* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Sunday, December 30, 2012


The first time we landed in Holyhead I was quite confused.  The signs were in 2 languages.  I initially assumed that since we were on the Irish ferry system that they carried over writing the signs in both English and Irish.  After a few minutes, I finally noticed all the double f's, y's and double l's and realized I was looking at Welsh.  We traveled the Welsh countryside via train to get to London most recently and to and from Scotland previously.

I don't know why but I would say Wales is what I picture whenever I am given cause to visualize the English countryside.  The seashore towns are quaintly picturesque in a manner Disney can only hope to emulate.  Huddles of houses ring harbors that have been home to fisherman since before remembering. Quintessential sheep graze in every grassy nook with stone farmhouses that seriously do look like they could have just emerged from the earth wholemeal.  Finally, the train makes it way through small villages and town clusters of brick and stone houses that simply must date from at least the Victorian period.  It's all surrounded by the sort of rolling hills you see on biscuit tins.  When you look sideways, through sleepy eyes, at the misty mountain tips and the marshy down below, it becomes clear why this was a land of sleeping dragons, fairies, and Arthur's court.  Lest you think all this is the glitter and sparkles of modern imagining, you would do well to revisit the old tales.

My earliest, conscious exposure to the wealth of fantasy that pulls on the rich wellspring of myths and legends of the British Isles was The Dark is Rising.  Don't give the movie a thought and read the series in the order they were published rather than based on series chronology.  I enjoy pretty much any retelling of the Child Ballads.  My very favorite of all time is Tam Lin by Pamela Dean with Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones being a close second.  Musically, The Knight and the Shepard's Daughter as sung by Halali is based on Child 110 and hauntingly well done.  I can't find a full version but you can hear the clip here and it's worth the 99 cents.  A theme of all these is the idea that a woman in love is a powerful force; while men have the stronger hand, women were blessed with strong hearts.  The battle between light and dark; true and fairy; love and loss is fierce and comes with consequences.  The people of the Isles knew that a fierce heart is your greatest weapon and a woman in love is your greatest ally.

English spoken by a Welshman has a rolling quality.  It's like the relentless rolling of ocean waves.  There seem to be no full stops, breaths, or consonants; just an ebb and flow of sounds; a river of syllables.  It becomes clear why Wales is a land of poets.  This youtube video is worth a watch if you are curious about how spoken Welsh sounds.

FYI- The idea of women being a force in of themselves comes up in a variety of other cultures.  The Spanish tale of Princess Florecita and the Iron Shoes is an excellent example.

Monday, December 17, 2012


When Allen asked me about what I wanted to see in Scotland, I put a high priority on the Highlands mostly due to the influences of Hamish MacBethMonarch of the Glen, and the Outlander Series as well as a liberal smattering of romances set in the Highlands.  I was pretty sure that the Highlands would be epic with a deep sense of history and a dash of mystic Druidy-ness as well as full of time traveling kilted hunks or, at the very least, kilted hunks wandering about tossing cabers.  Imagine my shock when this wasn't completely the case!

Megan on super scenic walk to playground
Inverness has a population of around 60,000 and is by far, the biggest city around.  It reminded me a lot of Upstate New York in weather and general atmosphere.  We went at the end of October so the sun rose after 8 and set before 5.  The temperatures were running in the 30s and 40s (2 to 6).  This is a little colder than it was in Dublin but it actually felt a little warmer.  It had that crispness that I associate with late fall on the east coast and I finally got to see some proper foliage.  I assume from the crispness that it was a drier cold which supports my theory that damp cold just feels colder.  While it may have been short on the kilted time travelers, I will say that the Scots seem to have a more stoic attitude towards cold than the Irish.  We saw young men in t-shirts, girls dressed in a distinctly unbundled fashion and children frolicking about in jackets (even the odd pair of shorts) rather than parkas.  It seems that if you are facing a winter where it will almost definitely get much colder and much darker before it is done, you had better be sure you have perspective about what warrants full on cold weather gear.  The Scottish men were different as well- some were tall and lanky but a good number were decidedly tall and not lanky.  There actually did seem to be some foundation to the speculation that they grow them bigger in the north (or at least have a lingering Viking influence).  I also overheard an extensive discussion amongst some teenage girls as to if the college boyfriend (from somewhere other than the Highlands) was going to last.  He was going to have to "be made of sterner stuff" between the weather and the economic climate.  I got the strong impression that the women were well able to keep up with the men.  If you watch Dr Who, it will be very telling that Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) is from Inverness.

