Ireland! 50 Shades of Green!


Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by lush green landscape all year long, I was skeptical about the idea that there could be anywhere more green, I mean just as green, sure, but MORE green, no way… Okay, I was wrong, Ireland has the PNW beat, because not only are there 50+ shades of the most intense green you’ve ever seen and then some, but there are castles too!  You’ve got to have castles!!


Driving from Cork to Killarney we experienced not only all those beautiful shades of green, but its possible to have weather from all four seasons within one day, if not the hour, which made our drive, not only stunningly beautiful, but eventful as well!  Rain, wind, sun, clouds you name it…

White caps on the lake!

Planning to explore nearby areas we spent three nights in Killarney, the gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the perfect little Irish town! Quaint, friendly and picturesque, it was exactly what I had pictured an Irish town to look like!


After some difficulty deciding which pub to eat at (there were so many to choose from) we ended up at Danny Mann’s Lounge for dinner and traditional Irish Music! Super Fun! Tim had the best meal, cottage pie, and afterwards we stopped at our new favorite Irish ice cream shop, Murphy’s!


S**T Happens!

Only a few days into our Irish adventure we were still plagued by Jet lag and got a late start, what else is new? We had our “morning” coffee and pastries at this adorable and tasty little patisserie in town, before we hit the gas station to fill up for our drive to the Dingle Peninsula. By this time it was already 1:00 pm…

Then this happened:

We went to the nearest gas station and filled up… with gas… but we were renting a diesel!! Argh! Of course driving it wasn’t an option. Apparently this happens three or more times a week. Thankfully there was a service station right across the road… convenient, right?! The station attendant said he was busy but he could remove the gas later in the evening, or… we could just fill it the rest of the way and try to burn it off…I wan’t too keen on that!!! We weren’t taking that chance on narrow winding roads in unfamiliar territory and we can’t drive around this tiny town all day trying to burn off the fuel, we’ve just got to leave the car and find something else to do. After all mistakes do happen and it’s not our car!! We had to leave the car at the pump! The gas station attendant  was so kind and assured us, “Don’t worry about your car, this happens every week.”

Having never driven a diesel it was news to me that American diesel cars and pump nozzles have different shapes preventing such a mistake from happening, I’m betting it’s mostly Americans who are pumping the wrong fuel! I will report that we received excellent service from and were only set back about 80 Euro.

Life Gave Us Lemons, So We Made Lemonade!

Killarney National Park!

KillarneyNot having a car meant no trip to the Dingle Peninsula, which although disappointing, turned out to be more than okay as we spent a lovely day wandering in the Killarney National Park. Located just across the road from downtown Killarney and about one block from our hotel it was just steps away. No car needed! As I mentioned the weather can be quite unpredictable and we experienced just about every kind of weather during our walk in the park. We were well prepared with rain gear and the boys loved walking into the wind and rain! The park path twisted and turned through forest and meadow and along the way we saw cows, deer and ducks, and at the end a castle!



Ross Castle

Killarney Ireland

Ross Castle, a 15th century tower house, is open for tours. Keep in mind that Castle tours are limited to around 12 people and run about every 30 minutes. Consider getting your tickets upon arrival and then exploring the grounds while you wait for your tour to begin. Seriously, because the tours will fill up…  You can also visit the nearby Ross Island, however the winds were very strong on the day of our visit and the boats to the island weren’t running. We learned that there are as many as 3500 tower houses still standing across Ireland today. If you keep an eye out you can see them from the road!

Killarney Ireland
Killarney Ireland
Killarney Ireland
Sun (sort of…)

After our walk we decided to take a jaunting car back to town. In case like me, you have no idea what a jaunting car is: It’s basically a horse and cart! Our driver was a third generation jaunting car driver and much to Elliot’s delight he got to “drive” us back to town! We finished up our day with a lovely traditional dinner at Sceal Eile! I had the cottage pie!

Stay tuned for more of our amazing road trip through the Republic of Ireland… Next stop: The Ring of Kerry!

Just A Few (50) of the Many Shades of Green we saw along the way…

Apple, army, asparagus, basil, blue green, British racing green, celadon, chartreuse, chrome green, clover, dark green, electric, emerald, evergreen, fern, forest, grass, grass, grasshopper, green, green yellow, hunter, inchworm, jade, jungle, juniper, Kelly, leaf, light green, lime, meadow, mint, moss, neon green, olive, pea, pear, pickle, pine, pistachio, sage, sea green, sea foam, sea weed, shamrock, spring, tropical, turquoise green, viridian, & yellow green!


