Wednesday, September 29, 2010

black and white

The house decoration continues. I had these pictures blown up and put on foam board so we’d have something on the wall in our bedroom. I cant begin to address the pink paisley pattern of the drapes in there but something will be done about them soon.
The photos are cities hubby and I have traveled in together. Clockwise from top left we have Cologne, Germany; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Prague, Czech Republic; Viña del Mar, Chile.

stiletto in the ghetto

This is the Millennium Spire. Ignore the incongruous way I took the picture. I like how it pops up in the middle of nowhere. Today I looked up at the tip and I got dizzy from the way the clouds were moving. It appeals to me because when we first arrived in Dublin our hostel was near the Spire and it’s the most familiar thing in the entire city to me. Walking around the neighborhood, I can see the Spire peeking over the tops of buildings. In the evenings if it’s not raining, Travis and I go up to our rooftop and watch the clouds move by. It’s amazing how fast the clouds go. Anyway, we can see the tip of the Spire from our rooftop; there must be some lights stuck to the top because it glows at night.

I guess there were a few beautification projects around Dublin that were slated to be unveiled in 2000 (including the Millennium Walking Bridge across the Liffey right in front of my building) but for one reason or another they didn’t finish quite on time. Frommer’s tells me the Spire was completed in 2003 and is the tallest structure in the city centre.

The Millenium Spire replaces Nelson’s Column which was apparently blown up in 1966 by the IRA. It’s comforting to imagine things so nearby being blown up, right? Specs:
  • 120m (395 ft) high 
  • made of stainless steel
  • 3m (10 ft) wide at the base and tapers to 15cm (6 inches) at the tip
  • AKA Poker near Croker (Croke Park Stadium), Stiletto in the Ghetto, and Spire in the Mire
I don’t know if I’d call the neighborhood the ‘ghetto’ exactly, considering it’s in the middle of O’Connell Street shopping district, but it is towards an area we decided not to live.

Frommer’s claims that Dubliners like to give funny nicknames to all their landmarks. For example, the incredibly buxom statue of Molly Malone on Grafton Street is the Trollop with the Scallops, the Tart with the Cart, and the Dish with the Fish. I've never heard anybody say these things out loud but they are entertaining, yes?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Still no internet at home. UPC is the bane of my existence.

Steps to setting up your internet in Ireland:

1) Go to a coffee shop that offers free wifi and log into to set up a new service.
2) Agree to pay an extra 7 EUR per month to avoid paying for cable television. The TV and broadband come in a bundle but you are penalized for not owning a "telly". Still, it's better than the alternative of paying 150 EUR tax annually for having one.
3) Field roughly five thousand calls from UPC claiming they will show up on certain dates, just to have them cancel because they cannot find your building.
4) Convince them your building does exist and is quite easy to find.
5) Make new appointment.
6) Five thousand and one calls to confirm the appointment.
7) Stay home all afternoon waiting on the UPC service guy.
8) Guy arrives only to find the UPC box in the apartment doesn't work. He leaves, taking all the equipment with him. Fortunately, he promises that UPC will contact you within two days to set up new appointment with another, more specialized, service man.
9) Wait three days.
10) Call UPC and demand that they send somebody to set up the internet. Stay on phone for over an hour while man checks the broadband box remotely. Get told by the UPC man on the phone that the UPC box doesn't work. Explain why you didn't have the first service man leave his equipment at your house (!) because you should have known it was necessary. Have the man on the phone laugh at you for not owning a telly. Next, realize the last appointment was completely useless and it could have been done over the phone. Set up new appointment for three days from now.

I haven't figured out the final steps just yet. UPC says the guy is showing up on Thursday between 9am and 1pm. I guess I'll complete the steps then. Running time since first contact with UPC: 2 weeks, 6 days.

Monday, September 27, 2010

hello be my friend

my friendliest face

I am so desperate to make friends that hubby has to hold me back from pouncing on strangers and creating awkward situations. Example: Yesterday a bird shat on a girl’s head out in front of our building. She was obviously embarrassed and ran away. She pulled her friend to the corner with her and hid behind the building. It was clear through the corner windows that she was avoiding whoever saw her.

