Browsing Category

Living Abroad

Living Abroad, Love Ireland, Visit Ireland

Irish Cold

November 9, 2013

One thing that I never seem to get used to is how cold it actually is here…..says the girl from New York.

I mean temperature wise it doesn’t often get below freezing but it’s FREEZING!!!!!

I grew up in negative degrees Fahrenheit so it still amazes me that it can be 9 or 10 Celsius and I am freezing!

What you need to know if you are coming to Ireland anytime November-March is that regardless of the temperature reading, it is cold. It’s like a damp cold that you can’t shake. And sometimes in some buildings, you might as well be outside.

Sometimes my job requires me to visit various schools and I always wear at least two pair of socks and even then I can’t feel my feet. I often see teachers teach in heavy jumpers and scarves!!! The kids don’t seem to feel it though.

The Irish also have a thing about not wearing your coat inside because you won’t get the maximum out of it when you actually do go outside, but sometimes I am too damn cold inside to take it off.

All is not lost though, I have some new Irish winter time habits that I absolutely adore.

HOT WATER BOTTLES

Hot Water Bottle Cover

Hot Water Bottle Cover (Photo credit: suziesparkle)

 

Amazing. My grandma used to have one of those red ones that had a rotten rubbery smell, but here hot water bottles go inside cozy, furry cover that just demands cuddling up with.  And of course with an electric kettle the water is hot in no time! The princesses both love going to bed when it’s been pre-warmed by a hot water bottle.

ELECTRIC UNDER-BLANKETS

It’s an electric blanket that goes under the fitted sheet! LOVE! (sometimes I take my hot water bottle to bed with my electric under-blanket…not sure how safe it is but so comfy).

SCARVES & BOOTS

O.K. this isn’t anything new for me since moving to Ireland.  Give me boots over flip-flops any day and I don’t believe you can have too many scarves.

To be honest I pretty much love winter both here and in NY despite the cold.  I do long for the snow back home (which started snowing this week apparently) though.

It makes me giggle when I see the Irish freaking out over the winter weather but to be honest, when it gets below freezing in this damp country quite often things are covered in a sheet of ice.  I however have yet to see a New Yorker wear socks outside their shoes for safety…..

 

Living Abroad, Love Ireland, mixed culture family

Making Halloween our Own

October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from Ireland.  The kids are on midterm break so we have been celebrating all week-long!!

It was about 8 years ago that the King carved his first pumpkin.  I remember explaining in detail that he had to clean out the insides first….around that time I ate my first slice of Halloween brack and he gave me careful instructions to not choke on the ring if I found it.

Ever since then we’ve been trying to combine our two cultures to make traditions of our own family.

His pumpkin carving has gotten significantly better, but I still haven’t bothered to actually make my own brack though.

Pumpkins 2013 by the King

DSC_0961

I didn’t realize it until this year, but I guess I try to get the kids costumes back home if possible.  In Ireland Halloween costumes tend to be on the spooky, bloody, evil side.  This year Princess M spotted a puppy costume in Target when we were home last month…the upstate NYer/mother in me couldn’t help but notice there was plenty of room to layer warm clothes underneath…the King noted it was the very opposite of spooky. We bought it.

We decorate, we read Halloween stories and watch spooky(ish) movies all in the lead up to the big day.  And while I still have difficulty finding It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown we manage.

And even though there is sadly no pumpkin patches or corn mazes near by, we find an autumn Halloween party somewhere in the community and pick our stemless pumpkins from the grocery store. And we come home and make chocolate covered apples and toast pumpkin seeds.

Making the chocolate apples

Making the chocolate apples

Tonight the King will light a fire in the fireplace and remind me that the origins of Halloween came from Celtic Ireland.  I will make last-minute adjustments to costumes, get ready for trick-or-treaters and politely remind him that America does Halloween best.  We’ll both laugh and toast our family with a Guinness or even a hot whisky because hot apple cider is hard to find….

How do you make Halloween your own?

Living Abroad, Missing Home

Nomophobia

October 30, 2013

Today’s word of the day is……nomophobia.

Nomophobia: the fear of being out of mobile phone contact, or without your phone.

Apparently it’s actually short for no-mobile-phone phobia.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is an irrational fear…most phobias are irrational fears anyway right?

Some people have phobias about the dark, spiders, being alone.  Not me, I am certainly suffering from nomophobia.

