, and it ranks right up there as a favorite too. This was the only place we went through a tour company for, but first we spent a night in Dublin.

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Dublin is a nice little town. There’s not a ton to see or do, but it’s got a nice vibe. The city is small and easy to get around (due to its size, not because the street organization makes any sense whatsoever), the food is fabulous, and the people are so darn nice! In fact, that was our first impression of Ireland before we even left the airport. I think the contrast was made even more dramatic having just left Rome where people are kind of pushy and seem annoyed that you’re invading their space. The lady at the Dublin Airport Information Desk was bend-over-backward helpful and polite, and she just seemed glad to share her country with us. Anyway, just after checking into our hotel for the night, we were off for the Jameson Whiskey tour.

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PS – I tried to get rid of Tony’s red eyes in this photo, but the all-black eyes that replaced them made him look really creepy.

On the tour they really emphasized the difference between Scottish whiskey (Scotch), American whiskey (Bourbon), and Jameson’s Irish whiskey. The process for whiskey making is the same, but the Scots use mostly malted barley, Bourbon uses mostly corn, and Jameson uses a little bit of both. Also, bourbon is typically distilled one time, while Jameson is triple distilled, which is supposed to make it smoother. As expected, the tour guide was telling us what makes Jameson superior to other types of whiskey. Tony found it particularly interesting though that Jameson is actually aged in old Bourbon barrels!

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The next day we met with our tour group at Paddy’s Palace (a hostel). I was a little nervous because I’d actually taken this tour in college and had such a great time that I wanted Tony to go too, but then I started worrying that the whole group would be young college kids. It turned out that we had a very eclectic and interesting group though. Phew! Anyway, we loaded onto our Paddywagon and were off to see Ireland.

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We stopped every couple hours, often in quaint little towns with a castle or something. This one is being converted into a hotel. How cool would it be to stay there?

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Sometimes we just stopped on the side of the road for a few minutes to look at the beautiful scenery.

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In between stops our tour guide shared stories about Irish history and folklore, jokes, and music. One of the most interesting stories was about the curse of the Kennedys. You see, the Kennedys were a well established family with a profitable farm in the south of Ireland. To celebrate their success and provide for their growing family, they decided to build a beautiful, and large, new home. The proposed location of their new home was a problem though, as they would be forced to demolish the fairy ring (home of little flying beasts who apparently have quite a temper!) on their property to build the house. The townspeople begged the Kennedys to choose a different location, but they refused, calling the townspeople silly and superstitious. They built their home and all seemed well. But then the patriarch of the family was visited by a fairy who scolded him for disturbing their sacred wooded circle and cursed the Kennedys and their next 5 generations. Not long after that the potato famine hit Ireland and the Kennedys lost everything. They decided to emigrate to The United States. Several family member died on the voyage, which started a long chain of both triumph and tragedy for the Kennedy family. Apparently, the current generation of Kennedys is the fifth one, so it will be interesting to watch them over the next 20 years. : )

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We spent that evening in Galway, a lovely town on the western coast of the country, and experienced our favorite meal at Pie Maker! All the food in Ireland was fabulously flavorful, from the lamb stew to the seafood chowder (It was cold, so those dishes felt just right!) to the sausages, but these little pot pies were phenomenal. I had the Chorizo Mozzerella Pesto with Sausage, but Tony’s was the real winner with the Chicken Curry. In fact, it has inspired us to try making Chicken Curry Pot Pie here at home, so if you have a great recipe, please let me know!

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The next day on our tour was the big day – The Cliffs of Moher. If you’ve seen The Princess Bride, then you know this place as “The Cliffs of Insanity.”

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If you look closely, you Harry Potter fans might find this site familiar, though certainly less shrouded in foggy foreboding in this view, as it was the site where Dumbledore and Harry went searching for the horcrux in the Halfblood Prince movie.

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The Cliffs are a part of Ireland’s National Park system, but before that they were just a place where farmers raised sheep for generations. Today there are still sheep grazing atop these breathtaking cliffs. We actually walked to the right from the park entrance, past the little barrier marking the official end of the park, and along this trail through someone’s field to take our photos.

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The view was stunning.

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We probably could have stayed and played all day!

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Our last day on the tour included a visit to Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone. Tony didn’t need to receive the “Gift of Eloquent Speech,” a polite way of saying “the ability to talk your way in or out of trouble,” (Some might say he already has it!; ) and the line was super long, so we explored the grounds instead.

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Tony investigated some caves underneath the castle.

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They have a Poison Garden around back with Harry Potter-esque plants, like mandrakes and nightshade, which I didn’t realize were real!

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We discovered a beautiful manor house, some waterfalls, and lots of evidence of witchcraft and sorcery, including a witch’s kitchen and a rock that looks like a witch! Supposedly, if you walk up those stairs backwards and blindfolded three times you’ll be granted good luck or something. We didn’t give it go. Maybe that’s why we had a hard time with our flights on the way home?!

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Despite missing out on the main attraction, we had a great time at Blarney Castle!

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That afternoon, though, it was back to Dublin. We had an early flight out of the country the next morning. Farewell Ireland, we will see you again someday!

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