Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the Emerald Isle!

We started the day at our local parish for St. Patrick’s Day mass.  (Today is a holy day of obligation in Ireland.)  Mass was very celebratory – complete with an Irish folk band, songs in Irish Gaelic, a troupe of Irish dancers, and the blessing of the shamrock.  I should have brought our camera to capture all of the Irish culture.  After Mass, we took the kids’ pictures in their green shirts.  The weather was nice, and the sun actually came out for a few seconds.

Decked out in green!
...Trying to get everyone to look at the camera and smile at the same time...
Close enough!

I wish we could say that we did something else “Irish” today.  However, our luck and the weather did not cooperate.  We tried to go to our favorite pub for lunch, but they weren’t opening until later this afternoon.  What pub isn’t open at noon on Saturday?  Then, the skies opened up, and brought us this:

Backyard, post-hailstorm

A strong thunderstorm came through, dumping about 25mm (1-inch) of tiny hail all over the neighbourhood.  The weather was generally terrible all afternoon.  At some point, we would like to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Dublin, but this year didn’t seem like a good year to try to do that. (2 young kids + one *really* pregnant mom  + lots of drunk tourists = recipe for disaster!)

In general, St. Patrick’s day in Ireland seems less raucous and  like a national holiday very similar to Thanksgiving in the US.  The St. Patrick’s Day parade is the equivalent to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  It was televised, complete with commentary, marching bands from across Ireland, etc.    Most people spend time with their families, enjoy a large family meal, and usually there is ‘sport’ on TV.  This year it is the England vs. Ireland rugby match.

For everyone curious about the arrival of baby #3 – no baby yet. :(  Although Isaac and Liesl were early babies, this one does not seem interested in greeting the world just yet.  My due date is March 25th – one more week to go!  Hopefully by this time next week, we will have pictures of the newest addition to our family.

Slainte!

 

5 things we don’t miss about the US

As promised, a post about 5 things we don’t miss about the US!

 

1.   Our car(s).  How is it possible that we miss our cars, and yet don’t miss them, all at the same time?  Although a car is very convenient, I love what not having a car has done for my body, my wallet, and my sanity.   I don’t have a pedometer, but I suspect that the kids and I walk around 3 miles most days, more on the days we go shopping, or take a trip downtown.  Well, I walk, Liesl rides in the stroller, and Isaac rides on the buggy board, attached to the stroller.  This means that I push about 90 lbs of stroller, kids, and stuff.  (More bonus for me!  Arm muscles!)  Also, not having a car means no ‘spur of the moment’ trips to Starbucks, or to the store to buy stuff we may or may not need.  If I want to go to Starbucks, the kids and I walk to the nearest one – 2 miles away.  This has actually become our Friday morning tradition.  We also enjoy not getting caught up in the craziness of Dublin traffic.  Most of Dublin’s roads are small and narrow, and traffic can be a nightmare.  I am thankful that, for now, we are somewhat removed from the stress of driving.

 

2.  The television, or as the Irish call it, “The Telly”.  I know I listed “Saturday Afternoon Football”  as something we missed.  However, much to my surprise, we don’t miss the constant presence of the TV.  We are both reading much more, although not as much as we would like.  The kids hardly seem to notice.  However, we do watch occasional videos on the iPad and on our new large computer monitor.  Several of the PBS shows that the kids like, such as Sesame Street, are not available in Ireland.  (Randomly, Sesame Street is shown in Northern Ireland, but not here.)  We watch Sesame Street via iTunes.  I do miss SNL though…especially during this period of political debates…

 

3.  The Texas heat.  We moved to Ireland in late August, and literally went from 100+ degree highs to highs in the 60s.  For the first week or so that we were here, Isaac kept asking where his shorts were.  Although I complain about the rain more than I probably should, I do not miss the oppressive Texas heat one bit.  The record high in Dublin this year was 77, on Brad’s birthday.  Another benefit to the Irish weather – no air conditioners required.  Our home doesn’t have one, and neither do the cars.  I certainly don’t miss the electric bills associated with the AC!

