2nd Annual St. Patty’s Day Party

Another year and another successful St. Patty’s Day Party. This crazy Texas weather decided to be absolutely perfect the day of the party, making us thirsty and giving us the perfect reason to be outside playing cornhole, ladder golf, Polish horseshoes and more. Somehow we didn’t take one picture outside, but I think that’s because my amazing friend Kathryn, made the cutest chevron photo booth in my living room. I don’t think it was every empty and the pictures are hilarious.

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We carried on the tradition of the Whiskey Bar, which now has a permanent place at our annual soiree due to its success. We went simple on food and I had A LOT of help from my ridiculously generous friends and family. These Shamrock pretzels and Kathryn’s buffalo chicken dip were the hits! I ordered a banner from Vistaprint to match our invitations, Candace created a hallway of Shamrocks in my entryway that was just out of this world and she and I attempted to replicate these until the wee hours of the morning.

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We continued the St. Baldrick’s tradition as well, and our amazing nephew Derick volunteered to shave his head, which for us this year meant even more. We had more than 70 of our friends and family come by throughout the day and just had a great time. Thanks to all who helped make it such a success! Counting the days until next year!

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Check out our First Annual St. Patty’s Day for more Irish fun.

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Irish Honeymoon: Last Stop – Dublin

So we saved Dublin for last to kind of end with a bang. We stayed at the beautiful Clontarf Castle Hotel. This hotel did a really neat mix of modern and traditional with their decor that made it super edgy, but still stately. The rooms and service were impeccable, but the location was less than stellar. It was about a 20-minute cab ride from anything we wanted to see, which gets pricey. We finally figured out the busy system which helped, but next time I’d rather stay somewhere less fancy and closer to the action.

The first stop was the Guinness brewery. This place is no ordinary brewery – it is a multi-block complex/city in the heart of Dublin. There is a 6-story museum to showcase the complex process they use to make ensure the quality of their beer. We learned how to properly poor a pint, enjoyed a beer in their sky bar that overlooks the city and took in all the history of the museum. Since I do corporate communications, I loved the Guinness ad section – it was so neat to see how much their campaigns have evolved.

 

We spent the next two days exploring the city. We visited the Trinity College Library where we saw the beautiful long room and the Book of Kell.

 

We saw countless Irish artifacts and the infamous Bog Bodies (which were crazy) at the National Museum. We walked through the covered market, took pictures with the Molly Malone statue, explored the Guarda Museum, stood in the awe of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and had beers at the historic Temple Bar.

 

It was truly a wonderful trip and the perfect honeymoon for us. We will definitely be back to (1) attend a live rugby game and (2) see all of the stuff we didn’t get to see this trip!

Irish Honeymoon: Stop 6 – Cobh and Kilkenny

So after our early rising in Cork, The next morning we started out early and headed to Cobh, a beautiful coastal town and the last stop the Titanic made before beginning its fateful journey. The town had a very medieval feel and some really neat architecture. We explored the very interesting Titanic/shipyard museum and took pictures along the pier where the Titanic last set sail (I do realize the Titanic didn’t have sails, I just couldn’t think of another appropriate phrase).

After lunch (at a Papa John/McDonald’s combo restaurant – I know we can get both of those things here, but not from the same counter!) we drove to Kilkenny which was a really great little town. We stayed at the Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel which was beautiful and seriously in the best location. We could walk everywhere. Kilkenny is home of the Smithwicks’s Brewery, several cathedrals and a whole host of castles – we didn’t really have time to visit any of these (and it was Sunday so many were closed) so we just walked up and down the streets taking in the sights.

We went back to a long nap (and I finally finished my book) and went out for dinner around 9pm. Our options for dinner were few and far between that late on a Sunday, but we found a really great Italian restaurant, Ristorante Rinuccini. It was such a nice change of pace – while the seafood is awesome in Ireland, I was pretty sick of everything by this point. We then went to: (1) Kytler’s Inn, a famous pub that dates back to 1324; (2) some other bar (not a pub) where there was a well-known Irish band playing and about 500 college-aged kids partying their pants off on a Sunday night; and finally (3) Matt the Miller’s where the bartender let us serve our own pints. It ended up being such a fun night.

