Monday, March 30, 2009

Drawing for the Roseville String Ensemble

Orinda5 and I went to high school together, where in addition to being on the yearbook staff (and tormenting the newspaper staff), we were also in the orchestra together. Yes, we were Orch Dorks.

While I have not touched my violin since my highschool days, Orinda5 continues to play her viola. She was far more talented than I was. I pretty much stayed in orchestra that last year so I could eat lunch with my friends.

Orinda5 now plays with the Roseville String Ensemble, and she writes, I think quite movingly, about how important this group is to her and also why she is so glad she is still playing (how can you not be touched when she talks about her son?).

Well, the economy is kind of bad (what?!), and the ensemble finds themselves in a funding pickle. That is where you all come in!

She is having a drawing with some fabulous prizes to bring awareness to their financial need! You can make a donation if you wish, but the drawing is free. When I saw the Malabrigo, I swooned.

So, please head over to her blog and check it out. Conveniently, you can click on Orinda5 anywhere in this post and get there!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whiskey and Wool

That is about the extent of my souvenir purchases while in Ireland.

The whiskey is from the old Jameson distillery in Middleton, County Cork, Ireland. It's aged 12 years and can only be purchased at the distillery. I plan to share this with family as I make the rounds sharing the pictures from my trip.

The yarn is Aran Wool from the Kerry Woolen Mills. Each skein has 200g, and I believe the color is called "Blue Fleck". I bought this at
Spin a Yarn in Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland. Here is what they had to say about it on their website: "
traditional bainĂ­n spun in Kerry’s very own woollen mills, which have been in production in the same place and in the same family for over 300 years. How’s that for continuity? When you buy a skein of Kerry Woollen Mills yarn, run it through your fingers, cast on for that special project, you’re playing your part in history."

Remember when I said Vinnie taught us a song about a prison ship? Actually, the prison ship was only one part of the song, and judging by how upset he was when that was all we remembered about the song, not a very important part either. The song is called the
Fields of Athenry, and you can read more about it and see the lyrics here.

The song is set during the great famine and is about love lost, or at least shipped off to Australia.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back to the States - Monday

Finally! Some Irish weather.

This is what it looked like when we got back to Minnesota. Rain, wind, and cool. Exactly what I had expected in Ireland. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I think we were all pleasantly surprised by the weather in Ireland.

The trip back was uneventful. Continental is a pretty nice airline. We got lots of food on the flight, and I watched Singin' in the Rain, Australia, and an episode of House on the flight over the ocean. We flew in to Newark where going through customs was a breeze and then sat around in the absolutely awful Newark airport waiting to leave.

We had to go through security again on the way to our gate, and wow...that TSA agent was thorough.

To Me: Do you have any lipstick, lip gloss, anything metal in your pocket? What's that? What's that in your pocket?! What is that?
Me: It's a chapstick, It's all plastic.

To Erin: What's that?!? What is that in your pocket?
Erin: It's a used kleenex.

To David: What's in your pocket?!?!?! AAAARGH! Must check all pockets.
David: My passport.

Yeah. She had an eye for people's pockets.

I couldn't get connected to the free wireless at the airport, which was a bummer. It was also a bummer paying $6 for a yogurt parfait. The way they have the airport set up there, once you are at your terminal, the options are very limited. There was also only one bathroom, so there was always a line out the door for the women's, where apparently only one toilet worked.

Oh, how it made me miss the Irish loos, freezing and toilets that never quite worked right and all. The nicest loos in Dublin (dare I say all of Ireland) are at the Jameson distillery. You can sneak in there even if you don't do the tour (ask me how I know), so if you are ever in Dublin looking for a loo, head over there. There aren't a lot of public restrooms in Ireland, so you find yourself drinking a lot of Guinness and then desperately looking for a bathroom. Not so much fun! was nice to get back to Minnesota. Our friend Andrew was kind enough to pick us up and take us all home.

Now it's Tuesday and I'm sitting in White Rock Coffee Roasters, enjoying listenting to someone play the piano while I get my blog all caught up. I miss Ireland, but it is good to be home.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Our Last Day in Ireland – Sunday

We started the day off with a traditional Irish breakfast. I'd been looking forward to this all week! We started off with cereal for most of us, but Noreen made porridge with strawberries and cream for Amit and Lea.

Next up was toast, bangers, rashers, black pudding, tomato, mushrooms, and egg. The mushrooms were so good. I'll, have to e-mail Noreen and ask her how she prepared them.

The consensus was that people wanted to go shopping, we we headed back to the Ring of Kerry to check out Killarney, and to drive to the tip so we could see the Skelling Islands.

We wandered around Adare on the way. Nothing was open, but it sure is a cute town...

with thatched roof cottages...

a GIANT ice cream cones.

Again, we got so lucky with the weather. Look at that sunshine over Dingle Bay!

