Monday, August 29, 2011

The Grand Irish Adventure

I'm going to attempt to "live blog" here, sorta. I'll try to post a daily update, and previous updates will be pushed farther down the page. There will only be one page, so you can bookmark this page and keep checking back.
13 Sep 2011 5:20 p.m. - Home, Sweet Home

Yes, I am aware that we've been home for a week now and I haven't finished my account of the trip. Can I blame jet lag, and a theatre performance and a party at the lake and two rehearsals in Cleveland? Oh, and work. Oh, and post-vacation depression!

I'm trying to get the pictures organized and on a site where you can see them. That might even happen today. I've narrowed it down to 500 pictures and videos. Trust me, you don't have to look at all (or even any) of them.

I had planned to post from Dublin, but I refused to put money in the slot to use the computers.

We arrived in Dublin around 3:00 on Friday afternoon and checked into the Ballsbridge Inn. Then we drove the car back to Hertz and dropped it. There was no way we were going to try to drive in the mass chaos that was Dublin traffic.

We learned that there are four million residents of Ireland, and two million of them live in Dublin. Wow!

Once back at the hotel, we took a walk around the block to scope out restaurants. We discovered the U.S. Embassy was just down the block. And we saw people everywhere. Masses of people. And they were all wearing green or blue. It turns out the Euro 2010 qualifying game of the European football league (UEFA: Union of European Football Associations) was being held that night, a mere two blocks from our hotel. There were 44,761 in attendance, and 44,500 of those fans walked by our hotel. We walked in the other direction and found a pub in which to eat, drink, and watch football.

The next morning we walked to a restaurant a few blocks away, Expresso Bar Café, where we were able to get something other than a full Irish breakfast. (By the way, black pudding is like a sausage made with pig's blood. Get away from me!) Expresso Bar had been mentioned in my everpresent guidebook, and was well worth the mention. We also ate dinner there on Saturday night. After breakfast, we took a cab to Kilmainham Gaol (jail). I've never been a big student of history, but this jail was sobering and interesting. I will be looking for books about the Easter Rising of 1916 to try to fully understand what happened there. After the jail tour, we decided to take the hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Dublin. After driving through Phoenix Park and learning the president of Ireland the the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland live across the street from one 'nother, we hopped off the bus at Ryan's of Parkgate Street, a pub known for its Victorian style and open since 1886. After lunch, we got back on the bus and hopped off around Henry Street and O'Connell Street, the main shopping district on the north side of the River Liffey. The street was packed with shoppers on a Saturday afternoon. Just a sea of people!

After searching in vain for suitable gifts for friends back home, we made our way back to the hotel, then back to Expresso Bar for dinner.

On Sunday, we ate downstairs in the hotel, then caught the bus shuttle back to the hop-on-hop-off, and hopped right off at the Guinness Storehouse. Marketing geniuses that they are, the Guinness people have put together a very shiny bit of marketing, including a free pint at the 7th floor Gravity Bar.

As it was Sunday, St. Patrick's was open restricted hours (between services). We grabbed a cab in the rain to get there in time to savor its beauty before the next service began. I was thrilled to be able to hear the organist rehearsing. The cathedral was yet another soberingly beautiful historic site.

When we had to leave there, we were starving, so hopped back on the bus and got of, again, at Guinness, were we had lunch.

We were exhausted, and it was almost time for the weekend's second sporting event. This was the All Ireland final of hurling, a form of Irish football. The match was being held in a stadium on the north side of Dublin. The stadium held 85,000 spectators and the game was sold out!! Neighboring counties—and archrivals—Kilkenny and Tipperary had the fans in an uproar. As soon as we got back to the hotel, we settled into chairs in the Dubliner pub to watch the match on large high-def TVs.

And then dinner from the grocery store downstairs, packing, and sleep.

Monday morning we left the hotel at 7:30 to get to the airport on time, and it's a darned good thing. What we didn't know was that U.S.-bound passengers go through customs and passport control at the point of departure, not of arrival. That meant we went through security (but didn't have to take off our shoes), then stood in line to have our passports checked twice, then took our shoes off for everything except our bodies to be scanned again. By the time we got through all that, we sat for only about ten minutes before boarding the plane.

