Thursday, September 12, 2013

Its a…

Dan and I are excited to announce that Ava is going to have a little SISTER!!!  We are so thrilled to welcome another girl to our family.  Dan jokes that he is having nightmares, but he is such a sucker for Ava and he loves that Ava worships the ground he walks on.  Dan was positive that it was going to be a girl.  As the only boy of five children, he is just certain that he is doomed to live a life surrounded by females:) 

We are not ones to keep secrets, so we will go ahead and say that we chose the name, Julia Margaret.  We love the name Julia and it was one we considered for Ava, but we had Louise as a middle name already and we didn’t want to name our child after Julia Louise Dreyfus (although we are both Seinfeld fans).  The middle name is in honor of my beloved Aunt Margaret, whom cancer took away from us too soon and my Grandmother (also a Margaret), whom I also miss dearly. 

Here are some 4D images of Julia:



3DFace (2)

3DFace (3)

It’s crazy, but I can already see the resemblance to Dan.  By the way, the strange bumps around her face are her hands.  I actually thought it was her foot until the doctor informed me that he would be very concerned if her feet could bend that way:)

At 22 weeks everything is going well.  The heartbeat sounded great and all the measurements came up as normal.  I had an appointment on Tuesday was my Sage Femme (mid-wife in French) and I was very happy with her.  She is the first practitioner I have experienced that spoke excellent English, so she was able to answer all of my questions (and not just the ones I could ask in French).  It was funny because the previous sage femme, whom only spoke French, kept insisting I was 2 weeks less pregnant than I knew I was.  I come to find out that I told her my expected due date was Janvier TRENTE (30) when it is really Janvier TREIZE (13).  Oops…my French teacher would not be impressed. Going through my first pregnancy in the Belgian medical system has been an interesting experience, one I plan to blog about later on. 

I will be blogging again in a week or so about our adventures in London.  We are leaving next week to meet my parents and I am SO excited!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ireland Adventures, 4th and Final

We spent three nights in Dublin and packed our days with sightseeing and family time.  Instead of detailing everything we did, I decided to focus on some of the highlights. 
Saint Stephen’s Green and Grafton St
Our hotel was located right down the street from St. Stephen’s Green and Grafton St is located directly on the other side of the park.  I absolutely loved St. Stephen’s Green, but unfortunately I didn’t take a single picture. So, I picked up a few from the Internet.  The park was a great place for Ava to have some fun time. There was a playground and duck pond, where Ava spent some time feeding the ducks.  When it was not raining, this park was filled with people enjoying the weather.  The park is an enclosed rectangle and was originally closed to the public. Only the people who lived in the Georgian mansions surrounding the park were granted access.  It was opened to the public in 1877.

st steph 1

St. Stephens Green, Dublin, Ireland

Grafton St. is a pedestrian only shopping street (the fifth most expensive shopping street in the world).  The street is flooded with street performers which gave of such a fun energy.  We didn’t have much time for shopping, but we spent a lot of time strolling this street on our way to and from our daily adventures.  Again, I didn’t take any pictures (what? why?) and I couldn’t find any good ones on the Internet.  So, you can form a mental picture.  If you are ever there, have lunch at Bewley’s Cafe; you will not be disappointed.

Kilmainham Gaol
This tour was one of the highlights of Dublin for me.  First built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol is a prison that was made famous for its role in Ireland’s fight for independence.  Many leaders of the Irish Rebellion were imprisoned and some executed at Kilmainham.  In the beginning, public hangings would take place in front of the prison, until 1820 when a room for hangings was established.  The conditions in the prison improved overtime, but in the beginning up to 5 people would be held in one cell (with no segregation for women or children) with only a single candle for light and heat.  The cells were 28 meters squared, which is roughly 300 square feet.  These were all for heinous crimes of course…not quite.  There were children incarcerated for petty theft (stealing a loaf of bread to help feed a starving family).  The youngest child incarcerated was 7 years old.  If you are in Dublin, I highly recommend this tour.  Our guide was fantastic, he was so knowledgeable.  Here are some photos and a little more information about the prison. 


One of the original jail cell doors.  You will see in later pictures how the prison was upgraded.  Up to five people would be imprisoned behind this door with only a candle for light and heat.  Oh, and that one candle was to last for 2 weeks.

Kilmainham Gaol (6)

Here is the prison chapel. A wedding took place here between Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett.  Joseph was a major player in the Easter Rising in 1916.  They were originally due to marry on that Easter Sunday.  Joseph was sentenced to death by firing squad. When Grace found out, she purchased a wedding ring and the two were married at this alter a few hours before his execution. 

Kilmainham Gaol (5)
Kilmainham Gaol (7)

Here you see the old part of the prison…

Kilmainham Gaol (8)

And then this is the new section.  Quite an improvement.  In the mid 1800s the East Wing was opened.  This is like the Ritz-Carlton compared to the older part.  These cells only held one prisoner.  The design is intentional, it is so a guard could see the entire wing from one position.  So, you would think the older section was decommissioned?  Nope, it became the women’s section. of course.

