Monday, November 24, 2014

It is 1 am and I still have things to pack but I wanted to put out a we will be home tomorrow!! We are leaving for the airport at 8:30 am, departing Dublin at 1 pm (Ireland time) and arriving Chicago at 3:30 pm (Chicago time) with an 7-8 hour flight. Yes, we will have to live those hours twice!!
One last picture of the lake and the castle....

So...backtracking to last week....on Thursday, some went to Tolleymore Forest, some to Castlewellan, some to New Castle, some did the Peace Maze and walked around the lake and maybe some to another place but I don't remember... We had spent the morning getting all the preparations made for the women's banquet and were ready for an outing before the guests arrived.
Walking in Tolleymore

I went to New Castle for some shopping.  Deirdre had asked me to pick up traybakes for the gathering (things like tarts and bar cookies and cupcakes). I had a good experience in bakery. I told the girl what they were for and said, "This is Americans throwing a party for Irish so would you pick out the traybakes that are most popular here?" She was happy to oblige. I was trying to get 20 pounds worth. I added a couple of package of biscuits (cookies) and she totaled it up....22,04. I started digging for the additional 2 pounds and 4 pence and she said, "no, just 20 pounds".  Very kind of her!

I stopped in Wadsworth Department store and found a stunning purple sweater! Yep, it's mine. I also went to a couple of accessory shops and the chemist. The cough is worse so I got some cough syrup...very foul tasting, but effective!

Donna, Barb, Phil and I ate supper at Doc's---fish and chips for me! The server was very nice and even called a cab for us after our meal. We saw the sea in the afternoon and the Christmas lights after we ate. We were ready to be back at the castle to greet our guests. We did want to send a few message. It was a bit more palatable.

I'm not sure what is causing my other symptoms....but it's not just me. I counted at least seven others while we were in the sanctuary. Of course, mine always goes to that bronchial raspy deep cough. Not pleasant!

Thursday evening through Sunday Evening was the women's weekend.
The Kitchen Team!

On Sunday night Richie came to pick up Jen and brought Charlie and the Sofia dresses I had brought them. So sweet....and so happy to see their mama!!
Addie will be 2 and Charlie will be 3 in February. 

The team had leftovers for a late supper. We were tired but still excited and had lots to talk about. And we were glad the wifi was back up. It had been off most of the weekend.

Monday was up and out to the North Coast for those who were not here last week. They left  at 9 am. The rest of us were off to Belfast for a day of shopping or sightseeing. Chartered buses for both excursions. Belfast was very busy for a Monday!! At least that was our impression.

I hung out with Donna, Barb and Phil for the first part. We went to a chemist for more cough drops and to a couple of souvenir shops. I think Barb did all her Christmas shopping!! We took a break for coffee/tea and then headed for the International Market at City Hall. I had been at this market three years ago and it is great. Donna and I looked at everything and did some eating....canolli, bruschetta, macaroons. We saw venison and alligator steaks, tiny delightful pancakes, fudge, giant charros, and much more. There were also booths of crafts from Peru, Zimbabwe, Kenya, India and more. We saw beautiful hand crafted jewelry, purses, wood items, chocolate tools! (yes, chocolate hammers and wrenches and drills) and wreaths and garden items. There were coffee kiosks and sausage and Potatoes Provencal. It was a great outdoor festival.
Then it was back to the bus for the last trip in to the castle...or so we thought! The plan had been to order fish and chips and eat at the castle. BUT...when we got back, the electricity was off in the castle and the town of Castlewellan. Now what? But one restaurant had a backup system so we placed our dinner orders and went to Castlewellan. Some walked, some were taken by car. It was an unexpected surprise and great usual!
Donna's and chips with mushy peas

My dinner....steak and Guinness with champ

Then we did make our last trip to the castle. Andrew took several on a tour including a climb up the turret. Then it was collecting all our items that were in the common areas and packing up. I had brought a suitcase full of things for my Irish friends and thought I would have lots of room...even an empty suitcase. But no, I will be stuffing a few more things in. I had hoped I could use my big bag to carry  my smaller one. Nope....the bags are full! I really do think that some of my things have doubled in size though...surely I didn't buy that much!
The Cellar

The Main Hall
So it's a bit past 2 am and I still have one bag to pack.It will be a short night but we have a long flight so I will sleep then. Thanks for reading. It's been a great two weeks. We saw many wonderful things, met many more wonderful people and saw God's hand at work on the team, in the guests and in the lives and ministries of the people of Northern Ireland. It will be a sad parting in the morning. 