Long flight. Watched several movies. Sat for two hours in Newark. Drove home from Pittsburgh in the pouring rain.

Had a wonderful time. Wish you had been there with us!

5 Sep 2011 3:07 p.m. - Newark Liberty International Airport

Let's see - where did I leave off?

As I said, Thursday was a day off. Jas had done all the driving and was exhausted. Shifting with the left hand, having to remember to stay left, and tiny little narrow country roads where one must vie with tour buses for real estate made him almost beg me for a day off. We went to the golf club for breakfast, then watched TV, napped and (me, not Jas) knitted all day. That evening we packed and readied tocheck out the next morning.

Friday morning we set out a little after 8:00, heading for Kilkenny. There were two things I had read about that I really wanted to see in Kilkenny, which was a two-hour drive away. The first challenge was a map that was older than the road. I was trying to avoid using my GPS on the iPhone, as I had already used 250M of data in the five days we had been in-country. (!!) I finally figured out what road to take, after we had passed beyond the points where I had expected to find exits. Midway down, we stopped in the cute little town of Abbeyleix for breakfast, then continued to Killenny.

The first thing I wanted to see was the Butler Museum in te basement of the castle. It was free and purported to have an excellent exhibition. #fail! It was very avant garde, contained about 10 items by one artist and was of almost zero interest to us. Then we walked across the street to the Kilkenny Design Craft Centre, which included a museum and artist's studios. I expected to see a wide variety of artists represented, and a wide variety of techniques and skills. I saw some slumped and fused glass that was unusual, and some pottery from colored clay that was unusual, but for the most part the displayed wares were upscale, glitzy, and pricey. I could have skipped Kilkenny entirely!

After a short walk in town and a pub stop for lunch, we headed out and drove an hour-and-a-half up to Dublin.

More after I get home and have a real keyboard.
1 Sep 2011 3:30 p.m. - A real keyboard and real computer; seeing if I can get caught up.

Back to Sunday afternoon stop at Doolin. We ate lunch at Gus O'Connor's Pub, surrounded by people of all nationalities. There was some sporting event on the telly that involved a soccer-sized ball, a lot of running, and a few chest-bumps. As we were leaving, a woman said to me, "You're leaving now? You can't leave now!!" I had to confess to the woman that I didn't even know what sport we were watching. It turns out the game was the semifinals of the Gaelic football national championship, and everyone with any green in his or her blood was watching the game. We ceded our seats to other avid watcher, and walked down to the waterfront to watch some boats leave for the Aran Islands.

Then we continued north up the coast. After a while we wanted a break, and noticed a little house by the side of the road with a tea/coffee/scones sign out front. We walked in, and a young woman was sitting at the table with tea and a scone, talking to an older women (70s, probably) who was the proprietress, Bridie. She turned on the telly, and the young woman proceded to explain the game to us. Bridie said she had been in that location for "farty-three" years. She was just darling. My tea was brewed from a bag; Jas's coffee was instant! Quite a change from similar establishments in the U.S.!

We continued on up and over to Ballyvaughan, where we walked out on the pier and had a drink at Monk's, which is nationally and internationally renowned. Then we headed back to Bodyke, arriving back to the condo around 8:45.

Monday morning we opted for less driving, and just nosed around the shores of Lough Derg, the largest lake on the River Shannon. It seems that all these hills and valleys in western Ireland are full of artists of all mediums. We stopped first in Tuamgraney, the nearest little village, and stepped into the studios of McKernan Handweavers.

I petted all her scarves, and selected one from the sale bin that went with most of the clothing I had brought on this trip. Anke McKernan had few words to say to either of us. Jas and I just kept looking at each other, because she was so atypical of normal handcrafters we meet on such studio visits. After I made my purchase, she suggested we step into the workroom in back where we could see the looms at work.

Bingo! Her husband was monitoring the looms, and was a gem!!! We spoke at length with him. He explained the looms, answered my wool and yarn questions, and spoke about life in Ireland. We asked his name, and the delightful answer we got follows:

Well, it should have been Seamus. But when I was born in the Catholic hospital, Pope Pius XII had just died. All the nuns came around to all the women who had just given birth and said they had to name their sons Eugenio Maria. My father was at home, as fathers didn't go into the hospital in that time (1958). Imagine his surprise when my mother brought me home. His name was Seamus, and he was expecting little Seamus. He got little Eugenio Maria! So my name is Eugene, but my friends call me Gene.