I suggested to Travis that if I followed her around the corner and invited her up to the apartment to wipe the bird poo out of her hair, she might become my friend. He suggested that she did not want to know that an entire block of people witnessed the disgusting mess in her hair. He said that might be why she ran the opposite direction from us. I conceded that running after her screaming, “HEY POO-HAIR GIRL, BE MY FRIEND!” might make her feel bad.
exciting, I know
In lieu of hanging out with friends, I continue to shop for house things. Today I bought a towel rack. Now we have a place (other than hallway doors) for our towels and that place is actually IN the bathroom. Great.


Yesterday hubby and I went to my first Yelp event in Dublin. I guess since I moved, my yelp elite status moved with me. That means I get invited to parties with free food and drink and then the venue hopes that our group (yelpers) will write good reviews about them online. Anyway, for this event I got invited to BioRhythm at the Trinity College Science Gallery. BioRyhthm is this awesome exhibit having to do with the various ways that the human body perceives music.

In comparison to Yelp events in the states, this one had lots more liquor circulating. We tried two locally-brewed beers, two kinds of locally-distilled whiskey (there were five!), a fancy blood orange vodka concoction, and two kinds of Barefoot brand wine (coincidentally bottled in California). Thank goodness they were using small cups and we were sharing our samples. We barely used half our drink tickets so I imagine there were some rather tipsy folks by the end of it. We didn’t go to the after-party since nobody talked to us and we were bored after awhile. To be fair, I used to take my own friends in Minneapolis and never ever spoke to strangers at the events, even though they are meant for mingling. Still, I thought maybe we’d make friends. How does one make friends?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

marmite and crispy fish pie

creamy > crunchy
Look what we found--peanut butter! When I lived in Spain we had to walk all the way across town to the American grocery store and pay 8 Euro for a tiny little jar. This one cost 1.50 EUR at my new favorite store Marks & Spencer. M&S sells groceries as well as clothes. It is amazing.
public property
In other food news, I have been making recipes out of a cookbook meant for first-time college students. I found the recipe book at a coffee shop and wanted to try some of them (Marmite spaghetti? Yes, please.) so I shoved it in my purse and have been cooking from it ever since. The pages are made of magazine material so obviously it wasn’t actual robbery since it is not an actual book...much like stealing a magazine from the doctor’s office, which is public property (right Dad?).
Nasty Fish Pie
Most things from this book have been pretty good, but do not attempt to make this Crispy Fish Pie. In the recipe book, it is listed under the section labeled Show-Off Dinners. If your idea of showing off is making people sick (me) or making them feel like they have a brick in their stomach (hubby) then go right ahead. Oh and if you like your house to smell like a garbage bag full of last week’s cat food tins, this is also the recipe for you.

P.S. Marmite is yeast extract that is meant to be food and looks like a brown goopy mess.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

dont let me be misunderstood

I feel odd saying things with an Irish accent, especially when I've been here less than a month. I feel like some kind of fancypants princess putting the Irish lilt on my words. "Please may I have soya milk in that skinny latte? Cheers." The truth is that it's necessary to be understood.

Example #1: The owner of our apartment came over to fix our washer/dryer. He emptied out some valve and cleaned the screen so we think it is fixed. He said to try a load of wash and "ring" him on the weekend. I agreed and said I'd "call". He made odd faces and repeated that I should "ring" him and I said "Ok I can call Saturday or Sunday". Later I realized that "calling" means to visit or drop in on somebody such as "I'll call round this afternoon" while "ring" is the phone call he was looking for.

Example #2: Last night a bartender insisted on pouring me Jack Daniels whiskey instead of gin when I asked for a gin and tonic. In the bustle of the bar it must have sounded like I was asking for "jack & coke" when I said "jen and tawn-ic" in an American accent. I tried later and said it in my thickest Irish-type accent "jeen and tone-ic" and they got the order right.

