Holidays

Kiss Me I’m Irish

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14612326421_480c70fb58_kSt. Patrick’s Day always makes me long for Ireland. I love Ireland. I have had the extreme fortune of visiting the country twice and each visit was absolutely wonderful. If you ever have a chance to go there, take it. The country is gorgeous and the people are some of the nice and most friendly people you could meet.

My first trip to Ireland was in the fall of 2008. It’s hard to believe it was so long ago! We were on a tour that basically traveled around the entire coastal area of the country and even went up into Northern Ireland. We saw many of the major places one would like to visit while in Ireland: The Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, Derry, Belfast, Dublin, etc. We visited Blarney but did not actually go to the castle on that trip (we fortunately got a second chance on our visit this summer). I wrote some of my fondest memories into a sort of prose poem you can read here.

One of the things that amazed me most about that trip was our tour guide’s knowledge of his country’s history, and his ability to share the stories with us. Every day on that trip he told us the history of the country and the places we visited; we probably covered well over a thousand years of history on that trip, and never once was it boring. It wasn’t like listening to a history teach lecturing us, it was fascinating. Maybe because I was interested to begin with, but I prefer to think it was our guide’s storytelling ability.

One of my most vivid memories from that trip was one night in Dublin, after we had dinner we were returning to our hotel on the bus. This night our guide indulged our requests for song. He sang the song “Four Green Fields” which if you’ve never heard it, you can listen here.  The story in the song represents the struggle between Ireland and England, and a desire for Ireland to be a single whole country again. I wish I had recorded my tour guide singing that night. The entire bus was silent, and you could just hear the emotion in his voice as he sang. It was beautiful.

14428940169_e1d4366125_kThis summer I was able to go back to Ireland. This time we only spent a few days in the country before traveling on to the United Kingdom, but it was just as wonderful as I remember. When that plane landed at the Shannon airport I felt like I was coming home. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt quite as calm and happy as I do when I’m in Ireland; there’s just something about the country that makes me feel like I belong there.

While we returned to some places we had seen on our first visit (Blarney Woolen Mills, Bunratty Castle) we also got to see some incredible new sights along the Ring of Kerry, including some time spent in the ruins of an Iran Age Ring Fort (you can see some of my photos from the trip here). The peacefulness and quiet of the country has struck me every time – six years had passed since my last visit, but it still felt the same. The world didn’t feel as rushed or hectic while we were there. Ireland is a wonderful place for a relaxing vacation. I know I am lucky to have had the opportunity to visit the country twice, but I already can’t wait for a third visit. Ireland is truly one of my favorite places in the entire world.

I also love a lot of things that come out of Ireland. Several years ago I wrote a blog post about some of the things I loved about Ireland. Most of them are still true. Though since that time I have discovered the works of Tana French, an excellent Irish author. If you enjoy mysteries I highly recommend you give her books a try. The Irish and the British have a completely different concept of drama than we do here in the United States. They understand that you don’t need action and explosions to have a truly compelling mystery; I found this often true in my favorite British television shows, and it is really evident in French’s writing.

Aidan Turner is still high on my list of favorite Irish actors (especially since The Hobbit, and he’s now starring in the British drama, Poldark) but I can now also add Eoin Macken (Merlin, The Night Shift) to that list as well as Jamie Dornan. But you don’t have to watch 50 Shades of Grey to see Dornan in action (in fact, please don’t). If you don’t want to torture yourself by reliving his fate on Once Upon a Time, you can check out The Fall on Netflix. The Fall also stars Gillian Anderson as a detective trying to track down Dornan’s serial killer. The series is very well done and definitely much more worth your time than 50 Shades.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day my family will be making an Irish Coddle (or often called Dublin Coddle). It’s a delicious mixture of sausage, potato, bacon and onion. It’s not even remotely healthy, but it certainly tastes good. If anyone is interested in trying their own, I’ll include her recipe below. It must be eaten with Irish Soda bread, which isn’t too hard to find in grocery stores this time of year. Another part of our tradition is watching either Darby O’Gill and the Little People or The Quiet Man – both classics. Darby O’Gill is a movie I’ve loved since I was a child, though the banshee in the end always terrified me. The Quiet Man is a John Wayne film set in Ireland and we visited the village where it was filmed during our first trip to Ireland.

If you or your family have any St. Patrick’s Day traditions feel free to share below!

