Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

The eclipse glasses I got: the ones on the left for my husband and the ones on the right for me.

It's no mystery that I love astronomy. Not the physics/mathematical discipline mind you, but rather the looking-up-at-the-stars kind. I've made posts here and there about upcoming celestial events, and I even posted awhile back about the upcoming solar eclipse. It should be no surprise then that I recently viewed the great Solar Eclipse that took place on Monday, August 21, 2017.


I live in Nebraska, so we were already in the path of totality. It was predicted that we would get about 98% totality where we were right around 1:02 p.m., which was good enough for me. I went out to lunch during my lunch break with my husband, and arrived back at my job at about 12:25. I put on my eclipse glasses (see first photo) and could see the Moon about 1/3 of the way across the Sun. I took this picture, at that time, with my phone through the eclipse glasses.



A couple of shots of all the people who congregated on campus, where I work, for the eclipse.


I work at the University, and as most offices closed up for a few minutes to see totality, my boss was kind enough to do the same with ours. Originally, we had planned to just take turns going outside to see it, but some of us would have missed totality, so I thought it was really nice of her to do that.


Someone had suggested that you could turn your back to the Sun and take a selfie of it. I tried that, and while the picture looks kinda cool, it doesn't really show the eclipse. I learned later that you can see it's reflection off to the side, but that wasn't the case here. 





Luckily, I had the glasses so I went back to looking directly at it through my protective filters. The eclipse was mostly done (or at totality) at this point, with just a sliver of a crescent on the left-hand side of the Sun. I took several pictures, this being one of them.





The Moon then started to move and the crescent portion of the Sun that was visible shifted to the top. At this point, I increased the magnification on my cell phone and took this photo through my glasses.





I added this photo, not because it's much different than the last one, but it is slightly clearer.





When I was about done with this post, I went back and looked at the selfie-method pics I took (there were two), and I can see a bit of the eclipse reflection. See it there in the bottom center? I think if I would have known, at the time, that you would see the eclipse that way, that I would have aimed it at something darker for the eclipse shadow to show up on.

I've seen some really cool solar eclipse photos since that day, and while mine aren't as cool as some, I'm still pretty proud of them. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment and my little pictures are neat reminders of that moment.


Did you get to see the eclipse? Tell me about it in the comments.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

I Live in a Beautiful Place

A View of the Loess Hills from Fox Ridge Run at Hitchcock N.C.
If someone would have told me fifteen years ago that Nebraska was a beautiful place, I probably would have scoffed. Not outwardly mind you, as I was a bit more reserved back then, but inwardly for sure. The fact of the matter is, is that I just never paid any attention to the landscape.

I grew up in Northwest Iowa, not far from Nebraska, but I didn't have a great experience growing up. I hated my life there and wanted nothing more than to run as far away as I could, away from my problems and awkward years. I never saw any beauty there.

I only made it 25 miles away - where I remained for the next five years - but I kept moving and eventually, after a couple of more states, landed in Nebraska. When I arrived I was tired, weary, and generally not in a good place. I was a young, poor, single mom of a three year old son in the midst of an ugly custody battle. My relationship with my Dad was strained, and I felt lost and very alone.

I came to Nebraska because my best friend in the whole world was living in the Omaha metro area. She knew how life was going for me and she offered a refuge and a fresh start by saying, "Come to Omaha. You can live with me and I can watch your son while you go to work." She was running a daycare out of her home at the time, so watching my son wasn't an unusual offer. I took her up on that offer, and I've been here ever since.

Since moving here I've created a life for myself, marrying my husband and having another child (Nature Girl, or NG!). When NG was a toddler I started thinking about the good times I had hiking with my Dad when I was young. It started a regular habit that our little family continues to this day, something that is very evident by reading this blog.

It was rediscovering my love of hiking and nature that led me to the rolling hills, sweeping plains, lush grasslands, and wildflower-filled prairies of my adopted home. Between these and the Loess Hills - or as I like to call them: the Iowa Mountains - next door, I have a plethora of places to immerse myself in nature. I've even realized, over a handful of trips back "home", that the place I grew up is incredibly beautiful as well. It's also covered in hills, and on a clear, summer day you can view cottony clouds hanging in the crisp, blue sky as they keep a watchful eye over the green fields.

