A Spot of Fatigue

The other day, as we passed through the thin strip of privacy trees separating our house from the neighbor’s, one of my charges looked at me and asked, “Nanny, what’s the name of these woods?”

And I said, “Uh, I don’t think forests have names anymore after they become suburbs.”

And then I was sad.

It was one more drop in the bucket that made me realize, ultimately, that I can’t stay here on the east coast forever. For one thing, all my family is over on the west side of the country, and here it’s much more crowded and takes considerable effort to get out into any kind of nature.


But I found a Little Free Library today, which doesn’t happen nearly as frequently in rural areas.

Also, my job is starting to look like this:

Mrs. Parent: “The kids aren’t picking up anymore! They’re leaving toys everywhere! We need to get them to clean up after themselves, I can’t walk without tripping over toys. This house is always a mess.”

Me: Well maybe we should, I don’t know, give away a few hundred of their toys so that we bring their number down to a reasonable thousand or so, it might be easier to make this place look clean. “I’ll work on that.”

Not to mention, in my free time, I find myself leaving the house to wander aimlessly through parks and malls because it’s better than staying in the house, which is very loud. Some combination of three to six boys and two X-Tra Loud parents yelling constantly from 6:00 to 9:00 every day is keeping me from relaxing, no matter how much I try with my Celtic zen music and my mug warmer supplying me with perpetually warm tea.


Sometimes malls have things like puppies for adoption, though. So there’s that.

So I’ve decided now that in a year I’ll be moving away. I’m not sure where to yet, but it will be an adventure because I’m a well-off white twenty-something with an extensive support system and safety net.

Three years of full-time nanny for three to six boys will look fantastic on my nanny resume, because normal people can’t fathom having that many kids and usually look very alarmed when I mention it. If I wait it out, save up money, and leave somewhere in early 2019, things will go great.

Provided I can keep my mouth shut and sweat my way through another miserably humid east coast summer without driving my car off a bridge in search of cold relief.

One day at a time.


This mug warmer is truly a life saver, I should say. Everyone likely to make a cup of tea and then set it aside and completely forget about it should have one.

Snowy Puppies

I recently hauled myself out of bed during one of the dark, cold hours of the morning so that I could be stuffed into an airplane with 900 other passengers on Christmas Eve and shipped over the course of nine hours to Idaho, and the only reason I did this was to see my parent’s new puppy.


That’s him chewing a strand of carpet he pulled out all by himself.

Sure, I also saw my family and we did Christmas things, but the rest of the time I took the puppy- I called him Derpy in my head- out for walks through quiet, snowy solitude, something I have greatly missed.


Never in New Jersey can you look this far and see nobody. There’s a whole mountain behind that wall of mist.

The thing about living on the east coast, as I may have said before, is that it’s crowded. It takes some effort to find a place where you can’t hear traffic. There’s no readily available fields for me to bound over or mountains for me to climb. In fact, where I live is as flat as the no I give the kids when they ask to bring worms inside.

So it was great to have the ability to take a young dog and just walk.


He doesn’t need to be leashed, because he gets nervous if you’re not within easy nipping distance.


You can almost hear his little brain deciding there might be dogs in there.

Every day on the east coast I feel a little itchy and restless, like I’m some kind of mouse living in an owl society. There’s nowhere to run that wouldn’t take a day or move of driving. I’m not sure how everyone here is comfortable living so close to everyone else.



So when I have the opportunity to come back to Idaho, it’s exciting just to have all the wide open spaces again. Also a puppy.


Really, you ought to just go find yourself a puppy and a lot of countryside, I think. It does wonders for the soul.

Or, actually, you can stay in the city and I’ll live in the country and never see you, which is better.

The 2018 Reading Challenge

This really isn’t a book blog, because there are many book blogs out there run by people who a) are better writers than I am, and b) read more books in general. But I do like books, all kinds (except for you tragic grimdark novels, buzz off), and so I do like doing an occasional “52 Book Challenge.”

A 52 book challenge is an informal agreement to read 52 books in a year, or around one a week. Sometimes it’s a free-for-all, but my utter horror at making my own decisions prompts me to find guidelines for the challenge, such as this:


The above was the challenge I attempted to do with my sister and my good friend Wendy, several years ago. Spoiler, we failed, but we attempted. Attempting was done.

