2013 Year in Review

Time sure flies when you’re busy and having fun! For the first time since moving to Ireland, Diane and I went home to Canada for Christmas. So by the time I got back, it was already partway through January. This caused this post to be delayed quite a bit, since I had all the catching up to do when I got back. But! Even though this blog only manages a blog post a year, I still like doing my year in review! So it might be February already, but hey ... it's never too late right?

January

 Beach Towers

Beach Towers

To kick off the new year in style, I was rewarded for my efforts at work with a trip to the Bahamas for the 10th annual Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure. The event is a signature event on the Pokerstars calendar, and one of the cool perks that the company offers is to send some of their employees on a "working holiday". They require three or four days of helping out with various tasks and then the rest of the ten days are a fun holiday spent at the ridiculous place called "Paradise Island". It was an incredible 10 days - Diane and I really enjoyed it. The sun, the beach, the ridiculous waterslides, and the huge aquariums. Now, how to get another invite ...

After returning to Dublin, Diane headed back to Canada for an extended visit leaving me to my own device for the better part of two months. I made sure that I kept relatively busy though. Our hockey team had a final hurrah at a little tournament held in Kilkenny. Amazingly, six different teams showed up for the tournament. Our team being pretty newbie-heavy didn't do very well, but did win one game at least!

February

 Newgrange with Kepi

Newgrange with Kepi

In early February, our department had our delayed Christmas party (yeah, so what if it was more than a month late?). Part of the reason was the company had already thrown a relaunch party so throwing another open-bar shindig for the whole company was deemed slightly excessive. So instead, each department got a budget to have their own small party. For this occasion, the IT department went to a venue in town, and we had a nice dinner and drinks.

The company also threw a freeroll poker tournament in February with a bunch of cool prizes. Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away with the 3D home entertainment system. Oh well, maybe in 2014.

Finally, my friend Kepi from Canada flew over to Europe to join me and a colleague from work to go skiing at Cervinia in Italy. A week long of skiing with pretty darn good weather, snow conditions, and delicious Italian food was definitely a good time! Cervinia physically borders Switzerland and is on the opposite side of Zermatt, which is a famous ski resort known for the Matterhorn mountain. We had a comfy stay near the ski lifts in a hotel that served us delicious (plentiful) dinners every night.

 On the slopes in Cervinia

On the slopes in Cervinia

March

Diane returned to Dublin briefly before the two of us headed over to London to visit our friends there and see Louis CK perform. You can watch a recording of a (different) performance of that show by grabbing a copy of "Oh My God" - you can get it direct from his website.

April

The big event in April was my decision to finally do something I'd talked about doing for years: go get my vision corrected with laser eye surgery. The experience itself was pretty trippy, and both easier and harder than I thought it would be. I'm happy to say that the surgery went very well, and a few months after surgery my vision was better than 20/20 (I haven't had it measured since). The surgery has improved my life - certainly making playing hockey or swimming much better experiences. I kind of wish I had managed to get around to it before the Bahamas trip!

May

 Skelligs with Megan

Skelligs with Megan

We had been trying to get my sister over to visit us in Dublin for awhile, and we were finally able to make the schedule work out. Her plan was to return to school in the fall, so the spring was a good time of year to steal her over for a couple weeks. While she was here, we managed a fair amount of touristy things including a trip down to the Ring of Kerry. For the second time, Diane and I got really lucky with the weather and managed to see the Skelligs with incredibly nice sunny weather. We took my sister to a couple of our favourite restaurants from the last time we were down that way, and otherwise just enjoyed a rare chance to hang out.

June

 Steaks on the fire

Steaks on the fire

It was a busy June. Our apartment we had lived in for nearly our whole time here was going to be sold so we needed to find a new apartment. We got a fairly lengthy notice period, and managed to find a suitable place to move into for early June. We hired some movers to help move our accumulated stuff the hop skip and a jump to our new place which went pleasantly smoothly.

Later on in the month, one of Diane's choir friends invited us to see her lock house. These old houses line the canals in Ireland, and would be where the guy lived who was able to operate the part of the canal that could raise or lower the water for the boats that went up and down the canal. These days, boats that use the canals have their own key to operate the lock so it isn't required to have anyone live there anymore. So these old houses are either falling into disrepair or used as the equivalent of summer lake homes in Alberta. So Diane's friend kindly hosted us there after a little bit of hiking around the area and a quick stop to pick up some delicious steaks at a small-town butcher shop. It was a lovely sunny day for a hike and then a fire-grilled steak dinner in rural Ireland!

The company social committee planned a fun event in the late part of the month. We went up to Phoenix park for an afternoon of driving Segways. I'd only been on one briefly at the University, and this was a much longer session which involved a nerf gun and water fun fight, and learning to play segway polo.

July

Although Diane and I celebrated our 5th anniversary in June, we didn't get to our own celebration for it until early July - we booked a dinner at Sabor Brazil. This is Dublin's top ranked restaurant on tripadvisor, and we managed to score two-for-one groupon-style vouchers for dinner there. It was a memorable dinner, and we enjoyed it immensely.

