Thursday, 24 November 2011

American Holidays aboard

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone has a great day.

This is my second Thanksgiving over in Northern Ireland. It hasn't been the only American holiday I've tried to celebrate over here. We did a small flag waving for the 4th of July and luckily Memorial Day and Labor Day are celebrated over here,just with different names.  It's hard to get into a different mindset when no one in your area understands the importance of the day. I went to the Thursday Mother and Toddler and they were making Christmas cookies. Had to laugh at myself since it felt very wrong to be making Christmas cookies on a day like today when I should just be stuffing my face. However after today I won't feel guilty watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas Music.

Last year at this time we were still unpacking and it was snowing. We did a small dinner with the family and celebrated just being back in Ireland. However this year seems so much different. I am home alone all day and we're not going to do a big dinner until Sunday. I have been given permission to change Sunday dinner up a little bit with devilled eggs and our family's seven-layered salad. I was trying to get a hold of some pumpkin pie mix and found a great website, but it's just too dear for shipping for one little can. (I will however make one soon when I order my root beer). It will be nice to take over a dinner with a few family members. Maybe next year R will get off and we'll do a big dinner with people around in the area.

The worst part about being over here during an American holiday is missing out on the days off, the family all around, the parade and just the over all holiday spirit. Yes, I am home all day, but no one else is home with me. I hope I don't sound too depressing. I know things will get better and someday I'll be able to fly over for Thanksgiving, but sometimes it's just too hard to see the forest through the trees (think I got that saying right). But I'm not the only one in this boat. There are service men and women all over the globe without their families and many people have no choice but to be separated from their loved ones. I do count my blessing that I am able to be home everyday with my daughter and we have a lovely house to live in and especially R has a job that he is loving.

It's not all bad because Christmas is coming and I have to say, I LOVE Christmas over here. We have the Christmas markets, R's huge family around and everyone has at least 2 weeks off for the holidays! So after today it's countdown to K's visit and only 4 more weeks until everyone is home for the holidays. I know the Irish wouldn't like me saying this, but I really can't wait for snow either. Hoping for another white Christmas this year. I promise the next blogs won't be as depressing.

Again, I hope everyone has a great day and very excited that I can Skype many of you in the middle of the week!

oíche mhaith

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The month of October part 3 and 4

As mentioned in the last post October was a very busy month for us. While my dad was here, R and I went to two Halloween parties over that weekend. The first one was Friday night at the Errigle Inn in Belfast and the second one was a house party at G & A's new house.

The Errigle was a fancy dress gig by Beoga. We got dressed at R's cousins's house and taxied over to the bar. It was a good gig, a little noisy for the bands but good. Almost everyone dressed up. Some of the costumes were the generic ones you see everyone, while others were down right creative. R, dressed up as Wolverine was responsible for walking around and picking the top five costumes and the crowd would choose from there. The winner was Mr.T, which was a pretty sweet costume. There was also a very tall man with permed hair in an hold Irish dancing dress. He liked to walk around showing his legs, but ended up showing people much more, it wasn't a pretty sight. Overall it was a good night. I dressed up as Storm from the X-men with white contacts and a very tight corset. It wasn't the most comfortable costume and I couldn't sit or see for most of the night.
R and I in our Halloween costumes
R with his Wolverine face.

The next day we went over to G & A's for their Halloween party. They actually had a theme to their's, famous dead people. R went as Bon Scott (first lead singer from AC/DC) and I went as a dead 80's groupie cause I was just costumed out from the previous night. That was also a good night. It was mostly his family, which we had all met before. However, I just really wasn't feeling it, so I tried to go to bed early. However one of the family fell down the stairs and an ambulance was called so that made for an interesting finish to the night.

But all of that leads to part 4 of the month of October. Even though part 4 started in October it keeps going into November. I'm going to preface this with this is not a pity party. This is just me sharing my feelings about what is going on right now in a safe forum. I haven't posted it on Facebook because I wasn't sure how some people would take it if I expressed myself in a short sentence. But I'm lonely. Now that R is gone during the day I have no one to talk to but a little irrational human. They leave at 6:15 am in the morning and don't get home until after 7pm. It makes for a long and lonely day. Another part of this is because R is gone all day I have no car, so if it rains we can't get out of the house at all. This means that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we can't get to Maghera for the mother and toddler groups. So no adult interaction for me. I've started going to one at the Baptist church here in Tobermore, but no one talks to me, even worse than at the start of the Maghera ones, and it seems I can't be their friend unless I convert and join their church.

