Archive for December, 2011

Beach 10 Many, many Christmases ago my mother gave me a little picture with a message inside: If you can see it in your mind, you can find it in your life. It was a small stocking stuffer, something she’d found somewhere probably months before Christmas and stashed away in her gift drawer for safe keeping.

This was years before The Secret and all that power of positive thinking stuff became trendy, but the message in that small frame conveyed the same meaning. I took it to heart, and every once in a while I’d look at it and try to picture what I wanted; initially it was superficial things like a new car or wardrobe. I’d picture myself in a fabulous new dress and wish for it – a bit childish, really.

Beach 9 Beach 1

Then a couple of years ago I found myself entirely frustrated with my life and wanting to make some major changes. And though I’d lost that framed message somewhere in my many moves I thought a lot about the meaning behind those words. I was fed up with the way things were: work was unfulfilling, dating was downright sufferable and while I had a few good friends I felt they were all moving forward with love and career and I was stuck in a holding pattern.


Lobster Bisque

This Christmas will be my first here in Ireland, since last year I went home to Los Angeles to spend the holidays in my hometown. Though it will be a bit weird being away from home (come to think of it, this will be the first Christmas spent without my own family), I’m looking forward to spending it here with Mountaineering Man and his family.

I suppose in some ways it’s appropriate; ever since I landed here in March 2010, life has been all about embracing change. From adjusting to the cold wet weather to learning loads of Irish slang, I’ve come to realise the best approach is to just roll with it.

It’s been fascinating hearing about all the traditional Christmas foods my Irish friends are looking forward to this weekend – some of which are familiar, some not. Similar to Americans, the Irish love their ham and turkey as the centerpiece of their Christmas dinner table. But here dessert is all about Christmas Pudding, which isn’t what we Yanks know as pudding at all. It’s more like fruitcake, except instead of those hideous candied green cherries popular in the American fruitcake the Irish use raisins and sultanas and nuts. Most make their “puds” – as they call ‘em – about 2-3 months ahead of time because like American fruitcake, they’ll last practically forever.


Panetoni French Toast Irish Food

There is a certain quiet that blankets Dublin in the wintertime. People seem friendlier and less argumentative. Maybe everyone is too busy rubbing their cold hands together for warmth or walking a bit faster to get out of the chill as quickly as possible – no time for quarrelling, just a swift “hiya” and a gracious wave.

The streets are hushed as well. Icy roads warrant a slower, perhaps more gentler slog to school and work. Drivers wave two, maybe even three cars to go ahead in the queue down the one-lane streets and appreciation is shown with a little flash of emergency lights – a sort of lit-up wink for their kindness.

christmas table 2

It could be that people want to slow down so they can take a look at the Christmas decorations in the villages around Dublin. Each seems to have its own big pine tree, decorated with long strands of golden lights and a few rustic ornaments. Some have a nativity set or a Santa Claus while others roll out the enormous candy canes and sleighs packed with gift boxes. The morning frost makes everything glisten as if it had been designed that way. And in the evenings the twinkling lights emit a soft glow, giving the impression of warmth on a cold, dark night.


Sky cinnamon rolls

It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of things I find funny and/or odd in Ireland, and believe me the list expands on an almost-daily basis. Just because I’ve been here for a while now doesn’t mean I understand the bizarrities (<– my own creation) of the Emerald Isle any better than I did when I was fresh off the plane back in March 2010. Here are a few recent discoveries:

Confusing names: I remember the first time someone offered me a flapjack here in Ireland; what I got was not what I would call a flapjack. What we Americans call a flapjack is basically a pancake – an American pancake, mind you, not the thin, crepe-like “pancakes” of Ireland. What people here call a flapjack is basically a soft granola bar to me – a bar made up of oats, with maybe some nuts and/or dried fruit. On a similar note, I recently made some cinnamon rolls for a bake-off, and no one seemed to know what they were. People were calling them everything from morning buns to cakey thing, which is no surprise considering I’ve never seen a cinnamon roll at a bakery in Ireland.

Sky Lake

Speaking of pancakes: I think I’ve written here before about how most of my friends – church-going or not – give up something for Lent. Whether it’s chocolate (a hugely popular sacrifice), bread or alcohol, it seems like everyone is giving up something for these 40 days. So the day before everyone gives up their [fill in the blank], they have what people here call “Pancake Tuesday.” On the evening before Lent begins, people whip up pancakes loaded with all kinds of toppings: chocolate drops, whipped cream, Golden Syrup, marshmallows – you name it, it’s on there. The tradition stems from Shrove Tuesday, which dates back to the early Middle Ages. Back then the church forbade its members from eating meat, eggs and dairy products during Lent, so mammies used up whatever eggs, milk and butter they had left to make pancakes. I doubt they were topped with M&Ms, but as they say you can’t stop progress!