Jas then offered his hand to shake and said, "I'm James. Seamus." Gene/Seamus said at the same time, "Seamus." Laughter.

Jas explained how his ancestors had come from County Tyrone, and they talked for a while about the troubles and how hard life in Tyrone would have been for Jas's ancestors. As we were leaving, Gene said to Jas, "Welcome home."

Wow! What a fabulous experience. Gene's cordiality made up for Anke's lack thereof.

From Tuamgraney, we went down along Lough Derg to Killaloe (pronounced KILL-a-loo), where we had lunch at Molly's, then took a boat ride on the Spirit of Killaloe on the River Shannon and into Lough Derg. After the boat ride, we drive counterclockwise around the lake to find the silk and felting studios of Astrid Tomrop-Hofmann, whose business name is Bombyx Mori. We just missed Astrid, but Jas had a wonderful talk with her husband while I admired all her exquisite felted garments and accessories. The husband told how they had lived in Germany, but it became politically untenable to them and the chose Ireland to which to flee. Amazing!

We headed back home to rest before dinner and concert in Tuamgraney.

I'll stop for today, and I may not be able to finish the update until we return, but you can bet we're having a blast.

Today we took the day off so Jas could rest from all the driving.
Tomorrow (Friday) we're going to Kilkenny, then will stay in Dublin the next three nights before flying out early Monday.

Thanks for reading!

30 Aug 2011 8:45 a.m.
As we chatted with Kerry on Saturday, we decided we would go to the Cliffs of Moher on Sunday, as it would probably be the sunniest day of the week. We slept until 10:00, then headed west toward the coast of the Atlantic. To say the country roads are narrow would be a gross understatement. The driver must frequently pull as far left as possible and stop to let mini-vans or larger (i.e. panel vans or, aargh, trucks) pass. We drove through Ennis to Lahinch and the turned north to the Cliffs. Just north of Lahinch we passed a golf course that made us gasp - right along the coast, insanely hilly and rocky and dotted with sea grasses.

The cliffs are every bit as amazing and beautiful as you've ever read. I shot numerous pics that I'll upload to a photo service when we return.

Then we headed both along the coast, amazed at the rockiness of the soil and musing at hot difficult it would be for a landowner to clear the land. We also understand the rock walls zigging across the land when we see all the rocks everywhere.

Stopped at Doolin for lunch at Gus O'Somebody's pub and walked out along the rocks at the water's edge.

And now I must stop as we're heading to Galway and the Connemara today.
29 Aug 2011 4:30 p.m.
At the Hertz counter, an agent with a great sense of humor processed our paperwork. Glancing over his shoulder, Jas noticed a Jaguar parked outside. He said to the agent, "Is that our Jaguar out there?". The agent replied, "No. your car is on the other side of that one. You can't see it." sure enough, when we got to the parking lot, we had a tiny vehicle - a red Fiat five-door hatchback. the fact that there were doors for the rear seat made missing the luggage into the car much easier than if it were a 2-door plus hatch.

Jas walked up to the car, key in hand, then turned to me and said, "there's no place to put the key." alas, he was on what-over here-is the passenger's side. We had a good laugh about that, loaded up, and headed out.

Within a mile, Jas had the driving under control. Two days later, I still haven't sat behind the wheel and have no desire to do so. He's doing a fabulous job.

I added international features to my iPhone so we would have GPS, and it's the smartest travel move I've ever made! We quickly and easily made the drive to cousin Kerry Hagan's house in Limerick for an afternoon visit.

Kerry is a delightful young woman (about the age of my boys) who is a musician and geek. We have quite a bit in common. I had met her at Christmas, and enjoyed getting to know her better. She has a doctorate from UCSD, is a composer, and focuses on new and electronic
music and teaches in the computer science department at the University of Limerick.

After fixing us some lunch, Kerry took us on a guided tour of Limerick. We saw King John's castle, the River Shannon, parks, and then took a stop in a pub for a pint. Delightful visit, then we set off to travel half an hour to our timeshare in East Clare.

I'm sure if I say "how beautiful" one more time, Jas is going to backhand me. Ireland-everywhere I look-is absolutely beautiful. It's a patchwork quilt of every shade of green you've ever seen.