Later on in July, the company held a family summer party. The party was largely indistinguishable from previous summer parties the old company threw except that the venue wasn't quite as ritzy. But otherwise, there was plenty of outside ridiculous activities to participate in including an archery range, segway course, bouncy castles, and human foosball. Plus of course the BBQ lunch and open bar that stayed open until late into the night. The summer continued to bestow wonderful weather on us and this was one of several absolutely gorgeous weather days of the summer.

August

 Rouge Restaurant, Galway

Rouge Restaurant, Galway

In August, Full Tilt sponsored the UKIPT stop in Galway. The company spent a lot of money building a "poker village" that had a fantastic players lounge. So a couple of my colleagues and I went down to Galway for a fun weekend of playing a bit of poker and enjoying Galway. We discovered a fantastic little restaurant called Rouge which had an incredibly good menu for astonishingly cheap. Definitely on the list to return to!

September

The big event of September was the wedding of my good friend and colleague. He had a destination wedding on the island of Vis in Croatia. It was quite a trek to get there: a flight from Dublin to Birmingham, an overnight stay at the airport hotel, an early morning flight to Split, and then a ferry to Vis. But it was a pretty magical weekend -- the weather was fantastic, and the happy couple had a full weekend of events for us. The wedding ceremony itself involved hopping in a speedboat to take us to the neighbouring tiny island. After the ceremony, we enjoyed a lovely sunset while sipping on a glass or two (or more) of champagne before returning to Vis for the reception. The reception was held in an open-air restaurant that served up an incredible many-course menu. The restaurant had a magical atmosphere: almost more of a garden than a restaurant. Tables nestled on patios linked together with steps, lots of greenery, and a lit fountain all added to the ambience.

 Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

The next day, we hopped aboard a boat that the couple had hired for the day and got a tour partway around the island. The boat operators sang for us, served us food, and gave us opportunities to hop into the Croatian ocean for some swimming! Diane and I were sad we hadn't booked a couple extra days off to enjoy more of the island. I guess we'll just have to go back!

October

After returning from the wedding, and all through October, work ramped up to crazy busy. It really didn’t leave much time for much else other than work and trying to relax from work in the evenings and weekends. So we didn’t get up to much, although there was a company social outing to do some ice skating at one of the holiday rinks that open up around Christmas time which was fun.

November

Just at the tail end of the busy work push was UKIPT Isle of Man. This was a special poker tournament because staff was allowed to play the main event, which was kind of nice. After Full Tilt was purchased, we weren’t able to play in the UKIPTs anymore. But an exception was made for the event on the Isle of Man. So we had a small office satellite to the main event and I was fortunate to win it. My prize was not just the main event fee (£1100), but also hotel and flights, so that was pretty nice.

I didn’t do well at the poker all weekend, but the trip was still pretty cool. I got to meet a fair number of the Pokerstars staff and met some poker players who were cool to hang out with and chat with. So it was a pretty fun trip overall.

December

 Dinamo Riga

Dinamo Riga

It was a pretty busy December for me. Diane returned to Canada to help out with her mom’s knee replacement surgery that happened at the beginning of the month. While she headed off to that, work was busy as we tried to get some aggressive projects done before the Christmas break happened. In the middle of that, a couple colleagues and I went off to Latvia for a fun lads weekend away to watch some KHL hockey games, and enjoy some Latvian food and beer. We actually did a trip like this a couple years ago, and this was also quite a blast.

The company also threw a Christmas party which was pretty fun. It was held at the O2 VIP lounge, which was almost too small for the large number of employees that now work for Full Tilt and Pokerstars in Dublin. There was a live band, a magician, and as much as you liked to drink, which made for a fun evening.

Finally, I joined Diane in Canada for a few weeks over Christmas and New Years. This was the first Christmas we’d been back since we moved to Ireland, and man was it COLD! Yeesh, Edmonton sure wasn’t making a case for us returning in a future winter. But anyway, it was good to see friends and family for a good long visit. I did manage to see quite a few people, but not everyone. So I apologize if I missed you on this trip - I'll try and catch you on the next one!

2013 was a pretty fun year overall. We had quite a few fun trips, including more sun holiday trips than I've done in a year (Bahamas and Croatia). Let's hope 2014 is fun too!

As usual, here's a selection of some photos from this year:

Morgan

2012 in Review

Wow, 2012 is coming to an end and I'm a little surprised. It was an eventful year for us - one which had us wondering a bit about what was around the corner, but still a reasonably enjoyable one all in all. Since we once again failed to post very much (okay, at all) this year this will once again be a fairly long post catching you up on what happened this year for us. Overhanging most of 2012 was the uncertainty around work. My employer was running out of money quickly since it had no income from about late June 2011. It made it difficult to make any really long term plans as we had no idea if we would continue to stay in Ireland or if the company would somehow find its way out of the hole it had dug.

