Monday, September 30, 2013

Road Trip: Zoo Day

From Cory's personal travel journal (revised)

Zoo Day!  We took the Metro to the National Zoo and availed ourselves of the FREE admission.  Mission 1:  Pandas.  We walked right to the Asia Trail.  We saw the collection of large Asian animals, including the sloth bear.

A sloth bear relaxes at the National Zoo in Washington, DC
The Asian sloth bear

The pandas were not in the outdoor display, so we got in line for their indoor habitat.  The short line wait was certainly worth it.  We saw both pandas in the collection.  Tian Tian, the male and Mai Xian, the female.  They were both just chilling, eating, sleeping, doing what pandas do.

A giant panda eats bamboo at the National Zoo in Washington, DC
Bamboo- breakfast, lunch, and dinner

The rest of the zoo was great, too.  We checked out the bird houses, large mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'll Play Monster Party: First American Visitor!

Last week, we were excitedly getting ready for our first family visitor from the States.  Today, we are all celebrating together.  In Monster World, we explore the darkest pyramids of level 4.

Next week, we'll have an update on the first week of visit-fest.  Today, enjoy level 4.

Friday, September 27, 2013

All-Ireland Hurling Final- It's a Draw!

After our trip to Phoenix Park, we moved on to our real objective of the day:  The Hurling Final.

Be aware that I am (intentionally) writing this based solely on anecdotal observations after watching one match.  I will be watching and reading a lot more about this game, but for now, I am recording my knee-jerk, ignorant reactions.

Hurling is a fast-moving, high-scoring field game played and enthusiastically enjoyed here in Ireland.  In 90's America, hurling had a much different meaning, but I quickly got hooked on the game after a quick chuckle.

The game is played on a large field (pitch) with a small ball and goals at each end.  The goals have two parts: the lower goal with a net and a goal-tender like a soccer goal and the upper goal with uprights rising like goal posts in American football.  Points are scored in the game by getting the ball into either the lower goal for three points or through the upper goal posts for one point.

The players move the ball with their hands and short sticks with slightly curled, flat batting surfaces called "hurlies."

A hurley and hurling ball in Dublin, Ireland
A Hurley

The ball can be batted, carried, or thrown around the field.  The ball can not be picked up with hands from the ground, but rather scooped up with the hurley.  Once in the hands, the ball can be carried for a brief time (not sure how many steps without looking up the rules, but remember- I'm not looking up the rules here) or carried on the flat end of the hurley indefinitely, or until it gets knocked away by an opposing player.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

From the Yarn Basket: Practical Goods for Our New Apartment #2

To continue my series of posts describing all of the useful items I was able to craft for our new apartment, I present you with these lovely and simple hot pads. After all, Cory cannot bake his delicious breads or scrumptious evening meals without something to protect his fingers! 

Hot pads made for our new apartment

I knitted both of these in stockinette stitch. I made the blue one first, using Hometown USA yarn leftover from the blue cowl I made on the road trip. I crocheted a border around it using some dark brown Loops & Threads Charisma yarn, including a loop in the corner for easy storage. Cory gave it a test run, and despite the yarn's bulky weight, it wasn't quite thick enough to keep the heat out completely. We still use it, but we fold it in half to increase the thickness.

In an attempt to improve the functionality, I made the next one double-sided. I also added some stripes to it to keep myself from getting too bored (stockinette stitch is not the most exciting thing in the world). The pink yarn is also Loops & Threads Charisma yarn in Think Pink. The opposite side (not shown) is solid pink, and I crocheted the sides together while adding the border. This one works a little bit better, but it still isn't perfect. Still, we have been putting both to good use, and saved ourselves a few euro in the process!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bottling Cider

After ten days of fermenting, my first real batch of cider was ready to bottle.  Before I could get to work, I needed some bottles.  Back in Iowa, I had a large supply of clean re-used glass bottles with crown caps and a large number of clean re-used  plastic soda bottles of varying sizes.  I had any number of bottling and labeling options.  Here, I needed to re-stock my supply.

Three cartons of apple juice and a pack of 500mL soda bottles for use in brewing in Dublin, Ireland
Juice for the new batch, bottles for the previous batch
We purchased some new juice for the next batch and a pack of 500mL soda bottles to bottle the old batch.  We normally don't drink much soda, but had no choice here.  Dublin has no shortage of littered bottles in bushes and on the street, but I haven't picked up any food-safe sanitizer.  No on the salvaged bottles.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final: Dublin Wins!

