Posted by: mdmusingsie | May 21, 2023

Yeats Country

My vacations these days are primarily writing escapes. A chance to get outside my four walls, where I don’t have to listen to the chatter of the dust bunnies or the sighing of the dirty dishes in the sink. 

Sometimes I rent a self-catering house and other times I book a hotel when I don’t want to cook.

The only drawback to most of these adventures is the furniture.  Hotels may have a desk and a chair at said desk, but it is certainly NOT a desk chair.  The padded ones have seen a few too many bums and you sink into the wooden frame, while others are rock hard; neither conducive to a comfortable writing space.  Homes don’t generally have a desk and the furniture is very hit and miss as to whether you sink to a point where a crane could be required to pull you out, or they sit so low it’s a strain on my aging knees to sit down and get up.  But I carry on, as I can always use pen and paper, lying on the bed.

My most recent trip had me arriving at the Radisson Hotel in Sligo. I’d been to this particular hotel over a decade ago, and it was just as nice as I remember.  Close to Rosses Point with beaches and ocean views and also near Benbulben mountain.

It’s also Yeats Country.  When I awoke the first morning and immediately had a poem pop into my brain, I decided to (re-)visit W.B. Yeats’ grave at Drumcliffe church.  The last time I was there was on a bus tour and all I really remembered were the swans on the doors to the church.

Outside the church’s walled enclosure is a new (to me) sculpture representing the poem He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. The statue had been stolen in 2018 and only replaced in 2022.

The church and grave are free to visit, though they do have several spots requesting donations. Most were the standard box/barrel for cash donations, but they even had one electronic machine where you could tap your debit/credit card to give a €5 donation to allow for our increasingly cashless society.

A new addition is an audio guide that you can rent which has the history of the area spoken by local people. It contains things like how Yeats came to be buried there, his self-written epitaph, the mural that was less expensive to put in than a stained glass window, and the stables turned tea room.

There’s also a small art gallery where I purchased a print of a felting painting. I had only ever seen felting made into stuffed animals, puppets, or Christmas decorations. This was the first time I’d seen it made into wall art. I would have bought the original, except it had already been sold. The print is clear enough that you can see that the original was 3-D felting. The woman minding the gallery was the artist and she gave me a brief demonstration of the technique.

It was a short stay in Sligo, but in addition to the editing existing work I had brought with me, two new poems came out of it, so these are always worthwhile adventures to help advance my budding writing career (and something to blog about, as well).

Posted by: mdmusingsie | April 9, 2023

Happy Ostara

It’s the time of eggs and fertility along with rebirth and renewal. Potentially, a time where modern religions have the most in common with the ancient beliefs.

The land begins its cycle of rebirth after its winter slumber, just as Christianity celebrates the resurrection.

In years past I’ve shown all kinds of chocolate Easter eggs that are at the center of Irish Easter candy.  There are no pastel-wrapped miniatures, no Peeps (thankfully!), no Easter baskets, and, believe it or not, no jelly beans.  It’s all about the Chocolate eggs.

Whether it’s the lingering effects of the pandemic or the economic crisis, the selection of unique Easter eggs has deteriorated to the point where I couldn’t find anything as a real stand-out this year. Butler’s offerings were smaller on the flavor scale than last year, and the shapes and designs very much same old, same old. Other brands fared no better.  Even in the novelty area where I once found a Frozen castle in 2016, there was nothing to wow over.

I did pick up one egg from Lir.  It had a classy look, but nothing that would really make you sit up and take notice.

Maybe it’s time for chocolatiers to look at their offerings and put their creative caps back on to come up with something more interesting next year.

In the end, the chocolate eggs get smashed into bite sized pieces, so pick your favorite flavor and enjoy!

For more interesting past selections check out my Easter posts from previous years 2013 (part 1 of 2), 2014, 2015, (2016 link above), 2017, 2019.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | December 31, 2022

That’s a Wrap for 2022

The year has drawn to a close and it’s been another odd one. Maybe there is no “normal” anymore.  But I’ve come to the conclusion that the following are the only ways we’re going to get to the other side of a climate crisis, economic crisis, and put an end to war and strife.


             Love over hate

             Truth over lies

             Cooperation over division

I wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Posted by: mdmusingsie | November 2, 2022

A Dip In the Ocean, Year Round

As part of my staycation I had a room with a sea view.  That is my ultimate goal, to finally have a house with a sea view. (Note to readers, sea view could be Irish Sea or the Atlantic Ocean – both tend to be called sea views.)

