A bit of Ireland (leprechauns not included)

1st: As part of the blog swap, I wrote up some fun little travel stories for fgrngtllt. (OH, that’s how a swap works? Yeeeah…) So please go check ’em out! (Todd already has. Thanks, Todd!)(update 2-3-2010: her blog has been deleted)2nd:

Yes, I am back from Ireland. The trip was great. Since Andy had to work the first couple days, I spent that time by myself, mostly walking the streets of Nenagh, a small town in County Tipperary.

(Interesting anecdote about that in my travel stories…)

This was my first trip out of the US since my summer in Spain, and I think that once again, the alone time in Europe did my soul good. I feel refreshed, ready to be a better me. It’s like New Year’s in my head: lots of resolutions and plans and optimistic ideas.

(Fortunate timing, since NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday.)

Anyway, here’s a little bit of my trip. Maybe I can impart some of my new Zen mentality on you via the internet. And if not, I can at least show you some of Ireland.

The Emerald Isle is as green and rainy and beautiful as promised.

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What was nice was that you never really needed an umbrella. It was more of an on-again, off-again drizzle (or mist). Made for some nice rainbows.

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Note: That’s Martin, our driver. He’s legendary within Andy’s work group, probably because he tells such great stories. People get sad when Martin has to send another driver to get them instead of him.

Nenagh was very cute and quaint and, presumably, Irish.

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Dublin was everything I love about European cities: a mix of old and new architecture, very walkable, with a river running through it.

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Due to our limited time, we only did touristy things. But I’ve never understood what was so wrong with that anyway. Aren’t they touristy for a reason?

We visited several museums (including the Dublin Writers Museum — yes, I am that nerdy) and shopped on Grafton Street. We saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College. We even went to the infamous Temple Bar area, although we got gelato instead of Guinness.

(You can see my full set of Ireland photos on Flickr, if you like.)

I think my favorite thing was our visit to Kilmainham Gaol, the old jail. The tour gave a great overview of modern Irish history (like 18th-20th centuries). Also, I’ve always had a morbid curiosity about jails and life in prison, but I’m too much of a goody goody to do anything that would get me incarcerated.

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Doesn’t look SO bad, right? Well, each cell was meant to hold 1 person. Usually it held 8 or 9. Yeah, life in Kilmainham was not fun. But during the Great Famine, people would TRY to get arrested, because at least then they were guaranteed 1 meal a day!


Of course, what is a trip to Europe without beautiful churches? We visited Christ Church (seen below with two weirdoes in front) and St. Patrick’s Church (seen even more below) where writer Jonathan Swift is entombed.

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As much as I might not love organized religion, I do think old religious art and architecture is absolutely stunning.

My second favorite attraction was the Dublin Zoo. Probably because they give their tigers Red Bull — at least, that’s my guess. They were SO active and playful. Look, this tiger cub is coming over to say hello!

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I wanted to snuggle it, but Andy said it might eat me.

Last but not least, this pic is for Angie. Apparently Dublin is known for its doors.

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And if you ignore the blurriness, that pretty much sums up how I felt about my Irish vacation.

Telegram from overseas






A big plunge (no, not the toilet kind)

Today it is my distinct honor to present the Sassy Ginger, aka Mandy, aka Anyrandomword. (Trust me, that will make sense later.) She’s a redhead with a wicked sense of humor and her very own column about the horrors of modern relationships. I never fail to laugh and/or think in acronyms when I read her posts, like the one about the dude who signs all his texts “Batman” (WTF) or the one where she recounts her night via pictorial (LOL). In fact, I like her so much that I’ve asked her to be the LONE blog-sitter while I’m in Ireland this week. So y’all be good for her, okay? And be sure to comment so she doesn’t think I’m a friend-less loser. Thanks.

Seriously, I’m super stoked to have Mandy guest blogging for me. Thanks a bunch, girl!

gingerHey, kids! GingerMandy here. I’m going to do my best at invading Kristan’s space in the most gracious way possible. It’s nice here, if you guys were wondering. She keeps her place very tidy. Mine’s sort of a mess… Hopefully my crazy readers and I don’t turn this place into a dive before she gets home from IRELAND. Lucky girl!

Anyjealous, I always get super excited when people ask me to guest blog, then I lock up. Actually it’s not that bad. I’ll just picture you guys naked to take the edge off.

The thing Kristan and I have most in common is that writing is our passion. If you read her blog you obviously know she rocks at it. [Kristan’s note: Mandy does too!] Well, I recently made the decision that I am going to quit the day job that’s sucking my life dry in order to write full time. I’ve got a few sites I write for, a few companies that hire me to work on projects, and a few independent projects of my own, and I know that if I really work at it I can stay busy, make enough money, and do what I truly want to do. Plus, if my dedication stays intact and things go as planned, there is nowhere for me to go but up. Up, up, and way. Kind of like Balloon Boy, except I’ll be in the balloon… and in control of it. I hope. And hopefully I won’t be a big hoax, either.

Since Kristan is a writer, I’m assuming quite a few of you guys are as well. So I’m going to go ahead and name some of the thoughts I’ve had about this plunge I’m going to take, and hopefully hear some of your thoughts on them.

1) I write for a few websites. Some that I find excellent at their niche and others I find to be total crap but stick with them to pay the bills. That being said, am I really doing something worth a damn? Or am I cluttering the internet with more mindless and diluted information? I’m definitely not an expert in every topic I’ve written about. In fact, a couple times I simply Googled the information to write an article. Am I insulting people who are actual experts? I guess it isn’t a huge deal that I’m not a hair extension or skin care expert, but I know I’d rather get a how-to from a professional stylist than… me.