The bartender at Matt the Miller’s also told us about the Dunmore Caves, that we “just had to go to” (I’m pretty sure he volunteers there in his off time). Well it got the Husband all excited so the next morning we headed to Dublin and stopped along the way at the Cave. And I have to admit it was really cool and well worth the stop.

Irish Honeymoon: Stop 5 – The Blarney Stone and Cork

The next morning we headed to Cork which was unlike any city we had visited so far. It was very industrial, much more urban, and an absolute maze to navigate. We stayed at Hotel Isaacs, which was in a good location, but a nightmare for parking and the rooms were pretty average. Once we got all checked-in, we headed to the Blarney Castle to cross “Kissing the Blarney Stone” off our to do list and explore Druid’s Circle. The grounds of the Blarney Castle were beautiful and the castle was huge. We climbed the many stairs to the top of the castle, hung upside down, and kissed the stone. The legend is that once kissed, the stone bestows the gift of eloquence. Now if only there were stones for gracefulness and patience…

After this the Husband wanted to stop to visit the City Gaol in Cork, the historic prison that is now a museum. (He did not get any objections from me because I have a fascination with almost all things prison related – I seriously DVR like 7 crime shows a week). It was a really neat tour (though fairly creepy). But Ireland has such a tumultuous political history that there were a lot of really interesting stories being retold about why the prisoners were there and how they were treated.

Their fake prison guards and prisoners looked like zombies. Shudder.

We then went to spruce ourselves up a little and headed to an excellent dinner at Cornstore. This was a restaurant the Husband found/searched for after he discovered chateaubriand at my birthday dinner. So when he heard this place had it, we of course had to go, but I’m so glad we did. The food was awesome, the décor was amazing and it was right in the mix of things. I was admittedly not crazy about Cork at first, but it had a pretty awesome nightlife. We tried several pubs after dinner and heard some great live music.

The next morning I wanted to punch my new Husband in the stomach because he made me get up at 7am to go watch the Ireland v. Italy rugby game. The Husband is a new but avid rugby fan and he wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to watch his favorite team in their home country with their home fans even if it was 7am. So we went to a pub/sports bar a few blocks away, had some tea and an Irish breakfast and cheered them on. (By the way the bar was packed and we barely got a seat even that early in the morning. I’m very thankful that college football doesn’t start that early).

Irish Honeymoon: Stop 2 – Ballindereen & Doolin

Okay, fair warning, these posts are really long, but I’ve made a commitment to be a better travel journaler (mostly because I have the worst memory EVER).  So…I’m sorry for the long windedness. I’ll post a short one next.

In front of McGann's Pub

After Galway we headed south to Doolin. Doolin is a stone’s throw from the Cliffs of Moher (which is an Ireland must-see), but we also heard it was a hub for Irish music, so naturally it was a no-brainer that we would stay a couple of nights in Doolin. (The Husband seriously loves Irish music, like listens to it all day everyday at a very loud decibel).

Ballindereen: On our way to Doolin we stopped over at a tiny town called Ballindereen. The Husband can trace one of his ancestors back to the Ballindereen Parish (a baptism), so we stopped there to see if we could gather any more information. We were lucky that it was a Sunday and were able to attend Mass at the Ballindereen Parish. After mass, we spoke with the priest about our search. Unfortunately, the records on hand didn’t go back that far, but the Priest promised to do some digging for us and email us later (I heart technology). Since we struck out here, we decided to go out to a few of the cemeteries in this area to see if we could find any more pieces to the family tree puzzle. Many would not think this is a fun or glamorous way to spend a honeymoon, but there was something really special about so fervently looking for information about my new family. The Husband is constantly trying to tell me facts about our ancestors, but this was the first time I felt like I got really into it. And, this sounds super morbid, but the cemeteries were beautiful. The sky is super gray, the grass is super green, there are Celtic crosses everywhere…it was just a very somber, breathtaking place. (We will definitely be making a trip back to Ireland in the future just to do genealogy).