Note: Please pray for one of our guests, Brenda. She fell and broke her leg today. She is older and will be staying with her son. Also pray for one of the Castle guests, Simon,  with the group of college students. He accidently put his hand through a door window and has serious damage to his left wrist..tendon damage.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just a nice day...

The part of the team who was here for only one week left today. We had our good-byes last night. They were up and off to Dublin at about 7 am. Those remaining had breakfast at 8:30...except for me. I had set my alarm for 7:30 and 8:00 and totally ignored it; I finally got up at 9. I had some tea and toast and then went looking for a task. We were to clean the castle today. Others were cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming and/or mopping floors and checking under beds and gathering up laundry. I was given the job of ironing the table cloths for the Saturday night meal. There were 8 or 10 but the work went quickly with the roller ironing table.

As I was running the vacuum in the apartment, Tonda came in. She said she would finish so I could go to Silver Service at Castlewellan Presbyterian Church. (I do have an apartment BUT the decorations for both the men and women's banquet are stacked in here plus the "hair station" here--there is a curling iron and blow dryer with UK plugs that fit the UK outlets! Everyone uses the sitting room and it's a nice little "break" room.)

I changed and joined Andrew and five others for the 3 minute drive. We were encouraged to sit at different tables. I joined five lovely ladies. We chatted about lots of things. One woman is an elder at the Presbyterian Church....she is 91 and was a missionary in Egypt during the Suez issues! Another is a recent widow; another from Lisburn with a son in the US. He came for college, found a bride and stayed.

The program for the day was Marlene's friends from a former church (Marlene is the pastor's wife who I met three years ago. I visited with her again in 2012 and 2013). The musician was incredible...a beautiful voice. She accompanied herself on guitar. The speaker was short with a reading about prayer.

The thirteen had arrived in Dublin and took the same tour of the city that we did last Tuesday. We returned from Silver Service and found that several had walked to Castlewellan town for some shopping. Andrew offered to drive us in and we accepted! We shopped for a couple of hours and Andrew came back to get us. The others had walked back. It's not THAT far but some of us have knee/back issues.

Supper was simple: loaded potatoes and a mixed fruit crumble with ice cream. After supper there were two choices. A man who had been a teen during the Troubles and a police officer later was coming to share about his experiences. The second choice was to go with Andrew to church. The churches of Castlewellan are having "open houses". There are several participating. They have a short meeting and show people around. So far they have visited St. Malachy's Catholic and the Church of Ireland. Tonight was Presbyterian night.

I opted for the talk at the castle but was so sleepy. I know he had a great presentation. There were several questions after. He is optimistic about peace and reuniting Ireland in the next generation.

After the presentation several were in and out of the apartment for conversation. We laughed and carried on for probably too long!! Again we had a full day for those who traveled either to or from Ireland!

The weather today was nice. It was 46, windy but no rain. I saw that sunrise was at 8 am and sunset at 4:18 pm. That was part of the "hurry, hurry" yesterday. There isn't much daylight.

There are no photographs today. "My" photographer was busy with preparation for CGB #2. She is an Assistant Lay Director.

The Morning After...

The Morning After…
We were up, ate breakfast and were loading on to the bus by 7:45 a.m. We headed north with stops along the way. First stop, Ballynahinch: this is a town where one of our guests ministers. He had asked if we would pray for the community. We did.  Next stop, Hillsborough: this is the castle where the Queen of England (UK) stays when she is in Northern Ireland. It was a quick stop just to see the home, not a tour inside. Further up the coast we made a stop at Larne, a fishing harbor. They have a public restroom and a small convenience store so we did the necessary and stocked up on candy bars and drinks—you would think we hadn’t eaten properly these past several days!
Queen's Residence in NI
Some of the guys at Larne

Back in the bus and further north for a lunch stop. Deirdre had called ahead and the restaurant was going to let us use the dining room. We had brought bread, jam, peanut butter, crisps (potato chips), fruit and bottled water. They prepared coffee and tea. You could order from the menu if you preferred soup or something more substantial. It was a very lovely dining room! It was very generous of them to allow us to do that!