I had booked a package deal which included dinner each night in the “formal” dining room instead of the pub, where I usually eat. 

The first night when I went down to dinner I had to chuckle as it seemed to be primarily women of a certain age (of which I’m a card carrying member). That dynamic did change over the course of my stay, but it was just another interesting observation.

From my sea view room, I not only watched the tides and the waves come and go, but was astounded at the number of people who took a dip in the water – in late October!

Granted, most of them weren’t in for more than about 5 minutes or so, but others stayed in for quite a bit longer.  One woman went for a jog, up and down the sandy beach, after her dip, likely to warm up.

It wasn’t just one day or a certain time each day, people were going in an out all day long.  There were a few windsurfers as well – at least they had wet suits.

It reminded me of one of my first Christmases in Ireland.  In Salt Hill (near Galway), they have a Christmas Swim on Christmas Day every year. I had every intention of walking down to see the event (too chicken to participate).  However, it was farther than I originally thought and about half way there a squall came in and I knew I wouldn’t make it in time, so I ended up turning around and going back to my apartment (nearly wet enough as if I had taken the plunge).

The streets were so quiet, it was eerie – not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

I never did make it down to see the event, as I never had a car when I lived in Galway (except for the odd rental when a visitor came). Everything is closed at Christmas in Ireland, the buses don’t run and even the airport is closed.  But I did get a taste of it watching people dip in and out of the ocean in late October.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | November 1, 2022

We’re Not In Napa Valley Anymore

I think everyone should travel. You get to meet so many amazing people and have some of the best (and ok, occasionally the worst) experiences of your life. Some make you laugh, some make you cry, and others leave you in awe.  This is one the first variety.

I took an Irish staycation and stayed at a hotel that offered some free child and adult activities as part of the package.  I decided to sign up for the wine tasting.  I’m no sommelier, and these days, prefer a fruity cider to wine, but it was something interesting to do and I thought I might learn something new about choosing wine.  I have been to vineyards in Napa as well as Oregon, so I know what a typical wine tasting session should look like.

This, however, was, what I call, a totally Irish version.

There were only about half a dozen people to start, though people dribbled in to nearly double the size over the course of about half an hour.  Instead of a formal presentation, we were given the chance to sample two house wines, both Chilean, a red and a white.

They young man doing the serving did a nice job of describing the wines. We then had to choose which to try. I chose the white, which was a Sauvignon Blanc. I tend to avoid Sauvignon Blancs because I find them on the dry side, but this one was quite nice.  We were given the equivalent of a little over half a normal glass of wine.

Lo and behold, dear wine tasters, that was the end of the show.  Really!

I had been sitting close to the bar and ended up striking up a conversation with the young man doing the serving.  We talked about rental prices (more outrageous and harder to come by than when I was renting), the weather (a required topic with any Irish person), and to tip or not to tip (it’s becoming more common in Ireland).

Having finished my glass, he offered me a taste of the red wine.  Why not, I thought, that’s what wine tasting is supposed to be about. It was on the dry side, so not really something I would order, but that didn’t stop me from finishing the (half) glass.

A few other people inquired and were offered a sample of the opposite of their first choice, but it’s wasn’t a given that you would receive both. Interestingly, I found that more people were choosing white over red.  After emptying about two bottles of red and three of white, the lad departed and that was the end.

It may not have been your typical wine tasting event, but it was worth the entertainment value.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | June 12, 2022

Irish Crystal

When you think of Irish Crystal, the vast majority of people will think of Waterford Crystal. It’s one of the oldest in the country and has been through many closures, restarts, and changes.

There used to be many other crystal factories in Ireland, many of them spin-offs from Waterford. Some still survive today, though not all of the actual crystal is manufactured in Ireland, including Waterford who only make specialized, high-end pieces in the country.

Galway Crystal started around 1967 and, like Waterford, has had it’s fits and starts. It was purchased by Belleek (the pottery people) in 1997.  Another well known name around Ireland is Tipperary Crystal who are also still in businesses after forty years.

Tyrone was a contemporary of Waterford, back in the early days, and went through a number of transitions, but sadly closed in 2010. 

Cavan crystal is another company that has fallen by the wayside. I recently stayed at the Cavan Crystal Hotel which incorporates the former crystal showroom. It’s a lovely hotel with amazing staff. I booked a suite so I could do some concentrated writing without feeling claustrophobic and was treated to a gorgeous four-poster bed with separate dining area. One of the things I found most interesting was the thickness of the outer walls – over 3 feet thick (one 10 ½” notebook, 2 sheets of A4 lengthwise and a piece of A4 width-wise).  It would be quite the challenge to open those windows!