In Ireland as in any country, the people honor and uphold the traditions that define them as a great people.  Of the many Irish traditions, the loudest and most exciting (from our observations so far) are the Gaelic Sports.  Of these traditional games, the two most popular are Hurling and Gaelic Football.

The final for Gaelic Football was held in Dublin on Sunday the 22nd of September this year.  The finals for these great games are all held a historic Croke Park.  "The Croker" is also home to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) headquarters and a museum devoted to the history and development of the Gaelic Games.  We will be visiting the stadium next year when Penn State and Central Florida bring American college football to this historic and storied field.

Each county in Ireland assembles a team of amateur players to represent them in the Gaelic Sports.  A regular season pits these county teams against each other on weekends through the summer.  A knockout-style playoffs determine who will play for the final and the traveling cup.  This year the final was a showdown between the side from County Mayo and the local "Boys in Blue" from County Dublin.

We knew this game was going to be big for our neighbors and friends here.  For at least a week, homes, businesses, and cars began sporting flags, banners, and signs with the county colors and logos of the two teams.  Mayo flags are red and green and the Dubs wear two tones of blue.  The teams are only identified by their county name, there are no official nicknames like "Dublin Vikings," "Mayo Spreaders," or "Tipperary Tippers."  Missed opportunity, maybe? "Kilkenny Kenny-Killers?"  I could go on and on.  The counties are also identified by their names in the Irish language.  Dublin is Atha Cliath- referring to an ancient river fording spot on the River Liffey.  [aside- the English word Dublin comes from the Irish dubh linn meaning black pool, maybe that was easier to pronounce in English than Bhaile Atha Cliath for the city name?  End aside.]  County Mayo is Maigh Eo meaning "Plain of the Yew Tree."  This is one of the many cases where the English name is just a re-spelling of the phonetic Irish pronunciation.  Try it, Maigh Eo sounds like "my-e-oh."  Say it a few times quickly and you'll get to Mayo.

The rules of Gaelic Football make it (in my very honest and humble opinion) a far superior game to world soccer to an American.  I know world soccer has a few (hundred million) fans, but Gaelic Football really has something special about it.  I am writing this description based only on my observations after watching one match- on purpose.  We will be watching many more of these games when the season rolls around again, and I will have a more comprehensive grip on the rules by then.  For now, I am just recording my own knee-jerk reactions to the game.

The game is played with a soccer-size ball with two goals on either side of the field (pitch.)  The goals have two parts- a lower goal guarded by a goaltender, just like soccer, and a high goal that extends infinitely above the lower goal with goal posts.  Players can score in the lower goal for three points or put the ball high above the goalkeeper through the goal posts for one point.  Players can move the ball and score by kicking the ball or by slapping or bumping the ball from their hands.  Yes, in this game, the ball can be carried and moved with the hands of the players.  The ball cannot be picked up from the ground with hands, nor can it ever be thrown, but players can use hands to catch a ball from the air and carry the ball for up to three steps before passing, shooting, or dribbling (Yes!  Dribbling!) the ball on the ground or off of their foot.  When players need to send the ball a long distance, they usually drop-kick the ball to send it high and long.  When a shorter, more accurate pass or goal shot is required, the players mostly used a volleyball-style bump or a slap of the ball.  Throwing at any time is illegal.  The game is also much more physical than world soccer.  Because players can carry the ball with hands, there is much more upper-body and hand contact between players.  It's not ice hockey, but it isn't tiddlywinks, either.  Fouls (and a good number of yellow warning cards!) are called for excessive holding, pushing, or tackling.

These generous rules make the game much more high-scoring than a world soccer match, mostly because of the easy one-pointer goals.  These easier scores still have to be earned, but they ensure that matches have some scoring throughout the flow of the game.  Players still have to get the ball within range of a high kick, get open enough to make the kick without an opposing defender getting hands, feet, or face (yeah!) in the way of the shot, and send the ball accurately through the posts.  The high scoring and more physical nature of this game gives a soccer-weary American a reason to cheer.