We drove along the coast for a while enjoying the beautiful scenery and the Irish Sea. Our driver, Sam, pointed out things of interest. We neared Carrick-a-rede Swing bridge and he pulled off to an observation point so we could see it from a distance. This was a photo op for those who would NOT be walking the quarter mile from the parking lot to the bridge and crossing. Since everyone was out of the bus, it also seemed to be a perfect opportunity for a group picture. We weren’t allowed much time; the drive to the north coast takes a while and we had lots to see.
The next stop was the swing bridge. I had done that hike two years ago and was quite content to just hang out in the bus and coffee shop. A few others passed on the walking/climbing but most were eager to try it! And did they enjoy it!! Adrian said it was ¼ mile to the bridge and would take 10-15 minutes to walk….now remember, this is uphill and a stone path with ups and downs.

Sam, the driver, slipped us in to Giant’s Causeway. We only had about 45 minutes before the last shuttle bus back up the hill and he didn’t think we should have to pay the 8.5 pounds each. Several walked down to the water while others paid to ride the shuttle. The rock formations are amazing. You really should Google it! They are from volcanic activity a long time ago leaving the stones in hexagonal columns. If we had had all day, there are several trails. Giant’s Causeway is one of only 6 places in the world with these formations. There were lots of photo ops and the more adventurous did some climbing up on the stones.

Leaving Giant’s Causeway, we headed to Dunluce Castle but it was too dark at 4:45 to see it. So we headed south to a restaurant for a 6 course supper at carvary. It was Tulleyglass Inn. The meal was 15.5 pounds or $24.00 each. This was not provided by the CGB. : )   Andrew’s wife, Lorna, had been in Belfast for classes (working on a theology degree) so she drove up to Tulleyglass. After dinner, there was a 90 minute ride back to the castle, then a team meeting and farewells to those who are leaving tomorrow. Later we learned that those departing Chicago tonight are waiting for the plane to be de-iced. It sounds like the weather ‘back home in Indiana’ is causing problems!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thurs to Sunday, Love Team, Nov. 2014

Do you ever get frustrated with technology?  I had just typed a whole page....a whole page!!....and my laptop went "ahhhhhh" and closed down. Didn't save a word...and there were some good ones on the page. So now I start again and with me, the first one is usually better so I'm apologizing already for the content of this one. 

I told you I would not be posting during the Great Banquet Weekend but I really thought I might have a couple of short ones because there are 13 of us here on the Love Team who are able to come and go into town if we want. As it turns out, I kept my word.  

The plan was to get everything ready on Thursday morning and then have several hours of free time. Well, the meetings ran long and there was more to do than we thought. But on Friday several people did get out for a while. Some walked to Castlewellan (town-a mile or so and back again) for a wee bit of shopping. Others walked down and around the lake and back UP UP UP to the castle (about 3 miles). And others went to the Peace Maze on Friday or Saturday. It was raining most of the time so folks got wet! 
Castlewellan (town)

Ty in the phone booth 

Drumadonnell Cross in Castlewellan
This is a granite replica of an original stone cross that is believed to have stood in the  Drumgooland graveyard until the late 1700s. It was then set into the north gable wall of the Old School House in the Drumadonnell townland and during this time the cross took on its present name. It’s significance ties into the local legend that Saint Patrick, when preaching here to some soon-to-be converted heathens, was shown a sacred standing stone marked with a circle symbolising a moon goddess. He then made the mark of a Latin cross through the circle and blessed the stone, hereby making the first Celtic Cross. The original Drumadonnell Cross is now safely housed in Castlewellan Forest Park and is now designated as a ‘Monument in State Care’.
 The Irish tell us that this week has brought some of the hardest rains they can remember. Some of the windows have leaked at the castle because of the wind and rain. One of the guests arrived late because he rode a motorbike from north of Belfast. Another was late because his furnace went out. He was able to get it going but it did cause him to be delayed.

On Friday, Donna began to have “floaters” in her right eye. As the day went on, her eye got worse as a “curtain” kind of came across the right one. She called her optometrist in Kokomo who told her she needed to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Jerry Van Auken came to pray for her and a guest, who is a pastor in Castlewellan, came to see if he could help connect us to the right people. He called a friend who is a doctor who said we should go to Belfast. Alan, who attended the Logansport GB in August, was our driver and Andrea, who is a nurse and on the Love Team, accompanied us. We were off to Belfast at 8:30 pm. The waiting rooms are notoriously a long wait so the  Irish had given us plenty of coins for the vending machines.