People no longer have display cabinets full of treasures like crystal and China, so companies have had to adapt their product lines to stay in business.

Most of these company keep it very tight lipped when it comes to stating where their pieces are actually produced. It certainly isn’t broadcast on their websites. Waterford does admit the practice during the factory tour.

If you’re looking for crystal actually made in Ireland, I did find a few companies, Connemara Celtic Crystal, Cork Crystal, and Dingle Crystal who actually make most or all of their pieces on the island. They don’t have massive stock or selection, but they are hand crafted pieces made in Ireland.

I own two pieces of Waterford Crystal, both were gifts. I also own Galway Crystal as well as a gorgeous vase from Connemara Celtic Crystal that I bought as my “welcome to Ireland” gift when I moved here.  

When possible and practical, I like to give gifts from Irish companies and have given gifts of Galway and Tipperary crystal to friends and family. Based on my research for this post, I now have a few more places I can look for Irish made gifts.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | December 1, 2021

Traveling Covid-Style – A Year+ On

After being cooped up for over a year I was keen to look at someone else’s four walls for a change.  Hospitality finally re-opened in August, the same month I received my vaccines.  It was still a little early in the year for me to travel – I prefer it when the kids have gone back to school.  Plus, with hotels and accommodation just reopening, there was bound to be a rush to book as many people were feeling the same need to get away.  International travel was still somewhat of a risky venture so more and more Irish were doing staycations.

Countless hours were spent searching for a place as everything I was interested in was already booked, even though I was looking at mid-September dates. I finally settled on a cottage in Killala, Co Mayo with a view of an inlet from the sea. 


A self-catering house appealed more than a hotel as I would have fewer people to interact with and wouldn’t feel cooped up in a hotel room.

For the most part, I stayed put, taking the time to work on writing projects, catch up on some of my personal development courses, and just relax.  I did sign up for a weaving workshop as I’ve always found weaving a fascinating process.  Due to the off-season, it was just me and the instructor.  We worked on table-top hand looms that were just a bit larger than an A4 (legal) size piece of paper.  I learned about warp and weft and we worked not only on different techniques but with different thicknesses of yarn to get different effects.  The end result was a wall hanging. As this was all experimental for me, the colours weren’t exactly what I would have chosen, had I been planning the piece in advance, but I think it turned out quite well for my first attempt.  It was a very enjoyable afternoon.

Dining out, like traveling, was still regulated.  My first restaurant visit in a year was to a pub in Killala. Masks are required to enter as well as proof of vaccinations.  Fortunately, we have an app in Ireland for our certification so we don’t have to worry about losing a small piece of paper.  Servers wore masks the whole time.

I cooked simple fare for the most part, as the cottage had a fully equipped kitchen, so the only other restaurant I visited was on the way home at one of those petrol/food/convenience store service stations.  To eat inside the fast food restaurant also required proof of vaccination. 

While I was in line at the checkout of the convenience store I noticed boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts.  I did a double take as I wasn’t sure if it was a knock-off or whether the company had really come to Ireland, since I hadn’t heard anything on the news.  In the spirit of research, I did purchase a box and when I was home, did a web search.  It turns out it is the same company as in America, but they don’t have any formal shops – they just sell the boxes at certain shops.  If only I could find a company that makes old fashioned (sour cream) donuts (with chocolate frosting) – I do miss those the most. 

The next wave of Covid seemed to be picking up pace, so I decided to get in another break in case there was another lockdown.

This time I chose a hotel, partly because they were having a double loyalty points promotion, and partly because I didn’t want to have to cook.  In November I booked a suite, hoping to have extra room so it didn’t feel so claustrophobic as some hotel rooms can be. It also had a view of the River Shannon, and I love being near water.


Although billed as a two room suite, the second “room” was really an entry closet/dressing area and not really functional as a work area. Fortunately, the main room was bigger than a standard room so I didn’t feel quite so hemmed in. Masks and vaccine certificates were still required for dinning.

Sightseeing wasn’t really part of either trip as I have been limiting my contacts. I’m probably more cautious than some people, but I also have underlying health issues that could make a bout of Covid more serious. My main goals were change of scenery, relaxation, and some quality writing time.