The Dublin-Mayo game was a good one.  The lead went back and forth in the first half mostly on high one-pointer goals.  The Dubs did get a low goal on a great play with a high pass getting over the goaltender and a well-placed Dub spiking it in with his hands.  That's right soccer fans!  No offside call!  Scoring with the hands!  FIFA should take note.

After halftime, Dublin took control.  The boys in blue extended the lead throughout the second half.  Late in the game, a series of desperation plays got Mayo much closer.  As injury time (yes, injury time.  No game can be perfect...) ticked down (er...I mean ticked up), Mayo was awarded a penalty shot when down by two points.  If they made a goal for three points, they could have taken the championship.  The player instead opted for the chip shot over the bar for one point in the hopes of getting the ball back before the refs (when they felt like enough time had elapsed...injury time...) blew the final whistle.  Dublin cleared the ball out wide until the refs (deciding, 'yeh, I think that's enough time.') ended the match.  Here's how the final score reads:  Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-14.  The first number is how many three point goals scored, the second number is the one-pointers.  Dublin had 18 total to Mayo's 17.  They made it close and exciting, but the local Dubs beat the Mayans (not really called Mayans, but should be) to come out on top.

We watched the match from our favorite local pub in Donnybrook.  We got some help on the rules of the game and some stories of championships past from some of the great neighborhood people while we enjoyed our thick, sweet Guinness.  Here's to the Dublin team's great victory and to us getting some regular season GAA Football tickets next summer!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Road Trip: Charleston, SC to Washington, D.C.

Date          Stop    Odometer   Location                                       Time
6/26/20130212920Leaving Mt. Pleasant, SC8:25 AM
6/26/20131213061Florence, SC
6/26/20132213369Ruther Glen, VA
6/26/20133213438Alexandria, VA

From Cory's personal travel journal (revised)

1:18PM-  We had made plans to wake up early (5:30 or so) to see the sunrise on the beach.  No dice.  We were up a little too late for that kind of start.  We got to the beach about 9:00 just to look around.  We dipped our feet in the water which was much warmer than the Oregon Pacific.  

Wading in the surf near Charleston, SC

Waves on the beach near Charleston, SC

Little crab scuttles on the beach near Charleston, SC

We saw a couple of little crabs on the sand.  The camera lens fogged up from the heat and humidity, which is oppressive down here.

We stopped for lunch in Florence and continued on, we are just about finished with Harry Potter 6 now.

2:36PM- Just getting back underway after having to pull off during a heavy storm.  Rain, wind, lightning, and hail.  Still raining, but clear enough to drive.

We made it to our sister and brother-in-law's place in Alexandria just around dinnertime.  They made a great chicken and risotto supper.  We walked them through our progress on the road so far and talked about the the future.  Kitchen Nightmares on the DVR before heading to bed.

Thursday- 6/27/13

First full day in DC.  We took a short walking tour of Old(e?) Town(e?) Alexandria, excellently guided by our very knowledgeable brother-in-law.  We saw the historic buildings and learned about how the town has developed since colonial times.  After the tour, we were taken to the Metro station and got on the train to the National Mall.

Front entrance of the National Archives in Washington, DC
National Archives-  Don't go in the entrance behind the pillars!

Our first stop was the National Archives to see the Declaration and the Constitution.  We waited in line after getting shouted at for trying to go in the main entrance up the steps.  We saw the documents in the rotunda.  The papers were quite difficult to read, but it felt good to give a silent "In your face King George!"  

edit.  No photos of the documents because pictures are not allowed.  You're on the internet, find your own pictures!

Our next stop was the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  It lived up to expectations.  We saw space capsules, rockets, and planes.  We took time to cover the museum thoroughly.  

Frog poses with the Spirit of St. Louis at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC
Bart!  Get out of the Spirit of St. Louis!
Frog poses with the Wright Brothers Plane at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC
Wright Bros. Plane

After the Air and Space, we visited the Natural History Museum.  We spent less time here, checking out dinosaur fossils, ocean animals, live insects, and the famous Hope Diamond.

T. Rex fossil at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, DC
T. Rex  Status:  Extinct
There was a Hungarian ethnic festival on the mall lawn, so we walked through on our way to the monuments.  The Washington Monument was covered in scaffolding as it is still under repair after the earthquake.  All the lawns had softball games set up on patches of grass, no dirt, and orange cones for bases.  Lots of runners weaving through the crowds of tourists.  Is there nowhere else to run in this city?  