January

In January, Diane returned to Canada for 6 weeks to help out her mother after she had knee surgery. 6 weeks is a long time to fill on your own … but I managed to fill in some of the time with a few trips. The first of these was yet another trip up to Belfast to take in an (ice) hockey game. A few colleagues and I took the train up and then had a nice dinner after the game before hopping on an after-midnight bus back to Dubiln.

  Madonna di Campiglio

Madonna di Campiglio

A week later, pretty close to the same set of colleagues went on a lads weekend away to Riga, Latvia. The main purpose of the trip was to catch a KHL hockey match between Dinamo Riga and CSKA Moscow. One of the guys going on the trip is of Latvian descent and knew the language and the city pretty well. So for the rest of the weekend he showed us around. It made for a nice relaxing weekend away.

February

Things didn't slow down for exciting things for me at all in February. A group of four guys from work went on a week-long ski trip to a resort called Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. The same guy who showed us around Riga goes to this resort nearly every year and was happy to bring us to his 'home resort'. The weather was excellent, the food was fantastic, and the skiing was gorgeous.

 Flying Lesson

Flying Lesson

A couple weeks later, it was time for UKIPT Galway. Our group of friends has done really well at this series of poker tournaments over the last couple years, and this particular event would be a fantastic one for our group. Not only would a couple of guys go deep in the main event including Nick who made his third UKIPT final table, but three of us including me would go deep in the €300 side event, which I eventually came 2nd in for a €11,800 score. To top it all off, Max won the high roller event. Our group took in over €50,000 in winnings that weekend!

March

Diane found a groupon-style deal for flying lessons awhile back, and on March 18, we finally got out to use them. One at a time, an instructor took us up in a Cessna plane and we were even given control of the plane in the air for a little while. It was a pretty fun experience that we're both glad we got a chance to try.

 Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall

The other big event in March was the discovery of ice hockey in Dublin! A small ice rink had opened in Castleknock in Dublin, and a surprising number of people were attending weekly hockey training sessions. So a few of us went up to try it out. Despite the small ice surface, the guys training were willing for us to join them and so a few of started going every week. Eventually, Mike and I bought all the gear so we could play without fear of our shins getting hit by a puck.

April

My folks made their third appearance in Dublin in between a trip to Europe to see the family that lives in Austria. During their visit, we made a weekend trip to the fantastic Ring of Kerry. We basically repeated the trip that Diane and I did on our own back in 2010 - with a couple of small differences. One of this was a stop at the Gap of Dunloe - a picturesque area to do a little walking. We capped off their visit with a trip to the Merry Ploughboy - a traditional Irish music pub which does a touristy show and dinner. It was a pretty nice little evening.

Later that month, Diane and I went to Paris. Our main purpose of going to Paris was to see a trio of bands (Epica, Stream of Passion, and Xandria) perform there, which seems like a pretty good excuse to finally make it to Paris (Diane had been previously but this was my first trip). We arrived late on Friday night, and spent Saturday walking around in a drizzly day. We met up for dinner that night with the same friend of Diane's who hosted us in Lausanne, Switzerland. On Sunday we joined the queue for the Lourve and spent a good portion of the day wandering around there. I think my favourite part of the Lourve was the architecture of the building. It really is a pretty stunning place. The show on Sunday evening was fantastic -- the venue was pretty big and well laid out, and the sound quality was excellent.

May/June/July

 One Arch

One Arch

As spring moved on into summer, we found ourselves not nearly as busy with trips as the prior months. Part of the reason for this was it was getting pretty obvious that the work situation was going to be sorted out one way or the other sooner rather than later. Up to this point we had constantly been promised that news on a deal to restore the site to operation would be coming soon. It often felt as close as a week or two away or at the very least not more than a month away. The mood and moral in the office was starting to get pretty bad as people seemed to be leaving for more stable employment almost every day or two.

Finally, at the end of July, the deal we were waiting for finally occurred. On the 31st of July, PokerStars purchased the assets of the company and formerly took over. Our sights were now set on a 90-day relaunch period in which we needed to get a pile of work done to ready the site to be used again by people. But my first order of business was to go back to Canada ...

August

 Piggy Bank

Piggy Bank

Diane's sister was due to get married at the beginning of August. So Diane went back to Canada to help setup the wedding a few weeks before-hand. I joined up with them in Vancouver at the beginning of August to take part in the festivities. A few very warm days in Vancouver were quite enjoyable. The wedding itself was lovely, and the reception was quite nice -- including some bonus fireworks at the end courtesy of the Vancouver Celebration of Lights which they hold every summer.

After a few days in Vancouver, I flew back to Edmonton to spend some time with friends and family. Diane joined me a few days later after doing a quick road trip down to Seattle and then back up to Edmonton. It was good to see everyone that we did get a chance to see. Apologies to anyone we missed -- we'll get you next time!

A couple days after landing back in Dublin, the hockey team we'd been training with made a trip up to Belfast to play a late night hockey game against one of the rec teams up there. So despite being a little jet lagged, I drove up with a Mike and Andrej to go play. We lost by a few goals, but it was a fun contest… one where I scored a flukey goal off a defender.

