BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Leafy greens from the beyond

My friend Ashling returned from Galway with a bag of dulse (dillisk) for me. Now, I am actually quite familiar with seaweed, as it's a fairly familiar product on BC's west coast. Nori, kombu, seaweed salad, macro kelp...

but... my seaweed was always... well... packaged, to say the least. You know, dried out, flattened, cleaned and prepared for my limited seaweed cooking. But this bag of seaweed was a bit more "freshly harvested" than I'm used to... and I wasn't really sure what I needed to do to make it look a little more like something packaged (beyond the obvious removal of barnacles).

So I called up Ashling and asked her "what do you do with dulse?" And her reply was confident and perhaps a bit offhanded, like I'd simply asked her what I was supposed to do with a turnip. Apparently I add it to winter soups and stews. And some people enjoy deep frying it.

Back to assess the bag, now a more permanent fixture in my larder. Deep purple, leafy with some hard stringy bits, and a distinct sheen of salt and sand.

So I asked Rosie at the farmer's market... "Winter soups and stews."

....Ok, but do I have to clean it? "Well, if Ashling got it from Galway Bay then you should probably clean it".

But the answers to my questioning came from another of Rosie's regulars. An older woman who had perhaps seen a bit of famine in her time, as she was busy telling Rosie about how eating the skin of an orange peel was very nutritious, and a good source of pectin for gelling. Her general recommendation was to puree the whole orange up in a blender, and the resulting goo would be quite a thick drink (a bit bitter, but at least you'd get all the nutrition out of the fruit).

And here is her advice on how to prepare seaweed:

First, thoroughly wash the seaweed, otherwise it would be excessively salty (though, apparently, eating dried, unwashed, salty dulse is a tasty snack too).

Then you can use it right away, sauteed up like any other leafy green. Otherwise you need to dry it out so that it can be added to soups/stews for the next 6 months. Below is my picture of before drying out.And after drying out.
I also used some of the freshly washed stuff in a side dish with kale. It was so tasty that Nikolai easily cleaned it off his plate, Brad's requesting an encore, and I failed to remember to take the picture until I'd already eaten most of it.

Saute, in oil, about 6 cups of chopped up kale until it is wilted. Then add two cloves of diced garlic, 1/2 a cup of fresh dulse (or soaked dried dulse) and saute till kale starts to become crispy and garlic is cooked. Then add tamari (or soya sauce) to taste (about 1 tbsp). Top with toasted sesame seeds or sunflower seeds.

FYI: the salt should be provided by the tamari sauce, not the seaweed. Also, you could easily add any vegetables that suit you to this basic mix, but I'd say at least one green is required to keep the dulse from looking too alien.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oranges and Lemons Say the Bells of St. Clement's

For this trip to London we decided to focus on child friendly activities. While this may appear to have been guided by our doting parent side, it's primarily because we figured they'd be less popular than the typical run of London museums. Claire had long since given up going to museums because of the hour long waits just to get in and hang out with all the other tourists. Despite our official status as "Tourists" we are also decidedly anti-tourist (the paradox is obvious... but I don't care... because other tourists simply get in the way of sight seeing!).

So we limited ourselves to four "sights" with Nikolai in mind (in order of Nikolai's preference):

1. Princess Diana's Memorial Playground in Hyde Park: On a sunny Friday afternoon, we only had to wait 20 minutes to get in. It is a free, public playground. But due to popularity, they've had to exert some crowd control. Regardless, the playground is definitely worth the wait! Nikolai spent nearly his whole time playing on the giant tall ship (as seen below -Nikolai's wearing his green Ireland jersey). He also dabbled a bit in the sandy-water pool. We didn't really explore too deeply into the playground, as we couldn't spend the 4 hours it would have taken for Nikolai to have played with all of the interesting equipment. We poked our nose around the "lost-boys" tree fort playground on stilts, and the teepees (wigwams); but I'm sure that we missed seeing many other interesting activities.2. V&A Museum of Childhood: This is basically a museum for toys. And most of the toys are behind glass. However, they do have things for children to play with in most quadrants of the museum. While Nikolai enjoyed the sandpit, play kitchen and dress up clothes; us adults enjoyed looking at the Victorian era toys, and remembering the toys of our childhood (I swear, Fisher price toys used to be much better quality! They had all my favorites!)3. Harrods: For anyone who doesn't know it... Harrods is the poshest department store around. We took Nikolai up to their toy section and let him loose in the play area. Of note, they carry a good selection of high end toys. Also worthy of noting... prices were about 1/3 more than Smyths... so we did not buy anything at Harrods. Regardless, they certainly didn't seem to be hurting for lack of business! They also have a Children's Cafe, where you can get a three course kids meal for £18.

