Holiday Decorating

The Art of Love & Money - Christmas Decorating
The Art of Love & Money – Christmas Decorating

Full swing into December – do you have your decorating done?

Decide what you MUST have.  Maybe it’s a tree, maybe it’s a wreath, maybe it’s the nativity scene.

List them in order of importance to you and then set aside allotted times to do the most important ones first.  If you run out of time and energy – maybe that’s okay.  Give yourself permission to not have a perfectly decorated house if that’s not in the cards for whatever reason – time, budget, energy.

We have a smooth running system.  It’s not elaborate, but it works for us, and it leaves me plenty of time to enjoy down time, hygge, and other festivities.

The Tree

We do a live tree every year.

My husband usually preps before I get home from work.  He’ll move the furniture around in the living room to accommodate the tree, get out a plastic sheet and the tree stand.

The Traditions

We usually go out to eat that night to save time.  When the kids were little, we did it on a Friday night, so we made a family night out of it, and that tradition has more or less stuck.

For, us Getting the Christmas tree = Dinner Out.

After dinner, we drive to Lowe’s and pick a pre-cut tree from the lot.

Throw that fresh-cut and baled tree in the back of the van, and viola!  Get home put it in the stand, jack around with making sure it is straight, water it with hot water, remove the baling, pull down the branches, and vacuum the carpet.  Lay the tree skirt down.

Let the branches fall over night.

The next day I put on the lights, ribbon or garland.

Do Not Be A Kill-Joy

I used to be obsessive about this and I’m not proud of this at all.  My daughter mainly remembers me being a ball of rage untangling those lights and making sure that the wires were hidden just so – barking at her to “Get back in your room!  I’ll let you know when I’m finished!”

Talk about stealing joy.


Listen, turn the lights off in the room, squint your eyes and walk to the other side of the room.  See?  It looks perfect.

These days, we set up a chair on each side of the tree, put on some 80’s rock on Pandora and pass the light string back and forth. Done, and done.

Then I do the ribbon, garland, or other trim.  I change it up every few years.

Switch it Up

This year I used feather pics and black fishnet ribbon.


The Art of Love & Money – Black Fish Net Ribbon – Hobby Lobby
The Art of Love & Money – Silver Sparkle Floral Pick – Hobby Lobby
The Art of Love & Money – Red/Black Cabaret Feather Pick – Hobby Lobby

Next, we all put the ornaments on the tree.  Pack it up, throw a frozen pizza in the oven. Done, Done, and Done.

Water and vacuum on repeat throughout the holiday season.


The following day is Sunday.  If I have time and energy, I’ll decorate outside and the mantle.  But if I’m not feeling it – I just might skip it all together or get back to it another day.

The Mantle

I buy a wreath to hang on the mantle.  I hang mini ornaments on the wreath, or add a ribbon.  It’s simple, beautiful, and the fresh evergreen smells amazing.


The Window Box

I usually cut all the dead flowers from the window box, buy a bundle of mixed evergreens – or take the cut branches from Lowes’ when we pick up the tree.


I’ve got a tote that has outdoor decorations in it – which is basically indoor decor that is worn out or I’m tired of looking at on the tree.  I’ll fill in the window box with these mixed evergreen branches, some lights, some ribbon, ornaments, etc.

Something Nostalgic

This year, I also bought a Charlie Brown tree at Lowe’s and set it up with lights and tiny ornaments next to the window box.


If there is enough evergreens, I’ll also fill in the hanging baskets on Shepard’s’ hooks in the flower beds.

I’d love to hang swags with lights all up and down my fence and put lights on my roof line, but that has not happened yet – and I’m okay with letting that go, because it’s not my main MUST have decor.


Something Unexpected

Think about an element of surprise.  For us, we wrap the knight in shining armor in lights and add a Santa hat.  Technically, it is maybe not such a surprise anymore, because we’ve been doing it for a few years running now.


I also love the idea of adding mini Christmas trees to your kid’s rooms.  Our daughter got a mini metallic pink tree in high school that we decorated with mini ornaments and beaded strings.

We have a guest room upstairs that I’d love to do a small artificial tree for some time.  I’d like to do a white tree with a really colorful theme.  And all the kid’s nostalgic ornaments of their favorite characters.  In my fantasy, I wrap the whole tree in Saran wrap and tuck it into the attic crawl space until the following year.

What’s your must haves?  What is your decorating system?

ACTIONABLE STEP: Determine your decor priorities.  Pick a date to do each of them – one step at a time.  When you are out of time, energy, or money give yourself permission to stop and enjoy the season either way.

Merry & Bright Christmas!


Meet Miriam

The Art of Love & Money - Meet Miriam

Why, hello, there!

Today I want to introduce you to my friend, Miriam.

Do you have a group of women you get together with that raise you up high?  Higher than you knew you could go?

I am part of a local blogger’s meetup; Miriam recently took over leading this group of local bloggers and I am so glad to have met her.

Miriam is smart, like, wicked smart.  She’s ambitious, and she is gorgeous.

I mean just look at her!

Miriam is a mother of two, soon to be three.  She is from Canada, and her husband is from Wisconsin.

She’s a travel photographer and has been to Europe multiple times.

How interesting is she?!  I love getting to know people – especially when their lives are so different from mine.