Speaking of gin & tonics...I am baffled. I am here to inform you that Irish bartenders are nothing but glorified grocery clerks: They do not mix drinks. In my gin & tonic experience the bartender put ice in a glass with gin and handed me a bottle of tonic on the bar. I unscrew the cap to pour my own amount of tonic. Not only does it feels like they are putting me to work, but it eliminates the concept of a place that makes good drinks; I am making the drink after all. It's awful to think of the proportions that are coming off that bar and what people must think proper drinks taste like. In fairness, you dont have to tip the bartender (for what?) so there are savings involved. Still, there is something lost in the art of mixology here. I have not seen a signature cocktail--nor would I be adventurous enough to try one considering the experience of the bartenders.

nachos and laser cards

nachos and killer guac at Acapulco
 So far we have found 1 excellent Mexican restaurant called Café Azteca, 1 decent one (nachos shown above), 1 called Boojum but is actually Chipotle, and 1 horrible one called Taco Taco. Soon I will be taking a class at Café Azteca with the owner Hugo, who will be teaching me how to make homemade mole sauce and restaurant rice since mine never comes out fluffy enough.
boop boop boop
This is hubby using his official Laser Card to pay for our dinner. The laser card is a debit card with a special chip. At restaurants they bring the machine all the way to your table and you have to enter your pin. Some stores like Aldi and Spar only take cash or laser cards. I have been s.o.l. thus far but I finally got a piece of mail with my name on it last week. With my mail, I opened my Irish bank account and I'll soon have my very own laser card! Here is more Irish vocabulary that I learned at the bank:
“current” account = checking
“lodgement” = deposit
“docket” = bank slip
“bureau de change” = where you can convert money and deposit
United States checks (P.S. Is this French?)

After dinner we went out with one of hubby’s classmates and the girlfriend. The classmate is Irish but the girlfriend is from Ohio and lived in San Francisco for awhile. We bonded over the crazy Irish spray deodorant. So the good news is I might have a friend.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

money money money

three horns dont play with long necks
Hooray! Today's important update is that I now have an Irish bank account and will soon be receiving my laser card in the post. A laser card is like a debit card and certain stores only take official Laser Cards. I will soon be going to Aldi and buying my favorite brand of crackers as well as a quick visit to Spar. Spar is my favorite convenience store and there is one underneath our apartment that sells ridiculously overpriced things like yoghurt-covered rice cakes and mini baguettes. I cannot wait! PEE ESS:
"gerkhin" = pickle
"pickle" = anything pickled (onion, pepper, etc.)
"relish" = dont even ask since it's gross

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

desperate housewife

cup o tea?
Now that hubby is gone at class all day I am spending time at coffee shops applying for jobs using their wifi. It’s tough to complete an application form when I find a fitting vacancy (that’s what they call available jobs) because when my computer battery dies I have to head home again and re-charge. Every once in awhile I get a table near a wall plug and I stay a little bit longer. I am going to add “able to nurse a single coffee for over three hours” to my CV. By the way a CV means curriculum vitae and it’s an international version of resume. It tends to be longer than the typical American one-page resume because as far as I understand they want to know everything about you that has ever been known. CVs typically list information that is left off American resumes for fear of discrimination such as your nationality by birth, gender, and marital status. Creepy, right?
i was not aware of this shot being on my camera
Being home without anything to do is not fun. How did housewives do this in the 1950s? They must have had a strictly observed cocktail hour. There is only so much bouncing around the house to Lady Gaga that I can do. Shopping is out of the question since…oh yes…I have no income. Walking around is fine but a few times I have ended up in neighborhoods I don’t want to end up in alone. To compensate for my boredom, I find myself slipping into housewifely duties. The house is spotless, the laundry is done, and we have been eating incredible dinners (if I do say so myself!). Fajitas with handmade corn tortillas and homemade refried beans, asparagus dinner tart, and last night I made the most incredible shitake risotto.
handmade--literally the tortilla is on my hand
check out my concentration
the (slightly crunchy) results
The job search is on but we still don’t have internet at home. We contacted ESB (Electricity Supply Board-- the Irish company that supplies overpriced cable/internet/phone bundles similar to Qwest or Time Warner) to set up our home account. For some reason they are having trouble locating our residence. Our building is either called Ha’penny House or Halfpenny House and we aren’t sure which is correct. I would think a Dublin-based ESB worker would know how to fix this problem, being that the Ha’penny Bridge is a fairly well-known fixture, but so far no luck. Fixing the internet connection is currently priority numero uno. Unfortunately, when it is finally fixed I will have absolutely zero reason to leave the house. Ugh.
whoa is right