At least once a day I have this heart racing moment where I think “I’ve lost my phone!!!!!” only to realize I didn’t dig deep enough in my bag, or it’s in the other pocket of my jeans.

photo courtesy of http://cuboiart.blogspot.com

I am always feeling that loss of breath when my phone slips out of my hands and lands face down on the concrete and I think “oh no it’s shattered.”  It’s kinda like that feeling when I look at Princess M and know she is going to face plant and there is nothing I can do to stop it from happening….

Yep I just likened my feelings for my phone to my feelings for my child.

For about a year now I have been cursing my iPhone and wishing phones never got “smart.”  I never felt this way about my old flip phone….the only fear then was that the antenna would snap off.

Not now though. I live in fear of being without my phone.  There are a number of reasons I fear being without my phone:

  • what if the wait in the doctor’s office is long and I forget my phone?  I’ll have nothing to do because you know I won’t touch those germ laden magazines.
  • what if I forgot my phone at home and get lost on these Irish country roads…my phone is my GPS.
  • what if I don’t have my phone and I decide to spontaneously stop at the ocean and go for a walk how will I know what the crazy Irish weather will be like for the next half hour?
  • what if I’m out for coffee with the girls and the Princess starts to lose it right when we’re getting to the good chat…what will I give her as a last resort?  (go ahead judge all you want but don’t try to tell me you don’t do it too).

Sadly the list is endless, but most of all there are TWO reasons I live in fear of being without…most of all losing my phone…

  • Pictures. The hundreds of pictures that chronicle the joy of my life, I simply don’t back up enough.  OK this is getting better, with the cloud but I just got IOS 7 over the weekend because I had to take all my pictures off to make room.  Taking some of those photos off my phone felt like cutting off my arm.
  • Being out of contact with home. For even one minute.

It’s a double edge sword.  I love being in constant contact with home if needed. For the important stuff but also for the random moments (like when I just need to text my college roommate to tell him that I tripped at fell on my face in the middle of town and then walked off like no one saw).  I love treating my hometown news like is still my ‘local’ news.  And I love that I can email Mom a picture of the kids doing nothing but doing it right now.  You see without my phone I can’t pretend I am still ‘there’ when I’m actually here.

So yeah…I live in fear about being without my phone.  I’m sure you could say I am an iPhone addict….what’s the word for that?

But show me an expat that isn’t…..

Are you addicted to your phone??? Why???

Being Mommy, Living Abroad

The Days are Long…..

October 23, 2013

20131023-110755.jpg picture:quotespictures.com

This quote by Gretchen Rubin has come to mean so much to me in the past few weeks.

My maternity leave is fast coming to an end and while I am gracious for the time I have had, the thought of returning to work in January weighs heavily on me.

I am dreading returning to a two parent in full time work household and am worried how we will stay on top of family, work and house commitments… which one will suffer?

For me one of the top reasons for living and raising the kids in Ireland is because I feel I maintain a better work life balance here than in the US. That balance made the trade-off of being far from home worthwhile. Now I am worried if that balance will remain.

And yet I have to return to work. There is the obvious financial reasons, but I know in my heart I will always need some sort of a career, something for me.

It took me 6 years and a lot of hard work to become a qualified speech and language pathologist. I’m proud of my career and I’m good at it.

The truth is, as much as I have loved these past few months there have been days where I knew going to work would have been easier. Days like yesterday when my independent Princess challenged me on every single decision….I didn’t butter the bread on the right side….She “SAID” she wanted to wear a different jumper (even though the words never passed her lips).

Yesterday was a long day for sure, but then at night she wanted to read me a bedtime story, and I remembered….the years are short.

I just hope I can find a balance and enjoy it while I can.

Living Abroad, Missing Home

A 3rd Birthday!

September 15, 2013

Princess M turns 3 on Tuesday. Three.

Like any parent, the King and I feel awe and wonder.

Awe at the person she is becoming and wonder at the quick passing of time. Time started speeding up the second we first held her it seems.

We celebrated in Ireland today surrounded by family, much like years past. But this year we were lucky that my parents were in attendance.

It was loud.
It was chaotic.
I barely got a chance to talk to my parents.
Or my in-laws for that matter.

Grandma & Grandpa sang happy birthday along with the rest of us.

They watched her open presents.

We all sat patiently waiting for the King to open the Doc McStuffins toy Grandma & Grandpa got her before she would open anything else.

They laughed and chatted with my in-laws.

It was a special day.

And they did it from 3000 miles away over FaceTime being manned by my brother-in-law so I could do the typical mommy duties (i.e. pick up wrapping paper).

Later on, when everyone was gone, the IPad was put away, and I was busy tidying up the kitchen, I suppressed the sadness in the absence of my family so far away on yet another special day. I tried desperately to not think of what I…we…..were missing because I choose to live an expat life.