The Burren: I, being the stellar navigator I am, took us the long way to Doolin through “The Burren,” but it was AMAZING. The entire drive was along the coast and the scenery was out of this world. Like I seriously can’t describe it with words. I highly recommend not taking the efficient road to Doolin. We stopped and explored the Dunguaire Castle. (Ireland has to have the most castles per capita – they are seriously everywhere). We stopped at Monk’s Seafood Pub and Restaurant where the Husband ordered a seafood platter that I expected to be a fried plate of goodness (Pappadeaux’s style), but it was the freshest, most diverse seafood platter I’ve ever seen. I think I ended up eating more of his than my own.

Doolin: After a little more driving, we finally arrived in Doolin, which is a tiny town made up of mostly farms, pubs and a few shops. When we were booking the trip we read this phenomenal review from a guy (I think on Yelp) about his stay at McGann’s Pub. He said it was a great little pub with nice rooms above it to rent. (I was picturing Amy Adams in Leap Year).

But guess what? He was a man and his idea of a “nice” little room was not my idea of a “nice” little room. It was bad enough that my very frugal husband was ready to forfeit our $26 (that should have probably been a sign to us that this place was less than awesome) and find a different place. But, I, of course, had to prove that I was a tough girl and sleep there for not one night but two nights. (For the record, if that occurred now, after 10 months of marriage, I would totally relocate (or sleep in the car)). Our solution to our accommodations was to go downstairs, drink large quantities of Bulmer’s and Guinness, listen to Irish music and wonder back upstairs tipsy enough to not think about where we were sleeping. But while the accommodations may be crappy, the pub and the live music are not. It was so authentic and packed with locals.

The next morning we woke up and drove out to the Cliffs of Moher. People are strategic about their visit out there because the fog is often so bad you can’t even see the cliffs, but we got so lucky and had a perfect clear view of the Cliffs. Later that evening we explored some more of Doolin and visited the other must-visit Irish music pub, Gus O’Connor’s. The music here was so neat. They were literally playing from a booth and just loving what they do. It was really fun to watch.

At a gift store next door to Gus O’Connor’s, we bought my new father-in-law a real Aran sweater. (The Aran Islands where these sweaters are made are just a day trip away, but we had a few people tell us the boat ride out there was not always reliable or worth spending a whole day on so we decided to save that until the next trip.)

Gus O’Connor’s crowd, however, did not even compare to the crowd at McDermott’s Pub (that is literally across the street from McGann’s – Ireland also has the most pubs per capita). Apparently, the band playing that evening was quite well-known and people of all ages came out to see them. There were well over 100 people packed into this small pub well until midnight on a Monday night! It was amazing. And even though they were packed, they still took the time to make proper Irish coffee by warming up the glass and using real heavy whipping crème and brown sugar. They were delicious.

Lisdoonvarna: Between our visit to the Cliffs and Gus O’Connor’s Pub, we stopped over in the town of Lisdoonvarna. Friends of ours suggested we at least make a stop here and we needed a place to do a load of laundry (the Husband underpacked) and send some postcards, so we took a walk through the town, ate breakfast and stopped into a couple of pubs (that would be the other Irish trend) including the Irish Arms. September is also the month for the famous Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. It was awesome. It looked like Valentine’s Day threw-up in that cute little town.

The Husband’s favorite phrase from this portion of the trip (that he way overuses to this day): “There are things we will be Doolin, and there are things we won’t be Doolin.”

Mid-Atlantic Engagement Party: Washington, D.C.

I completely underestimated how much I missed it. I just LOVE this city. We met a wonderful friend of mine, Jeanna, for dinner at Matchbox, which is in my old neighborhood and had great food, wine and conversation. By the way, they have expanded this place since I lived there. The upstairs was way bigger and much more accommodating than it used to be. We then got drinks at a new bar in Chinatown across from the Verizon Center and then at Post in Hotel Monaco. Jeanna and I had a lot of catching up to do!

Image Credit: historicdc.com

(Speaking of wine…I totally forgot to mention this but it is very noteworthy – the night before Michelle introduced me to one of her favorite white wines – Conundrum – and it was delicious – so delicious that we got it again the next night at Matchbox. I highly recommend it. It is a blend that is flowery but not as flowery as a Sauvignon Blanc and buttery but not as buttery as a Chardonnay – it was just excellent. Come to think of it I think we might have even got it the next night at Vinoteca – Salud!)

