Because You Can Never Have Enough Folks

My best friend and work colleague Jenni and I had to make a trip to Orlando to train book fair teams on our literacy event kits. Since Jenni’s parents live in Tampa we decided to head down early and spend the weekend with Mom and Dad.

I caught an early flight out of DC and flew through Detroit. Jenni was going to fly directly to Tampa but I flew into Orlando and picked up the rental car and made my way across the state. Somehow I got stuck with a big ass SUV instead of the tiny little compact I’d reserved.


It’s like the opposite of a compact car. And I didn’t realize it was a hybrid when I prepaid the gas.

I drove straight over and somehow managed to arrive before Jenni landed. That was no problem since Mom was expecting me. We sat in the lobby of her swanky condo until Jenni arrived. We went up to check out the condo and its incredible views of Tampa Bay.


Taking a conference call from the balcony at Mom and Dads place.

Jenni was kind enough to stay with her sister Melissa so I could stay in the extra room at Mom’s. I unpacked quickly before she changed her mind and then we went for a walk on the Bayshore.

Dad decided to stay home so Jenni and Mom and I went out to dinner. We had a hard time deciding on a restaurant but I saw an ad for the Hula Bay Club that looked super fun so we decided to check it out.


Fresh seafood right on the water!

We got a table on the deck over looking the marina. Jenni ordered some edamame and I got a wedge salad. I skipped the cocktails because #temperancetemp in #dryanuary but I’d earned a free drink so I used it for Mom’s wine. We all ordered some seafood and it was delicious. The only thing better than the food was the company!

Afterwards, we dropped Jenni off at Melissa’s house and Mom and I headed back to the condo. I totally won because Mom had some of the excellent homemade peanut brittle crack that Patrick Brasington made.


Thank God I don’t live near Patrick Brasington and don’t have the opportunity to just happen to drop in while he is preparing what is absolutely the most delicious, peanutty snack EVAH.

The next morning, Jenni came over bright and early and we took another quick walk on the Bayshore.


Lots of people with the same idea. Bayshore was crowded!

Jenni had made appointments for us to get mani/pedis at Crave, a hot new salon around the corner from the condo. We picked out our colors and settled in for a relaxing spa treatment time. Afterwards, we headed over to BT To Go to indulge in some delicious French-Vietnamese food.


Pho with tofu, which Mallory actually seems to like.

Melissa brought Mallory over to join us, since she was going to get a blowout. And I convinced Mallory I was her new aunt by showing her the family resemblance.


Melissa, Beth, Jenni and I in a recent photo I whipped up for Mom.

Mallory convinced us to pop into Sillly Dilly, her favorite shop in the entire world. I not only gave up drinking for #dryuary, I also imposed a personal shopping moratorium. That flew out the window as soon as I entered the store.


Mallory and I needed the matching crown headbands. That shouldn’t even count.

The entire store was full of crowns and sparkles.


Filled with so much regret for not buying this matt!

I also acquired a glittery blue fairy dress ornament and a framed print that says “I’m in my happy place”. I took my new treasures out to the car and settled into the back. Mallory insisted I sit with her since she’d realized we were kindred princess spirits!

Mallory fired up the Heads Up app on my phone and we played a few rounds as Mom drove us back to the condo. When we arrived, Malloy made an attempt to be inclusive by inviting Mom and Jenni to play with us. She even named the teams.


Mallory and I won when my phone battery got too low to continue.

Afterwards, Dad gave Mallory a ride home and Melissa picked up Mom and Jenni and I to take us out to dinner. We had a lovely meal at Boca and then Melissa dropped Mom and I off for my final night in the condo.


Boca wall art

It was a wonderful weekend with my newest folks!



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Post #NYEribroast

The #NYEribroast was so successful, we didn’t make it back to the farmhouse to sleep until long past 2 am. I wasn’t sure what time we were eating brunch, but I’ve always been an early riser so I was up at 8 am ready to go. Will and Laurin came out shortly after and started a roaring fire. The farmhouse was originally built in the 1800s and was charming but chilly. The fire was fantastic.


The only ones who enjoyed the fire more than me was Otto and Dasher.

Laurin and Will cooked up an amazing brunch.


Three different kinds of frittata. Now that’s a brunch!

The food was delicious and we all had a good time remembering the #NYEribroast the night before.

Laurin even made black eyed peas. For luck.


Black eyed peas. Good and good for you.