September

The relaunch effort at work was very much in full swing by now. The pile of work looked insurmountable, and there just weren't enough resources to devote to all the things that needed doing. Our work days got longer and there wasn't too much time to devote to much else. Despite that, we did get out to a couple of fun things. The company threw a "Fresh Start Party", at which the staff were treated to a night out with an open bar and got a chance to mingle with other staff. Gus Hansen, a professional poker player and the first of our signed pros, made an appearance and we spent a fair amount of time chatting with him.

Diane and I also got out to see Dara O'Briain's "Craic Dealer". Dara is an Irish standup comedian who we've been trying to see for ages. I finally just decided to buy tickets as soon as they came out which was about 8 months prior to the show. So finally we got a chance to go see him and it was an excellent show. There's a DVD out if you're interested - he's very funny.

 Tasting Menu

Tasting Menu

October

The relaunch of November 6th was looming at work, which made October a very work-heavy month. We did make it out for one quick weekend trip to London to see some friends there. While both sets of our friends had been there for more than a year we hadn't had a chance to get over there to see either of them … and one set was about to have a baby and would be moving away from London after the baby was ready to travel. So time was starting to get short to see them while they were still close! So a quick visit was in order which made for a nice weekend away.

November

Amazingly, despite the amount of work that needed doing, we managed to somehow get the site back up and running with very few problems. The relaunch day went way better than anyone really had any expectation of. Players flooded in and sat down to play on the site after more than a year of no action happening. It was an incredible day. A couple weeks later, the company threw a relaunch party. They booked out a night club, had plentiful food and drinks, and a good time was had by all.

  Goooal!

Goooal!

Also in November, the Celtic Clovers (which our hockey team was called) made two trips up to Belfast to play games. One game against the Foxes, and another against the Prowlers. We lost both games by wide margins, but once again I managed to score a goal in one of the games. There's even a picture that Diane took for proof!

Finally, one of the groupon style coupons we got was for a significant discount at a fancy restaurant called L'Ecrivain. So Diane and I went out on a Tuesday night for a very enjoyable tasting menu. This meal capped off several excellent dining experiences we had over the last few months - including a tasting menu at Bang Restaurant and a couple of nights at the Dublin cookery school popup restaurant night. It was a very good year for trying some tasty meals.

December

 Thanking the fans

Thanking the fans

This month, we went on another KHL hockey game trip, this time to Bratislava. Andrej is from Bratislava, and he proved an able guide around the town. He was also key in acquiring the tickets as there was a complicated auction process involved in getting them. It was quite a nice weekend where we enjoyed the local Christmas markets, had some good food and beer (Staropramen Black is very tasty), and walked around to see a few sights.

Just before Christmas, the Clovers made one last trip to play a quick hockey game against the Kilkenny Storm. This was quite a bit closer to Dublin as we didn't need to go all the way up to Belfast. The Kilkenny team only had about 8 people there to play for them, but they were a very strong side and we ended up losing by a significant margin. Still, it was an enjoyable game!

It's been an exciting year. Lots of trips and stories and pictures. I'm quite happy with how the work situation has resolved itself so far, and that means we might stick around Dublin for awhile yet to see how it continues to go. Early next year, we have a trip to the Bahamas to look forward to … and I'm sure there'll be a lot more to see and do as the year goes on.

I hope everyone had a good 2012, and here's to a better 2013! As usual, I'll leave you with a selection of some of my favourite photos from the past year.

2011 in Review

Wow, it's a little hard to believe that we have left the blog here sit for 10 months. Somewhere along the way, posting just kind of dropped off as a priority. So apologies for that - maybe we'll do a little better in 2012. As this is the first time I'm blogging about some of these events, I guess it'll be a fairly long post. 2011 for us was an interesting year. We played host to quite a few guests, mostly in the summer months, and returned home for the first time in a couple years for Diane's brother's wedding. There was a fair amount of uncertainty for us though as the future of my employer hung in the balance after some rather shocking revelations. More on that later. Here's a month by month breakdown of the events of 2011 for us.

January

 Sunny St Anton

Sunny St Anton

We kicked off January by attending our friend Jay's birthday party which was took the form of 'pub golf'. In this pub crawl format, you are put on a team and given a score card that instructs your team to drink a particular set of drinks at each venue. Your team is scored for the number of sips it takes to down the chosen beverages. So for example a 'hole' might have 2 pints of beer to drink with a par of 10 sips. Needless to say, the competitive nature of people made for some interesting strategies. Diane and I joined the party halfway through for the 'back nine' and people were already quite drunk from the first part. Much fun was had by all.

January's highlight trip though was the ski trip to St Anton which was the only thing I really blogged about for 2011. So for details you can go read that trip report.

