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Expat Life, Love Ireland, Missing Home

TEN

June 30, 2014

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This October will be my 10th Irish birthday or as some expats in Ireland like to call it- my 10th Eire-versary. There will have to be some celebration to mark the occasion, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

It seems impossible that it will be a whole decade since I landed here with two suitcase and not even a rain coat.

I remember telling my mom they day I left I would be back in two years.
She simply said “You won’t.”
Moms are always right.

What started out as a two year stint to have Europe at my feet has become…..life.
An unexpected, far from perfect but joy filled life.

I have without a doubt lived more of my adult life in Ireland.
I have owned more cars in Ireland.
Lived in more houses.
Had more hospital admissions.
Had massive successes.
Experienced great saddness.

Ireland is home…..Syracuse is home.

Is it possible that as an adult I am more Irish while my inner child/teenager remains American at heart?
With every passing day I become more at home in my new country, but I still hold on to my native identity with all my strength.
I catch myself correcting my language…it is NOT ‘rubbish’ it is still ‘trash’ and some days I am making it a point to teach my dual passport holding children to be more AMERICAN. I wonder if it’s all in vain. Should I somehow learn to let go and just be?

Ten years is a LONG time.
I mean it’s a significant amount of time in my life thus far.
And yet I’m still not ready to leave (although I do reserve the right to change my mind).

As I reflect back on the past decade I can’t help but wonder what the next decade will bring. And in another ten years time will I still be lucky enough to have the dilemma of having two homes?

What have you been up to the past ten years?

Love Ireland

After January Comes Spring…

February 1, 2014

After years of trying to fight it and deny it I am wholeheartedly embracing February 1 as the FIRST DAY OF SPRING.

In Ireland, February 1 or St. Brigid’s day is the start of Spring.

Now all of us non-Irish know full well Spring actually doesn’t start until the 21st of March, but this year I am saying to hell with it and saying so-long to winter!!!

20140201-164017.jpgSnow Covered Syracuse www.syracuse.com

Syracuse will remain covered in snow for weeks to come even if Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow in the morning. Having endured far to many long winters I’m ok with Spring starting today.

Of course we have the fire lit and it’s too bitter cold, wet and windy to venture outside, but I don’t care it’s SPRING!!!!!!

The evenings will start to get brighter, and by the end of the month there will be a ‘grand stretch to the evening.’

The mercury may not rise much but in a few short weeks we’ll begin to see the green stalks as the daffodils reach to the sky and start to cover the countryside with bright shades of yellow.

In our house we’re looking forward to throwing open the windows, hanging the washing on the line and endless games of football in the grass.

Happy Spring to everyone!

20140201-163511.jpg West Cork Daffodils www.fastnetweb.ie

Living Abroad, Love Ireland

Irish Healthcare

January 30, 2014
Irish Health Service Executive www.hes.ie

Irish Health Service Executive www.hes.ie

 

The King ended up in hospital not long ago….nothing too incredibly serious but still there was a sense of ‘here we go again.’

Technically we were private patients which didn’t mean much in our current situation.

For anyone thinking of moving to Ireland it’s important to know that there is in essence a two tier health system. For the most part healthcare is ‘free’ and paid for by the government. But keep in mind how hefty a healthcare bill it must be to pay for the wellbeing of 4 million people. Many (who can afford it) opt to buy private health insurance which depending on cover offers access to private hospitals or private beds in public hospitals.

As an American I can not bring myself to not have health insurance. This year we paid just under 2,800 euro for our private insurance. Of course to me this is reasonable considering where I come from. But the truth is Irish people are leaving the private healthcare system at the rate of about 5,000 per month because cosst continue to rise. Most employers do not contribute to private insurance…sure why would they when they pay taxes into the public health care system?

I wholeheartedly believe healthcare should be available to all, however, I don’t really think social healthcare works without a massive huge price tag.

Maybe the Swiss have it right but they pay considerable taxes & have a relatively small population (all of whom are socially expected to work and pay their share of taxes).

That said I had two babies with really good healthcare for absolutely free. I could have opted to pay additional to access private maternity care….after much consideration we opted to go the public route. This is a personal decision each couple makes.

In 2012, had I not had private health insurance I would have waited at least 6/9 months to have my gallbladder out.

Princess M is currently on a 2 yr waiting list for her potential fish allergy going the private route she will be seen in under 6 months.

There are many discrepancies between private and public health care in Ireland. Over the course of 10 years here I have availed of both. We are lucky that we can afford to supplement a strained public healthcare system with our private insurance.

Having seen hospital and doctors bills from the US and Ireland the discrepancy amazes me. In 2012 my private insurance paid around 6,000 euro all in for my gallbladder surgery….including anaesthetic and a 4 day hospital stay. When the summary for my mother’s recent week-long stay in a US hospital came it was nearly FIVE times that price…for no surgery and no anestetic. I still can’t fathom the difference.

