Wednesday, October 31, 2007

They're he-re

Mom and Dad arrived safely this morning. Bill picked them up and took them to lunch while I was at my interview. They groggily hung out in our apartment throughout the afternoon. The mattress for the extra room was delivered at 5PM. I'm glad they'll have a place to sleep tonight.

I have another interview in the morning. Maybe we'll make it into Dublin proper tomorrow afternoon.

Recent Events Illustrated

One of the many purveyors of fine goods in Kilkenny.

These guys should know how to crack a conker.

Bill vs. Sharon. Sharon's conker was crushed by Bill's ruthless offensive.

A strong rain blew through right as the festivities were to begin. We kept dry in the Saint Lachtain church, pictured here with an amazing rainbow after the downpour. The conker championships quickly resumed.

A leaf in Butler Gardens, Kilkenny

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


We finally made it home from our bank holiday weekend at 7:00pm today. This makes the second bank holiday weekend where we've run into difficulties (strangely enough the very same bank holiday weekend in consecutive years), but at least this time we got to have some fun. The first time we drove around the Boyne Valley in County Meath for hours trying to find Newgrange. When we finally found it the tours had ended for the day. We were mighty sad that day. Mighty sad.

This time at least we made to our destination in time to do something. The car is still there, in fact. The repairs couldn't be completed today, so we took the train back to Dublin (and the LUAS and the DART and our feet to our home). I'll hopefully return to Kilkenny via train either Friday or Saturday to retrieve the car.

In addition to attending the Conker Championship we toured Kilkenny Castle and strolled around its vast yard. There are numerous ruins and other interesting sites in County Kilkenny, but of course we couldn't make it to any of them without our vehicle. We intend to revisit Kilkenny.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

extra vacation

We're sitting in an internet cafe in Kilkenny. Bill planned a great get-away for our first bank holiday weekend. Everything started off well, at least the first hour or so until our car starting making a horrible grinding sound. It's some clutch-related malady. We made it into Kilkenny, after every garage had closed for the day on Saturday, of course, and a mobile mechanic we found was full up. Everything will be shut down until Tuesday, so we think we'll be here until then and hopefully the car can be repaired and we'll make it back Tuesday night. Well, we will be back to Dublin Tues night, car or no car, because we have very important visitors arriving Wed morning and I have a job interview.

So, Kilkenny is a cool city. Lots of ancient buildings, nice restaurants and cool shops. Our primary reason for making the trip was to attend the Irish Conker Championships. We'll have to take a taxi, but we're not missing the conkers.

Friday, October 26, 2007


About that chili... There was actually a recipe for "Mexican Chili" on the back of the label on the mince (ground) beef. We'll overlook the fact that chili is in no way Mexican for the moment. The ingredients listed were pretty normal: mince beef, chili powder, cumin, onion, garlic, kidney beans, tomato, even chocolate (I guess that makes it Mexican). It was the proportions that were a bit off.
  • Irish Mexican chili
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Bill's chili
    • 1/4 cup chili powder (24 times as much)
    • 1 tbsp cumin (6 times as much)
1/2 tsp isn't even worth fooling with. Might as well just call it beef and bean soup.

Anyway, my chili turned out pretty darn good. It could've used some lime juice and cilantro, not to mention corn muffins alongside, but not bad for a first attempt in Ireland.

The Week in Review

We're at the end of our second real-life week in Dublin. Bill's been working each day and then coming home and making us dinner. You didn't think I'd be cooking, did you?

Our menu this week:
Tuesday--Stew of potatoes, cabbage, chick peas and chorizo
Wed--Grilled chicken salad
Thursday--Scrambled eggs, white pudding, rashers, sausage and toast

Tonight, maybe a trip to the pub?

On Monday, I went into the city to meet with CPL, a recruiting company I've been working with. They're located in Merrion Square, so after my meeting I went to the National Gallery to eat lunch and view the Paintings from Poland exhibit.

I am particularly charmed by museum cafes. You can find one just by listening for the clinking dishes and hum of conversation, and they serve food that embodies the idea of lunch. I had chicken and mushroom soup with a tomato roll. If you're served a pinkish/orangey bread in Ireland, it's to-mah-to bread. Quite tasty. I had a book with me, so I read while eating my soup, stopping every so often to butter my bread. It seems wrong not to butter bread here.