It was very warm, but we spent the warmest (and the rainiest) part of the day in the museums, so we were mostly comfortable.  We sat at the WWII Memorial, walked along the Reflecting Pool, saw the White House from a distance, checked in with Lincoln, and walked the Vietnam Memorial.  After these, we had a good long walk back to the Metro station, but we enjoyed the sunset.

Frog poses with Capitol Hill in the distance in Washington, DC
Everything is a long way from everything else
The White House is seen in the far distance from the rear
The White House from the back

The Lincoln Memorial is seen from the distance along the reflecting pool in Washington, DC
Lookin' at Lincoln

The Washington Monument is pictured covered with repair scaffolding in Washington, DC
Washington Monument with scaffolding

Lincoln Memorial statue closeup photo
Lincoln.  Better recognize.

Washington Monument seen reflecting on the reflecting pool in Washington, DC
That reflecting pool is long.

We called our brother-in-law from the Metro station.  We were picked up and taken to Five Guys Burger and Fries for a late dinner.  The food was hot, greasy, salty, and delicious.  The perfect end to a big day of sightseeing and walking.  More excitement tomorrow!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cory Gets a Job...And Plays Video Games

Happy Saturday everyone!  The big news from me is my new job.  I had been sending out applications to almost every job available in town.  I only excluded jobs for which I was not by any stretch qualified.  I got a callback for an interview and was offered the job.

Now, it isn't in my field particularly, but as someone here pointed out, it's still "in the entertainment industry."  Ok, so it's ushering and checking bracelets in the VIP rooms at the big concert venue here in town.  Not exactly what I was doing before, but it has been fun these first few nights and I am happy and grateful to have the work.

I had to buy a cheap black suit for the job, so I found the absolute cheapest suit I could at the super-cheap department store.  The suit fits and works fine for the kind of work I do, so no problems.  Because I am working mostly concerts, the work is almost always at night, so I needed some night-cycling equipment.  Some concerts and events last until after public transport has finished, and I don't care to walk three miles home in the middle of the night.  I got a flashing headlight, flashing taillight, and a reflective vest to make me more visible to the (very few) cars out in the middle of the night here.

Now, it is Saturday, so we continue playing through Monster Party.  This week, we take on level 3.  The video isn't long enough for me to get much new job information out, so we may have to continue with the game and with new job stories and celebrations next week.


Friday, September 20, 2013

First Iowa Football Game

Football.  The most popular sport in America, and our own athletic love.  Some of the more homesickness-inducing memories are those of gameday mornings.  Listening to the pre-game shows on the radio, making big meals, watching the game with friends and family, and enjoying 9 hours of post-game analysis on the radio while attempting to do something productive with the rest of the day.  The time difference between the Midwest states and Ireland shifts the day back six hours and takes away some of our media access.  Even with the great differences, we were determined to enjoy the day in the most Iowa way we could.

For some context, we enjoy the British comedian Stephen Fry's view of American Football.  In his Stephen Fry in America television series, Fry visits the famous Iron Bowl game of Auburn and Alabama to take in and comment on the pageantry, enthusiasm, and truly American nature of a collegiate football game.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

From the Yarn Basket: Road Trip Project #2

This is a project I'm actually not too excited about. I whipped this cowl up in a couple of hours on the road trip as we traveled through the mid-Atlantic states. Although I like the yarn a lot (Hometown USA from Lion Brand in Washington Denim that my Mom let me swipe from her yarn basket), I wasn't feeling all that inspired. I made it by alternating three rows single crochet with one row triple crochet

Blue cowl completed on the big road trip across the USA

It's not a bad little cowl, but it pales in comparison to my awesome red cowl that I love so much. I may actually tear this one apart and try something else with it. It's super bulky weight yarn, so it really has to be used for a hat or a scarf or something warm. Hmm....if anyone has any ideas, let me know (I'm looking at you Emily....).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cycling to Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park in the Northwest corner of Dublin is the largest urban park in Europe.  Dublin is known as a very "parky" city, and for a very good reason.  St. Stephen's Green and Merrion Square are quiet, green refuges in the middle of bustling City Centre.  Numerous other small parks dot the city map, but Phoenix is a grand, imposing green splash in the city.  Curious, we needed to find out.

