A blog about "nothing"!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fun With Fabric!!!

I always swore I would never turn in to my mother when it came to fabric.  She had a stash of unbelievable proportions.  She had good intentions, but a lot of them never came in to being.  When her eyesight became very poor and she had to give up sewing, she ended up giving a lot of it away.  I'm sure it about killed her.

I usually try to have an idea in mind before I buy any piece of fabric.  I will admit that I have a couple of pieces that I bought just because I liked them, but not that much.  I stocked up last year knowing I wouldn't be working after September, figuring I would have plenty to keep me busy.  I really need to get down to it and make a couple of the things I had in mind, but we know how that all goes.  I'll get to it eventually. 

One thing I've been obsessed with is a nice piece of fabric with a London/England theme.  I have an idea for a tote bag, but this is not fabric you can just go to the local JoAnn fabrics and buy.  I guess someone at corporate still holds a grudge from 1776!  After digging around on Etsy one day, I came across a place that had a whole plethora of fun English themed designs.  They were out of Taiwan which made me a little nervous, but they had great feedback, so I figured I would take a chance on it.  I wasn't expecting them for another week to ten days, so you can imagine how surprised I was a little bit ago when I went to get the mail and --TADA!!!

Aren't they fun? The large piece is a half yard which is the piece I wanted for a tote bag.  The other package is 7 fat quarters, all of a London theme in various colors.  Love it!!!  Not sure exactly what I'm going to do with it, but I know I'll come up with something.  I just couldn't pass it up ;) 

If you are interested in checking his Etsy shop out:  Billy Cottonshop

I was also surprised by an e-mail I got from Kmart/Sears in regards to my rewards incident--they have credited my account with the $5 worth of points!  AND, they don't expire anytime soon, so I can hang on to them for something I really want to use them for.  They had some bizarre excuse/explanation that didn't wash, but I'm not going to complain, just happy to get my points back!!!  Sometimes it pays to complain. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kmart Sucks!

Sorry about quoting Rainman, but Kmart left a very bad taste in my mouth yesterday.  I've never been a big fan to begin with, but I was really annoyed after my experience. 

At Christmas time I went in to our local Kmart to look for a few things and really made out.  So much so I ended up spending almost $100!  When I got to the check out I got suckered in to one of their "Shop My Way" rewards cards.  I was excited because I not only earned my regular points, but I also got a $5 gift card that I could use the following week on whatever.  Worked out great, I found a pair of earrings I really liked that were $4.99--so I really only had to pay the sales tax.

Since then I've been paying close attention to the members only deals and specials.  Last week hubby and I went to a Kmart in a different town--I picked up several things, used up my points and earned some more.  Also got another $5 gift card for this week.  Over the weekend I got an e-mail about bonus points I had received that were only good for 3 days.  Terrific--I would use those $5 in bonus points, my $5 gift card and the whopping $1.03 in regular points I had and basically get $11.03 in freebies. 

When I got to the check out the cashier entered my phone number--and NOTHING came up.  WTF?!  Not the $5 bonus points or the $1.03 that I had legitimately earned.  I complained a bit, but didn't get anywhere, and I still got the $5 gift card off my total.  Fortunately everything I bought was stuff I needed anyhow.  When I got home I logged in to my account, and I was right, I had exactly what I thought I had in credits coming to me.  Then the thought crossed my mind that perhaps the cashier had entered my phone number in wrong.  Oh well.  Until this morning when I decided to see what had happened on my account--and lo and behold, my purchase from yesterday was right there with the points I had earned on it.  And to make matters worse, my $5 bonus had expired overnight, so I basically lost $5.  I was pissed!!!  I shot off an e-mail to Kmart, we will see what comes of it.  I'm not expecting anything, but I think to give me the $5 bonus credits would be a nice gesture.  I'm also ticked off because I realized that one of the items I bought last week was on sale, but I didn't get the sale price.  I am returning it anyhow, so no harm, no foul, but still.  It wasn't until I dug the receipt out to get my return ready that I noticed it.  Grrrr........

And Kmart (and Sears) wonder why they are struggling?  Seems like a no-brainer to me!