Ireland! Along the way… Cork!


Cork Blarney CastleThe Emerald Isle, where we almost kissed the Blarney Stone in Cork (yes, almost…), walked atop the parapets of King John’s Castle in Limerick, stood at the very edge of the Cliffs of Moher on the far Western Coast, and felt our mortality while standing inside a 5000 year old monolithic passage tomb at Newgrange! Not to mention the many other amazing sights “along the way” during our recent visit to The Republic of Ireland!

Dublin Rental Car AgencyWith no shortage of interesting must see places, manageable driving distances between cities, and a long wish list of sights to see in a relatively short period of time we decided driving would be a great way to try and see it all! Picking points of interest about 2 or 3 hours into the route on driving days would give the kids a break from the car and all of us the opportunity to see even more of the beautiful Emerald Isle!

The Blarney Stone

Along the way from Dublin to Killarney… Cork, Ireland 259k from Dublin

The first leg of our road trip around Eire was from Dublin to Killarney, and our midpoint stop was Cork! Home of the famous Blarney Stone located in Blarney Castle! I won’t pretend this is not an incredibly touristy destination, it absolutely is. For that reason Tim wasn’t all that keen on a stop here, but as I always say, “these places are touristy for a reason.” Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but I’m happy to say we all loved our visit, even Tim!

#blarneystoneFor more than 200 years people from all walks of life have climbed to the top of Blarney Castle and kissed the Stone hoping to gain the gift of eloquence. After some debate, Simon and I decided that although the Blarney Stone is the world’s germiest tourist attraction* we too would join the ranks, brave the germs, and the incredibly long lines and kiss the stone. After all who couldn’t use a little more eloquence, and besides how could we come all this way and not at least give it a try?

Cork Blarney Castle

Cork Blarney Castle

All of this sounds easy, but in order to kiss the Blarney Stone one has to lay down on their back and lean backwards over a large opening at the very top of the Castle’s parapets. What I should say is that Simon and I attempted to “kiss” the Stone, but honestly it was so far out, did I mention the very large opening, and the drop is so far down… Even with assistance from the Castle staff neither Simon nor I could reach it without leaning WAY WAY over… and really, don’t I already have the gift of eloquence? Oh well… we almost kissed the Blarney Stone!

Cork Blarney Castle

Don’t despair lovely readers, our visit wasn’t for naught! The climb up through the Castle to kiss the stone provided lovely views of the surrounding countryside…

The Castle grounds were beautiful, much more so than we expected, with extensive gardens including a poison garden, creeks, and walkways.

We spent about two hours exploring and taking pictures but easily could have spent two more…

Stay tuned for our next stop on our road trip around Ireland…Killarney and Ring of Kerry!


*We’ve now visited #1 and #2 of the world’s germiest attractions! Read about our visit to Seattle’s Gum Wall located in the Pike Place Market!


Ireland! Three Days in Dublin!


Dublin The River Liffey

Arriving in Dublin, our first stop on a six week tour of Europe, there was no time for jet lag, we hit the ground running! With only three days in which to see the Republic of Ireland’s biggest city, we had our work cut out for us… armed with a list of sights and fortified with Murphy’s Ice Cream we set off to discover Dublin!


Day One!

Trinity College

Dublin Trinity College CampusThe first stop on my list was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. Upon arriving on campus we discovered that the university students run a tour company called Trinity Tours which offer guided tours of campus ending at the Old Library where the Book of Kells exhibit is located. The tour takes about 30 minutes and if you enjoy college campuses it is definitely worthwhile. Simon, the older of my two sons, really enjoyed hearing about campus history and life from the perspective of a student, while Elliot enjoyed that the tour wasn’t too long!

The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript, which was  created around the year 800 and tells the story of the Four Gospels is kept in the Trinity College Old Library which was my favorite part of the entire visit. If you’re a book lover you’ll not want to miss this amazing library filled floor to ceiling with books, books and more books, some of which are quite ancient! Of course you can’t actually touch any of them, but just being surrounded by all those old beautiful books and the smell of them is something pretty special! I can’t help it I love the smell of old books!

Dublin Trinity College Old Library

Not only will you find thousands of books in the Old Library, but it’s also home to the Brian Boru harp a national symbol of the Republic of Ireland.