I’m not sure when, but at some point the night before I’d pledged my support for Christine’s month of no drinking. Obviously, that wouldn’t start until we finished the champagne from the night before. In fact, Laurin told us nobody was leaving until we finished it off. That seemed like it wouldn’t be a problem when we thought there were only 3 or 4 bottles left, but bottles kept turning up…

Afterwards, we sat and chatted as the crowd began to part ways. Christine and I continued to make headway on depleting the champagne stock. We are hard workers and when someone gives us a task we like to follow through. Eventually, someone decided it would be a great idea to go for a walk.


Real feel eleven? Clearly the alcohol was influencing my decisions. Good thing I agreed to quit drinking in January #temperancetemp

We all bundled up.


Bob and Christine told me to wear my hood in extreme temperatures, even with the earmuffs. That’s the kind of helpful advice that’s going to ensure my survival once I move to Chicago.

We started up the hill. Matt had Flannery’s leash and Will and Laurin were taking care of Otto and Dasher.


Nothing for Bob, Christine and I to do but enjoy the walk. 

At the top of the hill is The Owl, a lovely little local nightclub.


Friendly staff at the Owl and they have an interactive jukebox, but Bob accurately judged the crowd and determined that overriding their football game might not be appreciated, even if I started with Let’s Have a Kiki.

We ordered up drinks and since it was so cold out, I opted for whisky. I’d hoped for some honey whisky but they were out. They did have Jim Beam Red Stag which I hadn’t ever tried before. I liked it so much, the bar tender suggested I try the apple flavored one. I also loved that! Christine, who has a much classier palette, didn’t care for either one and since the bartender had poured us each a shot to sample it, I got hers as well #winning


Whisky time

When we finished and started getting texts from Matt wondering where we were, we decided to leave.


Christine pointing the way back.

We walked down the hill.


Walking back to the farmhouse.

Angel was hungry so Bob went with him to get something for dinner in town and bring it back to the rest of us.


Matt is very hearty!

When they returned, they prepared an amazing feast. With more champagne!


The roast beef sandwiches were my favorite part. Also, the mashed potatoes which may have come from a box, though that wouldn’t matter since I LOVE boxed mashed potatoes. Have you tried the cheese and garlic flavor? Delish!

It was clearly too late to drive home and there were still a few bottles of champagne left since an elf was replenishing or they were reproducing or something, so we packed up and headed back to the lake house to spend the night.

Christine drifted off, champagne in hand, but Matt rescued it before it spilled. We played a few rounds of pool and the boys worked on polishing off another bottle of bubbly. I’d realized I had reached my limit.


Billiards in the basement, though Angel had already gone to bed and Christine was passed out on the couch. 

Eventually, my eyes began to shut and I headed up to the attic room to hit the sack. It was the end of an era, in the sense that I was starting a month of sobriety the next day, so obviously I needed some rest.


Sunrise on Lake Geneva



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I had an early flight to Chicago and thankfully slept most of the way. Once I landed I caught a cab to Bob and Angel’s house to help prepare for the #NYEribroast. Apparently Bob plans a delightful feast each year and with the help of Matt and Christine, serves up a platter full of tasty food and wonderful memories. This year was even more exciting because Will and Laurin were going to host the event at their farmhouse and a mid-century modernist house on Lake Geneva.

We spent the day prepping vegetables and Bob made a delightful parsnip soup.


Parsnips I peeled.

Christine showed up to help and we shared a bottle of wine. Angel was providing the dessert and got busy making a decadent chocolate cake with coffee icing and chocolate ganache.


Hard work but totally worth it, the chocolate cake was peerless.

We ordered in a pizza and spent the evening prepping. The next day we gathered all of the supplies we would need for the big event. Angel was busy frosting his cake and Bob and I loaded up the car.


Sadly, when the car was loaded, we didn’t have room for Angel.

Angel was still working on his cake and decided to ride up with some other party guests. Bob and I set out and after a quick stop at Wolfys hit the road.


Chicago sure knows how to make a hot dog.

It was a lovely day to drive to Wisconsin. Bob turned on some excellent tunes and we made great time. We stopped in town for a few last minute supplies and then made out way to the lake house.


The exquisite mid century modernist lake house where we welcomed 2016.

Laurin and I worked on setting the table.


So beautiful and oddly shaped. We began referring to it as the penis table and finished setting the places just as the sun was setting on the lake.

Meanwhile, Bob, Matt, and Christine were finishing up the scalloped potatoes.


Chefs at work!

I was in charge of chilling the champagne as well.


My champagne chilling concept involved snow and lights. It was working really well until the temperature dropped below 20.

Fred and Susy arrived and brought Angel and his beautiful cake. Fred, who is an accomplished DJ, had brought his equipment but discovered that the speakers were not working and he and Susy left to try to find some in town.


Fred and Susy risking life and limb in the Wisconsin winter to ensure there would be dancing. Those are good people!