Miriam is a creative.  She has multiple artistic platforms that she has recently began weaving together into one –  let me share them with you here.

Miriam is a wedding and natural light photographer.

She is also a make-up artist with a You-tube channel.

And a Beauty Blogger.

At our last blogger’s meetup she led a discussion on video/vlogging for our audiences.

Informative though it was, what really got me was the personal connection aspect of it.  You see, my blogging has gotten out of hand lately with all.of.the.things.  I am writing posts three times a week, and I run a quarterly book club.  I am planning a new website. And I have plans to launch a podcast.

Miriam helped me corral these all together – you see, all of these outlets help me to create a personal connection with other women.

Smart, ambitious women who are doing things that I admire and adore.

What can I say?  I’m a girls’ girl and I am all about connection.

I am all about people, specifically women.  Because, as adult women, it can be hard to stay in contact with your friends from high school and college.  Or, we outgrow each other, or our kids aren’t in the same classes or the same schools with our mom friends anymore.  Take your pick.  It can be hard, and I don’t think we were built to walk this world alone.  As much as we love our families, and dedicate our lives to them, it’s so energizing to be with a group of women who energize, inspire, and relate to you.

I want to introduce you, Dear Reader, (So Jane Austen – I’ve always wanted to do that!) to my people.  To the the people who inspire me and are doing things that interest me.  Because if I am interested in them, maybe you are too.

I hope you love my friend Miriam.  That you enjoy her photography, that you watch her you tube channel – that you learn something fun in her tutorials and girly makeovers and cosmetic tips.

Miriam will be on the blog for the next several weeks to come.

I hope you enjoy this – and if you like this style of women connecting and friendships – then you’ll love my podcast.  Coming soon.  All.the.things….

Be sure to check back next week for my two part Holiday Makeover.  From a Retro Glam with a red-orange lip to a full on glossy red lip and silver glitter eye shadow.

Miriam gave me the red-carpet treatment so that you could get some Holiday Party instructions.

ACTIONABLE STEP:  Run – don’t walk – over to Freckled Glam and meet my girl Miriam – and don’t forget to subscribe to her You Tube channel for so much glittery glam goodness.

Miriam Bulcher

Miriam Bulcher Weddings

Freckled Glam Beauty Blog

Freckled Glam You Tube Channel

Freckled Glam Instagram

Etsy Shop


Christmas List Budget & Shopping

The Art of Love & Money - Christmas List Budget & Shopping

Have you started your Christmas/Holiday Shopping yet?

If you have – good for you!

If you  not, I got you covered.

Making The List

Download the Christmas Shopping List & Budget and fill in the spreadsheet for your family’s buying needs. Determine much you will spend on each person.  We tend to assign categories of people a specific number – parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews all have a dollar amount attached to that category.

Another day,  sit down as a couple/family and fill in gift ideas.  If you have kids in your house, you can include them on the planning and shopping for relatives – especially if it’s a cousin close to their age or if they have a special bond with Grandma, etc.  It’s really important that we give our children the joy of giving to others – and not just receiving stacks on stacks on stacks.

I made this list back when the kids were younger and shopping for them was a BIG deal.  I mean, you HAD to get Christmas just right, it was everything.  You can filter it out so that the kids are hidden & print two separate lists.  One for you and one for Santa.  This was super helpful to me when I was trying to balance the needs of  multiple kids getting the same number of packages and equal(ish) spending.

Checking it Twice

The list gives you an opportunity to decide who you are buying for, how much their budget is, what you will be buying for them and what store you will need to get it.

The Christmas Shopping List & Budget also allows you to update your budget as you go.  After each shopping day, update the list.  If you go over budget on someone by $35 you’ll have to account for that out of another recipient’s budget (or another category)  in order to stay on track.  This could easily be accounted for in a sale.  If you have someone budgeted for a Hoodie- $50, and it’s on sale for $35 – win-win.

The Perfect Gift

For me, gift giving is all about finding someone something they will LOVE, it doesn’t have to cost the full budget price – it just has to be under that number and have a value that is around that number.

The best part of this list is in the archiving.  Next year it will take you even less time, because you’ll save this one as Christmas 2017, and next year you’ll keep Christmas 2017, and save as Christmas 2018.  The beauty is in looking back over the years – did we already buy her a crock pot?  Oh, remember the year we gave all the niece and nephews hoodies?  They loved that.

Shopping Plan of Attack

Plan out your shopping.  Maybe you like to split it up and spread it out throughout the month.  Smart!  We did this when our kids were younger.  We took turns staying home with the kids, doing dinner, homework, and bath nights while the other shopped for our people on the list.  Now that our kids are older, Christmas shopping is not as consuming and I’d rather get it done in large chunks.

Last year, my husband and I laid out all of our shopping to knock it out in one day.  We planned the sheet out ahead of time and then set out for breakfast at a local restaurant (what a TREAT!) and a plan of attack.

We then went to the stores, divided and conquered.

We didn’t get it all done in one day,  but we had fun trying.  Next time – we’ll add in a movie at the end of the night.

This method works best if you have a sitter for the day or the little ones are with grandparents.

Of course, online shopping is where it’s at.  If you can sit at your computer over lunch or cuddled up on the couch after bedtime click-click-clicking – that’s the sweet spot!