February

 All Ireland Hurling Championships

All Ireland Hurling Championships

There was a bit of holiday hangover after skiing in Austria. The one trip I did get away for was a weekend trip to Nottingham to play a poker tournament there. The weekend included not just the tournament, but also a trip to see the Nottingham Panthers play hockey and witness the epic Hummus prop bet in which a friend of ours attempted to eat two liters of hummus in an hour (he failed).

March

Our first two-time visitor aside from our parents was Jess, who arrived in town in time for St Paddy's day this year. Like the previous year we decided to go to watch the Hurling and Gaelic football. The next day, we went out to watch the Irish women's rugby team face off against England for the women's six nations championship. Ireland wasn't victorious, but it was a pretty fun night out.

Another poker tournament weekend also happened in March, this time in Manchester. As a happy coincidence, Epica was playing a show while I was there so I picked up a ticket to see one of my favourite bands.

 Delain in Concert

Delain in Concert

April

On April 15, the online poker world was collectively shaken by the announcement that the US DOJ seized the domains of the top 3 US facing online poker sites. With some hefty criminal charges levied at the owners of these sites, the day has been labeled 'Black Friday'. The aftershocks of this day have yet to be totally determined, but suffice to say it made things pretty interesting work-wise for the rest of the year.

A week later, Diane and I headed to London to catch the Serenity / Delain show there. It was the first time we were there on our own: previous trips there had been with our parents on each side. So we spent a leisurely weekend there on our own seeing a few sights (St Paul's Cathedral, and the Science museum).

May

Diane went back to Canada a couple weeks earlier than I did to help with the preparations for her brother's wedding. In that between time, I made another trip to a poker tournament in Cork, Ireland in which one of my colleagues made a very deep run. He ended up finishing 2nd which was a pretty awesome result. I also got offered a ticket to see the Kings of Leon when they played at Slane castle. The ticket was a VIP one which meant we got to stay away from the gigantic pack of people. It was a fun concert to go to.

  Dragonfly at Eric's Wedding

Dragonfly at Eric's Wedding

June

I joined Diane in Edmonton for a three week long trip. While there, we caught up with friends and family which made the three week period pretty packed of activity. Diane's brother Eric got married in a lovely outdoor ceremony. We also paid a visit to my grandparents in Rimbey which was a nice trip out of Edmonton for a day.

Jacqueline and Rick were our next visitors just a week after we returned so a week of hanging out with them and showing them the sights was in order.

At the end of June a second blow to the company after black friday was dealt when the Alderney gambling control commission pulled the company's license. This blow would mean the company lost its only revenue source and would result in a several months of uncertainty about how long I would retain a job. While this issue has yet to be resolved even today, things are looking quite a bit better now so the uncertainty that plagued the rest of the year is almost gone. It definitely made its mark though on the rest of year for us.

The other happening in June was I eeked out a victory in an internet based hockey pool. You can see my name atop this year's NNPT here although that link will probably only be good until the playoffs start up again next year. Unfortunately the title is all I get for beating out 126 other registrants in this pool, but it is still pretty cool to win something like this.

  Mike, Nolan, and I

Mike, Nolan, and I

July

June was a pretty hectic month, which meant that July was going to be relaxed just as a way of cooling down from the constant busy-ness. Still, we had yet more visitors: Mike and Nolan stopped by on their tour of Europe after a conference in Spain. They were only in town for a few days though as they moved on to London. But while they were here we took them to Glendalough. I also joined them at the Guinness storehouse before heading on to hang out with one of the competitors in the computer poker competition and his prof for dinner.

August

We went out one night in August to cheer on Ireland against Croatia in a 'friendly' football match. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, and was a reminder to me of how dull that particular sport is to watch for me. Of the sports that people enjoy over here I much prefer rugby - it just feels so much more exciting.

 UKIPT Dublin

UKIPT Dublin

September

There was a big poker tournament in Dublin this time and a whole bunch of our group went to play. My boss ended up with a deep run finishing 2nd overall for a nice payday. Another friend of ours also made the final table and finished 4th, so it was a pretty exciting to watch from the rail.

Our friend Kepi was our next visitor. On one weekend we took him up to Derry and to see the giant's causeway which was a nice trip.

October

  At Diarmuid's Wedding

At Diarmuid's Wedding

Soon after Kepi departed, Rebecca and Scott were our next visitors. Their visit coincided with a couple of leaving parties and stag parties that I was invited to, but we still managed to squeeze in a trip out west to Galway and Kylemore Abbey one weekend.

My line manager also got married in October. The festivities were held at Clontarf castle on the North end of Dublin. A muchly enjoyable evening.

November

Two events in November conspired to draw me back to North America within a week of each other: the first was the world series of poker main event, in which Sam Holden had made the final table. We met Sam during some of the poker tournaments we played in England and Ireland. A large group was headed over to Las Vegas to support him, and I thought it would be fun to hang out but had a little trouble justifying the trip on its own. The second event was my friends Curtis and Simone were getting married just a week later. After some deliberation I decided to book the flights: a few days in Las Vegas followed by a few more in Edmonton.