Noah focused on filling his pockets with leaves

We spent a lot of time traveling around the Highlands via train.  It was absolutely lovely in a very rugged way.  There weren't a lot of trees.  I believe it's due to a lack of topsoil.  The ground was scraped quite clean by the glaciers.  Although, there were some fairly significant pine forestry operations.  We also saw our fair share of sheep.  Sadly, no caber tossing.

Charlie occasionally sits still
We spent one day in pursuit of Nessie which thrilled the children to no end.  Allen worried that the boat tour and museum visit would be too cheesy.  I reminded him that we were traveling with a 4 and 6 year old.  The discussion was closed.  Megan swears that she saw something that may have been Nessie's back but the rest of us missed it.  Of note, this account didn't come until a day AFTER the trip.  Charlie was completely sucked into various theories about the Loch Ness Monster being a wayward prehistoric beast.  Noah wanted to know why we kept dragging him places that weren't playgrounds.

Urquart Castle
I enjoyed visiting Urquart Castle which is on the other side of the Loch.  It was cold and windy (shocker!) so I wasn't able to wax romantic contemplation quite as much as I would like but there was a very palpable sense of history.  It even felt a touch mystic what with the ancient sea monster myths, lapping water, brisk wind, and swiftly changing season.  I think the best time to get in touch with your inner Druid is likely autumn.  Nothing inspires you to light a bonfire and sacrifice a deer quite like a swiftly shortening day.

Views from Urquart Castle
St Columba visited (maybe) in the 6th Century.  He was a Christian missionary from Ireland who may have instigated the battle of Cul Dreimhne in Ireland in 561.  There was a great loss of life and, to avoid excommunication, he had to save as many Pictish souls as had been lost in the battle.  Some form of fortified settlement had been on this site since at least a bit before his time.  I could just imagine standing on the rocky coast, looking out over the loch and vaguely wondering what in the world I could possibly do with yet more fish for dinner.  The castle was put through a variety of iterations and passed through several owners, figuring highly in several feuds until the English troops sacked it in attempt to prevent it from falling into Jacobite control in 1692.  (As I told Allen the other day, by European standards, pretty much the whole of the US is new construction.)

Finally tracked down the picture
of the Dalek at the book store
If you are interested in Scotland, you might consider Neil Oliver's book, A History of Scotland.  I have read scandalously little of it at this point but so far, it's been quite enjoyable.  He also hosted a BBC series about Scotland that I haven't gotten to watch but based on the Viking one, I bet it's superb.

Children in railcar
We also visited Glasgow for a blessedly brief time.  It was easier to get back to Dublin that way.  The children greatly enjoyed Scotland's Museum of Transportation and Travel.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Edinburgh Castle is perhaps the visual epitome of the Scottish motto "no one provokes me with impunity."  Look at that cliff face!  Can you imagine getting an invading force up that?  It's built on an extinct volcano which some say looks like the back of a sleeping dragon.  For all that, it's managed to switch back and forth between English and Scottish possession for the better part of the last 1000 years.  Prior to that, it had been a stronghold of assorted tribes and clans since at least the early Iron Age and perhaps since the late Bronze Age.  In short, it's likely that someone has wanted to be king of this mountain for the last 2500 years.  It's currently occupied by the British Army who actually do maintain some offices and residences.  St Margret's Chapel is also still in regular use.  In fact, it was closed for a Christening while we visited.  It's the oldest building in Edinburgh, built by King David in the 1100s.
Edinburgh Castle was especially important to visit as I have quite a bit of Bruce in my background.  While that hunk of the family has never done much in the way of genealogies, we like to assume that we simply must be worthy of the Bruce coat of arms.

