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Entries tagged with “Americans in Ireland”.


Table peeps

As my fellow expat and friend Lily said during our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday evening, our friends are family to us as we don’t have our blood relatives nearby. Whether they know it or not, our mates play a very important role in our lives here – far away from our moms, dads, sisters and brothers back home.

This was the spirit behind what my friends Bill and Sharon dubbed Thanksgivingpolooza, a three-day weekend away in the midlands of Ireland to celebrate a very American holiday. The idea sprung about a couple of months ago, when Mountaineering Man considered who we could invite for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Every year we have to choose just a handful of friends, as our space in Dublin simply doesn’t allow for any more. A hunt for a bigger space was launched.

House

After some Google searches and Twitter queries I came across Bishopstown House, a beautifully-restored Georgian estate with multiple bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a roof deck and a massive kitchen. There’s also a private pub and more bedrooms next door in a converted stable house. There is some interesting history behind the building; Michael Jackson chose it to be his Irish estate but he passed away before the refurb was completed. It is now rented out as a holiday home. Sad for the King of Pop, but lucky for us! After a few group emails, I booked it and on Friday we all met up at the property with food, drink and supplies and hunkered down for the weekend. Thanksgivingpolooza 2013 was on!

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Someone recently asked me how I have found the first year of marriage. When this question is posed to newlyweds, I think the answer varies wildly depending on who you ask; some will speak of an extended honeymoon that just seems to keep on going while others will express surprise at how it wasn’t what he/she expected it to be (this could be good or bad, depending on the cause(s) of the surprise. Of course there are a million other answers in between.

For me, the first year of marriage to Mountaineering Man has continued to solidify the bond that was initiated on our first date just over three years ago. I’ve always wanted a partner in life, someone who truly accepts me – wobbly bits and all – and who shares similar values but also inspires new perspective and change. Someone I feel secure with; a person who can stand his ground but also considers there’s a different way to look at something.

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Our first year hasn’t been easy; as you read in my previous post, his mother is unwell and we’ve spent a number of weekends staying with his family who live two hours away. We’re always rushing to get basic chores done like cleaning the house (which we get to every few weeks these days!) and the worry of the situation has led to many sleepless nights – insomnia is rampant in our house lately! Some days we’re like two grumpy toddlers who desperately need a nap, but instead of throwing ourselves on the ground in a heap of tears we’ll snap at each other and slam a few doors to make a point (ahem, that would be more me than MM, I must admit).

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The west of Ireland – with all its wind and rain and general bi-polar weather – holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I had my first weekend getaway (a mini-break, as Bridget Jones would say) with Mountaineering Man and where he proposed to me in February of last year.

So to celebrate our engagement anniversary and both of our birthdays (he’s a Valentine’s baby, just like my mom!), we headed west. We first hit Galway, where we strolled around the cobblestone streets, caught an impromptu show by some talented buskers and then feasted on beautiful salads at Kai. MM had a smoked chicken salad, which came with rustic field greens, smoked almonds, red cabbage. I opted for the goat cheese curd salad with blood oranges, toasted hazelnuts and lots of lovely greens. Both came with Kai’s addictive moist-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside brown bread. The food was fresh and innovative and the décor was rustic and charming. We’ll be back!

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I’m guessing there’s quite a few of you who haven’t yet finished your Christmas shopping, so I’m offering the gift of recommendations – none of which requires you to go to a busy shopping centre (that’s a gift in and of itself, no?). It’s also a round-up of some of my favourite places and things of 2012, so here’s hoping this will inspire some of you and also help out with your last-minute gift search!

The Gift of Eating Out: Asador Restaurant Voucher

This new Southside restaurant has everything: A beautiful, elegant but not-too-formal atmosphere, a stunning bar with fantastic cocktails and a great wine & beer selection, incredible food and hard-to-beat service. I recently had the opportunity do have a nice, long dinner there with a friend and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in Dublin all year.

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Someone asked me the other day if I’m settling back into reality after the wedding and honeymoon. Though we’ve only been back to work for about a month, things have been so mad busy it feels like we’ve been back forever. The events of last month almost seem like a faint memory, like they happened a long, long time ago.

As we married in Tuscany, we decided to stay in Italy for our honeymoon. My sister and her husband joined us for the first part of it, and the four of us rented a house in Praiano, a small town which sits on the famed Amalfi Coast. And for the second half Mountaineering Man and I stayed at a hotel in Positano.

