Movin’ On Up!

8 Jan

All the old content is still available and easy to find on the new and improved blog! The photos are bigger, the look is snazzier, so what are you doin hangin’ around this old place?!

Get to where the fun is!

www.maggiemedemaphotoblog.com

Live from Ireland: Day 7, Kilkenny

4 Jan

Location: Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, Ireland
Population: 7,000, inclusive of numerous nearby villages
Random Fact:
Accommodation: Lawcus Farm Guest House, Stoneyford (rural area outside Kilkenny)

We were really, really loving our time on an Irish farm. The weather was perfect, the dogs were friendly, all was well. Given our failure at not visiting a pub we agreed the best way to recover our ailing health was to sleep in a bit. We’d been up with the sun and out late every day, so we slept in a bit. When we finally did roll out of bed and head down for breakfast we were greeted with an amazing meal! The eggs were farm fresh, the bacon and sausage were decidedly not from the frozen food section, the huge bowl of fresh fruits and berries was to die for.

We happily ate and chatted with other American guests and our hosts and watched as Mark fed the tiny hedgehogs with a straw.

After breakfast we strolled around the farm, visited the animals a bit and took a walk along the river that ran through the back of the farm.

We even got a good chuckle out of watching Anne Marie – who’d just served us that amazing breakfast – leave the kitchen and head out to the fields to feed the animals, repair a broken fence and round up some escaped calves. All in a days work, I suppose?

After our walk we returned to the deck and sat down to hang out with the dogs and talk a bit more with the other guests. It was about then that I looked into the kitchen and saw our host walking about her kitchen with 2 bottles of Bacardi. A bit odd, I thought, at 10 in the morning. I watched as she rounded up shot glasses. What in the hell was she doing?

Out she came with her 2 bottles of booze and a stack of shot glasses.

Ready for a taste? She asked everyone cheerfully. My eyes widened. We’d been given Baileys in pretty much everything we’d been served everywhere we went – our coffee, hot chocolate, porridge, ice cream, cake, etc. Put this was the first time a host had offered us hard liquor at 10 a.m.

That’s when we were filled in on a little secret. It wasn’t Bacardi. It was Pocheen. It’s the Irish equivalent of Moon Shine. But stronger. It’s not exactly legal to have, or to distill. We’d joked about getting our hands on some but never for a second did I think we’d find any! And here it was, at 10 a.m.

Shots were poured. Shots were consumed.

I could only handle about half of my first shot. Zac finished his two, then mine.

And then we set off on our day’s adventures – me with a hole burning in the lining of my stomach, my husband drunk as a skunk.

Thankfully we didn’t have far to go, we were just down the road from the Kells Priory – a very large ruin full of sheep. We’d been warned that the sheep might follow us around, but that they wouldn’t bother us. Fair enough.

The Priory was really expansive with an outer wall and then another inner wall that concealed towers and the remains of a monastic settlement.

The sheep were everywhere. Which is to say, sheep poop was everywhere. We started out trying not to step on it. That lasted about 10 seconds and was declared impossible. So we were just browsing around, walking in poop, hanging out with sheep.

As promised the sheep started to follow us which made me very uncomfortable. They would walk towards us, then just stop and stare. I was convinced we were going to be sheep charged at any minute.

I was torn between wanting a nice close up photo of a sheep and not wanting to get stampeded. Zac tried to assure me that sheep don’t stampede and that if one charged us, he was sure he could fend it off and protect me. I wasn’t so sure. I mean who knows what a sheep is capable of. Especially when their ego is boosted. Look around, ya know, there are like 1500 sheep and 2 people. We were walled in by 800 years of stone, built to be defensive. No one was getting in and no one was getting out. It was like a sheep cage match.

But I wanted a picture, damn it. So I’d creep towards a docile looking sheep (and believe you me, some of them looked aggressive!!) and try to appear calm and soothing.

“Hi Sheep…How ya doing. Got some grass there to chew on. That’s good. Laying in a pile of sheep poop. Very alternative spa-like, I can dig that. Good sheep. Nice sheep.” click-click-click goes the shutter and I go running back towards Zac.

“Ahh!! Save me! I think its chasing me! It doesn’t like the camera! Save meeee!!”

Thankfully no one was harmed. Including the sheep.

We’d explored the outer ring of the ruins and now we needed to make our way across the field and down a steep hill to explore the interior. Past all the sheep.

We walked about 6 steps and one of the black-faced sheep came at us and I climbed up Zac like he was a fecking ladder and begged to be taken piggy back the rest of the way. But the point was raised that should he slip and fall I would land in all the sheep shit, so I just sucked it up, walked and tried not to make eye contact.

When we made it inside there were no sheep. But let’s just say…they’d been there.

This was one of the coolest ruins we visited. The whole thing spans about 3 acres and it’s excavation is one of the largest ever in Ireland.

Then we frolicked in the open green, like we had in Dingle. What can I say, I like to get my frolick on.

As we were poking about I decided that the whole thing reminded me of something from Super Mario Bros. So I get this bright idea that I should climb the wall, Mario style. You know – like when Mario jumps up onto a wall or a cage/fence thingy and then he can scurry across it? Yup. Just like that.