Jas and I travel well together. There is no set itinerary. When driving, if there's a side road that looks interesting, we take it. We have had the most enjoyable trip.

To come: Sunday at the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Ballyvaughan, including tea with Bridie in her roadside home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Galway.
Monday around Lough Derg, including visits to McKernan Handweavers and the studio of Astrid Tomrop-Hofmann - BombyxMORI Felt & Silk Art, then a traditional Celtic music concert in a thousand-year-old church.
29 Aug 2011 10:00 a.m.
Departed Ytown around noon on Friday for a 3:20 departure to Newark. Looked out the window on the plane an saw propellers. Propellers? In 2011?! We arrived early into Newark, so I guess they work!

Expected 7:30 departure from Newark to Shannon. Began boarding at 6:45. Sat down, settled in, pulled out my noise-canceling headphones. Tyler had returned these to me a couple of days earlier and I added more batteries and shoved them into my carry-on, without testing them. I turned them on, positioned them over my ears, and realized there was no cord to plug into the port on the seat arm! Oops!! Pulled out extra earbuds (yea for overpreparing) and made note to deduct some point from Ty's 'Good Son' account.

Finally everyone was aboard and strapped in when the attendant came on and said there was a mechanical issue and we would be 10 minutes longer. Ten minutes later he came in again and said 30 more minutes. Ten minute later, he said it would be an hour and we were getting off. Reload carry-ons, grab everything and get off.

Find a seat, plug iPhone unto charger again and take turns going for food, drink and bathroom break. And a "Bluetooth" store, where I was able to buy a cord for the headphones! Made note to add the $20 charge to the business reimbursements Tyler owes me. He can have his Good Son points back if he gives me the money!

Good meal, good music, decent sleep. Arrived in Shannon around 10:00 (instead of ETA of 7:00) after flying over acres of patchwork fields filled with all shades of green. Jas had purchased a bottle of Wild Turkey at duty free in Newark and accidentally left it on the plane. The Continental personnel took it to the ticket counter and they paged him!! I've never had THAT happen before!

Bags and whiskey in hand, we headed off to find the Hertz counter.

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Like a Madwoman!

The Cliffs of MoherI'm preparing for a little trip. (Sssh, I'm not supposed to talk about it online, as my guy is a little paranoid about someone reading my status and breaking into our house. Or something. Whatever. Just don't tell him I talked about our trip. Please?)

I've been sewing up a storm. New brown slacks from Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8712, which I've taken apart and resewn about four times to get them just right. The fabric is a fabulous lycra/cotton woven that feels like a knit. It came from Marcy's site. Then I started raiding my overabundant stash looking for T-shirts to go with the pants. I had purchased the Textile Studio Basic Top pattern about seven years ago and never sewn it. That's definitely my loss - this pattern is simply brilliant! I can sew it up almost faster than I can cut it out. I made it first in a hot pink midweight cotton/lycra knit, with jewel neck and cap sleeves. These sleeves are perfect, the jewel neck is not too tight, and the shirt fits like it was made for me. Oh, it was! Then I made the other view that's longer and closer-fitting out of a beautiful pale teal and brown graphic print rayon knit I picked up in Waechter's two trips-to-Asheville ago. I didn't have enough fabric to make the sleeves full-length, so just cut them off with as much fabric as I had. They're about 3/4 length, and the fit is fabulous!

Now you might remember that I told you about a pattern I was going to make for the wedding we attended a couple of weeks ago. I picked up a cotton jersey at Virginia Marti Fabrics in Cleveland for a first run of the dress so I could perfect the fit. If I liked the dress, I was going to get some silk jersey to make for the wedding. I HATED the dress! It made me look like I was seven months pregnant! Last week I picked up the almost complete dress and dumped it in the trash can. Then I got to feeling guilty, cut it apart, and made the third T-shirt from the Basic Top pattern. I cut the neck deeper and put a 1" self-binding around the neck and elbow-length sleeves (again, using all the fabric I have). The stretch on this knit was less than the rayon knit, so I gave it a scant 1/4" seam on the sides, and it's perfect.

