BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Monday, October 31, 2011

Surfacing

This morning I awoke to a glorious stream of sunlight. The air was so clear that it sparkled and I swear the song birds were chorusing for me. The reason for my spectacular morning was that after 5 days of being struck down by the flu, I had woken up fever and pain free! With tender feet I struck out to survey the damage that my decommissioning had wrought.

First... there's my last blog entry, a bit bland, I admit. It was written from the desperation and need to have an entry for last week.

Then there's the house...
A sea of toys scattered on the floor
piles of dirty clothes in every corner
uncorked bottle of wine sitting on the counter (leftover from Brad's thoughtfully prepared soup)
a container of glue spilling out onto the play table
and evidence of spilt tea mixing into the general chaos
the floor, if I could have seen it through the mess, would probably speak of cleaner days.

Nikolai greets me wearing a shirt decorated with the telltale turmeric stains from the Indian dinner Brad had prepared two nights previous, plus some other additions from meals in between. He was excited to see that I was perky after my long time out. His mummy-worry-nightmare from the night before fleeing at the evidence of my arising.


To be fair, Brad had his hands more than full. On top of working, he cooked dinners, prepared breakfasts, lunches, did the shopping, dressed Nikolai in the morning, and got him ready for bed at night. Cleaning up just hadn't really been on his radar, and laundry certainly wouldn't have been anywhere close to the course of navigation. In addition to all that, Brad also did the school run (Irish vernacular for taking kids to and from school. I haven't seen evidence of school buses yet, which means that rush hour is just that much more congested).

I spent the afternoons laying on the couch making sure Nikolai didn't hurt himself, but otherwise inattentive at best, from the fog of my illness. The submarine mother watching her son cut up his toy butterfly into a billion tiny pieces. "Mama, look, it died!"  And the glue globing out onto the table was definitely my fault too, as I supervised arts and crafts with my cups of herbal tea spilling on the floor (twice) on the table (once).

As for Nikolai's nightmare? well, it involved someone climbing in through the window and stealing my cellphone. He was only reassured by Brad checking that it was safely stowed away. I'm not really sure how Nikolai came to worry so much about the cellphone. It was his primary concern too, when we were moving, that the cellphone would be left behind at our old house. It's not like I'm a crackberry addict or anything, though I do generally reach my limit of 200 texts a month, I seldom use the phone for anything else!

However, when questioned a little further, it becomes clear that Nikolai equates our cellphone with our friendships, because "if we don't have the cellphone, then our friends won't know where we are." seen through that set of lenses, perhaps the cellphone is more valuable than anything else we own, because it symbolizes our connection to our friends. And on that note, I think I'll go write down some phone numbers... you know... just in case... 

The photos are of a sweater that I knit, a hat that I crocheted, and a kid that won't simply smile for the camera.  
 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The beaten path

Well, I guess it's a sure sign that we've lived here for quite some time now... the fact that in showing Baba and Deda around we were able to give them the depth and breadth of Ireland... the best that can be offered in a short tour... while hardly covering any new ground ourselves!

So the review of their visit will focus on the places that were new to me... as I've already blogged about Newgrange, Trim, Castletown, NUIM and Galway.

We did cover some new ground worthy of a note... primarily en route to somewhere else.  The first stop off came as a recommendation from a friend... who was called in desperation after we left Galway for Maynooth at 5pm on Thursday. Was there anywhere good to eat about halfway along that route? (Something affordable was the unspoken request). And that was how we found ourselves at Tyrrellspass Castle.  The food was typical of the Irish family restaurant scene, at typical prices, so it suited us just fine. As it turned out, we all ordered the same dish... and in quintessential Irish fashion our veggie lasagna came with a side of garlic bread, roasted potatoes, coleslaw, potato salad and chips (fries). Leading me to wonder what kind of Irish dinner would it be if it didn't come with at least 3 different potato dishes?  And the veggie lasagna was authentic Irish style lasagna... using a bechemel as it's base.

So, if you want to eat in a 14th century Tower Castle at affordable prices, or if you really like potatoes then I would recommend Tyrrellspass Castle as a good place to stop along the M6!
The next day we drove through Wicklow.  Now this is something I've done before... but thus far it's involved laying in the backseat of the car moaning about carsickness (Wicklow is full of one lane roads twisting around the mountain side). This time we drove REALLY  S L O W L Y and I enjoy the journey. We hopped out in the middle of Wicklow National Park to explore the bog mountains, up close and personal. I've included a few photos primarily because it's a pretty amazing sight. Bog is so acidic that very few things are able to grow on it, and it makes for a unique ecosystem. So while the pictures may appear to be showing very dry grass lands, walking on the bog was more akin to walking on a water filled sponge. Slippery and wet. (It was also a wet and windy day, hence the mountains are somewhat obscured by the clouds).
 
