Monday, December 31, 2007

Galtee Saves New Year's Eve!

Bill and I are closing out 2007 with a junk food feast. We're quite excited to be partaking of Rotel dip and sausage balls! Bill made sausage balls with Cumberland sausage and Wexford Red Cheddar and some Bisquick. Galtee processed cheese makes a very passable Rotel Dip, a little sharper than the Velveeta version.

Our spread also includes a cheese plate, pumpkin chutney, chicken wings, guacamole, pork liver pate with caramelized onions, and chocolates. We plan to toast in the New Year with Bulmer's Hard Cider.


Happy New Year!

Nollaig Shona Duit

"Nollaig Shona Duit" is Happy Christmas in Irish, pronounced "null-ig hun-a dit" or "NO-Lihg HO-nuh ghwich" or "Nullug Shunna it" (my cursory web research did not find consensus). Nollaig, the word for Christmas, is derived from the Latin natalicia which means birthday. Shona is happy and Duit is a singular "prepositional pronoun" meaning "to you." If you're addressing more than one person, the appropriate greeting is "Nollaig Shona Daoibh" (NO-Lihg HO-nuh JEEV). Thankfully, celebrating Christmas in Ireland is easier than saying it.

Christmas dawned bright and sunny in Dublin, a rare occurrence according to the Dubs. Bill and I attended a church service at 10:30 hosted by Trinity's Lucan
congregation. Emmanuel, God with Us. I really think we should sing Christmas hymns all year round.

After returning home we had some mince pies with brandy butter and a cuppa
tea. We then opened presents. Bill gave me books by two Irish authors: a collection of short stories by John MacKenna and Anne Enright's Booker-prize-winner, The Gathering. I gave Bill Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy and The Irish Book of Lists--now Bill will be full of fascinating factoids at dinner parties. Bill gave me a beautiful pendant made with pressed flowers and I added a grey wool jumper (sweater) and fleece hoodie to Bill's wardrobe. I had also wrapped an ornament I bought to commemorate our first Christmas in Ireland.

We ate left-over seafood chowder for lunch. Bill read that seafood is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve (because it is a no-meat day for Catholic observers), so he made a delicious chowder that was even better the next day. I then took a Christmas nap while Bill baked the cornbread dressing and made deviled eggs.

We headed to the Dunne's around 3:30. Margaret had set a gorgeous table. My picture turned out blurry, but I'm going to post it anyway.
In addition to Kevin, Margaret and their children Nora and Rory, we shared Christmas with another family from Trinity: Nigel, Mary and their son Mark. While Margaret and Kevin worked like mad in the kitchen, we relaxed with mulled wine.
We began our meal with a champagne toast and popped our Christmas crackers. For starter we had baked portabello mushrooms with tomato and rashers. We brought out the deviled eggs also. They were well received, although folks were hesitant to try the ones Bill had sprinkled with ancho chili powder. After starters the food started coming and did not stop. Christmas dinner in Ireland shares many components with Thanksgiving: turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, mash (mashed
potatoes), baked sweet potatoes (and parsnips--not a Sharon fave), and Brussels sprouts. In addition we had veg stir-fry, mange tout (snow peas), roast potatoes, mashed swede (rutabaga), black eyed peas, spinach and asparagus. Our cornbread dressing is similar to stuffing, but I was happy to have it. We had several choices for dessert also: sherry trifle, Christmas pudding, pears poached in the mulled wine, ice cream and chocolates.

Since physical activity was unthinkable after such a meal, we chose instead to exercise our minds and played an electronic trivia game called Buzz. After keeping
the lead for most of the game, Bill and I were bested in the end by 9-year-old, master of general knowledge, Rory. The rest of the evening we lounged, conversed, stared at the fire (burning coal and a bit of turf) and pet doggies. At 11:30 Bill and I decided we should return home, bearing turkey and ham. (The turkey was the largest I'd seen, 14 kilos or so, and the ham was cured but not smoked. All tasty with leftover dressing.) At midnight we made Christmas calls to the families, and then hit the sack.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rainbows

Ireland really is a land of rainbows. A benefit of a rainy climate. This is the view from our balcony this afternoon.