Then I heard Princes M talking to the Prince about her birthday party and naming everyone who came….I heard her name her Nan, and Grandad, cousins, aunts, uncles, and even Grandma & Grandpa!!!

My heart warmed in that moment. I realized to the Princess, Grandma & Grandpa were very much a part of her birthday….just as much as her Nan and Grandad were.

While it will never be the same, the Princess in her very nearly 3 year old wisdom sees only that she is loved very much by both sets of Grandparents.

And that is all I could ever ask for.

Steve Jobs you are undoubtedly an angel in heaven. Thank you Steve. Thank you Apple.

R5EGH6VADU2X

Living Abroad

Where do you call home?

September 2, 2013

Where’s home?

Such a simple yet complicated question.  So much so that anyone truly living the expat life will rarely ask that of another expat.  We tend to go for safer questions….

“Where are you from?” or “Where did you grow up?

I completely consider Cork my home now. At least I think I do. Until I consider things like:

I just spent three weeks at ‘home’ for our summer holiday.

or

We sometimes consider moving ‘home’ one day.  Maybe.

Come to think of it, many of my Irish friends who I have known for the better part of 10 years would probably consider NY to be my ‘home’ if asked.

The Oxford Dictionary defines home as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household” so Cork is my home.  However, it also goes on to define home as “a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.” So argument can be made that NY is certainly my home as I originated there.  However, I like to believe I am flourishing in Cork…

Even on literal, academic level the definition of ‘home’ for an expat is unclear. There really isn’t a straight answer to the question. Depending on the context and the day ‘home’ changes.

Perhaps the best answer to the question for me is both.

Where do you call home?

Living Abroad

American Products- European Marketing

June 26, 2013

Twice a year before the 4th of July and Thanksgiving Aldi begins stocking up on their version of American food. Often they include ‘real’ American brands.

Last week I got the insider info that Aldi was stocking Libby’s canned pumpkin!!!!

Of course I ran straight over to stock up. Do you have any idea how much weight and space this will free up in my suitcase this summer. It will mean more Ranch dressing!!!!

Imagine my delight to find not only pumpkin but Fluff too!!! I’m not sure Fluff is even available all over the US. But being a NYer i grew up on Fluffernutter sandwiches and hot cocoa with a big dollop of Fluff on top.

On the way home it occurred to me….so what if it’s the middle of summer….there is no greater fudge recipe than the “Never Fail Fudge” recipe on the back of the Fluff container. Yep Princess M and I were going to make fudge.

To my disappointment there was no recipe on the back. OK no biggie that’s what google is for. However, on closer inspection I was SHOCKED at the serving suggestions on the back…

20130626-093610.jpg

SCONES?!?!?! with Fluff?!?! It just seems WRONG…on so many levels.
Ruins the scone.
Ruins the Fluff.

Living Abroad, Missing Home

4th of July

June 26, 2013

It’s the end of June and the 4th of July is right around the corner next week.

The King likely has to work and since I’m off for the summer the day has the potential to drag if it goes poorly.

Usually when I am working I don’t take the day off but rather force my colleagues to endure all things American for the day. They are always good to indulge me and the day usually flies without much feeling of homesickness. But this year I’m off on maternity leave and will have to find my own distractions.

The day will go one of two ways for me…

It could be a glorious sunny day allowing for BBQs and I’ll delight in successfully merging American traditions to my Irish life and I’ll happily toast my husband and Irish babies while FaceTiming home. Although I will miss old friends and fire works, I’ll crawl into bed at night feeling all is as it should be in my life.

or….

It will be rainy and cold and the Prince will be up all night setting my postpartum hormones into over drive and I will spend the day longing to give Prince and the Princesses all the hot summer, poolside memories with fireworks that I grew up with. I’ll avoid any communication with home which is likely to only bring tears & I’ll go to bed once again questioning if I’m making the right decisions to stay in Ireland.

Do all expats experience this heightened range of emotions around their homelands holidays?

Being Mommy, Living Abroad, Love Ireland

Irish Mammy & American Mom

June 24, 2013

They say everyone is Irish. The Irish people love claiming people as their own. I mean, even Obama is Irish!!

I grew up an Irish/Italian American with a bit of Welsh or Scottish thrown in.

I was in high school when I first became obsessed with the idea of living in Ireland. I looked into the whole foreign exchange student thing a bit but I knew I wanted something more than just a few months as a high school kid over here. I don’t know what it was.

I remember both my grandmothers would talk of being Irish but I am not sure I even knew what that meant. It was enough to spark some desire in me to be here though.