As the new variant blossoms like a aggressive weed, further travels are unlikely until Spring.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | March 17, 2021

One Year On

Another St. Patrick’s Day rolls around and the pubs are still closed.  There will be no masses gathered for parades or empty beer bottles clogging the gutters of Temple Bar.

Who would have thought one year later we’d still be in lockdown.  Except for a brief period in summer and a couple weeks in December, Ireland continues to be in high level lockdown.  We don’t have the medical facilities to cope with the huge numbers of sick people that Covid-19 has wrought.

Am I sick of not being able to travel more than 5 km and spend my days staring at the same four walls?  You betcha!  However, I’m grateful to live in a 3 bedroom home instead of a studio or one bedroom apartments, so I can change the scenery a bit more than some.  I’m grateful I still have a job and can work from home.  I’m grateful that I, my family, and closest friends have avoided the worst of Covid-19.  I’m grateful the vaccines are out and more and more people are being vaccinated every day (though more slowly in Ireland than places like the UK or US).

Am I anxious to finally get this behind me?  Of course, as I’m sure many of you are as well.  But it’s not over yet, not even if you’ve been vaccinated (you may not get sick but there is still a chance you can pass it along to others). 

If I have to put up with restrictions for another 6 months or even a year, I will.  Too many people are still dying around the world, around the country, and possibly even around your neighborhood.  I don’t want someone’s death on my conscience, so I will continue to follow the rules, wear my (uncomfortable) mask, and limit where I go.  With the vaccines, it does appear the end is in sight, but there is no need to rush. 

It’s been challenging being creative during this time, mostly because I work all day in the same room where I write and craft, so when I’m finished working for the day, I want out of that room.  The odd poem still pops into my head and I’ve been editing some short stories and recently, after a four year hiatus, started another round of editing on my first novel.  I’ve painted a few pictures and have a few in the works.  In a world still being ravaged by Covid-19, I whipped up these little Covid Clovers to send a little good luck around the world. One rough and ready, the other more refined. The leaves close, but not touching, yet the heart still beats.

Stay safe, stay well, and remember those who are in serious circumstances than most of us are, even with the restrictions.

In deference to one of my readers who pointed out these aren’t Shamrocks because they have 4 leaves, I didn’t actually call them Shamrocks. However, I did link them with St. Patrick’s Day which should, in theory, be a Shamrock (reference between the paintings and the holiday have been corrected), but then again, if you really want to get technical (and I’m not looking to start an international incident), St. Patrick was Welsh by birth and I’m a Pagan. So let’s keep things light and go with the spirit of goodwill in which they were intended.

PS – here’s an update on the state of my keyboard one year on, too – four letters totally gone and many fading fast.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | August 15, 2020

Traveling Covid-style

The four walls had been closing and a couple of stressful weeks at work had me longing to go somewhere, anywhere different.

After debating between Sligo and Galway, Galway won. Not so much because it’s one of my favourite places, but the hotels in Sligo were booking up too quickly, almost forcing my hand.

The stress of the job steered me towards a spa hotel and I found myself at The Twelve Hotel in Barna, a few miles west of Galway City.

In one sense, I was lucky.  It was the Galway Races week and there wouldn’t have been a hotel room available within 30 km of the place if it hadn’t been for Covid-19 and the races being held without an audience.  That didn’t seem stop people from flocking to Galway and the vicinity.

Having made good time on the motorway, I stopped at a services exit for a quick lunch.  These services stops normally contain a petrol station, a convenience store, and a variety of restaurants.  This particular wayside stop was jam packed with people.  Less than half were wearing masks, despite it being somewhat compulsory (the legislation around who would be responsible for policing the wearing of masks yet to be decided – shop owners didn’t want the responsibility and there aren’t enough Guarda to be stationed at every shop).  Galway traffic was as bad as ever and I arrived at the hotel just after the earliest check in time.

While waiting to check in I heard the hotel was now fully booked, and restaurant reservations for non-hotel guests were at a premium.  I wasn’t the only one having four-wall-syndrome.

My room was quite spacious with nice hardwood floors instead of carpet (a plus in my book).  There was a small balcony looking out over the parking lot.  Not the view I was hoping for but there actually way a small green area, and as I reminded myself, at least I had a view of four different walls for a few days.


I made my usual call to the front desk for an additional sheet.  Top sheets are nearly unheard of in hotels or B&Bs here.  I had to repeat my reason for the extra sheet, duvets are too warm, both to the desk staff and the young woman who delivered the sheet.  I’m quite warm blooded and sleep primarily under just a sheet all year round.  I think they both thought I was touched in the head.