Now... as anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows... I ADORE AVOCA.  And this journey through the winding roads of Wicklow ended up at the birthplace of my favorite shop. The shop is named after the original woolen mills located in the rural town of Avoca. It still has a working mill, weaving away the colourful blankets and scarves that they are famous for. It also has a cafe serving it's signature nutritious and delicious food.  (And a bit of excitement on the AVOCA front... our local farmer's market friends has been commissioned to grow organic, heirloom vegetables for AVOCA! A major boon to them for sure, since they currently only earn what they sell at the markets.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Passport Control

Baba and Deda are visiting this week. But I'll save my blog about their visit until next week, so I can fill it up with travel tales. So far we've mainly hung around Maynooth as Brad wont be taking time off until the end of this week.

But I have a goal to blog at least once a week, so a blog for this week is well overdue.  This one's a quickie to be sure... and focused on my passport application woes.

Now I'd just like to ask... who ever said getting a Canadian passport was easy? If that's the impression you were left with by the media then I hate to burst your bubble. In order to renew my passport I have to jump through more hoops that a circus pony!

To start off with, Canadian passports only last 5 years... mine doesn't expire until May... but that doesn't cover the 6 months required to cover my exciting Christmas plans (no spoilers here, but it doesn't involve us flying back to Canada). So as a citizen abroad I need an Irish Guarantor. A person of importance like a lawyer or doctor who's known me for more than 2 years... the first issue is the More Than 2 Years issue... we've only been in Ireland a total of 22 months now. A bit shy from the 2 year mark.

But any pony worth it's stuff can jump through enough hoops to get over that hurdle.  No problem, I can come up with 4 references located in Canada. And I can give my employment history for the past 5 years (spans two jobs and my current homemaker status).

So the second issue is known as the Addresses for the Past 5 Years issue... In the past 5 years I have lived in 5 different homes spanning 3 different cities and 2 continents. I've a good memory, but sue me if I can't remember the postal code for our old house on Salsbury Avenue (plus, layer on the guilt about our inability to provide Nikolai with a stable home... 4 homes in his wee short life is perhaps a bit disruptive?).

The third issue is the Proof of Identity issue. Birth certificate... got it... BC CareCard... done... Driver's License... umm... Driver's License??? umm... nope... Who'd a thought it was possible to reach the ripe old(ish) age of 32 without ever learning to drive a car?!  Luckily I have the only other possible substitute... and it doesn't expire until July 2012!  Hurrah for my BC ID... now I'm on my way to proving my Canadianess.  One horrid photo session and €135 later and I'll be the proud owner of another 5 years of travelling!

The picture is of Nikolai sitting between Baba and Deda at Connelly Station on the way to Howth.

Monday, October 10, 2011

At a gallop

My life was plodding along in its usual dappled manner of busy-ness, and with all expectations that this would continue for the foreseeable future... when all of a sudden things sped up into light speed mode.  What happened was Brad's sudden departure to Ottawa, and Brad's parents' last minute plans.

Okay, to explain, Brad was asked at the last minute to present at a conference in Ottawa.  And when I say last minute, I mean last minute. Tickets were booked the Friday before his Tuesday morning departure. What this meant for Brad was the inconvenience of a last minute trip, and a chance to have dinner with some friends we haven't seen in a while.

What this meant for me was that my usually busy life became much busier. As it turns out that last week there was a few of us without a partner in crime, so we decided to have a dinner party exchange. I cooked one giant lasagna and was fed a Moroccan stew and a Thai soup. Anyone with a three year old can imagine the chaos that such a dinner exchange might cause.  Any mix with more than 2 kids tends to be hectic and we were travelling at a rate of 4 kids per dinner.

Anyways, my evenings were shot with doing chores, wrestling my three year old to bed and dutifully working with Steffi on one of my more pressing projects.  In addition, Nikolai took to waking up at 3 am, deciding it must be morning, turning on all his lights and starting to play.  This seemed to last for about 2 hours, at which point he'd realize the sun really wasn't going to come up (apparently my authority on this topic wasn't sufficient) and he'd go to sleep.  The end result was that by the time Brad got back on Saturday morning I was as exhausted as he was.  He may have had the overnight flight, but I was racking up 4 nights of sleep deprivation.

The last minuteness of his trip had meant that it was slotted into an already busy week.  Saturday afternoon we had tickets to the GAA anniversary games at Croke Park. Not the high caliber of playing of the County teams, but some pretty decent beer leagues from the transport authorities.  We were too slow to make it for the Camogie game, but we got to watch a Hurling match and a Irish Football match.  This requires a small aside on Irish sports.  I've previously blogged about the GAA, however, this was my first attendance to an actual game.

Hurling seems to be a very skillful sport. It's a bit like field hockey, but you're allowed to catch the ball (sliotar), and carry it, as long as you occasionally hit it with the stick (hurley).  I definitely found it to be one of the more interesting sports that I've seen (I'm about as interested in sports as I am interested is something completely outside my sphere, like, say, the sexual reproductive pattern of mice).

Hurling was interesting because the ball travels far and fast through the air. Then people catch it (about the size and hardness of a baseball) with their bare hands.  Then they run with it, all the while balancing it on the end of their hurley.

