Entries tagged with “Dating Irish Men”.


Happy

“Did you put a clean tea towel in the kitchen?”

It’s a Saturday afternoon, and Mountaineering Man and I are doing a full house cleaning in preparation for his parents’ visit. While I’m in the bedroom primping the bedcovers, he’s finishing up the kitchen.

“Yep, all done!” he says.

“Is it the dark blue one with the stripes?” I ask.

“Yep!” says he.

“Noooo – not that one,” I said, before grabbing another tea towel from the hot press and running off to the kitchen.

MM looked confused, and understandably so. The blue striped tea towel was clean, and fresh from the press. But what he doesn’t know is that this particular tea towel is a mockery of a tea towel, or any towel for that matter. It has a large weave and a very rough surface and is cheaply made. When you wipe it across a wet surface, it doesn’t soak up any moisture; it merely spreads the water around, creating big streaks of wetness across the counter – the kind that dries into a pattern of unattractive water spots, ones you have to then wipe over again. To add insult to injury it lost its rectangular form after the first wash; it’s now just a sad, shapeless version of what it once was, when I first spied it in the kitchen aisle at TK Maxx and thought it would go nicely with some navy oven mitts I already had.

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038

When I was 15 years old, I worked after school and weekends at a girls’ clothing shop called Wet Seal. It was the perfect job for me at that age; as a Southern California teenager, I spent most of my free time at the mall anyway, so getting paid and receiving big discounts on Wet Seal purchases made working there a no-brainer!

I enjoyed the customer service work; I didn’t even mind cleaning out the dressing rooms and organising the hundreds of items of clothing in the shop. And I did really well. I always hit my target numbers and frequently made the top sales slot for the days I worked.

However, my manager never seem to notice or acknowledge my contributions and this was a great source of stress and irritation for me. Her name was Heather, and she was a typical LA blonde; your basic, obnoxious Valley Girl nightmare. Whether it was jealousy or flat-out stupidity (or both), she never complimented my work and often gave me a hard time about the smallest missteps.

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Engagement Cormac M

“Lady, where ya from?”

His voice was raspy. And from the redness of his watery eyes and deep lines across his leathery skin, it was obvious he was from around these parts – these parts being the remote and blustery reaches of Leenane, a tiny village surrounded by mountains somewhere on the long inland road between Galway and Westport. He caught a trace of my accent as I ordered at the bar and he wanted to know from where it originated.

A few minutes after I’d satisfied his curiosity and returned to our table by the fireplace, the old man came over and pulled up a chair. It was about two in the afternoon, and Tom (he formally introduced himself shortly before hunkering down next to Mountaineering Man) had probably been at Gaynors pub most of the morning along with the half-dozen other men who lined the bar drinking and chatting up the middle-aged woman who pulled the pints there. We assumed he and the gang warmed the barstools at Gaynors most days, and any new folk was a welcome distraction to the same ol’ same old.

Engagement Clare

Me at Gaynors Pub. You can see Tom sitting behind me on the barstool to the left; moments later he came and sat with us.

“Lady, are you married?” Tom asked. When I told him no, he turned to Mountaineering Man  and asked, “Are you gonna marry her?”

“Please God, one of these days!” MM replied, laughing out loud at the bravado of this complete stranger. With that, MM finished his Guinness and we bid farewell to Tom before heading on our way. In the car we chuckled about the inquisitive, funny man and chatted about the odd bunch of regulars at the bar. We’d stopped at Gaynors last year on our way to Westport and enjoyed a quiet pint, fantastic toasted cheese sandwiches and bowls of homemade vegetable soup. The bar is actually well-known in the area; scenes from the 1990 film The Field were shot here. But more than anything we fell in love with the warmth of the rustic pub and the authentic locals who frequent the place.

Engagement Leenane Engagement Sambo

The village of Leenane; The Gaynors’ incredible toasties!

About 20 minutes later we parked on a shoulder along the windy road back to Westport and strapped on our hiking boots for a ramble. MM wanted me to see a hidden beach at the base of the Mweelrea mountains, one of his favourite areas to climb. He promised it would be lovely, despite the muddy bog we had to trudge through to reach it. With a pole to keep me steady I dutifully slogged through the flooded grass and followed MM, who occasionally turned around to see if I was still upright.

Engagement StonesEngagement Sheep

Skipping stones; the only witness was a lone sheep in the distance.

About 15 minutes later we reached the tiny shore, which was as breathtaking as he’d described. I immediately started looking for flat stones to skip across the glassy water, something I loved doing as a child. In fact I was so distracted with my search for the perfect skipping stone I didn’t pay much attention to what MM was doing; he had his back to me and seemed to be fiddling with something. Next thing I knew he appeared in front of me, with a blue satin box in one hand and said, “I need to ask you a question.”

And then, after getting down on one knee, “Will you marry me?”

Engagement Mountain

The small beach area where MM proposed – what a view!

Though I’d imagined this moment in various incarnations over the last few months, I never thought I’d burst into a ball of tears – but that’s exactly what I did. After a few more sobs I managed a quiet but firm “Yes.”