Alan maneuvered through driving rain along the narrow, dark and winding roads. Finally Belfast! We went to A&E (ER) and were checked in. Later she was called into triage for a brief conversation. After a while, Donna felt her eye was getting worse and told the clerk at reception. They took her in and we all trooped in with her. Oh My…the ER is one huge room with all kinds of situations. Alan and I were invited to leave and Andrea stayed while the GP saw Donna. The ophthalmologist would not come until he heard the assessment from the GP.  Donna and Andrea came back out and again we waited. Finally at about 12:30 a.m. Donna was called in to see the specialist. He told her it was a torn retina and she should return in the morning for surgery.

Alan collected the car and picked us up at the door and we made the trip back up to Castlewellan. Andrea had drops to be put in Donna’s eye in the morning.  We were back at the castle after 2 am with plans to be on the road by 7:30 in the morning. Deirdre had given me her phone so we had been in contact with the castle. They made the transport arrangements and left a note at my door.

Saturday came early (short night). Andrew (manager of Castlewellan Christian Center and agape for the men’s weekend) drove us back to the hospital in Belfast. He had some paperwork to do so he dropped us all at the door. Andrea had put in the drops while Andrew confirmed we were in the right place. I had the phone so I would call him when we were ready to leave. On the way to to the 8th floor, Eye Trauma, Andrea put in another round of drops. The receptionist did not have Donna on the surgery schedule but as we tried to explain, the Hungarian doctor who had seen Donna in the ER dashed in with the paperwork. Now it was time to wait. The doctor looked at her eye and added more drops.

The surgical appointment was for 9 am and I was told it would be a 30 minute procedure. They took her back at about 9:20 so of course, I was expecting her before 10. Ten came and went and by 10:15, I was getting concerned. What I did not know was that the doctor had to unlock the operating room and he had the wrong key so that was another trip back to the office area. And I didn’t know that he had two patients, not just Donna. They finally came back at 10:30. We had to wait a few minutes for the post op exam and then we called Andrew to come get us. We were back to the castle by “half twelve” – the Irish way of saying “12:30”.

Donna went to lie down so I had the privilege of telling the team and guests that the surgery was over and she was resting. It had been a long 16 hours. After she rested, she did call home (she had made me promise not to) and let them know all about the problem. She has no real restrictions although the team has told her NO LIFTING and NO BENDING OVER. We are praising the Lord for the way He went before us and made the rough places plain!

We saw God moments all over this experience. It is very unusual to get to see a specialist and unheard of to have the surgery so quickly. If we had gone to the closest hospital, they would have just sent us on to Belfast. Alan knew us and had a vehicle here. He is on team. And Andrew had asked Paula to pray that he have an uninterrupted hour….little did he know it would be in the car waiting in the parking lot in Belfast. But God answers our prayers in peculiar ways sometimes.

Later on Saturday, four more of the women’s team arrived. They needed a nap to adjust to the 6 hour time difference but were up by tea time (supper).

Sunday was another full day of dining room duty.  The meals have been wonderful and those of us staying for two weeks are already looking forward to the repeated menus which include steak pie and of course the desserts! Apple Crisp with Custard Sauce, Chocolate cake with ganache, Trifle, Banoffee Pie, Cadbury Carmel Chocolate Cheesecake, and cherry tarts.

Our kitchen team has not been able to prepare the food. None of them has an Irish food handler’s permit. Deirdre and her castle staff have done all of that…and quite well! However, our kitchen team helped the castle staff by manning the dishwasher...for the nearly 60 of us and the group of 100 teens!! They were in the dish room for 2 hours after each meal! 

It was leftovers for supper on Sunday after the guests left and we were all quite happy with that! It was wonderful to hear the testimonies and fun to see that the guests were in no hurry to leave. After our late supper, we had an abbreviated debrief team meeting. There are things to tweak but no major issues.
Late supper with team. 

Donna, Jean and Pat 

The other part of our meeting was to talk about the plans for Monday. We will be going to Giant’s Causeway that the North Coast. I’ve been there three times and delighted to be going again. It is one of those amazing natural formations left from molten lava many centuries ago. We will have to get up “early” as breakfast is at 8. The day will be full of sightseeing. The evening meal will be at a “carvary” and six courses! (Carvary—a restaurant that carves the meat for each patron).  

There are some great pictures of almost everyone in this room but I only included the one so Donna's family can see how she is doing! And of course, a picture of our Lay Directors!