Las Vegas is a crazy town. While I enjoy playing poker, it really is a ridiculous place. Still, being there for the main event final table was a pretty cool experience. It's a shame Sam was the first eliminated from the final table - it would have been amazing for him to go deeper yet. Still, the trip wasn't without its story value. The night I arrived I got there just in time for the big group going out for dinner at a brazilian bbq restaurant called "Texas to Brazil". The place serves all you can eat beef/lamb/pork/chicken in various cuts served directly to your table on gigantic skewers. After eating way too much at dinner and entirely jetlagged we returned to our hotel where we ended up playing a poker tournament there which I eventually won a few hours later. The rest of the Vegas trip was quite fun. We went and saw Blue Man Group one night, and also had probably the best Sushi I've ever had in a place called Sen of Japan.

  WSOP November Nine

WSOP November Nine

I then flew on to Edmonton for a few days of seeing some family and a few friends. Curtis' wedding was quite fun, especially the time I spent catching up with my University buddies.

December

It's been a pretty quiet December. There's been a couple of small Christmas gatherings and an evening where I went to see Leinster play against Bath in rugby, but other than that it has been a time to relax.

That about does it for my review of 2011. As always, I'll leave you with some of my favourite photos from the year (many of them not yet uploaded until now!). I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2012!

Diane's '10

2010 Where did it go?

I spent it here in the apartment, at the farm down the street, around town, around the island, around the other islands, and on the continent.

The beginning of January found us back in Ireland after spending last Christmas in Barcelona. The end of that month found us on a train to Belfast, to enjoy Giants' hockey and Cathedral Quarter red ale. Water pipes froze and burst, and people had issues driving and flying. It was just another winter to gently acclimatize the island for the winter to follow.

In February, a group of us went on a ski vacation to Mayerhofen in Austria for a week to enjoy good food, good company, sauna, steam, and snow! Not to mention TV coverage of the winter Olympics and post-ski trip Gold Medal hockey and pizza. It was so enjoyable that we may have to make the pilgrimage again this year.

March and April saw the lambs born and me planting up my little allotment in Airfield, thanks to the generous head gardener. The produce that eventually made it to relative maturity was quite expensive to produce: 50 euro plus gifts and trades, and about 10 hours for approximately 5-10 lbs of beets, 2-3 lbs tiny little onions, 5-7 lbs potatoes (pulled early as I was too lazy to spray for blight), various herbs, way too much rhubarb, one carrot, and some leeks that are currently in the plot at their peril. I think I'll do balcony tomatoes from seed again - 'Gardener's Delight' are the bestest! The lettuces were a win though - cheap and long-lived - I got quite a few very tasty salads out of them. I also had a little strawberry patch that brought me a disproportionate amount of joy upon finding one juicy red treasure.

March also contained two trips up to Ashbourne RFC for some hot port and Six Nations women's rugby: I got some pics of the 'Ireland v Wales' and 'Ireland v Scotland' games. And fans under umbrellas with warm drinks!

Lots of our friends came out to see my first spring concert with Dublin County Choir downtown. We did Beethoven's 'Mass in C' and Rossini's 'Stabat Mater', plus the world premier of the Magnificat one of our basses wrote in Irish. :) Before the concert I was fed dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. During the break I got a text from Jenny saying that her rugby team had won their division final! And afterward I had a pint and a few more songs with the choir crew. Hard to top that, but I'm excited for it again this year.

The spring and summer were absolutely gorgeous in Dublin this year! May was just lovely. It started out with a long weekend trip with my exit buddy around the ring of Kerry with stops at Killarney National Park, Muckross House, Torque Waterfall, some lovely restaurants and B&Bs, and as luck would have it, a walk on Skellig Michael on a warm, sunny day.

June was a very busy month indeed. We were in Prague for our second anniversary, visiting Morgan's parents and cousins. There was a weekend in London with Morgan's folks, strolling around St. James' Park and Hampton Court. At the end of the month we travelled up to Donegal for the Sea Sessions music festival and a few mornings of surf lessons. Bundoran was the place to be that weekend. The ruggers were there in fancy dress, doing what they do best. The bands were battling. The surf was... salty!

During the summer, I fell in with some hill walkers through a choir friend, and thus got to experience parts of Wicklow I would never have otherwise seen. They are lovely and helpful and welcoming; if only you have a sturdy pair of hiking boots, bring water, a snack and maybe some rain gear, boy do I have a hook-up for you! I think the camera is going to have to come along for the next round of walking. Relative to the spike in photography interest last spring/summer, progress has definitely been slow, and since Morgan has a fancy new camera body, that should pick up again in the coming months.

At the end of August, my mom came over to Dublin and we were to be found somewhere around these isles throughout September and into October. We saw Riverdance and ANUNA while in Dublin, spent a day seeing the old passage tombs at Newgrange, and went kayaking in Howth harbour. Our UK road trip took us over on the ferry from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead, through north Wales, through the Peaks, to York, across the Dales to the Lakes, then down to Warwick, Bath, and back to Wexford via the south of Wales. I will make this new year's resolution: I will create a separate post for all you adventurers to consult should your future path cross that of my past.