Just update the spreadsheet every now and then so you don’t blow the budget.  It’s hard to know what you are really spending when you have so much to buy and the purchases and the packages at the door just keep coming.

There is no right or wrong way – just have a plan and get it done so that you can enjoy your holiday season.  Break your Holiday to-do’s into manageable chunks that fit in around your celebrations – without stealing your joy.

Do What You Love

You might need to say no to some things.  That’s okay.  Decide early on what you love about the season, what you can  tolerate, and what really grates on your nerves.  Plan your calendar accordingly and try your best to eliminate the things that are not joyful.

Save for Christmas Year-Round

It can be shocking to see how much you actually spend on Christmas.  If you don’t already use a Christmas savings account, take this as an opportunity to set up an account that automatically drafts from your checking account to a savings account.

I like to use Capitol One 360, formerly ING Direct, because you can nickname the separate accounts – the accounts aren’t just a series of numbers.  There is something very satisfying about having an account with Christmas or New Car – Don’t Touch.

Divide the budgeted amount by 12 and set that amount to draft to savings automatically.

Example:  Budget is $1200.  Each month $100 is drafted to your Christmas savings account.  You can also do it twice per month if you’d prefer to draft $50 every two weeks instead.

I hope that you find this download useful and that my shopping tips can be helpful to you.  Above all else, I wish you happiness & contentment this Holiday season.  I know it can be stressful, and that it’s not a jolly time of year for everyone.  Give yourself permission to do what is joyful for you – whatever that may mean.

Spend Time Together

Christmas should not be about the gifts, so if the gifts have you feeling stressed – let everyone know you’re cutting back this year but you’d love to spend time with them.  Go to a movie or have a game night at your house.  Drive around to look at Christmas lights or walk through a decorated parkway, followed by a hot chocolate in a coffee shop.

It may seem scary to do that – but I bet you’ll look back on it as a great Christmas.

If you have really little children – I think it’s totally fine to get their gifts at a Goodwill store.  Clean them up and lay them out magically under the tree.

Take Action

ACTIONABLE STEPS:  Download the Christmas Shopping List & Budget and fill in the spreadsheet for your family’s buying needs and how much you will spend on each person.

Pick a day you can sit down and fill in the gift giving ideas and budget numbers.

Plan out your shopping trips.  Shop ’til ya drop.

Merry & Bright Christmas!

Ireland – What We Will be Back For

The Art of Love & Money - What we'll be back for

We will be back to Ireland.

It’s a big world and there is so much to see, but we loved every minute we had there and we met some fantastic people we hope we get to see again someday.

We missed a lot of things in Dublin, and I’d like to make it back if only to do the Fairies and National Leprechaun Museum.  We never finished the hop-on/hop-off tour as we hopped off at Trinity College and never got back on!  We missed the entire Temple’s Bar neighborhood and the oldest pub in Ireland.  I’d love to do a tour with the Yellow Umbrella folks of the South side – we only had a chance to do the North Side.  I’d love to do a day trip to the hills/mountains outside of Dublin.

We met a couple there, Peter and Lorraine, we exchanged emails with them and we’d love to meet up with them again one day.

We missed the Giant’s Causeway. We had this scheduled for the day of the storm, and everything was shut down.  The roads were windy and not safe for driving, and the seaside is definitely not where I want to be as a hurricane is approaching.  You win some, you let some go.

We missed the entire Dingle Peninsula and I have a good word from our new friends, Tony and Marion, that Dingle is their favorite bit of Ireland, so I must go.  Also, there is a friendly dolphin I’d be charmed to meet his acquaintance.

We missed the Aran Islands.  Again, there was another pretty big storm on the Saturday following the Monday hurricane.  I want to go to this place that is visible from the Cliffs of Moher.  We saw the light house and the tiny little houses from the cliffs with our binoculars, but, I want to experience this land where Gaelic is still the primary language, where all of the beautifully handcrafted knitting comes from, where there are wide open, untouched fields.  Tony recommended we not go at this time of year – he said “It’s just a bunch of rocks laying on the ground!”  How to explain to him that I think the isolation and wandering around alone with my thoughts and the stones on the ground are what I came to see?!   I’m glad we didn’t go that day, though.  The weather was chilly and I don’t care to be stranded outside all day with nothing other than my rented bicycle in inclement weather.  Marion recommends we go back in the spring time when the flowers are blooming – and I am so all over that!

We missed the entirety of County Cork, which was also mentioned as a favorite among locals.

I’d love to drive the entire stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Marion has extended a welcome to her Equestrian riding school, where her horses were used in the Game of Thrones Series.  Which I *gasp* have not seen.  Besides, I’m much too excited about riding horses through Northern Ireland to care much about watching t.v.

I think it’s important to note: there will always be things that you miss when traveling.  Schedules and itineraries are an important part of the planning process.  But just as important is leaving time for meandering through the hillsides and pulling over on the side of the road when you see an hauntingly beautiful cemetery, or a whimsical castle with Irish horses frolicking in the background.  << This happened to us and I am still losing my mind over the majestic wonder of it.