An update to my Etsy story--I did finally get my money back, but only after I filed a complaint with Paypal.  I got a wimpy-assed response back from Etsy, and this person is STILL selling stuff and has gotten even more negative feedback.  What gives?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ireland, Part 4-Kilkea Castle

One of the things we really wanted to do on this trip was to spend a night or two in an Irish castle.  I had really hoped for Castle Leslie, where Paul McCartney married Heather Mills but unfortunately we were traveling at the wrong time of year, it is only open part time.  After doing a bit of research I came across Kilkea Castle, near the town of Castledermot in County Kildare.  County Kildare is almost to the Eastern part of Ireland, southwest of Dublin in the heart of horse racing country.  We got up bright and early to start our trip on Sunday morning. 

Kilkea Castle was built in the 12th century and over the years was owned by many different families.  In the early 1960's it was converted in to a castle hotel with lush grounds that included a golf course and exercise center.  Unfortunately in 2009 it became yet another victim of the Irish financial crisis and it now closed and up for sale.  Wanna buy a castle????

When I reserved our room, I reserved something simple.  The less expensive rooms were actually former stable areas that were converted and from the photos online were very nice and accomodating.  As we pulled in I could see that area off to the left:
I went in to get checked in and was pleasantly surprised to find out that we had been upgraded!  They didn't have a lot of bookings as it was a Sunday evening, and it was much easier for them to have all the guests in the main part of the building for cleaning and heating purposes.  I wasn't about to complain!  We were absolutely stunned when we saw what our upgrade included:
 Our bedroom

The bathroom--if you look close, notice that the walls are curved--there's a reason!
 We even had our own sitting room!  I said it was a shame that we didn't know anyone in the area, we could have thrown a party in this room!
 View of the garden and grounds from our bedroom window.  I can only imagine how pretty this must be in the summer months. 
View of the castle from the garden.  Now you can see why our bathroom was curved--it was in the turret where the double window at the top is. 

 I thought it was rather interesting how they had put plaster around this raised piece of work from the original castle, there were several spots like this around the interior. 
We stayed here for two nights, it made a great base for that part of Ireland and was truly a neat experience.  It is really a shame that it was let go, from different reviews I have read online, it went downhill around 2007 until it ultimately closed. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ireland, Part 3--The Burren

Saturday morning--time to pick up the rental car!  After a stop at Galway Crystal (sorry, since it was Saturday no tours :( )  we were on our way south along the West coast of Ireland.  We had a couple of places we definitely wanted to see on the way and the rest of it was just what we found on the way from point A to point B.  The West of Ireland is incredibly rugged and very rocky.  The rocks are used for a number of things, primarily fences, but even with that, there are just a lot of them laying around. 

We had a huge climb up this mountain on probably one of the windingest (is that a word?)  roads I've ever been on:
Notice the hills in the background--the light colors are solid rock--rock as far as the eye can see!  You can see a little bit of the Atlantic Ocean if you look closely too.

On our way south, we made a stop at the Cliffs of Moher--beautiful place, and very windy.  This trip was made the end of March/beginning of April and we encountered a variety of temperatures, some days I had to wear my Lands End parka and other days I was fine with a t-shirt and sweater.  This was a t-shirt and sweater day, but I did have to add a layer while at the Cliffs of Moher.  Ireland is a very moderate climate, rarely does it EVER get below 40 degrees fahrenheit--and not above 70 degrees in the summer months.  I could live there in a heartbeat!
After our stop at the Cliffs of Moher, we headed in to the area known as The Burren.  The word burren means "great rock"--and boy, they weren't kidding!  Holy cow, I wasn't prepared at all for this.  Our plan was to drive around it but as that saying goes "best laid plans"--what we didn't realize was since it was a Saturday, there was a bike race and the road we had planned on traveling on was closed, so we ended up on a totally different road that took us right through the heart of the Burren.  I couldn't help but think a few times "please, don't let the car break down, we'll be stuck here all night"--very remote areas with no houses, I think the only other vehicle we encountered the entire time was a farm tractor! 

 I was standing on the road when I took this pic and the one before it, looking up at the rock--it was literally above our heads on either side of the road. 
The rock formations in the Burren are limestone and covers around 250 square kilometers.  Very little vegetations grows, but there are many flowers and plants that do grow there that are only found in the Burren region.  It was a little early in the year for us to see any of that. 