I enjoyed the Polish exhibit. You could choose an audio tour in English or Polish. I chose English. The exhibit included the years 1880-1939--Symbolism through Modern Art. I found a Polish culture site referring to the exhibit saying,
The popularity of both Poland and Poles in Ireland is growing so rapidly, that the Irish are more and more interested in presenting Polish culture in their country. By means of the exhibition, they are aiming to attract the Polish audience and, at the same time, to promote Polish culture and provide the Irish with knowledge concerning Poles.
I hope Poles are popular in Ireland! I know many have immigrated in recent years. I was just looking at a grocery advertisement that features items such as Krakus Krakows - Sucha, Piwo Lech puszka, and Pierogi z serem.

I enjoyed the paintings. Some of the early paintings feature sad jesters and courtly elegance. Mythological and fantastic creatures make frequent appearances as well. The effects of cubism are apparent in many of the more recent works.

This was one of my favorites:

Ferdynand Ruszczyc
The White Mazurka, 1905

I like how much is depicted by this setting alone. The Mazurka is a traditional Polish dance and the White Mazurka is the last dance of the evening, frequently danced at dawn. So, the title denotes an ending, and the candles and tulle an ephemeral loveliness. This is the painter's family estate and I think we can share his affection for these traditions and an awareness of their fading relevance. (Or that's what the catalog says at least!)

The exhibit contained paintings from several father and son painters that spanned the transition from Symbolism to more Modernist ideals. One such pair is Jacek and Rafał Malczewski. These two paintings were displayed side by side.

Jacek Malczewski
St. Agnes 1920-1921

Rafał Malczewski
Pipeline in the Field, 1938

These paintings show obviously shared elements of composition from two interpretations. Jacek sought to convey the spiritual power of resurrection in his paintings--the change of the seasons being a constant reminder of rebirth. The colloquial saying, "St Agnes letting larks out of her purse" heralded the arrival of spring. His son was attracted to the effects of industrialization on his homeland.

Many more beautiful and interesting paintings in this exhibit. If you're in the area, you should go! By the way, if anyone is watching, these images are for purely personal use!

I rode the train to Pearse Street on my trip to Merrion Square. We passed one scene on the way that I really wanted to photograph, but trying to look cool and non-touristy, I didn't pull out my camera. It was near the Clontarf Road stop, and looking out to the East I saw an expanse of rooftops, small, crowded hills of grey shingles with groups of short, round chimneys, and beyond, on the horizon, a criss-cross of yellow and orange cranes reaching up into the sky. It depicted the current transformation of Dublin to me. But, as the man across from me said to his companion, "Ah, but they're all idle. Doesn't mean a thing if they're idle."

The rest of the week I've been taking calls from recruiters, wandering the neighborhood and slowly unpacking our last two suitcases.

This Monday is a Bank Holiday, so Bill and I are taking off for parts green. Then my parents arrive on Wednesday and we'll be hitting the culture hard.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Dublin Day

Some of you have heard Bill's plan to keep us from falling into too much of a routine and forgetting we're on a Grand Adventure. He's proposed that each month we spend one weekend doing something Dubliny, one weekend traveling somewhere in Ireland, one weekend hopping to another country, and one weekend just hanging out.

The monthly inter-country trips may be a bit ambitious--we'll see. We do want to go everywhere. However, I think yesterday (Saturday) might qualify as a Dublin weekend.

Yesterday morning we walked to a Food Market in the park next to our apartment. St. Anne's park is large, approximately 270 acres, so it was about a 20 minute walk. The park was formally part of a 500 acre estate belonging to the Guinness family. (Dublin has one of the largest urban parks in Europe, and I'm guessing the US too. Phoenix Park is 1752 acres.) The park is so big that I haven't wanted to explore too far by myself as my weak sense of direction truly fails me when trees are involved. It's an amazing park with sports turf, playgrounds, green fields, mossy rocks and dense trees. The rose garden is past its prime, but is still gorgeous. It will be stunning when all the bushes are in full bloom.

The Food Market is smaller than the one in Howth, but we still managed to spend all our cash. We had to get crepes of course. I had hard goat cheese, salad greens and sun-dried tomato pesto in mine. Bill had smoked salmon, crème fraîche, lemon juice and scallions. We bought four jars of jam: Plum, Damson Plum, Rhubarb and Ginger, and, by law, black currant. (Black currant is to Ireland's palate what Purple Grape is to the taste buds of the US.) We also bought some chive goat cheese and an apple walnut AMAZING log.

I talked to a jewelry maker named Vincent Meehan who used to sell jewelry to Neiman Marcus in Texas. He also said he was commissioned to design jewelry to represent Ireland that didn't have harps or shamrocks. He went to the ruins of Newgrange and based his designs on the ancient markings. He had some nice stuff, so next time we need to take a little more cash!

The market is held at a facility that also provides studio space to artists, and has a cafe there as well.