2) What if the total crap websites go under and that causes me to lose tons of jobs and money? Looks like I’ll be becoming a barista for awhile!

3) I am going to sharpen one VERY important tool: aggression. I am good at getting where I need to be and figuring out what to do, but I’ve never been good at figuring out exactly how to go in the direction that completely outshines all of my competition and shoves the rest of the thwarting, hungry writers out of the way. (No offense, it’s strictly business!) Or taking a risk and pitching my work, asking someone to look it over and :gasp: publish it! I’ve done it, but it is very intimidating. Another sad example of this: the other day I was on a flight to Orlando, and the 7-ish year old girl next to me kept staring at me and smiling. She had paper and crayons with her, and I wanted to ask if she wanted to play hangman, but I didn’t because if she said no I’d be really disappointed. SHE’S 7! And I was scared to ask! I JUST WANTED TO PLAY HANGMAN!

4) What if I start realizing how much control I have over my life? On a normal day, before you know it I’m sleeping in until 10 a.m., lying around watching daytime TV, making unnecessary plans, and then realizing the day is over, I did nothing productive, and I spent half the afternoon snacking on Club crackers dipped in chocolate frosting. I am bad about this. Today, for example, I planned on organizing my closet and getting together all of my clothes for donation, but all I’ve done since I’ve been home is take a nap.

Truth be told, I think of all these things — as well as several other worries — every single day. However, I also think of how hard I’ve worked to get to this point and that it’s normal to freak out and wonder how it will all spiral. Really, I think the blogging community keeps me sane when I get to this mindset because it shows me that there are tons of other people out there with worries and wonders about the future. That’s what we’re all here for anyway, isn’t it? To keep our sanity? No? Just me? Alright. Maybe I should go look for mine because at this point I don’t know if there’s much left.

Like crack, but better

Alrighty roo, as I say to Riley at least three times a day. I’m peacing out, cub scouts. Headed to the Emerald Isle. No, that’s not from Wizard of the Oz. I’m talking about Ireland! Yep, the land of leprechauns and (more importantly) POTATOES.

Andy has to go to Ireland for business this week, so I decided to tag along and make a vacation of it. I leave today and will return on Tuesday, but never fear, Mandy is here! Or at least, she will be. Guest blogging for me.

, the guest blogs are here! Or at least, they will be. I’ve lined up one awesome girl who cracks me up, and one random person who I’m not at all sure will be quite entertaining. (The random person is through a blog swap program that 20-Something Bloggers is hosting.) No seriously, I’m sure they’ll both be great, and I am really looking forward to having them here!

Depending on the internet situation in Ireland, I may also try to drop a line myself.

In the meantime, here are all the latest drugs that the cool kids are doing:

Books by the Banks

Yesterday I attended the 3rd annual Books by the Banks, an awesome book/author fair put on by the Public Libraries of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. It runs from 10 AM to 4 PM, with panel sessions beginning on the hour every hour, 3 panel sessions at a time. Guess how many I went to? :P I had a great time, met several wonderful authors and ran into a few people I know, and then went home and passed out for 3 hours because I was so exhausted, lol.

Here are the highlights:

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The Author Pavilion, where people can purchase books from 80+ authors (not all of whom led panel sessions, many of whom were local) and get them signed.

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Celebrities! Curious George, Clifford, the Cat in the Hat, and a random turtle I didn’t know all made appearances in the kid’s corner.

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Sharon Draper is a Cincinnati local, former teacher at Walnut Hills, and author of Copper Sun, Tears of a Tiger, and the Ziggy and Sassy series for children. She did a great job tailoring her talk to this particular audience (adults and children as opposed to just one or the other) as well as interacting with and incorporating us. In return, she had some obviously loyal fans of all ages.

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Garth Stein, author of the acclaimed and beloved Art of Racing in the Rain, which is narrated by a dog named Enzo. He began with an impassioned plea for Cincinnatians to pass Issue 7 (a levy for the public libraries) and then alternated between telling funny anecdotes and reading passages from the book. Overall a great talk and a really nice guy. Also, he had incredible blue/gray eyes. The two women sitting next to me might have been a little in love with him.

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Jennifer Weiner, chick lit / women’s fiction author. Her books include Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and most recently Best Friends Forever. I love that she writes about full-bodied women and isn’t afraid to tell her publicist that the models on her covers need to be digitally fattened with Photoshop, not made thinner. I also love how she is so comfortable with herself, telling Jew jokes and talking about her mom coming out of the closet at age 52. She was hysterical, and genuine, and totally won me over. I will be buying her books in the future. (I didn’t buy any there because they only had the newest book in hardcover, and I’m sorry, I’m way too broke to buy a $27 book right now.) But seriously? LOVE HER.

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Ellen Schrieber is another Cincinnati local, and the author of the Vampire Kisses series. She actually wrote the first book back in 1998, before all this Twilight/True Blood/Vampire Diaries craze, so I give her credit for that. Also, she was very sweet, unique (as you can see), and did a great job fielding questions from her younger, somewhat fanatical audience.

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Me + Garth Stein. Maybe because I was tired, but I felt super awkward going up to the author tables yesterday, so Garth and Jennifer were really the only people I approached. Jennifer left a little early so our conversation was brief, but Garth was pretty nice, chatting about how his career as a documentary film editor contributed to his storytelling sensibilities, taking this picture, etc.

My one regret is that I didn’t ask any questions (during the panel sessions or during these private conversations) about e-books. I felt like the whole how-is-technology-affecting-reading issue didn’t get addressed yesterday.

But whatevs. It was a fun day full of jokes and reading. Plus I got to imagine, “Oh, how will I answer that question when I’m sitting up on that stage?” ;P What more can you really ask for?