Saturday morning, the Husband and I got up and out and went to watch the Irish Rugby game at Fado’s (at 8:30am!). I frequented Fado’s –  when I lived in D.C. so it was really fun to revisit and unlike Texas they serve Guinness before 10am so the Husband loved it. After that we went to Ford’s Theatre and the brand new Lincoln museum that they just opened in February. The Husband just read Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, so he really got a lot out of the museum and I was really impressed with what they did with it.

After the Lincoln museum, the Husband headed out to explore more of D.C. and I headed to Georgetown for Michelle’s dress appointment at Hitched. Michelle had already been to several boutiques and was just not finding what she wanted. But, with 3 bridesmaids and her mom in tow and after her mom treated us to a yummy lunch at Paolo’s (another place Mich and I frequented when we lived there) she finally decided on one. Well sort of…she actually decided on an even sweeter gig. It was a specific trunk show that we went to and the designer of the dresses was there and he agreed to work with Michelle to customize a dress just for her, which is just what she needed. I cannot wait to see the end product (which I’ll be sure to share in November).

Image Credit: HitchedSalon.com

After this, we all quickly changed and headed to Vinoteca Wine Bar and Bistro in the U Street area. (This area has absolutely exploded. It is amazing. So many new cute bars, restaurants and boutiques. I need like a week long visit to see it all.) The night was organized by Leah and was absolutely beautiful. We had the upstairs area all to ourselves with a big long banquet table in the middle of the room surrounded by beautiful vintage couches, a grand piano and a cellar/wall of wine. I was in love. Leah also had a florist shop that she loves in that area create the most gorgeous purple floral arrangements. The service was impeccable and the wine was flowing. It was great. I am a big fan of engagement parties especially when you have a wedding party that lives all over the country. It is a great chance for everyone to get to know each other and makes the wedding weekend even more fun. (Also, I do not know how I managed not to take a single picture at Vinoteca, but I didn’t so I had to borrow one that just does not do the place justice. I guess I’m just leaving myself room for improvement.)

Image Credit: spicy candy dc

We went out afterwards in the U Street area and had a blast. The next morning we went to Bar Louie in Chinatown with her parents and much of the wedding party. When we lived together Michelle and I had a Sunday tradition of bar food and a movie so I loved revisiting. Aside from my small meltdown from leaving my ID in the cab from the night before (typical Katy), which we luckily recovered on our way to the airport, it was a perfect weekend.

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Bachelorette and wedding posts will follow!

1st Annual St. Patty’s Day Party

This past weekend the Husband and I threw our First Annual St. Patty’s Day Party and it was a huge success. We have been trying to find our go-to party to throw for over a year (the Cozads do a Christmas Party, the Allens do a Halloween Party, we go to Nocona for all the lake-type holidays, etc.). So, since the Husband is obsessed with all things Irish (his mom was Irish), we decided to do a St. Patty’s Day celebration every year.

We went all out and had a great time with our friends. Here are a few of the photos from event:

The Irish Whiskey Bar was an idea I saw on Pinterest that someone had done for a wedding and it was a hit! And we used our green wheelbarrow as an ice chest – “Our Patty Wagon” full of Irish cider, Guinness, and Smithwick’s.

My mom and I made all of the little signs and paper accents using free printables online or just crafts we had at home. And we had a banner that said “Everyone’s Irish on March 17th”. We had the banner printed at Kinko’s for $9 and then just used paint and marker to make it a little green.

The food was really fun and all Irish themed. We had patty melt sliders, shamrock bites, Blarney Stone cookies, an Irish flag veggie tray and my favorite – a Spud Bar – baked potatoes with all the fixins’.

But my awesome friends also brought a smorgasbord including a Guinness cheddar dip that was to die for and a most delicious pull apart bread (both of which they found on Pinterest). The Husband had hourly contests in which our friends could earn gold coins and win a gift certificate to our favorite Irish pub in Fort Worth – Conlon’s. Oh – and the Husband shaved his head and raised over $400 for St. Baldrick’s.

Also, please let it be noted that we could not have pulled this off with out our amazing friends, Candace and Kathryn, and my awesome Mom. Also, in honor of St. Patty’s Day, I am going to dedicate my posts this week to recapping our awesome Irish honeymoon. We traveled all over Ireland and tried some really cool places. I’ve been all over and this was definitely one of my favorite destinations.