Last night we went to City Centre in search of food. Bill made a list of moderately priced restaurants in Temple Bar, and we chose an Italian placed called Trastavere. Pretty good, and we had a great table for people watching. Lots of the people were sparkly. I had a very nice ricotta and truffle oil ravioli with pancetta and Bill had penne with ragu of pork sausage and mushrooms.

On the bus on the way home we sat next to the same guy we had sat next to on the way into town. Weird. He was on his way to hear his friends play in a band and invited us to come. He said he could possibly get us in free. When he found out we were from Texas he made some comments related to the death penalty, I think, and said he understood why we wanted to leave. "They'll never find us here," I said, and he agreed. So, we could have met the next U2, but we're old remember, and had bought books and really wanted to go home and start reading.

Oh, our books. We're a little worried about them. Bill had a message on his NI voice mail in Austin saying one of the boxes was in the Lost and Found at FedEx. Apparently, the USPS uses FedEx for their m-bags. The particular box had his work books with his work number. Maybe the other boxes are sitting in customs in Ireland, which was the fate of a squirrel costume in an account we heard recently. I was upset about my books, and then Bill reminded me that his cookbooks were also in the missing boxes, at which point I became inconsolable, and hungry.

Bill can cook freestyle, thank goodness. Our dinner tonight of leek and goat cheese omelettes was delicious.

Today we went to church and lunch and then the grocery store. Bill is going to make chili. Yea!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Weird Water

We knew we'd start noticing the differences after settling in. First it was the lack of outlets in the bathrooms. Then we had to figure out how the water works. What we thought was a hot water heater is actually two tanks, the hot water tank and a cistern. Yes, a cistern. Apparently modern homes in the UK and Ireland use an indirect plumbing system. Water from the city main comes directly to the kitchen tap and to a cistern (and an outside tap if present). All the other taps are fed from the cistern. This is why children are taught not to drink the water from any tap except the kitchen. Most homes have the cistern in the attic so gravity does the work, and anything can fall into the cistern, e.g. dead pigeons and squirrels. Yuck. Our cistern is in a closet, so we shouldn't have to worry about floating rodents, and we have a booster pump to get the water to the taps.

The indirect plumbing system does have some advantages, chiefly that the water pressure is consistent throughout the day. Also, if the water supply is cut off for any reason you still have some water. Still, it's very strange to this American city-boy who is used to mains-water at every faucet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What we've been eating

Pub Grub

Some pubs offer a carvery. Usually a few meats and sides. Bill's lunch here: roast beef, mashed potato, roast potato and veg, and stuffing I think.

Also from the carvery, I had tomato quiche, chips and slaw.

Last week we ate at a very nice Indian place in Swords (a town just up the M1) called Agni. Here are our appetizers:

At a sandwich place, Diet Coke served in coffee mugs with nary an ice cube.

An Afternoon Stroll

I took a stroll to village center this afternoon. I was pleased to be asked for directions for the first time. I didn't know the street of course, and was immediately revealed as American, and lost all respect when I offered my map. We were told recently that Irish folks don't count map reading among their skills, and if directions can't be given by the standard landmarks of churches or pubs, don't even bother!

I took some pictures along the way.

The Station House pub we have visited twice. This is where I will wait for Bill when I don't feel like walking home from the train station.

Semi-detached houses on our street.

Not sure where this leads, but looks worth checking out.

In other news:
  • I've talked with several recruiters, and have been submitted for two positions. We'll see if any interviews materialize.
  • Bill picked up our '96 VW Polo today.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Homestead

Here are a few pictures of our apartment.

Master Bedroom
According to the apartment inventory, those are handmade accent pillows. They actually match the duvet I brought (not pictured).

The tall cabinet in the foreground is the refrigerator on top and the freezer below. The right cabinet against the back wall is the washer/dryer. There is also a dishwasher underneath the sink. The oven is controlled by buttons that, at this point, we do not understand.

Living room
Lots of windows and a door to a nice balcony.

Main bathroom
This one is for you, guesties!

Provided by the landlord to make us feel at home?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Walk to Town

We just returned from a walk to the village center. We had lunch and bought groceries for dinner tonight. The village center is about a 10 minute walk from our apartment. About five minutes longer than perfect by my American walking-distance standards, but I'm sure I'll adjust. The village center has a bookstore, grocery, butcher, several chemists/pharmacies, two bookmakers, several pubs and take-away places, and a nice cafe. Several buses go through the village center as well, and the train station is close by.

Bill with our groceries. We remembered to take our reusable bag!