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Besides the incredible ocean views from our cliff side residences, the most memorable part of our honeymoon was the food. Italians have such a gift for creating the most flavourful, beautiful dishes out of very simple ingredients. One of our favourite meals was at a small family-run restaurant right by the sea in Praiano called Trattoria da Armandino; we loved it so much we ate there three times. I had a lovely handmade pasta dish made with beautiful, fresh-caught clams and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Though there’s no visible sauce, the pasta tasted of the sea – salty, briny and savoury. Everything was cooked perfectly; the pasta al dente, the clams juicy and bursting with flavour. MM devoured his simple fresh anchovies, which he deemed the best meal of the honeymoon.

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newspaper boy

I got my first job when I was 12 years old as a paper girl for the local newspaper, the [now defunct] Temple City Times. Every week the company would drop off 75 newspapers and I’d have to roll each one, secure it with a rubber band and if it was raining, put it into a plastic sleeve. Once they were ready to go I’d put them neatly into my canvas bag and hop on my bicycle to make the deliveries.

The rest of the delivery crew was all boys and they’d sling their big canvas bags casually over the handlebars of their bikes. But I found this too awkward; the weight of 75 papers was just too much for me to be able to balance it on my handlebars. So I had to wear the bag – which was essentially a big parka with a large pouch on each side to hold the papers. Even though the bag was designed to be worn exactly this way, it wasn’t the most stylish accessory and I looked like a complete spaz wearing this potato-sack parka/ bag thing.

One day when I was at the Temple City Times office to pick up my [paltry] paycheck, one the paperboys asked me why I always delivered all my papers. “You know that out of those 75 papers, only 15 are subscribers. The rest are just free papers you have to give out so people will sign up for a subscription.” He then went on to tell me that he only delivered the subscription papers and threw the rest away, because “no one would know.”

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mexi salsa

While some people find cooking to be the most stressful chore in the world, I find it relaxing and therapeutic. It’s something that sets me at ease and reenergizes my spirit, at the risk of sounding melodramatic! To me, there are few things in life more enjoyable than dabbling in the kitchen with some piano music in the background (Dustin O’Halloran is a new favorite, thanks to my friend Aoife for the recommendation!) with a glass of wine in one hand and a spatula in the other.

Life has been quite hectic for Mountaineering Man and me lately; it seems every weekend is booked with long-standing plans or some sort of obligation so it was a much-welcome relief when we found ourselves with no plans last Sunday. We went to Chapters Bookstore for a bit of browsing and then stopped into a cafe for coffee. For dinner we thought we’d hit one of the Mexican places in town, but found all four of them to be closed! So we did one better and hit the supermarket where we gathered some avocados, tortillas, tomatoes and a few other bits and headed home to cook.

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Dealing with any government agency or office in the United States, at least in my experience, is an absolute nightmare. If you’re calling on the telephone, forget the naïve notion that you’ll actually get a human being on the other end; the truth is you’ll end up going through a series of automated communications designed to never, ever connect you with anything other than a taunting, recorded message. It’s like the digital equivalent of a garden maze, except there is no exit.

And don’t even get me started on the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), where people go to slowly spiral into mental insanity from excruciating waiting periods and the miles of red tape it takes to do simple tasks like getting a driver’s license, renewing your vehicle registration or filing paperwork to sell your car. People who work at the DMV are a whole other species as well. Generally they are intentionally rude, pissed-off types who seem to take great pleasure in toying with their hapless victims customers.* If you have to accomplish anything at the DMV you need to block out the entire day because you’ll be there under those Vitamin D-draining fluorescent lights, listening to an automated voice calling out numbers (none of which will be yours) all…day..long.

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westport027 I know I’m turning Irish because this is yet another blog post about the weather, and everyone knows that the Irish are obsessed with weather. But it’s snowing here. Snowing. Considering I hail from a place where it never snows, I can’t NOT write about it.

Waking up to see a winter wonderland outside your window is something us Angelenos only dream of, so when it happened the other day I was as giddy as a kid at Christmas. As I pulled back the curtains I could see that everything had a good dusting of lovely white snow and as the sun rose the powder sparkled like flecks of sparkly diamonds. I actually gasped at the sight. Of course as I came to find out in the coming day, marveling at the snow from the comfort of my hotel room is totally different than the reality of being in and dealing with the cold wet stuff outside.

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When I visited friends in this area October of last year, the idea of actually living here was barely a twinkle in my eye. I’d wanted for some time to move abroad, and as a travel journalist doing a fair amount of globetrotting I was always considering the various places I visited as a potential place to land.

About half-way through my 10-day visit, it dawned on me that maybe Ireland could be the place. After all I have a good number of friends here (when I was in college in San Francisco I lived with a gang of Irish and we kept in touch all these years), it is an English-speaking country and it’s in Europe. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day and I was sitting with my friend Sinead on the lovely patio of her cosy Irish country house when the idea first sprang to life. Maybe I could move here, continue my freelance writing, and get a little apartment in town…my brain buzzed with the excitement of possibilities.

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