4. Victoria and Albert Museum: We went there on our last trip too, but this museum was en route to Harrods, and with a sleeping Nikolai, we decided to explore another area of this vast museum. Nikolai woke up as we were leaving and insisted on seeing the section on musical instruments. Unfortunately they don't have a section on instruments, but he was satisfied with a visit to the piano in the Theatre section.

Lastly, below is a picture of Claire's hood. She lives in one of these tall and narrow row houses with 5 other roommates. It's a bit squashed, so we "house-sat" for a friend of hers who live just a short distance away. And while we provided very good care of her pet cat, I think that the favor really benefited us the most, as we had her lovely apartment all to ourselves for the weekend!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Among these hallowed walls

Given Brad's academic bent... and our feeling that we should see a wee bit more of the UK... we decided a trip to Oxford (en route to Auntie Claire's, of course) was in order.

I loved Oxford... but I would have probably loved it more if there had been more students and fewer tourists. Also, it poured cats and dogs all of our main day in Oxford, which really made us run to the museums. And run we did. The morning was spent in the Ashmolean Museum, where we saw an overwhelming amount of stuff. Mainly because Nikolai decided to tear through all the exhibits at a breakneck speed. ("Look at the big statue!", Look at the money!", Look at the blue rocks!", "Let's go upstairs to the very top!".) I think he was perhaps expressing his distaste for having spent the whole of the previous day in transit.
From there we went to the Museum of Oxford, which I would not recommend for adults... as it's pretty small, rundown and very unimpressive compared to everything else in Oxford. However, if you have kids, then I highly recommend it! They designed all the exhibits in the museum to be kid interactive (probably because they don't actually have any actual artifacts to display). We spent a good long time in the Alice in Wonderland room, where Nikolai served many cups of tea.

Next we went through my favorite museum of the lot. And with Nikolai asleep on Brad's back we were able to take our time; so perhaps that was why it was my favorite! Voila, some photos from the History of Science Museum. The first pic is of some astrolabes. I'm not sure what they do... but the museum is full of them, from all parts of the globe, and all different styles.And below is the "radio" that Marconi used for his demonstration in the British Post Office.In the late afternoon, and all of the next morning (before heading to London) the weather was significantly improved. So we managed to actually tour around Oxford. Nearly all of central Oxford is comprised of beautiful old buildings, like the one below.Here's a picture of Christ Church College, which was the start of the University, as a monastery in 1529.And naturally, we had a walk down the famous canal, and a picnic next to the Thames.Next up... London!

Going to London the old-fashioned way

For our latest trip to visit Claire in London, we decided to go the slow way. There is something called the SailRail pass, which allows you to take the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, and then to anywhere in the UK (via train) for about €40 (depending on end destination, and which ferry you choose to take). We took the slow ferry and went to Oxford. After spending a few nights in Oxford, we then took a cheap pre-booked train to London. The whole thing... all inclusive, cost us about €90 for our family.

It was quite the adventure for poor Nikolai, and would have been faster if we'd just gone directly to London (there's a direct train from Holyhead to London which only takes 4 hours). Anyways, here's a quick photoblog to document our journey.