So up the wall I go, sticking my hands and feet into tiny gaps and scurrying across the wall, humming the tune from Mario Bros. Zac’s laughing and snapping pictures, I’m laughing, it’s all very funny. (You’ll keep in mind it’s just the 2 of us and the sheep. There were no other people in sight.) Then I’m ready to get down. But I can’t. Because I can’t see where to stick my foot and I’m too far up to jump down.

Zac comes to my aid. He reaches up towards me – and there’s nothing to grab onto but my ass – and as he reaches for me he says….

“Don’t…poop!”

Um. What?

“Don’t poop??!!” I yell. “Why would I poop?? Like I just randomly poop sometimes?!”

Zac can’t get any words out because he’s giggling like a school girl (or like Anderson Cooper, whichever). And now I’m giggling. So there we are – Zac with 2 handfuls of my ass, me still dangling from the wall by my hands – and we’re giggling ourselves silly, now too weak with the giggles to function. All of this over my known tendency to spontaneously poop, apparently.

Then it becomes apparent that we’re both going to fall and the poop won’t be so funny then. Zac regains enough composure and strength and pulls me by the ass off of the wall and sets me on my feet.

“Why would I poop?!” I demand to know.

“No!! Not you! I was going to tell you not to let go until I could get you on my shoulder but then I stepped in like a really really big pile of poop,” He explained as we both looked down at his poop covered shoe.

Fecking sheep.

As we walked on I determined that we needed to take a photo of each of us sitting in a window-like opening on the wall.

Zac went first. He just hopped right up into the window and I snapped the picture.

But my own hopping proved less effective.

“I need to be lifted in,” I holler to Zac. So he sets the camera down and runs over to me. With absolutely no grace he grabs me by the waist, lifts me, slams my ass down onto the stone ledge, then reaches up and with both hands on my ta tas pushes me back into the space

“What the feck!?!” I yell.

“What?” He asks, blankly.

“I’m your wife! Not a UPS package! You just slammed me down and shove me back in here like you were loading a truck!”

“Sorry. I guess I’ve just been hoisting you around ruins so much recently that its just all business now. Also, I’m still kind of drunk.”

Awesome. Do not drink and lift your wife. Cue another round of giggling. The absurdity of going all the way to Ireland so that we can get drunk at 10 a.m. and climb rocks and play in sheep shit is more than we can handle.

After a harrowing walk back through the sheep we head down the road were we’d heard about a round tower that was worth checking out. But we’d been warned about a bull. Sure enough when we reached the field we were supposed to cut through, there was a sign out that said “Beware Bull.” Our hosts had specifically referred to the bull as “a killer” so we decided to skip that little adventure.

We hit the for a quick stop at the Jer Point Glass studio, which is renowned for its blown glass.

As soon as we parked the car, a tiny but fat little dog came running up to us. He was shaped like a sausage. I was beginning to really love the amount of dog attention I was getting in Ireland. We both want a dog in a bad way, but it just isn’t in the cards right now. It seemed everywhere we went was another awesome dog. Each one we came across was off leash and perfectly trained. And they were just as friendly as the Irish people. (But not quite as friendly as that Spanish guy in Dingle.)

After wasting some time playing with the little sausage dog we shopped around the small studio/store debating taking some home with us, then headed out to the workshop where we were told we could watch the artists in action.

There was nothing fancy or touristy about it – it was just a legit workshop with a pair of lawn chairs. So, we pulled up a lawn chair and watched. Our “quick stop” turned into 30 minutes of marveling at the whole process. I was impressed. Plus there were  2 hot Irish guys helping the artists so that wasn’t too bad either… : )

We left with out any souvenirs, concerned that there was no convenient way to get the items home in one piece. But we took with us the awesome memories of the sausage dog and those 2 hot guys in the workshop. That second memory might belong to just me though…

Not far down the road was Jer Point Abbey – another set of ruins. We walked in, made a big circle, declared it neat and left. Apparently we’d seen enough ruins : ) It was lunch time anyway!

Back in the tiny village of Stoneyford (just 5 minutes from the farm we were staying at) we stopped for lunch at Knockdrinna Cheese Shop. It was a quaint shop with an impressive selection of cheese (we like cheese, nom nom nom), baked goods and lunch specials. We ordered half the food on the menu and grabbed a seat on the patio.

I was beginning to really like salads in Ireland! This was the 2nd or 3rd time we’d ordered a main dish that came with a selection of salads. It’s really an awesome way to do up a lunch – you get your main dish and then a small scoop of several different salads. Pasta salad, potato salad, something with shredded carrots…I rarely knew what I was eating but I almost always loved it.

After lunch we headed into Kilkenny City again to tour the Smithwick’s brewery.

Smithwicks is a red ale and I love it! While I loved Guinness in Ireland and drink it occasionally at home (where it tastes completely different) Smithwicks is one of my favorites – anywhere. We had reservations for the tour so once we arrived we signed in and then walked around checking out some of the nearby restaurants. The brewery – St. Francis Abbey – is located right in the heart of Kilkenny city.

When we returned for our tour a large group of American tourists had shown up. The kind you don’t want to be around. They were talking loudly and obnoxiously and I wanted to hide from them. But I also really like Smithwicks so I decided to just grit my teeth and bear it.