It comes down to a simple thing; I'm tired of trying to make new friends when all I want is my old ones. The Halloween parties kind of started it all. If I had some of my own friends, I could have sat comfortably and chatted all night long, but where I really don't know anyone outside of R's family it makes it hard to talk to people. Especially when I feel people just don't get my sense of humour. I've never really had a hard time making friends, but over here it feels like people just really don't like or get me. It will get better when I get a real job and hang out with people outside of children, but I miss chats on the phone, Friday beers, and hanging out at other people's houses. With Christmas coming up, I really want to throw a party, but who would come?  It could be worse, there could be no Facebook or skype...

The license will come and friends will come, but it's just hard when you know what your missing.

oíche mhaith

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The month of October part 1 and 2

It's been a month since my last blog and lots has happened since then.
1. My husband finally got a job!
2. My Dad came over for a 10 day visit
3. Two Halloween parties
4. Solitude is not for me. 

The best thing that happened in October was R finally finding a job. It was a year long process and very trying. Originally he had applied for a job at a lab company that I mentioned in September. Well, they never called. In fact it took almost 4 weeks to hear anything, and it came from the recruitment agency. As many of you know, they didn't say no to him but they didn't say yes because they wanted to explore their options. Which really means they didn't want to pay the recruitment fees for the perfect candidate. While he was waiting for the lab company, he applied for a graphic design job at a Irish dress making company. To cut a long story short, he got the design job. When they interviewed him, they didn't realize how much he could do (media wise) and now they are putting him through his paces. He is helping design their new media and working with their website. In fact he's really liking the job and is working up the ladder. It's a perfect fit. We are thankful everyday for God answering our prayers. There is one thing that is kind of funny about the job. There are about 30 employees there and he is the only man. Luck him.

Another great thing to happen to us in October was a visit from my Dad. We hadn't seen him since last August when R lost his job. He fly all the way from Denver, rented a car and drove up to us from Dublin. It was so nice to have him spend time with myself and O. When he had first planned the trip, R was going to be home so he didn't need to rent a car, but since I can't drive yet, he got one and we were able to tour around the countryside. We did a day in Derry, Coleraine, a few trips to Cookstown and a lovely afternoon in Belfast. He'd been here once before and done all the touristy stuff, so this was more of just spending time with his granddaughter. He also came with lots of presents from my Mom for O and I, but O seemed to get the most of them (surprisingly) She warmed up to him right away and they had a great time. We all did.

Grandpa and granddaughter snuggling on the couch with lots of pressies from Granny Morgan

Sightseeing on the walls of Derry
While he was here we also went to two Halloween parties. But that is for another day and since I have a subject it won't be so long in coming. Well, here's hoping anyways.

oíche mhaith

Friday, 7 October 2011

Move to Ireland, learn to skin a rabbit. !!!!WARNING PICTURES AT END!!!!

Moving to the Irish country side has been a learning experience. I've learned about different types of potatoes and the harvest, more about sheep than I care to know, and now how to treat game after it's been shot. I thought I lived out in the country before when I was little, but this is nothing. You would think that Ireland being a huge player in the international scene and a fashion forward country that I wouldn't learn how to skin a rabbit at all. WRONG.

Let me preface this by saying rabbits over here are a pest. They tear up the fields and are just as annoying as prairie dogs out west and raccoons/possums in Maine. There are hundreds just around where we live. So yes they are cute and cuddly but they are also a pain in the you-know-what. My father-in-law had shot two at the beginning of the summer, but that was it. He has promised me to let me have a go at skinning them when we got another set, but no luck. However, just this week, one of our neighbours brought us a fresh rabbit he had shot in his field. Big R, as I call my FIL, let me have a go at skinning the rabbit and cleaning the meat. Why did I want to do this you ask? Well, not really sure. Maybe it's because I don't get out much any more, or there isn't much to do around here, or just cause it is something I've wanted to experience, for an anthropologic experiment. I've study history all my life, but never really experienced anything that people from the past would have done.
Now the next part is not for the faint of heart and there will be a few pictures at the end, so beware. However, if you're just curious as to how one would have gotten their food in the past, by all means read away:
For those of you who won't read ahead, it was a good learning experience and I would do it again. I'm hoping we get a pheasant during the season.