I believe healthcare should certainly be affordable for all in every country. Not necessarily free but affordable and I guess I am thankful that relatively speaking it is affordable here in Ireland.

 

Living Abroad, Love Ireland, Uncategorized

5 Reasons I love Christmas in Cork

December 28, 2013

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Galway Continental Christmas Market 2013

I didn’t think I would ever get into the Christmas spirit this year but the past week has surprised me.  It has been hard at times but to be honest it has been far better than I had anticipated.  I enjoyed it….and of course felt guilty about enjoying it for a while but I’m not going to reflect on that.

The truth is I have always loved Christmas in Cork. 

There are so many reasons why Christmas in Ireland but today here are 5 of my top reasons.

1.  Finishing Up

At some point in November at my 9-5 we all start talking about ‘finishing up.’  Everyone wants to know when everyone else is ‘finishing up’ for Christmas.  When you get into the second week of December the evenings leaving work are filled with someone in the office wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas & New Year as they skip out of the office for the holidays.  Even though I wasn’t even in work this time I loved getting texts from my colleagues telling me when they were ‘finishing up.’   As much as I was up to it I tried to meet friends for a drink or a coffee as they finished. We got out our 2014 calendar the other day and the King and I are already talking about when I hope to ‘finish up’ next year. 

2. December 8th

As any good practising Catholic knows the 8th of December is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  In Cork it is traditionally the day the people in the country travel to the city to do their Christmas shopping (after mass of course).  It is the official start to Christmas time in this house.  While we always decorate on December 1st, the 8th is when we start to crack open the ‘Christmas press’ where we have stashed all the goodies (i.e., chocolates, biscuits, mulled wine, etc) when visitors come to call.  And they will call all month long.

3. The Gift of Time

We buy very few gifts for people outside the family.  Aside from teachers and a few people who went above and beyond for us, or just needed a special gift this Christmas we just don’t exchange gifts with our friends.  We do however make it a point to be with and see as many people as possible over this festive time.  The days are busy with visitors, lunches, coffees, and evening drinks but it’s connecting with people we love that the business of life sometimes keeps us from that this time is about for us.

This is a huge change from my Christmases back home….I would often give gifts and sometimes spend very little time with my friends.  I imagine this is because Americans tend to have less time off and are busy with their families of course. 

4. The Holiday Parties

I know that most places have the obligatory work Christmas party both in Ireland and the US but to be honest I love it here.  Although I didn’t attend this year either the King or I had a holiday party every week from the 29th of November.  There are work parties,  I have team parties for the teams I am on at the 9-5 and then both our jobs have kid friendly family parties. 

5. Santa is an Event

In Ireland you have to start early to do your research and book your trip to Santa.  There are countless Santa experiences around Cork that are amazing.  Although costlier (anything from 20 euro per family or PER CHILD) they usually entail a half hour to hour long visit to a Santa wonderland of sorts which of course ends with a visit to the Mr and Mrs himself complete with a photo and gift!  It hands down beats the mall experience of Santa back home.   Although  while we were home in November  we did visit Santa at Destiny, USA with the cousins and I have to admit in the eyes of my 3 year old Princess the only thing that matters is the man himself!!!!!!

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I miss Christmas at home.  Christmas dinner just isn’t the same to me here and lets face it as someone who grew up with White Christmases each year it’s never the same without snow.  The King and I have also worked hard to combine our traditions.  There are plenty of home baked Christmas cookies in our Christmas press, and our gingerbread house is made.    But the fact is, its the 28th of December and it is still very much Christmas time here until at least the 2 January.

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…..

 

Being Mommy, Love Ireland, mixed culture family

Maternity Leave Bucket List (Up-date)

November 8, 2013

At the beginning of the summer I wrote about my maternity leave and how I had every intention of making the most of my time off since I am so lucky to get so much of it.

My mat leave is officially over, and I am now on un-paid leave for the next little while.  I wish I could be taking the full 4 months I am allowed but it’s not in the cards and I’ll be heading back at the end of January.

Since things haven’t turned out how I expected/hoped during my time off I wanted to look back and think about the positives and the highlights of my time off so far because there have been many.  And I hope that revisiting our bucket list might inspire me to make the most of what’s left.  I know the holidays will be hard for me this year.  But it’s still our first holiday season as a family of five.  I figure we have a limited number of Christmases when the kids are really young and I just am not willing to let a single one slip past without joy.

So it’s time to remind myself what we wanted to do and to either continue with that plan or adjust.

Our Maternity Leave Bucket List

√  1.Pick strawberries.  While fresh strawberries are abundant in Ireland there are few places to pick your own, however I hear The Apple Farm in Tipp will have pick your own in a few weeks. Strawberry Picking for my birthday was an absolute highlight of the summer!

2.  Manis or Pedis with the Princesses now that there are two men in the house it’s time us girls start sticking together.  While we’ve done the at home kind I have been keeping this for the winter since it is not weather dependent. 