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

Irish (Dublin) Coddle

Coddle1 lb pork sausage links (we buy Irish Tavern sausage from our local store)
1/2 lb thick sliced bacon, cut into 2 in. pieces
4 large potatoes (we usually use red or gold)
2 large onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups water

  • In a skillet cook the bacon pieces and drain on a paper towel. Prick the sausage with fork, then brown in the bacon fat. Drain sausage on paper towl and slice into 1/4 in pieces.
  • Peel and slice potatoes about 1/4 in thick.
  • In casserole dish, alternate layers of bacon and sausage, onion and potato, seasoning potatoes with salt & pepper. Sprinkle each layer with a little parsley.
  • Pour off all but 2 tblsp. of fat from the skillet. Add water and bring to boil, then poir over the casserole.
  • Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min.
  • Remove cover and cook an additional 15 min. until top is browned and potatoes become tender.

 

Happy Singles Awareness Day

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Or, as I like to think of it,  One Month Left Until Veronica Mars Returns Day – otherwise known as Friday.

I could write an incredibly long drawn out post about why this holiday is a ridiculously trumped up holiday designed to help greeting card and candy companies make a profit (as if they don’t do well enough on Halloween, Christmas and Easter). Or, how you should be demonstrating your love for your significant other (if you have one) all year long and not just one day marked out on a calendar. However, I decided since others have already done this so well I would just share their posts with you.

First, a post from Curiata.com, which may seem a little self-serving since I write for them, but I did not write this post and I think all my issues with the holiday fairly well. Plus, you know, I want to promote the site.

The second, a post from The Bloggess. I realize some of you who read my blog may not approve of the language in the title of the post, but I loved the sentiment expressed in the post itself – love yourself, whether you have anyone to share the day with or not.

And lastly, because I love him and this video can always make me smile, here’s some dancing John Barrowman for you:

So whether you’re single or not, whether you have plans or not, try to enjoy the day.

And for my fellow Marshmallows – One Month.

“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

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Today is the Friday after Thanksgiving, more commonly known as Black Friday. For most Americans this marks the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season (although I know there are many of you out there who are very smart and motivated and have already finished your Christmas shopping).

According to Wikipedia, Black Friday was original a term coined by the Philadelphia police in reference to the high volume of traffic on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was later used in reference to retailers going from being down in sales (in the red) to increasing their sales (being in the black).

Now it’s famous for being one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Those of us unfortunate enough to be working in retail during this time of year know what it can be like. And we’ve all heard the horror stories on the news about people fighting over toys and last year a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by overzealous holiday shoppers.

My question is, why? Why do we do this every year? What happened to the true meaning of Christmas? Whether you’re Christian or not, isn’t Christmas still supposed to be more about giving than receiving? About appreciating your loved ones and showing them you care? Since when did Tickle-Me Elmos, and Furbies (and what the hell is a Zhu Zhu Hamster?) become more important than family during the holiday season?

Some of you may be familiar with a little thing called Elf on a Shelf. If you’ve never heard of it, consider yourself lucky. If you’ve actually purchased one for your child, you should be ashamed of yourself. (Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong about believing in Santa, but this Elf is just downright disturbing.) For those of you who do not know, this Elf is a creepy little guy you hide all around you house every day for your kids to find, and you tell them he’s watching you and reporting to Santa at night while they are asleep. In other words, he’s a spy. But that’s not even the worst part.

During our holiday meeting for work we had to watch a training video on these stupid Elves because our company is really pushing them this year (we received over a 100 into the store in one day). You want to know what we learned from this video? That this Elf Spy is more popular than Baby Jesus. I kid you not. One woman actually said on camera that her kids enjoyed this Evil Elf more than their advent calendar. These kids are being encouraged to accept the world of commercialism way too early.

Now I know some of you are thinking that these opinions are baseless, since I do not have kids of my own. Which may be true. But one woman I work with does have kids and considered buying the Elf until she heard the above woman’s comments on the Elf. She was horrified by that admission. So it’s not just me.

I know Christmas means different things to different people; we don’t all have the same religious beliefs, but I always believed that no matter what your personal beliefs, Christmas should be a magical time of the year. It’s not supposed to be about the material things. I think it’s time we put aside all the ridiculous commercialism and put the “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill toward Men” ideas back into Christmas.

After all, if the Grinch can learn his lesson, why can’t we?

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”