Dublin Old Library Brian Boru Harp

Merrion Square 

Dublin Merrion SquareAfter we’d had our fill of old books, we set out for a walk around Dublin and found ourselves in Merrion Square. Conveniently, there were food stalls set up in the park and we enjoyed a quick lunch on the grass followed by a visit to the park’s playground and the Oscar Wilde statue. Both the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Ireland, an archeology museum, are located on the edge of Merrion Square and while the Museum of Ireland, was definitely the more current of the two, both were fun and quirky and neither required a ton of time.

Temple Bar


After a quick nap and refresh in the hotel we set off for an evening of traditional Irish food and music in the Temple Bar neighborhood! We had the best Irish Stew at Quays Bar and Restaurant, and I had my first Guinness! I definitely recommend eating here. Both the food and the service were excellent!


The boys were more interested in a visit to the sweet shop than cramming into a crowded pub, but with plenty of great live music on the street there was something for everyone. We capped off the evening with a walk along the River Liffey and across the Ha’Penny Bridge. Not a bad first day!


Day Two!


Jet lag working in our favor, the boys and I were able to get out and about on the earlier side and we set about checking a few more things off of our list! Lucky for us I have a friend living in Dublin and though I hadn’t seen him in 23 years, he was more than happy to meet us for a little tour around town! Dublin is a very walkable city, and in fact we only used a taxi once the entire time we were in town choosing instead to walk everwhere.

Christ Church Cathedral

#christchurchChrist Church is Dublin’s oldest building and dates back to around 1030! Though not over the top ornate, the cathedral is quite lovely and definitely worth a look around. There are many interesting things on display in the crypt and I think that may have been the boys favorite part! I was surprised and pleased to learn that Christ Church was a main filming location for one my favorite television shows, The Tudors! They had costumes on display in the crypt which was pretty neat to see!

Dublin Christ Church


St. Patricks Cathedral

Dublin St. Patrick's CathedralNext up was St. Patricks Cathedral which is the largest cathedral in Ireland and an important place of worship for over 800 years! You know how I love old places!! Not only is it beautiful inside, which always appeals to me, but it was fun for the boys as well. They really enjoyed exploring the many interactive and educational displays throughout the cathedral. I loved the many flags and other decorative items throughout. After we’d finishing exploring the inside of St. Patrick’s we spent some time playing in St. Patrick’s Park with our friends, before it was time to say goodbye.

The Guinness Storehouse

#slainteA woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle, good things come to those who wait, and not everything in black and white makes sense, these are just a few of the things we learned during our visit to The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. Though I’m not usually a beer drinker, okay, I never drink it. Ever. I absolutely loved our visit to the Guinness Storehouse as did my kids, and if you should find yourself in Dublin I highly recommend a visit.

Day Three – Daytrippers!

Dublin Malahide CastleOn our last day we decided to venture outside Dublin and took an easy 30 minute train ride to Malahide Village where we met Shane and his children for a tour of Malahide Castle. The Castle has been in the same family for over 800 years and has a long and fascinating history! The gardens are really beautiful and we spent a long time exploring and playing before and after the tour. I took a ton of photographs and as you can see I had a tough time choosing…

Dublin Malahide Castle & Gardens

Around Town!

The Westbury Hotel

Dublin Grafton StreetWe stayed in The Westbury Hotel on Grafton Street which is a great location in the main shopping/eating area of Dublin. I would definitely stay here again.

Breakfast in the hotel was located in the Wilde Room overlooking Grafton Street. Of course I had to have the Full Irish Breakfast on day one because… When in Ireland! Simon and I enjoyed the Afternoon Tea service in the hotel lobby, especially the cakes!


Beyond traditional Irish fare we also discovered these fun places during our visit:

Bunsen Burger – We LOVED the burgers and the pun! The service was friendly and prompt and it was walking distance to our hotel! Super casual!

Murphy’s Ice Cream – So GOOD! We discovered this on our first evening in town! We tried Blissful Butterscotch with Salted Vanilla, honeycomb caramel with extra cream vanilla and raspberry sorbet. Lucky us there are other locations throughout Ireland.

Kokoro Ramen Bar – Another great find just around the corner from our hotel was this amazing ramen bar!


Catch 22 – Another restaurant with a fun pun in its name! Can you guess what we ate there?! Not only did I enjoy the food at Catch 22, but I loved the signage!

Although we weren’t able to cross everything off our Dublin wish list we covered quite a bit of ground and had a great time doing so! A wonderful start to our whirlwind tour of Ireland…

Temple Bar-2102


HilaryStyle’s Top Ten Cities!

