26 December 2014

St Sephen's Day Walk in Cong

Today is a national holiday in Ireland--St Stephen's Day. While in some other areas of the country people are engaging in a post-Christmas shopping frenzy, in these parts things are quiet. I guess it's traditional for a community walk to be held on this day each year in Cong, a small town a few miles south of us. This year the walk was a guided one and was a benefit for the new community centre.

It was chilly and raining a bit, but there was a good turnout nonetheless. Of course, I was thrilled--it was my kind of day! By the time we were nearing the end of the walk, I was roasting though. It is sometimes hard to know how to dress here, but I am glad I decided against the wool sweater I was considering!

There were a few times that I thought we'd lost Bill as he lagged behind taking photos, which can be found here:

23 December 2014

A Few Days Before Christmas...

...and Ballinrobe is all dressed up for the season! We saw the first Christmas items in the grocery store during the first week or two of October when the Christmas cakes and puddings appeared. Then a few gift sets and biscuit tins showed up on the seasonal shelf next to the Halloween candy. On November 1 the home store down the street had a big sign up announcing that the Christmas Shoppe was open and their window was filled with trees and decorations. More and more stores created seasonal window displays and many of them have changed those displays a few times over the past couple of months. It's been fun to see them as we walk around!

On November 28 and 29, the Christmas Market was held in town, the lights went up, and Santa made a visit, arriving by boat and riding a bike around town. It seems like as the time goes by, more and more lights and decorations go up--Ballinrobe sure does know how to make the season bright :-)

Bill took a quick walk around the block last evening when he went downstairs to put out our garbage for the weekly pick-up. As always, he had his camera and captured some of the latest festive decorations.
People coming into town from the south on the Neale Rd are greeted with this sign.

If they turn left onto Bowgate St and head towards Main, they get to see Santa.

Lights on Main St.

This flower shop has changed their window a few times over the past couple of months:
Turning off of Main St onto Glebe, someone has a snow family in their window:
And turning off of Glebe onto New St, someone has a fruity wreath on their door:
It's been a lot of fun to observe the ways Ballinrobe gets into Christmas, from the decorations to the foods that are traditional, it's a whole new world for us.

We wish everyone a wonderful holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate--and even if you celebrate nothing at all--we hope the last days of the year bring you joy and peace!

01 December 2014

Christmas Market in Ballinrobe

This past Friday and Saturday the Christmas Market set up in the parking lot outside the library. There were a few tents around with small, local businesses offering their wares, some food vendors, and some craftspeople. It did not rain and was seasonably chilly. Bill and I strolled over to see what it was like.

It did not take long for me to spot the woman with the table full of yarn! I walked over and grabbed a skein of sock yarn that was sitting in a basket to check fibre content. The woman commented that she forgot to mark those skeins, but said they were 3.50 euro. I checked the fibre content again to make sure it really was wool and nylon. It was. I checked the yardage. As I thought, it was 400+ yards. I bought the four skeins she had--two grey/purple and two grey/green and was thrilled to get them. Sock yarn is thin, so that yardage will provide me with many hours of knitting/crocheting joy!

On our way out the other side of the library grounds, we passed the crib (nativity scene) complete with live donkey.
We headed out to Main St, where there were still more Christmas windows to see.

Rudolph was in the window of a butcher shop. Looks like he's running.

The two photos above are the windows of a hair salon. While Bill was taking the bottom photo, a woman in a cute black hat with a little piece of netting over her face stopped and asked if he wanted to take some photos of the windows in her antique shop down the road. Of course he said he would, so we followed her down there.

There are some nice windows on Glebe St, too. The art studio is one of the most interesting and creative, given the addition of original art to the display!

The meat market on Glebe avoided animals and went with a Christmas tree for their window :-)
It's not just windows anymore, either. The lights have been hung all around town.
 Main St at sunset:

On Abbey St:

On both ends of Church Lane--here is Main and Church
And here is Church and New St:
New St is also lined with lights--plain white lights are strung along and lighted images like the fireworks above and some bells line both sides of the street. The whole town looks quite festive!

We'd walked over to The Green to await the arrival of Santa, who, I understand, took a bike ride around town before heading to his spot in the library. We ended up leaving before he arrived, because Bill was starving and needed to get something to eat fast, but there were lots of people there to greet Santa and escort him to the library!

Even though the lights were lit on Friday, the "official" turning on of the lights was done last evening. We saw a few Facebook posts saying the festivities were going to be "in town" at 5 o'clock. I suppose everyone knows where "in town" to go for this kind of thing, but we didn't. It's a small town and we could have gone out and walked around until we found a bunch of people--we had a small list of possible places that seemed likely for such an event--but we were having a very quiet, peaceful, and relaxing day and the idea of walking around looking for the event didn't appeal, so we stayed home. From some photos I saw, it looked like lots of people turned up to see the lights go on officially.

I quite enjoyed walking around town for a couple of hours on Friday. Lots of people were out and about and there was a great community atmosphere. Christmas season is in full swing here in Ballinrobe!

28 November 2014

'Tis the Season...

