Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Title: My Second Trip to Blarney -- Subtitle: Yes, I Am Still Aware I Run a Blog

The Dunmore East Single Staff (DSS) and the Comeragh Boys' Camp Staff (CBCS) went on an outing to Blarney Castle on a Saturday in January. The DSS loaded into a big white maxi van by the name of Al and drove together. It was wild and fun and informative. 

The castle was fun, even though I'd been before. We spent more time exploring the grounds this time than when I was there in 2011. Mostly, it was just amazing to hang out with the wonderful youth here.

Here's a bench, for when you get tired climbing those windy stairs. Also, the name is carved into it in case you forget where you are.

A really cool view from up on top. Seriously beautiful, even if the trees were bare. This is also gorgeous in the summer, with roses blooming profusely.

The imposing castle, framed by bare branches and drops of rain.

After touring the castle and grounds, we sat around and ate our picnic lunch. We provided quite a spectacle for the other guests, and a feast of crumbs and apple cores for the various birds.

We trundled back to camp for supper and games -- Trivial Pursuit, anyone?

We girls camped out on the floor of the camp's female staff's house, and got ready for church Sunday morning amid the flurry of breakfast casserole, irons, hangers, and one bathroom for 8 girls (it was really quite impressive).

It was one of the best weekends that I can remember. Even if it took me four months to tell the story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Dublin's fair city...

...where the girls are so pretty/I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone/As she wheeled her wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow/Crying "Cockles and mussels, alive a-live O!"

When I was growing up, my sister had a CD with children's tunes, and Molly Malone was one of them. So I learned to sing it, but had no idea where Dublin was, and absolutely no dream that I would one day visit that fair city and see Molly Malone's statue. Some of the Irish are a bit scornful of the whole thing, saying that the story was made up for the tourists, but it's interesting anyway.

The statue is a bit, shall we say, scantily clad, and we took scarves to drape over her, but when we got there, it was so incredibly busy, we couldn't even get close to it. So this picture was taken while walking and holding the camera over my head.

Anyway, back to chronological order. 
We got up early and went into the bakery at 5 instead of 6 so we could get done early. We left the bakery at 6:30 and were at the bus station for the 7 o'clock bus with 5 minutes to spare. Rebecca Yoder is on the far left of this picture, looking bright-eyed and a bit shell-shocked. She arrived here 2 months ago, and has been doing a lot of work in the shop. However, when my current bakery co-worker, Amy (middle in the pink coat), leaves, Rebecca will be my full-time co-worker. Amy will be leaving mid-October, so her time is quickly drawing to a close! I almost have her convinced to come back next summer and fill in for me when my family is here. Violetta is on the far right, looking much, much too awake. She's a teen girl from the community that I will be tutoring in Algebra. She went with us because she lived in Dublin for about 6 years, and knows her way around well. Plus we like her. :)

This poor Jelly Baby stood no chance once she decided to bite its head off (you have to do that first, you know, so you don't hear it yelling as you eat the rest).

 After our 3 hour bus ride, it was high time for coffee (or so I was told...some seem too awake already!), so Starbucks was our first stop.

We stopped for a few minutes and walked among the statues at the Famine Memorial. A sobering reality backed by opulent buildings and a thriving city. 

 A cathedral. I don't know which. They were having a funeral that morning.

The Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Trinity College campus. We walked around a bit on campus and looked at the statues and used the bathroom. We didn't see the Book of Kells because of admission prices and the long line that had already formed.

Dublin Castle.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin (there's one in Waterford too). Beautiful building.

By this time we had walked a very, very long way, and we were starting to get really worn out. And we had set our hearts on fish 'n chips. We saw several shops but some were closed, some were considered too "fast food", and others we just plain walked by (I don't know why). Finally, we settled on one and ordered food. This was a wondrous sight:

 After lunch, we did souvenir shopping. I found some neat things for my nephews, and several presents (for friends) that I'm saving for birthdays and/or Christmas. And then we found ice cream on a street crowded with vendors and performers. I got a black forest ice cream (chocolate ice cream with cherries mixed in). It was, as the Irish say, gorgeous.

Just look at that cheesy grin! :D I should also mention here that we got SO many stares as we were standing there eating that I suggested we allow people to take pictures with us and charge €1 each!

Last, but not least, the Spire of Dublin, otherwise known as the Monument of Light. Very tall (398 ft). And also an Irish flag got in there.

 And then we dragged our weary bodies back to the bus station and waited (and waited) for our bus to come pick us up. After a 3.5 hour trip home (yes, takes longer in the evening because it makes more stops), I crawled into my nice house and shook my toes out of my socks.

