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Moving to Ireland « An American in Ireland

Moving to Ireland


Volunteers at CrossCare

 

Breaking bread is one of the most ancient and time-honoured ways of bringing people together. When people sit down to share in the comfort of eating a meal together, very little else matters. It’s about nourishing the body and taking pleasure in some good food with those in your community.

This is the thinking behind the cafes at Crosscare, a non-for-profit organisation that provides services to the homeless and disadvantaged. Unlike soup kitchens, the Crosscare cafes are beautifully decorated and look and feel like a lovely restaurant – complete with a blackboard of specials and wait staff. They are also open to the public, which means you may have a table of office professionals next to one with an elderly widower who comes for lunch every day. The prices are cheap and the same for everyone: €3 for a three-course hot lunch and even less for a sandwich or full breakfast.

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I learned about Crosscare a few months after I started working for Kellogg’s, because we donate lots of cereal to all of their facilities through our Breakfast for Better Days program. The bulk of the food is donated and there are many people who volunteer their time to keep the place running smoothly.

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Val

As promised, I closed the competition at midnight last night and did a Vine video of me selecting the winner. There were 68 comments in total (made complicated by the fact that my blog template counts “newer” and “older” comments and splits them up: 1-18, then 1-50. So I had to reconfigure them to be numbered 1-68, and then put that figure into a random number generator. The first winner wasn’t qualified (she’s based in the U.S.) so I did a second draw and the winner is….VAL!

Congratulations – you will receive your beautiful new stand mixer in the next two weeks! Thanks for everyone who entered – I loved all the comments, what memories!

secretary_monkey_on_the_phone Dear Eircom,

I just wanted to write you a note to say “thanks” for the joy that is dealing with your customer service reps – a delight that I had the pleasure of experiencing for a whole two hours this morning. Of course by “delight” I actually mean an excruciating, dying-a-slow-death type pain that’s about as pleasurable as sliding down a razor blade into a pool of salty lemon juice.

I rang because I need phone service and broadband, which I assumed would be a simple enough request considering you are a phone and Internet company. But as they say, assume just makes an ass of u and me and never has this little nugget of wisdom been more true! I first spoke with a woman named Esther, who went over the offers with me. She said I could get broadband and a landline that covered my needs for €41.99 per month for the first six months and then €46.70 per month afterward. She also mentioned there would be a €29.99 connection fee for broadband, which I thought was rather excessive and that it would take at least 10 business days to connect both the phone and broadband lines and that they’d have to send someone out.

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Clontarf Swim Man Sorry for the lack of posts lately; between being busy with a slew of copywriting projects and trying to enjoy the summer, time has slipped away from me lately. Both Mountaineering Man and I are amazed at how fast time flies (is it August already?!) -we’ve both been swamped with a variety of work and home-related matters.

It seems like only weeks ago that I moved to Dublin, though it’s been three months already (!!). Some days I feel I’ve been here for years while on others I still feel very much a square peg in a round hole. I’m very familiar with parts of Dublin now and even drive quite confidently down the busy corridors of the city. But there are other areas of Dublin where I feel completely lost and just one wrong turn can have me feeling like I’ve crossed over into another dimension.

Clontarf Bathing

As for developing my Irish-ness, I realized the other day that there are certain Irish habits that have become second nature to me. I use the word “nice” to describe food – something I found so odd when I first moved here. In America, people would never say “This lasagna is so nice!” Nice is reserved to describe people or animals – the way someone acts versus the way food tastes. Another noticeable change is that my adjectives have turned into nouns. Instead of saying, “This weather is crappy,” I now say “This weather is crap!” 

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When I told friends a few months back that I would be attending the wedding of Mountaineering Man’s sister, they all asked me the same question.

Have you ever been to an Irish wedding?

As soon as I’d informed them that I had not, the warnings came fast and furious.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Drink loads of water throughout the day and pace yourself with the drinking!

Grab a sandwich between the church and the reception!

Take a few breaks up in your hotel room if you can!

Apparently Irish weddings can go on for hours and some even go for days. And while the wedding of Nessa and Cathal was perhaps quite mild by Irish standards, it certainly didn’t disappoint by any standard. The church service began at 1 p.m. and MM and I left the reception at about 2:45 a.m. – a total of nearly 14 hours. I heard a handful of guests partied until 5:30 a.m., so suffice it to say it was a proper Irish wedding!

