Archive | July, 2012

X-treme Reader Love

28 Jul

Can I just take a quick moment to say how proud I am that the time and energy I put into this blog has actually come back to reward me…in the form of hot sauce.

Yes, I know that may seem strange to many, but to my friends and family who listened to my cries for spicy food here in Ireland, I have been given what I deem is possibly the hottest hot-sauce I have ever tasted. My mother sent me some very hot hot-sauce recently, but this recent sauce is so hot, in fact, that it is more than worth promoting it here:

understated label

I have taken lately to putting it on my toast in the morning before laying on the rashers and black and white pudding for a sort of spicy irish breakfast sandwich. It is so good that it brings tears…literally…to my eyes…tears of spicy joy (and a little pain).

Thanks a million guys!


Emo Gas

25 Jul

Why do these gas stations crack me up so much?:

“the price of gas makes me wanna die…”

Because I’m pretty sure that the people behind the name had no idea that “Emo” was a descriptive term for an ultra-hip music subgenre and fashion style characterized by depressed teens with eye-obsuring hairstyles singing punk derived songs about death and suicide and other depressing angst-ridden melodrama.

I laugh everytime I drive past one of these stations thinking that I’d go inside and find some kid sneering at me through his bangs saying something like “you know you’re gonna kill us all with climate change driving that gas guzzling machine out there…”

A Double Scoop of Martello

22 Jul

It is only fair that I point out that the view I landed into last week was not our regular view from the house in Ennis.  No, last week we spent in New Quay – in the rugged, wild Burren area of County Clare.  It is set in rough and rocky terrain that holds a unique beauty known to inspire poets and artists – and lately the inspiration seems to be in culinary form.

We are three houses down from some of the freshest and best seafood at the (locally) famous Linane’s Lobster Bar.  It is a destination that draws boats in from Galway and Lahinch to pull up at the pier next to the boats that come in with the catch.  Our girls go down to look at the rare blue Lobster kept down there amongst the ones that will end up on the table later.

The weather all week was warm and dry but mostly gray until Friday afternoon when the sun burst out and Linane’s was jumping.

Earlier the weather was still nice enough for a stroll down to the end of the point where there stands a round tower built in the early 1800s to defend the coast against Napoleon.  The tower is one of many across Europe called Martello towers after the Italian Mortello towers, and were not typically built on the west coast of Ireland, but I guess they were worried enough about him coming to Galway that they built a couple over here.

There is a rope in one of the window openings and some chips of wood stuck in the cracks between the stones so if you are industrious and brave, you can climb up the side and get into the tower – apparently the cannon is still on top.  We didn’t find out because our girls were a little nervous when they got about half way up, and their dad is old enough to know better than to try.  Nonetheless, it was a good adventure.

Even better is the fact that the only other property out on the point near the tower happens to be an Ice Cream Factory!  There used to be a dairy farm here, and the owners started making ice-cream on the side, but the ice cream was so good and the demand for it so high that they stopped the dairy business and put all the cows working for the ice cream.

My girls claim it is the best ice cream they’ve ever had….and they are certainly experts!

To be able to work out of the Burren this week and spend the extra time with the family in one of the most amazing locations in the world was a real treat.  The ice cream was just one of the many memorable moments….too many to count.

Put me on your t-shirt

19 Jul

It’s a joke on the postcards and t-shirts in the tourist shop: “Irish Traffic Jam” and the cartoon sheep or cows or you name the livestock are all blocking the cars.

..but no joke, the only traffic on my commute today was this:

When I came around the bend and saw them coming at me, I immediately pulled in – and because I know that the engine can spook the sheep, I shut mine down and waited as the farmer driving the red car approached with his arm out the window slapping the side of his door to keep the sheep moving along.

I don’t mind all the traffic because this is where I end up:

It is something of a miracle to me that I can spend the day on the phone to a dozen countries working in a race with daylight to get as much of the project done in my day – and at the end of it, I slow down to let the sheep go by and I get to look out over Galway Bay and think about how different this is to our life in the States….and smile.

Summer in Town

16 Jul

Summer means festivals and fairs in every Irish town and Ennis is right in there having hosted our own street festival the other weekend.  It was a soft day, gray and overcast, but dry and mild and not particularly cold.

The parking lot behind the shops was made into a pedestrian mall with tents set up hawking local products, drummers drumming, and street musicians busking, stilt-walkers lurching around and…….a duck race!

No not real ducks, plastic ducks…..apparently from Canada:

The duck race was a way for the local businesses to sponsor the festival and have a bit of fun….and I’d say every local business had a duck in the race.  We were supporting the duck racing for the Queens Hotel.  In fact, we helped show the duck around town.

visualizing race day

After we scoped out the course we headed back to the Hotel.

training is thirsty work

But in preparation for the race, we had to go for a pint in Cruises, the cozy traditional pub adjacent to the hotel where Teresa our favorite bartender gave the duck the proper race preparation of a duck-sized pint of Guiness.

Guiness is good for you

The race itself was exciting, but we were not victorious.  Nonetheless, the town is so scenic I had to put in a shot of the guys in kayaks catching all the losing contestant ducks as they floated past the finish.

The real winners for the day were our kids who felt so free and comfortable in town that they ran off into the crowds and said they would come back later.  Our “lost” plan was simply to meet back at the Queens Hotel if we couldn’t find each other, and the amazing thing about a small town street fair is that we never needed that plan. 

You eventually bump into everyone when you walk around a town like Ennis.  Like the race ducks themselves, we couldn’t have picked a nicer spot to land.

Fair Weather, Friend

14 Jul

Yes, I’m back on the weather again. Simply because I am getting tired of telling people that I really don’t mind the Irish weather. But without fail, the second or third question everyone asks me when they find out I moved to Ennis from San Francisco is “what do I think of the miserable weather here”.

I am getting a little tired of telling the Irish people how awesome their weather actually is if you stop hunching against it and look up at it once in a while.

This photo is representative of the kind of thing I see regularly on my drive home from work in Limerick. In this case, it is a half ruined tower house near the Caherdavin offramp with the most amazing sunset taking place behind it.

The skies here are never dull, always changing, and invariably I can find something beautiful in them. So the next time someone looks to me for commiseration about the weather here, I think I”ll just send them to read this blog.


11 Jul

Emmigration, immigration, seems like in Ireland these days, every second person I talk to is either on the move, wishes they were, or would be, if they could only get out of the situation they’re stuck in.  The phenomenon ought to be called omni-gration, everyone is headed to a better place.

It is that sense of place, sense of belonging, sense of home…these are the things that migrants leave behind.  These are the intangible things that you can’t sense when you’re surrounded by them, like a scent that you only find familiar when you come back to it, but never really noticed when you were there.

Moving place is exciting and full of adventure, but there is a bit of disorientation that comes with uprooting yourself and changing countries.  So those of you who live on top of your roots, cherish them even if you can’t feel them because as the saying goes: you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.

But if, like us, you have cast off the lines, remember that when you land, wherever it is that you land, look around you, there will be a whole new sense of comfort, welcome and belonging waiting to be discovered if you keep your eyes – or ears – open to it.

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