And the traveling wasn't quite over! My dear friend Celine very kindly had us to stay with her in Switzerland, and we ate some very tasty noms: fondue, sausage, confections, and chestnuts that we gathered ourselves. I'm also completely spoiled by the local wine. My wine life will never be the same. And I love to meander around with Morgan, enjoying a bit of scenery. Also, would recommend the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and CERN in Geneva. Celine even came over to Dublin for a few days of rain and wind and excursions that did not nearly compare to our adventures in Vaud. Please come back in the summer, Celine!

Then teh travellingz slowed down and the only other places we went were over to Newcastle to see Joanna and catch a soccer game, and Glasgow and Aviemore to see Brasstronaut.

Once home, I decided it was finally time to join the Belvo rugby gals, so I signed up and started showing up for the Tuesday/Thursday night training sessions. My first game was down the road in Arklow, and though I only played half of it, I got muddied right away and had a few plays I felt alright about. Jenny thinks it's funny that because the development team (that's me) trains with the first division squad, we tend to do little things well, like ball presentation, but we're not great at the basics, like running and passing and scoring. :) Most of the time, I just stand around trying to figure out what's going on. And whenever the other team gets the ball and scores, I like to congratulate them for the hard work and dedication I can't be bothered to muster. Don't worry, though, the girls are teaching me, slowly but surely.

Other than that, I've been enjoying my two mornings a week on the farm, visits with the girls, outings with the groups, games with the boys. Pigs. Cows. Picnics. Tea. Beersbieques. Yoga. Monday/Wednesday choir, Tuesday/Thursday rugby. Gardening. Laundry. Eating. Sleeping. Karl has very kindly given me a loan of his viola and I have discovered that it is quite impossible to play, let alone hold properly. I've done a few bits with the choir committee and made a lot of cookies to take along to the farm. I've been to the Mill Theatre and the movies a few times. And the pub lots of times! Apart from that, it's gone from the season of frozen pipes and running out of hay, to the season of frozen pipes and running out of hay, and life goes quite pleasantly on.

Diane

2010 In Review

 Belfast Giants

Belfast Giants

This blog hasn't been getting the love it was getting for previous trips, but we're still going to try and keep it updated every so often through the next year. I'll use our annual tradition of having a year in review post to catch you up on the rest of the happenings in the year. Previous years in review include: 2007, 2008, and 2009. Our plan in 2010 was to try and do a bunch of trips. Since we returned home twice in 2009, we decided that we'd skip doing so this year. Instead, our plan was to try and do a bunch of trips in Europe to see some of the continent we found ourselves on.

After getting back from Barcelona over Christmas though, we spent a couple weeks relaxing at home and getting to know 2010. Near the end of the month, a group of us went up to Belfast to witness the Giants ice hockey team play against the Nottingham panthers in the British Elite League. Yes, us hockey-starved Canadians had to find the nearest place where they played just to get a fix. It was a fun group - a good ten of us at least headed up for the trip.

  Skiing in Mayrhofen

Skiing in Mayrhofen

In February, we went to Austria for a full week of skiing in Mayrhofen. A large group of 8 of us enjoyed some amazing skiing, some good food and the Austrian atmosphere. The trip coincided with a good portion of the winter olympics in Vancouver, so many nights were spent out at bars watching some of the events -- and of course we needed to stay up late to watch several of the team Canada hockey games! It was an awfully fun trip.

For St Patrick's day this year, we decided to skip the parade and instead watch some Hurling and Gaelic Football. On St. Patrick's day, the all Ireland finals are played out in both sports so we decided to go and see what these sports to have to offer. Hurling is a crazy game ... and it was a pretty good spectator sport. Players run up and down the field balancing the ball on their hurling sticks before swatting the ball large portions of the field in an attempt to split the uprights at the other end. Gaelic football, on the other hand, wasn't quite as enjoyable to watch IMO. Seemed like a weird cross between football (soccer) and hurling.

 Little Skellig

Little Skellig

For the May bank holiday weekend, Diane and I hopped in the car for an Irish road trip down to the Ring of Kerry. We had some absolutely gorgeous weather, and took full advantage by not just doing the main Ring of Kerry loop, but also climbing up the Skelligs. These rocky outcroppings several miles off the coast of South-West Ireland were the home of monks centuries ago. Now, they are a tourist attraction with a fairly limited number of visitors per year. We were lucky to get a spot - the high season wasn't quite there yet where people have to book weeks or months in advance ... and we really couldn't ask for better weather than what we got!