 

4.  Pace of life in the US.   The lifestyle here is much more laid back than in the U.S.  People aren’t strict about when appointments or meetings start…or end…  At first, this was really frustrating to me.  “Why doesn’t anything start on time?!”, I wondered.  The longer we have lived here, the more I appreciate the slower pace.  To give you another idea about how laid back it is here – the earliest the Starbucks near our house opens is 8:00 a.m.  8:00 a.m.!  In the US, the morning is half over by then!  Also, the Irish have a gift for gab.  They always interested in where we came from, what brought us here, how old our kids are…and on and on.  Again, this used to drive me nuts, as in “Look dude, I just want to rent a car, not give you my life story!”

 

5.  The 24-hour news cycle.  This is somewhat tangential to the whole TV thing, but we really don’t miss the 24-hour news cycle.  Don’t misunderstand me – I am such a political and news junkie that I have paid for New York Times digital access, because I ran out of my free article limit on day 2 of the month.   I keep up with several US and international news sources.  However, I like being able to decide when to read the news, and not to be constantly bombarded by it.  This is especially true in light of the Penn State scandal and non-stop debates.  I miss watching the debates and analysis.  (Yes, they are available online, but since they were in the evening, I really can’t watch them.  I mean, I’m a political junkie, but I’m not getting up at 2:00 a.m. to watch a primary debate!)

 

Stay tuned next week for a much more light-hearted take on the 5 food items we miss and don’t miss about the U.S.  (Since Thanksgiving week is such a foodie week anyway.)  I also promise to add pictures to those posts.

Mexican food!

Thank you to everyone who sent their congratulations on our last post.  In my effort to write posts more often, here is another adventure in food challenges in Dublin.

Tortillas, salsa, and Mexican food (or Tex-Mex) are not widely available in Dublin.  (Shocking, I know!)  Technically you can get salsa and tortillas in some grocery stores.  The only brand available is Old El Paso.  However, it isn’t the same packaging as Old El Paso in the US, which makes me think that the brand has just licensed its name overseas.  The salsa looks suspiciously like jarred ketchup, and everything is labeled “Family Friendly” or “Extra Mild”.  The tortillas usually come in a package of 6 – they already look stale.  Moreover, a package of 6 tortillas costs between 4 and 5 €.  Right now, that’s about $5-6 dollars per package!  One dollar per stale tortilla – yikes!  So…I decided to make my own tortillas.  (I have also decided to make my own salsa, but haven’t yet done this.)

I used this recipe from Homesick Texan.  (This blogger is particular about other bloggers reposting her recipes, so I just linked to the page.)  The recipe worked out very well.  It was also beneficial that all of the ingredients were widely available here in Ireland.  Some tortilla recipes call for lard, which is not commonly available here.  Also – I have no other need for lard.

The process was fairly simple:

1.  Make the dough, allow it to rest for 30 minutes (or, you know, 2 hours while you forget about it, which is what happened to me)

2.  Split dough into small balls – approximately golf ball size.  These individual pieces of dough become the tortillas.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.

Tortilla dough ball

3.  Roll out dough into 8-inch disc.  This is by far the most time consuming step.  Also – a tortilla press would be exceptionally handy here, but I don’t have one.

Rolled-out dough

4.  Place in dry, hot skillet.  Cook for appx 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side.  (Note the lovely blue tile in our kitchen.  We just can’t seem to escape brightly colored tile!  In our kitchen in Austin, the tile was green.  Someday, I will have a nice, neutral modern kitchen.)

Almost there!

5.  Finished product!  These tortillas were almost as good as the ones from Central Market in Austin.  They were incredibly tasty.  Soft, pliable, the kind of tortillas you want to just put a little honey on.

Homemade Tortillas!
Stack of tortillas

I also tried to make whole-wheat tortillas, but the whole-wheat version was tougher.  I think that was mainly due to the fact that the whole wheat flour here is very rough.  It is not ground as fine as whole-wheat flour available in the US.

As long as we are on the topic of Mexican food, we did try a “Mexican” food restaurant here in Dublin.  Cafe Aztec came highly recommended on Yelp, and several of our Irish friends had heard of it.  I was having a major Tex-Mex craving (side effect of the pregnancy I guess), so we went one Saturday.  It was a total disappointment.  The chips were good, but the salsa and guacamole were bland and the enchiladas had no flavor at all.  I suppose we get what we deserve, but it was worth a shot!