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Since returning from Ireland, in addition to suffering from jet lag, I’ve spent most of my time readjusting to life in the suburbs of Chicago and reuniting with my family. My main focus, and a lot of emotional energy, has been devoted to getting my youngest ready to begin 3rd grade – and sadly – saying goodbye to my daughter as she embarks on her new life in L.A.. Therefore, Blogging from the Bog has had to take a back seat for a few weeks. However, I have many photos and a few stories to tell and will be back at it very soon!

Until then, I thought I’d share this lovely song by Adele, which has absolutely nothing to do with West Clare or Teach deBúrca, but reminds me of my feelings for my children – something that has been on my mind a lot lately!

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It’s very hard to close up and say farewell to Teach deBúrca, Kilkee, Loop Head and West Clare, in general! Our last event in Kilkee tomorrow is “cake day” at Eoin’s Nevsail Watersports Camp and we’re bringing lemon cake and meringues, freshly baked by The Pantry in Kilkee. Following camp, we’ll return to the cottage to say goodbye to this place we’ve called home for the past six weeks and then it’s off to a hotel in Shannon where we will be close to the airport for our Saturday morning flight and the beginning of the long journey home.

This trip has challenged us in many ways. I had to get comfortable driving a stick shift  – with my left hand and on the opposite side of the road! We had to tame a cottage that was a bit wild when we arrived. I’ve had more contact with repairmen and workmen than I ever expected and spent a good part of the beginning of our stay in combat with spiders and even a few mice. I won the battle but I am not naive enough to think I’ve won the war – especially since I must retreat until the next trip back! War or not, I am leaving a clean and cozy cottage that has benefitted a lot by a good start to the improvements we knew we needed to make.

Eoin and I have spent the last several weeks in intimate contact with the ever-changing Atlantic coastline, surrounded by breathtaking beauty and local quirkiness, housed in a peaceful, rural setting, had a braying donkey as an alarm clock, and have even become so used to the local accents that when we heard an American accent today we looked at each other and laughed at the sound! Being back in the suburbs of Chicago will be an adjustment. However, we are thankful to have had this time in West Clare and equally thankful to have people we love waiting for our return home!

"Look, Thor cut through the clouds with his sword so God could look down on Ireland!" exclaimed Eoin.

Even though I’ve spent the majority of my summer in West Clare’s misty, cool weather, I have still somehow managed to get a pretty good tan. When the sun periodically breaks through the clouds it is dazzling and hot and, considering the large amount of time we’ve spent outdoors these past five weeks, I suppose it’s not surprising that we managed a bit of a suntan. Well, today I realized just how much sun I’ve been exposed to during my stay in Kilkee!

A very angry one-armed crab

Eoin and I spent most of this afternoon observing and gathering a variety of marine life at the Pollock Holes. During the hours we were at the pools, we found the usual assortment of small, orange starfish; periwinkle; a few Sand Goby; three Sea Hares (a type of sea slug), which shot out purple dye when we disturbed them; and two little Hermit Crabs that would not stop fighting until we finally threw one back into a tide pool! A highlight of our excursion today came when a much more seasoned tide pool fisherman was kind enough to give Eoin a one-armed Velvet Swimming Crab to carry around in his bucket for a while! Mr. Seasoned-Fisherman also gave us a thrill when he called us over to see an enormous Spiny Starfish that he and his children managed to catch! Much larger than the orange, Common Starfish that we usually find in abundance, this rarer creature was about a foot in diameter and felt, well – spiny, to the touch!

The jellyfish culprit

All this excitement at the Pollock Holes made the time fly by and before we knew it the tide was beginning to come in and the pools were quickly disappearing around us. We gathered Eoin’s bucket and net and began to make our way back to the shore, with me looking forward to a cup of tea at Diamond Rocks Cafe. However, trouble came in the form of a jellyfish. Not the usual pale lavender Common Jellyfish we have been practically ignoring at this point, this was the larger, Compass Jellyfish with its brown stripes and frilly stingers at the bottom. Eoin managed to see it, catch it in his net and transfer it to his bucket before I was even aware that he was not following me out of the pools. After being called back to witness this treasured catch, and of course, taking the obligatory photograph, I urged him to make a run for the shore before we could no longer do it while staying dry at the same time!