The last time I did this challenge, I discovered some interesting new books- like Abhorsen– and some frankly terrible books, like Frankenstein.

Don’t try to tell me Frankenstein is good. It’s a million pages of story so dry you could sand a bench with it.

The point being, the challenge coaxes you into broadening your horizon, which is why I’m going to try again for 2018, with the list provided here. Will I give up? Oh, most definitely, probably around book 15. But it’s nice to feel like you’re trying something.


Part of one of my bookshelves. Perhaps a fifth of these books are unread or only partially read because I collect books faster than I can motivate myself to go through them.

I encourage everyone to go out and try a challenge like this for a little while. Even if it’s twelve books a year. Or six. Or a half of a short story you’ve had on your shelf for the past eight years. Just give it a go.

Now I’ll reward myself by playing eight hours of Overwatch and thinking about what a bookworm I am.

Something Blue

About a month ago I decided to get a new car.

“New” here meaning “newer than my old car, but still not actually new”.

The reason for this was because my old car, dubbed La Petite Rouge because it was petite and rouge, started indicating that it needed a coolant change.

Well, in fact, it had needed one for many months, but I had ignored it, because I didn’t want to spend even more money on a little red bucket of compressed rust literally held together with duct tape.



So as much as I loved it, when I had finally scraped together enough money for a new car, I dumped the old one like a box of warning lights and uncomfortable seating.

I feel like my employers were grateful for its absence, because it really was the neighborhood eyesore. In a suburb where the smallest house is five bedrooms and only one pool, everyone gets uncomfortable when the help’s car is so prominently poor.

So with so very in-depth research consisting of Googling several times, I decided that my next car would be a Kia Optima. And I decided to get it from a rental car place.

Months ago, I watched an interview with actor Jack McBrayer on Conan, in which he explained that he got his car from Enterprise because they don’t haggle and he doesn’t like haggling.

I didn’t much like the idea of haggling either, and so I located a promising-looking car on the Hertz car sales website and scooted over to buy it, money in hand.


And it was beautiful.

A Kia Optima 2016, with features like a heater that works immediately, windows that reliably roll all the way down, and no flashing engine lights upon entry. And it was blue.

Despite Hertz’s assurances that the car was flawless, I took it to a mechanic anyway. The mechanic also proclaimed it to be flawless.

I bought it.


I dubbed it Yonder, as in “Into The Wild Blue-“, though it’s only a working title in case I come up with something better. And, when I had Yonder, it was time to say goodbye to La Petite Rouge.

I donated the old car to a charity, mostly out of the selfish reasoning that I didn’t want the hassle of trying to sell a dumpster on wheels. They came to pick it up late at night, and I watched my first ever car get towed away under the streetlights.


And while I was a little bit sad, it wasn’t enough to out-weigh the joyful knowledge that I probably won’t have to spend $300 on my new car every time I bring it in for an oil change.

Live-in nannying’s not a bad gig, all things considered.

The Ireland Trip: Kilkenny and Dublin

It’s high time for me to finish procrastinating on the Ireland posts so I can start procrastinating on regular posts instead, but that’s not the reason the Kilkenny and Dublin are lumped together here. It’s actually because I have only one good picture of Dublin, which I will get to in a bit.

So on our second to last full day in Ireland, we drove from Killarney to Kilkenny, which was nice but mostly forgettable. Driving across southern Ireland can be easily summed up by two things: Green fields, and traffic circles.


At one point we went through fifteen traffic circles in twenty miles. It’s not so great when you’re still not good at the low gears in a manual.

We arrived in Kilkenny around noon, and parked our stuff at the Kilkenny Hotel, which was big but quite nice.


The bigger hotels in Ireland can best be described as: Impersonal, but with a better breakfast service than you will ever find in the States.

And then we popped out to explore the city, which at first, I didn’t like. That’s because Kilkenny was the first city that didn’t seem to cater exclusively to tourists. There were chain stores, busy streets with traffic jams, fast food restaurants, and all the cool bits of history had been impatiently built around because Irish people don’t have time for 300 year old buildings when they’re everywhere and blocking good building sites.


This tower is inconvenient and blocking a perfectly good parking lot.