We drove for quite some time with no sign of civilization when all of a sudden we came across this cemetary.  I thought it was really pretty, and was happy to see some sign of human existence!!
In the Burren region there are a lot of tiny villages--Lisdoonvarna, Kilfenora and Doolin are several of the ones we drove through.  There isn't much to them, a couple of houses and a business or two.  We were told by a local that a lot of the houses in the area were relatively new and that a lot of them were bed and breakfasts.  The population of this area decreased significantly due to the famine but since the 1980's has seen an increase. 

On our way back to Galway we drove by the village of Kinvarra.  The highlight of Kinvarra is Dunguaire Castle.  Open to tours in the summer months, it is considered to be the most photographed castle in Ireland.  Medival banquets are held in the evenings during the summer months as well where guests are treated to a meal, music and literature from the era.  We unfortunately were there a few weeks too early.
On our way back to Galway we made a stop at the Royal Tara china factory--once again no tours due to the fact is was a Saturday, but I got some beautiful pieces as gifts and several Christmas ornaments for myself!


Check out :Royal Tara China and Galway Irish Crystal for some beautiful Irish gifts!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Etsy Disappointment :(

I recently had an incident at Etsy that has left me very disappointed in Etsy itself.  I ordered an item, but within a half an hour decided to cancel said item.  I realize that cancelling an item on Etsy is hit and miss--it is totally up to the seller if they agree to the cancellation.  In addition to cancelling the sale, I also e-mailed the seller.  Two days went by and I hadn't heard anything either way, so I e-mailed again.  Finally I heard from the seller and they agreed to cancel the sale.  Seller did that--but then didn't refund my money!

Upon further investigation, I discovered that this seller has had repeat complaints about merchandise not being delivered, not responding to e-mails--the list went on and on.  I personally don't know how this seller has been allowed to continue to sell on Etsy with a feedback this bad.  I decided to e-mail Etsy about this.

I've heard nothing.  Nada.  Not a "we will look in to this"--not a word.  I think that is terribly irresponsible.  Even Ebay will lock out someone if they are not keeping certain standards.  Very bad show Etsy!

I finally got my money back, but only after I filed a complaint with PayPal.  It makes me mad that I had to even do that.  If you don't provide merchandise then to me a refund is a no brainer, and should have been done as soon as Etsy finished processing the cancellation.  As someone who sells on Ebay, there is a certain level of service that is to be expected.  The seller fell short on all accounts and Etsy apparently doesn't care :(  I've since ordered two other items off Etsy--one from someone I've bought from before and someone new, but with great feedback.  I know that I will be very particular who I buy from in the future, and this whole incident has left a bad taste in my mouth, not just with the seller, but with Etsy as well.   I definitely will look for other ways to purchase besides Etsy if this is all the better they can do.  Grrrr........

Friday, February 15, 2013

Adventures in Thrifting

So you think you'd like to start thrift store shopping?  GREAT!!  No idea where to start, what to expect?  Hopefully some of my advice here will help.

There are good thrift stores and there are bad thrift stores.  Ask around, do a little online checking, and the best way is to just go and check it out.  Worst case scenario is you come out empty handed, but best case is you find that wonderful item you've been looking for at a bargain basement price!  I've had many a time that I walked out of one of my regular stores empty handed, it really is a bit like playing the stock market, every day is a different game. 

Be patient.  If you are looking for a particular item, chances are you aren't going to find it on your first trip out, or even your second or third.  But it usually turns up.  The amber colored glasses I posted about earlier are a perfect example of that.  And if it doesn't turn up by the time you need it or your patience has worn out, then it wasn't meant to be.

Know your size--and not just that you wear a 14 or a Medium--take your measurements and jot them down.  Take a tape measure with you.  LOTS of clothing ends up in thrift stores because it is mis-sized, so while it may say it is a large on the tag, it is in truth a small according to the measurements.  Yesterday is a perfect example.  I love mens sweaters, and generally I wear a medium.  I bought three yesterday, two mediums and one large.  The two mediums fit me great, the large--it's too small!!!  Fortunately it is in brand new condition and a major name brand, so I will flip it on Ebay and at least get my money back.  Many items can be missing the size tags too.  Also keep in mind that fitting rooms are hit and miss at thrift stores, I've been in ones with very nice fitting rooms and ones with none at all.  Return policies vary from store to store too, most do not accept returns, I'm more surprised when I'm at one that does! 