We missed it as it was a Sunday but they fire the cannons most days at 1300 hours.  This acted as a communal timepiece much in the same way church bells might starting in 1861.  The original plan had been the time ball on the top of the Nelson Monument but the rather perpetual fog, mist, and generally poor visibility inhibit the efficacy of a visual time marker.  

The highlight for the children was seeing the Honours of the Kingdom.  The children were breathless with anticipation to see the "crown of gold."  We also saw the scepter, sword, and the Stone of Scone (fascinating article about the stone here, if not completely factual).  The Stone of Scone has been lugged about the Scottish and English countryside a bit.  The English insisted on it being put into their coronation ceremony around 1300 when they annexed Scotland and, so, if you look at the throne, there is a slot for the stone to be slipped under the cushion.  The stone finally made it's official way back to Scotland in 1996 with the understanding that it would be returned for future crownings.

J. K. Rowling wrote most of the Harry Potter books in and around Edinburgh.  The release of the 6th book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (where Ginny and Harry FINALLY get together, hem, hem) took place at Edinburgh Castle.  I can't think of a better location.  There is no doubt as to how you could be inspired to create Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and all the rest.
I would have really liked to have visited Edinburgh longer but our budget didn't stretch to multiple nights at the Astoria.  It has a wealth of museums as well as all manner of interesting architecture and nooks and crannies to explore.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Peat and Moss

I can say with some confidence that there are two things I will forever associate with Ireland, the smell of peat smoke and the hidden beauty of moss.

American fires are generally wood.  They have a sweet smell of sunshine with the crisp underpinnings of a winter wind.  They are boys in soft flannel shirts and giggling girls eating s'mores.  They are Girl Scouts and football.  They are maple and cherry and birch and apples and sunrise.  The smell of an American chimney is unmistakable.

Irish fires are peat.  The have a darker flavor.  They are woodsmoke mixed with cigars and smouldering leaves.  They are men wearing wool and women praying over their babies.  They are of the earth rather than the sky.  The are ferns and grass and plants from before tree's imaginings.  They are sunset and dew and ancient.  The smell of Irish winter nights is foreign and familiar.

The Irish people have been neglected, oppressed, starved, sold, invaded and sent far from home.  The island's resources are both abundant and limited.  Somehow the Irish have managed to survive, if not always thrive, since the 8th century BC.  The moss in Ireland is notable in the way it manages to gain a toehold almost anywhere.  It hides in the nook and crannies, sometimes appearing as a simple haze of green.  It perseveres through masonry, children's footsteps and frost.  The moss of Ireland is as much a constant as it's people.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Abroad

I'm going to link this up to pretty, happy, funny, real.  It isn't formatted quite right but does include quite a bit of real life.  :-)
round button chicken

Noah dips his
pie into the cream
Allen has been discussing hosting a Thanksgiving celebration in Dublin since we moved here.  I was less enthusiastic.  On the morning of, Allen stood in the middle of the kitchen and proclaimed "I think this is fantastic!"  I pointed out to him that his main contribution to the festivities up to then was picking up the turkey while I had made 6 pies, 2 dozen rolls, cranberry sauce, and several pounds of roasted vegetables.

Megan loved the rolls
Pumpkin is not a big crop here in general (turnips were the traditionally carved item) and canned pumpkin is both hard to find and quite expensive.  If I had been at the top of my game, I would have gotten a few pie pumpkins for the 2 weeks in October they were out and made a fresh puree but that was about the time we went to Scotland.  Thankfully, Jen, our American visitor over Thanksgiving, was happy to bring canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and cranberries with her.  I spoke to the butcher and he got a Turkey killed specially for me- the Irish tend to use turkey mostly for Christmas dinner so we were running a bit ahead of the crowd.