Make a pact with your fellow travelers to enjoy the whole trip – no matter what goes off track and what you miss.  See what you can see, and come back again for what you missed.  Don’t fret – and be thankful that you are one of the lucky ones who gets to travel the world.

No regrets,


ACTIONABLE STEP:  Check put my Pinterest board to get a start your own Ireland Board.  If you have any more recommendations for Ireland – throw them my way – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Sláinte chugat!

Sláinte chugat. (sounds like Slawn-cheh ch(k)oo-at) Cheers, literally translates Good health to you.


Ireland – Do the Math (Part 2)

The Art of Love & Money - Ireland - Do the Math

So, you want to go to Ireland?  I want to get you there!

I shared all the numbers in this blog post.

Last week, I did a little math highlighting why I don’t recommend carrying your dream trip on a credit card by paying the minimum amount due.  I showed you how you can set aside $300 a month for 19 months to make your dream trip a reality.

But maybe you have objections going off in your head – ‘I won’t pay the minimums – everyone knows better than that!’  or ‘ Just where am I coming up with this magical $300 a month?!’

I’ll take you there:

Airfare $1,052.52

Monthly Payment: $300

Interest Rate:18.74%

The Art of Love & Money SavingsCalc-BankRate-Ireland-300-airfare
Credit Karma Credit Card Repayment Calculator

So, at this point, it only took 4 months to pay for the airfare and it cost just an additional $39.  Not too shabby.  I mean, you might still be paying for the airfare when the trip portion becomes due, but overall, not bad.

Let’s look at the overall cost of the trip on the credit card at $300 paid a month.

See this blog post for the full breakdown.

Total $5,835.82

Monthly Payment: $300

Interest Rate:18.74%

The Art of Love & Money SavingsCalc-BankRate-Ireland-300-full trip
Credit Karma Credit Card Repayment Calculator

One thing we can all agree on – paying $300 a month on the credit card is far better than paying the minimum amount due.  In this scenario we pay $300 a month for 24 months and it costs us an extra $1,175.

Let me just tell you – that’s a lot of Guinness!  Imagine the friends you would make in Ireland if you bought everyone in the pub a round!  And it wouldn’t cost $1,175.  I mean, I don’t think.

To be honest, I’m a little sad we didn’t do this now.

Alternatively, you can put $300 a month aside for 19 months and you could earn a whopping .075% annually .

The Art of Love & Money SavingsCalc-BankRate-Ireland-300-full trip
Bankrate Simple Savings Calculator

In this scenario, you meet your goal of $5,800 in 19 months.  If you save for 2 years instead (the time it took to pay off the credit card at $300 a month) you have $7,253.00.

$1,435 more than you need for the two week trip.

That’ll pay for the new tires on the car that you need the week before you leave, for the jumper cables you have to buy when you get home and your battery is dead in the park and fly, and the clothes and the shoes you just have to have to go to Ireland.

Trust me, I know.

Earn interest, Don’t Pay interest.

So now, where are we getting this $300?  Well, this may be a little trickier.  Especially if you already have debt payments and this little exercise has made you squeamish.

If there is debt, I would start paying it down before you go on any big, dreamy trips.  See my family’s hierarchy here, or better yet, make your own.

The average car payment in America is now over $500 a month according to Experian.  Maybe you go all Dave Ramsey on your car.  Maybe you get a part time job or a side hustle, maybe you go after a promotion at work or get a dream job.

I can’t promise you you can go to Ireland in the next 19 months, but I do think it can be within reach of most Americans to travel a lot more than we do – but first we need to prioritize our income, set a plan, be intentional and following it through.

I want for you to live your best life, your most fulfilling dreams – go places you have always wanted to go and do the things you have always wanted to do.  Even if you think it’s out of reach.  Especially if you think it’s out of reach for you.



ACTIONABLE STEP:  Head over to Credit Karma and Bankrate to play around with your own numbers.  Set a plan in motion today to get to where you have always wanted to go.

Ireland – What to Do

The Art of Love & Money - What to Do

We began our journey in Dublin, then drove to Belfast, on to Mohill (County Leitrim), then to Salthill (County Galway), Killarney, Blarney, Waterford, and Celbridge.

There were day trips to The Cliffs of Moher, Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey, The Irish National Stud and the Japanese Gardens.

The Art of Love & Money - Map of Ireland Trip 2017
The Art of Love & Money – Map of Ireland Trip 2017

I will recommend a few of the places that we enjoyed – our absolute favorites along the routes, as well as highlight a few places that we missed – sadly!

I wish we had more time to explore.  It sounds like 13 days is a plenty long holiday – but I could have spent 13 days in Dublin alone and still not have seen and done everything I would have liked to do.  I hope one day I get to travel more immersive.  I want to live in the cultures, stay and learn the languages, prepare the foods, get to know the people as friends and neighbors.  But in the meantime, here is what we did that I can happily recommend you do as well.


Phoenix Park – Lovely Park in the City Center.  Expansive, green grass, lovely landscaping, ponds, structures covered in moss, people walking their dogs, and kids in strollers, lovers having a picnic on the lawn.  Really quite lovely.