I recently took the above picture from the top of my beloved Iowa Mountains, on a typical light hike at Hitchcock Nature Center. As NG and I walked, I stopped at that spot to admire the view. And what a view it was. I stood there for a few minutes and gazed out across a sea of green that stretches for miles, while the sun shone down warmly on my face.

I live, without a doubt, in a beautiful place.



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Recipe of the Week: Blueberry-Bran Muffins


It's been a pretty good week here in the Midwest. I got to see the Eclipse (more on that soon), I finished my first chapter of my next book, I've been more mindful, and I've made it two weeks now on my jump back up on the wagon of health. I mentioned, a few weeks ago, about how I had backslided and was going to start counting my calories and getting regular exercise. Well, I have and when I stepped on the scale this morning, I've lost a total of seven pounds!

In my conscious effort to get healthier, I've been making sure to buy more fruits (along with the plethora of veg I always buy) and blueberries are one of them. I had this lovely container of blueberries and, since I'm not a huge fan of plain blueberries, I had a hankering to make some blueberry muffins. I also had two overly-ripe bananas perfect for baking, so I thought of a way to merge the two. 

One staple in my house is wheat bran. Yes, wheat bran. It's very cheap -- I can usually buy a large bag for under a dollar -- and I use it to make vegan sausage. It's also great for adding into any kind of baking, so I started thinking about incorporating that as well. Ultimately, I decided on a Classic Bran Muffin recipe with a few substitutions, including banana for egg as I'm a vegan and had two overly-ripe bananas. The result? A perfectly delicious, high-fiber, not-too-sweet muffin, perfect for a weekend morning with a cup of coffee.


 Blueberry-Bran Muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. wheat bran
1 T. ground flax
1 c. vegan buttermilk*
2 overly-ripe bananas
1/3 c. refined coconut oil
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/8 c. turbinado sugar
1 t. molasses**
1 t. vanilla
1 t. lemon extract or lemon juice
1 c. white, whole-wheat flour***
1 t. baking soda
3 t. baking powder
1 t. each ginger and cinnamon****
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. each allspice and coriander
1 c. blueberries
turbinado sugar for sprinkling



 Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tins. Need enough to make 12.
2. Mix the vegan buttermilk and wheat bran together, set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the oil, bananas, sugars, vanilla, and lemon extract on medium speed until well-incorporated.
4. Add the buttermilk-wheat bran mixture and beat again until mixed well.
5. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Add to the wet ingredients, mixing with a mixing spoon just until mixed.
6. Fold in the blueberries.
7. Fill greased muffin tins to the top rims, like the picture above.
8. Put the muffin tins on the center rack in the preheated oven, and bake for 35 minutes.
9. Let cool for ten minutes, then turn out upside down so the bottoms cool. Arrange on a plate and serve with coffee, or your drink of choice.



Notes:

*Vegan buttermilk is easily made by mixing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per one cup of vegan milk (I prefer unsweetened/unflavored almond milk) and letting sit for 10 minutes.
**Optional
***Any flour would work here, just be mindful of the density of the flour you're working with. I avoid regular white flour because it's devoid of any nutrients really.
****I used ground ginger, but I always keep ginger root in my freezer. Ginger root would be a wonderful sub for the ground.

As a side note, the muffins really rose up over the top giving many of them weird "muffin tops". If you want your muffins to look more aesthetically pleasing, fill the muffin tins about 1/2 full and use more muffin tins. I suspect you could make 3-5 more muffins.

I have to say that I absolutely love, love, love these muffins. The teen devoured three and came back for more. These are the perfect, lazy weekend morning breakfast to have with your cup of coffee. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Investigation of Elk City Cemetery

Elk City Cemetery Gate.

I was looking for a good place, not too far away, to do a paranormal investigation. During my quest, I found an article in the local newspaper that was a few years old and, while the article didn't mention any places that I hadn't already heard of before, the hundreds of comments on the article did. One of the commenters mentioned Elk City Cemetery and a quick search on a map showed that it was in the furthest northwest corner of Omaha. With it being so close, and recommended, I thought we'd give it a shot.