Wandering around, it was clear the place had charm, but more so the farther you went from the somewhat garish main street, which I didn’t think to take a picture of and which I now regret.


Entirely by wandering, James and I stumbled across St. Canice’s Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful but which we were too cheap to pay the fee to see the interior. The round tower was climbable, but also for a fee.

And we were still cheap.


The graveyard was free to explore, though. Most of the graves were worn down and unreadable, like the books I’ve had since childhood.

And then, running low on ideas and eating lunch in a restaurant that was only mildly charming, I started Googling things to see. We settled on the Medieval Mile Museum.

Going purely from my entirely fallible memory, the Medieval Mile Museum was a very new construct, built in the bones of an old church. The place had been stripped down and the inside was spacious and largely unrecognizable as a church, but it showcased the artifacts and tombs found in and around the place very nicely.

IMG_20170630_165642110An example of the way they displayed the old tombs. There were a few of them scattered throughout the museum, and covered in glass so you could stand on top of them if you wished.

On the tour we took, our guide told us that the bones of the main street of Kilkenny had been around since approximately the 12th century, meaning all the McDonald’s we walked past had been built into ancient city structures. The ‘Medieval Mile’ aspect encouraged you to walk from St. Canice’s to… I don’t remember, some other historical destination, but we had inadvertently wandered all over the thing already, so we didn’t do it again.


The museum had a nice view of the Kilkenny rooftops at the end of the tour.

The only thing we did go back and see was the Black Freren Gate, which we had missed. It’s the only part of the old Norman walls still standing.


And it’s just another part of everyday life in Kilkenny.

At this point we headed back to the hotel, stopping briefly at another massive church along the way. I don’t even remember the name of this one, but the priest had stopped by briefly for some priestly business and greeted us with a cheery hello. We pretended we were there for spiritual reasons rather than to take pictures, but I don’t think anyone was fooled.



And then we settled back into the hotel for the night. The next morning we were set to drive from Kilkenny to Dublin early so we could take in a portion of the city before our flight the day after.

We had a wonderful full Irish breakfast with more of their curiously fat bacon, loaded up our trunks and packed it all out to the car. As we popped the trunk, I noted that someone had smashed a bottle on the ground nearby, the blue-green shards lying between our car and the next.

And then James went to get in the driver’s seat, and it turned out the glass was from our window instead. Someone had broken the window and stolen the only thing of “value” from our rental car, the GPS.


This was a terrible situation, you see, because it meant we would have to be adults. Adults who did things like called the car rental company and brought in the police and alerted the hotel. That’s what adults do. And at 21, I’m most certainly an adult, and my parents were in a different country, so I couldn’t call them for help.

So we notified the hotel, who were shocked because they had never had such a thing happen before, and the head of security was more of an adult than us and called the Gardaí while I reported it to the rental company.

The Gardaí came to take the report. Despite being Irish, it was like something out of a British comedy. There were two of them, a genial joke-a-minute older fellow and a younger no-nonsense woman. While she wrote up the report, the cheerful fellow noted that we couldn’t be Trump supporters because, you see, we knew how to drive a stick shift.

(The Irish people were not happy with Trump during the week we were there, because he had said something vaguely sexist to an Irish reporter a few days prior. It was all over the Irish news. I remember watching it and thinking ‘That’s all?’ which is a terrible thing to think.)

He also noted that the GPS was a ‘Never Lost’ GPS. “Well,” he said, with several elbow nudges, “It’s lost now, eh?” And then he turned to the lady Garda to repeat the joke. She made me sign some papers.

The hotel took over then, and had a housekeeper meticulously clean off the glass from the inside while they gave us complimentary hot drinks. They were very nice and very apologetic.

Kilkenny didn’t have a branch of our rental company, so we were fortunate it didn’t rain- much- when we finally got on our way and drove our windowless car for two hours to Dublin. We were about three hours behind schedule and the Dublin branch of the car company was closed by the time we arrived, so we cleaned it of all valuables and threw it into a parking garage overnight, where mercifully it came out all right, presumably because the resident criminals could already crawl inside to see what was in there.

Meanwhile, we discovered that Dublin reminded us an awful lot of Philadelphia.


Except for the classic river shot.