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apt view When I first moved to Ireland, I chose Drogheda for a couple of reasons: One was because I have friends in the area and the other because I wanted to try something different from the big cities I was so used to. For the last year and one month, it’s been home to me, but the time has come for me to move on.

In about two weeks’ time, I will be moving south…to Dublin. I suppose in some ways it was inevitable; I was born in Tokyo, grew up in Los Angeles and went to college in San Francisco and I’ve always thrived on the culture and variety that cities offer. But in all honesty when I moved to Drogheda I had no agenda or plan to move anywhere else. I settled in and the only real decision I made was to go with the flow and really just let life happen.

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glory daze Back in my early college days, my friend Cat and I were recruited to be extras in a movie while having coffee at a neighborhood café in Santa Cruz, California. We were told to be at the beach boardwalk at 5 a.m. the next day and to wear casual attire. We’d be paid $50 for a full day’s work and be fed breakfast and lunch, which we could eat with the cast. To us starving college students, it sounded like a fun way to spend the day.

Being on set with all the cameras and lights and rigs was a thrill and when the actors came out we giggled with excitement. The biggest star of the film was ‘80s child actress Alyssa Milano, who at the time was trying to break her good-girl image. I remember she wore a skimpy outfit and smoked cigarettes and made out with one her male costars in between takes. That male costar was a very wet-behind-the-ears Ben Affleck, sporting a bitchin’ Vanilla Ice hairdo. (It should be noted that many years later, we realized the cast was actually quite impressive: Matt Damon, Matthew McConaughey, Brendan Fraser – all of whom were complete unknowns back then – as well as the late, great Spalding Gray were all in the movie). We soaked in the atmosphere and did everything we could to get an understanding of the storyline, but because we were just extras no one told us anything. We had no idea what the movie was about but we didn’t care. We were just happy to be there.

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In a word, Ireland is scrappy. It’s determined, at times aggressive and definitely rough around the edges. Coming from the shiny, glossy land of perfection that is Los Angeles, it’s a relief to live in a place where being flawed is perfectly acceptable…even on television.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I slag off the Xposé girls for their oft-colorful choices in wardrobe and haphazard-looking makeup ‘dos. But in truth it’s actually refreshing to see normal women on television, especially considering all the big entertainment news shows in the U.S. are hosted by waifish talking heads who spend more time starving themselves than researching stories (on that note, I have to ask: Can Giuliana Rancic get any thinner?). I like that Karen Koster often looks like she did her own hair and makeup, and I don’t mean that in an insulting way. She looks real, like someone I’d actually know – not like the diva with a team of stylists and airbrushers at her beckon call.

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castle lake

Yesterday as Mountaineering Man and I watched a food and travel program that profiled outdoor dining, he turned to me and said, “We’ve never dined al fresco, have we?” I replied no, we had not, and that the only time I’d ever eaten outdoors in Ireland was on the two gloriously sunny and warm days back in May of last year – before we’d met.

I still remember those two days as if they were last week. I woke up to a ray of light filtering through my curtains and into my bedroom, and I knew that day was different than any other I’d experienced in Ireland. Instead of tiptoeing on my freezing floor toward the well-used heater (a routine most days), I threw the covers off and felt natural warmth…from the sun! Immediately I rang my friends. They, too, were already awake with excitement over this freakishly warm weather. We made plans to meet in town and quickly got ready; we understood that any doddling could result in missing this fleeting phenomenon.

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Don’t apologize for your shortcomings as a cook. Making food is an assertion of capability. Even a bad meal, made for another, tells that person you will try, that you will come back stronger and better informed.- Tom Chiarella, Esquire

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Matt Wright’s Buckwheat Pancakes, a favorite weekend treat.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve always known how to cook, though that can’t possibly be an accurate statement. But from a very young age I understood the joy of cooking for others, thanks to parents who taught my sister and me that most important value.

I think we were just 8 years old when they bought us a kids’ cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens. It contained recipes for things like “Hot Dog Roll Ups” and “Super Supper Salad,” easy meals that kids could put together. I think the most complicated of the bunch was a recipe for a “Creamy Lemony Pie,” which consisted of a store-bought, graham cracker crust and a filling made entirely of condensed milk, whipped cream and lemon juice. The point of the book wasn’t to turn us kids into gourmands, but to teach us how to put a meal together and, more importantly, the pleasure and satisfaction of feeding others.

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