Maybe auld Tom is psychic, it’s hard to say. I certainly could not have predicted that a mere 23 months after I moved from Los Angeles to Ireland – a single girl taking a leap of faith – I would be engaged to Cormac, the love of my life.

Pho Beach

Took this during my shed time yesterday, which involved a long walk on the beach with my friend Ela.

When I first moved to Ireland, I observed a noticeable divide between men and women when it came to socalising. Every time I’d go to the pub with my friends (back when I used to live in Drogheda), the men would separate from the women seconds after walking into the bar. For the first hour or so, it was guy talk on one side of the room and girl talk on the other. Once all the catching-up was done, everyone mingled.

On the surface, I suppose this scene would seem a bit antiquated. And if I’m honest, I found it slightly jarring at first. But lately I’m beginning to appreciate this understanding that guys need their designated guy time and girls need theirs – I’m not sure why but the Irish seem to get this better than most Americans I know. There’s no offence taken or need to make excuses or apologise, which is refreshing.

easter cupcakes

Mountaineering Man’s dad meets up with a couple of his buddies at a café every weekday morning. He explains it as a time to just talk shop with the fellas. MM’s mother has a regular weekly card game with the ladies. My dad has lunch twice a week with a couple of his friends, and my mother has dinner with her Zumba class friends after a workout once or twice a week. I like that they don’t feel the need to make their plans opposite each other’s; there’s none of this “Well since you’re having a guys’ night I’ll go out with my friends” tit-for-tat style competitiveness; they understand that each person having his/her own time makes them better as a couple.

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Cali 116

Considering that we’ve been together for over a year and are living together, I suppose it’s odd that my family hadn’t met Mountaineering Man before a few weeks ago.

But that’s one of the downsides of living abroad, thousands of miles away from my parents, sister Anne, brother-in-law Juan and best friends. Though I’d kept everyone informed via emails and phone conversations, it’s always only half the story because despite Facebook photo albums and blog posts there’s no way to convey the whole truth about someone or something – especially one that is particularly significant. And because I’m immersed in my life here, I often forget that no matter how much I’ve shared with everyone back in LA they’re still not getting the full picture of MM.

Cali 88

Before we left on the big trip, MM took a fair bit of ribbing from his mates. As my father is a Vietnam veteran, his buddy Joe kept making “Meet the Parents” references and joking that my father was going to be keeping an eye on MM’s every move. Despite all the teasing, he was eager to meet my family and as we pulled up to my parents’ house he seemed relaxed and ready to Meet the Kleinedlers!

For the first half of the LA trip, we stayed at my folks’ house and within 10 minutes of walking in the door my mom had the photo albums out and was showing MM my baby pictures and telling childhood stories. Later that night we gathered at Z’s sushi, the place where my family goes nearly every other week for dinner. When I lived in LA, I knew if I went to Z’s on a Friday night, there’d be a good chance my sister and her husband or my parents or all four would be there, sitting at the corner of the sushi bar and bantering with Toshi the sushi chef. It’s just our place and has been for years.

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Today’s post is by the one and only Mountaineering Man, who has recently found himself in charge of the cooking at Casa la MM and An American in Ireland.

MM Cooking Between the living room and the hallway, in our apartment, there is a small, clean but intimidating room. Intimidating in parts, mind you. Not the bins or the dishwasher. Or the fridge.

But our kitchen is full of cupboards, cubby holes crammed with pots, strainer things, many, many bowls (large and small, and in between). Sharp knives abound.

And that’s before I get to the entire drawer full of exotic mashers and dicers, prong-type things and ladles. Way, way too much stuff for me to ever use, even in a lifetime of cooking. That’s about as much as I knew about our kitchen.

Until this week.

Clare is working a new contract at present, so our previous dinner arrangement has been turned on its head. Instead of dutifully turning up each evening to some seriously good  dishes – listed here in other posts – circumstances have now pushed me in front of the cooker.

A declaration – I used to cook before.

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Clare and Cormac To say a lot has happened over the last 12 months is an understatement, because one year ago today I had my first date with Mountaineering Man and life has been a wonderful whirlwind ever since. There have been many firsts since meeting him, from climbing a mountain (remember the snowy trek up Croagh Patrick?) to cohabitation. It’s been one great adventure after another.

Strangely enough it’s the small stuff, like perusing books together at Chapters or watching a movie at home, that hold the most significance for me. I think the Knight in Shining Armor is the easy bit; any guy can buy roses and do the whole candlelit dinner scenario (and to be fair any woman can do the I-wake-up-looking-this-perfect act, at least in the beginning!). It’s harder to find someone who, despite seeing all your imperfections, still thinks you’re pretty damn perfect – and vice versa.

Before meeting MM it was difficult for me to imagine meeting an extraordinary guy to do ordinary things with, if that makes any sense. It wasn’t a decision I’d made consciously or even something I’d acknowledged to myself, but looking back I was definitely at a place where it just didn’t matter anymore. I was relatively happy but exhausted with dating; perhaps I was simply resigned to living on my own and didn’t have the energy to really try and change what I thought was my inevitable future. In retrospect it makes me sad that I didn’t care, though at the time I felt fine with it. Despite knowing a good number of couples, at times it was hard to fathom how two people ever got together – with so many variables in the equation, it felt impossible. I used to joke to friends that I’d better start collecting cats so that I could live out that age-old cliché of the Crazy Cat Lady later in my life.