First we had to take the bus from Maynooth to Dublin... leaving Maynooth at 6:05am.Then we caught the free StenaLine bus from central Dublin (Westmoreland Row) to Dublin Port. (Nikolai likes to ride on the top of the bus.)The ferry ride took 3 hours and was quite nice. Very similar in size to a BC ferry, but clearly it was repurposed from an overnight ferry as it had many sleeping rooms. They had a cafe, restaurant, "exclusive lounge", bar (not open in the morning), movie theater (tickets were €8), shop, and a children's area. Our only complaint would be that the children's area was just a TV room, with no toys. They did have someone dress up as Curious George and hand out balloons... But I would have preferred the small playground, like those found on BC ferries, to the continuous loop of Curious George videos.To get on and off the ferry, foot passengers had to ride on a bus.After a quick lunch break in Holyhead, we started our train journey. From Holyhead to Chester via Arriva Trains Wales.From Chester to Crewe with the posh Virgin Trains. From Crewe to Birmingham with London Midland. Then from Birmingham to Oxford with Cross Country. (That train was particularly packed, hence the extended arm photo.)We then took the bus from Central Oxford to our B&B located 2 miles out of town... we did this after dinner, and Nikolai was quite done for the day. All in all it took just about 12 hours to get from home to our destination. It would have been much quicker if Oxford wasn't so far off the mainline to London. Regardless, it was a grand way to travel, and I think we'd do it again, since it was much "easier" than flying. (Though it took more time, it was much less hassle).After spending two nights in Oxford, we then took a train into London Paddington.From then on our travel involved two things... walking about the city with Nikolai on our back. And taking the infamous London Tube. (Yes, that's Auntie Claire sitting next to Nikolai. Recognize that worried look from Nikolai's baby face days? He found the noise, heat and bustle of the tube to be a wee bit stressful).
More stories to come!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Edenderry is a small town just down the road. It is much like many other rural towns that dot the countryside of Ireland. (In fact there are a total of four Edenderrys in Ireland, but the one I am referring to is in Offaly). It is also the hometown of a charismatic member of Brad's cycling crew, Kieran. And he is certainly full of well-spun tales. (Though his particular speciality is around local history... mainly linking death to landmarks that they cycle past -hence our knowledge of Guinness' grave).

The latest adventure that Kieran spun us off on, lead us to Edenderry. Specifically to see a play written by an Edenderry native, about Edenderry... aptly name Eden. Eden, the play, has been running for 10 years, travelling around the world. It also was turned into a movie. However, this time, the play was set to be shown for the first time ever, actually in Edenderry. More specifically in Larkin's pub in Edenderry (as Kieran suggested, there wouldn't be any other suitable venue in town for such an event.)

The only trick was... the locals didn't really embrace seeing a play that basically showed a not-too-flattering side of Edenderry. As such the play was cut short by a week. Regardless, we managed to go and see it before it closed, and the house seemed fully packed for a Thursday night. So perhaps the locals were collectively procrastinating. Who knows?

In general, the play is about a long married couple, and their not very functional relationship. Basically, the husband is a druken lout; and the play is both funny and sad.

But it does deserve blog recognition, not because it's going to be touring Vancouver anytime soon, but because the language was so thick and colourful that I really had a hard time understanding half of what was said. Luckily we coaxed Ashling and Pat into attending with us, and thus had interpreters.

Here are a few of the expressions that are unlikely to enter my vocab anytime soon... but you are more than welcome to try them out for yourself if you're looking to add a little rural midlands colour to your dialogue:
- Brown bread: dead, "Did you know if he was brown bread?"
-Pure Mule: is a negative (or positive) description of events (depends on intonation), "He was pure mule".
-Fierce: very, "I was fierce hungry".

Regardless, I had to concentrate a wee bit hard on the dialogue to be able to figure out all the slang. Youtube has an ad for the play being shown in Waterford here. But I warn you it's not very PC, or kid-friendly. And thus I learned something else about Ireland...

As the content of the play was all about sex, and a wee bit rude, Ashling was pretty certain that her parents would have been utterly appalled as they are "Pioneers". Now in my mind, pioneers are the Europeans who came to settle in Canada during the early colonization. I had many school trips to Black Creek Pioneer Village, so I'm pretty confident in my understanding of what a Pioneer is... and Ashling's parents don't exactly fit the description. But to clear up the confusion I have another vocab lesson:
-Pioneer: a person who belongs to a Total Abstinance Association

It's basically an Irish Catholic thing... but the interesting part is that they ALWAYS wear a special pin to indicate how long they've been abstinant for, and also so that people know not to ask them if they would like a drink.

But the best part about the play came about a week after seeing it... when the director sent me a text thanking me for coming to the show! (I'd booked tickets by calling the director on my cellphone). Such a text was a bit surprising... but definitely gave me a warm fuzzy for supporting such a small town show.

The picture below is of the golf course on Carton. Gorgeous, and exclusive (officially only golfer's are allowed). The picture above is with Nikolai's friend Layla on a berry hunt.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Enough is plenty

Enough is plenty. This is the title of a book, written by a Sociology prof at NUIM (who is also an occasional member of Transition Town Maynooth).

It is also the topic of today's blog as I have recently plunged down the path of dark thoughts and dark spaces.

