Travel

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.

 

Thirty Isn’t So Bad

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I was doing so well sticking to my resolution to post a blog at least once a week, then these last two weeks I’ve completely failed. I’m going to blame it on being back in school (even though classes just started last week).

I should be spending my morning working on my lit review for my thesis, however I’m completely stuck. I have no idea where to even begin writing. I’ve spent most of my summer working on creative writing and blogging that I’m finding it hard to get into the mindset of academic writing. Then I’ve spent the last two weeks doing mainly reading and research for this lit review and very little writing. So I’m hoping this blog post will shake something loose and help me get back in the writing frame of mind (and for that reason I apologize if this post isn’t the extremely fascinating posts you’ve come to expect from my blogs; this is mostly an warm up exercise to get the juices flowing).

Last week I turned 30. On the day I turned 30 I wasn’t actually celebrating my birthday, not because I had anything against entering my thirties (because strangely I don’t) but because I was celebrating another occasion. A friend of mine since I was 6 or 7 years old got married on my birthday. Celebrating her wedding with her and her family was much more fun than celebrating my birthday (plus, there was free food, cake, music, dancing and an open bar – WAY better than any party I could have planned for myself). It was a great way to start a year that so many people dread. I am completely fine with being 30 – especially because so far my 30th year is looking pretty awesome.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances I should have this thesis completed and finish all classes required for my Master’s degree by December, which means I will be able to graduate in May. Since I’ll technically be completed in December I am hoping that means I’ll be able to find an adjunct position (or several) somewhere for next semester. I’ll finally be able to find a job that’s within my chosen field (don’t get me wrong, I love my current job and plan to stay there as long as I can make it work while still teaching part-time).

Last night I received a text from a good friend of mine announcing that she and her boyfriend (whom I also consider a good friend) are now engaged. I am so excited for them. I have no idea whether or not that wedding will happen during my 30th year, but it’s still something to look forward to, and I look forward to hearing all about her wedding planning, etc. in the coming months.

Also coming up during my 30th year is an 18-day trip to Europe and I can’t even describe how excited I am for this trip. We’ll be spending time in Ireland (oh how I’ve missed you!), England, Scotland, Wales and I just learned last night we’ll also be spending two days in Paris. I’ve never had a strong desire to visit Paris, with the exception of the Louvre and Notre Dame, both of which are planned stops for the tour so I’m extremely excited. Traveling is by far one of my favorite things to do (honestly, I wish I could afford to just travel the world without having to work, that would be perfect) and I’m extremely thankful for being given the opportunity to go on this adventure in June.

So, 30 isn’t looking so bad. I have a lot of things to look forward to (and I’m sure there’ll be many more as time goes on) and I’ve decided to embrace this new era of my life. Thirty is going to be a good year, I can feel it.

And now that I’ve rambled on about that, I should probably try writing some of this lit review. Does anyone have a good opening sentence about genre theory and using multi-genre projects in a Freshman Composition classroom?

When My Inner Nerd and Anglophilia Conflict

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A little less than a year ago I wrote this blog in which I promised myself that I would start saving my money so that in 2014 I would be able to afford a trip to San Diego Comic Con. I know what you’re all probably thinking, I’m not just a nerd, I’m a Nerd with a capital N. … And you’d probably be right. To some spending that much money at a convention that celebrates nerds is probably a giant waste of money, but it sounds like so much fun and just once in my life I wanted to be able to experience the long lines, the crowded rooms, and the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of people who are just like you. For the last couple years I’ve heard reports from friends who have gone (and saw their photos with Joss Whedon while he visited fans in line for the Firefly panel last year) and I really just wanted to have that experience for myself, just once. Sure, I had gone to a Supernatural convention before, but that would be nothing compared to the scale of Comic Con (though VanCon was awesome, and Vancouver is a gorgeous city).

From the moment I posted that blog I kept my promise. Every month I put money into a savings account intended to buy my ticket for the entire weekend, a flight to San Diego and all other expenses while I was in California. I was well on my way too – By January I had already saved enough for the ticket and was busy stockpiling the money for the rest of my expenses. I was definitely keeping up my end of that particular bargain, and I was really excited about the idea of going to Comic Con. Then one day my Aunt called.

Five years ago my mom, brother, two aunts and I took a trip to Ireland. We toured around the country for two whole weeks and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. (You can read a little taste of my trip here: I Remember Ireland.) From the moment I set foot on Irish ground, I felt like I belonged there and ever since I left I’ve dreamed of going back. Along with returning to Ireland I’ve also dreamed of visiting Scotland, England and Wales – particularly London, as I am a huge fan of nearly all things British.

So my aunt calls us back in February and asks if I would like to accompany her on a 16-day trip through Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. I would get the chance return to Killarney and Dublin, plus see some of the sites I’ve dreamed of seeing in the UK – Edinburgh, London, Stonehenge, Shakespeare’s birthplace, etc. (I mean look at this trip! It’s a dream come true!) I’d even get a chance to ride the London Eye! The only downside is I would have to choose between this trip, and Comic Con.

Now, I may be a huge nerd, but I am definitely not a big enough nerd to give up a trip to the UK in favor of a few days at Comic Con (or perhaps I’m just a bigger Anglophile than a nerd). I didn’t even hesitate – of course I wanted to go to Europe, even if that meant giving up my chance to go to Comic Con.

So, I unfortunately won’t be attending Comic Con in 2014. While I’m a little disappointed to be missing my chance, I know my time in Europe will more than make up for it. And I’m not giving up the dream of someday going to SDCC; it’s still on my Bucket List and hopefully someday I’ll make it – just not next year. Instead, I’ll be crossing other items off my Bucket List in 2014 and fulfilling other dreams.

Exactly 53 weeks from today I’ll be on my way back to Ireland, and I cannot wait.