The brighter bow was a full arc, but I couldn't capture it in one picture.

Here's another rainbow pic taken when we were in Freshford for the Conker festival back in October.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Treats for Santy

Apparently in Ireland Santa gets to enjoy mince pies and Guinness. Perhaps he should make Ireland his last stop.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Decor

Here's what Christmas 2007 looks like in our apartment. Perhaps more sedated than years past, but we are enjoying the 328 Christmas songs on our ipod.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Little Drummer Boy

Here's a holiday treat from the heartland. I asked Kevin and Andrea if I could post some of the video they sent to the ROL Christmas party. I think you'll find this makes your Christmas just that much better. It stars Kevin, Andrea and their son Trevor (a prodigy as you'll see), and features a boldly enigmatic and taciturn performance by everyone's favorite beagle, Toblerone.

video

Trevor turned 1 on the 21st. Happy Birthday Trevor!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Goodies from the US

Bill's mom sent us a package of goodies from the US. Mmm, tasty US goodness. Thanks, Mom!

With this influx of ingredients, we'll be able to soothe our palates with the following familiarities:
  • sausage balls--we'll have to experiment with mince pork since Jimmy Dean-style breakfast sausage doesn't exist here
  • Rotel cheese dip--Does Calvita share the meltable and chip-dippable qualities of Velveeta? We'll find out!
  • cocktail sauce--The Irish love their prawns, but they eat them with a Marie Rose sauce made from ketchup and mayonnaise; Bill makes a great cocktail sauce with chili sauce and prepared horseradish (which I hope we can find)
  • things dipped in ranch dressing
  • tex-mexi things made with green chilies and chipotles
It's interesting how just knowing you can't buy something creates a desire for it. What I wouldn't do for a Fresca!

Everything to make mole

We finally went to the Epicurean Foodhall off Abbey St. tonight after some last minute Christmas shopping. We had heard that there's a Mexican place there. It's called Taco Taco, and for Ireland it's pretty authentic. We had a couple molletes (Mexican sandwiches) which were pretty tasty, but the most exciting discovery was a rack of Mexican foodstuffs.If you look closely you can see bags of Maseca masa harina. For €14. That's $21. We actually found some "maize flour" at a Chinese grocery of all places for much cheaper, but the existence of actual masa harina in Dublin is very exciting. I asked one of the workers if I could find dried chiles in Dublin and he drew me a map to a gourmet grocery that has "everything to make mole." We think it's Fallon and Byrne on Exchequer St. We'll find out soon. Very soon.

The Orchestra of Oz

We made our first foray into the Dublin arts scene last night. The Wizard of Oz was showing at the Helix, but it was unlike any Oz we've ever seen. For one thing, there were no commercials. The most important difference, however, was the music. It was provided not by a scratchy soundtrack but by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. The orchestra was on stage with the movie shown above them sans soundtrack. It was amazing to hear Judy Garland's voice soar over the rainbow backed by a full orchestra. More amazing, though, was the story of the movie score. Back in 1969 MGM suffered a corporate takeover. The new CEO decided to have all this scrap paper lying around in boxes removed and used as landfill in a new golf course. The "scrap" paper included the scores for High Society, Ben Hur, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and almost every Judy Garland movie ever made, including The Wizard of Oz. The guy who bought MGM in 1969 wanted only the real estate, and appointed a former head of programming at CBS known as "the smiling cobra" to downsize the film division. Downsize, indeed.

So what were we listening to if the original score was buried under the 12th hole? A wonderful score painstakingly reconstructed note by note by composer and film buff John Wilson, who also conducted the orchestra. The score was utterly familiar, and of course the point was to match the film exactly. But the orchestration was also exposed in a new way, at times overwhelming the dialog or lyrics. But that was okay, because even if we didn't already know what was being said or sung, the music was telling us how to feel. It was nice also to be distracted momentarily by some interesting sound coming from the percussion section, and to have the pumping bows of the string section add another visual element to soaring melodies or driving action.