It was very crowded, and we saw more diversity there than in the entire rest of the week combined. We had a few hours to kill before we had a reservation for an evening event at Dublin’s “oldest pub,” so we just wandered.

Right into the middle of a massive pro-life rally and the counter pro-choice protestors.

We went into a Supermac’s to hide for a while. Supermac’s is an Irish fast food place. We had done a great job of eating at small local joints all week, so we decided to try the fast food in Ireland. Supermac’s, it turns out, is remarkably like McDonald’s, just less salty.

I added salt to my food. I’m an American.

I didn’t take many pictures at all, which I regret, but we were exhausted and if we stopped to take a picture of something we were bowled over by aggressive pedestrians, rather like residents of New York City.

We headed then to “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at The Brazen Head, which I would have taken pictures of were it not so crowded. It was Saturday night, and the pub was packed with bodies, lots of whom were already drunk. From what I could barely see, it was an agreeable place.

We were ushered to the quieter upstairs, where four large tables had been squeezed into a medium room. About half the people seated were Irish, mostly from places besides Dublin, and the rest were tourists from America, Germany, New Zealand. Our story-teller, Ollie, was captivating. He might have been a fairy, there’s really no knowing. He told us stories all throughout dinner, and then brought out a guitar and urged us to sing some traditional folk songs with him.

At the end of the night, an Irish lady who had been at our table pulled us aside. “My husband and I were curious,” she said, “what brings two young folks like yourself to a traditional Irish storytelling?”

I babbled for a bit about loving the culture and the music and the mythology, and she seemed bemused, but offered, “You were quite good earlier. You knew all the songs!”

I’ll be riding on that compliment for the rest of my life.


The next day, we packed up early so we could turn the car in and deal with the consequences. The consequences, it turned out, were to the tune of 300. If I ever go to Ireland again, I’m buying insurance for the rental car.

Then, tired and fatter, we returned home. There was a disappointing lack of stone fences everywhere, but at least everything wasn’t so claustrophobic.

The Ireland Trip: Killarney

Our second city in the week was Killarney, and, being a professional Ireland traveler with four whole Irish cities under my belt, I can honestly say that Killarney is probably the best of the lot.

Mind you, to get there we had to drive an additional few hours from the Cliffs of Moher, and it was a great hardship because we had to keep passing beautiful ruins and be reminded that we didn’t have anything of the sort in America.






In the space of two hours, you’d see upwards of five stone ruins, and that’s just if you kept to the “main” roads without ever following the tempting motorway exit signs that promised an abundance of castles.

Killarney won me over immediately because the hotel had an electric kettle for tea, something which the Galway hotel did not have. As it turns out, the Galway hotel was a bit of an anomaly, because all the rest of the hotels had one as well.


With little cookies and everything. As it should be.

James and I were walking around the town as late as eight or nine at night, and marveling about it. We really didn’t imagine that Ireland would be that much farther north than where we had come from, but it didn’t begin to get dark until around ten and started to get light again around four.

This would have been unbearable for me if it had ever been sunny. Fortunately, the clouds hid me in darkness.

When we were wondering towards the hotel for the night, we noticed that there was a massive church spire of some kind rising over the back of it. It was very eye-catching, because there really isn’t much in Ireland that’s tall in any sense of the word.

So, without any phone usage, we just went looking for the structure.


The back streets of Killarney were cute. And this is about 9:30 at night.

The spire, we discovered, belonged to St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was probably my favorite cathedral in Ireland simply because of the spontaneous late-night adventure we went on to find it, chasing the sight of the steeple over the rooftops.


In fact, the spire was too tall for my phone too capture without cutting out some part of it, be it length or width-wise. Beautiful thing, though.

It was too late to go in, but the gates were all open so we circled the thing anyway, because if Ireland really wanted to keep nosy Americans out they’d lock up better.

Killarney was also the first place I tried black pudding, something I’d never wanted to do because, frankly, it sounded gross.

It was gross, but that’s because it tasted like meatloaf, and I hate meatloaf. Yes, even your mom’s meatloaf. All meatloaf, stop asking.


James loved the “full Irish breakfast” option, because it was consistently the most artery-clogging dish to be found.

