September 27, 2010 | Comments Off

As Fall approaches we are enjoying the spectacular display of colors here in the Hudson Valley. Unlike in Ireland, where leaves just turn brown and fall off the trees at the end of summer, here in the U.S. North East the effect of the cold weather on their sugars is to cause the leaves to turn magnificent shades of orange, yellow, red and blue. It is a beautiful time of the year here, and one that draws in countless tourists to the “Fall Foliage Trail”.

The kids have always liked being outdoors. They enjoyed the summer just past, taking swimming and tennis lessons at our local pool club, but they’re also glad to see the change in the weather, and have fun on windy days, when they have taken to running around the garden trying to catch the leaves as they blow down. Indeed, we’re delighted that, since we decided to cancel our cable TV subscriptions, the older ones have started spending more time outside. We have set up Netflix accounts, which provide for streaming shows and movies over the internet, so that they can still enjoy some movies and shows, but they’re no longer spending hours of mindless viewing in front of the accursed tube. Now, riding their bikes, sitting out with their two rescue rabbits (they were destined for stew before joining our menagerie !), horse riding at the local stable, and going on lots of walks to the local State parks has become an enjoyable way for the kids to welcome the change of season. Read more



About a week ago I was very pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation, completely out of the blue, to join a dinner party being held to honor Jessica Watson on her recent record-breaking circumnavigation of the globe. Jessica, 16 at the time of her journey, is the youngest sailor ever to make the trip solo, non-stop and unassisted.

The dinner was arranged by 13 of Jessica’s most ardent fans, to coincide with her visit to New York. Many of them had posted comments every day to the blog that Jessica maintained throughout her 270 day journey, and when she announced that she would be coming to the US for the launch of her book, “True Spirit“, they arranged to fly in to New York City to meet her for dinner. I had posted several comments and so I was lucky enough to be invited to join them. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity, and headed down to the city on Wed night to meet the gang. Read more



Holy Smoke

September 7, 2010 | Leave a Comment

So there we were, all tucked up in bed on Saturday night, enjoying our slumber, when the stillness of the house was shattered by a piercing siren and a stentorian voice announcing “Fire, Fire ! Leave the building immediately. Fire, Fire !”. If you haven’t heard our alarm, let me tell you it’s darned impressive. Although if you’re groggy from sleep and have had a few glasses of wine it can be disconcerting, to say the least, when it wakes you in the middle of the night.
It’s good to know that the alarm is effective, but a little annoying when you realize that you have been woken up at 2AM for no cause other than a faulty smoke alarm. And then there’s the mad rush to find the phone so that when the alarm monitoring company call before despatching the fire brigade we can tell them it’s just a false alarm. In retrospect, of course, we were delighted that there was no actual fire in progress, and happy that, faulty sensor or not, the system works as designed.
Unfortunately, Orla gets freaked out by the alarm, so she was not a happy camper. Even more so when, back in bed and just nodding off, the alarm goes off again a second time a half hour later.
Because we didn’t get around to cleaning the detector – you know how it is, things cropping up during the day and keeping us busy – the same thing happened on Monday morning. For once, Murphy’s law didn’t interrupt our sleep; we were glad the alarm had the decency to wait until close to breakfast time before waking us. Nonetheless, we’d had enough and made sure we disassembled the smoke detector. Because of the long weekend the service technician couldn’t come to us until Tuesday, but on Monday night one glance at the remnants of the smoke detector was enough to reassure us that we’d get a good night’s sleep.



Click here for recent pictures !
Labor Day weekend is upon us, and Summer is officially over in our household with the start of “school” next week. Jenn has been getting the place ready, cleaning up around the house and ordering all the kids’ textbooks. She has been rearranging the furniture, as well, especially in our Red Room, giving it a more open-plan feel which is nice for when we have friends over for dinner parties. She also brought in a big desk for herself to use and decided to put it in the kitchen. That, however, was a big mistake ! It appears Conall had other plans for the desk, promptly moving his trains into the pigeon-holes that were formerly used for storing letters, and making use of the main writing surface as his track. Even the best laid plans take on a life of their own in this house!