I put on my party dress, Angel put on his tux and we decided to walk to the farmhouse to enjoy the cocktail hour with the rest of the party guests.


Angel and I about to journey out into the winter weather for cocktails.

The farmhouse is only about a quarter of a mile away and it would have been a lovely walk except that it was late December in Wisconsin and the snow had frozen and we had no map and it was dark. Really, really dark! We made a few wrong turns down some ice roads and the howling winds kept blowing up my skirt. Believe me when I tell you a short skirt, tights and a crinoline are no match for Wisconsin winter weather!

It was a Christmas miracle we found the farmhouse, but when we did arrive there was a blazing fire and some lovely Wisconsin cheeses. We were lucky that Will is a terrific driver and very familiar with the treacherous winter weather conditions and was able to give us a ride back in a car when the cocktail hour had ended.


Here’s to good food and good friends!

We took our places at the table.


Starting our New Year’s Eve feast with a lovely toast from our gracious host

The meal was flawless. The parsnip soup was flavorful, the salad was simple but elegant, the potatoes were creamy and delicious, and the crown roast and horseradish sauce was utter perfection!



The only thing more wonderful than the meal was the company. Afterwards, Fred began spinning some tunes and we cleared some room to dance. Fred is an amazing DJ and the eclectic mix of music he played was just right for our festive crowd.

We took a break to have some cake and then somebody noticed that it was nearing midnight!


Welcome to the eleganza, 2016!

We danced and snacked for hours.

The evening began to wind down and we headed back to the farmhouse. We needed to rest up for brunch!


Happy New Year!

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The Long Road Home

Since I’d used my global upgrades I knew I was going to enjoy the ride home, but I had a fairly tight connection at JFK and then I was going to fly to DC just long enough to repack before my flight to Chicago the next day. My plan began to go off the rails when I received a 5 am text from Delta saying my first flight was going to be delayed 2 hours. I decided it would be worth it to make the call to the diamond desk and rebook my flight from JFK to DC. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of options. I could either fly home at 9:30 pm or take a bus from JFK to LGA and catch a 7:30 flight from there. I decided the more time I had at home the better so I had them rebook me on the flight out of LGA. I was wide awake so I packed up and headed out for the last full Irish of my trip.


I would describe the decor as chic but threatening. I loved it.

I was the first one in the restaurant, and the breakfast was outstanding. I loaded up on sausages and black pudding and had a pot of tea.

Though my flight was going to be late, I decided to go ahead and return my car and head back to the airport. Its a good thing I did! I picked up a few more souvenirs and then started hanging out in the lounge area. I was enjoying some tea when I just happened to notice they were boarding my flight! I hustled through the customs checkpoint and then down to the gate and they were already boarding my flight. I realized we were going to get out on time after all so I decided to pay for another call to the diamond desk to get my original ticket back.

I settled into my lovely flat bed seat and called Delta. They had already given my original seat away but put me on standby for that flight. They closed the cabin door and then we pulled away from the gate and came to a stop where we sat for quite a while. Thankfully, I was already starting on the champagne, scanning the menu, and playing with the seat and not paying much attention.


Couldn’t wait for the chestnut soup and the braised oxtail!

The flight eventually took off, I got my seat in the perfect position for comfortable lounging and fired up the first movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It was terrific, two thumbs up!


Signature cocktail and seared tuna. 

Next up was Mission Impossible which was meh.


Gingerbread and butter pudding with black currants with a side of vanilla ice cream and a trip to the gym.

I napped for a little while after that (I blame the gin) and then woke up to watch Sleeping with Other People, which I loved!


Making our final approach and I’m beginning to realize I might not make the connection for my standby flight!

When we finally landed, we sat on the runway for a while. By the time we actually made it to the gate, it would have been impossible but the flight had been delayed until 7:30 so catching it wasn’t a problem but I didn’t know if I should stay at JFK and try to fly standby or take the bus to LGA and be certain of my flight. I called the diamond desk again and they told me the flight was going to be delayed even more and I should go ahead and go to LGA. Along the way I got a notice that the flight was cancelled. I called the diamond desk again and they assured me it wasn’t.

I bought a ticket on the bus to LGA. When it finally arrived and I went out to get on board, it was already packed. I found an empty seat and sat by the window and a young girl from India sat next to me. The bus driver began asking us what airline we were on. I said, “Delta.”


Super crowded on the bus. I was squished up against a window with my overloaded tote on my lap.

The bus pulled up to LGA and began stopping at random terminals. When they stopped at the Delta terminal I started to get off and asked if this was the marine terminal. The bus driver said, “No. You should have told me you wanted that one when you got on. It would have been the first stop. Sit down.” I wasn’t sure what that meant but decided to do what he said.