In case you aren’t a beer nerd – Smithwicks is pronounced “Smidd-icks” not “Smith-wicks.” Which is a fine error to make if you aren’t familiar with the beer. But despite our lovely tour guides kind guidance, our American tour mates couldn’t seem to contain themselves from yelling “Smith-wicks” every time they asked another obnoxious question, made fun of the tour guide, or blatantly disregarding any request not to take photos, to wear protective eye wear and so on.

At one point the guide was giving history of the brewery and asked, “Can anyone think of a year when our country faced political unrest that impacted the brewery?” The question was quickly answered by one of favorite new American friends…”Prohibition!!”

Wait. What did she just say?

Prohibition?

No, sorry, that was America. Honestly. Of all the places on God’s great Earth, Ireland would be about the last to enforce a prohibition of alcohol.

So my dear husband answers, “1916.” To which the guide happily replies, “Yes! 1916! Someone knows Irish history! Are you American??”

To which I replied, “Yes, we’re just not that kind of American.”

No of course I didn’t really say that. Americans, the guide commented, always seem to forget that their history isn’t everyone else’s history. Score 1 for the tour guide. She went on to connect political history to beer history and who doesn’t love that?!

On we went with the tour, which was great. Always sad though when you go on brewery tours (yeah…we go on a lot of them) to hear about the number of people employed 20 years ago vs the number employed today.

At the end of the tour we gathered in the tasting room. The room was built in the former cellar that held barrels of beer as they conditioned. We were then rewarded for putting up with the American tourists with a full pint of Smithwicks. Which the Americans actually made fun of. “Why is it that color??” “It’s so dark.” “Eww…I don’t know if I want one.”

Are you kidding me?! It was a good thing someone had put a pint of fresh Smithwicks in front of me because I was ready to tackle these people.

They proceeded to get drunk – or perhaps to act drunk – raise their volume a little higher, and mock everything the tour guide said. At one point the poor girl – who was being talked over – actually mumbled, “why am I even talking.” These were grown ass adults mind you – people in their 50s and 60s.

The brewery tour was one of my favorite parts of our time in Kilkenny but the folks on the tour were also one of the more eye opening experiences we had in Ireland. If this is the way that Americans behave when visiting another country then our reputation for being obnoxious, rude and arrogant is well deserved. It wasn’t the first example of this we’d seen. At a restaurant in Dingle, we listened to a neighboring American diner insist that his machiato be made a specific way. He was demanding and condescending to the waitress. He kept saying, “I don’t know how you’re going to make it but at home.…” She brought him his machiato, exactly the way the menu described it and not at all how he’d ordered it, set it in front of him and said frankly, “This is how we make a them in Ireland.” I wanted to stand up and cheer for her!

I don’t mean to sound unAmerican, and certainly the majority of American’s we met or encountered were lovely, but a lot of the behavior we saw was really disheartening. I won’t disagree that we live in one of the greatest countries on earth. But how the blessing of being American shifted from a place of pride and gratitude to one of elitism and entitlement I do not understand.

Forget being American even, maybe this is more about being human. How does anyone find this to be appropriate behavior? This isn’t the way you behave when you visit someone’s home. You don’t go into someone else’s home and make fun of it, ridicule it, disrespect it, use the phrase “eww”. Those rules don’t go out the window because your on vacation is a different country. That country is someone’s home for God’s sake! Put your manners on people!

But as I get older and the idea of having children isn’t that far off, I take comfort in knowing that as parents we’ll be able to do something about that. Because really what can I do, lecture the rude American’s on manners? Tell them to shove their ethnocentric bullshit up their asses? Ask them why they didn’t just go to the fecking zoo if they wanted to walk around mocking something that looked different?

No, I really can’t.

But I can damn well make sure I raise children who don’t even think about behaving that way. Who respect the people and country they’re visiting, can distinguish between right, wrong and just different, and count their blessings that they’re traveling at all. Who say, “Yes, I am American, thanks for asking. And where are you from?” when their nationality is questioned rather than responding, “Fuck yeah, I’m American!” while fist pumping or whooping they’re in a sports stadium.

(And yes, that last example is for real.)

This has kind of become my way of dealing with things that trouble  me in general – like people who are super rude in public. You know, like cashiers who make you feel like shit for no reason or customer service people who treat you like your an idiot. There’s not a whole hell of a lot I can do about those people. But I know I can raise children who don’t behave that way. Or at least I can try to : ) And that’s about the only comfort I can get from those situation, just like the rude Americans in Ireland. And hopefully, by the time our children are having their own adventures, new generations will have broken the “Rude American” mold for good anyway.

Sorry for the tangent…back to the trip…

After our tour we headed back to the B&B for the sad task of reorganizing our luggage and preparing for the last leg of our trip. We’d been stuffing all of our purchases into the trunk and now it was time to make them fit into our luggage. It was rough. The next afternoon we’d be dropping of our rental car and we’d hoped to condense everything down into the same number of bags we’d arrived with – one large suitcase and one large duffle bag – plus 2 small carry ons. The duffle bag arrived in Ireland with just 2 pairs of shoes and some socks in it. The whole point was to stuff it full of our dirty clothes (in space bags) and then cart our new belongings in the big suitcase.

We ended up with everything we came with plus 2 shopping bags that were busting at the seams. Sigh.

For dinner we headed back to Kilkenny where we ate at an Italian restaurant. The food was just okay. I was mostly amused to be eating Italian food in Ireland, served to me by an Armenian waitress.