Edinburgh Castle with fence-4512

#gargoyleNew York, Paris, Tokyo… there are so many amazing cities in the world, and lucky me, along with my family, I’ve had the opportunity to visit quite a few of the greats! Of course, not everyone agrees about which of them deserve to be on the Best List even among family members, which we discovered one evening over dinner during a recent visit to Paris. The boys and I thought it might be fun to take the conversation a step further and make a Top Ten Cities list.

Spoiler Alert!

Paris didn’t make the list and neither did Tokyo!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved visiting both cities and given the chance would go back to both of them repeatedly, in fact I’ve been to Paris on three separate occasions, but others in the family didn’t agree, so they didn’t make the list. I know some reading this list might say, we’ve left off important cities, or personal favorites, but before you do, let me explain that in order to be considered each city had to meet two important criteria:

  1. All four of us had to have been there personally.
  2. The vote had to be unanimous.

Many places I personally consider great didn’t make this list which begs the question, “What makes a city great?” The answer is it’s different for everyone, which is why we had to have the honorable mentions list, and still a few of my faves didn’t make it.

Just nominating a city wasn’t enough. Each of us also talked about what made us love a particular place and or why we didn’t. This was such a fun activity that we carried the conversation/debate on for multiple days after. So without further ado…

Our Top Ten Cities in order are:

  1. New Orleans, Louisiana – Overall character, culture, food & art!#stlouiscathedral
  2. London, England –  All the Royalness, history, museums, Corinthia cocoa, & an overall easy place to be as well as a great jumping off point for getting to other great places!#changingoftheguard
  3. Barcelona, Spain  – Living the Barcelona lifestyle, food, & culture!Barcelona
  4. Los Angeles, California – The vibe, the fashion, the beach…come on, it’s LA!Los Angeles Trip  Edits-9142
  5. Edinburgh, Scotland – a beautiful and mysterious place filled with fascinating history, the nicest people, all surrounded by  faded splendor and crumbling beauty!Edinburgh
  6. New York, New York – The big city feel, museums, food, the smells both good and bad!#New York
  7. Kyoto, Japan – Centuries of tradition, food, beauty, a truly magical place!#5000toriigates
  8. Rome, Italy – Ancient history, gelato around every corner, fantastic coffee and quite possibly the most beautiful holiday decorations we’ve ever seen!#christmasinrome
  9. Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands – a beautiful easy city filled with lovely people. A place where people feel free to be themselves!
  10. Lisbon, Portugal – Beauty everywhere you look, a unique character, yummy treats and friendly people make Lisbon a place we’d like to see more of!

Honorable Mentions:

As I mentioned above there were a number of places that one or more of us wanted on the Top Ten List, but sadly didn’t make it, still we felt they deserved a mention, so here they are:

Seattle, Washington – After all, there’s no place like home! Not to mention, quirky tourist attractions, close proximity to natural wonders and fun museums! If only Tim enjoyed rainy days…


Half Moon Bay, California – Tim’s happy place, great fish and chips, almost guaranteed wildlife sightings and high surf are just a few of the things that draw us to Half Moon Bay on a regular basis. If only there was a little more going on in this lovely little town, though it’s a great place to get pumpkins!

Half Moon Bay

Tokyo, Japan – The world’s largest city, an amazing place with many contrasts and unique cultural differences that deserves a lot more exploration. By far Simon’s favorite city!


Disneyland – Okay, not technically a city, it’s definitely high on my personal list and it is the Happiest Place on Earth, so I’m making an executive decision and throwing it on!


What’s on your list?!

Dublin! A Woman Needs A Man, Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle!


#fishonabicycleA woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle, good things come to those who wait, and not everything in black and white makes sense, these are just a few of the things we learned during our recent visit to The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. Though I’m not usually a beer drinker, okay, I never drink it. Ever. I absolutely loved our visit to the Guinness Storehouse as did my kids, and if you should find yourself in Dublin I highly recommend a visit.

Follow the Signs!


Located in the St. James’s Gate Brewery, the Guinness Storehouse is easily found, just follow the signs, and look for the large vats of what they call the Black Stuff. According to Guinness, the Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction with over 4 million visitors each year. In fact, according to Forbes the Guinness Storehouse is one of what they consider to be the 3 best global brand experiences* in the world!



First Things First

Ireland Guinness Storehouse

Per our usual, our day didn’t really get started until lunch time, so we decided to hit the cafeteria on the 5th floor first thing. There are multiple dining options, but we were too hungry to wait for a table in the more formal restaurants, so we opted for the Brewers Dining Hall. We enjoyed our food. Of course there are many Guinness inspired items on the menu, and if you’re interested you can bring home printouts of various Guinness inspired recipes!