Elk City is an unincorporated town that has little left in the way of buildings. There's still the bar (which we could hear patrons of from down the road), and a service station (according to an article I read, as we didn't actually see it). It has an old abandoned school that was creepy and that we stopped to snap some photos of but didn't stay it because it was marked "No Trespassing." Just a 1/4 mile from the cemetery is an area where a church and town hall still seem to be in use and are maintained. (Read more on that at the end.)


Typically when I investigate cemeteries (and I've investigated a few), I go fairly early after dark. You never know when the local sheriff's deputy might swing by and shoo you out, or nosy neighbors/caretakers might hassle you. Going early, then, is a good way for me to see if the place is active enough to warrant a real, late-night, investigation. We got there around 9:30 p.m. and only stayed about thirty minutes, but the evidence I got is enough to convince me that this place needs a more thorough, 2 a.m. investigation.

The equipment we used for this hunt were a thermal thermometer, an EVP recorder, my Nikon camera, and my husband's android smartphone (for video and additional EVP). My husband had the thermometer, and at one point he noticed a six degree temperature difference within a four-foot area. That's pretty significant.


I took a good number of photographs, and with the exception of dust orbs and insects, I didn't see anything in the photographs of note. This seems to be pretty common in my own investigations as getting photographic evidence is difficult. 

Where I do seem to have success in gathering evidence is in the area of EVPs. Now, I've only gotten EVP evidence at Edinburgh Manor (you can read the detailed post about my investigation there by following this link), and nowhere else...before now. 



What really stands out about Elk City, then, is the EVP evidence. We got a handful of EVPs, most of which were clear, but one has proven much more difficult in deciphering. 

In the first EVP, we were talking about a tombstone that had the date of 1930 on it, and after '1930' was mentioned for the second time, a voice whispered, "Yeessss." 

Listen for yourself, right after the 6 second mark

Elk City EVP 1


During the last minute (literally, the last minute) of our investigation, we got a handful of EVP. At the 15 second mark you can hear "Yes, read it;" at the 23 second mark you can hear, "Daddy;" and at the 26 second mark there are two indistinguishable words that I have yet to make out. You can listen to that one here:

Elk City EVP 2


I believe there might be one, maybe two, other EVP right at the end, during the last few seconds, but I will not bet money on it. Incidentally, I had problems with the EVP recorder throughout the investigation as it kept skipping frequently, especially between questions. I've never had this problem before, so I recorded EVP outside the next day at home as a control, and it didn't happen that time. I would conclude, then, that it has something to do with the paranormal activity inside the cemetery. We will definitely being going back with my other ghost-hunting buddies, Betty & Jayne, for a full-length investigation.


Not far from the cemetery is a fenced-off area that has an old (but remodeled) church. I would say that it's still in use, but there's not much information online, at least none that I could find, beyond that it's called the Elk City Chapel.

Next to the chapel is Elk City Hall. It also looks like it's been updated and is in use. On the property as well are a flagpole between the two, and an old Union Pacific Railroad car that sits behind and to the right of the City Hall. We didn't do any investigations here, we just stopped to check it out as the area was between the cemetery and the main road.



Right before we turned off the main road - and onto the gravel road that went by the Chapel & City Hall - to get to the cemetery, we saw an old building on the left. When we concluded our investigation, we stopped along the road to check it out, and it appears to be an old, abandoned school. We couldn't get into the driveway because it was blocked with a "No Trespassing" sign, but I have a feeling that this would be a great place to do an investigation...if only we could get inside.  

In conclusion, I believe the Elk City Cemetery to be haunted. For this reason, we're planning on launching a full-scale investigation in October, so make sure to check for updates here. You can also subscribe to my email newsletter (up in the top right corner) to stay in the loop.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Time for Introspection

"You create your own universe as you go along." -Winston Churchill


I've waxed poetic fairly often lately about my wanderlust and my future dreams. It's even fair to say that I've had my head in the clouds more times than I care to admit. The reasons for my frequent daydreams aren't all that complicated, and most people could easily understand where they come from and why I have them. In other words, I don't think you or anyone else would fault me for it.