But, how was I going to manage to cook the turkey?  We have an upper and lower oven, both tiny.  Each are around 13 inches by 16 inches and a height of 1-2 feet.  I doubted they could even manage to fit a large chicken.  The upper oven's knob's marking had rubbed off so the one and only time we had attempted to use it, we came close to causing a small gas explosion.  The temperatures were a bit of guesswork to start with, using the gas mark system and the heating fluctuates wildly.  I have yet to have anything cook the same way twice.

Spatchcocked breast
Allen swooped in with a new knob a week or so before Thanksgiving and an Irish friend told me that you just needed to have the butcher spatchcock the turkey.  Spatchcocking is removing the backbone so that the bird lies flat.  It's about the same as butterflying.  Spatchcock is an Irish term derived from "dispatch cock" or preparing a cock for cooking.  I finally decided to cook the legs in the upper oven and the breast in the lower.  By the time the bird is flattened, you won't get a traditional Norman Rockwell bird, anyway.  On the plus side, this means the breast doesn't get dried out and the whole bird cooks much more quickly.

Megan's winter squash
allergy means we also have
an apple dessert
Since my ovens would be otherwise occupied, I cooked pies the day before.  There would be around 12 of us so I thought I would go ahead and make both cans worth of pumpkin pie- that was only 2 pies, after all.  Except, when you use Irish pie plates, it makes 6!  Our Irish guests were very suspicious of pumpkin pie although how a group of people who can face black pudding and fish 1st thing in the morning can be suspicious of ANY food is beyond me.  :-)  But, it was deemed good and they even left with a pie for home.  The cream helped.  I mixed several tablespoons of creme fresh in with the heavy cream and it gave it a delightful zing.

There was rather a lot of consumption of hard cider on my part, the sacrifice of 1 pair of kitchen sheers and a great deal of laughter by Jen and Allen but the turkey was dismembered, massaged, roasted, and declared quite good.

In the end, we wound up with a quite respectable feast of roasted veggies, potatoes, sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, and rolls as well as 6 pumpkin pies and 2 apple tartines.  An enjoyable time was had by all as well as a good night's sleep- nothing like some turkey just before bed!

Richard carving the turkey

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving's Past

Thanksgiving and Christmas photos are somewhere in Allen's picture stash so generally cute pictures that I *can* find are the order of the day.

It's been a bit since the last post.  There are actually 2 more Scotland posts, maybe a pretty, funny, happy, real and the Irish Thanksgiving post to come.  Over the last few weeks we got back from the Scotland trip, Allen left for a week in the US, Noah got pink eye which is so much more fun with laundry limitations!, we're hosting a houseguest and we're having Thanksgiving for 12 (the butcher got a turkey killed just for me! and he's spatchcoking it!)  So, I've been a little busy.  I'm hoping things settle out a bit next week and I can catch up.  But, until then, I was thinking about Thanksgivings past.  While Thanksgiving abroad is a challenge, I am no stranger to having no idea how to manage to get a holiday meal on the table.

Megan age 2, Noah around 7 months
We have taken a fairly firm stance on not traveling for holidays since we started having children.  This worked out, in large part, because our families are reasonably geographically close and we were the only ones with children for quite a while.  Of course, this also meant that we needed to be happy to host whomever wanted to come for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So, I've been producing a reasonable holiday meal spread in the midst of newborns, nursing, and pregnancy while chasing a toddler and dealing with morning sickness.
Megan finally had enough hair for pigtails at age 3.
We had a photo shoot.
I want to share my secrets.