The obelisk stands under a cloudy sky with two bicycles in the foreground at Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
The Obelisk welcomes us to the park
We got on our bicycles and took the six-mile trip from Southeast to Northwest to the park.  The weather was more typical to Dublin Autumn (so we're told) than what we had been used to.  The sky was partly/mostly cloudy with light showers off and on throughout the day.  In fact, in the above photo, rain was falling on Sara as she took the photo of the blue sky behind The Obelisk.

Áras an Uachtaráin, the presidential residence of the Republic of Ireland, stands in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
Look like any other White Houses?
The main road through the park makes a straight path from corner to corner, making a steady climb all the way.  We stopped for lunch on a park bench facing the Irish presidential residence, Aras an UachtarainThe estate was built in 1751 by the Phoenix Park Ranger.  It was used by wealthy British Viceroys to oversee British rule of Ireland until it was assigned as the official Residence of the President of The Republic of Ireland in 1938.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seapoint Beach

After our first trip South to Dun Laoghaire, we decided there was more to be seen.  Now the proud owners of used bicycles, we are able to travel anywhere in Dublin (or South County Dublin!) with relative ease.  Besides, it's all downhill to the ocean, no matter where in the world you live.

Two bicycles are locked above a street vent in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Locking up the bikes at Dun Laoghaire

A hand is stained with chain grease from a bicycle chain in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland
We took the bikes from home down to Dun Laoghaire for another quick visit.  We explored a little more of the village before lunchtime.  For lunch, we decided to check out a little seaside spot down a lane we had passed on the road to Dun Laoghaire.  The road leads down to Seapoint Beach, a stone and sand space set aside for public sea access and recreation.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Road Trip: New Orleans to Charleston, SC

  Date        Stop   Odometer    Location                                      Time
6/24/20130212179Leaving New Orleans8:00 AM
6/24/20131212264Biloxi Beach, MS10:45 AM
6/24/20132212437Greenville, AL1:57 PM
6/24/20133212777North Augusta, SC8:45 PM
6/24/20134212780Baymont Inn Augusta, GA9:00 PM
6/25/20130212780Leaving Augusta, GA 8:47 AM
6/25/20131212920Rodeway Inn Mt. Pleasant, SC

From Sara's travel journal:

We left New Orleans first thing in the morning on Monday. It was a little bit tricky getting out of town—the traffic wasn’t too bad, but I missed the entrance for the interstate and had to back track on one-way downtown roads. It was a little bit frustrating, but we were able to get on the road relatively on schedule. Once we had gotten through New Orleans, we stopped in a suburb on I-10 to try out a Waffle House for breakfast. We had a really friendly server at the bar, and we both ordered pretty sizeable meals and chose grits over hash browns. This surprised our server, who said “You both want grits? Where are you from, up north?” We answered in the affirmative and he said “I see, you can’t get grits up there.” I guess southern folks don’t go for grits on a regular basis at Waffle House. The rest of the day was devoted to driving, but we stopped in Biloxi, Mississippi to dip our toes in the Gulf of Mexico. Biloxi seemed like a pretty great resort town from our cursory view of it. Other than that stop, we did not take too many breaks on the road. We ended up in Augusta, Georgia for the night at a Baymont Hotel, where we had a very chatty and quirky front desk clerk check us in. We told her a little bit about our trip and she was very excited and told us about something similar she did as a child with her family. She had visited all of the national parks and we discussed our favorite places. 
Frog poses on the beach looking out into the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, MS
Frog took a little swim in the Gulf of Mexico
A scene on the beach in Biloxi, MS 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I'll Play Monster Party: Level 2

Remember way back in April when I was first learning how to make game videos?  The result was this post.  In that post, I played and talked through the memorable first level of Monster Party.

This week, we will continue our way through the world of monsters.  We will do one level each week with the long play video posted with the last level.

In real life, we are getting involved with the locals at social functions like knitting conventions and Magic: The Gathering tournaments!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Power Socket Switches

We continually marvel at the ideas used here (in Ireland or maybe more of Europe?) to save energy and money.  After getting our first power bill, we know why.

Remember the article about the immersion water heater?  In it, we discover how to heat water as needed instead of keeping hot water available at every instant.  The comedian Des Bishop points out the stingy Irish relatives in a panic when the heater was left on too long.  Jokes aside, saving power is taken seriously here.

