Ladies' Day at Dublin Horse Show `09

Ireland has a lot of pretty horses. They've got quite a history here. And I had been needing a fix. I finally got to see a few of `em run around at this year's Dublin Horse Show. But all the pictures are of hats because a) the horses are a little blurry and b) I went on Ladies' Day when the fancy hats and costumes come out to play. Quite fantastic, all in all. You should come with me next year! It happens in August. That's right, we're only backlogged about a month. :)


The Parent Visit VI: Between the Road Trips

In between roads trips with Morgan's folks we saw a little of Dublin and the surrounding area. It might be quicker to list the places we didn't go! The first week, we went to see Powerscourt Gardens, then the Irish National Stud. We walked around Dun Laoghaire Harbour with Xan, saw Grafton Street and Temple Bar and St. Stepen's Green. The next week contained a painting day at Xan's, some rainy laundry days, trips to Dundrum Town Centre, an excursion to Glendalough, and a day spent around the National Botanic Gardens.

Once Morgan's Dad left for home, Morgan's Mom and I stormed Kilmainham Gaol, the National Museum (there are several locations), the National Gallery, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church, the Museum of Modern Art, Chester Beatty Library, a Georgian House, and the Book of Kells and the Long Room at Trinity College. We even worked in a little box store shopping with Morgan and attempted some cookery!


A Weekend in Budapest

Wow, has it ever been a long time since the last blog post! It has been an incredibly busy couple of months, and it is a little hard to believe that it's already May. I'll try to do a little better with blog posts, starting with ... our latest travelling adventure! Diane and I hopped on a plane on the 1st of May bound for Budapest, Hungary. This is our second trip intended for travelling Europe since we arrived in Ireland (yeah, I know, we need to make a point of taking advantage of our close proximity to the rest of Europe more often!). We picked Budapest because we've got some friends who are currently living there ... so it was a good excuse to come see them, and impose on them to show us around the city!

We arrived just two and a half hours after departing Dublin, and were met at the airport by my friend Mike. We hopped in a taxi and delivered our bags to Mike's apartment, and then went out to wander the town a bit. The area around the Danube river is incredible at night: The magnificent buildings are lit up all over the place, including an impressive palace on castle hill, and a quite large statue not far from that.

Dinner was had at a place called ForSale Pub, where the four of us had a large bowl of Hungarian Goulash. It was delicious! The Goulash here is more of a soup than a stew, it is bright red in colour, and is served with a generous helping of fresh bread and hot peppers. You can season the soup up to as spicy as you like it. It was definitely worth trying.

The next day, the plan was to do a bunch of walking. We took the metro to Stadtwäldchen (or City Park), and wandered around there for awhile. People were out in force enjoying the nice weather. Mike led us to Vajdahunyad Castle which was pretty interesting, and then we wandered back out and bought some "Chimney Bread" from a vendor in the park. This was really neat: the operators of the stall bake some of this dough over open coals on a tube that rotates automatically to ensure even heat. The dough is similar to bannock, but they spread some sugar on the outside to make it sweet. The bread gets its name by the tube shape that results, and the steam that comes out the top as the bread cools. A very tasty treat!

We wandered back from the park toward the Danube along Andrássy út -- a lovely wide boulevard lined with trees and some pretty impressive looking buildings.

Next, we wandered across the river and up Castle Hill, where we got a very nice view of both sides of Budapest. By this time, the sun was starting to set, so I got a couple pretty nice sunset shots up there. We didn't go into any of the buildings, but we did see a lot of the outside!

Finally we got back to the apartment a bit footsore. A little relaxation was in order, so we planned to go to one of the thermal bath houses. On Saturday night, it's open late, so it seemed like a good opportunity to rest our feet. As we got close to the bath house, however, it became clear that there was something else going on there. The club next door was pumping some loud music, and there was a big lineup outside the door to the bath house. Turns out that relaxation wasn't on the menu that night! Turns out there was some strange cross between a rave and a public bath house ... and we hadn't actually brought enough money to enter -- so we turned around and returned to the apartment, passing a large crowd of rowdy, drunk, or quickly getting drunk people all the way back. Just about everybody we passed had some sort of bottle with a hard liquor.