After dinner we decided to head back and go to bed early. To be honest, we really weren’t feeling the vibe in Kilkenny. There wasn’t anything we disliked about it – we just didn’t seem to click with it the way we had with other towns.

So we drove back to Stoneyford in the only downpour we experienced in Ireland. Nothing like those narrow, windy Irish roads in the dark in a downpour. Such a peaceful journey…

We were both thankful to call it an early night. The next day we had some stops we were excited to make and then we were Dublin bound and very excited to explore the city!

Updated: St. Louis Boudoir Photography Marathon – Jan 14 & 15

29 Dec

Ladies there are still spots available for the St. Louis Boudoir Photography Marathon on January 14 and 15!

This is perfect timing – first of all because the finished photos will be ready in time for you to make a fabulous Valentine’s Day gift and second of all, because it is that holy and wonderful time known as the Victoria’s Secret Semi Annual Sale. (The first bit was intentional, the second bit is just serendipity!)

Here’s the deal:

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

Location details will be shared at the time of booking – but I will tell you its a fabulous St. Louis hotel!

And here are the open session times:

Saturday
9-10:30
11-12:30
1:00-2:30 – Filled
3:00-4:30

Sunday
8-9:30 – Filled
10:30-Noon – Filled

If you’re interested just shoot me an email at maggie at maggiemedemaphoto.com noting which session time you’re interested in.

Here’s a few shots from a recent session. Like all of the publicly available boudoir photos, they are faceless to protect privacy and shared only with client permission. If you are interested in a session and would like to see shots including faces (and really – the portrait style ones are ah-maz-ing) just shoot me an email and I have a selection that I can share with you directly.

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

Looking for more samples? Use the “Categories” drop down on the right to select Boudoir!

Places to go, People to see, Stories to write

8 Dec

Last night I finished writing the last installment of our Ireland blogs. Though its done, it will be a bit yet until you see it. Selecting, prepping and inserting the photos for those bad boys takes for-ev-er.

But as I wrote the last few paragraphs and tied the story of our first European adventure up with a nice bow, I felt very sad.

First of all, I was reliving the end of a trip. Like the end of vacation isn’t bad enough, right? But mostly, I was sad that I’d finished writing.

This past year or so has been crazy for us. Business picked up, we were both busier with our day jobs, we had a list a mile long of things we wanted to do and see and try. And it was fabulous. But it didn’t leave much time or energy for my random, rambling, what-the-hell-is-she-talking-about blogging. And I missed it. With out regular writing, I feel scattered. Like I can’t get a grip on my life.

So after Ireland, I was thrilled that I had something I felt I had to write. Not for anyone else, but because I know that the silly, small details don’t stick in your mind forever and I wanted them written down and saved forever before I forgot them.

Then last night, as a wrote about our flight home I thought, “Oh shit! What am I going to write about now?!”

The answer is I have no idea. But the other answer is everything.

I’m going back to blogging it all. The way I used to do it. Back when every time we went out with friend they would nervously call the next day to say, “Are you going to blog that?’

You bet your bottom I am.

So here we go kids, back to the land of blogging it all. Time will be made. Words will be written. Hopefully blogs will be read. It’s not a resolution. It’s not a goal. It just is. Because it must be.

With that, I will warn you that I plan to post a few things that I wrote long ago and never posted. Because they required the uploading of many photos and I was just too busy or too tired to do it. So when our Memphis 2010 trip gets blogged, don’t be surprised. Likewise for the story of our 2010 Christmas adventures.

But we’ll start today with this year’s Christmas adventures…

Before I even realized November was here, our December calendar was busting at the seams. It felt more daunting than delightful.

Late fall was like hell for me – a photo backlog that could wilt the hardiest of photoshoppers, a house (and closet!) neglected since the shooting season began in April, a dusty to-do lists of things I’d wanted to do for me. You know, like paint my toe nails.

So I had an honest breakdown over the whole thing and made some changes to make sure the same mess doesn’t creep up next year. Then I got to work. I wrapped up my photo work. I cleaned my closet. I still haven’t painted my toe nails, but we’ll get to that.

Then I made a conscious decision not to treat all the wonderful things on our December calendar like another Godforsaken to-do list.

Yesterday I started reading a new-to-me blog and I found a post about this exact thing. The blogger compared it to black friday and how businesses strive all year to get to that day and flip the switch from loss to gain. Then the rest of the year is pure profit. What an awesome way to put into words what I’ve been thinking! And I felt a little guilt lifted too that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.  That I’d adapted an attitude of screw that, I’ma sit by my Christmas tree if I wanna. To hell with productivity.

So cheers to the rest of the year being pure profit!

The profiting started last weekend. We were up and at it early Saturday morning for a photo shoot. But this time, we were in front of the camera to capture some fun, wintry photos of the two of us. I’ve decided that decorating with photos is my favorite, and I plan to swap out large, seasonal prints throughout the year. We’d just gotten some great fall photos done in October, so it was time for winter!

After a few hours of having a blast with the photos, we headed for St. Charles (MO not IL) and spent the rest of the day enjoying our first taste of their Christmas Traditions.

Oh my heavens, it was fabulous. Blocks and blocks (and more and more blocks) of tiny shops full of wonderful and weird gifts, bakeries and cafes.

Every single building was trimmed with real garland and dotted with red bows.