We took care of the rabbit in the garage. We had hung it up first for a day to let the blood drain of the wound. We thought it had been shot in the head, but when we took it apart it had been shot through the leg and spine.  The first thing you want to do is take off the feet. Now I will say this was a part that kind of made my stomach turn. You have to break the legs at the knuckle. After you do that you can easily cut the feet off. After that you have to peel the skin off the rabbit. I won't go much more into that, I'm sure you can figure it out. Then you have to take out the inner organs. Another stomach churning part for me was when we discovered where the wound was. There was a slight smell of bad blood. I'm very sensitive to smell, so it was hard, but because the rabbit was so small it wasn't too bad. Probably nothing compared to deer or another large animal. After that you can take off the head. Once the organs are out you can get the meat. Now I don't like meat that much so deciding what is edible and what is not was almost impossible. To me this was like a really cool biology experiment. I probably would have looked at every organ and stuff, but it went straight into a bag.  Big R helped show me how to cut the leg, thigh and breast. There really isn't much meat on a rabbit at all, so to feed a family of 4 would probably have taken at least 3 to 4 rabbits, at least for a good stew.  We put the meat in a salt water pot to draw out the blood and then to the freezer it went until we get another one for some stew. Now I've had rabbit once before and I wouldn't say I'd like to have it again, but I think in a stew instead of a BBQ it might actually be nice.

Overall it was a cool experience. Not for many of you I know. Here are some pictures. My husband posted the video on facebook, but seeing pictures is a little easier to stomach than watching me take care of the rabbit.

I was forced to make this face. But that was the size of the rabbit.

This is the very start of the process, just after we cut off the legs and opened up the rabbit.

Removing the inner organs

Big R is showing me how to cut the breast off the bone.

This is what was all the meat we were able to get out of the rabbit.
oíche mhaith

Saturday, 1 October 2011

My Baby turns two and the hubby gets an interview.

September was a very busy month for us. It started with family weddings and parties, then it was O's 2nd birthday and at the end of the month my husband had another job interview. With all this going, I have been very bad about keeping my blog up to date.

I've told you all about the family stuff. O's birthday was on the 16th of September and we had a small party on Saturday. It included the Greats, the grandparents and our neighbours who have three older boys who love to play with O. I made a big cake and we had a nice quiet BBQ. It's crazy to think that my little baby has grown into a toddler. I love having her this age, but I kid you not, as soon as she turned two, she turned into a monster. When people talk about the terrible two's they ain't kidding. But more about that later. Here are some pictures of her party.

O's Birthday Cake. Another hand-made Victorian Sponge Cake.

The birthday girl on her big day!

Everyone from the party waiting for cake 
After O's party we went to R's cousin's birthday party in Kilrea and this is O showing off for the camera.

On her actual birthday, Friday, We took a cake into the Mother and Toddler group and sang to her. She did really good blowing out the candles.

Another big thing that has happened is the hubby got a job interview. As many of you know, he's been out of work for just over a year and has only had a 1 interview since than. He's been working with a recruiting agency who have been very good in sending out his information to different companies but the economy is just horrible. On Monday they called him and said there was a company that was looking for a media guy. The description to the job was very close to what he did in America with the same salary. They sent his CV and portfolio on Monday morning and that afternoon he had set up an interview for Thursday. He went to the interview and thinks it went well. We won't hear anything until next week hopefully. I can't tell you how much we need this job. Not only financially but mentally as well. We are at a crossroads in our life and both of us are ready to take the next step towards our new future. Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts, but keep them going, we'll let everyone know what the outcome is.

oíche mhaith

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Great's 60th Wedding Anniversary

The Great's celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary two weekends ago with a huge bang. Two days after the cousin's wedding, the whole family gathered in Toome at the White Bridge Hotel for a lovely evening of food and dancing.

It's so nice to be part of a big extended family. All the aunties and uncles were there as well as most of the cousins. Some of who we really don't get to hang out with that much because they live in England or the south of Ireland. What's so great is that everyone get's along so well and have such a good time together.

The night started with a private mass at the Desertmartin parish followed by a buffet at the hotel.There were 142 people at this party. Distant cousins, long time friends, and more family. It was funny because I was meeting many people for the first time, but everyone knew who I was. I was the "American" that married one of the grandsons. O of course was a star because she was on the dance floor until she passed out in the corner in a cot (again). The band was so-so or even not that great, but everyone was in such a lively mood that the dance floor was never empty. Plus it was an older crowd so they loved all the old waltz that they kept playing.

The best part of the night I have to say was when the Greats got up and danced with all 9 of their children. It was such a sight to see and so touching that there was definitely a tear shed. It was a great night had by all and ended into the wee hours of the morning.