First, take help from any corner.  Did you know that Cracker Barrel will let you buy large quantities of most of their side dishes as well as their pies and some mains?  This will save you the year that you are flattened by morning sickness.  Make a list of what you would like to serve.  Put a star next to anything that takes more than 2 steps and start farming them out to anyone who dares ask "can I bring something?"- that includes the green salad- way too much chopping.  If anyone has a special request or something that is just vital to their holiday meal experience, they are welcome to bring it along.

Noah 5 days with our wedding rings
Second, consider how to make the meat someone else's job.  Your husband can take on the very manly task of turkeying.  I suggest you have him smoke that bad boy up on the grill.  Alton Brown makes it simple and it will taste beyond compare.  If you are going the ham route ordering is the easiest way.  But, the grocery store hams also taste good with a simple glaze and require little in the way of tending.  I like Nigella's but I don't do the whole boiling in ginger ale step- I just follow the reheating instructions on the package and top it with the glaze.

Charlie with his great grandfather age 6 months
Third, the slow cooker is your friend.  I always make green beans and just let them hang out until we're ready.  Snip 1/4 pound or so of pancetta or bacon into your slow cooker and flip it to high.  Cook the bacon until it's fairly crispy- about an hour or so.  Fill your crock 1/2 full or so with the flat green beans (italian green beans) from the freezer section- don't add them to the hot crock straight from the freezer or you will crack your crock.  Cover those with a mixture of roughly 1/2 and 1/2 chicken broth and water.  Cook on low for a few hours- you are looking for them to soften up and heat through but they can also hang out for a while.  Periodically check for salt or butter needs.

Charlie 20 months, Megan 1 week
Fourth, you don't have to have rolls AND stuffing- they are both bread.  But, if you feel strongly, might I suggest the Pioneer Woman's rolls?  They start with the frozen kind and lend themselves to being neglected- they need around 5 hours to rise, after all.  Plus, they stay warm for quite a while with no effort since they are in cast iron skillets.  I unabashedly go with a boxed stuffing.

Noah 1st Birthday
Fifth, consider your veggie needs.  If mashed potatoes are a must, ask your mother or MIL to take them on while you nurse the baby or go lie down.  I tend to sidestep both salad and potatoes by going with roasted root veggies.  You can chop as you get time and/or assign someone else to chop.  I usually go with a mixture of veggies including sweet potato, rutabaga, turnip, beets (although consider a separate pan because they will turn everything pink), carrots, onion, and garlic you can also add in cauliflower and broccoli.  Since the turkey is making hay in the grill, you have the oven.  Cut everything into roughly the same size except the onion- that should be in wedges, toss with olive oil until everything looks a little shiny and ready for a day at the beach, sprinkle with a good bit of salt and fennel seeds and pop into a 425' ish oven for about an hour or until everything is tender and caramelized.  Make about twice as much as you think you need- I use the turkey roasting pan (see grill).  The veggies shrink plus they are super tasty and go fast both at the meal and as leftovers but go easy on the turnips and rutabaga because they do taste strong.  Assign someone else to check on them every 15 minutes starting at the 45 minute mark because you will be nursing the baby and/or calming an overstimulated toddler and/or laying down.  They are forgiving.  You can lower the heat to bake the rolls if needed, it might just take them a little longer to finish cooking.  You also have those green beans floating around and never underestimate the power of frozen corn with a good dab of butter.

Charlie 3,  Megan 2
Someone in your family likes to experiment with recipes.  That is your cranberry sauce maker.  Uncle Knorr makes a wonderful gravy.

Finally, dessert.  Farm it out!  Ask someone to bring a couple of pies, let Sara Lee do the lifting or make a quick stop at Cracker Barrel.  If you want, you can actually manage to make homemade whipped cream while holding a baby with colic as long as you have a stand mixer.  Add a capful vanilla to the coffee grounds when you do the after dinner coffee if you want to get all fancy.  If you really must, make your pumpkin and pecan pies a couple of days ahead.  They will keep and you are kidding yourself if you think you'll have time the day of.