Horse-drawn carriages (complete with really cute dogs!!) jingled up and down the street while carolers and Santas from various countries and eras strolled around town spreading holiday cheer. For real, they were spreading real cheer. I felt very cheery in their presence.

Let’s get a better look at the that puppy. Ohmagoodness it’s cute!!

There was even a Fife and Drum Corp marching the street playing Christmas songs!! AND they played (and the carolers caroled) REAL Christmas songs. About CHRIST!!

Late in the afternoon, we even stood in line to get fresh, warm cookies and cups of hot cider from a cookie shop. Are you kidding me?! It was almost too much Christmas to handle. But only almost, it was really the perfect amount.

I thought it might be hokey. I am not a fan of people in period costumes. But it wasn’t at all. I felt like I’d fallen into a snow globe, save for the fact that it was 65 degrees outside.

We capped the day with a visit to the casino (cus that’s how we roll) and dinner out on the town when we got back to Edwardsville.

When we made it home, I threw our sleeping bags on the floor next to our Christmas tree and we camped out on the floor playing Mario Kart and watching “Christmas” movies. (We consider any movie with a Christmas scene to be a Christmas movie. Our favorites include Sleepless in Seattle and Die Hard.)

It was a perfect December Saturday. Pure profit.

This week is full of bits of Christmas. I crafted my girlie friends on Monday, we’re having holiday celebrations all week at work, finishing off our Christmas shopping this evening. Then this weekend comes 2 of my favorite holiday traditions: The Fancy Pants Christmas Party and shopping with the women of my family.

The Fancy Pants Party started in college. It used to be fancy, like with fancy outfits. Now its more of a jeans-and-sweaters situation, but we all have houses and china and better taste in wine…so its just a different kind of fancy. It’s just a small to-do with our former college roommates. But they are some of our very favorite people and this party is an annual highlight for me.

There’s a dirty Santa gift exchange that has featured some of the best gifts I’ve ever seen. Most of which cannot be mentioned here. One year, there was a fish. Like a real fish…in a bowl. Last year, I got this…

I’ll let you figure out what it is.

We also take nice holiday pictures each year. Here’s one from last years celebration that looks worth of the Awkward Family Photos blog:

The next day, it’s off to the races with my mama, aunts and lady-cousins as we disguise a day-o-drinking and laughing until we pee as “shopping.”

Here we are last year after a healthy dose of “shopping.”

Recaps of those events will grace this blog, I’m sure. We’ve got a good start to a month of slow paced fun and a “pure profit” attitude to cash in on.

We ought to be rich by the new year.

Live from Ireland: Day 6, County Tipperary

1 Dec

Location: County Tipperary, en route to the Kilkenny area
Population: 8,600
Random Fact: Though Kilkenny was our landing place of the day we spent most of the day in County Tipperary, interesting because it took very little time and effort for Zac and I to determine that his ancestors and mine lived in County Tipperary.
Accommodation: Lawcus Farm Guest House, Stoneyford (rural area just outside Kilkenny)

We woke up not the least bit hung over from our “quiet night in.” Or maybe it was that we were quite hung over and sweating through breakfast and trying not to keel over? I can’t remember now.

(I promise we aren’t always like this. The continual drinking was just an Ireland thing. Or perhaps it’s just a vacation thing. In any case the point is that it’s a rare event I consume this much alcohol. K? Good. Didn’t want anyone sending me meeting invites…)

We had another fine Irish breakfast and took our time gathering our things up. Throughout the trip we had only two stops that were one-night stands, our first night back in Doolin and this one in Kenmare. On this trip it was a great way to get where we wanted to be without traveling too far on any given day, but its also a bit tiring, so we were moving slow. One night stops are definitely not something I recommend if you’re planning a trip.

This was one of the few locations we stayed with a TV that got a proper news channel. Prior to this we’d only been able to watch cartoon channels. So we took a few minutes to watch CNN and catch a few of the 9/11 specials. Being the news junkie that I am, I was annoyed to be missing all the 10th anniversary specials and I’d forgotten to set the DVR to record them. When we were leaving for the trip, coverage and talk about the 10th anniversary was just starting to amp up and then it was like we were suddenly disconnected from it.

After a bit of depressing news coverage we loaded our stuff back into the Focus and set out to explore Kenmare by foot a bit more.

Our first destination was the Cromwellian Bridge, a tiny stone arch covered in moss spanning a small creek. It was adorable. And charming. And very Harry Potter-esque. And me, well, I was hung over. I’d survived the 4 block walk from our B&B to the bridge without a problem. Upon arriving at the bridge  there was much shaking, sweating and head spinning. So mostly I just leaned against the bridge and tried not the throw up on it.

Something about 5 nights (and 5 days!) of drinking my body weight in Guinness and Bulmers was catching up with me. I seriously needed a break from alcohol. But I am weak. And I really like Guinness. We agreed not to step foot in a pub for the rest of the day. You know, just to avoid the temptations all together.

Once I’d recovered from my little spell we headed back to the main streets of Kenmare. Things were just coming alive. There was a bakery truck unloading fresh breads and rolls into a bakery shop. There was even a police man in a long yellow slicker standing on the corner. It was like Sesame Street, but with more pubs.