Having said that, I've begun to realize just how much of a toll wishes and dreams can have on one's psyche. Instead of being satisfied with my current life, I've created a world where I live in a future that only I can see and one that I readily admit may or may not be what I'm hoping it will be.

I've talked before about the Five Year Shift, an internal change that happens to people every five years of their lives...especially around the 0 and 5 birthdays (20, 25, 30, etc.). I turned forty-five on my last birthday, and I've felt the shift ever since, particularly over the last four months.

While I've felt restless as of late, I've also started to ponder more on my life. I'm heavily involved with an up-and-coming organization where I have a top position and a chance at a bright future; after toiling away for the last five years, I'm an official multi-book author - even if I'm not a rich & famous one; I've gotten to travel around my country as well as three others; I have an amazing, little family of my own that I adore; I have a wonderful set of friends that are real & true; I carve out trips and adventure often, even if they're in my own backyard; I have a great job with great co-workers; and I live in a beautiful place. I've had all this right in front of me the whole time yet I couldn't see the forest through the trees.

What does this mean? It means that I'm going to stop living in the clouds and start living on the soil where I reside. While I won't ever give up on my lofty dreams for the future, I'm going to start realizing the full potential of the here-and-now. I mean, why not? I have a lot going for me right now if I would just fully embrace it. I'm going to give my all to my appointment with the aforementioned organization, and I'm going to start working more purposefully at my job. I'm going to spend more quality time with my favorite people, and I'll continue to adventure in my beautiful neck of the woods. I'm going to make my next book my best yet, and become a better writer. But most importantly, I'm going to start living my whole life with more thoughtfulness and meaning.

This is my life, and, while it's not always perfect, it's a damn good life. I just need to start acting like it. To that end, I'm going to make sure I can give all the various things that are important to me the time they deserve. This means, among other things, scaling back on how much time I spend online (something I've already done) at places like facebook, and also with this blog. Make no mistake, I love my blog. This place is my home, my refuge, and my space. It's where I can pour out my heart, my frustrations, my hopes, my sadness, my dreams, and my greatest moments. I'll never give this up (at least, not anytime soon), but I am going to reduce my posting down to two days a week: Wednesdays and Saturdays, with an occasional extra post here and there. This means you get better posts from me while I get to share better posts with you and give my life it's proper due.

My universe it going to be exactly what I make of it from now on: moving, changing, and breathing. It won't always be sunny, but I'll embrace it all the same.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Remembering Ireland: Reflections

This is it: the last Remembering Ireland post. I'm glad that I've done this walk down Irish Memory Lane. It's been a lot of fun reminiscing about all of the things I did and all of the places I saw in Ireland, while also helping to slightly quell my wanderlust.


Next to Eyre Square in Galway.
For me, this trip was a dream come true. I had wanted to visit Europe ever since I laid eyes on a European travel guide when I was a kid. As an adult, I never did reach that level of "success" I had hoped of, and, combined with letting time get away from myself, I had resigned myself to the (perceived) fact that I would never fulfill that lifelong dream. One day, I was looking over Groupon for a pizza coupon to take the family out with, when I saw the "Ireland: Dublin, Limerick, and Galway $999" Groupon promotion. I opened up the Groupon, without even giving it much thought, and so started the idea that maybe I could go to Europe. After wondering, "Who can go with me?" (because it's cheaper to go as a duo), I called my best friend and asked him. He came over, we discussed it, and the next day we purchased our tickets. Best decision I've ever made!


Granger's Pub in Dublin.
That was in April of 2014, and I spent the next six and a half months waiting with bated breath. When that November day finally arrived, I could barely contain my excitement as we drove to Chicago to board Aer Lingus for Dublin! We landed in the Emerald Isle and I was instantly living a fairy tale. From our excursions through the streets of Dublin, to the numerous examples of rich history in Limerick, to the famous Cliffs of Moher via Galway, every moment in Ireland was magical.

The experience changed me in the most positive of ways. There's something about traveling to another country and immersing yourself in it's culture to really reshape your worldview. This trip was everything I'd ever hoped it would be, and more.


