BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Exploring Maynooth

Riding on Papa's shoulders down Carton Avenue

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day, so we stayed in town and toured the sites and sounds of Maynooth.

First we hit the farmer's market. In winter it's a small affair, with a local farmer, someone who sells organic dried goods, and a baker. As the farmer mentioned... this winter was hard on her crops so she didn't have as much to sell. However, she did have spinach, salad greens, and a plethora of roots and brassicas. I'm not sure what she would have had if the weather had been better! (A note on that, our county is still loosing 16% of it's water supply due to infrastructure that broke during the frost. They're asking people to conserve, wherever possible.)

We had a most delicious pie from the baker. In general we are VERY excited about the farmer direct organic veggie prices... soooo much cheaper than what we had in Vancouver and Victoria. Likely because we are so close to the farms... and they have to compete with the allotments. The Maynooth allotments are the size of a small farm and cost around €300 a year. I can tell that Brad secretly REALLY wants to get one (they are only a quick trot away from our house)... but with all our travel plans... I don't think it's a good idea.

Anyways, then we explored the picturesque NUIM South campus, complete with "the historical ambiance of Gothic quadrangles, atmospheric cloisters, the sublime College Chapel, and the ruined Geraldine castle".

After Kolya's nap we cruised down Carton Avenue to check out the Carton House hotel, which is located in the historical seat of British rule in Leinster, and associated golf course (voted best in Europe in 2009 -green fees are €100, so I might have to skip that local pleasure).

On the domestic front, Nikolai must be feeling more settled because he's resumed pottying and is better than ever! We've only had 1 miss so far this weekend. Phew. And I have already started on my painting goal, and a picture of a pear (in Claire's honour) now adorns our fireplace.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chips and Salsa

Yesterday I went out to buy some supplies for a Mexican meal. Brad was going to be making some refried beans and we were set for a yummy dinner. The man at the first grocery store required a two minute explaination before he figured out what I was asking for. "Oh, you mean selsa... no we don't have any... but we could get some in if it's something that would interest you."

So, I went to the giant Tesco's outlet where it took two people to figure out what I was saying. "You put it on chips... corn chips... corn crisps? It's a dip made of tomatoes..." After looking at the selection I realized that I would have to make my own. I did; however, manage to buy some corn chips. Tescos has a huge isle filled, on both sides, with only different types of crisps, and despite the massive array of "chips", they only had one choice for corn chips.

This Tesco's also carries 'Tim Hortons' donuts. The display sits in the bakery section, looking ever so much like the typical Canadian donut display. It costs 85 cents for a donut... at the current exchange rate that puts you back about $1.35 each. By comparison the all butter croissant located next door costs 40 cents. Generally there are pleanty of croissants left on the rack, but the donut rack is usually empty. I guess there must be a lot of homesick Canadian suckers. Even though it is not something that I would EVER eat in real life, I have bought and consumed one of the Tesco's donuts parading under the Tim Horton's donut. Now, I have eaten enough timbits in my life to know what all the different types taste like... and that donut was unlike any donut I've ever eaten. The closest taste equivalent would be a chocolate dipped tea cake. I think I'll be sticking to the potato farls for now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Off the beaten track

Just an average street corner in Dublin 1

Last night I woke up to the sound of Nikolai talking in his sleep, and was struck by the most intense bout of homesickness I have had thus far. My homesickness mainly centred around missing CBC. Which is a tad ridiculous because the CBC is readily available on the Internet. I think though that it was the loss of what the CBC represents to the culture of Canada that I was missing. The RTÉ's content does not appear to be as well developed as the CBC. This is likely due to a lack of budget. The lack of actual Irish content to address our news and weather needs is a bit sad. The best weather information for Ireland is actually provided by a service in Finland. Thank god for the Internet.

Anyways, today we hit Dublin, again, this time intent on finding a bike for me. We've narrowed it down to a Pashley, which would feel very Euro indeed, or the main contender is a Globe. The Pashley may prove to be significantly lower in cost for the skookum components.

Anyways our search for components had us tour Dublin a bit off the beaten track and we found something interesting to please everyone. Lower Camden Street would harken back to the Drive and we felt at home in the Penny Farthing bike shop. We trotted through the Liberty market, an area which I think would satisfy Tom's rugged view of Dublin. Peter (Parrish and Maloff) might enjoy a pint at Dublin's oldest Pub, the Brazen Head (didn't find this one until the end of our day, but definitely high on Brad's list of places to visit on the next trip).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunshine and roundabouts

Phew the first two weeks were probably more difficult than typical, due to the extreme weather (plumbers are still working around the clock to fix all the burst pipes) and then Nikolai's roseola. Now that Nikolai is better and back to his goofy, happy self and the weather's nice, we've been out to the Maynooth playground.

The Maynooth playground is easily the best thing about Maynooth. That isn't to say that Maynooth is not a great place, it is a great place... this playground is the MOST FANTASTIC playground that Nikolai and I have ever been to (and we are frequent playground explorers). It has about 7 different aspects... there is adult exercise equipment (hard to imagine, but it's very good quality), a full sized soccer pitch, a pint sized soccer pitch, the canal runs beside it (and the ducks know where to beg), there is integrated outdoor equipment (also hard to describe but it includes a giant hammock swing and a slide running down the side of a hill), big kid play ground, and a very well appointed toddler playground. Nikolai LOVES the playground and I think we'll start to attend it daily.

Here's a link to the county's site that includes only the equipment in the big kid playground and the toddler playground. I'll try to get my own pic of the slide tower which contains 3 slides and is easily 2 stories tall. Thank goodness Nikolai hasn't ventured over to that part of the playground yet!