There was also a man setting up a few tables of crafty-like items. I wasn’t in the market for such items but he had a cool dog so we stopped to talk about his dog. The dog was awesome and as it would turn out, so were his crafty items! He had oodles of handmade clay thatched cottages. They were adorable, painted by hand to have flowers in the window boxes and everything. I loved them!! I told him we were going to shop around a bit and let him get set up and then we would be back to do business. He seemed skeptical : )

We shopped around Kenmare, picking up a few random things and just enjoying the beautiful weather and quiet morning.

Eventually we made our way back to the man with the cottages. His collection was much larger than I expected. There were cottages of every size, shape and color. And Celtic crosses too. I was in trouble.

“How much cash do we have left?” I whispered to Zac.

“I’m not telling you.” he whispered back. He knew he was in trouble too.

Funny thing about switching currency – I treated euros like monopoly money. It  looked different, it was a different shape, it felt different. So obviously, it wasn’t money. I was more like a 3rd grader learning about Indian trading practices than an American shopping abroad.

“I’ll trade you 2 pieces of the orangish-colored papers and 1 bluish-colored paper for 2 little cottages.”

Anyway. As we browsed the cottages we chatted with the man. He was 60ish and a year or so back, like so many others, he’d lost his job. He said he’d looked and looked and hadn’t found work. He wasn’t the type to sit around idle and in a search for something to do with his time, he’d picked up some clay to play around with.

“I’d been good wit da clay in primary school so I taught itd fill me time.” He explained.

By now I wasn’t shopping, I was just listening. The global economy has been cruel in this country and has been even more cruel in Ireland. We’d talked to plenty of people who had plenty to say about the Irish economy and it’s staggering 14% unemployment. But talking with a 60 year old man who’d gone all the way back to something he’d liked in primary school to fill his time and maybe pay the bills…that was for real.

In filling his time, the man had found his next job – selling handmade cottages to tourists charmed by thatched roofs and intricate crosses. He talked about being in control of his own employment now and that even if business wasn’t booming at least it was his business. That was something I could relate to completely.

I passed him my handful of tiny cottages.

“You’re talking all of these?” He asked surprised.

“Yes but I’m not done looking I said.” He looked a bit surprised and then smiled big.

“You’re a salesman’s dream,” he said and laughed as we picked out cottages and crosses for our house, our offices and pretty much everyone we know. He charged us half of what I know we owed him. We talked a while longer about the economy, the evils of big business, and fickle tourists and then we headed off. I think we were all quite pleased to have crossed paths.

On the way back to the car we passed a small grocery store like place. (For our Streator readers…it was like an Irish Grant Street!)  Having agreed not to step foot in any pubs, we decided to stop here for lunch supplies.

There was a tiny counter in the back with a few full-sized roasted turkeys in the case and amazing smelling rolls still resting on a baking sheet. An older Irish woman was behind the counter. We asked if she could make us sandwiches and she said she could. So we watched her shuffle around behind the counter, carving big slices of the turkey and blocks of cheese, slicing up fresh tomatoes and making us some fabulous sandwiches. I think they were 2 euros each.

Around here, we’d have to pay the $10.99/pound if we wanted actual turkey on a sandwich! The promise of a fresh, light lunch was pretty pleasing after 5 days of stews, steaks and fried seafood.

Back to the car we went, ready to head off for our day of exploring castles. Then, to our shock, an SUV came flying down the road, flanked in front and back by more SUVs carrying men in army-style camo with very, very large guns. We sat in the car, mouth agape. Had we been in Mexico, I would have expected this. I was unprepared.

The vehicles whipped over to the side of the road, just past the man selling little cottages. The Army Ranger looking guys jumped out and created a perimeter along the road and the sidewalk. People moved out of the way. We sat. Stunned. Staring.

“Should we, like, get the feck out of here or something?” I said.

“Shh. I’m watching.” Zac said.

So we watched in silence. Except for me. I wasn’t silent. I was spewing all kinds of theories. Terrorist threat. Hostage situation. Kidnapping for the purpose of extortion.

Turns out, that’s just how they deliver money to banks to Ireland. Like a really dramatic Brinks truck.

So off we went to find our first castle – in a town called Cahir. After a brief drive through more rural areas we found the highway – also known as the Motorway – and we’re thrilled to be on a big wide road with 4 lanes (4!!).

We arrived in Cahir right around lunch time. There were high school age students out and about for lunch, in their plaid skirts and knee socks. It reminded me of the tortured years I spent in the same get up. (Though admittedly I never wore knee socks with my pleated plaid.)

We drove down the main street, with more painted shop fronts and rounded a corner to find the castle just in front of us. It was right there in the middle of town, with everything built up around it. And it was a castle. Like a castle, castle. Like in a movie, or a book, or…history.

We were pretty pumped for our first real castle experience. But we were hungry so before heading in, we snagged a park bench behind the castle and sat down for our picnic. First a picnic outside an abbey and now outside a castle. Not too shabby for ole Maggie : )

After lunch we joined a guided tour of the castle – the first official tour we’d actually taken. The tour was brief but came with all sorts of interesting information about the history of the castle and most interestingly, what function different parts of the castle served. I for one had no idea why castle towers have those little openings around the top. Zac knew so that must be a boy thing. (I’m told its so you can shoot arrows without exposing yourself…)

We learned all about the castle’s inner workings from defensive traps to bathrooms. At the end of the tour we were free to explore on our own.

Those open arch ways are made so that you can drop things like hot lard on the enemy when they try to invade your castle.