Clearly, the King Louis the XVI moment is upon us. And I am silly for not having recognized this earlier. The world economy is in decline. The end of plenty is upon us. And few of us are willing to accept our, now smaller, piece of the pie. As an older person, retired, or close to retirement, it is the diminished returns of your savings that is affected. For younger people, and certainly for the hefty majority of the planet whom are amongst the lower socioeconomic strata, the diminished global economy affects the ability to gain employment and earn enough to ever actually achieve a life of stable financial means.

Thus leading to the riots in London, the Greek protests, the Middle East uprisings, along with the rise of right-wing conservatism (like the Tea Party). These groups may seem to have completely different political motivations, yet the root of their convictions stems from the same heart... trying to gain (maintain) a certain share of the pie in world of diminishing returns.

So now lets descend down a path of blame... certainly the financial market and regulators; the lenders and the buyers; and all the people whom can be painted with the brush of the greedy. Governments, too, are responsible. For they collectively turned a blind eye to all those advisers ringing warning bells of increased government debt and an overheated market place. Research into the topic clearly indicates that the Irish Government was certainly well warned in advance. Surely the Greek government knew of their debt issues. And I really doubt Bush Jr. and his advisers could proclaim innocence. Et cetera, et cetera.

Was it greed, or an unwillingness to take responsibility for bursting the bubble that allowed this situation to steadily inflate? Likely a bit of both. But I can hardly claim superiority, from my arm chair vantage point, for I too am more than willing to take something for nothing. For all that we may complain of China's rising super power, and lack of integrity (in terms of copyright, and labour laws, etc.) we are more than willing to benefit from the goods produced by those "loose morals". As a parent, I am all too aware of the cost of toys produced in a "developing economy" versus those produced locally. It is simply the "survival of the fittest" side of our animal nature that leads to this want for more than our share. So while it's easy for me to condemn David Drumm, it's also easy for me to behave in a similar manner by simply distancing myself from any actual responsibility.

Does such a dark place of human nature have a bright light? Yet there is a heart of hope in this bleak blog. To be human is to struggle towards kindness, community and thoughtful understanding.

Enough is Plenty. The book itself is rather dry, but the concept is simple and wholehearted. Perhaps if we all started actually considering, WHAT IS ENOUGH? and HOW SHALL WE LIVE? then we can move on from a place of anger to a place of ensuring that there is enough for everyone and everything. Let us truly join the global village, for "united we stand, divided we fall".

The picture is of Brad and Nikolai waiting for the commuter train to arrive in Maynooth.

Friday, August 05, 2011

"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

All I can say is... that my arm chair predictions for Europe were accurate... except that the sky fell in about two weeks earlier than expected. And if the meltdown of the global economy scares you... well, how about some nice scenic pictures to take your mind off things? (As per, Uncle Roger's request, here are some pictures of " panoramic Irish countryside, particularly ocean shots....and little stone houses..."). The following are all from our trip to Cork and Kerry this spring.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A wee bit of the Irish Luck


I'll finally deal with the elephant in the room...

The question that EVERYONE is constantly asking...

Our family want to know "when will you be coming back to Vancouver?"

Our friends over here want to know "will you be staying much longer?"

And the answer is "shove off!" Not very polite... but seriously... if I knew the answer we'd either be packing boxes to move back to Vancouver, or shipping the contents of our storage locker over to Ireland.

The answer will be solved when Brad gets offered the nebulous "position". Personally I'd like a pie chart of probabilities or a rough schematic of time lines... but life doesn't work that way!

Anyways, the topic is now a taboo one around the house, as it's just too stressful to consider. So when I found a four leaf clover in a local park, I felt obliged to pick it and take it home to Brad... then I found another one... so perhaps luck is coming our way.

Which caused me to delve into a more ephemeral question of: What is luck? And how would you know whether you had good luck?

Is winning the lottery "lucky"? Maybe, because you'd be rich. Maybe not, because everyone would be at you for money all the time and your personal life would go to pot.

Is getting a job in Vancouver lucky? Is getting a job in Ireland lucky? What about moving to a third location (most likely scenario in my histogram)?

And what I decided is that, in the world today, you are lucky if you have enough food, clean water, and not in a war zone. What more do we actually need? So I am lucky! I can walk Nikolai down to the playground, knowing that dinner is just a short grocery shop away and we can flush clean water down the toilet.