Side street in Limerick.

When I took this trip, I thought to myself, "This might be your only chance to go to Europe." I might be right, but I hate to think so. I fully intend on seeing as much of the rest of the world as I possibly can one day, and experiencing a bounty of other cultures, foods, people, and history. I'll be back for you Europe...one day.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Getting Back to My Roots

Old Swedish Table Prayer

To this day, I still don't have the complete picture of my Mom's side of the family. Each family member that I have (rarely) encountered, always told me something a little different. For years I was convinced that my maternal DNA was compiled from a mish-mash of fifteen different nationalities! My maternal grandfather died before I was born, but his last name is Harris. While no one has ever told me much about him -- as it's only my maternal grandmother's side we talk about -- his last name was Harris, which is English, so I assume him to be English. My Great Aunt Norma (my maternal grandmother's sister) has carefully traced our Native American heritage so I know I am a percentage, I'm just not sure how much. I've figured out over the years that we are descended from the Scotch-Irish that settled in Appalachia and worked it's way down to southern Missouri. 

This unsurety in heritage does not extend to my Dad's side of the family. We are without a doubt, 100% Swedish. My paternal grandfather joined the U.S. Army after serving in the Swedish Army in order to become a U.S. Citizen, and half my paternal grandmother's siblings were born in Sweden with the other half being born here after emigrating. I grew up with my Dad and my paternal grandparents and we knew our heritage. I listened in fascination as my older relatives talked in Swedish; I pored over the letters that would come from cousins still living in the Old Country; we'd decorate the house in pure Swedish tradition for Christmas; I'd read the Old Swedish Prayer hangings that adorned the walls of my Grandparent's home; I'd help & sample all the delicious traditional foods my Grandma would make (hello Swedish pancakes, pepparkakor, and meatballs!); and under the American flag that flew proudly on the flagpole, the Swedish flag flew proudly underneath.


Swedish Dala horses.
My grandparents have long passed, but when I look around me now, I can see the remnants of those bygone days: the Swedish map tapestry that hangs on my wall; the Mors Dag plate I bought my Grandma as a gift one Mother's Day; the tiny Swedish dictionary that's at least 60 years old; just to name a few. I think about the summers we spent at my Grandma's oldest brother's home in Northern Minnesota (he was the patriarch of the family) on the lake, and how much fun it was to play old Swedish games and watch old home movies. I miss my grandparents and their Swedish traditions. 



Yule Tomte

The only tradition I have really done over the years is to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but I should be doing more. I'm half Swede and I'm the last generation in my Americanized family to know the old stories and the old traditions. I'm going to start teaching my kids about their dominant heritage, show them the old home movies of my Grandma, and I'm going to start making traditional Swedish food. I love to cook. Ever since I took the plunge, a few years back, to become a vegan, I've learned how to cook all over again. I sometimes veganize my favorite Midwestern comfort food, but I've never tackled the traditional Swedish food I grew up with. I'm going to start veganizing my favorite Swedish fare, and I'll be sharing them all with you, of course. 


Yes, this is one of those things I was talking about yesterday, although there was one thing I wanted to do last night that I didn't. It's something that Nature Girl would enjoy, and since she's at my parent's house, she would have missed it. I'll wait until the next one, then take NG along. Ha! We'll see how it goes. I hope you have a great weekend.

Vi ses snart!

H.A.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Coffee Talk: Forgetting Things, Getting Healthy, and the Limbo


Good morning! I just sat down with a hot cup of coffee, and I'm ready to get going on this Friday morning. It's the end of the week and I am ready for the weekend. I don't really have plans yet, but that's never dampened my time off from work. At any rate, let's get this coffee klatch going.


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I've been forgetting things lately, and, no, I don't mean of the everyday nature. It's not like I'm running around forgetting my daily tasks and important things. What I'm talking about here is something more simple, but just as annoying. There are a few things that I've been meaning to do/attend over the last couple of months, and I simply keep forgetting about them! It's so frustrating because they would both be something fun & interesting to do, and I'm sad that I keep forgetting about them! I have a draft post ready to fill in with words that tell you all about it, and I've even gone so far as to put reminders for it on my phone! Guess what? I've still forgotten. 