Maynooth Playground Pics

Friday, January 15, 2010

But everyone is moving to Canada

Nikolai on the Commuter train to Dublin

Naturally, Ireland is different; it's a different country, they speak Irish rather than French, they drive on the other side of the road and eat a lot more cheese. But I think my culture shock is greater because I'm moving from rich, booming big city in BC to a small town and economically struggling Ireland.

The economy here really is struggling, in an unbelievably encompassing way. For example 18% of males in Brad's age bracket are unemployed (36% in the 20-25 bracket!). That is staggering when you think about it. The government is so cash strapped that EVERY public service worker got an across the board pay cut starting this week (and merchants are concerned about the trickle down effect of that move). Housing prices have fallen by 42% in the past 2 years, the cost of Goods and Services has decreased 5% in the past year. And that's just what we learned from last Saturday's paper!

In general, everyone we met has been really nice. When we tell them that we've moved to Ireland because Brad got a job we tend to get a very shocked look, because apparently "everyone is moving to Canada".

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two week tantrum

Today was a day of tantrums. It felt like we had a tantrum for nearly 75% of Nikolai's waking hours. My initial thoughts were that he had finally clued in that we were not just on holiday, and that the nebulous "home" was so very far away.

Unfortunately we had chosen today to go into Dublin to get our PPSNs (like a social insurance number). Even more unfortunate was my decision to stay in Dublin and shop with Nikolai, rather than taking the train back to Maynooth with Brad. We had a tantrum in the cafe at lunch over nothing. We cried on our way back to the train station (I WANT TO WALK, BUT I DON'T WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND). We cried on the train (I WANT TO NURSE WITHOUT THE COVER -aside: Ireland has only a 20% nursing rate, so I'm insisting on using a cover in public-). And on the way home from the train station I gave in and carried the Bear rather than have another fight about sitting in the stroller.

The tantrums continued at home (NO UNDERWEAR, NO DINNER, NO WATER -resulting in a broken glass, and NO PJ'S). Phew! Those of you who know Nikolai, know that this is not his typical style of being. So it should come as no surprise to find out that I think the poor guy is still sick. His fever is gone, but we discovered at bedtime that most of his torso is covered in a red rash. Apparently he's got roseola.... so I feel a bit guilty about feeling frustrated by the tantrums. Hopefully he's feeling better tomorrow.

FYI I promise that this will be Ireland filled soon. I'm already starting to write some observations down... it's just that breaking news takes priority.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The view of "our wall" from the kitchen.

One day of warm'ish weather, and the snow is effectively gone. A bit of slush here and there, but the sidewalks and roads are nearly clear.

Kolya's fever peaked at 39.9 and he had us worried for a few days. It has dropped down again, and while he's still a bit under the weather, I think he'll be 100% very soon.

The Hamilton Institute is looking like a fine place to be: I've been warmly greeted and shown where the coffee machine is :). Oddly, I'm looking forward to those first group meetings.

And it looks like the garden experiments will continue! Our landlord dropped by yesterday, and said no problem to gardening in our back yard. We still have to run some figures by to see how big of a plot we'll use, as most likely we will be making a raised bed: our costs will be for the tools, wood and soil, none of which we currently have. But we have our seeds!



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snowy Arrival

Walking in Maynooth

It's still snowing today (the government is meeting again to discuss an action plan for keeping the roads clear) and we've just ordered our computer. So the days of internet at home are coming closer.

Poor little Kolya came down with something European yesterday. He's been feverish and had a fever that peaked at 38.9 C at 3am this morning. The nice thing was that I could actually call my parents without waking them up! (A time-change bonus). According to the BC Health Guide that is only a moderate temperature for a tyke so no dramatic events unfolded other than spending the rest of the night with Mama and Papa.

--This morning we saw someone clearing the sidewalk of snow and ice by dumping hot water on it and sweeping the snow away. We were wondering if it would be impertinant for two Canadians to explain what a zamboni is and exactly how it functions. ;-)



Saturday, January 09, 2010


Emillie and Nikolai walking towards Main Street, Maynooth

This first blog will be brief as we're at Brad's office, and Nikolai's napping in the stroller. However my plan is to post once a week so a good description of Ireland should emerge at somepoint.

The flight was good. We got a third seat, so Nikolai slept well on a pillow. He was super crabby when we arrived in Dublin though. And we were a bit of a mess ourselves. The airline had lost our carseat, and crushed all our boxes. But most everything arrived!

Our house is strange, and I'll draw a map once we've bought our computer. We're
boardered by an old wall to the Carton estate. I think the complex had to be built around the wall, and our house was slotted into the vacant space. So many of our windows face out onto a wall about 2 feet away. To bring in light, they built courtyards into the house. So we have a total of 3 "yards". The house is kind of shoddily built, so there are some problems. I guess it's an issue of needing houses for the celtic tiger, coupled with longstanding Irish poverty.

Unfortunately, the weather has been remarkably "bad" since we've arrived. In fact, I think that the government has declared a state of emergency. This may seem funny to us Canadians, as it's only gotten as cold as -10 C and snowed no more than a few inches (a little nearly every day) but it usually melts in the afternoon. I think the issue is that there has been not a flake of snow in Ireland since the '80s and this is the worst weather they've had since the 60's. As such there are NO snowplows, NO snow tires (or even all season tires), NO salt, NO sand (though some has recently appeared, but I'm not sure they know what to do with it), and no one has a snow shovel. But they are gamefully trying to remove the snow with garden spades. Life is perpetually cold, even for me, since they also don't have insulation and open venting to outside is a construction standard. This means that 4 rooms in our house have constantly open vents to right outside (it's for protection from gas leaks). Brrr! Needless to say this has made our setting up difficult. People seem to take half days, or not show up at all "due to the weather". Unfortunately, we can expect some more of this over the next week!

Today we're going to buy some seed for all the song birds that are looking cold and hungry.