Sharon with the Irish Times (per Jonathan's recommendation). Note that I'm posting a crappy picture of myself because I trust you guys to love me anyway.

Our local ruin.

Non-electrical bathrooms

Why on earth would our bathrooms not have electrical outlets in them, while the hallway has two? Our fully-furnished apartment even came with a hair dryer in the bathroom, but there's no place to plug it in! Our American minds can't comprehend this.

Anyway, did I say we have an apartment? A strange non-electrical bathroom, no room for food in the kitchen but very attractive-with-lots-of-windows Euro apartment. Oh, and with apparently free internet access, too. We were worried when NTL (the local cable company) said they don't provide internet service to our complex, but I spied a DSL modem in the living room with Irish Broadband stickers on it and plugged it in. Voila, Internet! Woo hoo! Strange neither the apartment ad nor the property managers mentioned it. At this point we're not asking questions. The internet was down in the hotel the past few days and we were about to get the DTs.

Our Euro apartment does have two Euro bedrooms and two non-electrical Euro bathrooms, and we're happy to have Euro accommodations for guests (Yank and Euro).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


After a few days of hibernation at the hotel, we've started establishing our life in Dublin. We've acquired mobiles, visited pubs, become Skype junkies, bought a beard trimmer and hair dryer, and found an apartment. We should sign a lease on Friday and be able to move in. The apartment is in Raheny, a suburb close to the coast. We're going to look at a car tomorrow.

Here are a few pics from the last several days:

Bill enjoying a pub snack.

Sharon sporting a halo of messy hair in St. Stephens Green.

Students pouring out of Trinity University.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

We made it

We're here along with all our bags. Smooth sailing through immigration. Yea!

Watch this space for more details.

Friday, October 5, 2007

In Chicago

We made it to Chicago. That's step 47 in the overall plan. We got to Bob and Debbie's around 4AM, but we were packed, and almost everything we packed made it on the plane. I had to sacrifice some toiletries to the weight limit, and my Austin Slow Burn Hot Apple Pie Jam to the gel ban. Why didn't I put it in one of our seven suitcases? Because it was 3AM, that's why.

The gate agent in Austin told Bill he had to check his guitar, which meant going to baggage and security in Chicago. More than our weary minds and bodies could bear! Beth, the best flight attendant in the world, sweet talked the guitar back into the cabin and kept it in the closet in first class.

So, maybe I'll actually sleep on the flight to Dublin.

Hey, we just talked to Debbie on Skype. Everybody's gotta get it!

It's on!

Thank goodness for that wire. I'm not sure what would've happened without it. Ronan emailed me a copy of my work permit at 1:11pm Austin time, 7:11pm Dublin time. Earlier in the day he emailed and said everything was A-OK. Sharon wondered if that meant the same thing there as it does here. I guess it does.

So, I'm supposed to print the copy, show it to the Garda Immigration Officer, wave my hands about and say "These people belong in Ireland. These aren't the people you're looking for. Move along." Or something like that.

We're still sorting through our clothes. Ugh.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


The DETE supervisor that can give final approval for Bill's permit is Out of the Office (OOO) today.

What was Bill saying about that wire?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Behind the Wheel

I was driving around Austin today (haircut, lunch with E and Colette at Hill's, various other tasks). My errands took me up 360 and 2222 and I was enjoying those curvy, hilly roads. I thought about how I'm probably not going to be driving much in the coming year (not sure about the lefty stuff), and even if I do, it probably won't be in a '94 Protege with baked-in, old-car smell that still is great fun to drive (now for Leah to enjoy). And I probably won't have the air blasting chill in my face with the back of my neck still sweating from the sun beating through the side windows. And I'll probably miss that.

On another note, I've always meant to call in one of those station breaks they play on KUT with Austinites relating Austiny tidbits. Here's what mine would have been:

Before we moved to Austin I was looking at apartments on the Internet and I kept seeing ads that mentioned "360 view," and I thought it meant a 360-degree view and I thought, man, Austin sure has a lot of turrets. After moving here I realized they were referring to 360 the road, the Capital of Texas highway. We've lived in Austin for nine years, and have never had a turret. This is Sharon Gunter and you are listening to KUT Austin.

A bit closer

Apparently the Dept. of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Ireland needs a better understanding of the relationship between National Instruments Ireland and National Instruments USA. Gillian, our solicitor, is going to explain it to them tomorrow. Also, I have to FAX a letter to the DETE authorizing the release of my permit to Ronan. Normally they mail them. Why we didn't know this before I have no idea.

I guess it's going to come down to the wire.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tick Tick

Days until we leave for Ireland: 4
Work permits in our possession: 0