Life is more than mint juleps

 

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I bit the bullet – I bought an Erin Condren Life Planner.

For those of you who might not have Instagram, or Facebook, or just don’t pay close attention to your super-organized friends who seem to have it all together (I don’t blame you – it’s annoying), you might not know about the Life Planner. Fortunately, a real-life (non-Internet) friend introduced me to these bad boys, and I’m so excited for mine to arrive in 5-7 business days. (Oh, how shipped items test my patience…)

Of course, it’s got the standard planner fare – a month look ahead, a week-by-week view, room for tasks and shopping lists. But it’s organized in a really great way, making it easy (and fun!) to get your life in order.

And boy, do I need it.

I thought winter was busy, but spring is proving to be absolutely bananas. It’s our anniversary, my husband’s birthday, my niece’s birthday, my nephews’ birthday (the birthday list continues, but I’ll spare you). It’s also our second annual Kentucky Derby party next week, and I haven’t planned a thing.

My best friend is getting married later this year, too, and I’m working on coordinating lots of moving pieces around her shower and party. All fun stuff, but I want to be sure nothing slips through the cracks.

The Life Planner seems like a good start. We already have our monthly dry-erase calendar proudly displayed in our kitchen, but sometimes a more granular, day-to-day breakdown is more functional – or a longer look ahead, peering into June and beyond. If there’s anything this year has taught me, it’s that it’s not slowing down one bit – summer will be here before we know it.

To get myself even more organized, I’m planning to do a little Pinterest-inspired DIY and paint a chalkboard “wall” on the inside of my pantry door. There, I can always have a running grocery list on hand – and, one that my husband can add to, if he needs. (We grocery shop separately, and we don’t always announce it, which means sometimes his items are left out of my cart, and mine out of his.)

There’s something about the weather turning warmer that just makes me want to put my life in order – maybe my body (and mind) are just waking up out of a winter freeze, or maybe the chaos of spring is forcing my hand. Either way, I’m ready to get it together.

I’ll post more about how I’m using my Erin Condren planner when it comes and, in the meantime, you can find me scouring Pinterest for some new life organization hacks.

Comment below if you’ve got something that works for you! I’m also accepting killer mint julep recipes for next week’s affair. We had great decorations, awesome food, and an amazing time last year – but the juleps could have used some TLC.

Amidst all the craziness, I still had time to find a derby hat – even without a planner to prompt me. Go figure.

‘Til next week,

Meredith

Photo by Alison Headley.

Our visit to the Emerald Isle

So, we went to Ireland — and it was more beautiful than I could have imagined.

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A word about Ireland

Quick takes?

  • The people are tremendously friendly. I’ve never been anywhere where people are more ready, willing, and able to not only help you, but engage you in good conversation.
  • If you’re a history buff – or even if you’re not – there’s so much to learn from the country’s past. Whether you’re fascinated by artifacts from a hundred years ago or prefer 16th-century castles, it’s hard not to be swept up in Ireland’s storied history.
  • If you like cheese, visit Ireland. Some of the best and freshest in the world.
  • If you like Guinness, visit Ireland. You can get some on every corner – and in 90 percent of cafes, sandwich shops, you name it.
  • If you don’t like Guinness, visit Ireland. It just tastes different there – apparently, it’s because they use Irish water. (The more you know…)

There’s so much more I could say about our trip around the country – from Limerick to Killarney, Waterford to Dublin. We saw so many beautiful things, and met so many beautiful people – all thanks to an awesome tour group called CIE Tours.

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A word about a guided tour + CIE

CIE is a full-service tour, starting from the moment you step foot in Shannon to the time you head home. For the whole week, Pat and I traveled with the same group of 37 Americans – all from different parts of the country, from California to New York, and from all walks of life. We stayed in the same hotels, ate the same dinners, and spent several hours trading stories on the coach bus.