Go with an open mind.  Sure, it's great when you find exactly what you are looking for, but often times it's those items that you stumble across during the hunt that give you the most satisfaction.  In late summer I knew I wanted some sort of decoration in a fall theme for the two windows in our dining room.  I was so excited when I stumbled across two stained glass luminarias in orange glass with a leaf pattern on it.  Truly one of those "I'll know it when I see it" situations.

Have fun!!!! 

Heather and I went on one of our trips to Pittsburgh to the two Red White and Blue stores and we did very well.  The back seat of my station wagon was covered to the max, if we had been in an accident, they would have had to dig through all the stuff to find us.  I was most excited because I found several items I had been looking for.

Here's my stack of clothing I ended up with--the one navy sweater is the one I mentioned before that doesn't fit, oh well.   Another one is on the edge, I'm going to launder it and see if I can't stretch it a bit, it runs short, but not horrible.  The navy blue Ralph Lauren sweater is the one I was hunting for and perfect fit--yay!  And the best part is that because it's the end of a season, most of them were only $2.95, the most expensive is the one that doesn't fit, it was all of $3.97 on a half price tag.  Where else can you get a like new Brooks Brothers cricket style sweater for $2.95??
I got this pair of scarves for $2.95.  I love scarves to dress up an outfit or to tie on to a purse ala Elle Woods.  Scarves at full retail are way overpriced, thrifting is by far the best way to get them. 
I was beyond thrilled to find this blue Atlas canning jar.  It is missing the seal, but for what I want it for it really isn't necessary.  Heather said she has seen seals somewhere for sale, I will have to keep an eye out for them.   And again, all of $2.95.

Last but not least, I found this bag of Christmas cards for--you guessed it--$2.95! (perhaps I need to go play 295 on the lottery?) RW&B is trying to clear out the last of the Christmas items to make room and they had bagged up all sorts of "like" things and priced them to sell. Not a big fan of the Winnie the Pooh ones, I will probably use those for giving cash gifts in to younger relatives. I was especially happy with the ones where you insert a photo, the crafter in me will definitely use them.
For more thrifting adventures, be sure to check out Young Heart , she is an active thrifter who also has tons of fun links to other people who love to do it too.  And good luck! :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

A couple of weeks ago I had been sorting laundry and set this basket in the living room to take downstairs later on.  A little bit later I glanced over and it was one of those "OMG" moments--it's a valentine's laundry!  Honest, it really did just happen, I didn't even realize I owned that many pink coathangers LOL

So, Happy Valentine's Day--from me, and my laundry! :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ireland, Part 2--Connemara

I couldn't help noticing on our train ride across Ireland that things were a little on the brown side.  I found out after we arrived in Galway that they were under drought conditions in some parts.  That ended the night we arrived when it rained overnight, and not only rained enough to start making things green again but created an incredible amount of fog in some areas.  We met our bus tour out of Galway in the morning and spent a good bit of it just taking the tour guides word for what we were seeing because you really couldn't see much.  About all I remember of the first part of the tour was seeing the bridge that John Wayne leans against in the movie "The Quiet Man".  Oh well.

The Connemara region is in the northwest corner of Ireland, north of Galway and is most famous for it's rugged scenery, Connemara ponies (which we didn't see any of!) and Connemara marble, a green marble that is exclusive to the area.  Connemara marble can range from a light green to a deep forest green and is very pretty.  I would love to have kitchen counters made from it.  They make some nice gift items out of it such as coasters, trivets and lots of jewelry items. 

Our first stop in Connemara was in the village of Leenane.  And I mean small!!!  There is a pub, a little store, a post office and 1 or two other businesses and that's it.  We had a few minutes if you wanted to use the restroom and get a drink in the pub, I opted instead to wander around and get a few pictures.  Leenane is perhaps most famous for being the town in the movie "The Field".  I will warn you, it is a very depressing movie starring Richard Harris, a very young Sean Bean and Tom Berrenger. 