There will be a day when you are ready to do a full on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  For now, make your goal to make it to the end of the day without crying.  It can be done!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Duplicity of Maps and a Dash of Scotland

Walk in Inverness
Since they don't have Thanksgiving here, Christmas decorating starts in earnest right after Halloween/Samhain/Guy Fawke's Day.  Plus, with all that train time, I began wondering if we might indeed make it to Hogwarts.  What says Highland Christmas like Harry and the Potters playing Wizard Chess?

Obligatory Scottish thistle picture
It took us roughly 12 hours to get from Reagan National to Dublin, when you include the time changes.  That was around 3380 miles covered via 2 plane flights and a taxi ride.  It took about the same amount of time (maybe a touch more) to get from Dublin to Edinburgh.  Milage varies by route but I think we went about 395 miles covered by ferry, 3 trains, and a taxi.  We then rode trains for at least a few hours most days as we went on to Inverness (Loch Ness) and Glasgow.  A friend told Allen that we made the mistake of looking at a map like Americans.  After all, how long could it possibly take to travel a quarter of an inch?  We are thinking that no matter how interesting ferries and trains sound, we are taking a plane for our Englad trip later this year.

The children actually held up as well as we could possibly expect and we saw loads of interesting scenery.  I found the experience pleasant with brief flashes of lovely.  But, it's likely even better if everyone can walk AND carry their own bag or, at the very least, agree to a moratorium on temper tantrums around the time you have to haul everyone and everything on an epic 4 minute dash to catch the next train.  We had quite good luck with ferries and trains until the very end and when we had bad luck things went as well as they could.  Allen talks about this on his blog.  FYI- purse, et al were returned safely to me today!

The last thing Allen wound up booking was our hotel in Edinburgh so we were locked into a day.  For reasons we never did figure out, every single hotel was booked up except the Waldorf Astoria.  I suggest everyone stay in a Waldorf Astoria at least once in your life.  If a hotel room can feel luxurious with 3 young children and a freshly bathed winter coat steaming on the towel warmer (Megan is apparently prone to seasickness), you have truly achieved hotel greatness.  Charlie proclaimed the next hotel (along the lines of a Day's Inn) much more luxurious because he and Megan both had their own cot.  Noah had a "fancy bed" (hotel pack-n-play) at each location and was happy to sleep in them.  Allen and I were stunned.

Doctor Who is in Glasgow?
There was a Dalek in Inverness
but I can't find the picture
I have gotten to a point where my ear doesn't distinguish American and Irish accents unless I'm actively listening.  Both sound "normal."  Allen has apparently taken it one step further and said that he thought Irish and Scottish accents sounded about the same.  I take his point but I found them quite distinct.  I found them similar to the difference between a lemon square and a key lime pie.  Both have that tart citrus note but distinctive finishes.  The Highland Scottish accent sounded almost like a stutter at times with great effort being put into the second syllable and various phonemes.  I find the Irish accent to be more rolling with it more likely that whole syllables or phonemes just aren't pronounced at all rather than being forced.

My favorite part of Glasgow was the breakfast spread at the hotel.  The Scots take their morning meal seriously with a yogurt bar beyond belief, full cold cut spread, haggis, egg and black pudding among other things.  (We do the Hilton Honors program and really like it.  Free breakfast (among other things) at all Hilton family hotels.  This would have been around $75 if we all paid.)  Yes, that is REAL whiskey I added to my porridge not a flavoring extract as I assumed.  I had a warm belly that day.  ;-)

Real Whiskey, cream, and brown sugar.
Tasty porridge!
The UK pound coins all have mottos engraved along the edges representing Scotland, Wales, and England.  The Scottish motto is "No one provokes me with impunity."  There was a hard edge to the Scottish Highlands.  You got the distinct impression that if you were to thrive here, you had to want it.  The Scots were forcibly transported to North and South Carolina during the Highland Clearances.  The Carolina Smokies likely felt at least somewhat familiar.  But, I was much more strongly reminded of the scenery of Upstate New York.  I suspect that the Smokies give over to farming a bit less begrudgingly than either the Adriondacks or the Scottish Highlands, though.