The Art of Love &amp; Money Phoenix Park Dublin Ireland
Phoenix Park Dublin Ireland

Trinity College -Stunning architecture, cobbled sidewalks, a massive old tree and the best doors and archways and windows! We went on a Sunday, didn’t see the Book of Kells, but I was so impressed wandering around at the architecture that I didn’t mind missing it one bit. I wish we would have hopped in on the yellow umbrella tour while here, but we didn’t know it was free at that time. I would have loved to learn about the history while there built in 1592!

Irish Whiskey Museum – We had the best time in here!  We were waiting for the Yellow Umbrella tour to start from the Tourist Center so we popped over next door.  Unfortunately did not have time to do the tour, so we “self-educated” in the tasting room.  That’s my kind of museum!  The bar staff was lovely and we had the place to ourselves for about twenty minutes so we had a really great education and then met some more tourists from all over the world.  Loved the Top-Shelf Whiskey flight.

The Art of Love &amp; Money Whiskey Museum Dublin Ireland
Irish Whiskey Museum Dublin Ireland

Yellow Umbrella Tour –  Free walking historical tours of Dublin.  Very interesting and knowledgeable!  Polite, friendly guides, great way to tour the city and meet tourists from all over the world.


Yellow Umbrella Pub Crawl – By far the best night spent in Dublin!

For a very reasonable fee, you get a walking tour of the pub district not far from the meeting spot on the North side of Dublin (under the Spire). This is a great way to hang out with other tourists from around the world, and local Dubliners. Our guide, Peter, was outstanding – friendly, knowledgeable, happy to answer any question you might have.

Starts with an Irish beer sampling and lesson on the brewing process in the basement of one pub, ramble on to the next pub with a table upstairs, have a Whiskey, a Gin & Tonic with a lesson in the distilling process, then you can choose to order yourself a meal (buy your own), then gather up the tour group and stroll over to another local pub, enjoy a Guinness with more informative lesson on the Guinness pour, quality control, and why Guinness tastes better in Dublin than anywhere else in the world.

Cap off the evening with an authentic Irish jam session and pay as you go at the last stop while you get to know your fellow travelers and enjoy a remarkable evening you will never forget.

Enroute from Dublin to Belfast

Newgrange Megalithic Burial Site – an ancient burial tomb 5,000 years old.  Remarkable step back in time and even more impressive engineering feat to line up the tomb window  with the Winter Solstice.  The stunning views and panoramic landscape from this area alone are worth the trip.  Entry through the Bru na Boinne visitor’s center only – so make sure to set your GPS to that destination – and not Newgrange itself!  It was quite the disappointment to have to run around and go back for the bus.  The walk from the visitor’s center to the bus was charming and we took some great photos along the path.

The Art of Love & Money Newgrange Boyne Valley Ireland
Newgrange Boyne Valley Ireland


Political Mural & Peace Wall Tour – Ask the hotel’s front desk to arrange a pick up for a personal political mural and peace wall tour around Belfast.  The guide was knowledgeable, had been born and raised in Belfast, and brought us to each political mural location, helped us out of the car and took our photos in front of each attraction.  Our guide included a 15 minute stop at the Irish Republican History Museum.

The Art of Love & Money Political Murals Belfast Northern Ireland
Political Mural Belfast Northern Ireland
The Art of Love &amp; Money Ireland Peace Wall Belfast Ireland
Peace Wall Belfast Northern Ireland

City Center – Ask your guide if he can also drive around the City Center if you don’t have time to do a walking tour of the downtown attractions. Check out The Queen’s University, St.Anne’s Cathedral, Cathedral Quarter, City Hall, The Crowne Liquor Saloon, and The Europa Hotel.

The Art of Love & Money City Center Belfast Northern Ireland
City Center Belfast Northern Ireland

It was really great to have a cab who could pull over and park close to the entrance, snap a photo and get back on tour.  I would have rather had time to walk it, but this was the next best thing.

We Missed: The Titanic Museum, SS Nomadic, and the city center walking tours


Walk the grounds at Castle Lough Rynn, have a formal tea time or an Irish Coffee at the bar.  Sit in the many seating rooms on the first floor, enjoy the views, the fireplace, and the company you meet.

The Art of Love & Money Castle Lough Rynn Mohill County Leitrim Ireland
Castle Lough Rynn Mohill County Leitrim Ireland
Castle Lough Rynn Walled Garden Mohill County Leitrim Ireland
Castle Lough Rynn Walled Garden Mohill County Leitrim Ireland

We Missed: The town Shannon-on-Carrick

Enroute to Salthill

The Cliffs of Moher – Breath taking views.  Spend several hours here walking up and down the different paths along the cliff line.  Go into the tower and enjoy the views and the friendly tour guides.

The Art of Love & Money Cliffs of Moher County Clare Ireland
Cliffs of Moher County Clare Ireland


Salthill Promenade – Enjoy a stunningly gorgeous walk along Galway Bay on The Wild Atlantic Way. Lovely open, expansive views of the steel gray water.  Rocky shore line covered in seaweed.

The Art of Love & Money Salthill County Galway Ireland
The Art of Love & Money Salthill County Galway Ireland

Quay Street – Lively Shop Street  and outdoor performers.  Great live Irish music and talent along the sidewalk paths.