Your Tour Starts Here:

Ireland Guinness Storehouse

Your self guided tour starts on the ground floor with an introduction to the four main ingredients, water, yeast, barley, and hops, with the founder Arthur Guinness making up the magical fifth ingredient. Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease when he started the brewery. Apparently, he knew what he was doing because over 250 years later his beer is one of the most popular in the world.


Along the way…

Ireland Guinness Storehouse

While exploring the seven floors at the Storehouse you’ll learn not just what Guinness is made from, but it’s history, how it’s processed, shipped, and even how it’s poured. Here’s a fun fact: Guinness’s famous harp logo is a depiction of the Brian Boru harp, which is currently in Trinity College, and was first used by the company in 1862. In 1922 when the Irish Free State chose to use the harp as the symbol of their nation they had to use a mirror image to avoid trademark issues.


The tasting rooms on the 2nd floor are incredibly popular so you’ll have to plan in advance if you’re interested.

#guinnessstorehouseFloor three showcases 80 years of advertising campaigns, which we loved and afterwards had fun recognizing in all the pubs around town and every other town we visited in Ireland and just about everywhere else! We also posed with the animals and heard a whistling oyster!

Guinness School?


We weren’t able to visit floor 2, but we were able to visit the Guinness Academy on the 4th floor, where you learn the six steps to pouring the perfect Guinness. Yes, thats right, there are six steps and there is a Guinness Academy. I must admit I was somewhat nervous… What if I didn’t do it right? Guess What? With a little bit of practice, I passed!

A few things I learned at the academy:

  • Waiting for your Guinness to settle is crucial to your enjoyment.
  • I like Guinness!

The Gravity Bar


The seventh stop on your tour is the Gravity Bar , which is of course located on floor 7 at the very top! The bar offers 360 degree views of Dublin and the brewery down below. Your entry fee allows for one glass of Guinness each and the Gravity Bar is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a pint! In case you’re wondering the boys had soft drinks!

One Last Stop!

#guinnessstorehouseOf course you know we couldn’t leave before a visit to the gift shop! They sell everything you can imagine, Guinness crisps, Guinness chocolate (tastes like Guinness), clothing, holiday ornaments, magnets, and on and on… This holiday season I’ll be enjoying my new Guinness tree bauble!

I must admit I never thought I would say that a visit to a brewery was fun, let alone a highlight or a family activity, but not only was the tour fun and informative, we loved the look and feel of everything from signage to displays and interactive galleries and I highly recommend a visit!



* Samsung’s flagship building in New York City is also on the Forbes list! You can read about my visit here! I had the honor of being one of it’s first visitors!

DIY: 10 Steps to Building Your Own Longboard! 

DIY Longboard


After years of lamenting that my son might never be persuaded to willingly lift his eyes from the ever present screens something wonderful happened! Simon and his friends decided to make their own longboards! I loved this idea for so many reasons: resourcefulness, independence, creativity, outside time and fun! I couldn’t have been happier about it, and after watching them complete the process, I decided I would learn to make one for Elliot! I enjoyed making the first one so much I then decided to make another one for myself!


While I won’t say building your own longboard is an easy project, it was very accessible and definitely a lot of fun! Our entire family got in on it!

Step One: Gather your supplies

SAMSUNG CSCTo make your longboard you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Pencil, measuring tape or ruler, and wrench
  • Two pieces of birch plywood  – we used one thick and one thin piece
  • Wood glue
  • Scissors
  • sandpaper
  • polyurethane
  • Grip tape
  • Drill
  • Exacto knife
  • Trucks, bearings and wheels

Optional Supplies:

Depending on your design you might need some additional supplies.

  • clamps – to hold your wood together
  • Paper – for creating templates
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Painters tape

If you don’t have a local skateboard shop, or you have a tight budget consider ordering your parts online. Get started with steps 1 – 7 while you’re waiting for your trucks, wheels and grip tape to arrive!

Step Two: Laminate the wood

We purchased the wood at Home Depot and used their free cutting service to have the plywood cut in half. We got enough wood to create two 41″ x 10″ decks. Using an old paint brush we spread the wood glue evenly across the entire bottom layer. You’ll want to work fairly quickly as the glue sets up fast. Set your other piece of plywood on top, clamp them together, apply some weight and let it set overnight.