And that was the end of another adventure.
Thanks for reading!

Dad's 50th Birthday

I just realized that I completely forgot to post the promised pictures of my Dad's 50th birthday and the "letter surprise" we did for him. I'm so sorry if you've been waiting for it! Here it is.

For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, I sent out a letter far and wide asking friends to write and send us a short letter describing a particularly vivid or favorite memory of Dad. Hannah and I (Hannah being my hands where mine couldn't be) put each memory in a separate envelope and presented them to him at his birthday party. The hope was to have 50 memories, and therefore 50 envelopes, because it was his 50th birthday, but I don't think we quite made it. I think the final number was closer to 35. Oh well.

I was able to attend the party via Skype so I can tell you I witnessed first-hand the awe and teary eyes he experienced when he realized what this stack of letters contained!

That's me, in my own little corner, on my own little chair, watching them eat the sumptuous feast laid before them by my mother, otherwise known as Kitchen Goddess.

I'm disappointed to say that we didn't get that many pictures of the actual letter opening (perhaps because it took nigh unto forever).

But there were sober moments:

 And moments filled with mirth as he remembered the incident and expounded on it for our benefit:
 Notice the stack of letters behind Sarah's hand to the left of the picture -- I ordered the envelopes online. I thought they added a neat touch because they have the red and blue airmail stripes on the edges.

I was told that a couple of weeks later, memories were still trickling in from people that hadn't gotten around to it earlier. I was also told (by Dad) that it was the best birthday he's ever had, and that all the letters were incredibly touching.

For those of you that participated, THANK YOU for helping make Dad's 50th birthday so special. I wish you could have all been there to witness it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Quick Post

You may have noticed I haven't posted in a while. You may not have. In either case, it's been over a month, and I feel bad about it. And the longer I waited to write again, the more pressure was on the next post. And so I decided to write a very quick update and not really over-think it. And because today was such an amazing day, I just feel like I have to share it.

Wednesday is usually my day to work alone in the bakery. And because I work alone, I like to brainstorm about new things to introduce into the store. Today I decided on biscotti. I told my coworker, Becca, that I'm the only person that goes to find a recipe to try and ends up researching the history of the food item. To make a long story short, the Roman army used to make biscotti (plural of biscotto, which means twice-cooked, or twice-baked) because it was easy to carry and it lasted a long time without spoiling.

So, today I made three kinds of biscotti. I first made a cinnamon one. Before the other two kinds were done and I'd put them in the shop, the neighbor came in and bought all the cinnamon ones for the tea she was serving her guests.

I then made a chocolate walnut one. And then a lemon ginger one. And then another batch of the cinnamon ones. I made bright little signs advertising the new product, and left little plates of free samples out, and went home. When I came back 2-3 hours later, the chocolate and the lemon ones were completely gone. :D I love that feeling of success.

I and my coworkers also took a bit of a snack to the teachers who are currently toiling long hours to get their classrooms ready for next week. I enjoyed cutting out some bulletin board items for them, and then leaving it behind and not having to worry about it anymore! I also somehow volunteered to lead a girls' Bible study twice a month.

And then it was back to the shop because it was my turn to help close. We made pizza for supper, tried a new muffin recipe (Rocky Road) for the shop, and generally just had a good time.

Thanks for reading about a day in my life. :) I will just say again, since I haven't said it in a while: I love it here. I love Ireland. I love the baking, and I love that I'm feeling more at home in the shop and the bakery.

Next post (which hopefully is not a month away!): Dunhill Castle and Dublin day trip.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Hills Are Alive...

...With the sound of music.

Friday, a group of girls (including me) decided they'd like to visit a cove and possibly go swimming since it's so hot here right now. But everyone else has the same idea. The beaches are packed.

But whispers were heard of another cove. A secret cove, that practically no one else knows about. All I heard was that you have to park at some point and walk the rest of the way because it's really remote.

Okay, no problem. I can handle a walk. We packed a picnic supper, piled into a van, and away we went! We drove on back roads that were no wider than my parents' driveway until we got to a small lane. The middle was covered in grass, and to try to drive on it would have been to kiss our van's oil pan goodbye. So, we parked, gathered our bags, and began our walk.

The hedges grew high on either side and blocked the steady breeze from reaching us. In the stillness, the flies found us and enjoyed a feast. Finally, we turned off the lane and crossed into a pasture.

And we walked. And crawled under or climbed over several fences in the process -- both electric fences and barbed wire fences. At least the fields were uninhabited.

Finally, we caught our first glimpse of the cove (of which I've forgotten the name...sorry!)