Afterward we finished our night of arts in fine Dublin fashion with a couple bags of chips and battered sausages from our local take-away. It was a good night.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

We don't need no stinkin' green ca... oh, wait, we do

Wednesday I took a half-day off work and we trekked to city center to take care of our motor tax and register with immigration. I tried to give the government our money for the car, but they wouldn't take it. We don't yet have an official insurance document that mentions Ireland, something we've been waiting two months to get. We've gotten various documents from Geico, but so far all of them have had an error with the make, model or year, and none of them are the insurance disk we need to display on the car and show to the motor tax people. I'm about ready to call up that little lizard and give him a piece of my mind.

Our visit to the Garda Naturalisation and Immigration Board (GNIB) office was much more productive. We waited in the queue for several hours, but everything went very smoothly and we left with shiny new registration cards. So, we can stay in Ireland until December of next year (when we would have to re-apply) and can come and go as we please. Afterwards we got some pizzas at a place in Temple Bar. They weren't Reale's, but really, whose are?

I forgot to mention earlier that when we got our bank account we weren't able to get a joint account because only I could show proof of address. When we paid the television tax I neglected to write both of our names on the application, so the television license lists only my name. I found the loophole and didn't take full advantage of it. Never again! Every loophole I find will be looped to its fullest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What we've been eating

It's Christmastime in Ireland, and Christmastime in Ireland means Mince Pies. They are huge here! Well, small actually, but ubiquitous. In Victorian times, mincemeat was spiced meat with fruit. The current version may include suet along with fruit; I need to check the ingredients. We've already had the opportunity to enjoy them a few times, and are looking forward to more. At right, our yuletide pleasure is evident.

Last week we attended a Christmas Food Emporium which was part of the National Arts and Crafts Fair. It was a great opportunity to try, yea buy, many Irish-made products. This scene was repeated frequently:
Vendor: Hello, would you like to try this baked good/savory item/confection/dairy product/beverage?
Us: Why thank you. Mmm...this is delicious!
Vendor: It's made by hand/of organic ingredients/with love/from our own cows.
Us: We'll take it!
This type of high-pressure sale resulted in the following purchases over two nights:
  • jalapeno-stuffed olives
  • viognier vino
  • rabbit terrine
  • meat pies
  • cheese (with seaweed!)
  • stollen with soft marzipan layer
  • christmas bread (fruit bread with marzipan and icing)
  • mini, caramel-filled waffles
  • nougat
  • pumpkin chutney
  • fig and rhubarb jam
  • Indian pickle
  • granola
  • Irish sausage
  • white pudding
I was very excited to find jalopeno-stuffed olives. A taste of home.

Saturday Bill and I had dinner at Gallagher's Boxty House in Temple Bar. Our previous attempts to dine here had been thwarted by 2-hour waits. Going at 5:00, we got right in. (We had a late breakfast of eggs with aforementioned sausage and white pudding, so were ready for early dinner.) I had the titular boxty, a potato pancake with filling. The pancake is more crepe than latke. My filling was gammon steak (i.e., ham) with spring onion sauce. Quite yummy, perfect-for-cold-weather food. My salad with camenbert and pear was delicious as well. Bill started with chicken liver pâté, and had bacon, cabbage and champ for entrée. Champ is mashed potatoes with scallions, or in local parlance, mash with spring onions.

I've been remiss in photographing our food recently, but here's a picture of my dinner last night--a tasty, decently spicy, Thai green curry at one of Raheny's pubs, The Watermill.

Bill had lasagna and chips. We've totally given in to that culinary phenomenon.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

All Aboard!

Our church in Austin, River of Life, invited us to send a video to show at their Christmas Party/Talent Night which was held last evening. We tried to capture some sights and sounds of Dublin, which we thought you might all enjoy. This is a fairly low res version. Sorry, film aficionados!