We discovered that drawing power as needed isn't limited to the water heater.  Our power outlets are all armed with a rocker switch to awaken or kill an outlet.

The kitchen power sockets are activated by switches and indicator lights in Dublin, Ireland
Kitchen outlets

In America, recently, there has been a push to unplug chargers from the wall.  The hot tip is to plug all chargers for cell phones, music players, and e-readers into a switch-equipped power strip.  "Turn it on when you're charging, turn it off when you're finished!" is the line.  Here, that idea is taken to its ultimate level.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

From the Yarn Basket: Road Trip Project #1

It probably doesn't need to be said, but during the epic, 7,741 mile Farewell to America road trip, Cory and I put in some serious driving time. We primarily entertained ourselves with the complete Harry Potter series on audio, but when it was my turn to be a passenger in the car, I also passed the time by yarn-crafting up a storm. First up, I finished a longer-term project that I had begun several months previously, which is a red cowl made with some gorgeous hand-dyed red wool yarn generously bestowed upon me as a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law and her now-husband. 

Red Cowl that I completed on the Farewell to America road trip

I made this lovely cowl using a Ravelry pattern called the Casu Cowl. The bulk of the cowl is made in moss stitch with a small trim of a simple lace pattern. The yarn is fairly light-weight, which means that the gauge is pretty small. In English, that means that it took a long time to complete. This made it a perfect road trip project! I completed it somewhere around the New Orleans leg of the trip, where it was far too warm to actually try it on. I wore it a couple of weeks ago here in Dublin for the first time, and it was great. It might be my new favorite! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Patriot Day 2013

Happy Patriot Day to our American friends and family.  To our international readers, I'm not quite sure what to wish you.  Do those outside the US celebrate or mark the day in some way?  I'm sure the day gets recognized on the local news, with a brief report and maybe a sound clip from the President speaking at a memorial somewhere.

What I can't know for sure (yet) is how the day is seen by the common, everyday man and woman outside of the states.  The events of 9/11, known around the world, must have been seen as a tragedy, but maybe one of those faraway tragedies- the ones that happen to a people we can't picture in a place we might never visit.  I hope, in the years to come, to get a better feeling of how people view the USA and its history.  Just the same, I hope to get a better understanding myself of the recent history of the Republic of Ireland and its own hard-won freedom.

The timing of Patriot Day 2013 to an American living abroad is particularly special.  I hope to avoid getting too political, but the current story of the world today is the crisis in Syria.  We have been watching and listening to the local Irish news and have learned a lot about how the decisions of the USA affect and are scrutinized by the rest of the world.  The news headlines, before the awarding of Tidiest Town in Ireland to Moynalty, Co. Meath, are all about the sabre-rattling and threatening going on between Syria, Russia, and the USA.

Ireland, not to put too fine a point on it, is a country with much less economic and military clout than the heavy hitters in this story, so the viewpoint seems to be one of an observer than a major player.  Not to call Ireland a nation of cowards, as many Americans might say about a country reluctant to jump into military action in a faraway land.  What I am receiving is a more international perspective on how the choices made by my own home country resonate worldwide.

On the day of the anniversary of a tragedy, I will be watching and hoping for a peaceful end to this crisis, and I hope the decision-makers of the world keep in mind the international consequences of their choices.  I hope soon the news can put more pleasant stories like the Tidiest Town in Ireland at the top of the newscast.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Fishing Kit

While packing up essential items back in Iowa before the move, I had planned to bring along one fishing rod and my camo fanny pack as a basic fishing setup.  Unfortunately, when we got out the suitcases, we (me?) were horrified to find out that a fishing rod, even disassembled, does not fit in a standard suitcase.  It looked like the fishing rod was out.  Had I been a better thinker, I would have taken the reel off of the rod and brought it along, but I assumed (wrongly) that I would be able to find cheap rod and reel combos at a tackle shop in Dublin.

Spinning rod and reel in a white sleeve, camo colored waist belt, and white foam cooler make up my fishing kit in Dublin, Ireland
Rod and reel in white sleeve, camo waist pack, and white foam cooler

I had to pick up a rod and reel, but at the tackle shop, and I had to pay full price for them by the piece.  Yeesh.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Road Trip: New Orleans Day 2

Trip odometer: No driving today!