Look midway down the column…the black ball is a canon ball still lodge in the stone!

Guess what my husband made a beeline for? The insanely steep, narrow spiral staircase. Seriously.

During the tour the guide had cautioned everyone to watch their step because the staircase had been built as a defensive strategy. Something about swinging swords in a small space? And the steps had been built unevenly in height and width, and they slopped down, and they were white washed. So basically they were made for people to fall down.

Up the damn stairs we went. Zac first, me behind him. He kept turning his head and asking if I was okay, probably worried I would give myself a panic attack before I had a chance to fall down the stairs. It was like this…

One set up.

Two sets up.

“Are you okay back there?”

“TURN AROUND! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!! DON’T LOOK AT ME! LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING!!!!”

“Okay, I’m watching, I’m being careful.”

Three steps up.

Four steps up.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“WHAT THE FECK!?! FECKING TURN AROUND AND WATCH THE STEPS!!!”

Six steps.

Seven steps.

“I can’t go any higher. I can’t. I won’t. I refuse. I’m not moving. Come back and get me!!”

“I can’t, you won’t let me turn around.”

Fecker.

We made it up the staircase.

Would you like to know what was at the top?

An open room with an old wooden desk.

Totally worth the scare.

And here’s me peaking through a gun hole. I feel that while this gun hole is effective for shooting people, it’s not so effective in terms of energy efficiency. You’re going to loose a lot of heat out that gun hole in the winter.

Outside we did some more exploring. Including more stair climbing.

I powered through another narrow, open-sided stair case (right below where Zac’s standing, naturally) just so I could stand on the open ledge of the castle wall. I could have hung out on the open ledge all afternoon. It would have been way better than going down the stairs!!

A view of Cahir from atop the castle wall…

Zac standing under the portcullis. This portcullis (neat word, yes?) is special because its one of the few remaining working ones in the whole world. Because of this, it makes lots of appearances in movies. Portions of the Tudors were filmed using it and the surround corridor. When fake portcullises are shown in movies, a recording of this one is dubbed in. Watch Braveheart to hear it in action!

When we’d finished our castle exploration we hit the road for our next castle – the Rock of Cashel.

When we spotted the Rock of Cashel in the distance we gasped, we’d heard it was huge, but it was seriously, seriously huge. It was intimidating and breath taking even with the town that had popped up around it – I can’t imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago, when it was the only structure around.

When we made it to the entrance the last tour had just left and we were given the option of hurrying to catch up with it. We decided to pass and just explore on our own using the little guide book included in admission. Of all the places we explored these (the Rock and Cahir castle) were the only places with proper parking lots and an admission fee.

Our first stop was to view St. Patrick’s cross. As in the real and original St. Patrick’s cross.

It was neat. Then we made our way out into the Rock. It was towering. There is no way to explain how large it is. I’ll let the pictures do the talking – that’s far more interesting.

We explored and took lots of photos. Then we parked our butts on the grassy hill and just sat for quite a while. We were exhausted from the traveling and exploring (and drinking) and this was the perfect spot to catch our breath. It was one of the most beautiful days we had during the whole trip. The temperature was perfect, the sky was clear and bright blue and the sun was lighting up the miles and miles of rolling green hills. In the distance, the hills grew bigger, showing off that perfect patchwork of green and further beyond that, the mountains peaked up toward the clouds. It was awesome.

So glad Zac snapped that shot of me. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip and I had no idea it was being captured.

Ohmagosh its so hot when he wears my camera…

We sat a while and just enjoyed the view, then we did a bit more exploring, poked around the cemetery area and then we sat on a different hill and looked at a different view. Then we got up and went back around to were we were sitting before and we sat there again.

(You must be really thrilled to be reading this right now.)

We sat and looked around and soaked up the sun until it was closing time. Then we hit the road for our next destination – Stoneyford in County Kilkenny. It was about 4 in the afternoon. I’d gone 15 hours without alcohol. The longest – by far – since we’d walked into the Chili’s in Concourse C at O’Hare Airport 7 days prior.

Lets stop and talk about Irish Counties for a bit. We spent the majority of the day in County Tipperary. It was fun because we knew ancestors from both Zac’s family and mine were originally from this county. We didn’t know what towns or areas specifically but it was enough to know we were in the same general vicinity and to wonder out loud if maybe our families had crossed paths long before us.

The other neat thing about crossing through various counties was seeing all the team flags flying. Ireland participates in International sports – like soccer/football and rugby and those are popular but what seems to really drive the country crazy are the Gaelic games that are played within Ireland. We had to ask an Irishman for a lesson on this because I was totally clueless. So this is what I learned – there are two main Gaelic games, Gaelic Football and Hurling. Now I will share with you my vast knowledge of these two sports:

Gaelic Football looks kinda sorta like American football but the ball is round and you can only run it 4 steps before you have to pass it, kick it or do this little jig where you bounce it off your foot. The men are big and hunky and not covered in pads.

Hurling involves sticks. The men are big and hunky and not covered in pads.

You’re welcome for that enlightening introduction to Gaelic athletics.

(Any Irish readers can feel free to abandon this blog and curse my name if I completely jacked that up.)