Killarney had an adorable and very touristy main street from which James and I purchased a great deal of Bailey’s ice cream, which is possibly the highlight of my ice cream experience in life thus far.

But the greatest part of Killarney, according to me, Killarney expert, is the Killarney National Park. At least, I think that’s it’s name.

From the hotel, we could walk around two miles to get to Ross Castle, through beautiful fields and the first real amount of trees I had seen in one place. And there were mountains in the background! Mountains, Gandalf!


Sure, you had to frequently move off the road to make way for one of the horse and buggy tours, but that was nicely reminiscent of Lancaster PA. 

On the way to Ross Castle, for no reason that I can think, I started laying a penny out on the forest path every fifteen feet or so, creating a neat little trail of shining copper. Then I moved to nickles, then dimes, then a solitary quarter. I don’t know why, I think I was bored. Regardless, I know I would have been thrilled to find a trail of Euro coins in the woods in America.

Ross Castle, meanwhile, met my low castle standards.


There’s really no telling what it used to look like, because the tour we took of it covered the fact that until recently no one cared what happened to a castle that their family happened to own, and they tore bits down or put new bits up, but the restoration they had done to it in recent years was very good. I couldn’t tell where the old parts stopped and the new parts began.


Along with the tour, you were allowed to climb over almost every inch of the place. No guards or cameras or even ropes to keep us off parts, on the assumption that we’d be respectful and think carefully about our actions.



No pictures were allowed on the tour, which was very informative and surprisingly fun. Our tour guide was very excited that I had a question about the place- namely, which part of the roof had been torn off to avoid paying taxes on the place.

It was the top part.

People will do anything to avoid paying taxes.

I don’t think he ever got many questions on his tours, he seemed notably more energetic after that.

Nice fellow.


I took a quick picture out of the top window of the castle anyway, for rebellion’s sake.

When we walked back to the hotel, all the coins I had put down were gone.

The next part of our Killarney experience was going to see the Torc Waterfall. We piled into the tiny car and made our way through tiny streets and down tiny winding roads through the very large forest, following our unreliable GPS for Torc Waterfall. At one point, we came across a fork in the road, where the GPS told us to go to the left and all the official signs told us to go right, so we went right and discovered that the parking space for the waterfall was filled to the brim with tour buses.

So, turning around, we went back down the other fork. We drove, and drove, and drove. It was very narrow, and there was nowhere to park along the way and no signs, so when we began to approach the point on the GPS we parked the car on the first tiny flat space we found alongside the road and walked from there.


This was the first place we’d been that was really devoid of people.

It was a bit of a walk, but fortunately, we had brought our newly-acquired Irish whistles with us, to the despair of the local wildlife.

But we passed the point on the GPS with no sign of the waterfall, and at this point we had climbed quite high, so we figured we must be above it. We kept walking for a bit, but the road went on through the trees, so instead we decided to climb down through the woods, something many enterprising people had already done, judging by the widened deer trails.

So, as many stupid young people do before they are lost forever and eaten by wildlife enraged by the sound of poorly played Irish whistles, we decided to cut down through the woods to the other road, and walk to the waterfall through there.


Actually, it was quite nice.

About halfway through we realized it would be Hellish to climb back up, but we figured there was no use in stopping just then, so we kept going. And, miraculously, we came right out into the full parking lot- now obviously mostly empty- and the official path straight to the waterfall.


6/10 as far as waterfalls go, 8/10 because it’s in Ireland.

We were hanging about near the waterfall, dreading the steep hike back up through the woods, when we realized the paved path from the parking lot to the waterfall didn’t end there- concrete steps on the hillside disappeared up into the forest. Figuring we could follow it as far as possible, we started to climb.

We climbed for a long time, and started to veer very off course, which made us nervous. At last, though, the path reached flat ground, and split off in different directions. We took the one that brought us in the general direction of the road with our car.

It deposited us into a parking lot above the waterfall.

The place where we had given up and crashed through the forest instead was hardly two hundred yards down the road, around a bend.


Ireland looks a lot like the Pacific North-West sometimes. Okay, only in Killarney.

To celebrate our stupidity, we went to “Ireland’s only Lord of the Rings themed pub” for dinner.


The fake grass really makes it.