And now, let's ride the train!

video

Greetings from Indiana

Hello, This is Toblerone, everyone's favorite beagle! I am attempting my first post on this blog. I just want to reassure everyone that I am doing well. I have spent the last 3 and a half months with the Bockelmans and Clouses. I am getting adjusted to the weather, the new house, new people and new rules. Can you believe they won't feed me at the dinner table? And I am not allowed to sleep on their bed? I didn't think I could handle it, but now I feel right at home. I do miss Chuy's and all the other good restaurant food that my mom and dad brought home.

Life at the Farm:
Here I am checking out the view from Trevor's bedroom.











I have met a few friends here at my new house. One of them is Trevor. He is the baby of the family. I like to lick him in the face and roll around near him. But I never give him special hugs. I also have a new friend of a different kind. His name is Butterscotch. He just came to the house a month or so ago. We like to chase each other in the house and make noise.

My Friends:
Trevor
Butterscotch









Last but not least I am getting accustomed to the weather. Here is a picture of the first snowfall and how I reacted.

First Snowfall:

I am getting used to the cold weather and all the other fun stuff that Indiana has to offer. I will try and post more often. Just wanted to let Mom and Dad know that I am all right and that I love and miss them very much. :)

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Beach

Debbie mentioned the other day that I haven't posted any pictures of the coast near our apartment. We're just one block from the causeway that leads out to Bull Island. Bull Island is a new island, as islands go. It started forming about 200 years ago when the first sea wall was built in Dublin Bay, causing sand to accumulate. As development of Dublin Harbour continued throughout the 19th century, sandbanks continued to grow and eventually began to support sea grass and other wildlife. Bull Island is now a nature reserve.

Bull Island

My parents and I walked out the beach, or strand, one afternoon. The area between the coast and the island is marshy, and you climb over some dunes to reach the strand. The island also has car access. The beach is sandy, and reminds me of Galveston (i.e., Florida need not worry--although Ireland is not prone to hurricanes). We saw dogs frolicking in the surf and kids throwing a football, or rugby ball, or something. The strand is quite popular in the summer and is a favorite spot for kite surfing. I'll definitely post some pics if I become a kite surfer.



Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Let the Sunshine In

Hey blog gang, I was taking some video today for an endeavor you may see later, and I thought I'd post a tiny clip of my sweet (very close up) face to brighten your day.


video

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

We Have Cable

Bill and I have just completed our two-month experiment of not having televison. The apartment came with a set (do we still call it a set?), but we had no channels without the cable hookup. Living without TV has proven that you can spend a lot of time surfing the internet, and also watching downloaded US TV and cable series on DVD (Huff and The Wire, both astoundingly good, especially The Wire, but perhaps too intense for some viewers).

We reasoned that exposure to local television is an important part of understanding the culture, and plus the thing is just sitting there taking up precious space. Also, it has been difficult to shop without the benefit of informative advertising. Seriously, the first time I was confronted by a wall of laundry soap without even a corporate-generated preference or mind-echoing jingle, I was overwhelmed.

So, now we can steep ourselves in Irish entertainment. Why, just yesterday I watched, in part, Scrubs, Frasier, That 70s Show, Will and Grace and Bewitched (original Darren). And I learned a lot about local cleaning products.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Scenes from the Park

Bill's at the other end of the DART at a church men's retreat in Greystones this weekend. It was sunny when I woke up (11:30), so I eventually decided to walk to the Saturday food market for a nutella and banana crepe.

Some scenes along the way:



























Based on the shadows in the picture below, guess what time it is.

Did you guess 1:45PM? That's right!