Here are some pictures of the night. You will all get a great sense at just how big my husband's family really is with a few of them.

O with the two youngest cousins

One of the place settings. There were 12 tables and each table was named after a different family member. From the Greats, all the children, and even Jack the dog. The pictures were all of them when they were younger. As you can see Uncle L is behind his photo.

The cousins and partners at our table.

O playing with Mommy's phone while we waited for dinner.

The Greats cutting the cake.

All the children. For some reason my MIL is missing in this one.

This is most of the extended family.  There are a few people missing, but it's still alot of people.

Adding a few more people to the picture.

O with the Greats watching the slide show.

The two babies crashed out.

My husband at the end of the night. I'm so proud!

oíche mhaith

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Another family wedding and fun had by all

Weddings in Ireland, are something else.

We went to another cousin's wedding on Thursday. It was another all day event. Getting up early, throw on the tan and make up, and head out the door for a 1 pm wedding.
The wedding was in Bellymena at the Tullyglass Hotel. It was a gorgeous building that looked more like a large manor house than a hotel. The corridors were a maze and there seemed to be an infinite number of stairs, even though they didn't have that many rooms.

This was a mixed religious ceremony so it was more what I would call an American ceremony.  It was a justice of the peace and a shorter ceremony. It was in one of the hotel's staterooms with high ceilings and what looked like part of a church vault at the far end. So far I'd only been to Irish Catholic ceremonies and this was a little easier to sit through.

After the ceremony there was a champange reception while the couple took pictures. The bride was absolutly stunning and I loved the colors she picked out, bright pink!  The couple took a little while for pictures so I have to say there was some waiting involved next to the bar. Dinner was lovely and R and I were at a perfect table. We we surrounded by aunties and uncles and had a laugh the whole time. I forgot to mention that there were no kids invited to the wedding, so we were baby free. We had one of my very good friends down the lane watch her. At her house there are 3 boys to play with and I was told that the whole time she was there she was an angel.

After dinner the dance floor was cleared and the band came on, much dancing was involved. After the band came a small buffet and a DJ. I have to tell you, they really know how to throw a wedding party over here. We danced until the bar closed about 1:30 in the morning. Then it was off to the resident bar at the hotel for a night cap. We hadn't planned on staying out all night and R had planned to drive, but we got a call from the babysitter saying O was down for the count and wouldn't need to get picked up until the morning. We were than offered a spare bed in one of the relative's room. So we were able to really party it up.

We did the walk of shame in the morning, luckily with no hang over, but left early enough so that no one in the hotel could see me leaving at 8 in the morning with the same outfit as the night before. I was completely shatterd the next day. The worst part about the next day was the fact that on Saturday we have another big family get together for the Great's 60th wedding anniversary and I could barely make it through Friday.

Here are some pictures from the wedding.  My next blog will be about the chaos that was the Greats party.

The Wedding Party

Aren't we a cute couple

Me with my mother-in-law and my friend C

Waiting for dinner

Two Aunties

The couple cutting the cake
oíche mhaith

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Trip to the Zoo

Yesterday was a trip to the Belfast Zoo. It was nice to plan a day out with the whole family before all the mother and toddler groups start and while the weather is still okay.

The zoo is on the outskirts of Belfast city, up on the hill. I haven't been to a Zoo since my 8th grade class trip to New York City. I think I was the most excited out of everyone. However I would like to point out that I'm not a fan of the thought of the zoos, but I have to say they did a very good job with the enclosures. They also didn't have too many large animals except for some elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers, bears, (oh my!) chimps and apes. The zoo had a lot of small monkeys and birds. The one thing I didn't realize about the zoo was that it is all on a hill and to see all the animals you have to hike a far bit and it's very steep.

The weather was great and it wasn't too crowded. The only complaint I have about the zoo was the fact that there was trash everywhere. Not only was there trash on the walkways, but also there was trash in the animal enclosures. What would compel someone to throw their crisp bag into the tiger pit is beyond me.

O had a great time. We did arrive during nap time so we had some fussy bits, but overall it was a great day.  After the zoo we stopped at a Pizza Hut on the way home to have lunch. That made me a little bit home sick.

Here are some pictures from the day.  We didn't take too many of the animals since a lot of them were taking their afternoon nap in the sun.

The entrance to the zoo

I love this!

The giraffes with the zebras in the background

The elephant enclosure. I have to say they were the saddest to see. But O's face is the best. It's like , "OMG! This is so awesome!"

