Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring is here!

So whatever with you Boston people complaining about your cold and your snow. It's friggin' spring here, and Dublin has had a few really nice days. By spring, I mean, no hat weather, so don't get too excited, it's still jacket weather. But not heavy parka weather. Spring weather! Yesterday I spent a few hours in our back garden, clearing dead growth and rearranging the space to look a little snazzier. Now there's lots of room to grow flowers, some bulbs sprouting, and fiddle heads nearly popping.

On Thursday, my friend Aoife and I took a lovely walk in the Phoenix Park. Despite my many outings to the park, I had never been to the visitor's centre, which has a cute little restaurant. The restaurant was closed, but I will definitely return to sample their fare.
There was also this castle looking building with labyrinthian hedges. The sun was fixing to set, which made our shadows long, so I couldn't resist taking this little photo to commemorate our warm weather walk!


Very, very occasionally, someone we know from the US will come to Dublin. It's usually only for a couple of days, but it's always fun. Last week, my friends Rutherford and Dimitry were in Ireland for their friend's birthday up in Donegal. Now, they could have headed straight from Donegal to their next European destination (namely, Amsterdam), but I was honored when they told me they'd be taking a bus down to Dublin for a few days! I hadn't spent time with Rutherford or Dimitry for about 12 years so it was exciting to see them again! They wined and dined us, and by the time they left town I felt like a pretty pretty princess.

Unfortunately, their first night in town coincided with my mother-in-law's 81st birthday, so I had familial obligations elsewhere (more on that later). And then the next day, I had to work, which I absolutely could not get out of, so Mark and I met up with them at their hotel after I got out of work. The Clarence is supposedly owned by U2, so naturally I thought it would be as crappy as U2's music. However I was pleasantly surprised that the Octagon Bar (hotel bar) was extremely cozy. (In fact, our friends were quite impressed with their hotel experience there, and recommend it!) They also presented me with a fabulous gift from the US -- a bag full of boxes of Mac & Cheese!!! I nearly ditched them on the spot to go home and make it (ok, not really, but it was exciting).

Then we moved on to Yamamori Noodles on Georges Street, since Juice was closed. It turned out to be a great choice because they had something for both the meat eaters and us veg people. Rutherford and Dimitry live in New York, so I was afraid that their standards would be so high that anywhere in Dublin would be a disappointment, but they seemed happy enough. I enjoyed my bento box thoroughly, though I did learn that I'm not crazy about kimchee. Then we ventured over to The George for a drink. Since it was Monday night, we practically had the place to ourselves. Here's a photo of me and Rutherford underneath Ellen and Freddie:

Ok so here's an embarrassing admission. We walked our friends back to their hotel, and walked home, where I couldn't help but make a box of mac and cheese! Holy moly. I was in heaven. Like being transported back to my childhood!

The next day, I met up with Rutherford and Dimitry in late morning, and we headed over to the National Museum for a gander at the bog men. I bring everyone to this exhibit, and I never tire of it. Here's Rutherford and I pondering one of the bog men:

On the way, we made a stop at the Kilkenny Design Centre, where I have walked by a bunch of times but never really gone into for a proper look. I actually liked some of the things in there, I'm not going to lie! The Orla Kiely homewares were a particular favorite. Mark met up with us at the museum, and though it threatened to rain, we took a stroll through Merrion Square, which wasn't too exciting, but it was nice to be outside and chatting away. Then we couldn't resist bringing them to the smallest pub in town, the Dawson Lounge. I have to admit, it's adorable in there, though I'd never want to go when there's more than ten people inside! The bar man kindly offered to take our photo:

Mark was called away to his university, so we said good-bye to him and the three of us went to The Farm Restaurant for a bit of lunch, which was delicious. I really like that place. I had these crispy beet patties that I can't really describe, Rutherford had a chicken pie, and Dimitry had a hamburger. We left feeling "fat, dumb, and happy," as my father used to say.

Our last stop was into Brown Thomas, a sort of Saks-esque department store on Grafton Street. I don't normally go in there because it's too depressing and reminds me of how broke I am. But sometimes I do go in to do "market research" (aka drool over designer clothes and inspect how the construction). However this visit was a hoot for me because my companions were actual shoppers who intended to make purchases. Therefore I got to live vicariously through them and follow them around the store as if I, too, were an actual shopper who intended to make purchases. We didn't stray into the apparel sections, but I loved sniffing fragrances downstairs and prodding pillows upstairs. But the highlight of the experience were these one brand of candles. I know, candles aren't usually the most exciting things. But these candles weren't like other candles. These were Cire Trudon candles, a French company making candles since the 17th century. I am not joking when I tell you that I nearly cried when smelling these candles. (It's actually worth clicking the link and reading about the history of the company.) Here's a crappy cell phone pic of one of the candles:
At first, I lifted the glass dome and smelled the candle, but Rutherford, who is an expert at all things fragrance-related, sniffed the dome itself, which was way more fragrant! You're probably wondering what was so special about these frickin candles. Well, aside from the merchandising, it was obviously the scents. The "Bougies Trudon" (perfumed candles) are historic, unusual scents (for a candle) that seem to press a button to the emotional memory: "Odeur de Lune" (smell of the moon), mossy stone, hot and crusty bread, burning bush, to name but a few. I could spend half the day on their website. Anyhoo - after that cool experience, I dropped the boys off at their hotel, and returned home for a couple hours. After dinner, Mark and I met up one last time in our neck of the woods at our local favorite, L. Mulligan Grocer. We had a couple of rounds, and then it was time to say good-bye.

