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


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.

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!

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:

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.

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.