In June, my folks returned to Europe to see us and our Austrian relatives. Since they had seen a lot of Dublin already, we decided to meet up in Prague to do some sight-seeing there. We spent almost a week in +30ºC weather walking around almost exclusively the old town. There was a lot to see just there! The food was good, cheap, and the beer was cheaper than the water! A weekend later, we headed to London with my folks to spend a weekend there before they headed back to Canada. We spent the main day out at Hampton Court: a historic palace associated with King Henry VIII. The next day we spent just walking around central London seeing some of the main landmarks before Diane and I had to head down to Gatwick to return to Dublin. We cut it a bit close: we ended up having to run for it after checking into our flight!

 Dad, in London

Dad, in London

A weekend later, a few of us returned to Bundoran for another go at surfing in the ocean. This being our 3rd and 4th days in the water, we were already beginning to notice an improvement. Our teacher even went so far as to teach us how to turn. I'm actually pretty surprised how much I enjoyed it. Our trip coincided with the Sea Sessions music festival which gave us some live music to go listen to in the evenings.

July kept us busy as well. We headed up to the "Woolshed Sports Baaa" which was throwing a Canada Day party with Canadian beer in the fridge. There was a few of us PocketKings Canadians in attendance which made it a lot more fun than it might've been on our own. A week later, the office summer party was staged to an unfortunate day of rain. Still, the day was quite fun, and despite the rain much fun was had by all. We were also visited in July by our friend Jess whom we showed some of the sights including a trip up to Howth. Our friend Bryce had a milestone birthday as well in July and we partook in a really fun photo scavenger hunt.

  Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Late in August, Diane's mom arrived for a visit that started in Dublin and continued on with her and Diane taking the car on a ferry over to England. I didn't take part of the road trip as I had to work, but that trip was bookended by a trip to Newgrange (which I hadn't done yet) and another trip to London to see her off. The highlight of this trip to London was the Natural History museum: an impressive building all on its own, with a large number of displays in its not-insignificant size.

Almost immediately after returning to Dublin we were back at the airport to fly to Geneva to visit with Diane's friend Celine. We spent a week touring the vineyards and attractions surrounding Geneva lake. This was the kind of trip I had wanted to get blog posts up for, but I kinda ran out of time so I guess this detail will have to do. We stayed with Celine in her apartment in Lausanne: a drive of an hour or so around the lake from Geneva. On a couple days where we were on our own, we took the ferry along the lake to some of the charming towns along the lake, We visited the Château de Chillon: an old castle neighbouring the Swiss alps. Our host took us to sample several of the areas wines ... the whole valley was covered in vineyards with ready-to-harvest grapes! We also enjoyed the local fondue, and went to a restaurant in the woods for some seasonal game. Delicious! To top off the trip, we went to Geneva to see CERN. The tour of this large science facility was well worth doing!

  Switzerland

Switzerland

Just a few days after returning from Switzerland, we headed back to the airport for a trip with Aaron to see his brother's band play in Scotland. We caught Brasstronaut's Glasgow show on October 15, and then took the train up to Aviemore to see them play there on the 16th. The two shows were played in very different venues -- which was pretty cool actually. The first was a club that reminded me a lot of the Starlight room back in Edmonton. A relatively small venue, but great for bands that wouldn't necessarily be able to fill a large venue ... and good atmosphere for it too. Aviemore is a small ski resort town much like Jasper. The town's main road is lined with mountain equipment stores, and the population of it can't be very high. The venue was a small pub, and was a great intimate atmosphere. Before leaving Scotland, we had a few hours to spend before flying back to Dublin so we sought out the Science museum in Glasgow which was quite good.

  Brasstronaut

Brasstronaut

Whew. That was a lot of travelling! We returned home and rested up a bit. We played host to another friend, Maria, and also met up with our friend David in early November. Later that month, we headed over to Newcastle to visit a former coworker who had moved back home. Newcastle had just got a big dump of snow - which turned out to be a lot of fun: we had a fun snowball fight the first night between the pub and the nightclub. On the Saturday we spent some time walking around the city before heading out for a lovely dinner, some more drinks, and a few of us ended up at one of the local casinos to play some poker. On that particular evening, I ran about as good as you can at a cash game and cashed out a profit of nearly 400 pounds! The next day, after sleeping in a bunch, we headed out to see the Newcastle football team play a match against Chelsea. It was my first Premier league football match -- and I'll have to admit that even though I'm not a big fan of the sport it was a pretty fun game to watch.

The big news in December was two separate dumps of snow: the first coinciding with our trip to Newcastle, and the second one leading right up to Christmas. Both times, the city ground to a halt with the lack of snow tires and proper process to clear the snow in place. The airport was backed up, and even the LUAS was closed a couple days. Luckily, we hadn't planned on going anywhere over Christmas in an attempt to save some holiday days for another ski trip. So we spent a very quiet holiday time at home. The company threw its annual Christmas party earlier on in the month. As usual, they pulled out all the stops on an evening that lasted until 7 in the morning for some of us. The food was excellent, and it was open bar all night long. Yeesh!

It has been a very good year -- lots of good things happening, and all kinds of fun trips to go on. Hopefully we can fill next year with a bunch more fun trips.

Like previous years in review, I'll leave you with some of my favourite photos from the year. Happy new year everyone!