It was windy today with temps in the mid-40s. By the time I got home it was raining lightly.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Y'all come back now, ya hear

My parents are bound for Chicago by now. They left for the airport around 8:00 this morning with enough Euros for cab fare and a phone call (should they need it). I'm sure they're ready to be home after a month away. We were so pleased to have them here and hope their tales will encourage more visitors. Here's a rundown of their last days in Ireland:

Friday
The travelers were fairly non-stop in England and Scotland, so Friday we were pretty relaxed. Also, we were going to a Hooley that night and needed to conserve our energy. Hooley means "party," and the Hooley at Johnnie Fox's pub in Glencullen is supposed to be the Hooliest. We arrived for dinner at 7:30. The Hooley guests sat at long tables and enjoyed a three-course meal. The music and dancing started at 9:00. It was a little like being at a wedding reception with a great band that got everyone singing along and clapping, even if you didn't know the songs or anyone else at the party.

Even though it's impossible to sit still to Irish music, the real dancing was left to the professionals. However, just watching Irish dancing can wear you out. The festivities lasted until midnight. We expected a slight traffic jam upon leaving, but most of the participants were in no hurry to go. We had an hour drive back to the North side of Dublin, so with regret we piled into the Polo and headed out into the cold night.

Everybody gets funky at the Hooley!







Saturday

After sleeping off the Hooley, we drove North of Dublin to Drogheda. One of the oldest towns in Ireland, Drogheda sits on the River Boyne. Although the town is steeped in history, we were primarily interested in finding lunch before heading to Monasterboice. So we joined the throng of Saturday shoppers wandering the streets and found some Irish sustenance. I ordered lasagna, and when asked if I wanted chips with that, I was so struck by the ludicrous question, I just said, "Sure." "And cole slaw?" "Of course!"

I know it's no worse than garlic bread and pasta, but it seems worse. You really have to shake off any latent adkins aversions to the simple starch to dine without horror in Ireland. By the way, lasagna with chips--delicious!
(Looks like I could have been at Ryan's.)

Monasterboice is the site of some of the best examples of Celtic (or High) Crosses in Irleand. The site of a 6th century Catholic monastary, Monasterboice has crosses and a round tower from the 10th century, and some other ruins from the 13th. The High Crosses at Monasterboice are carved with biblical scenes and were used to teach scripture in the absence of written texts.

Adoration by the Magi








The Incredulity of Thomas









Round towers protected the church valuables and the community from the Norse raids of the 10th and 11th century. Part watchtower, part vault, these tapering towers were typically over 100 feet tall, with a door 15-20 feet from the ground accessed with a movable ladder. The tower at Monasterboice was constructed around 968. Bill and I visited Monasterboice on our trip last Fall. Visiting again, I was particularly amazed by this tower, the perfect construction that has stood against every affront for 1000 years.


Oh, and it just happened to be my parents 46th Anniversary on November 24. Dad gave mom a necklace with an image from the Book of Kells made by the jeweler we met at the food market.



Sunday

Sunday morning we set off for the West Coast. We took a taxi to Heuston station in Dublin, and a train to Ballinasloe, where due to railway works, we boarded a bus for the remaining hour to Galway. The scenery on the way to Galway is as green and sheep-filled as one has come to expect. In Galway we had a nice lunch, looked across the Atlantic and thought of home, and again, wan
dered city streets full of shoppers and fellow wanderers. We saw the Spanish Arch, which I learned later was part of a bastion built to protect the docks from the Spanish in the 1580s when England feared a Spanish invasion of Ireland.


Our departing train was the first full Inter-City trai
n I've been on. The last train to Dublin on Sunday is full of students, and a few card sharks. Or one at least. Dad beat us all at hearts after claiming to have not played for 40 years.



Monday
Monday Mom, Dad and I headed into Dublin for a last bit of shopping. Bill met us for dinner, so finally, Mom and Dad had their visit to the Chipper. This was Bill and my first visit to this location of Leo Burdock's. It's not quite the same eating off of plates instead of out a paper bag while walking, but neater and more comfortable, and still quite tasty!