back to school

O'Connell Street just north of Talbot
Here’s a quick picture of hubby waiting for the bus on the way to his first day of college. He was too embarrassed to let me take it as he was getting on the actual bus so this will have to do. How cute is he, right? We caught the bus on O’Connell Street just north of the central bus station. There are bus stops all up and down O’Connell Street so thankfully we looked ahead of time to see which stop was ours. Most bus stops list the buses on the sign but if you didn’t know you might walk a few blocks before finding the one you want. To get to All Hallows, we took the 13a bus which goes north up O’Connell and eventually turns onto Drumcondra. The bus lets us off just past the Munchies coffee shop and from there it’s about a seven minute walk to the front gate.
dog poo signs are always insightful
On the way out, after I left hubby at orientation it was quicker to take Richmond Ave south. There is a big “football pitch” which is a soccer field and there is also a stadium along this road. I couldn’t see inside but the colors are red and white. I am not sure if the stadium is for soccer or Gaelic football. Gaelic football is popular along with hurling, both being sports that were not imported to Ireland by the British. Gaelic football and hurling are played on a pitch about three times the size of a regular soccer field. There are uprights as well as a goal with a net. For balls that go under the uprights (in the goal) players score three points while a ball over the uprights gets one point. The main difference between hurling and Gaelic football is that Gaelic is played with a rugby type ball and hurling is played with wooden sticks and a little ball. Both seem pretty brutal and both end up with lots of bloody cuts and bandaged heads. Players are seen as heroes by most Irish people.

I learned a ton about Irish heritage including sport by reading a book my dad gave me called Trinity by Leon Uris. It tells the story of Ireland’s struggle for independence as well as the history of the treatment of Catholics in this country. The novel, based in Ulster, is incredibly well-written and hard to put down—highly recommended (thanks Dad!).

no don't jump

one foot in and one foot out
This is not our clothes rack attempting suicide. This is my best idea for drying our laundry since our washer/dryer is broken and doesn’t actually dry clothes. The Dublin weather with ten minutes of sunshine, ten minutes of clouds, and ten minutes of rain is not helping my makeshift clothes dryer at all. Last load, it took two whole days for the socks to dry. I’ve called the guy who rented us the apartment and so far no response. Lame.
Dear John, Call me and fix my dryer. This is ridiculous. Love, Alison

Monday, September 20, 2010

i should be paid for this

the Argos catalog in all its glory
Since we arrived in Dublin, the helpful Irish people have been telling me to go to the Argos store for whatever I was looking for. Need a stand alone towel rack? Try Argos. Hair dryer with diffuser? Go to Argos. What about a full-length mirror, a toothbrush, and a duvet cover? Argos!

We finally found our way to the Jervis Shopping Center and wandered the mall for half an hour looking for the place. I was imagining a WalMart-sized monstrosity so I was surprised when we found the tiny little shop in the corner of the mall. To my delight, I learned that Argos is a catalog store. That means all they have are 30 stands with catalogs open, you find what you want in the catalog, type the numbers into an ATM-type machine, pay with your card, and magically your items come bouncing in on a conveyer belt. The Argos employees put your stuff together at the pick-up window and check to make sure you got everything. What I am trying to explain is that Argos is genius—pure genius. Instead of wandering the store getting tired and cranky and spending $100 by the time you walk out (Target) you get what you came for in less than 15 minutes. Not only that but if they are out of stock, they will send a text message alert to your phone as soon as it arrives so you can pick it up at your convenience.
like IKEA but less walking involved
In conclusion, I took an Argos catalogue home and it’s my new favorite book. Bow down, Target, bow down.

whistle while you work

Henry in his home--our hall closet
I thought I'd share a photograph of our third roommate Henry the "Hoover" which is what people call vacuums here. Everything is a's like Kleenex. We finally cleaned house last night. I have never had so much fun vacuuming the house before but then again the vacuum never smiled at me before. Henry is amazingly quiet as well. I highly recommend him. According to the Argos catalog, Henry comes in six (6!) colors, has a blue cousin Charles who is a wet/dry vac, and a younger sister named Hetty who is small and pink. Irish vocab lesson of the day:
"corriander" = cilantro
"aubergine" = eggplant
"courgette" = zucchini, pronounced COOR-JET but say the Jet a little Frenchier
"goujons" = sticks as in fish goujons or chicken goujons, also said Frenchily
"an lár" = city centre