Step Three: Design your deck


Simon and friends created a template by  tracing the deck of a skateboard they already owned. While my first board followed in their footsteps, the second time around I decided I wanted to create an original deck template. I spent some time researching the different styles of longboard riding and decided freestyle seemed appropriate, as speed isn’t high on my list.  I drew my idea on a sheet of paper first and when I was satisfied traced it onto the laminated wood.

Step Four: Cut out the deck

#diyNow that you’ve got your deck design onto the wood its time to cut it out. This is the one part I didn’t do. I don’t have a lot of experience with power tools and decided to let Tim handle this step. If you don’t have a home saw, or an experienced adult available to cut out your deck consider taking it to your local hardware store. Simon and friends discovered they could have their decks cut out for around $1 per cut. See what I mean, how resourceful!

Step 5: Sand the edges


Now that your deck is free, you’ll want to sand down any rough spots along the edges and give it a once or twice over along the flat surfaces.

Step 6: Seal the wood


Seal the deck to protect the wood and give it a nice warm glow. We used a water based polyurethane in semi-gloss. Because I planned to add designs to the decks, I started with only one coat of polyurethane.

Step 7: Add your design

SAMSUNG CSCMy first board is for Elliot and because it’s almost as big as he is, we thought it might be fun if we could hang it on the wall in his new room (until he gets a little older), so we chose a Union Jack design for the top of the board and put his name on the bottom. The other board is for myself and I’ve chosen to decorate it with the Batman symbol!



I created templates for each design and then painted them with chalk paint, leftover from the DIY Union Jack table, and acrylic paint. The process involved tracing the templates, applying multiple coats of paint and the sealing everything with additional coats of  water based polyurethane in semi-gloss.

Step 8: Apply the grip tape

Both Simon’s board and the Batman board have black grip tape, while Elliot’s board has clear. Grip tape is a giant sticker and comes in every color and varying degrees of roughness, so the sky is the limit.  Lay your grip tape rough side down and trace your board’s shape onto the backing. Simon chose not to cover the entire surface of his deck so his trucks were already mounted when he applied his grip tape. I chose to cover the entire surface of both my boards, so applied the tape first. Keep in mind that cutting grip tape is like cutting through sandpaper, so don’t use your best scissors for this part of the project!

Step 9: Apply the trucks and wheels

Can you believe it? Your board is almost ready to ride! If you’ve chosen to order your parts online you’ll be installing them yourself, so place the trucks onto each end of the board and use a pencil to mark where you’ll be drilling the holes. Be careful drilling! Thankfully Tim was on hand to give me some lessons, making sure I went slowly, and held the drill steady and straight.

Now that you’ve drilled the screw holes, put your trucks on the board using a screwdriver. Tighten each screw a little bit at a time until you’re finished.

*If you don’t own a drill or aren’t sure what to do most skate shops will be happy to assemble your board if you purchase the parts from them. Putting the wheels on requires a bit of muscle, but with a bit of help from Tim, I was all set!

Step 10: Get ready to ride!


Okay! Its time to grab your helmet and give it a spin!

Please do keep in mind that we aren’t experts on skateboard building and that our boards are very low budget. The boys were using their own funds to pay for their supplies and purchased them on The quality and cost of your board will depend on your personal budget.

As of my writing this post, Simon was still working on his design, so I’ve included a photo of it and will update as soon as his painting is complete. Here’s Elliot showing off the bottom his board, though he needs a little help holding it up. He’s borrowing my helmet.



Happy Anniversary!

hilarystyle blog header tim

Today marks the One Year Anniversary of, and I’m pretty excited about this milestone! You might be surprised to read that putting myself “out there” isn’t always easy and pushing the Publish button that first time, was not just a little bit nerve-wracking. Many things were going through my mind: would anyone be interested in this blog, care what I have to say, find my advice on travel, fashion, or fun useful? I pushed it anyway, faced my fears and… Wallah!

Here WE are one year later and apparently, the answer is a big YES! I am definitely proud of myself, but more importantly, I am grateful to all of you for following, reading, and commenting week after week! by the numbers!

The #1 post on is:

Making a TsumTsum Birthday Party with well over 6,000 views!

Featured Image -- 1578

2 is the number of times I pressed PUBLISH before I was ready!


3 surprising things I learned in my first year of blogging:

  1. I love writing!
  2. Even after a year, pushing the “publish” button intimidates me a little bit.
  3. People are actually interested!

