Archive for June, 2011

sushi 1 

Oh man, this place is soooo J.

This is something my sister would say if we walked into a particular type of place. What does “soooo J” mean? Sooooo Japanese. This comment would be appropriate is if my sister and I walked into a shopping centre that reminded us of one in Tokyo, maybe because of the items it sells or the general vibe of the place. Or if we walked past a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles full of Japanese people, we might say This place must be good, look at all the J’s in there!

Living here in Ireland, I rarely see Japanese people but the odd time I do I tend to make a verbal note of it – probably because it’s so unusual. Of course now Mountaineering Man has picked up on my use of J to refer to Japanese people; as he has a mischievous sense of humour, he’ll abuse the reference. Pretty much any Asian person we see will elicit a Look, there’s some J’s! He’s just being cheeky of course but I will admit I do find it quite funny. Moreover it’s interesting to observe his growing knowledge of Japanese food and culture, which he’s picking up in bits and pieces from me.



While still in college I worked as a newsroom clerk at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the only daily newspaper for the northern California coastal town of – you guessed it – Santa Cruz. I made a whopping $8.88 per hour (big money back then!) and got to work alongside my best friend Cat, who worked as the assistant to the Editor in Chief, Tom.

One of Cat’s responsibilities was to read over all the letters to the Editor and select a few for Tom to review, comment on and publish in the paper. Tom would write his reply on a Post-It note, stick it on the original letter and leave it on Cat’s desk so she could type it into the system for publication.

I remember one letter in particular; it was was written in response to a photo we ran on a local Little League baseball team. The letter was from Kenny, the 8-year-old pitcher of the squad and apparently the paper ran a misspelling of his name. I just wanted to point it out but thank you for printing the photo, I am excited! Sincerely, Kenny. It was pretty adorable that the kid took time to write us the letter and Cat felt the same. She deemed it special enough to leave on Tom’s desk for a review.


 veggie tart_edited-1 It only took 15 months but I think my body has finally adjusted to the climate here in Ireland. It recently occurred to me that I haven’t had a cold or flu or major aches and pains for a while now; considering I was sick about once every month for the first year of living here, I’m overjoyed!

Irish people say the damp air here is what makes you sick. Whatever it is, my body went into rejection mode the moment I landed. My lungs were used to the comforting warm and dry air of Los Angeles, which was only very occasionally punctuated by a rain shower or cooler temperatures. So when my organs were introduced to the cold, wet breezes of the north east seaboard of this island, they were determined to show their misery by inflicting pain in the form of one bizarre illness or another.

First there was the monthly cold with the coughing and slightly-above-normal body temperature. Then came the crazy, head-rattling sneezing and runny nose/eyes from hay fever (thanks, rapeseed plants!). By roasted carrotsDecember of last year, I had contracted some viral infection that left me with painful, swollen glands in my neck and a low-grade fever and headache that lasted over 30 days. So exhausted and weepy was I during our New Year’s holiday in Athlone that Mountaineering Man had to ring a local doctor for an emergency appointment. The doctor told me the same thing my own doc told me, which was that my body was fighting some viral infection and I would just have to wait until it passed. He happily pocked 50 quid for his 5 minutes and I left knowing I’d chosen the wrong career field.


Galway 26

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I tend to tell it like it is. Sometimes I use this space for a full-on rant, like the post I wrote about how terrible customer service seems to be in Ireland. The post garnered a whopping 40 comments from you, which proved I wasn’t the only one feeling irked by careless service industry workers!

Well today I am happy to be able to share not just one great customer service experience but a whole weekend’s worth of kind, caring service stories with you readers. Last weekend Mountaineering Man and I took a little escape to the lovely city of Galway and though we didn’t expect it were treated to some of the best customer service I’ve experienced since moving here.

hotel meyrick

It started when we checked into the Hotel Meyrick, a beautiful historical hotel smack dab in the middle of the city square. We’d booked the hotel because they offered a great value weekend package that included a standard room with full breakfasts for two days as well as dinner one night at their Oyster Grill restaurant for a very reasonable price. When we arrived the friendly check-in clerk told us we’d been upgraded to a junior suite at no additional cost! I appreciated that the Meyrick understands how valuable giving free upgrades can be; if the suite isn’t booked out it’s basically no extra cost to the hotel to give it to a paying customer. The customer leaves happy and recommends the hotel to friends – it’s a simple but effective marketing tool.


bloom 3 When I woke up last Friday morning, I nearly forgot where I was. The sun was blazing, the sky was an endless stretch of clear blue and Dubliners, who typically sport an ensemble of a raincoat and boots, were wearing T-shirts and shorts. For a second I thought I was back in Los Angeles!

bloom 5 bloom 8

The summery sun couldn’t have come at a better time as it was the kick-off for Bloom in the Park 2011, an annual festival of flowers, plants and food sponsored by Bord Bia. Mountaineering Man and I made our way up to Phoenix Park for a look-see and we got an eyeful: tents full of colourful, gorgeous floral arrangements, gardens packed with an array of beautiful produce and a food village fit for, well, a foodie!


fish pie main 2

It’s no big secret: I love to cook. And lately I’ve found my passion for cooking again, thanks in part to having someone else to cook for (co-habitating with Mountaineering Man). I’ve been having a great time making our weeknight meals and have been inspired by a variety of factors like our weekly veg/fruit bags delivered by Home Organics and the local butchers and fishmongers in my new neighborhood.

As I whipped up another weeknight dinner the other day, I started lamenting over the fact that my visa here in Ireland only allows me to work as a freelance journalist because I would absolutely love to cook somewhere. Don’t get me wrong; I love journalism and I’ll always be a writer no matter what. While I don’t necessarily want to be a restaurant chef (plus I have no formal training) in an ideal world I could see myself cooking at a small breakfast/lunchy cafe type place, one that specialises in fresh and locally-sourced ingredients.