CIE plans everything for you. Our guide, Liam, brought us to main attractions, like the Blarney Castle. He also brought us to some off-the-beaten-path ones, like the Foynes Flying Boat Museum (where the first Irish coffee was invented) and the Cobh Heritage Center (the last port-of-call for the Titantic). He narrated all along the way, ensuring we left knowing more about Ireland – old and new – than when we came.

The coach tour through Ireland is really foolproof, and I couldn’t recommend it more for folks (like us) who’ve never been to the Emerald Isle. Excursions are included in your tour package, making the decision between grabbing a pint of Guinness and exploring an ages-old castle easy – with CIE, you can do both. Our tour guides couldn’t have been more clear about where we had to be, and when – all we had to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy all that Ireland had to offer.

CIE forces you out of your comfort zone. If you wouldn’t catch a medieval banquet at the nearby Renaissance Fair in the US, you’ll visit one in an old castle in Limerick – and probably enjoy the mead and entertainment more than you first thought.

If you wouldn’t imagine yourself setting foot on a sheep farm, you might still find yourself smiling at the border collies at work. (I knew this would be a highlight for me – the dogs are so intelligent, and do such important work on the farms.)

All in all, CIE gave us an amazing first experience in Ireland. We can’t wait to go back.

‘Til next week,

Meredith

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Facing my fears

3333523138_b5d44ea199_zI like to think of myself as a pretty strong woman. Needles? No problem. Exotic animals? Bring them on. Crowds, heights, bugs? I can handle myself.

But when it comes to planes, trains, and automobiles, you’re going to have to stop at “planes.” I have a huge – and, some would argue, irrational – fear of flying.

I’d like to say it started when I was a kid. I didn’t fly much – well, ever. My dad was huge on the “scenic route,” one of those guys who just loved to pack up the car and go. (Even having four young kids in the back seat couldn’t dull his relaxation behind the wheel.) On our family vacations, we drove the coasts – up to Maine for lobster, down to Florida for Disney land. After days upon days in the car with my family, I became accustomed to ground transportation.

Then, we had to fly out to California. If my dad had his way, we’d probably take a week and drive, but my mom – the sensible woman she is – didn’t want to pull us out of our activities for so long. Plus, she didn’t want to go insane. I was seven, and my Game Boy only had a limited number of hours of battery life.

Turbulence is a traumatic experience for a seven-year-old. Nobody knows what dying’s like until you get there, but I was convinced I was close. I was clutching my family members, making a ruckus, and praying that the Good Lord would save me.

He did, of course, but not before I developed my fear of flying. In fact, the flight was delayed several hours on the way home – a groan-worthy weather pattern that immediately caused parents’ hair to frazzle – and I was so happy. I did not want to go up in the scary death-box again.

Since then, I’ve flown a few times – probably enough to count on one hand. I hate airports. I hate airplane seats. I hate the lines at airport coffee shops. But, most of all, I hate flying.

Fast-forward to two weeks from now when I should be gallivanting around Ireland, kissing the Blarney Stone, and enjoying a pint from a Dublin pub. I’m going to have to fly to get there, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t petrified.

It’s time to face my fears yet again.

While I haven’t learned any official, psychologist-approved tips to ease the fear, whenever I fly, I remember a couple of basic things.

First, I think about the destination. Luckily, I’ve only ever flown for good things – vacations, weddings, reunions, you get the idea. I’ve never flown for business travel; I’ve never flown to a middle-of-nowhere airport. Thinking about all the fun I’m going to have when I get from Point A to Point B usually gives me the motivation to step on the plane – even if I’m a mess during takeoff and landing.

And, I think about the people I’m with. I never fly alone – I don’t think my poor, stranger seatmate could handle the screaming and clutching. I give myself a good support system whenever I’m in the air. Next week, I’ll be sitting next to my husband – who, by now, is used to my crazy in-plane antics. (He usually buys me a flight-approved distraction, too, like a book or magazine. It helps for a few minutes, at least.)

So, it looks like it’s time to face my fears – at least I’ll be doing it in Ireland, right?

‘Til next week,

Meredith

Photo by steve p2008 on flickr.