Top 10 posts

  1. Making a Tsum Tsum Birthday Party!
    Tsum Tsum
  2. Capitola by the Sea! A Girls Weekend!
  3. Traveling Hilarystyle!
    Edinburgh Castle
  4. Fashion Favorites: Walking in my Shoes… Travel Shoes That is!
  5. Mom Stuff: Ripping Off the Bandage!
  6. Crazy Hair Day! Bad Hair Day! No Hair Day?
  7. New York! #837NYC!
    samsung Flagship-0845
  8. Mom Stuff! Part one: Whoops!whoops
  9. I. Am. A. Runner.
  10. Packing… What to Wear Over There!Packing

87 different countries have visited! 


Here are the top 10:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Singapore
  5. Mexico
  6. Indonesia
  7. Malta
  8. Portugal
  9. Germany
  10. Philippines

Total posts: 110

I’ve written on average two posts about fashion, travel, parties, projects, mom stuff and fun each week!

Total followers: 736

That’s 736 awesome people like you who find what I have to say interesting week after week! Thank you!

Total unique visitors: 9,898

This amazing number is growing each and every day and I can hardly believe that my little idea, has grown so much in the past year!

Total Views: 29, 996

Based on these numbers, some of you like to come back again and again! I hope you’ll keep it up as I’m just wrapping up six amazing weeks of travel around Europe, and I’ve got lots of fun tips, photos and adventures to share with all of you!


Here is a sneak peak from my recent trip to Bruge!Bruges Canal






Santa Monica! Beach!


This way to paradise…

beach header-9122

Everyone has their own version of paradise, but when I think of paradise the first place that comes to mind is Santa Monica, California! It has the community feel of a small beach town*, but with all the benefits of a big city (Los Angeles) right next door!

I would consider Santa Monica the perfect family beach. It has just about everything a person would think up when dreaming of the perfect beach day!

Here is just a sampling of what Santa Monica Beach has to offer:

  • Long wide stretches of soft warm sand dotted with brightly colored umbrellas, perfect for picnicking, body surfing, and sandcastle building,
  • A 22 mile long paved path stretching from the Pacific Palisades to Torrance perfect for biking, running, roller blading or just plain walking, along the way you’ll find playgrounds, bike rentals, ice cream shops, burger joints and shopping.
  • A pier complete with an amusement park, a mini aquarium and a carousel!


Even with all the activities that Santa Monica Beach has to offer, there are times when it seems like you have your own private beach, with no one around other than the occasional surfer or person passing by.

Muscle Beach


Just south of the Pier you’ll find the original Muscle Beach, which features loads of gymnastics equipment, the Chess Park and easy access to the Carousel. My boys and I have always enjoyed trying out all the equipment. Though I must admit its pretty challenging!

Beautiful views


Fantastic views of the beach, ocean and pier can be seen from Palisades Park which is perched on the coastal bluffs, which run along Ocean Avenue. The Park is a great place to view the sunset and wandering along the path in the evenings, especially when the moon is out is a favorite activity of mine.


Though I do enjoy an afternoon at the beach, I’m always up for a stroll and some shopping! Just a short walk from the beach you’ll find world class shopping and big name stores at the Santa Monica Place mall and on the pedestrian friendly Third Street Promenade. Venture just a little further south and you’ll find Main Street which is lined with one of a kind boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants, and though not technically Santa Monica I always love a trip to Abbott Kinney in Venice which is just a tiny bit further!

Where to Stay


Santa Monica is a popular tourist destination, so hotels can be pricey especially in the summer months. Here are my thoughts on the hotels we’ve stayed at most recently:

The Georgian – ***

Located on Ocean Avenue, this place couldn’t be more convenient within easy walking access to everything Santa Monica has to offer, and the rates do reflect that. However it is on the older side and could use some updating. The rooms were fine as were the common areas, but nothing special. There are no services after hours, so if you’re hungry or looking for a drink this isn’t the place.

The Hilton Double Tree – ****

A tiny bit off the beaten path this hotel fits the bill in many other ways. The rates are fair  and the rooms are large , and with a separate bedroom and pullout couch in the living area all four of us were able to spread out. There is a pool which my kids really enjoyed as well as a workout facility.

The Shore – ****

Steps from the Santa Monica Pier the Shore is a trendy eco-friendly  hotel with rooms on the smaller size. My favorite part about the Shore is the pool area! Elliot likes it too!


All year long you’ll find warm days, soft sand, ocean breezes, cool nights, and everywhere you look beautiful flowers… Santa Monica…



*Santa Monica has a population of 87,000, but it’s right next door to Los Angeles with its population of 3.8M!




Cocoas Around the World!