The Art of Love & Money Quay Street County Galway Ireland
Quay Street County Galway Ireland

Take a day trip to Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey.   We didn’t mind the drive one bit once we got going.  The Wild Atlantic Way breaks into fields of penny walls and sheep dotted landscape, the views along the way were absolutely stunning.  Some of the best pictures we took were here.

The Art of Love & Money Connemara National Park County Galway Ireland
Connemara National Park County Galway Ireland
The Art of Love & Money Kylemore Abbey County Galway Ireland
The Art of Love & Money Kylemore Abbey County Galway Ireland

Brigit’s Garden – Magical fairy land gardens.  Very quaint and charming.

The Art of Love & Money - Brigit's Garden - Ireland
Brigit’s Garden County Galway Ireland


The Ring of Kerry – Dare to brave the narrow, winding roads for what is said to be the most spectacular views in Ireland, or take a coach so that you can enjoy the whole trip through the panoramic views of the bus windows.  Along the coach route, stop for an Irish coffee, a replica bog village, and a cafeteria style lunch with a seriously stunning view.

The Art of Love &amp; Money - Ladies View County Kerry Ireland
Ladies View County Kerry Ireland

Town Center – Lively town center full of shops and pubs and friendly locals – you can meet some new friends in any given pub, share a Guinness and a laugh over the Traditional Irish music.


Blarney Castle and Grounds –  Don’t miss this attraction – even if you have no need to kiss the Blarney Stone and already possess the gift of gab.  There is SO much more here than I would have ever imagined.  The gardens alone were worth the trip and the price of admission.  We wandered happily through the gardens for hours, every twits and turn revealing a new wonder.  The castle itself is really fascinating – the climb is an adventure to the top.  The thick walls let little sunlight through, the stairs are narrow and slick, made of what appears to be marble and natural stone.  It feels like making your way through a cave, even as you are climbing up.  The views from the top are majestic.

The Art of Love & Money - Blarney Castle View from the top-Ireland
Blarney Castle View from the top Blarney County Cork Ireland

You made it this far, go ahead, pucker up and give that stone an upside down and backwards smooch.

Enroute from Blarney to Waterford

Dunbrody Famine Ship -A replica famine ship that brought passengers to the New World.  Sounds much more romantic than the treacherous journey actually was.  A historical reenactment  displaying the horrors of life endured those brave enough or downtrodden enough to leave.  Eye opening in every sense of the word.

The Art of Love & Money Dunbrody Famine Ship New Ross County Wexford Ireland
Dunbrody Famine Ship New Ross County Wexford Ireland

JFK Memorial Statue U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is highly regarded and celebrated in Ireland.  Five generations from famine immigrant to the most powerful man in the World.  Now, that’s something to be proud of.  You can shake his hand on the boardwalk along the levy in New Ross, County Wexford.

We missed: JFK Homestead


Waterford Crystal Showroom – Wander around this spectacular show room and feast your eyes on the master artistry that has been practice for generations in County Waterford.  Stunning display.  If you are lucky, the gentleman in the corner will be engraving crystal at his desk while you stroll through.

The Art of Love & Money Waterford Crystal Waterford Ireland
Waterford Crystal Showroom Waterford Ireland

We missed: Waterford Crystal Factory Tour

Enroute from Waterford to Celbridge

Kilkenny Castle – Explore a fully renovated 13th Century Castle.  This is what you imagine when you imagine stately castles – if you can even fathom the sheer size.  It’s humongous and the lovingly crafted, detailed renovation is impressive – Everything from rugs to wallpaper were recreated from scraps found of the original print and color.  The art gallery is a beautiful masterpiece.

The Art of Love & Money - Kilkenny Castle - Ireland
Kilkenny Castle County Kilkenny Ireland

Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens – Visit the home of Ireland’s most famous race horses, take a tour from a guide to learn all about the stud process, explore the beautiful and serene Japanese Gardens. Don’t forget  the natural beauty of St Fiachra’s Garden surrounded by the commercial stud farm.  Stop by the museum to learn the history of racing in Ireland as well as the unheard of philosophies and practices of the eccentric William Hall Walker and reverence for astrology.

The Art of Love &amp; Money The Irish National Stud County Kildare Ireland
The Irish National Stud County Kildare Ireland

Sláinte chugat,


Sláinte chugat. (sounds like Slawn-cheh ch(k)oo-at) Cheers, literally translates Good health to you.

ACTIONABLE STEP:  Go on and explore Ireland virtually.  Check out the places listed online.  Daydream a little.

Headed to Ireland?  Send me an email if you want some trip advice – I’d love to share what I learned with you!

Ireland – Do the Math

The Art of Love & Money - Ireland - Do the Math

So, you want to go to Ireland?  Want to know how much a trip like ours cost?

Last week, I shared all the numbers in this blog post.

This week, I want to do a little math for you.

We save for our trips by setting aside a certain amount of money per month that is automatically drafted to our travel bucket savings account.

Anytime we get “extra” bonus money I add it to that account because right now, travel is our highest priority.  All of our other hierarchies are in good shape – we didn’t start here and we didn’t get her overnight, but here we are, living the life.

I’m kidding.  In actuality, it’s been twenty years of living and working and saving and trying to get ahead and some days we were like what the hell are we doing wrong?

Maybe we should live the life we want to live today instead of waiting for tomorrow.

Life is short.