Well, also guess what? One of the events is happening again tonight! Since I have another late night excursion planned (that you will also get to read about), I'm going to try and go to the forgotten one before I go to the other. In fact, if I get it done like I said I will, I will post it tomorrow, so stay tuned!


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I've talked a lot over the past couple of years about my road to health. Three and a half years ago, I quit smoking, which is one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life, and a little over two years ago I made the switch to being vegan. Now, I'm not an ethical vegan per se -- although I do love my animal friends -- but rather I made the change to combat health issues I was having and be healthier over all. To that end, it was very successful and about a year and a half ago, I was in the best shape of my life.

Then, I hit a wall. Then, a handful of months later, I got way too comfortable. I was mortified to step on the scale recently and see how far I've backslided. I nearly cried, but, I pulled myself together and told myself, "Look, you can either wallow in self-pity, or you can DO something about this!" Thank you inner voice. So, I once again dusted off my calorie-tracking app and started entering in my food intake. I also started getting some kind of exercise every night -- so far it's been walking/hiking. After the first night of exercise, I downloaded an exercise tracker made by the same company as my calorie tracker, and it's great. I track my walk/hike and then it syncs up with my calorie tracker. I'm going to recover back to where I was, then I'm going to continue on where I started 3.5 years ago. I'll keep you updated here.


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Things have been in a bit of limbo here for the past few weeks. I don't mean that my whole life is up in the air, just some certain things. I'm heavily involved in something in my area that has been on hold until a core member has returned from a long, but much-needed, vacation. This has affected two other things I'm either involved in or in charge of, so there's this feeling that time has stood still. Combine this with working on my latest book sporadically, and things feel very static. I guess I should just relish in the break from all the busy-ness that is my life, but it's hard. I'm so used to being busy that I feel like nothing is happening -- and that maybe the world will just stop -- if I'm not doing my usual things.

The truth is, the world isn't going to stop, and having a break was actually kind of nice in hindsight. While I felt like I was in limbo, I feel that I'm ready to hit everything with all I can muster, now that I've had a break. I think the break was needed, not just for the core member, but for all of us. 



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That's it for this edition of Coffee Talk. I hope you have a great weekend! I'll try and remember that thing tonight (ha!) so I can share it with you tomorrow, and, as always, thanks for listening.


-H.A.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Iron Maiden's Book of Souls Tour

Good morning and Happy Wednesday. I'm sitting here with my cup of coffee thinking about how my kids will be back in school next week. Seriously, where did the Summer go? I get spoiled with Summer in that I don't have to get everyone up and out the door, so I can take my time every morning getting ready at my leisure. It's also nice not having to keep up with the more hectic pace of the school year as my life is already pretty busy, but, at the same time, I know that Nature Girl is ready to get back to her friends. Summer can be more boring for her now that big brother has a job and a life of his own. Alas, I digress.

Last month, I told you about how my husband and I drove down to Kansas City for the evening to go see Iron Maiden's The Book of Souls tour. I've been a Maiden fan since I was 14 but had never gotten the opportunity to see them live. You can imagine then, that this was a pretty exciting event for me! It's always a good time to see your favorite musicians, no matter how old you or they are. They didn't disappoint and we had an excellent time hearing some old favorites and some new ones off their latest album. It was also a chance to visit with my friend Audrey who also went.





Their semi truck was parked outside the Sprint Center in Kansas City (where they played) so we made sure to take some pictures of ourselves next to it.





The stage before the concert began. Our seats were pretty decent!





I like this picture a lot. The concert was just beginning and you can see the size of the crowd.





They had a large video screen up, and they showed an Eddie movie short that fit with their Book of Souls theme. 





A shot of the entire band on stage. I took all these pictures with my Samsung Android smartphone, and it was so hard to get a non-blurry photo for some reason. I've tried to clean these up the best I could, so hopefully you can get the gist of it all.





I took this shot off the video screen. I'm glad it was there as it gave everyone a chance to see the band closeup. Here's Bruce Dickinson, singing away.






