 What we could see of the mountains thanks to the fog!

 The Field Bar--it was used considerably in the movie.  It's hiding behind our tour bus.

From Leenane we continued our tour of Connemara on to Kylemore Abbey.  Built originally as a private home, it has been many things since--most notably home to a group of Benedictine nuns during World War I and later turned in to a girls boarding school.  It has since been closed as of 2010, but remains open for tours.
 Kind of reminds me of the movie "The Woman in Black"!

 Some interior shots.  I had to resist going behind the barriers to straighten out the candlesticks.......
While I was walking around Kylemore I heard a "tap tap" and looked up--one of the girls from the boarding school was frantically waving at us from her classroom!
From Kylemore we drove around the region and viewed a lot of scenery that I'm sure was gorgeous, but so fogged in that you couldn't see much.  I didn't take many photos because of that, it was just kind of blah.  Normally fog can create some good photo opportunities, but not this time.

Before returning to Galway we stopped at a group of old Irish cottages that were in ruins.  They have been left that way as a memorial to those who left Ireland during the Great Famine in search of a better life, and to those who perhaps died because they stayed.  If you want a good movie to watch that I think accurately depicts the struggles of the Irish during some of that time period, rent "Angela's Ashes"--and have a box of Kleenex handy. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ireland, Part 1--Getting There

There are two major airports in the Republic of Ireland--Dublin and Shannon.  Dublin is just outside of the city and services eastern Ireland, Shannon is out in the middle of nowhere in the west, the closest large city is Limerick.  Dublin is a reasonable sized airport--not huge, but big enough, and very well organized.  We arrived early in the morning at Dublin after an overnight flight on Aer Lingus (Ireland's national airline) and we were ready to go.

Our plan after arriving was to catch a train that would take us across the country to Galway, allowing us some time to relax (and sleep).  I had checked the train schedule before we left the US and I knew that there were two morning trains--one that left shortly after we were to land and another around 11:00AM.  Knowing we were cutting it close, I wasn't counting on catching the first one.  What I didn't take in to consideration was how determined our taxi driver was that WE WERE going to make it for the first one!  Nice guy, talked a lot, asked us a lot of questions and we had a whirlwind ride across Dublin--thank heavens rush hour hadn't started yet.  And we made the first train with just a few minutes to spare.

We had a pleasant ride and we arrived in Galway right around lunch time.  Our room wasn't ready just yet, so we decided to take a walk, grab a bite to eat and make some plans for the following day.  The owner of the bed and breakfast we were staying at made some great suggestions and we ended up booking a tour for the next day.

 Some city views of Galway

Galway is a decent sized city with lots of unique shops.  It is home to the Claddagh ring--and that was the very first thing I bought in Ireland!  Fallers Jewelry is known for it's rings, they presented one to President and Mrs. Kennedy when they visited Ireland, and that is where I ended up getting one--they even sized it for me the same day.
This was the ring I finally picked--they had soooooo many!

After walking around for a while and having full stomachs, our overnight flight started to catch up with us, so we headed back to take a nap.  We did manage to venture out once more for dinner and a little more sightseeing around Galway, and then it was time to turn in so we were ready for our tour the next day of the Connemara region.

Ardawn House, the bed and breakfast we stayed at in Galway

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ireland 101

Sorry for taking so long to get back to this--I've been busy getting things on Ebay in an attempt to clean this house out!  And yesterday I realized I hadn't been out of our house in 3 days, so I decided to do some thrift store shopping.  I found a really cute polo shirt and two pair of pants, not bad, but the one pair of pants was a major score for me as they are Lands End corduroys--my favorite style of them as well--for $3!  And in a color I don't already have and brand new to boot.  Whoo hoo!! 