So instead we relaxed back at the apartment. Today, it sounds like we're going to be taking a boat somewhere... I didn't catch the name. Should be a fun day, I imagine!


Year Under Review 2008 (Diane)

Let’s face it – for me, the thrill of posting is far outweighed by reading all of Wikipedia (all!) and finding a half decent banana bread recipe. This is why I can never have a blog of my own. It would suffer the same fate as so many other projects that have fallen by the wayside. This year and every year… But hey! It’s only April.

The beginning of last year seems so far away. I spent a little time with my mom here and there and saw my favouritest show ever, the PreTenors. I signed up for a capoeira class, which turned out to be a ton of fun. I got to try out my Christmas skis twice: Morgan and I took in our last Jasper in January AND a super fun Sunshine/Lake Louise combo. (Note: Grizzly Paw >>> Smitty’s)

In those days I was still working and going to garden club meetings. We had some high school students into the lab, we harvested the greenhouse plants (always good teambuilding) and I even managed to make it to a safety session.

I took a trip out to Vancouver to visit my sister. She introduced me to her friends (and a great little place for hot chocolate). We dined in style on cupcakes, pea soup, MEAT, Vancouver sushi <3, and crab cakes. We brought our style to the beach, Granville Island, and an awesome improv club. Morgan probably got socks for his birthday. (I took him for granted even then.) My dear coworker gave me a tip about a great dressmaker in Chinatown, and I gave up pretending I was going to sew dresses for me let alone for my four lovely bridesmaids.

Then there was March. Last March that is. It was off to Rimbey, Alberta where Morgan’s grandparents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary (!) and Morgan’s grandpa turned 80 years young! I believe Darse was back on campus for a surprise visit, and by that time I guess he’d poked us enough that Morgan applied over here. And I was invited out for interviews too! Yays! Morgan and I had a whirlwind weekend in Dublin in April, and I learned the secret of a shot of blackcurrant syrup to sweeten your Guinness. Xan showed me around while Morgan was in the office, and we braved the wind in Dalkey and Bray. While in Dublin I also scoffed at Christine and swore up and down that I would get a job as soon as I landed, and here I am – it will be a year off soon enough!

Also in April, I tried getting tickets to see Natalie MacMaster, but instead I discovered Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul, who rock the Queen’s socks by the way. Morgan and I went with our parents and everybody had a great time.

May was especially great because once we decided to come to Dublin, I did my best to use all the massages for the year’s work benefits. Even though it was high time to panic wedding-wise, there was somehow lots of fun to be had with the girls before moving away to enjoy married life across the pond. We saw Terri Clark play at the Rainmaker Rodeo in St. Albert, we had a wedding favour work bee, and the girls treated me to a very creative “hen party” as they say here, complete with fancy coffee, karaoke at a sketchy bar, a cookout, and certain calendar models on duty at Fire Hall 1! Don’t tell Morgan though ;-) There was a garage sale at my parents’ – it turns out you collect stuff after so many years of staying in the same place, and it was time to get rid of some of it (but still keep too much), move it to Morgan’s, sort out what to take and what to store, and then try to prune some more.

And then came the day when Morgan got stuck with me for good. I have to congratulate myself on my great taste, and for keeping him convinced that he’s a lucky guy. I won’t tell him if you won’t! Morgan’s grandpa married us at an old church of mine, which was awesome. I think my favourite moment of the day was when Morgan’s grandpa presented us and the music was queued but we hadn’t sealed the bargain with a kiss. Morgan would not go a step further until all boxes had been properly ticked, and our friends and family got a good chuckle out of it too. It also happens to have made my favourite photo of the day, even though everyone loves the waltz pic. Thanks, photographer Jason! And friends and families of course! It was great to catch fleeting glimpses of all of you!

June also held Megan’s grad, and my last day at work. Possibly forever. Just kidding. Kind of. We were able to squeeze in one last trip to Rimbey and a family dinner or two, and then it was high time for the good times to roll!

July was filled with fun, at home and away! While Morgan went on a photo walk, I hung out at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market with my mom and sister and took in a pair of matinées at the theatre. Every time I see live theatre, I recall how much I enjoy it. I swear not to wait so long again, and inevitably I forget.