I'm redoing the waist on the pants this morning (after repairing a couple of the Jazzman's pants for the trip) and then will cut out one more T from a rayon jersey graphic print in orange and brown that was given to me as a thank you gift about 8 years ago.

As much as I'm trying to destash, the quality and volume in my stash has been a gift to me in preparing for this trip.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I'm driving myself crazy! I can't sleep at night for reviewing all the things I need/want to do before I leave. I won't take a laptop, so I have to detail for my boss all the tasks that must be done between my departure and return. I have most of my clothes laid out, but must get them in the suitcase, after I determine whether I have a suitable suitcase to take! Have to call Hertz to check on international insurance. Have to call bank to tell them I'll be using credit cards in Europe. Have to run to vet to get more cat food. And so on.

Have to stop obsessively sewing so I can get everything done!!! And sleep at night!

When I return, I'm making changes in the blog. I'll tell you about my trip last weekend with my D.C. friend, Risa, to BeadFest Philadelphia. I found some real focus during that time, and think I know the direction I want to go next. I think those of you who know me well or have sewn with me in the past will start applauding when I make the big reveal.

In the meantime, you can read from the archive to keep yourselves amused, and you can drink an Irish whiskey (hint, hint) or something.

See you in a while . . .

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dreams DO Come True!

My babes are with me for the weekend while their parents relax with friends in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania. This morning I'm dawdling in bed, the Jazzman having left for work at 6:00, the birds chirping outside my window, the air cool with the promise of fall. I'm waiting for the babes to wake up, knowing the day to come will be a whirlwind of activity for this ol' grandma.

Last night I posted on Facebook a video of the babes telling their parents good-night. The parents are in a place with limited cell signals and limited wi-fi. But my experience is that Facebook is easy to hit, even when my e-mail is hard to hit. So I thought they might be able to see this video. As I posted it, I set the security settings so only the parents could see it.

This morning I googled "g'night to tyler and jaci" after logging out of Facebook, to check my security settings and ensure only they could see the video. The first thing that came up was a link to my blog from February 2008. I clicked it and sat reading what I went through in making this move. Fascinating! How fascinating to remember the whirlwind of social activity and the packing activities and the details of driving cross-country that I had forgotten. I clicked on a few inks within those posts and read other posts, until I ended up here.

Oh my gosh.

Two days ago the babes were over here sewing with me. We were talking about how to turn negatives into positives—how to look at the happy side of things rather than the sad side.

Why? The song "For Good" from Wicked came on the playlist, and Ridley burst into tears. I spent a Very Long Time talking her through being happy for having known friends who are gone, rather than being so unbearably sad that they're gone. We talked about my mother being near the end of her life, and how I'm lucky to have been adopted by someone who could pay for my piano lessons and have the time to take me to all those lessons. We talked about my former step-daughter who, when she arrived for a week's visit with her father, was instantly in tears because in seven days she'd have to return to her home across the ocean, rather than being happy and grateful for a week's visit with her father. We talked about J.R.'s death and how I feel so lucky to have had that almost-2.5 year marriage, even though he died.

Boston was saying how he wished he had known J.R., and I assured him that they would have liked each other very much. I told him how much fun J.R. was, and how everyone who knew him loved him. Boston asked if he was fun like the Jazzman. I said yes, that the Jazzman and J.R. were very much alike in that way.

Boston said, "I'm so glad you met [the Jazzman]." "I am, too," I told him. "I am, too!"

This morning, then, as I read this post, I was absolutely astonished to read my thoughts from March of 2008, and to realize that they came true just under two years later.

I truly hate dating at 57. I want a magic wand that can, poof!, bring the man who will understand my idiosyncrasies and pat me on the head when the Little Adoptee rears her ugly head; who can find my physical beauty despite my post-menopausal tummy; who will tolerate and appreciate and respect my devotion to my grandchildren; who will be willing to go to classical concerts with me, without complaining that he doesn't understand what the singers are singing. He can cook? He golfs? He has his own interests and doesn't want to be joined at the hip? Hallelujah! All the better. In my perfect world, the magic wand would deliver this man into my life and we'd both know instantly and could settle into a nurturing, supportive relationship without all the insecurities of teenage dating all over again.