Before we head on our journey to the Emerald Isle, I thought it would be good to give you some background.  Ireland is a beautiful place with an interesting history.  Everyone is incredibly friendly.  What amazed me is how everyone in Ireland wants to know all about you.  The hospitality is not like any other I've experienced anywhere.  It's also a very relaxed culture.  I've had a lot of people ask me which we prefer as a vacation, England or Ireland--it really depends on the kind of vacation you want.  If you want a jam-packed, see a million sights vacation, I would say England.  If you want a more relaxed, see a few sights and lots and lots of pretty scenery, Ireland is your place.  Tourism has been the number one industry in Ireland for a long time and for a good reason!

For many years Ireland was considered the poorest country in Europe, but that all changed in the late 80's/1990's when a number of American owned technology companies decided it would make a perfect place to put a European headquarters.  Cheap land, an educated workforce in search of jobs and they speak English--wonderful!  So Microsoft, HP and Intel (just to name a few) all established their companies in Ireland as a second base of operation.  Pay attention the next time you buy an HP ink cartridge, many times they say "Made in Ireland" on them!

With this influx of money it started a bit of a revolution of the Irish economy, referred to as the "Celtic Tiger Economy" and Ireland went from being a sleepy little island to the "in" place to be.  Housing starts increased, new roads were built (thanks to an added boost from the European Union) and for the first time in 100 years, the population actually increased.  People who had left Ireland in the years before actually returned because at long last, there were jobs!  And the Irish experienced something that they hadn't before--racism.  Because of the plentiful jobs, many people from other parts of Europe (primarily ones affected by the fall of communist Russia) came seeking a new life, much like many of the Irish who came to America did.  I was stunned at how much things changed before our first trip and our second trip with only 3 years between.  Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

Ireland had used the United States as a role model for too many things, one of which was the housing/mortgage industry and about the same time our economy here was starting down the dark road, so was Ireland.  They aren't in as bad of shape as Greece or Portugal, but they definitely are struggling in some areas.  When we were there in 2009, there was talk about reducing the national minimum wage.  I often wonder what happened to all of the new houses I remember seeing as we rode the train in to Galway on our first trip there. 

The Irish people are deeply religious and very proud of their traditions.  However, do not go to Ireland for St. Patrick's day and expect it to be anything like it is here in the United States.  St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and March 17th celebrations are held in his memory on that day because it is the day of his death.  And while he has been credited with banishing snakes from Ireland, science disputes that, basically claiming that there weren't any snakes to begin with.  (remember the no snakes in Ireland part, it will come in handy later in our tour)

Contrary to popular belief, Ireland is very, very safe to travel in.  Most of the trouble that Ireland is notorious for has been in Northern Ireland, not the Republic of Ireland, and truthfully has been horribly overexaggerated by our media.  I've never forgotten a wedding I was at, a young man from Ireland was seated beside me and I just came out and asked him if it was as bad as our news media was making it out to be.  He laughed and said "Absolutely not!  For example, I currently live in Rochester, NY.  Year to date, there have been more people murdered in the city of Rochester, NY than there have been in the ENTIRE country (both Northern and Republic) of Ireland". 

So, with that bit of history and information, I think we are ready to hop in the car and let's go!  Oh, and since we are talking about cars, be sure not to say that they drive on the wrong side of the road.  Say they drive on the "opposite" side of the road.  The Irish (and the English as well) don't appreciate it and they will definitely give you a dirty look! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Who Ya Rootin' For????

Another Super Bowl Sunday is upon us--and the big question is--who are you cheering for?  I used to be a 49'ers fan, back in the Joe Montana era, but lost interest for whatever reasons.  And to me, a team from Baltimore should be the Colts--am I showing my age or what?  So I really didn't care--but that sort off  changed after hearing the story that Lee told me last night while we were eating dinner.

One of his co-workers told him that his wife's grandmother is a huge 49ers fan, and they decided to write a letter to the team on her behalf.  They told them what a big fan she was and all they asked for was perhaps a team picture, an autograph, just something.  She is in her 80's and they figured whatever they got, she would be thrilled with.  You can imagine how surprised they were when a HUGE box showed up at their house, full of all sorts of 49'ers stuff--autographed pictures, shirts, hats--you name it.  Grandma was tickled pink (or perhaps red and gold!) and as a result, Dave said he feels like he really should be rooting for them.  I see his point!  And what a sweet gesture on the part of whoever organized such a wonderful gift. 

Have a great weekend everyone--and go nine-ers!!!