And while I DO want to live for today and I DON’T want to put my life on hold until someday, we hold strong to we want to pay as we go, even if it means sacrificing in the short term and even if it means we go on trips less frequently.

That said – put a plan in action!  I do feel like we waited entirely too long, and settled far too frequently – so I think there is a middle ground here.

Work hard, have a plan, be ambitious in your earning potential.  Make a dream list – and then make a plan to put it into action.  Let that plan inspire you to reach farther – don’t settle for someday.

Let me show you the math:

Airfare $1,052.52

Minimum Payment: $25

Interest Rate:18.74%

Site Credit: Credit Karma Credit Card Repayment Calculator

But, wait!  There’s more.  See this blog post for the full breakdown.

Total $5,835.82

Minimum Payment: $94

Interest Rate:18.74%

Credit Karma Credit Card Repayment Calculator

Full Disclosure: I don’t know what the actual minimum payment on this amount would be because we paid our balances in full from our travel account as soon as they came in.  I don’t play around – I’d slip up and get hit with the 29.99% interest rate and never , ever forgive myself. 

I looked up the minimum payment calculation and it’s clear as mud.

MinimumPayment Due
Citi Minimum Payment Due Calculation

At first, I thought, I can’t post this, I don’t have all the facts.  But then I realized, most of us consumers don’t understand all of the credit card details, so let’s just do a best-guess analysis on Credit Karma and you can decide for yourself if it’s a game you want to play.

Okay.  So let’s go back to that example above for the total.

Minimum Payment Intrest
Credit Karma Credit Card Repayment Calculator

Look at that interest!  Now, you didn’t pay $5,835.82 for the trip, you paid $21,244.

Shut the French door!  How did that happen?!

18.74% of $5,835.82 is $1,093.64.  So maybe you thought it would cost in the ball park of $6,929.46.

$5,835.82 is $1,093.64 = $6,929.46

Not a game I want to play.

But, no.

Sadly, you could have taken this trip nearly four times for the price you paid.

The interest compounds daily and the majority of the payment goes to interest not principal.

Not to mention that it’s nearly 19 years later.  Talk about time flies.

Earn interest, Don’t Pay interest.

Wouldn’t you rather do that?

Check back with me next week for the final math calculation.



ACTIONABLE STEP:  Head over to Credit Karma and play around with your own numbers.  If you don’t owe on credit cards – GREAT!  But still, go over and plug in some numbers.  That way if you ever get tempted, you’ll know what kind of fire you are playing with.  If you already have credit card debt – don’t beat yourself up!  Just plug in your numbers and make a plan!  You got this, and I’m here to help.

Monday Motivation

The Art of Love & Money - No matter how long the day, the evening comes.

Dá fhada an lá tagann an tráthnóna.

Pronounced: Daw aw-dah on law tog-ann an traw-no-nah.

Translates: No matter how long the day, the evening comes.

(No matter how bad things are, they will end)

Think of your last bad day.

If you can remember, how was your next morning?

Or the week after?

Perhaps you can’t remember.  But for me, I have lived through enough cycles of life now that I am starting to realize – it will get better!

If you can cut your bad days short – do it – go to bed early and see if things aren’t better the next day or the day after that.

Not all bad days can be fixed this way – by no means am I suggesting that you skip out on your responsibilities.  Sometimes you just have to handle your business, but some days are better left to tomorrow.

Can I just say – that daylight savings is all about going to bed early?  Is there anything I love more right now than coming home, rushing through a quick to-do, eating dinner and turning in early with a good book?  Ahhhhhhhhh.  Maybe only my heated mattress pad. Or my thick winter down comforter.

Turn in early tonight,


ACTIONABLE STEP: Keep a journal of your days – look back on your bad days and then skim through to the next couple of days.  Stop and appreciate the best moments of each day.  Even the bad days have moments of good in them.  A sunset, a pretty leaf blowing  across the sidewalk, a candle burning in the window.  Pay attention to the good, and hold on through the bad.

I think it’s a great idea to learn something about the place you travel, to take a bit of the culture and sayings with you when you go.  Ireland is a land of many sayings and phrases.  The Gaelic language is not something that I picked up on – although I did look up how to say hello, thank you and goodbye before we departed for our travels, the only phrase that comes naturally to mind is Sláinte, which is said as “Cheers!” before a drink, but means “Good Health”.
I found all of these sayings after my trip, although I did have many an Irish man say different phrases and try to teach me how, repeat after him.  I, sadly, can not remember them.
 I looked these all up on the website Gaelic Matters.  I encourage you to go and read  through the website.  It is fantastically well done with a wealth of information on the Celtic culture and the Gaelic Language.  The Gaelic Language is in danger of becoming unknown and we were told while we were visiting that people are now enrolling their children into lessons to keep the language alive.
The old sayings are charming, full of wisdom and wit, and these Motivation Monday series are meant to honor the spirit of the people of Ireland.


Ireland – What to Eat & Drink

The Art of Love & Money - Ireland - What to Eat & Drink

My husband and I recently returned from our trip to Ireland!

We began our journey in Dublin, then drove to Belfast, on to County Mohill, then to Galway, Killarney, Blarney, Waterford, and Celbridge.