It's all about proper footwear
I had been very worried about how cold it was likely to be in Scotland.  Interestingly, even though the temperatures were quite low, we felt about as warm as in Ireland and indoors tended to be warmer.  The only thing we can figure is that it was a drier cold.  There was a bite to the air but the cold didn't seep into you the way it does in Dublin.  It was the first time I could remember actually feeling quite cozy and not longing to immerse myself in a warm bubble bath.  Our home in Dublin seems to always be a bit chilly.  We keep tweaking the hours the heater runs but even after hours, you still want slippers and a blanket.  Thus, I was delighted to get my Christmas present a bit early.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Welcome if you found the blog via the Christmas card.  If you are wondering why, exactly, you got a Christmas card before Halloween...

For about 10 years I made all our Christmas cards by hand.  We sent out around 125 every year.  To make this work, I got in the habit of ordering supplies no later than Halloween and generally aimed to have supplies BY then.  I tried to have them made by Thanksgiving and mailed shortly after.

I pulled this off with baby Charlie.  I managed with baby Megan.  Card designs got a little simpler.  I came to the conclusion that a handmade card meant that the inside personal notes could be on the brief side.

Then we had Noah.

3 children is apparently my limit for 125 handmade cards.

Christmas of 2010 saw us send out our first photo card- everyone wants to see pictures of the baby anyway.  I stuck with the Halloween/Thanksgiving plan which worked well.

Fall 2011 saw me wake up in a panic for 3 consecutive nights about not having a family picture for the Christmas cards.  I decided this was a clear indicator that the time had come to cry uncle on Christmas cards.

That brings us to this year.  I've done that Halloween order deadline thing for 12 years now.  It's sort of a deep habit at this point.  Tinyprints offers a shipping option where they print the addresses on the envelopes, slap the stamp on and mail your cards directly to the recipients.  This is really handy when you are facing international postage x93.  Kudos, also, on their very prompt service.  They were efficient last time but were positively meteoric this time.  I guess demand for Christmas cards isn't so high in October.

Merry Christmas is pretty much the same as Happy All Saint's Day, right?

Happy, Funny, Pretty and Real

round button chicken


We visited the Decorative Arts and History National Museum of Ireland last weekend.  The children enjoyed it more than I expected since it was mostly vast displays of objects.  Their favorite was the working inards of the large steeple clock.  The children watched the huge pendulum, weights and gears and immediately decided they we really must get a grandfather clock of our own.  The museum is housed in a refurbished barracks so they had a whole drill field to express their wild exuberance while I figured out lunch.


 Charlie lost his first tooth last week.  He got a note from Taffy MacToothy of the Council of Irish Tooth Fairies.  Taffy may not have thought through the fact that she now has to come up with something useful and interesting to do with 59 more teeth.

Pretty & Real
Dublin, early October

The Dublin fall just doesn't feel right when the Appalachians are your benchmark.  

Dublin, late October

Some of the trees are changing but then we also have some trees and gardens still looking positively August-ish.  

Dublin, late October

You know how some years the leaves turn that halfhearted yellow and some just go straight to brown or even fall while they are still green?  That seems to be the way of it every year, here, and I am assured that this is a lovely fall.  It's pretty.  But, it's nothing compared to the Blue Ridge.

It makes a mountain girl homesick (no, I never thought of myself as a mountain girl before but I will say that it seems strange to look around and not only not see brilliant trees but also not see foothills)  The jewels are scarce and the flames are dim.  It's nice to not have the specter of being snowed in for days looming but I do miss the beauty of the fall.  Ireland excels at verdant but lets it fade with a dirge rather than with an anthem.
I have my brother taking pictures of the view I miss to be posted soon (it's been foggy).  But for now, this will give you an idea.