He stopped a couple more times and then I was the only one left. He pulled up outside a baggage area and opened the door and told me to get off. I asked if it was the marine terminal. He said no but I could catch the bus to that terminal if I waited on the curb for the bus that said Route A. He grabbed my bag, set it next to me and pulled off.


This is not the marine terminal and that is not the Route A bus.

I waited about 15 minutes before I finally saw the Route A bus. It was a 15 minute ride to the Marine Terminal.


Route A bus, which was much less crowded.

When I finally got there I discovered my flight was delayed and wouldn’t be leaving until 8:00. The crew was delayed and we were waiting for them to get there. By the time they finally arrived and we boarded the flight, we were delayed until 8:30. I didn’t actually arrive until well after 9. My beautiful niece Amanda was waiting to pick me up and took me home to unpack/pack my suitcase and then back to my sister’s to stay before the next day’s flight to Chicago. I’d have even had time to sleep except when we got to my sister’s house I realized I’d left my phone at home and had to turn around and go back! Totally worth it by the time I did get back and finish up packing because I was on my way to the #NYEribroast



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Dublin Day

The drive to the Morrison involved driving right through the heart of Dublin and along the River Liffey. Since it was a Doubletree property, I’d gotten with a sweet rate with my Hilton points, but I wasn’t sure about the parking. I pulled into the alley behind the hotel and went in to find out where the car park was located.

The super nice guy who helped me told me he wasn’t sure if the car park was open because it was a bank holiday but he would check and in the meantime he offered to check me in. We chatted for a while and he tole me he was a Dubliner, but he’s never seen much of the rest of Ireland and he’d never been to the Connemara. Afterwards I parked and then popped back in to leave my luggage.

I’d picked up a map and it was only a five minute walk across the river to the castle.


Crossing the River Liffey

The views from the bridge were fantastic.


A gloomy day in Dublin 

The castle was just two blocks from the river and very easy to find.


Dublin Castle and the Gates of Fortitude and Justice.  And if you ask me, you don’t really have a gate unless its got a cool name like fortitude or justice.

The inside of the castle was fantastic. My favorite parts were the Waterford crystal chandeliers and the doorknobs.

Afterwards I walked to the Queen of Tarts (my very favorite tea shop) but it was closed because it was a bank holiday. So I wandered around the city looking for another.

I picked up a few souvenirs in Temple Bar and stopped in a whisky shop to ask about single pot whisky for Bob. I never found another tea shop so I strolled back to the hotel.

It was shift change, but the guy who had originally checked me in was still there. He introduced me to the new guy and told me he’d just been telling him I was a “great craic” (best hotel ever, their staff is obviously very observant!) I asked for my bags, they said they’d already taken them up to my room for me.


I love it when I get to a hotel room and the TV has a special “Welcome Sherri Wilson” message! Also, great wall quotes up in the Morrison. 

I was still hoping for tea so I went down to the hotel restaurant.


I’m always down for afternoon tea!

Excellent choice! They had a fantastic afternoon tea!


Why did the colonies have to revolt? Why?!?

I had them wrap up the half of my tea I couldn’t finish and went back up to my room to work on my blog and try to cram my souvenirs into my bag.


Who would ever want to leave this?

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Driving to Dublin

Dublin is a quick drive from Cabra Castle but I decided to take the long way and swing through Swords so I could visit another castle. My route got even longer when I saw a sign in Slain that pointed to the Hill of Slain. I stopped for gas and quickly googled it and found out it was a “very important site”. Not sure what that meant so I decided to double back and check it out.

At the top of the hill in the middle of town, the Hill of Slain was totally deserted. Its a good thing too because I was so busy taking a picture of my car by the warning sign I might have forgotten to lock the door!


The weather seemed like more of a threat. It was very gloomy an there was nobody around!

I walked to the top of the hill to check it out.


Looked like castle ruins from a distance.

This is the site where St. Patrick lit a fire on Easter and convinced some guy to support the church. Or something.


St Patrick about to burn it down

I didn’t spend a lot of time reading the signs because the view was magnificent!


Part of the abbey ruins on the Hill of Slain

I walked around the cemetery and the views were stunning. Then I walked through the ruins in the middle of the graveyard.



I walked back down the hill and got to the car just as the rain began again. On my way out of town I passed Slain Castle which was closed and crossed a bridge over a river that looked really high and angry, like it was going to be crossing its banks any second.