Tuesday
We took a stroll to Raheny Centre for breakfast and to buy
chili makings. We thought we should start acclimating Mom and Dad's American palate. The chili was gloriously accompanied by CORN MUFFINS!!! Gastronomes take note, Irish cheddar goes quite well with buttermilk cornbread.

Wednesday
Mom and Dad should be back in Arkansas by 5PM CST.

We'll miss you!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Skip the Ferry

Mom and Dad's 11-hour trip from Edinburgh to Dublin included several trains, a ferry, bus, and car. We had heard the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin was choppy, and Mom and Dad will attest to that. Even ferry regulars said Thursday evening's crossing was quite rough. Mom is in no hurry for another ferry ride.

El Dorado woman disembarks from unpleasant ferry ride

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What we've been eating

Cork is known as a culinary city, and we did enjoy some nice meals there. In particular, our dinner at Augustine's Saturday night was quite lovely. I truly enjoyed my carpaccio with truffle oil, and Bill's breaded goat cheese was delicious as well. I had an extremely happy moment there--eating succulent beef, drinking a silky shiraz, being with some of my favorite people, knowing the money from our house sale was already in our account. Ahhhh.

Dad also had carpaccio for starters and Mom had pumpkin soup. The three Lambs (hey, I'm still a Lamb!) had duck, whilst Bill had venison. Our duck confit portion was so large as to be almost burdensome, but it was delicious. Bill's venison was good, but a bit mono-flavored, I believe he said. I had an ice cream trio for dessert, M & D shared a creme brûlée. Bill had...a lemon something? Can't recall. As is often the case, the appetizer was my favorite part.

Carpaccio with truffle oil, parmesan shavings and red onion/rocket salad







Breaded Irish goat cheese on a portobello mushroom, topped with pesto, microgreens and red onion pickle







On Monday, Bill and I ate lunch at Cork's English Market. Bill had a South African sausage sandwich and some spicy tomato soup. I had a roast beef and horseradish sandwich. All was yummy. For dessert, a fruit custard tart. The market is much more enjoyable on a weekday. We walked through on Saturday and it was a madhouse.

What else? Bill's recent creations include a lentil, sausage, potato and spinach soup, and we've had pasta and grilled chicken salad. We also ate a frozen pizza and McDonald's. I thought it would take about six months for me to darken the door, but in the absence of Wendy's, Whataburger, Sonic, DQ, and even Shortstop, a trip through the drive-thru on a rainy Sunday evening seemed like a good idea.

The drive-thru process involves three windows. Window 1: place your order with a person. Window 2: pay a person and get napkins and ketsup. Ask about change and be told to drive to the next window. Window 3: receive food from a person. Ask about change and be told change is given at previous window. Beg to differ and manager in standard short sleeve shirt/tie combo brings change. The Big Tasty burgers were okay, but we threw the fries away. And it's not because we've forgotten what Freedom Fries taste like, people. These were yucked.

Sunday for lunch Bill and I visited the carvery at our local pub. I had a very tasty cottage pie. (Much better than the shepherd's pie* we had in Kilkenny, Mom.) Perfect for a rainy, cold day when you need energy to spend the afternoon reading in bed. Bill had bacon-wrapped chicken.

We've enjoyed some baked goods from the SuperValu--a Bramley apple tart and a mincemeat pie. Mincemeat is showing up everywhere for the holidays.

We've also grown quite fond of bourbon biscuits, and are apparently not the only ones.

*Shepherd's pie is traditionally lamb, whilst cottage pie is beef

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lamb Report: To Scotland

Our intrepid travelers, Charles and Celia, depart from London today bound for Edinburgh. Highlights of the past week include Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Windsor Castle and the Victoria and Albert Museum. We expect them back in Dublin on Thursday.

Charles at Windsor Castle








Celia admires Henry VIII armor








View from the Eye

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Appliances: The Good, The Bad, The Normal

The Good

Electric Kettle--By the time you've collected your cup, tea bag and spoon, the water is boiling. Also, makes quick work of cooking pasta when you start with two kettles full of hot water.