It was breathtaking. Or that might have been the walking -- either way, it was beautiful. There was a fresh water (not actually sure...I didn't taste it) stream flowing down into the cove. 

The tide was out, and some of the girls intended to swim. I just waded a bit since I didn't bring my swim stuff to Ireland with me. The water was mostly warm and the bottom was flat and sandy. Very pleasant. 

I found some treasures -- some limpet shells, and the top of a porcelain figurine.

After I waded for a few minutes, and collected some treasures, I went and sat on the big flat table rock there, and sang a few songs out of the songbook I'd brought along. Before long, the others joined me and we sang a few songs together -- the cove rang and our voices echoed back to us. Finally, we ate our picnic supper of wraps, veggies, fruit, and granola bars. After we ate, two of the girls decided to climb one of the grassy hills that made up one "wall" of the cove. It looked nearly vertical, but I didn't venture up myself, so I'm not sure.

All good things must come to an end, so finally we had to admit it was time to head back. We had quite the walk ahead of us. This time, the fields had herds of cows in them that stared placidly at us as we invaded their territory.

Back in the van and headed home, we met this sight:

There definitely wasn't room for us and them to be on the road at the same time, so what could we do but pull over and wait? They marched unhurriedly past while we admired them and remarked on how big they were! Some of them stopped and stared in the windows at us! The herdsman came behind, and we told him that we were admiring his cows and he remarked that we were welcome to some of them if we wanted them! I don't think he was serious....

And that is the tale of another Ireland adventure.

Oh, one more picture before I go.

This is one of the two abandoned kittens (about 4-5 weeks old, I think) I heard mewing piteously out on my driveway. I am most certainly my mother's daughter, so I rescued them. They are currently living in a cardboard box in my bedroom and dining well on canned cat food. I've named them Donna and Loki.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Quaint Town and God's Artwork

Two Mondays ago, while Amy (my co-worker), Susanna (new girl from Poland), Victoria (young local girl), and I were eating our Chinese food we'd cooked up for ourselves, I happened to mention that I hadn't been to Dunmore East yet this trip. And just like that, the plans were made and we were off.

We refer to the path along the coast in Dunmore East simply as "The Cliff Walk." All visitors to the area have to go on "The Cliff Walk" before they've really seen Ireland. And I'll admit, it's beautiful. But I'll stop writing now and let you decide for yourselves. Enjoy!

Looking over the edge!

An interesting rock formation.

Looking back towards the little fishing village of Dunmore East. This is a popular holiday spot, with lots of beach cottages for rent, and little caf├ęs and shops.

Looking ahead, along the cliffs. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Food Review: Kinder Surprise Egg

Time for another review! Are you ready? Today I have a Kinder Surprise Egg, which I've never seen in the United States. Want to know why?

They're illegal in the US! The US has a ban on any candy that has embedded toys, so these are not allowed because of the choking hazard. Google it if you want to know more...this is a review, not a research project! :)

Okay, Kinder Surprise Eggs are made by a German chocolate company ("Kinder" means "children" in German), and that German company is owned by an Italian company called Ferrero. Sound familiar? Notice the "k" is a different color than the rest of the word in the picture below. Remind you of anything?
The answer I was looking for was Nutella. If you haven't ever tried Nutella and you love chocolate, for the love of all things yummy, go buy some! Eat it on toast, bananas, fingers, whatever!! *ahem* So yes, Ferrero also makes Nutella, Ferrero Rochers, and Tic Tacs (and a bunch of other things I don't recognize).

Anyway, I've been dying (no pun intended) to try one of these, and I finally bought one today.

 The egg broke easily and evenly in half, which pleased my OCD tendencies greatly.

Smell: Chocolate-y! Yum!

Texture: Nice smooth chocolate -- good and rich (not just sweet)

Taste: A good chocolate taste - good quality. White chocolate and milk chocolate combined
Aftertaste: None

This product is a lot of fun! The chocolate is yummy for the adult in me, and the toy is seriously cool for the kid in me! Too bad I won't be able to get them when I move back home. Smuggling some with me seems like an option, but the fine, if caught, is $2,500 per egg....Good grief!

I feel like I need to give this candy two ratings -- one for the actual chocolate part and one for the toy. 

Chocolate: 8
Toy: 10 (Just because it's exciting to see what you'll get the next time!)

My scale from 1-10
1 - Kill it! Kill it with fire!
2 - Ew!
3 - Pretty gross
4 - Eh, wouldn't get it again
5 - Not sure
6 - Might buy again, if there was nothing else available
7 - Good
8 - Could see myself craving that
9 - Delicious
10 - Must. Have. More. NOW!

Thanks for reading!