My next stop was Swords. I wanted to check out the castle. I found some street parking on the block outside the castle and when I got out to try to figure out where and how to pay for parking, an extremely nice Irish couple returned to their car, gave me their parking stub, and saved me the trouble. I walked to the castle and discovered it was closed. Also, it was raining and it was lunchtime. I walked back to the car and resumed my journey to Dublin. Along the way, I pulled into an Applegreen to pick up some lunch.


How am I going to live without the cheese and onion crisps when I get home? Why do I have to? Come on, American chip companies!

After my gas station picnic I pulled back out and drove into Dublin.


Driving in Dublin less fun than driving anywhere else in Ireland, but still pretty exciting!


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A Short Trip to the Giants Causeway

The Giants Causeway is on the northern coast of Northern Ireland and is a World Heritage site, like the Redwoods or Mount Everest. Formed by the gentle, cross dressing giant Finn McCool eons ago, visiting the site was one of the reasons I planned my holiday trip. I’d missed it on my first visit and I really, really wanted to check it out.

I got up early, had a hearty Irish breakfast and hit the road. I took the scenic route because driving in Ireland is fantastic and I wasn’t in a terrible hurry. I skirted Derry (not Londonderry, which I am very clear on now thanks to my Irish friends!) and headed north.


Notice the lack of MPH on my speedometer? Nothing to do now but wait until the tickets from the speed cameras arrive in the mail…

As I was rocking out to my holiday playlist (Christmas Queens, available on iTunes) I noticed a sign for a picnic area. Hoping it would have a nice view, I pulled off. Turns out that was an excellent decision! The road curved up to the top of the mountain so not only were the views stunning, the drive was fun!


When I came back down I made great time and arrived in Bushmills right before lunch. I had planned to visit the Bushmills Distillery while I was there but I discovered it was closed so I continued on to the Giants Causeway. They have a very nice welcome center and I picked up my ticket and a headset for the audio tour and headed out. The views were magnificent and I followed the trail down the cliff to the bay.

Afterwards I took the bus back up to the top of the cliff. It was heated and it was a cliff. Totally worth the 1 Euro fare! Besides the bus driver was great fun.


Very close to the rock wall. Reminds me of that broken down school bus Jenni and I rode in while we were in Costa Rica

I passed through the cafe and since it was way past lunch I picked up a cage free egg salad sandwich and a bag of onion and cheese crisps (an Irish national treasure if you ask me!) I wasn’t sure I’d mastered the Irish driving enough to risk eating and shifting and dodging parked cars so I enjoyed a fine parking lot picnic with an exceptional view.


A view of the sea while chomping on crisps and an egg salad sandwich. 

My intended route involved skirting Belfast and then taking the M1 towards Dublin. It was still fairly early and at that point I was having a terrific time belting out Madonna tunes so when I saw the sign that said “Bronte Homeland” I decided to hop off the freeway and take a look. Who doesn’t love the Bronte sisters? So I drove around some absolutely exquisite countryside with hairpin curves, tall hedges, and occasional cars speeding by in the other direction. Eventually I passed the Bronte Steakhouse but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Charlotte, Emily or Anne grew up. I ended up running into the freeway again so I hopped back on.


Somewhere near the Bronte Homeland in Northern Ireland

The next item of interest I saw was a sign for a viewpoint. That had worked out really well for me earlier in the day so I decided to hop off and try again. That road also went up a mountain, but the road wasn’t very well maintained and there were broken down tractors and crumbling barns littering the sides of the road. I never actually saw a pull off to take a picture of the view, but there wasn’t any other traffic so I stopped on the road and took a few shots.


I think I’d crossed back over to Ireland at this point. No idea where I was, somewhere near Newry.

I got back on the freeway and continued to my hotel. Luckily, I’d programmed the long way into my gps and I wasn’t on the freeway long.
I’d booked a room at Cabra Castle. It’s a magnificent castle in the middle of nowhere about an hour north of Dublin.


Cabra Castle, Ireland

As I was checking in, I noticed several wedding parties were arriving as well. It was very festive and super crowded. The lady at reception told me I was in luck, my room was off the courtyard and I could drive around and park right in front of it. I had not idea what that meant until I drove out there. I was actually in the Milking Parlor.


I had no idea milk maids had such swanky digs!

So it was slightly less princessy than my first castle stay. Almost like I was living my fairy tale in reverse order. I unloaded my bags and then set out to explore the castle a bit.


Cabra Castle is charming. I loved my milkmaid room. Even if I had to carry my own bags up there!

I was going to go to the hotel restaurant for dinner, but the place was a maze, there were no seats at the bar, and there were bridesmaids everywhere! I ordered up some rooms service and spent the evening trying to understand how radiator heating worked.

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