Convection/Traditional Oven combo--So far Bill likes the convection features of our oven (after he downloaded the user manual to decipher to buttons). He hasn't done any baking yet--he'll have to translate into Centigrade temps, but I'm sure he'll be fine. I haven't touched it of course, but I do like the huge red switch on the wall that shuts off power to the whole stove/oven.

The Bad

Clothes washer/dryer combo--As a washer, it works great. It holds only six shirts, but those shirts will get clean. The spin cycle makes you think the apartment is about to take flight. As a dryer, this thing sucks. The combo is a nice idea. You can set a load to wash and dry, then forget it. But an average wash/dry on cold wash takes about four hours and produces incredibly wrinkly clothes. The dryer doesn't vent to the outside, so it dries by the condensation method, which best I can tell, is the basic principle that water left to its own devices will eventually evaporate. Supposedly, air heated in the drum is blown through the tumbling clothes and absorbs moisture. The wet air then passes through a heat exchanger to re-condense the water. The heat exchanger uses cold water from the cistern, which means the cistern pump turns on for 5 seconds every 15 seconds or so. Sometimes the pump likes to emit a little squeak each time it turns off. The cistern room is adjacent to our bedroom, so the pump sounds make it undesirable to run the dryer at night. (The pump provides great water pressure for the showers, so props to the pump.) Drying clothes while I sleep was one of my key life efficiencies. Also, to minimize wrinkles, I've taken to drying half a load at a time. Another downside, the dryer produces wet lint. Wet lint is gross. So, a noisy, time-consuming wrinkler. Not cool. When I get a job we'll seriously consider a laundry service. Although, I do feel European draping clothes over the radiator.

The Normal

Microwave--totally normal.

Dishwasher--totally normal, except it has a compartment which you fill with rock salt. Perhaps it has an ice cream freezer feature we have yet to discover.

Fridge--small, but keeps drinks America-level cold (and will freeze the yogurt if you're not careful).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't mess with Cork

Corkorians are proud of their city. Like any 2nd sibling, Cork wants to compete with, and yet be completely unlike Dublin. Our cab driver told us he wouldn't even go to Dublin. “Cork is much more laid back, and not too big,” he said. “Here we're not in a rush. We say 'That's what tomorrow is for.'" (Our driver was not a native of Cork City, however. He grew up on a military base on Spike Island. No electricity or running water and a maze of tunnels underneath the entire island—quite the adventureland for a kid.) As he pulled our luggage out of the trunk I noticed a couple hurls. “Ah, Hurling,” I said. (Kind of like Radar's, “Ah, Bach.”) “Have a match today at 2:00,” he said with a grin, “time to drop some blood.”

A few more Corkorians told me they would never go to Dublin. “Dublin is not even Ireland,” one told me at Charlie's where we were listening to a trad session. “How do you mean?” I asked. “Well,” his friend said, “you know the phrase 'outside the pale.' Dublin had a wall around it. Didn't even want to be part of Ireland.” “Yeah,” the first guy said, “they've always associated more with the English.” As a matter of fact, the most famous pale (meaning territory or jurisdiction) was a 20-mile radius around Dublin fortified by the English against Gaelic Ireland, in the 14th and 15th centuries. I have hard time mustering any confederate spirit, and these guys are bringing up divisions that are 600 years old.

Turns out, Cork is a bit like Texas, my pub friends explained. Cork has always been considered a place of rebels, just like Texas. And Cork has a sing-songy accent, evocative of the Texas twang. (The Cork accent is great, and the first time I've heard “ye” used in casual conversation.) These guys are fans of Texas music, Joe Ely in particular, and Texas personalities like Willie and Kinky. I told them that KGSR and KUT stream online, and one wrote down the call letters. One guy had been to Austin and loved it. “We went to Antone's,” he said. “Oh yeah, that's great,” I said, “the blues.” Although I've never been to Antone's. Ah, Bach.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Red Tape

So far we've had it pretty easy. Entering the country was a piece of cake. Buying a car? No problem (those came after). But now we've come upon our most formidable foe to date: opening a bank account. Carrying our two missives from Bord Gais and the Electrical Supply Board, along with our passports, we strode confidently into our local branch of AIB.