The meerkats and there was a porcupine on the other side. People were all excited about the porcupine and all I could think was, "yup, run over a few of those in my lifetime."

This was a type of monkey, but I don't remember what type.

The underwater viewing area for the penquins. We waited a little bit and they finally came over. 

The humans, a cute breed as well. They were in the ape house helping raise money  for their apes. 

One of the apes. It was nap time so they were all sleepy.
oíche mhaith

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hunting For My Birthday Present

As many of you know for my 30th birthday present my husband sent me on a treasure hunt. It started with a birthday card and an article he had "found" in the local newspaper. In this article it said Dr. Ferguson had found an ancient stone tablet which she believed to be in a Masonic Cipher.

This is the Masonic Cipher or also called Pigpen cipher.

Once I decoded the message it said, "Only the enlightened find the rings up high." This puzzle took me about 40 minutes to figure out. At first I thought it was in the roof space, but was told I was off the trail. Finally it dawned on me that the ring fort by Granny's house was up high, so that had to be it. Plus if you take the first letter of each word, excluding the word "up", you make an anagram spelling THE FORT.
I headed straight up to the fort after dinner and found my first piece of the puzzle. It was a large round piece of wood split into 4 sections. Each section had a riddle that led you to the back of the circle where there were 4 ciphers to decode. I won't go into too much detail as I imagine many of you aren't into ciphers and codes as much as we are, but lets just say it was mentally taxing and very hard. He didn't give me any hints.

This is me with the first piece of the puzzle trying to decode the ciphers and the riddles
The four ciphers were a Ceasar cipher shift seven, a book cipher, a date cipher and a Durer's magic square cipher (this one was even harder since it started out in Masonic and than once I did that I had to figure out how to do the Durer's cipher.)  If you want to know more about any of these ciphers you can go to wikipedia or type them on Google and you'll find pages for them. Once I figured out the 4 ciphers, they were again riddles that I had to solve to get my next piece of the puzzle. One was "ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, SPLASH." This led me to a piece in our fish pond and no I didn't have to go into the water, but it was at the edge. Another was, "IMINYOURATIC". Yes there is only one T, but to make it fit into the magic square he had to spell it wrong. That one was easy enough. Another was, "Sleeping Like A Bat" with GPS coordinates to a tree in middle of the field. The last one was hinting to the bell by the ring fort.

After I had all four pieces along with the circle I could find the treasure. Now to add, each piece that attached to the circle had different symbols on them. One was distance, another was degrees (N,W,S,E) another was length (ft, mm, cm, etc.) and the last one was all these weird symbols with a sun and on the back it said "Don't be blinded by the light". This is the part that is the hardest to explain, but I had to align the lines on the front of my circle puzzle piece to what I thought would lead me to my treasure. Behind the original piece R had drawn a ring on the tree that was the same as on the front of my circle. I aligned it the first time to the sun and it lead me to 50 cm North of the tree. Well I was wrong, so I had to go back to the circle and the key. Now the key said "Don't be blinded by the light" hinting to a song that my husband knows drives me crazy.  But when I looked up the song on the internet and found the chords, they matched one of the symbols on my pieces. I aligned my circle to it and it pointed to 20 ft West of the ring. And guess what, I found it, buried in a rabbit hole.  The pictures will show the rest of the story. To give you a clue as to how hard these puzzles were, I started this hunt on Sunday afternoon and didn't find my treasure until Wednesday afternoon.

This is me climbing a tree and a fence to get to my clue that is "sleeping like a bat."

The puzzle piece

This is the whole puzzle put together. As you can see there are marks in the circle that can align  to the different  markings on the side. 

O helping me dig my treasure. I didn't really need the shovel, but it looked good in the pictures. I had thought that it was buried much deeper than it was. The only bad part about where he hid it was there were still rabbits around so the plastic bag had a funny smell.

This is what I found under the plastic bag.

The treasure chest. It looks much bigger than it is in person. I would say it's as big as my hand. It was all hand-made by the husband.

This is what it looked like when I opened it. There were two lockets and about  £30  of shiny coins.

The lockets. He says they're antique!

It was the best birthday present a nerdy girl could have, but to be completely honest I don't know if I could do it again. My husband definitely couldn't do it again since it had taken him weeks to get all the codes and the riddles put together. As well as building the box.  I hope you all enjoyed my adventure and if you want to try some of the ciphers let me know and I'll send you the puzzles.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

oíche mhaith