Dinner at the hotel pub was interesting.  Of course tables have to be farther apart, but I’m pretty sure my neighbor to the left was closer than 1 metre.  All hotel staff wore face coverings – except the maitre d’ who wore a face shield, the rest wore masks.  After wearing a mask for shopping, I’m thinking about leaning towards the face shield – it may not fog up my glasses the way masks do.

To avoid having to clean menus or continually print new ones, they had a system where they placed a picture frame on the table with three QR codes – one for the food, one for drinks, and one for wine.  Point the camera on your phone and it turns into a link that opens in a browser.  As unusual as it was, I decided that most people in this day and age would have a cell phone and know how to use the QR codes. I was wrong on this account, at dinner the next day I saw a young couple (20’s) struggling to make it work. They were given a paper menu.  The children’s menu was also on paper but it came with puzzles and areas to colour (crayons, communal or otherwise, no longer provided).

After taking my order the waiter asked for my name and phone number.  No, he wasn’t trying to chat me up (I’m old enough to probably be his granny).  It’s part of the new restaurant regulations.  One person at the table has to give a name and contact number in case Covid-19 cases are discovered amongst other guests or staff from the same time period.  If you’re a hotel guest, room number was a sufficient substitute.  There was a fine dining restaurant at the hotel, but I’m more of a pub-grub person – I’m not interested in pretentious food.

Barna is a small village about 5km from Galway City (in traffic that’s about a 20 min drive).  It’s definitely a holiday-maker’s stop with plenty of accommodation and restaurants and light on shops.  The hotel sits on the main road between Galway and Connemara/Clifden and there is plenty of traffic all day long.  I was grateful my room didn’t face the street.

I booked a spa treatment as a gift to my body for all the stress it had been undergoing.  Both the masseuse and I had to wear masks.  Although it was a relaxing back, leg, and foot massage, it wasn’t what I had originally requested.  I had thought I was booking a leg and foot massage with a pedicure. I suppose I could have complained, but I did enjoy the treatment, even if I didn’t get my pedicure.  Note to self to clarify the treatment before it begins in the future.

Besides a walk around town (10-15 minutes max), I did make a trip to An Spidéal (or Spiddal in English) where they have a craft village.  Unfortunately only about half of the craft shops were open.  On the way back I stopped at Furbo beach – I miss being that close to the ocean.


Not the grand vacation I had planned for 2020 (I had hoped to get to the US at least once if not twice), it was a therapeutic getaway that toned down my stress level and left me feeling able to face my own four walls again.

Posted by: mdmusingsie | May 29, 2020

Tidings and Trivia

It continues to be a strange world as countries go from shrinking into a bud to starting to bloom again and hoping the pollen doesn’t re-spread, forcing us back underground.

With travel limited to the local grocery store recently, only expanding to hardware stores and garden centres this week, there’s little to report on exploring the country.

But there’s always something to bring a bright spot to the day.  Recently, it was the appearance of two “Horton Hears a Who” flowers in my front yard (that weren’t there last year).  I know they have a scientific name, but not one that I seem to want to recall.  With no Bloom garden festival this year, this is as close as it getsFlower2_smFlower1_sm.

I didn’t try and talk to the residents of Whoville (I haven’t been in lockdown, starved for human company THAT long).  Besides, we need to save those hospital beds, even the ones in the psych ward, for Covid and other more serious illnesses.

Oddly enough, “Horton Hears a Who” was on TV in the last week (reminding me to create this post).

If you’re feeling shut in, bored, and listless, have a look around.  You’d be surprised at the interesting things you can find right outside your door that you hadn’t noticed before.


On the trivia side, which key do you think is used the most on the keyboard?  On my nearly new (only since working from home in mid-March) external keyboard that I’m using because the keyboard on my laptop does not have the “push” effect I rely on for accurate typing, I have worn off the sticker on the most used key.  Can you spot it?


The I’s have it!  A few on its coattails are E, R, and T which I’ve worn off the keyboard in the office – at least it took me about 5 years to wear those off, not 10 weeks.  Since I’m a touch typer, I don’t need to see the letters, but when one of my co-workers was helping me solve a problem one time he complained about the missing letter markings as he visual-types.

So maybe that will help you on your next pub quiz when they ask for some of the most frequently used keys on the keyboard (results may vary by country/language).

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