Anyway…the teams are by county and each county of course has its team colors. And those colors are everywhere. As in, everywhere! If you think St. Louis during the World Series was the height of sports obsession, you should see what Kilkenny looked like after winning the All Ireland Hurling Finals. If it held still it was draped in the gold and black of the Kilkenny Cats. As we drove into County Tipperary, we only knew we’d arrived when the caution painting on the sides of small bridges switched from the standard yellow and white to Tipperary blue and gold.

While I couldn’t follow any of this sports business to save my life I did enjoy listening to other people chat about their home teams and go on about big games. It seems like a very awesome part of Irish life indeed.

So anywho…we were in the car trying to reach Stoneyford and County Kilkenny, lost as all get out, knowing only where we were by the color of flags flying in peoples yards. (I have no idea, by the way, how my husband picked up on the various team colors but I was glad when he yelled, “Gold and black!! At least we’re in the right county now!!”)

At one point we were so lost we just pulled over to sit and figure out where in God’s name we had gone wrong. As soon as we’d come to a stop, a farmer appeared from his field to help and point us in the right direction. Which was a very good thing because we’d gone every way but the right one!

Back on the road we cruised through a few tiny towns and past many, many sheep and many, many cows. We’d spent the better part of a week cruising around the edges of Ireland, looking up into the farm land, the cows distance specs in the green. Now we were in the farm land.

We pulled into Lawcus Farms around 6 p.m., down a long dirt lane with barely room for a single car, past a herd of cattle. We parked the car and hopped out, greeted instantly by a woman with wild, curly red hair. She introduced herself as Anne Marie, our host. The next thing I knew we were sitting in her kitchen, her husband Mark having joined us, watching her unpack groceries and random items from a shopping trip. They chatted with us about our day and theirs, teased each other about the shopping and in general made us feel instantly like we were home with our family.

The house was made of beautiful stone, but the kitchen was all glass windows – like a green house – and led to a beautiful deck with views of the perfect, bucolic landscape. Between the old farm house, the beautiful Irish hostess and her handsome farmer husband I was pretty sure we’d just stepped into a Nora Roberts novel.

Mark introduced us to the animals – two awesome dogs, pigs, cows, horses, even a pair of infant hedgehogs that he was nursing back to health after they’d been drug in by a neighbor’s dog. After some hot tea on the patio, we headed up to our room. We’d booked the Stone Room, which true to its name had beautiful stone walls. It was one of my favorite places of the whole trip.

A beautiful view out the Stone Room windows…

This guy showed up to drop off something farming related. We’re still wondering if he’s real, or if as part of the experience these B&B hosts hire the elderly to dress up the way we picture old Irish men and then have them pretend to deliver stuff in feed sacks…

While we’d found ourselves the perfect farm to serve as our home base, it was also only 15 minutes from the bustle of Kilkenny City so for dinner we cleaned up and headed for town. Kilkenny was a far departure from the towns we’d been in previously. It was much larger and much busier, with real parking garages and everything. We parked and walked around a few blocks looking for a place to eat. You’ll remember we’d promised we wouldn’t go near a pub today, so we were looking for a proper restaurant. And we found one.

We popped into a place with a name I recognized for reading Trip Advisor reviews. It was a lovely restaurant with people in nice clothes and candles on the tables and real legitimate menus and everything. Nothing like the pubs we’d been living in. We were seated and started to browse the menu, neither of us saying a word.

“It’s really hot in here.” I finally said. Which it was, kind of.

“Yeah, it is a bit hot.” Zac agreed.

“Want to go to that pub down the street instead?” I asked.

The next thing I knew we were out the door, back out into the cool Kilkenny rain, making our way to a pub we’d passed that promised Trad Music and delicious pub grub.

We sat on bar stools and ordered stew and fried fish and pints of Guinness and Bulmers and we lived happily ever after.

St. Louis Boudoir Photography Marathon

29 Nov

Alright Ladies if you missed out on the Bloomington Boudoir Marathon a few weeks ago here’s your next chance! Be a part of the St. Louis Boudoir Photography Marathon on January 14th and 15th.

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

We’ll be shooting your classy & sassy boudoir photos in a trendy St. Louis boutique hotel, selected to offer great lighting and lots of fun options for posing.

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

The timing is right to make this the hottest Valentine’s Day ever.

And as much as the gentlemen enjoy receiving these smoking hot albums, it’s a great gift for the ladies too…

Gentlemen, this would make an excellent early Valentine’s Day gift! A little weekend trip to StL, a nice dinner, shop for some new lingerie…oh…and some boudoir photos.

Does that sound like the perfect weekend to anyone else?! Is my husband reading this? Husband?

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

Just shoot me an email if you’re interested in getting your lady a gift certificate and we’ll hash out the details.

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

The following time slots are currently available. I will update this list as the session times are filled. A $60 non-refundable deposit is required to hold a session time. The remainder of the balance is due the day of the session

Saturday
9-10:30
11-12:30 – Filled
1:00-2:30 – Filled
3:00-4:30

Sunday
8-9:30
10-11:30 – Filled

Packages and Pricing:

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

Specific location details as well as guide to preparing for your session will be shared upon booking.

St. Louis Boudoir Photography

Use the “Boudoir” category (in the right hand menu of this blog) to see samples from previous session. If you are interested in seeing more images (including portraits with faces), please contact me and I can share additional samples with you directly.

Email maggie@maggiemedemaphoto.com for details and to reserve a spot!

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