"We would like to open a joint current account, please," I said.
"Certainly, may I see your passports and proof of address."
We presented them to the customer care specialist.
"I'm sorry, these aren't utility bills."
"But they're from the utility companies. This one even has a reference number," I said, pointing to the number.
"We need an actual bill."
"But we have to have a bank account to activate our utility contracts, otherwise we have to pay a deposit."
She said nothing, but her expression said "Not my problem."
"We have a tenancy agreement," I said hopefully, pulling it from a folder.
"I'm sorry, we can't accept that."
Sharon noticed a sign on the wall that said in the absence of a utility bill other arrangements could be made. "What about these other arrangements?"
"Here is what we require," the lady said, handing Sharon a slip of paper. It was no help. We had none of the required documents. Nothing could save us now.
"We will also accept a PPS letter," the lady offered.
"So, you won't accept our tenancy agreement as proof of address, but you'll accept a letter from the Welfare Department with our PPS numbers, for which we used our tenancy agreement as proof of address?"
"Yes."
I was speechless. Her unwavering confidence was unassailable. Shaken but undeterred we left the bank in search of PPS letters. The local welfare office was close by. A sign in the lobby said to go to Claims for new PPS numbers. Great. A sign in Claims said they were no longer accepting applications for new PPS numbers and to go to the office on Pearse St. in city centre. Huh? As of November of last year. Oh. Reminds me of the time we were in a Dairy Queen in Austin and listened to the drive-thru clerk tell every customer they were out of beef after each person ordered. Is it so hard to say "Welcome to Dairy Queen. I'm sorry, we're out of beef. Can I take your order?"

The lady in the welfare office on Pearse St. was very helpful and we were out of there in about ten minutes. We'll have our PPS numbers in less than ten working days. That's great, but doesn't help us get a bank account now. I was about to call a utility company and ask for something that looked more like a bill when I remembered reading that sometimes banks will accept a television license receipt as proof of address. Everyone in Ireland with a television has to pay the government €158 a year for the privilege. This is how the state television channels are funded. The funny thing is that you have to show no proof of address at all when you pay your television tax, and they will dutifully write down whatever you say is your address. I called AIB to ask if the television license would suffice as proof. It would. Éirinn go Brách!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lamb Report: London

Mom and Dad arrived in London on Monday after flying ryanair from Cork. Their hotel room is tiny, but has really nice towels. After a light dinner of salmon, avocado and prawn antipasto and soup, they retired early to bed.

On Tuesday they toured the city by bus and the Thames by boat, in addition to walking almost six miles. (In contrast, I walked no miles on Tuesday. In fact, I did not even leave the apartment!) I told Mom after our climbs to the Cork Gaol and the top of Blarney that she was rated for any tourist activity. My left thigh hurt for two days after Blarney.

Celia and the Tower Bridge

















Charles and the Eye

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gunter House Open for Guests

After hosting our first trial guests, I'd like to announce that the Gunter House (or Flat) is now open for business.

Accomodation
We offer a smallish room with an Irish King bed (same as US Queen), a full guest bathroom with tub and shower, and a continental (fend for yourself) breakfast. Accommodations can also be scrounged together for smaller guests.

Our rates
Any combination of the following:
  • JIF extra crunchy peanut butter
  • can green chilies
  • can Rotel tomatoes
  • masa harina
  • med-hot to hot salsas
  • episodes of the next season of Battlestar Galactica
Please contact us because the list of items may change, or perhaps you might suggest an item that could give you preferential booking!

We look forward to seeing you!

Monday, November 12, 2007

We love Blarney

Contrary to what the picture in the previous post may indicate, Bill and I were quite happy to be visiting Blarney Castle.