scholarly pursuits

welcome indeed
Hubby had his first day of college today. We rode the bus up to campus and walked those momentous first steps together. I got to see the wooden hallways and watch all the first-year students mill around, looking nervous. I also sat in on the first part of orientation and heard the history of All Hallows College, which was established in 1843 or some long time ago. I learned some interesting facts, including that they offer a masters program in Social Justice & Public Policy so on the way out I picked up a brochure. The "programme" is only part time so I could work and go to school at the same time. Hmmmm...
1843...or so
I also met the college's chaplain and she said "damn" out loud in front of everyone, which at a Catholic college put us all at ease. From what hubby says, it is an open-minded faculty. I left about the time they started doing mixer-type activities and getting to know people so I wouldnt cramp his style. He spent the day learning and meeting new people. I spent the day applying for a job. In other news I also bought a pair (yet another) of jeggings. Dont. Tell. Husband.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

drizzly saturday

Temple Bar
I’m wondering just how many blog entries will have rain-related titles after four years! Today Hubby and I were planning on a picnic at St. Stephen’s Green just south of Temple Bar area. We had read about a farmer’s market in Temple Bar but after looking out the window and seeing the wet ground, a picnic was out. Instead we decided to explore a bit and spent the afternoon walking.
my dream job as a Diet Coke girl in the street
We didn’t find the food market but we did find the most adorable vintage store called Carousel. I was sucked in by the amazing desk set in the front window but unfortunately they didn’t carry much furniture. What they did have was the largest selection of quality vintage dresses I have ever seen. Every single one was adorable (not a single mu-mu) and with some of the coolest material patterns I’ve ever seen. They were about 44 EUR on sale and about 60 EUR regular priced. I tried on a mustard frock but it was a little big and too long. I hope to go back. We also found an amazing organic grocery store that had all kinds of wonderful ethnic foods and ingredients that I haven’t found at Tesco. We stocked up and tonight I’ll be attempting to make handmade corn tortillas for fajitas. Wish me luck.
my mustard and velvet frock
new favorite store

great grandfar’s pub

me and my friend Smithwicks
I’m a little late in posting but on Wednesday night we walked to the top of Grafton Street to see an open mic night called the Zodiac Sessions at Bruxelles, a bar voted Dublin’s best indie bar in 2009. In the end we decided that maybe open mic night is not our scene (to be fair we never went to any open mics in Minneapolis) but we did make a friend who chatted with us the entire night. He told us to try going to shows at Whelan’s a venue that has free local shows at midnight and books touring bands as well. I picked up a calendar and it seems like a good lead.
hubs and his friend Mr. Arthur Guinness
I also met a man named Fred who was going to meet his long lost love later this week. He told me how they met while she was studying abroad over 20 years ago in Dublin and since then she was married and now divorced. She was coming back to Ireland to find out if things could work out between them. What an exciting and adorable story!
holler atcha girl
When we arrived at Bruxelles I was delighted to see it was directly across the street from McDaid’s, an Irish pub famous for serving the local literati (so says my Frommer’s guide) as well as formerly being owned by our friend Riley McDaid’s great grandfather. We decided it was only fitting to stop in for a pint and I enjoyed a nice Smithwicks. I decided it is my favorite Irish beer.

Friday, September 17, 2010

point village market

We are going to check this out tomorrow or Sunday: Point Village Market...just another great idea from the Dublin Event Guide (for free events). It looks like a nice walk just east of us along the river. If we go on Sunday I am hoping to arrive by 11:00am so we can see a band called Little Ass Birds. That's pretty hilarious as far as band names go.