Unfortunately, by this time we, along with a few other people, were standing on a rock island surrounded by water! Luckily, it wasn’t deep enough yet to force us to swim, but we did have to walk through calf-high water to the rocks that led out of the quickly disappearing pools. For Eoin in his Crocs, this was not a problem. However, I was wearing the same leather Keds and sport socks that I have lived in since we arrived in Ireland, the only pair of proper shoes with me. Sure, I could have taken off my shoes and waded through barefoot… however, after witnessing the array of sea creatures we had gathered throughout the day – nothing was going to persuade me to walk barefoot on the rocks through that water! So I risked my Keds and walked through the water in my shoes and socks – not a happy camper. After this, I skipped tea and went straight home to dry my soggy shoes and socks. Not only was I unhappy that my leather shoes were soaked through, but it disturbed me to think how it could have been much worse, with us having to swim to safety – all for the capture of one more exotic sea creature!

Now, with my soaked leather Ked’s stuffed with newspaper and drying out, I am wearing a pair of flip-flops, which I lived in back in Chicago, but haven’t touched since we arrived in Ireland with the weather and the terrain making shoes and sport socks de rigueur. So, after slipping into my unused flip-flops, I was very surprised to look down and see brown legs followed by white ankles and feet! My Kilkee tan!

The Kilkee version of a Farmer's Tan

Yesterday was a sad day for Eoin and me because my daughter, Kate, headed back to Chicago after spending a week with us in Kilkee.

The actress hams it up at the fireside.

Kate’s enthusiasm and the delight she takes in her surroundings – from admiring the grandeur of the cliffs to the tiniest details, like the cup her tea is served in – makes her a kindred spirit and we have great fun together! We laughed our way through The Burren in search of The Burren Perfumery; scared ourselves investigating a holy well at the side of a dark, country road; walked along cliffs and admired the ever-changing views of the sea; took countless drives around Loop Head on bright Irish summer evenings; marvelled at dolphins and ruins; and explored the Pollock Holes – cringing at sea creatures, which Eoin handled with ease.

Kate's "eww" face

We oohed and ahhed over beautiful scenery, baby animals in fields, Irish pottery and handcrafts, cozy, quaint tea shops and even the perfect shade of blue paint that trimmed the windows of a stone cottage!

During our long journey through The Burren in search of the Perfumery, I joked that the three of us were “Thelma and Louise – and Bart Simpson”!

…well Louise, Bart and I had a great time exploring West Clare and sharing the cottage with you and hope you come back again and again! Slán abhaile a Kate!

"Louise" and "Bart" having tea at the quaintest tea shop in The Burren.

Teach deBúrca with its new red door!

With my daughter here for a week-long visit and us making the most of every moment of her stay, there has been little time for blogging from the bog! However, with both Kate and Eoin taking naps to recover from a day of dolphin watching from a boat in the Atlantic, I thought it was a great time to post a photo of our newly installed and recently painted half-door, along with our new house sign, which replaces both the old sign and the old name!

First, the door. A work of art, and an art to work! When the man who made our door installed it and then explained the intricacies of the lock and latch system, I was at first a bit overwhelmed and thought that maybe I had romanticized the old wooden half-doors, a.k.a. Dutch doors, which once graced so many old cottages in West Clare and around rural Ireland, and had bitten off more than I wanted to chew. But within a day, I was in love with this door! The latches and the locks were very easy to master and the opening and closing of this door has become a simple, yet elegant, ritual. And nothing beats having the upper half of the door open to let in the fresh Clare air and light on a mild day! A big thank you goes to Richard Beer of Irish Country Furniture for making us this beautiful, old style wooden half-door with its hidden, modern security!

Secondly, the sign and our new name.  As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, “… a rose by any other name…” , when we purchased the cottage we considered keeping the name Rose Cottage, if it had any historical significance to the house. However, after a few inquiries of the locals, we found out that the name had no connection or significance to the house other than the fact that it was on the sign. Due to the lack of an actual address, the cottage needed a name, but we wanted the name to have some meaning to us. So, after finding a local forge, Paddy Murphy of Kilkee Forge, we decided to just keep it simple and  name the cottage after ourselves – but to do it in Irish!  Therefore, Rose Cottage is now, officially, Teach deBúrca, meaning basically “Burke House” or “Burke’s House”. It’s easy enough to say, with deBúrca pretty much sounding like it looks and “Teach” sounding like “tock or chock” – depending upon what part of the country you’re from when you say it!

Enjoying the benefit of a half-door on a lovely day.

Except for the major work we had done on the property to clear and level the ground and add drainage ditches, many of the details we have taken care of during this stay… such as, the door, the name, the Belfast Sink, and even finally having The Traveling Butter Dish and friends in place in the kitchen, were the little things we needed to do to put our mark on the place and make it ours. And I am happy to say that I feel very satisfied that we have accomplished this goal!

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