Turns out I was wrong, which in this case I’m more than happy to admit. In MM I’ve found a partner and best friend, someone I can be myself with and who gives me a sense of peace. He puts up with my love of Food Network (though he’s recently admitted to becoming a fan of Barefoot Contessa) and I tolerate his croaky Tom Waits impersonations (it’s enough to make dogs howl with pain!); I pretend not to notice that he always puts the cutlery back in the wrong drawer and he accepts that I cannot follow a map no matter how many times he reviews it with me. It’s a happy yin and yang, the two of us.

In a few weeks I’ll be taking MM home to meet my family and friends in Los Angeles, yet another big step in our story. Honestly, I can’t wait.

Happy Anniversary, Mountaineering Man. :) xo

pain perdu 2

Fabulous Pain Perdu

When I mentioned earlier that MM has become a Barefoot Contessa fan, I wasn’t joking. Though he makes fun of Ina Garten’s at-times comical television life – the fabulous gay friends like model T.R., florist Michael and decorator/photographer Miguel; her husband Jeffrey’s obsession with chicken; everyone’s overuse of the word “fabulous!” – he’s always asking me to make dishes he sees on the show. [Editor’s note: Personally I’d give anything to lunch with Ina and her gay posse. Ina, if you’re reading this CALL ME!] He recently became obsessed with Ina’s pain perdu, which she made for her fabulous friends in one episode. I made an adapted version of it a couple of weeks ago and ended up making it for FOUR days in a row as MM just couldn’t get enough of the stuff. (I should note that we had an entire loaf of brioche bread to use up so it was no bother). It’s the perfect sweet-treat brunch dish!

(Serves 2)

1 egg

2 tablespoons heavy cream

5 tablespoons milk

Juice from half an orange

Zest from half an orange

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon caster sugar

4 slices of brioche bread

Couple of handfuls of slivered almonds

Butter

Strawberries or whatever fruit you like for topping

Icing sugar

In large shallow dish, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, milk, orange juice, zest, honey and sugar until thoroughly mixed together. In another shallow dish, add the silvered almonds and set aside.

Now you’re ready to make the pain perdu. Melt a couple of teaspoons of butter into a large sauté pan over medium heat. Take a slice of brioche, dip both sides into the liquid mixture and then dip one side into the silvered almonds. Place the bread almond side down in the hot pan and cook for a few minutes or until the almonds start to turn golden. Flip and cook for another few minutes on the other side. Depending on the size of your pan, you can do 2-3 or even four slices at once. If you’re doing them one by one, simply place in a warm oven (100 C) while you’re finishing the rest.

To plate: Put two slices on plate, top with strawberries (I macerated mine in some orange juice and a bit of sugar) or whatever fruit you like, then sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve immediately.

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There are some things so precious you want to keep them all to yourself, safely tucked away from prying eyes and inevitable opinions and questions. There’s safety in keeping something secret; it’s a preservation method, a way to keep something protected and allow space for growth without influence or distraction.

But this is a blog about my life here in Ireland, and it would be unfair to readers and downright untruthful to hold back on something as significant as this any longer. While I did slip in a little mention a couple of posts back, I have yet to elaborate. So here goes [*takes deep breath*]: I’m in love with an Irish man.

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Irish Men

The first Irish guy I really noticed was a barman named Martin. It was 1996, and I had just moved to a grungy apartment above a carpet store on Clement Street in San Francisco’s Richmond district. My local pub became the Front Room, which was conveniently across the street from my front door and where Martin happened to work. His dark eyes, adorable Dublin accent and mischievous grin instantly drew me in. My best friend Cat and I became fixtures on the pub’s weathered barstools every Tuesday and Thursday, Martin’s nights behind the bar. I don’t remember how many times he “lost” our ever-growing bar tab, which was fine considering I was living on student loans and barely able to make ends meet.

It was all very innocent. Although he was an outrageous flirt, he didn’t make a move for a very, very long time. Some would say he acted more like a protective big brother than a romantic suitor but I fell hard nonetheless. Finally one evening he walked out from behind the bar and took the empty stool next to mine. I don’t remember what we were talking about but at one point he reached over, cupped my face with his hands and gave me a long, slow kiss. The room seemed to go quiet and my cheeks turned scarlet. I barely had enough time to savor the moment when Basil, the other bartender on duty, leaned over and whispered, “That’s Martin’s girlfriend sitting on the other side of him!” As if in slow motion my gaze swept over to my left to see Martin, who’d already turned his back to me at this point, holding hands with a blonde woman I’d never seen before. By some small miracle she hadn’t witnessed his betrayal. As my vision grew blurry with tears I slipped out of the bar and vowed never to return. I found out later that his girlfriend had been in Ireland and had recently moved to be with him. Funny, he’d never mentioned her before.

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