It was a fun night, and I'm glad I got to check another thing off my bucket list. Have you gotten to see your favorite bands? Are there any bands you wish you could see? If so, do you think you will get a chance to see them play live one day? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed my less-than-stellar pictures, even though they aren't that bad! Have a great rest of your week.

-H.A.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Remembering Ireland: The Cliffs of Moher & the Burren

Good morning, and welcome back for the second-to-last installment of Remembering Ireland. This is all about my visit to the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, something I started last week with a glimpse of Corcomroe Abbey. I'm going to warn you now, this post has more pictures than any other post I've done in the series, so it's a bit long...but more pictures than words and completely worth looking at. Let's get started!





After leaving Corcomroe Abbey, it began raining again as we swung back by Hazel Mountain Chocolate Farm to pick up the rest of our tour party. If you remember, they had taken The Burren hike (which you can just see here behind the farm). We then made our way to the Cliffs of Moher.





The unique visitor's center at the Cliffs was really neat. The highlight for me was the 3-D movie they show in their little theatre.





Just as it had earlier at the Abbey, the rain stopped when we arrived at the Cliffs. It was like kismet that we lucked out all day when it came to the rain, and it sure did help to make this day one of the best days of my life. Here I am leaving the VC to go to the Cliffs.





Wow. Even now, when I look at these pictures it fills me with a sense of awe. There's nothing quite like actually being there, but these pictures do it a fair amount of justice.





There's plenty of coastline here to explore, so I saved the iconic Cliffs for last, opting to turn right and check out everything down that way. You can see the old guard tower, O'Brien's Tower, and that was my next destination.





A view of the old guard tower. Irish kings, back in the day, would put these guard towers on the edge of the sea to keep an eye out for marauders.





There's a charge to go up inside the tower, so I chose to skip that part...I was there for the nature anyway.





Right where the property line ends is another cliff. Not quite as striking, but still amazing nonetheless, I took many pictures and admired it all the same.





Right next to this cliff, and the aforementioned property line, lies The Burren Way. You can walk 114 km along this trail, if you so desire. The scenery would be something else.





I slowly began to work my way back left, towards the Cliffs, and I could just make out the Aran Islands in the distance, over the ocean. I zoomed in on them and was able to get a decent picture. You can see a lighthouse and some buildings.





I arrived back at the Cliffs and snapped a picture of the little village that sits on the other side. 









I got a good close-up shot of this little visitor.





And here we have the money shot: The Cliffs of Moher. I stood here and just took it all in for a few minutes: the wind blowing, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, the birds singing, and the smells of the sea & earth. It was an incredible moment for me, and it's etched into my memories.









A closer view.





The outside of the Visitor's Center. Even it's cool!





We left the Cliffs and were told by our tour driver that we would make another ocean stop along The Burren where we would get more gorgeous views. He wasn't wrong. This picture showcases perfectly what The Burren is actually made of: great rock, which is what The Burren translates to.








I stood here, much like I had at the Cliffs earlier, to soak it all in and admire the scenery. The setting sun was gorgeous.





We made a quick photo-op stop here, at Dunguaire Castle. Built in the early 1500s, it still stands watch over the Atlantic. I had to brighten this picture up quite a bit in order to see it as it was quite dark by this time.





One last look, and it's just a breathtaking as it looks. I snapped it by turning opposite after taking the Castle picture.

We arrived back in Galway, exhausted but exhilarated. We left the bus station and walked down to the corner by Eyre Square, where we had a Guinness at Garvey's Select pub. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel, cleaned up, then headed back downtown to do the traditional tourist thing: the iconic shops of Galway. Honestly, after seeing the majestic beauty we had all day long, hanging out around all the colorful-fronted shops wasn't all that exciting for us. We saw it all though, and grabbed a bite to eat, before heading back to the Clayton Hotel. The next morning we got ready, packed up, and headed back down to the train station where we boarded a train back to Dublin for our last night in Ireland. 

I'll be back next week with my last post in this series where I'll talk about our last night in Ireland, my thoughts on the trip, and some neat random photos, so make sure to come back!

Until then, have a great week my readers,

H.A.