More Christmas windows popping up on Ballinrobe's Main St! Bill was saying it reminds him of when he was a kid and his grandmother used to take him into Boston. I grew up in suburbia--I remember malls, not Main Streets (and I much prefer Main Streets!). I am so enjoying walking around and seeing these fun and festive windows--brings a smile to my face!

I'm afraid I do not remember which businesses these first two windows are a part of, but I like the big guy and the teddy bear!

The blue decorations are in the window of a hair salon.

The snowman is in the window a a business that does clothing alterations.

This is the gift shop on the corner of Main and Glebe. They have really done a lot with their window over the last couple of weeks! This is, I think, the third holiday window they've had up and I think it's the best one!
Here is the left side of the window: Love the Santa and the simple tree with buttons!
This is one of Walkin's windows:
It's really well done. I love that silver tree branch. We are keeping our eyes open on our walks for a fallen branch that we can bring home, stick in a jar, and decorate. This is a slightly different angle:

This is from their other window. I love the little "NOEL" decoration!

This is from Murphy's clothing store on Main St--the ornaments look like they are made of felt--very cute!

These are from Biggin's clothing store, which is not on Main St, but on Church Lane:
She's all dressed up for the party in her sequins, but she'd better hope the sparkles don't attract the polar bear :-)

Wherever you are, I hope that you will consider supporting small, local businesses like these whenever possible--at Christmastime, yes, but throughout the year, too.

25 November 2014

Christmasy Windows!

Ballinrobe is dressing up for Christmas!

The first window displays we saw were in the home store down the street.
Curious about what kinds of Christmas decorations are popular here, we went in to take a look around. Turns out that most of what I see is different from what I used to see in the US. Lighted things are very popular--especially twigs and different kinds of trees.

The tree with yellow leaves has LED lights in the leaves, as does the round one next to it.

The store has a pretty big selection of these cherry blossom trees in various colours (white, pink, purple, blue) as well as the multi-coloured ones. They also have them in tabletop versions. They even had a really nice metal wall sculpture of a branch with cherry blossoms on it--it was quite lovely, though it didn't seem like a Christmas decoration to me, even though it was hanging with the rest.

Lots of windows around town are being gussied up.

This is the flower shop downstairs and around the corner from us. They also sell wooden toys and if you look in the right hand section of the window, you can see a little toy kitchen made of wood--complete with microwave and washing machine. It's a really cute and well done display.

The florist on Main St doesn't do the toys, so they had a more basic display of poinsettias and little trees--steamy in there!

This is a funky little store on Main called First Impressions. It is a small, narrow little space crammed full of a bunch of different kinds of things--not sure how on earth she fit the Christmas stuff in there.  You can buy gloves, underwear, kitchenware, giftware, school supplies, rugs, cleaning products and more besides. I found erasers and glue sticks there one day and a few weeks ago we were searching in vain for tea balls, so we went in there hoping to find a strainer (sieve, they're called here) to use to make tea from dried mint leaves. We actually found two tea balls--exactly what we were looking for! We bought them both. Anyway, this is a nice display--makes you smile!

There are a couple of shoe stores on Main St. Both went with the theme of snow. Vaughan's has the igloo and Tierney's has the hanging snowflakes.

We saw this last week and their display has been changed since then:
We got a smaller version of the little snow person. I'm going to make a hat and scarf for her  :-)

This was from a residence that we passed on our way home today:
It gets a bit more festive every day around here!


15 November 2014

As Time Goes By

It's been fascinating to walk along the river throughout the 7 months we've been here and to see how everything changes. There's a spot we always stop and look at when we walk--the little falls that are there. When we first arrived, there was water pouring over them. As the water grasses grew and the water level dropped, there was less and less going over the falls. Islands and rocks started to appear just beyond the falls.

In late July, we watched some ducks crossing the largest "island" to get to the other side before walking back into the water:

By September 1st, the water level had started to rise:

Same spot yesterday:
There's been no sign of the ducks!

14 November 2014

Late Autumn in Beautiful Ballinrobe

It was a beautiful morning for a walk--crisp air, a bit of a wind, cool temperatures, an interesting and ever-changing sky, and a lovely landscape! With the leaves mostly off the trees, there's more to look at--amazing what's been hidden from view for these many months.

This tree is down the street:
The ivy is crazy here and it just climbs up and around a lot of the trees. It's not so noticeable in the summer when the leaves are on the trees, but it's really visible now! A lot of the tree trunks are encased in green!

I am quite drawn to bare trees and there are a lot of interesting shapes here now:

This looked like it was about 12 or 13 inches from the bottom of the stem to the top of the center leaf:

Nice view across the field--we've seen cows here sometimes, but not today:

A few leaves hanging on:

We found some cows:

Note the standing water. It's rained a lot here over the last couple of days and the ground is saturated. Other parts of the country are having problems with flooding. We met a lot of people who were out and about this morning and many happy dogs. I think they were all happy to get outside. At one point, we passed the guy who goes around checking to make sure people have their "pay and display" ticket on their dashboards. He was standing there surveying his territory when we passed and I said "Good morning" to him. He replied with, "Mornin' Not a bad one!"  Later I overheard one woman greet another with, " How are ye? Are you feelin' the cold?" I am getting used to the many ways people have of greeting people with remarks about the weather :-)