I found the football match to be less interesting.  Probably more like a rugby/basketball cross than something akin to soccer.  The general point is to score by getting the ball over the goal. You're allowed to use your hands but you can't just carry the ball more than a few steps without bouncing it or kicking it.

(I realize I'm totally bastardizing these sports... but you can look up the real rules up for yourself.  This is just my view as an anthropological observer who isn't terribly interested in sports.)

Sunday we threw a Thanksgiving Party for nine non-Canadian friends... made the Christmas dinner from our Vegetarian Entertaining for Friends cookbook... rich and yummy.

But the gallop doesn't stop there, this week we've got a cake eating party for Brad's birthday, a bus trip to the countryside to visit our friend (and landlord)'s new baby, then the whole affair gallops into the weekend when Brad's parents arrive for a 10 day visit (they booked last minute too... on the same Friday that Brad's tickets to Ottawa were booked). As my projects are all coming into fruition all I can say is PHEW.  Here's hoping for a slightly less hectic November!

Nikolai at the train station with Croke Park in the distance.
  
The National anthem before the football game. I noticed no one in the stands was singing (it's known to be a difficult song). Also the game was played with the Northern Ireland Translink Team... and interestingly enough, only the Irish national anthem, in gaelic, was performed.  Though I guess if you play a GAA sport, then you are showing some allegiance to Ireland.
 The Vancouver GAA teams
 Thanksgiving Dinner


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Refrigerator musings

Earlier this year I came across an art project. It was basically a series of photographs of the inside of peoples fridge and freezers along with a short blurb about the owners of said appliances.  If you're interested in exploring those photos for yourself, you can find them here.

It leads to all sorts of hypotheses and thoughts around how the contents of a persons refrigerator can really describe a persons lifestyle, values, personality, etc.  What I perhaps found most intriguing was how the two separate refrigerators from a recently divorced couple had nearly identical contents.

Anyways, my blog generally doesn't discuss someone else's artwork.  However, at the time we were tickled with the idea of a refrigerator photo and took the following picture of our refrigerator contents:

Not terribly remarkable, and a bit empty (for us) as it was on the far side of our usual farmers' market shop.  What those in North America might notice is... what a funny little fridge.  And it was a funny little fridge. The freezer portion was of equal size and sat below the fridge portion.  It meant that we had WAY more freezer space then we were used to, and considerably less refrigerator space.

The fridges that I had grown up with are called American Refrigerators around here, and can even be used as a descriptor (i.e. it was as large as an American Refrigerator). Now the reason for such small refrigerators is not due to space constraints, rather to the amazing cost of electricity.  I blogged about my shock at our first utility bills way back when I first arrived.  I've since then learned to live like the local's on a lower energy diet.

As it turns out, keeping stuff cold is THE MOST electrically expensive thing you can do. (Hence why there are power shortages during a heat wave, but you don't find similar brown outs due to -40C weather).  In Ireland this translates to a much smaller frozen food isle (only one in our GIANT Tesco's) and fewer chilled foods. For example eggs would be found along side of bags of flour rather than in the dairy case. So homes here often have smaller fridges, and in fact, when we were initially looking for somewhere to live (from our vantage point in Canada) we automatically eliminated everywhere with an under-the-counter fridge.

Irony, irony as our new apartment has one of those tiny fridges. Erase any images you have of a bar fridge, this thing was built for maximum capacity. And surprisingly enough, I find that I have more than enough space for everything I want!

So here are a few of my space saving tricks:
-Many things don't actually need to be refrigerated. We just do it out of habit, and because we have giant monster truck sized refrigerators, for example: eggs, soya sauce, mustard, peanut butter.

-Many veg are happiest stored at warmer temperatures. The trick is to reduce the humidity and keep it somewhat cool.  We've co-opted our small balcony for this purpose. Outdoor ventilation is always better because humidity won't get trapped.  I learned this from my book on Victorian Farming.

-Leftovers don't need to be refrigerated.  Now... this may be an Ireland thing?  Not too sure. But I know some of my friends are always leaving their Sunday roast out till they get around to finishing it the next day, and as of yet none of them have died. However, I was told by a Biology PhD that the Irish climate and e.coli don't get along, so maybe it's not much of an issue.  Perhaps this is why canning over here is much more relaxed?  Regardless, my North American attitude towards germs has yet to allow me to explore this option of  food storage.  And I'm secretly glad I'm vegetarian, so I haven't yet been invited for leftover meat.

So in summary... I am very glad to have this opportunity to feed my family out of a tiny fridge. Now I know that I can do it!  In the future, as energy becomes more expensive, I will be glad to have these skills.  However, I do admit that the one reason we may have so much space in our small cubic fridge is because we're pretty much living out of the allotment and the NUIM orchard.  Here's today's harvest, and I didn't pick any kale or salad greens as they are the least likely to go all "Day of the Triffids" on us (as you may note, one of the courgettes/zucchini was getting dangerously close to that threshold).