We drove over to Valencia Island, where it turned out there were a lot of sheep...

and a nice trail up to a point where there was a nice view of the Skelling Islands.

There was also a geocache up there.

I was too chicken to walk right up to the cache. I left that to David, and as he walked I told him no less than 32 times, “Be careful. Be careful. Be careful”. Uh, yeah. He was a little annoyed with me. It was bound to happen at some point.

Here is a view looking back over Valencia Island and Portmagee on the Skelling Ring.

And a self portrait with sheep!

We then headed to Killarney. In February, David and I found a geocache travel bug that had a goal to visit as many state and national parks around the world as possible. While the rest of the gang shopped, David and I took the opportunity to find a cache that was just inside Killarney National Park and not far from the city center.

Someone from Green Bay had been there...

We left Pooh safely in the cache. I hope his travels continue!

The park was lovely!

The park was lovely, and then David and I had a few minutes to do our own shopping. He got a really cool rugby jersey for the Ireland national team - to celebrate the victory and all.

The it was back to Adare for dinner. We ate at Collin's Pub.

The last Guinness of the trip was consumed here, as well as some fish and chips with mushy peas. YUM!

Sadly, it was getting late by the time we left the pub so it was back to the B&B. Flights were early Monday for all of us. It would be hard to say good bye to Ireland.

On the Road Again – Saturday in Ireland

Our time in Ireland is quickly coming to an end. We all woke up bleary-eyed after the raucous evening at the pub. It was time to leave Gerrykennedy Cottage.

We had some time to kill, so we headed in to Nenagh to visit the internet cafe one more time and to have lunch.

This is the church in Nenagh. It was cloudy that morning, but then it cleared up.

Then it was off to Dooneen Lodge near Limerick for the last two nights.

Noreen greeted us when we arrived and she could not have been nicer. She brought each of us an Irish Coffee (yay!) and then most of us headed off for a much needed nap. I stayed up and got some more knitting done on the rpm socks (I am working on the gusset now).

After a rest, we drove to Limerick for dinner. We ate at Bella Italia, an Italian restaurant and it was very good. David and I shared a delicious capese salad and some pasta that had “streaky bacon”. I'm not sure what that means, but it was good.

Today was a big day for Ireland. Ireland played Wales in the championship match of the. Six Nations tournament. This is an annual Rugby tournament among Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, and Italy. Ireland has not won for 61 years, so the whole country was excited. Kind of like when the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 80 years or whatever it was.

We could hear the waitstaff and kitchen staff cheering in back when ever Ireland scored.

And, Ireland won! There was lots of cheering in Limerick, and I imagine all over Ireland.

Go Ireland!

Whiskey, Guinness, The Star Spangled Banner, and Garrison Keillior - Just Another Friday Night at the Pub

After lazing about most of the afternoon at the cottage, we headed over to Larkin's Pub for one last night in Garrykennedy. I figured we'd have a couple pints, listen to the live music, and be back at the cottage for a good rest before we had to leave the next day. I think we all thought that. Little did we know.

There was a stag party going on that night. About a dozen guys in matching red t-shirts that had come to Gerrykennedy via Lough Derg. Their boats were in the marina. I've never seen men go the matching shirt route, but okay.

One guy spent quite a bit of time chatting with us. Ivan (well, his name was Vinnie, but I kept calling him Ivan). Ivan was a Garrison Keillor fan and had also seen Fargo several times it seemed, from how well he could recite whole scenes. I thought this was odd...I know Fargo is well known in Minnesota, but I didn't realize it would make such an impression on someone from Ireland. Ivan was quite friendly, and I was excited because he was the first person in Ireland we actually had a conversation with, other than waiters and waitresses.

He and an Englishman named Matthew chatted with us quite a bit and even convinced Lea to get up and sing. She has a beautiful voice and sang some Gershwin, and then had a request to sing our national anthem. The Star Spangled Banner in an Irish pub. Great!

Ivan asked me if we were drinkers, and of course I said yes, which may have been a mistake. Eventually, he had bought us two rounds of Jameson and two rounds of Guinness (this on top of what we had already drank). So much for being home early. Before we knew it, we were singing some Irish song about fields and a prison ship (as well as God Bless America and bits of Oh Canada) and the pub was closing.

And Ivan's crew had left.

And he was locked off his boat.

And it was cold.

And he didn't have a jacket.

And there are no taxis or buses in Garrykennedy.

Do you see where this is going?

Alan is a better person than the rest of us and invited Ivan in. Lea, Erin, and I ran around the cottage like crazy people hiding all our valuables. I should say, Ivan was very nice and we had no reason to believe our valuables were in danger. But, we were drunk and we didn't know him very well.

The last I saw of Ivan, he had found the Guinness and wine in the fridge and was headed to the dining room, where Alan and David waited. I think he tried to teach them the Irish National anthem because all I could heard through my earplugs was “Ireland! Ireland! Blahblahblabblhb! Ireland! Ireland!”