going back to cali cali

Lower Ormond Quay

By coincidence the little coffee shop which currently provides my internet connection and my daily americano is called West Coast Coffee. I move half a world away and end up with a corner coffee shop that has the Golden Gate Bridge as the logo. Little comforts I guess.
 West Coast Coffee

the pits

what the heck 

Of all the things I’d have to adapt to in a foreign country I never imagined it would come to weird deodorant. In the U.S. we believe in stick deodorant. Every deodorant up and down the aisle at the grocery store is in the same form. Target has almost two whole aisles of deodorants--all sticks. It’s simple: you wipe it on, and you never think twice about what other forms deodorant could or should take. Once I saw an elderly woman buying a little green roll-on contraption labeled Ban. She was obviously from the dark and distant past when stick deodorant hadn’t been invented and being elderly, naturally feared modern technology. She probably still owned a black and white television console with dials instead of a channel changer.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Boots drugstore in Ireland and the aisle was filled with deodorants of all shapes and sizes…but not a single stick. I’ve tried to vary my deodorant habits in the past. I made the switch to Arm & Hammer aluminum-free deodorant about two years ago after using Secret for years. Except for the most intense of summer days it does the job. Once I even tried Tom’s Natural Deodorant and smelled bad for a whole week just to make a serious attempt. Never have I had to use a deodorant other than the standard stick.

My first instinct at Boots was to buy a little roll-on applicator only because it was the familiar Dove label and they had a citrus scent I liked. For some reason the idea of rolling a wet substance onto my armpit seemed creepy so roll-on was out of the question. I stood there dumbfounded in the aisle and as I stood, I noticed every woman reaching for tall hairspray-bottle deodorants with the utmost confidence. In the interest of experiencing all things authentic about Irish culture, I too chose a tall spray deodorant can. Today is my first day spraying my deodorant on and at 6:23pm I am happy to report success. Does anybody know how long one bottle of spray-on deodorant lasts?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

a house on the river

Ha'penny Bridge on the Liffey

Look what I saw yesterday when I came out the front door! This river is just alive with activity. These Monopoly hotels and houses are an installment that is part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. You can read a little blurb about them here in The Irish Times.

ballymun adventure

IKEA in Ballymun 
As far as decor for the new apartment there are a few options. Most of the department stores like Arnott's, Dunnes, and Boyer's have bargain shops in the basement--bargain basement prices ha!--that sell last year's home goods. I also found a cute thrift store in Temple Bar called Lucy's Lounge that has some great stuff. Lucy is currently checking into a "gram" (record player) to see if it is functional for our living room. For the basics though, it's good old IKEA. We rode the bus out to Ballymun where the monstrosity lives.
 mattress pad because the current "mattress" doesn't have padding at all

It was the perfect time to learn how to use the bus and we figured out that the 6 EUR day pass was more expensive than if we had paid 2.20 EUR each way but would be useful for catching connecting buses on the same day. We also figured out that you need exact change if you dont plan on buying a day pass.
Ballymun is apparently Ireland's first carbon-neutral city. The signs all said so.
Ballymun's tracksuit boys

riding the double-decker bus

heart attack

Riding the double-decker bus in the rain almost gave me a heart attack. Trees were slapping the windshield, rain was gushing down the windows like a waterfall, and every turn felt like we'd go skidding on our side like a 1990 Geo Tracker. I may never ride on the second level again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

things are going swimmingly

 River Liffey
I stepped out of the front door yesterday and saw a huge crowd gathered on both sides of the river and all along the bridge. I have no idea why these crazy people are swimming in the Liffey. Frankly, the water is a little brown for me. I think it was a race since some people were cheering? No matter what the reason, all I could think was, 'what a fun thing to see on my doorstep!'
Millennium Walking Bridge

the guy in the kayak seemed to be a judge of some sort

home is where the heart is

 our apartment is right there--I'm not even kidding!

We found an apartment and moved in! I am glad to announce that we are no longer at that nasty hostel (a long story including a flood) and have a place to call home. It is in the most perfect, most adorable building right along the River Liffey! I cannot believe our luck. Except for the washer/dryer that doesn't dry clothes, things are going swimmingly. It's a little one-bedroom apartment with an entryway, a kitchen/laundry, a living room/dining area, and a bathroom.
 living room slash dining room

kitchen--yes that is the washing machine right in the middle!

bedroom with a wardrobe, still not quite as big as our old walk-in :(

 our sailboat bathroom

courtyard with lots of greenery
We are getting settled and while we wait on our internet connection to be set up, we mostly shop. We need towel racks--who makes a bathroom without a towel rack?!--an entryway table to put our wet shoes under, and some sort of coffee table. We're just trying to make it seem a little cozier and more like home.