We had read a poor Google review about the place before going, claiming that it was only “vaguely” Lord of the Rings themed, and barely had anything to do with the series at all, but as James later remarked, it turns out they were just mad that the place didn’t directly transport them to Middle-Earth. In reality, it was about as LOTR-themed as a place could get while still being a regular pub.


It was very green, though, and hard to photograph. If you squint, you can see the Elvish inscription on the ceiling.

We spent our last night in Killarney drinking “Hobbit Juice” and “Frodo’s Lager.” John tried a shot called a “Nazgul,” which was appropriately menacing. The live music started around 9:00, and when it was all said and done we walked back to the hotel when it was still light out.

Too much daylight around there, if you ask me.

The Ireland Trip: The Cliffs of Moher

After Galway we drove around Galway Bay in the general direction of the Cliffs of Moher. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what we drove through. I know we hit at least three counties that day- Galway, Clare, and Kerry- but beyond that I can’t honestly say which towns we drove through, or where “The Burren” begins and ends.


All I know is that most towns had something three times as old as America in it, like this random castle we drove by.

Nearly every town we passed was beautiful and picturesque beyond belief. It got to the point where I started to resent American towns. “Why can’t we have cute little hedge rows and stone fences everywhere?” I complained to John, multiple times an hour. “Why can’t we at least make an effort to build our McDonald’s in an old world style?”


Well now I just don’t want to worship in my ’70s Lutheran church with the weird windows and the shag carpeting.

As we circled the bay we started to approach the hilly area we had seen from the other side. After a whole three minutes of Googling, I’m still not quite sure what they’re called. All I can tell is that they’re probably part of “The Burren,” though I’m not even sure Irish people know where the Burren begins and ends. It’s just an area full of rocky cliffs, rocky hills, and rocky farmhouses.


Beautiful though.

I’m not sure whether what we had to climb over to get to the Cliffs of Moher is defined as a “mountain.” Briefly looking up “Irish mountains” on Google Maps shows no mountains in that area. I suppose they’re just very large, rocky hills.


They weren’t very big, but after a few days in Ireland, you start to get used to everything being flat.

The road up was steep, winding, narrow, and naturally filled to the brim with large, bulky tour buses. At one point, when swerving outrageously up the hills with a tour bus on our tail, the car stalled and started to roll backwards for one terrifying moment. Once again, the Irish people and tourists were remarkably understanding and no one honked at us.

Then we got to the top, got stuck behind a slow-moving, frequently-stalling tourist in another rental car, and complained about him for half an hour like the true Americans we are.


You can tell where all the stone for the walls comes from.

And then we got to the Cliffs of Moher. I booked entry tickets in advance, which was a good thing because the park fills up rapidly in the summer when it’s not raining, even in the early morning on a weekday.

In order to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape, the park had hidden their bathrooms, gift shops, and food courts underground, built into the side of the hill like a commercialized Hobbiton. I stopped briefly into the gift shop to see what kind of Authentic Irish goods I could find, but after seeing the same gifts I saw in eight separate shops in Galway, I began to suspect that there was only one producer of Authentic Irish goods in Ireland.

And then we climbed the hill to the Cliffs, and despite the eight hundred other tourists we had to fight through, it was worth it. Easy to see why there were eight hundred other tourists in the first place.





The little tower on the mildly less picturesque side of the Cliffs was a modern creation, though clearly meant to blend in. For a few Euro you could climb to the top, in order to better see over the heads of the tourists.

IMG_20170628_121558673_HDRI just brought a 6’2″ guy with me. Easier than paying 2.


This was the view with your back to the Cliffs. Still beautiful. I bet the cows were happy.

And then, as the midday tourist vans started to roll in, we hopped back into our car and drove towards Killarney.

Along the way, we passed through a hideous little town, reminiscent of those upper-middle-class suburbs that spring up in newly rich communities in America. All the houses were modern and had made very little effort to match the landscape, and there was a massive golf course as though Ireland itself weren’t already, essentially, one very large golf course.

I really can’t complain, since the town has nothing to do with me, but it was awful and ugly and reminded me too much of America, which is typically awful and ugly. I would bet a small amount of real money that it was mostly filled with vacation homes for American people.

Why can’t Ireland cater to my every whim and standard, that’s what I want to know.