From Sara's travel journal:
We woke up on the early side on Sunday, and went out in search of beignets at Café Du Monde. There was a huge line, of course, but we were able to snag some fried dough and café au lait (I took mine on ice) to go and we had them in Jackson Square. We took a little walk by the Mississippi, and then stopped into a National Park Service visitor’s center that had a bunch of information about the Mississippi Delta and the history of New Orleans. We went to a tourist shop to grab our obligatory magnet, and then we stopped by our hotel room before lunch. We went to the Gumbo Shop, another recommended restaurant, and had some Cajun/creole food. We had two types of gumbo, seafood okra and chicken andouille, and a combo platter that had jambalaya, shrimp creole, and red beans and rice. Yum yum yum.  
Two coffees and a bag of doughnuts from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, LA
A New Orleans food pilgrimage: breakfast from Cafe du Monde
Andrew Jackson equestrian statue in a park with a church in the background
Jackson Square on a beautiful (and humid!) Sunday in June
Standing on the bank of the Mississippi in New Orleans, LA
Cory says hello to the mighty Mississippi. It's almost like being back in Iowa!
Pictured at a restaurant in New Orleans, LA
Seafood okra and chicken andouille gumbo. We couldn't decide, so we got both and shared. 
Lunch in New Orleans, LA
Combo platter of jambalaya,  shrimp creole, and red beans and rice.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'll Play Castlevania: The End

This Saturday we tackle the final level and Dracula himself.  In the real world, we are healthy (er) and I'm expanding the job search.

As a bonus, I cut together the individual videos from playing Castlevania to make a long play with new game only commentary.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hey Buddy! Snails

Ireland.  A land famous for darkness, clouds, and rain.  This summer, we have noticed a healthy dose of sunshine, but all of our Irish friends and neighbors tell us not to hold our breath for too much.  Generally, Ireland is a land of clouds, mist, fog, and rain.

These atmospheric conditions happen to be the optimum environment for certain kinds of organisms.  Among the least favorite of the residents and visitors alike is, of course, mold.  Our favorites (probably because we are not gardeners) are the resident mollusks: snails and slugs.

A slug crawls up a brick garden wall in Dublin, Ireland
Climbing up a brick wall

Our admiration for large, slimy critters should be well-documented in our account of the trip through the redwoods in northern California, another wet, temperate climate.  Here, the specimens are smaller, but the sheer numbers can't lie.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

From the Yarn Basket: Practical Goods for Our New Apartment #1

Although I have spent a great deal of time knitting and crocheting fun cowls, gloves, and hats this summer, I also stitched together some necessities for our move. When we moved into our new apartment in July, we had the usual extensive shopping list of basic items that accompanies any move. If you read this blog with any frequency, you know that Cory and I are of a frugal nature (see this, this and most recently this). That said, I'm sure you can imagine how quickly we grew weary of the money hemorrhage that occurred as we made run after expensive run to buy food, cleaning products, and other miscellanea. 

That's when I decided to put my hobby to good use and make some basic things for our new home. I needed something to occupy my time while waiting for paperwork to process anyway, and it came with some bonus smugness as I now feel completely justified in hauling a significant amount of yarn across the ocean (you can't leave behind the essentials, after all!). 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Trip to Dun Laoghaire

When Sara came to visit Dublin for her first interview, she was given a sightseeing tip to visit the seaside village of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced done leery.)  She obliged, taking the DART train South along the coast of Dublin Bay just south of Dublin City.  Dun Laoghaire is, officially, not part of the City of Dublin.  It is technically in South County Dublin.

The name Dun Laoghaire means roughly, "Fort Laoghaire."  Laoghaire was the name of a fifth century Irish King.  The King chose that location as a naval port from which to launch naval attacks and as a primary defense port.  Today, the village serves a busy harbor and seaside resort community.

On one of our first weekends living here, Sara recommended we visit the sea at the scenic point, so we packed a lunch, found our nearest DART station and headed South.

A carnival is set up on the shore of Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Carnival's in Town!