Speaking of the new school year, I decided that after enjoying the last year and a half, or so, taking it easy with Jenn and the kids, it was time for me to “get back to work”, as Conall tells me on a frequent basis. As a result, I just started work in Marist College, situated on the banks of the Hudson River just a 15 minute commute away. That is a very pleasant change from the two hours and forty-five minute commute I used to have when working in Citigroup. The Marist community seems to be very pleasant and a lot of fun; I am looking forward to teaching finance there, and setting up a trading floor for the business students.

Our little big man, Conall, or The Conallator, is really demonstrating his own personality nowadays. He seems to have decided that he is the family clown – maybe it’s a youngest child thing. He adores attention, and loves to do silly dances for us when he hears music with a lot of beat. His favorite song seems to be Put a Ring on It, from Alvin and the Chipmunks. There’s no accounting for taste. He also loves to announce things in a dramatic tone. When we give him anything, even something as simple as an apple as a snack, he says in a exaggerated voice, “A present, for me? Why, thank you !”
Of course, that’s when he’s not calling his dad “A stupid loser” ! (We suspect he picked that one up from Orla). Meanwhile, much to poor Jen’s dismay, he has decided that the kitchen table is his stage, and so he can be seen crawling on top of it every chance he gets to march. The big kids get a big kick out of him, and laugh at his antics, which of course just encourages him to do it all the more.

The bigger kids have been busy themselves recently. Eoghan’s latest craze is looking for buried treasure with his new metal detector. There are many holes in our yard now, but not a lot of treasure has yet found ! He is, nevertheless, undaunted. He even dug himself a hole in the front garden, about 2 feet deep, from which he scoops out dirt and sifts it with the running water of the hose. He learnt this trick, and several others, from a display at the Dutchess County Fair that was held recently. There was an exhibit on prospecting and gold-mining, and he learnt enough about panning for gold to be dangerous. By the end of the day, Eoghan and his two helpers (Conall and our dog Angel) are always a muddy mess. Let’s just hope he finds something good to pay for the reconstruction job we’re going to have on the lawn.

Orla, Eoghan and I enjoying the Dodgem Cars at the Dutchess County Fair

Orla on a Dodgem CarThe fair, held every year in the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, is always a huge thrill for the kids. This year the weather was exceptionally hot, with temperatures in the high 90’s, but Jenn and the kids managed to make it there several days and had loads of fun. The kids are involved in a local 4-H group, so they made sure to check out the agricultural exhibits. They always love seeing the pigs and goats and sheep, and werent disappointed this year. There are prizes for the best examples of cooking, and the largest and strangest vegetables, and many other prizes to encourage agriculture and self-sufficiency, and Eoghan has decided he wants to enter the cooking competition next year. Meanwhile, Conall, who adores his own sandbox, had a blast playing in a “corn box”, shoveling corn with toy tractors. It’s certainly a lot easier to keep him clean when playing with that as opposed to sand, so maybe we’ll make him his own version of one.
And of course the kids loved going on the swings and rides. I went on a couple of rides with them, although I think our favorite was the Dodgem Cars, which we always love. Conall is still a little too young, at 3, for some of the rides, even though he looks 5 or 6, so Jenn had to stay on terra firma with him. One of these years we’ll all be able to go smashing around in the cars…

We had two birthdays in the past couple of weeks. The first was Jenn’s, although we’re losing track of her birthdays at this stage. Still, we celebrated with a cake, although it didn’t have enough room on it for the appropriate number of candles. The other big party, held as usual at Grandma’s in her glass room, was for Orla, who has just turned 10 and is very excited to be in double digits. We’ve been teasing her that she, too, is getting over the hill but, alas, she is just hitting her tween stage. God help us. She keeps herself busy devouring books, some of them good examples of traditional literature, and others, like “Twilight’, not exactly classics. And of course she has her favorite tween movies that she watches over and over again, such as The Clique, Wild Child, and Nancy Drew. (Completely coincidentally, the latter two are of particular interest because the star, Emma Roberts, grew up in Rhinebeck). Orla has instructed Jenn that she would now like to start wearing designer clothes. It’s all ahead of us!