Off we went to Las Vegas for the second Man v. Machine match at the World Series of Poker Expo. I got to be the home movie crew and felt very important. I did my best to be the U of A’s booth babe too, but I think I may have lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. ;-) We saw Cirque du Soliel’s “O”, and a performance by Penn and Teller, and the good people of Vegas’ Fourth of July fireworks from a room in the Rio. Also, the thing I love best in Vegas is the Bellagio fountain display. I took way too much b-roll of that.

We hung around in Vegas for a few more days and headed off to San Diego. The zoo and wandering around the dock in the perfect weather are what I remember as making me the happiest on the trip. Then we went on our cruise – oh, 24h soft serve! I loved the food! Our dining room staff were excellent, and between the meals and the entertainment they nearly made you forget how queasy the motion of the boat made you feel. I heartily enjoyed the shore excursions - ocean kayaking and hiking/zip-lining in a canyon. I loved the towel animals and the wine tasting instruction, but I won’t be easily convinced to cause that much pollution again!

Well, we made it back to shore and back home to pack up, and our friends came over to give us a memorable send-off. Morgan’s mom and sister helped us with the storing and cleaning, and after one last dim sum, we were off to the Emerald Isle!

It was so easy setting up shop here! Darse and Xan were there when we arrived to make sure we made it into our apartment okay, and the experience has pretty much continued in the same tone. We found a lovely apartment by the tram, got our paperwork in order, opened a bank account – all that stuff. And so it was that I began to wonder how I was going to spend my time in between running errands and answering the door for repairs. Everyone has been very friendly and helpful (if occasionally unintelligible), and by this stage I’m even growing fond of the weather.

August arrived, and I met the other expat wives. I must confess that meeting up with the gals has given me that much-needed something to look forward to as the months fly by but the days occasionally feel long. My grandmother passed away in August, after a good long life. She was well-loved and cared for, particularly by my aunt, but it’s still a little sad. I still have her name though, and I’m not the only one.

My massage course at Holistic College Dublin started in September, and finishes this April. It’s a fun group, and the gal who gives the anatomy and physiology talks is excellent. This has been another highlight of the week, with classes every Wednesday and every second Saturday. And speaking of highlights, I got out to the Dublin Fringe Festival a few times with Morgan and the usual suspects, and I went sailing back and forth in Dun Laoghaire Harbour in a one-man dinghy in the fall, because it is so OMGWTFBBQin’ cool to live this close to the ocean!

Darse and Xan took us along to Kildare in October to see the Irish National Stud and the Japanese gardens there. We also travelled together to Kinsale during the Cork Jazz Festival. We stayed at a wonderful B&B, and saw pretty little towns by day, and enjoyed music and food by night. We also saw a stone circle, the Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle and Blarney Castle together. I took the train back to Dublin to volunteer at the Dublin Marathon and let the others explore the coastal forts, and I have to say it’s pretty inspiring (well, alright, it’s infuriating) how quick some people can move. It was also Thankgiving (in October or November, depending on where you hail from in N. America) and we expats attempted our own celebrations. This was especially fruitful endeavour, as it gave rise to some very nummy turkey paddies and pumpkin pie.

JR was out for a surprise visit at the start of December, and we took pictures and toured the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery together. I dragged Morgan to hear Handel’s Messiah (yes, the whole darn thing) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and hunted down an elusive rental tux at the cutest little downtown shop. The company Christmas party in Kilkenny was opulent. I played a hand or two in the team free roll, watched the Cuban cigar rollers and enjoyed a bit of wine and whisky. We walked around Kilkenny town and the castle there, as well as a little church with lovely stained glass windows. Over the Christmas holidays, we visited Morgan’s cousins in Austria, and we treated to a lot of food(!!!) and sightseeing. We saw the oldest town and the fortress at Salzburg, spent two memorable days in Vienna and enjoyed some authentic wiener schnitzel.

I think that about takes us to the end of `08. Here’s a brief preview of `09…

January, there was no posting, in February, no posting either. We had a quick trip home, which was cool. We got a few errands done and saw our friends and families. In February, I started volunteering at Airfield Trust, which is a whole new post. March has been very spring-like, full of wonderful weather and baby lambs! It’s also time to be finishing up case studies for my massage class. Exams for that are in April. May holds a weekend vacation to Budapest, and Stratovarius is coming to town. In May/June/July, Morgan’s folks are here and touring Europe. In August I guess I should be looking around for some work(!) and/or perhaps another course in September. Actually, my family might visit in September, plus we’ve got some friends of ours getting hitched back home. The 30th anniversary of the Dublin Marathon is in October, and I’m tempted, even though it’s a bloody long way. But we’ll see. Can’t be as hard as writing the post in January 2010, right?