When we arrived at the train station, we departed to find a cloudy (but dry) sky, salty sea air, and a weekend carnival set up on the harbor.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

House Hunters International:Budget Edition

When we arrived in Dublin, we had the great fortune and luxury of time.  Sara's new supervisor very generously allowed us to stay in his home while he and his family were away on holiday (vacation.)  The house was comfortable and there was no urgent hurry for us to be out of there, but we were motivated to get settled in to our own place as soon as we could swing it.  We (read: Sara) had been doing some research on housing costs and availability in Dublin for some time before the move, but the research was purely academic (hee hee) because apartments were usually snapped up within a few days of listing.  Because of this high turnaround, we would not have been able to set up apartment showings before making the trip, because many would go off the market during our flight.  Once we had settled in to our host's home, we visited the local apartment finding site,  We searched openings in our neighborhood and price ranges, and made some calls.  Appointments were set for four different places over the next two days.

Our first visit was scheduled the following day just after lunch.  The rent cost was just on the top edge of our price range, but it looked spacious and was located right next to Sara's campus.  The proximity to work alone would have been worth a look.  We arrived early so we could walk around the area and see just how close it was to campus.  Turns out, as close as we could have dreamed.  The complex was located right on the busiest street in Dublin, giving it the advantage of easy bus and road access to most of the town and the disadvantage of traffic noise.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Road Trip: New Orleans Day 1

  Date        Stop   Odometer    Location                                      Time

6/22/20130211626Leaving Lake Mineral Wells S.P.6:31 AM
6/22/20131211702Flying J Dallas, TX8:07 AM
6/22/20132211890Express Plus Frierson, LA11:20 AM
6/22/20133212118Mobil Baton Rouge, LA
6/22/20134212179Royal St. Charles Hotel New Orleans, LA4:45 PM

From Sara's travel journal:
Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 8:50pm
Royal St. Charles, New Orleans, Louisiana
On Saturday, we departed the state park in Texas­ very early in the morning. We left our campsite at around 6:30am, with the hope of getting through the Dallas/Fort Worth area before rush hour. It took me about 45 minutes into the trip before I remembered that on a Saturday, you don’t really need to worry about rush hour, but with a nine hour drive ahead of us, the early start was definitely helpful. 
There was still plenty of traffic on I-20 going through the metro area, and it took almost an hour to get past it. We stopped at a Flying J on the eastern side of Dallas to fill the gas tank, grab some breakfast, and find a Texas magnet. We continued on into Louisiana, stopping at a gas station to fill the tank and make some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. The drive south through Louisiana was pretty smooth, and we said hello to the Mississippi River as we went through Baton Rouge. We made it into New Orleans at around 4:00pm, and we were both struck by the change in humidity. It is as though there is a line that goes through eastern Texas, and all of the moisture in the air is stuck on one side. My hair certainly demonstrates the difference pretty clearly—it has been fabulously straight for two weeks in dry mountain and desert air, but once we hit Louisiana, it started getting bigger…and bigger…and bigger. 
We checked into our hotel and got parked and settled before we hit the Big Easy for dinner. I must say that it is not at all difficult to get into the New Orleans swing of things when you arrive on a Saturday evening! We went to a highly recommended restaurant called the Acme Oyster House for dinner. There was a pretty long line outside, which we took as confirmation of it's popularity. Fortunately, the line moved pretty fast, especially since we were willing to sit at the bar. We ordered some New Orleans brews, po’ boys, and craw puppies. The po’ boys had fried shrimp and oysters and a Tabasco mayonnaise. They were super scrumptious. Sitting at the bar, we watched so many oysters being shucked and sent out raw to tables that we decided we had to give them a try. I had a single raw oyster topped with some cocktail sauce and lemon juice. Cory was a little braver and got an oyster shooter, which is a raw oyster in vodka with cocktail sauce. I really liked my oyster, and I could see myself eating a while plate of them sometime when I’m on the coast again. Our waitress was great and really nice. When we left, she even gave us a motherly “Have fun, be safe” in goodbye. 
po' boys and craw puppies at ACME Oyster Co. in New Orleans, LA
Delicious po' boys and craw puppies

Oyster shuckers hard at work. We couldn't watch them all evening without giving oysters a try!
Oyster shuckers hard at work. We couldn't watch them all evening without giving oysters a try!
Showing a raw oyster and an oyster shot at ACME Oyster Co. in New Orleans, LA
Cory and I had our first raw oysters. Bottoms up!