Sometime between 3 and 4 a.m. the stag party returned and David and Alan were able to return Ivan to his boat. They were all quite grateful and tried to thank them by giving them more alcohol – Budweiser to be exact.

I think the two of them actually ran off when everyone had their back turned.

So, that was our last night in Garrykennedy – lots of whiskey, Guinness, singing, and an Irishman quoting Garrison Keillor.

Our Last Day at the Cottage - Friday in Ireland

It was another lazy day for us in Ireland. We decided to skip the Aran Islands because the travel time would have been too great and instead stayed around County Tipperary. I dried some clothes on the line in the backyard.
We drove around Lough Derg again, this time heading up to the mountains. One stop was the Millenium Cross, where David and I found our first international geocache.
As you can see, it was another sunny day in Ireland.
We headed to Ballino/Killaloe for lunch which we enjoyed outside next to the River Shannon.
Then we headed back to the cottage for a lazy, lazy afternoon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Real Woman Drinks a Real Pint – Thursday in Ireland

The title of my blog comes from the “ladies pint”, which is a half-pint of beer. When the rest of the gang came back from Kinsale, we headed to Larkin's for food and Guinness, and there was some conversation with our waitress about the “ladies pint”. My comment was that a real woman drinks a real pint. Cheers!

It sounds like the gang had a great time in Kinsale and enjoyed their lunch at Fishy Fishy. From what I heard, I would recommend eating there if you happen to find yourself in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.

David and I thoroughly enjoyed our day of doing nothing, although we did quite a bit.

After lazing about for most of the morning, we wandered about the town, which doesn't take too long.
We checked out the Marina (you can see Lough Derg in the background)...
the remains of Castle ...
and then headed down the forest walk, which had nice views of the lake.
The flowers are in bloom in Ireland.
We headed back to the cottage for some lunch, and then drove around Lough Derg towards Ballina and Killaloe. We were looking for some geocaches, but didn't have much luck there. We did find this old graveyard/churchyard...
which won the Best Burial Ground award several years in a row.
The cows seemed to agree with that assessment.
We continued around the lake and stopped at a carpark with an amazing view.
We could see the church yard and cows we had just been at from up there.
Then we headed off to Ballina/Killaloe. The River Shannon runs between these two towns.
The main attraction is the Killaloe Cathedral. Their graveyard will not be winning any awards, but it was a lovely church, dating from the early 1300s.
I just thought this picture was kind of cool.
Then we headed off to the internet cafe, which was overrun with highschool kids. Got to update the blog though, and chatted with one of my co-workers on Facebook. I love technology.
By that time, it was after 6 so we stopped at the grocery store for provisions (wine) and waited for the rest of the gang. Then we were off to Larkin's Pub, conveniently located next door, for food and Guinness. Perfect way to end the day.
In Larkin's, you'll find two portraits of JFK, this being one of them. Jesus and JFK.
There were also some drawings of St. Patrick obviously done by local children. Local children. In a pub. What is up with all the kids in pubs here?
The other strange thing I've noticed is people out for a walk along very busy highways, just walking along what little shoulder there is, sometimes with dogs, sometimes with babies. It doesn't seem very safe to me.

And, we have seen the stereotypical postcard shot...older man walking along in his tweed jacket and cap, cane in one hand, firewood in the other.

Ireland is great!

And in case you are wondering, lough means lake. So, we are staying on Derg Lake, but I think Lough Derg sounds a lot better.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sheep, Yarn, and Some Good Irish Stew – Wednesday in Ireland

Another sunny day in Ireland! We have been so lucky with the weather. It's been warm (between 10 – 15 Celsius), sunny, usually with just a hint of a breeze.

Our first stop of the day was Kenmare, a cute little town ( like all Irish towns) on the Ring of Kerry.
We passed many sheep on the way there. Fields with large flocks of sheep...sort of like seeing cows in Wisconsin, only sheep in Ireland. Baaaa!
The first thing I saw in Kenmare was a yarn shop! Yay! That would have to wait until after lunch. Lunch was an amazing Irish Beef and Guinness stew. David's bangers and mash were even better. We wandered around Kenmare a bit, bought some olives and honey at the market...
saw this little river...and then headed around the ring a bit to Smeen.
In Smeen, we had the best Fish and Chips in Ireland. Yum!
Then we headed north towards Killarney National Park. We saw not one, not two, but three sheep wandering on the side of the road.

The views were beautiful along the way. If you think Ireland is all green, all the time, think again.
Killarney National Park was gorgeous. A large lake is in the center of the park. These pictures are of the Upper Lake. We headed back to the cottage, another lovely Irish day behind us. We got to enjoy good Irish food, scenery, and now I have this lovely yarn.