We were sad to see Rutherford and Dimitry go, but happy to have been reunited and caught up on each other's lives. They were so gracious and generous to us while they were here that I felt as though we were the guests and they the hosts. One day I hope our fortunes take a turn for the better so we can return the favor. For now we'll bask in that warm glow of friendship and feel the joy of being on the receiving end of kindness.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

So if you're in Dublin tonight and you want some thing cool to do before you go out for realsies, come to The Exchange at 7pm for the launch party of the second volume of a cool Irish literary journal called Never Never and Elsewhere, which features non-fiction essays from lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and trans writers. This volume is called "Memoirs of Youth," and it includes an essay by YOURS TRULY, which I'll be reading from tonight! All proceeds from the book go to BeLonG To, an organization that supports young LGBQT people in Ireland.

I'm really honoured and excited to have a piece published in this journal, and I'm nervous and excited to read in front of a live audience this evening! Then, we celebrate!

You can purchase the new volume of Never Never and Elsewhere online by clicking HERE

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Last Wednesday, when I returned home from my half-day at work, Mark wanted to go to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) because The Moderns exhibit was ending in a few days. Ok, to be honest, at that moment I was not into it. I kind of wanted to loaf around the house for the rest of the afternoon. But then I said to myself, "Self, go to the museum and get outta the house!" So, that's what I did.

I really enjoyed the exhibit, and I'm glad I caught it before it closed. I especially liked Mainie Jellett's portraits,

Eileen Gray's furniture and architecture,
and John Millington Synge's photography.

Walking home, we decided that museum wandering is thirsty work, so we stopped at a pub on Parkgate Street called Nancy Hands. We ordered Paulaners, which was exciting because not many pubs sell it on draught. The only other people in the pub at that early hour were two American tourists from Colorado. We had a nice chat with them, though we probably would have been ever so slightly happier talking amongst ourselves about the art we'd just seen, but we left feeling lighter on our feet and happy to share our Irish know-how with our fellow Americans (though there was one touchy moment where it seemed that we didn't have the same politics and I had to veer away from that particular topic).

We figured that on the way home we'd stop by Lilliput Stores to pick up some special ingredients for a nice dinner. But on the way there we noticed an art opening next door at The Joinery. More art! And complimentary wine! The artist, Colm Rooney, has created these fantastically tiny but magical paintings.
So, after having a good gander at the paintings, we splurged next door on some pizza dough, cheese, and balsamic vinegar and then went home to cook some delicious pizza.

I can't help but think it was a nearly perfect day.
Whoo boy it's harder to keep up with the blog these days now that I am a workin' girl!

But I've still been up to all kinds of stuff, as usual, of course! For all interested parties, the "job" (otherwise known as on-the-job-training) is going really well. I have already learned so much, and it hasn't even been a month yet. It really is a dream come true. The only thing I don't like about my work is the bike ride there! It's a half hour ride, 70% of which is uphill. When I leave in the morning, I'm frozen. But by the time I get to work, I'm all sweaty and gross. Of course the way home is comparatively easy, and I can't complain too much because traveling by bicycle is free and gives me an hour of free exercise three times a week. I've had a few bumps in the road, so to speak, in the form of a flat tire and a screwed up wheel, but I now have contingency plans in place, so hopefully I'll get to work on time no matter what happens.

Anyhoo - this post is about something else -- the great Katherine Lynch! I bought tickets to The Hack of Ya" tour so long ago that I didn't realize it had become sold out! You'd never know that the Vicar Street theatre was so large inside, and while I thought I chose good seats, if I ever go there again, I'd definitely go for the balcony or the front tables instead.

The comedian opening the show was an Australian guy who's clearly been living in Ireland for some time, but for the life of me I can't figure out what the heck his name was. He was really funny though!

Katherine played several characters, including singing Bernie Walsh (my least favorite) and Sheila Chic (my most favorite). The jokes were raunchy and highly regional (if I hadn't been living here for two years, I wouldn't have understood a good percentage of the jokes), but the crowd was extremely enthusiastic and we had some hearty laughs. Here are some crappy photos I took with my phone:
Before the audience had filled in.

During the show.

At the final sketch.

My only complaint about Vicar Street is how freaking expensive the drinks are. I mean, it's great that you can enjoy a drink while you see the show, but zoinks! Next time we'll front load elsewhere and brink a flask.

Shockingly, there were only a handful of jokes that made me cringe a bit, but otherwise we had a fantastic time, and if you get the chance to see Katherine Lynch live, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Blog!

No, I'm definitely not giving up this blog!

But I have started a new blog, another project entirely. Letters to Sal is a sort of history project, if you will, which uses letters as the jumping off point:

"Salvatore George Coraccio (1930-2010) was in the US Navy from 1948 to 1952. A few days before he passed away, a bundle of letters surfaced that had been sent to him during that time. This blog is about those letters and what they reveal about Sal as a young man in the post-WWII/Korean War era.

The letters also tell a story about the women in his life, for the words are theirs. Through their letters we see what life was like for a young person living in the Boston area sixty years ago."

Believe me when I say there is some high drama in these letters. I intend to try to contextualize the characters, events, and places mentioned in them, revealing not only the stories of my father and his friends but also life the Boston area during that time. My ultimate goal would be to find out more about the people in the letters, and it would be a dream come true to discover the responses my father wrote to these letters. So if you love to read old letters or have an interest in New England history, or if you just like a mystery, please subscribe to Letters to Sal.