The romantic in me loves believing that I was always going to end up here. That fate had this in store for me long before I knew it myself. I mean it’s all worked out so well here. That’s not to say it’s hasn’t been challenging, but it has all worked out.

What I am still learning all these years later is how truly Irish I was long before I ever stepped foot in Ireland, and how without knowing it, I was raised like that.

Mom was an only child. My grand-mother grew up in NYC with her father, aunts and uncles all straight off the boat from Ireland. To this day I see so many similarities in my mother to what I understand to be an ‘Irish mammy’ here. I like to think it’s because of grandma’s upbringing, how she raised mom and how mom in turn raised us. I am always finding things Mom did in common with Irish Moms:

My mom was the only person I ever saw putting butter AND jelly/jam on toast….
until I moved to Ireland.

Mom always gave us 7-up when I was sick…the Irish are obsessed with this cure-all.

Despite not always going to church we knew to pray to St. Anthony if we ever lost something and when we actually did go to church Mom lit a candle for someone.

We were sent diligently to religious education classes after school all the way up to confirmation. We were Catholic even if we didn’t attend church regularly.

Mom would be relentless and insist that anyone entering the house would eat something.

We ate dinner as a family without fail. When she was alive Sunday dinners were big affairs at Grandma’s.

While mom’s dinner did not always include potatoes a carb was required…if not potatoes then pasta. Like I said we are Irish/Italian American.

We were raised to be good, be nice to others and be a family.

And here I am, all these years later, a new mom in a new home but feeling I know a thing or two about how to be an ‘Irish mammy’ thanks to my very American mom.

Living Abroad

Paying Cash for Cars

May 3, 2013

For the first two years I lived here I was carless, living in the city and loved it!! Even the rain didn’t get me down.  On particularly bad mornings I remember meeting a few of the girls for coffee and sharing a taxi up the hill to work and loving the opportunity to chat along the way.

Of course M had a car and was smitten and therefore willing to chauffeur me around so there really was no need.

But then my work parameters were set to change and I was living out of the city centre so it was time.  It was January 2007 and I bought my first European car….and by European I totally mean a 2000 Nissan Micra Japanese import.  Best of all, I PAID COLD HARD CASH!!!! Amazing!

That little car was perfect for me to get comfortable with the Irish roads.  There was no where I couldn’t park, it was automatic, and so small filling that up the tank was practically a bargain.  I happily drove that car literally into the ground.  It was good to me. After 6 years of service to me it was ready for retirement in March.  Being 7 months pregnant at this point it was clear I would need something a bit bigger and more reliable.  Even if most of my driving is for work I still needed something that would fit two car seats.

Before Little M joined us we  had bought a “family vehicle” in 2010. (again COLD HARD CASH!!!)  It’s stick shift or manual as they say.  I promised to learn.  I tried. A few times actually.  I just didn’t try hard enough. So, on weekends my husband pretty much continued to chauffeur the family around…pretty amazing guy right?!?!

The quest for a new vehicle for me began this March and well let’s be honest it was going to have to be automatic.  There are a lot of really steep hills in Cork!!!

Anyway,  I ended up with another Nissan, a 2008 Tiida this time and guess what…paid in COLD HARD CASH!!!!  Of course it was tempting to go straight to financing a brand new car, but to be honest the idea of buying what we could afford and not having a car payment was too good to pass up.

Besides,  with two young kids in the back seat, and a car park at work with spots so tight I had to actually stop parking there when I was about 6 months pregnant because there wasn’t exactly enough room for me to get in and out without squashing myself and baby- I knew I didn’t want anything I was going to be precious about.

I wanted a reliable, comfortable car, with windows that worked since the Micra’s had stopped working months ago.  M wanted something big enough we could actually share the weekend driving.  Both of us wanted to pay cash.

So we went with the Tiida which ticked all our boxes and paid for our third care in COLD HARD CASH.

It’s big enough I  can now chauffeur my dear husband around.

It seems to me there is a bigger culture here of buying used cars.  Don’t get me wrong people buy brand new, but for the most part everyone we know tends to buy “new to you” rather than “brand new.”

There also is a lot less wear and tear on cars here than in Upstate NY, no salt on the roads or extreme temperatures so they run a lot longer (case in point my 13-year-old Micra).

There are still all the costs of owning a car here like back home.  The annual car tax seems a bit steep to me.  The car insurance is significantly less than at home and we can manage to pay it once per year rather than monthly.  Gas/Petrol is currently running about 1.57 e per litre so that is most definitely significantly more than home.

But I still paid COLD HARD CASH.