Christmas Party and More Visiting Edmontonians

This week has been insane! As I mentioned in my last post, we headed out for the company Christmas party this past weekend. The Christmas party was held at the beautiful Lyrath hotel in Kilkenny. There are so many people at the company that we couldn't all be put up in that hotel, so we were spread across four different hotels in Kilkenny for the night. Darse, Xan, Diane and I headed out on Friday afternoon to Kilkenny and stayed there on Friday night so we could see a little of the town the next day. We joined several other people for a nice dinner at the Lyrath. Post dinner, we spent a fair amount of time hanging out and socializing in a bar in the Lyrath. By the time Diane and I caught a cab back to our hotel (the NewPark Hotel), it was three in the morning!

We slept in the next morning, and finally got out to explore Kilkenny a bit. It was a crisp afternoon that felt very much like morning, even though we didn't get to Kilkenny Castle in the afternoon. There was a bit of fog in the air, and the green grass was covered in some light frost. Kilkenny Castle was a pretty formidable structure, but we didn't get a chance to explore inside since we had missed the latest tour and the next one was sold out. Since we didn't have time to wait around for the tour after that, we walked down main street in Kilkenny to see some other sights.

One of the places we ended up in was the Black Abbey, which we almost went by. We walked along and were taking a few photos of the outside the church, and were about to move on when a lady passing by stopped and told us that it was "really quite lovely inside", that it was "open anytime", and that is was her "favourite church in town". That was quite a recommendation, and we became a bit more curious about finding the entrance. It was indeed open, and it was breathtaking. The church featured several very large and very colourful stained glass windows that shone very well in the afternoon light.

The afternoon was rapidly disappearing though, so we needed to get back to our hotel to get dressed up for the black tie affair that evening!

We arrived at the Lyrath dressed up and ready to party. The hotel lobby was already filled with people chatting, helping themselves to the appetizers and wine that were being served. At roughly 6pm, the company poker tournament began -- a super speed poker tournament where 4 employees formed a team at one of 8 single table tournaments. The winning team at each table took down €1000 to split amongst themselves. Unfortunately, while my team did well, we finished in second. We bubbled, as we say in the poker world. That is to say, we finished in the place before they start paying out money!

Dinner was scheduled for 8pm (which gives you an idea how fast the poker tournament went) so we were hurried to a huge room with 55 ten person tables set up. Diane and I sat with the Biotools guys, who were flown out for the Christmas party! Nice perk huh? Dinner was a 4 course plated affair: chicken caesar salad, potato and leek soup, either a stuffed chicken breast dish or a steak dish as the main course, and a dessert. It was pretty good!

After dinner there was several attractions: they had a DJ getting the dance floor hopping, there was an open bar all night long, and they brought in some Cuban cigar rollers to demonstrate and hand out the results of their work. The party went super late, with an afterhours bar open until 4am! By the time Diane and I got back to our hotel, it was after 6am. It was an epic party!

We drove back to Dublin on Sunday afternoon and took the rest of Sunday to recover a little bit before starting back to work. But the party didn't stop there. The Biotools folks were still in town until Thursday morning so we had to make sure they enjoyed their time here. So we proceeded to go out for dinner on Monday, over to Aaron's place to hang out and play foosball and nhl '09 on Tuesday, and to the Rockfield pub for poker and trivia last night. I am some burnt out after all this hard partying, but it has been a lot of fun too.

In last night's poker tournament, I managed to catch a good run of cards and turn them into a first place prize for a tidy profit. It's not that often I win a poker tournament, so that was pretty nice. The tournament started out a bit rocky when my full house ran into a bigger one. Whoops!

So it's been a crazy busy week! I've got a bunch of photos to catch up on, so look to see those up soon. I think there's a few worth looking at.

Hope everyone's well, and looking forward to whatever Christmas plans you have. On our plate? Getting ready for our trip to Austria!