If you're one of the Jazzman's friends reading this, or if you know me well enough to have heard me describe our life together, you'll know this describes him—and our relationship—in minute detail. After our second date, he told his mother and brother that he had met someone. We settled, with uncharacteristic mid-life ease, into a nurturing, supportive, and downright fun relationship.

I told Tyler after our first date, "I have just come home from the most comfortable first date of my life." I wake each morning glad to be alive. I watch him sleeping at night and think how much I love this man. He reaches for my hand as we walk through city parks or ballparks or restaurants, and I wonder how I came to be so lucky.

I am one lucky girl old broad!

I guess dreams actually can come true!

Friday, August 05, 2011

On having totally lost my mind.

It cannot possibly have been two-and-a-half weeks since the last time I posted on this site!

Let's see—there was a four-day incredibly stressful period in North Carolina, then a Saturday party to attend, then the Mt. Carmel Italian Festival, then a week of crazy shopping and sewing to get ready for a Saturday night wedding, then a Sunday baseball game, then a week filled with work. And through it all, the weather has been MIZ.ER.UH.BULL. Hot, humid, miserable.

I'll tell you about all that stuff another time. Right now I want to share that I have totally lost my mind.

Last Monday afternoon I met up with my boss down at the Lemon Grove to discuss a couple of projects. If you don't hang out in these parts, the Lemon Grove is an eclectic little café/restaurant/bar that's situated on West Federal in the heart of downtown Youngstown. It's the go-to place for air conditioning and free wi-fi, accompanied by a cup of whatever.

At the conclusion of our meeting, I walked out the front door and turned left to walk back to my car, parked a block away. And suddenly I heard a whacking sound. I couldn't imagine what was making such a whacking sound so, ever curious, I glanced around. Across the street I saw a 20-something or 30-something man in a white T-shirt and a black cap of some sort (were those really sequins?!). Nearby stood a younger-looking woman in a purple shirt. The man was holding what appeared to be a bullwhip, with which he was whacking away at the lush plants in one of the beautiful planters that line West Federal. (See the gorgeous planter on the left of the photo above? Those are the planters that have been installed on West Federal.)

I was instantly irate. So many people are working so hard to make and keep Youngstown beautiful. How dare he destroy public property like that. And, without a second thought, I started yelling at him. "Hey!" I used my loudest, most stage-projection voice. "What do you think you're doing?" "QUIT IT!!"

I had paused for a moment, and when I saw him glance across the street at me (and cease whipping the beautiful plant), I continued walking back toward my car. As I approached the side street, I started chiding myself. "Are you out of your ever-loving mind?" What was going to prevent this man for following me and using his bullwhip on me?

I scurried back to my car as quickly as possible, looking all around me, surreptitiously glancing over my shoulder to see if he was coming after me. He wasn't, and he had not resumed his whacking.

I quickly opened my car door, got in and relocked the door. Then I picked up my phone and started searching for the police non-emergency number—which was, by the way, not easy to find! I started driving down the street, toward where I last saw him, so I could sic the police on him. I saw him turn, cross West Federal, then begin walking north on the side street I had earlier crossed. He was followed at a short distance by the young woman.

I went to the next block, circled around that block to the south so I could come up the side street behind him. All the while, I was trying to watch for a police cruiser and trying to search for the phone number. I noticed him turn left and walk across the parking lot toward the DeYor Center. Now, as I watched him walk, it was clear—even to naive little me—that he was drunk or high out of his mind. He could hardly walk.

I pulled into the parking lot of the jail, turned around and drove back toward the DeYor. I pulled over to go onto the city's website to find the phone number. Once I had it, I dialed, as I pulled out and continued driving, turning to go past the DeYor Center and in front of the bus station, where he now was standing. The bullwhip turned out to be a belt, but still a device capable of whipping a poor unsuspecting plant, or my naive butt!

I finally got ahold of someone at the police department, told them what I had observed and where he was, and asked them to follow up.

Then I drove home. As I drove up Fifth Avenue, I kept just shaking my head. I've never done anything so outrageous in my entire life! What has come over me, in my old age, that I would burst out of my non-confrontational shell and yell at someone with the ability (and maybe the gun tucked in his back pocket) to do serious bodily harm to me?!

I don't think there's a moral to this story.

However, I did store the police non-emergency number in my contacts, for the next time I pop out of my shell and need to rat out some other drunk careening around West Federal!