The Art of Love & Money - Ireland - Over night stay Map
Ireland – Map of Itinerary

I will recommend a few of the places that we ate – our absolute favorites along the route, as well as a few dishes you should try while in Ireland – regardless of where you find it!  I will say, the pub food in Ireland is amazing, and you can’t go wrong by asking any locals where to eat nearby.

I also highly recommend asking the waiter/waitress what their favorite thing on the menu is.

Nancy Hands, Dublin, County Dublin

Warm, cozy, pub environment with candles burning on each table.  I could be wrong, but it seemed to me even the locals were eating here and enjoying their food.  A Guinness is included in your Red bus hop-on hop-off  bus pass, so there are plenty of tourists here as well.  A few tour buses did pull up to drop off their passengers, but they had plenty of seating and wait staff available to accommodate them.

Bonus: Walking distance to Ashling Hotel

Order: Liberties’ Dublin Coddle

Nancy’s Famous Dublin Coddle of Potato, Bacon Chop, Sausage & Onions.

The Coddle was recommended by the waitress and oh, my yum!  Basically a gigantic pork chop that tastes like bacon.  The meat is thick, savory, tender, and juicy.  I ate every last bit on my plate.

Fratelli’s Belfast, Northern Ireland

I must say we had some incredible Italian food in Ireland!  When we stayed in Belfast we asked for a recommendation from the hotel staff.  They pointed us down the road to Robinson’s Bar & Bistro.  I totally recommend you stop in here for a Guinness and to watch the game with the locals.  Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed so we had to ramble on in search of a meal.  Next stop was The Crown Liquor Saloon.  I would also highly suggest you grab a whiskey in here.  The woodwork is stunningly detailed.  We wandered in, saw no food being served and no seats available and wandered back out.  If I had to do over again, I would have gone back after dinner for a night cap just to savor the architectural details of the place.  It is across the street from The Europa, the most bombed hotel in the world.  Our taxi tour guide brought us there the next day on our city tour and took our photos outside.

Long intro but I am about to get to the point:  After finding the charming Fratelli’s and scoring a cozy window seat on a couple of love seats facing one another, we were so glad that there was no food to be found in the first two places because we would have never had found this place!  The Italian aroma smells amazing in here, you pretty much know you can’t go wrong with any of the menu items as soon as you walk through the door.


Bottle of Montes Cabernet Sauvignon

Chorizo, Chicken, Tomato & Chilli Ragu

Garlic Bread Rolls

Creamy carbonara linguine – Thick cut cured bacon, onions & garlic in a white wine cream sauce

Cheesecake Al Cioccolate Bianco E Pistacchio

The Pie Maker, Galway, County Galway

We loved, loved, loved this place.  Be advised:  It’s tiny.  Minuscule.  But what it lacks in size it more than make up for in flavor, charm, and spunk. Our server was incredibly friendly even though he was incredibly busy and the only server working the four tables and the bar counter.  Yep.  That’s all the room there is.  You literally wait outside the door for someone to come out, and then you can go in.

The Pie Maker has a menu of savory pies for dinner followed by sweet pies for dessert if you left room for it (or if you are willing to eat in regardless.)

So, so good.  I still have not stopped thinking of the pastry tops.  The mashed potatoes on the side were the perfect compliments.


Chicken & Mushroom Pie

Beef & Galway Stout Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Roasted Pumpkin Pie

John M Reidy’s, Killarney, County Kerry

The perfect ending to a perfect day.  We spent the day riding around on The Ring of Kerry Tour bus and finished up at Reidy’s which was a charming pub/coffee shop.  Nooks and crannies every which way you turn this old candy shop turned hang out is a happening spot.  No matter what environment you are looking for, I’m certain you can find it here.  I saw people drinking cappuccino and studying, others having a smoke out back on the patio, we sat in a quiet corner enjoying a Whiskey listening to 90’s rap music and snapping selfies as we reminisced about the day’s sight seeing.  As we went to leave, we walked through the pub where the beer is on draft and there was a lively crowd listening to live traditional Irish music.  Needless to say, we lost several hours here and aren’t one bit sorry about it.

Other things you must try in Ireland:

  • Porridge with Jameson Whiskey
  • Fish and Chips with Malt Vinegar
  • Lamb Stew
  • Guinness Stew
  • Coddle
  • Bacon & Cabbage
  • Fried Brie
  • Any and all cheeses
  • Streaky Bacon
  • Irish Coffee
  • Hot Whiskey/Hot Toddy
  • Guinness
  • Smithwick’s Irish Ale
  • Redbreast 12
  • Yellow Spot
  • Green Spot
  • Powers Signature
  • Powers 12
The Art of Love & Money - Ireland - Smithwicks-Guinness
The Art of Love & Money – Ireland – Smithwicks-Guinness
The Art of Love & Money - The Whiskey Museum - Dublin, Ireland
The Art of Love & Money – The Whiskey Museum – Dublin, Ireland

Sláinte chugat,


Sláinte chugat. (sounds like Slawn-cheh ch(k)oo-at) Cheers, literally translates Good health to you.

ACTIONABLE STEP:  Go on and explore Ireland virtually.  Check out the places listed online.  Daydream a little.  Make this Irish Coffee Recipe this weekend. 😉

The Art of Love & Money Irish Coffee Recipe