Kilmainham Gaol (11)
Kilmainham Gaol (17)

Ava was the youngest inmate of the day.

Kilmainham Gaol (15)

This is the exercise yard at Kilmainham.  Here, prisoners were allowed to walk in a circle once a day.

Kilmainham Gaol (24)
A plaque commemorating those executed because of the Easter Rising.  As news of these executions spread, public opinion towards the participants of the Easter Rising began to change.  


The cross marks the spot where James Connolly was executed.  At the time, he was so sick and weak that he had to be tied to a chair (he couldn’t even sit upright) to go before the firing squad.

Kilmainham Gaol (23)    
Guinness Storehouse
Another “Must Do” in Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse.  As a lover of Guinness I was very excited for this visit, but I must say that I was slightly disappointed.  This was not a brewery tour, but more of a self-guided museum of all things Guinness.  It was well done, but I was left wanting a little more.  The highlight of the visit was the tasting in the Gravity Bar.  Of course I still ordered up my free pint of Guinness, but sadly passed it to Dan (after a few sips, of course).  Side note- before traveling I was talking with a midwife from Ireland who informed me that I MUST have Guinness while in Ireland.  That it is very good for the baby:) 

Guiness (3)
One very interesting exhibit; how a cooperage creates a barrel.  Surprisingly fascinating. 

Guiness (5)
Uncle Brian, starting Ava off early with Guinness.  She really wanted a sip.

ava drinking beer
Guiness (8)
Here is the actual Guinness plant.  This picture was taken from the Gravity Bar.

Guiness (7)

Dublin Zoo
There was really nothing impressive about this zoo.  It wasn’t the best zoo and it wasn’t the worst, but it was a good way for Ava to have some fun after being dragged around everywhere.  Not a whole lot of shots of the animals, just our crazy little monkey.

Dublin Zoo (14)

Dublin Zoo (2)
Dublin Zoo (4)
Dublin Zoo (11)

Hop on and Off Bus
We used this tour bus as a way to see the city and also to get from point A to point B.  We found it was not the most efficent way of travel, so we ended up not using it as much as we had planned.  It was worth it for a good overview of the city and when you purchase a ticket, you get the second day for free.  There are normally two tour buses that run throughout the city, but one is controlled by the city bus company which happened to be on strike while we were in the city.  Ava really enjoyed the tour:)


I am not one to write about food well.  I also don't really take pictures of my food.  So, this is just a quick overview of some places we ate that I recommend if you are ever in the area.

The Boxty House
A great selection of Irish dishes, including a large selection of Boxty dishes (hence the name).  A very relaxed and family friendly atmosphere located in Temple Bar.  I had the seafood chowder with brown bread. 

The Sussex
One of my favorite restaurants.  They offer Early Bird Specials (2 course for 19.50 or 3 course for 24.50) every night and all night from Sunday through Wednesday.  We were shocked to be offered the Early Bird menu at 8:30 pm! The restaurant was in a beautiful old building with a ton of charm.

Leo Burdock
Those of you who know me well know that I do not eat a lot of fried food; I try to eat a pretty healthy diet.  Well, even I couldn’t resist trying these fish and chips (the baby really wanted them).  This place has been around for 100 years and I know why.  It is nothing fancy, the don’t have tables.  We grabbed some and brought it back to our room.  The line on the day we went was surprisingly short.  Apparently, this place can get quite busy.

Fish and Chips

We stayed at the Premier Inn and Suites Dublin.  This is a UK based chain of all suites hotel.  The hotel, located in a converted Georgian mansion,  was very small, more boutique style and the apartments were very new, clean and beautiful.  This hotel could not have been more accommodating.  After reading the reviews on Trip Advisor, I emailed the hotel to request a quieter room in the back of the hotel.  They emailed me back saying that all of those rooms were already booked (there are less than 20 suites in the hotel and even less that are one bedroom).  When we checked in, they informed us that they moved some folks around so that we could have a quiet room in the back. What a difference that made!  Especially because there was road work in front of the hotel (hello jackhammers).  The hotel had a great location, only a block away from Saint Stephen’s Green and within walking distance of the major sights of Dublin. 

That is finally it for our Ireland vacation.  On the agenda...we will joining my parents again in London for 4 days in a few weeks.  We will be spending a week in Russia (so excited!) to see St. Petersburg and Moscow.  We will be taking a tour with a group from the base.  My brother will be joining us and Ava will be staying home with Grandma Noe for this one.  Finally, we will be heading to Cologne, Germany for the Christmas Market in early December.  Then, we will give our suitcases a break to welcome our little munchkin in January.  I hope you continue to join us on our adventures.