Those of us staying 2 weeks have only one more day with 23 of our team. Thirteen will arrive on Tuesday for the second week. 
Ted Merrell, Lay Director, CGB #1
Jean Merrell, Lay Director, CGB #2 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Elegant Evening, Wonderful Wednesday, Part 2

After lunch, the Newcastle group went to Dundrum to visit the ruins of the Dundrum Castle which dates back to 1177. It sits high in town and gives a perfect view of Murlough Bay.
The Keep at Dundrum Castle

Tonda, Donna, Barb and Phil at Dundrum Castle

Murlough Bay from Dundrum Castle

Andrew Forson, manager of Castlewellan Christian Centre,
Barb and Donna at Dundrum Castle
After the bus with the Belfast group returned, there were only a few minutes before we all boarded the bus headed for Burrendale Country Club for dinner. Deirdre had given us a menu yesterday on the bus so our orders were in. It is in Newcastle and quite lovely! The tables were ready and Deirdre assigned our seats (to help the servers with our orders).

The starters (appetizers) were amazing! Mine was Chicken Liver Parfait with a small salad of mixed leaves and grapes accompanied by toasted brioche bread and Burrendale fig and apple chutney. Tonda had Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese and Kilkeel Prawn Salad, Marie rose sauce , celeriac remoulade, organic leaf salad, buttered Burrendale Guinness bread. There were three other choices just as enticing!

The main courses were also elegantly presented and deliciously prepared. We had sides of seasonal vegetables which included parsnips, carrots, snow peas and a veg that may have been rutabaga. The entrees included chicken supreme with cabbage, turkey with dressing, ribeye steak with carmelized onions, hake fillet with chorizo and Kilkeel prawns and truffle mash...well, you get the idea.

When we couldn't eat another bite, dessert was delivered. Well, maybe we could eat just a wee bit more. Eclair and warm brownie and pavlova with fruit!! Oh Yes!! Many thanks to the Irish part of the team for providing this wonderful time for us. It was superb!!
Some of us...

Some more of us....

And the rest of us....(see end of blog)

More of us....


Menu...Made Especially for CGB!

Back to the castle for a group picture and team meeting. If we get all our work done tomorrow morning, we may get to have a short outing before the guests arrive!
This is a painting of Castlewellan Castle and the lake.
It is about 6 ft wide and 3 ft tall...hangs at Burrendale Hotel
and Country Club
All of the team, men and women's plus love team. On the stairs to the Main Hall

Team with a prayer shawl sent from Connecticut. 
and...if you couldn't find someone in the other dinner pictures,
here's the rest of we are all accounted for!!

Wonderful Wednesday, Part 1

A cemetery in Newcastle

At the cemetery in Newcastle

At home I call it "Wonderful Wednesdays" because I spend Wednesday mornings with my great-granddaughter and of course, my dog, Willow. Today was Wonderful Wednesday but with other little girls and dog. Richie Shilliday and his wife Jenn are the leaders/directors/everything at R.I.O.T.-Revival in Our Town-ministry for teens. They have two precious girls, Charley and Addy and a yorkie, Talbot. While others went to Belfast or Newcastle for the day, I went to Shillidays! We played with My Little Ponies and "made tea" and watched a movie and took a nap! Jenn fixed lunch and ran Talbot to the groomers. Later in the afternoon she had to take one of the R.I.O.T. interns to the doctor. The little girls and I had a grand time! (Pictures of the girls on my Facebook page)
R.I.O.T. House at left. Chalet where teens meet at right rear.
Methodist Church at right. Note the stone fence!

As for the others.....thirty some went to Downpatrick to visit the church and the burial place of St. Patrick. I have been there a few times. They said the curator was excellent and gave them so much information about St. Patrick. From there they went to Belfast to visit the Titanic Museum. That is a great experience and they all enjoyed it too! I don't have pictures from there, of course.

Another group of four went to Newcastle and Dundrum. I do have pictures of their day. They shopped along the main street, went to the promenade and along the sea. They had lunch at my favorite place, Creme Cafe.
Both groups saw rainbow after rainbow today as there was a bit of rain, again and again. The mist on the Mournes lifted in the afternoon and those in Newcastle were able to really enjoy the mountains.
The Irish Sea and the Mourne Mountains...along the Promenade

Along the street in Newcastle

Barb and one of the many rainbows.

A favorite road sign...near assisted living!
Complete with a "new" couple, Barb and Phil