These days everybody’s an expert! Wine, food, specialty coffees, you name it, but in our house we specialize in one thing, cocoa! Yes! That’s right, cocoa! We’re cocoa connoisseurs and for the past three years we’ve we made it our business to sample cocoa in just about every place we’ve visited.

In the beginning Simon kept a notebook dedicated to his tastings and even kept a list of favorites, ratings and critiques. More recently, he’s been less diligent about keeping up the notebook, but we’re still enjoying cocoa wherever we go. From the West Coast of the United States to the coast of Spain and beyond, from the most basic instant Nestle packet made at home to the surprise and delight we experienced when ordering at the Corinthia Hotel in London, ordering cocoa has become our tradition! It’s become a great way to get the kids involved with our travels and in the moment! Even Lego Batman joins in the fun!

We’re currently working on adding to our list, but in the meantime we thought it would be fun to share with you some of our previous findings*!

Simon’s Original Cocoa Findings:

Great Cocoas

Pastisseria Bubó Born  – Barcelona

This was a lovely little cake shop just steps from our hotel room in the Born district of Barcelona and situated in the square just to the right of the Santa Maria del Mar.


Black Medicine  – Edinburgh, Scotland

“Great topping and rich sweet cocoa.”

We stumbled upon this cozy place while wandering one afternoon. It was a perfect place to stop for a rest and a warm up.


Corinthia Hotel – London, England

“Good. Not sweet, but can be when you add the flavoring from four toppings.”

The cocoa that started it all! It’s not just about the cocoa here, but the toppings as well! Often our first stop when arriving in London, this is the king of all cocoas!


Cafe Venezia  – Palo Alto, California

“Great. Rich and thick and close to home.”

Not far from our home the boys love the cocoa here, though in my opinion its more like a cup of pudding.


Home or Nespresso – Bay Area

“good. From home. You can create frothy hot cocoa with a button.”

Fine Cocoas

Cafe Richelieu Louvre – Paris, France


Wagamama – London, England

Wagamama is a fast causal Asian style noodle restaurant that we all enjoyed. Apparently, according to Simon, their cocoa wasn’t too shabby either!


Just Okay

Caledonian Hotel – Edinburgh, Scotland


Pastisseria Bubó Born  – Barcelona

Apparently, the second visit to Bubo wasn’t as good as the first, which earned it a place at the bottom of our list.


Unfortuantly, I don’t have photos for all the cocoas on Simon’s original list, but don’t worry there are plenty of photos from other tastings!

Cocoa By The Country:


Cafe Noir – Edinburgh


Crannog Restaurant – Fort William, Highlands

Lucky us, we stumbled upon Crannog, which is considered to be one of Fort Williams best eating establishments, and thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the view. Not to mention this very tasty cup of cocoa, which I still remember to this day tasted a bit like Nestle Quick.



A lovely little cafe beside Fontaine Stravinsky  just outside the Pompidou Center.



We had the good fortune to spend an afternoon with a friend of Tim’s who is also a local. He took us to a fabulous cafe, which he had been coming to since he was a small boy, where we enjoyed chocolate y churros!

Granja La Pallaresa – Barcelona


Mercat Princesa – Barcelona

We loved this food market and found time to visit almost every day while in Barcelona. Not only was the cocoa lovely to look at but it was tasty as well. Every single thing we ate here was fantastic and the people were incredibly friendly!


NH  Collection Victoria Hotel – Granada

After a long day and evening exploring the Alhambra, we enjoyed relaxing with a cup of cocoa in the hotel lounge.


El Cafe de las Monjas – Toledo


The boys loved this place as did I! The pastry were incredibly yummy and Simon had tough time walking away from his mug before he had downed every last drop!



Hotel Santa Justa – Lisbon

Have I mentioned, there’s no better way to start your day than with a nice tall cup of cocoa?


Hotel Algar Seco Parque – Carvoeiro, Algarve


Restaurante Boneca Bar – Carvoeiro, Algarve


United States

Twede’s Cafe – North Bend, Washington

Home of the famous Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and a Damn Fine Cup Of Coffee, I must say I thought the cocoa was far superior to the coffee!


NOT Cocoa, but absolutely worth a mention!

Now, don’t get me wrong I LOVE a great cup of warm cocoa as much as the next person, but fabulous Spanish coffee, this amazing and unique acorn liquor, and of course traditional tried and true English breakfast Tea are all pretty high on my list as well!

Cocoa Gallery:

*Simon wrote these reviews when he was 11.