3.  Lunch at The Pink Elephant on a sunny day.  With a nice beach walk and shell/rock hunt after. I had really hoped for this to be a summer day with a walk on the beach but we never did make it.  We were however lucky enough and blessed with the sunshine to make it to the beach lots this summer. 

√4.  Paint Rocks  We spent an entire summer painting and selling rocks when I was small.  My dear Princess M loves painting rocks!

√5.  Homemade popsicles/ice lolls

√6.  Visit Dublin Zoo and FOTA Wildlife Park in Cork.  Well FOTA at least anyway. But we did TWO zoos while we were home in NY over the summer so I think we are all had our fill of animals, I am sure we will make it to Dublin some day.

√7.  Have a sleepover with Princess M on the futon in the play room.

√8.  Splash in muddy puddles….this is Ireland after all

√9.  Eat chocolate/vanilla twist soft serve ice-cream in NY. Twice…and also in Canada.

10. Swim in a lake in NY. we never did make it to the lake, we opted to take the kids up to Niagara Falls instead so the only swimming there was the hotel pool!

11.  Have a fondue party.  My sister and her family gave us a fondue set and we don’t use it enough.

12.  Picnic in Fitzgerald Park, Cork.  We love picnics and Fitzgerald’s Park in Cork is a special place. How did we miss this one?  We picnicked A LOT this summer but it was mostly at the beach because the weather was THAT warm. 

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√13.  Wash cars with Princess M.

14.  Visit the M.O.S.T. in Syracuse.

√15.  Visit a farm.

16.  Spend the day in Cobh, Co Cork when a cruise liner comes in. The cruise season might be over but Cobh is pretty in the Christmas so maybe we will still get down there. 

√17.  Participate in World Social Media Day.

√18.  Have an indoor picnic on a rainy day.

√19. Water gun fight.

20.  Fly kites.

√21. Take family photos. We did this in NY and if you are in the Syracuse area there is no one as talented as Lisa Rossi Photography for maternity, new-born, and family shots. I swear.

22. Visit the Ewe Sculpture Garden

23. Afternoon tea with the princesses.  This is one of my favorite treats that I do with my girlie friends and it will be a nice treat to introduce the girls to. I’m waiting for the Christmas decorations to go up around here because Princess M will love it.  The King actually took Princess B for afternoon tea.  He didn’t get it.  She loved it.  

√24. Library story time.

√25.  Enroll Princess M in a class.

√24.  Try a new park.

25.  Go to the drive in

√26. Go to a concert with the King…like Bruce in July!!!!!  If I actually had a real bucket list seeing Bruce live would be on it.  We were so lucky that he came to Cork this summer and the King and I had a great date night!!!

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√27.   Plant flowers

√28. Take a road trip somewhere new.

√29.  Make sundaes

√30.  Have a make your own pizza party. Is it possible to do this TOO much? I like to think this is making pizza a ‘healthy dinner’ since we are making it at home….I’m not so sure our Make Your Own Nacho Parties are remotely healthy though.

So that’s where we’re at.  All things considered I think we did a good few Irish and American things on our list.  We’ve done so much more over the past few months and I am really looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving  and the month-long celebration that is Christmas over here!  I love Christmas in Cork and I can’t wait to talk about it all through December!  Our first Christmas party is actually the day after Thanksgiving.  That whole weekend we are doing Christmasy things and I can’t wait!!!!!

Love Ireland

Rainbows

November 7, 2013

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The kids and now the King are all sick- I have that feeling of impending doom for myself…it’s only a matter of time.

So I’ll save my sanity today & share one of my very favorite things about Ireland…

rainbows.

There really are a lot of rainbows here…more than there were in NY anyway. Enough in fact to become blasé about them, but I still haven’t. Every time we see a rainbow one of us will shout it out excitedly & we always take a second to soak in the beauty around us.

Love Ireland

Irish Skills- The Art of Fire Making

November 6, 2013
Co. Cork

I knew when I made the decision to live abroad a whole world of opportunities would be open to me and that I would now doubt learn many new things.  Some things are obvious, of course I learned to be more flexible, be more understanding and tolerant.  But there are some skills living in Ireland has taught me that I have surprised me, so I thought I’d spend some time posting on these new skills in a bit of a series.

The Art of Fire Making

coal fire

coal fire (Photo credit: see like click)

Growing up we never had a fire-place…Santa used the front door.  Of course there are plenty of homes in Upstate NY that had some sort of fireplace we just weren’t one of them.

When I first moved to Ireland I was fortunate to live in a house share with three other girls.  There was a fire place but I never had to bother with it.

My next place had a gas fire and sure anyone can learn to flip a switch.  Not that I bothered much, it really didn’t give off more heat than the radiators so I didn’t see much point.

It wasn’t long before the King then convinced me to move out into the country where we lived in an idyllic 200-year-old farm-house.  Idyllic and cold as hell.

Co. Cork

Fire building was survival, it was impossible to keep the whole house warm and most of the radiators were turned off in rooms we didn’t use.  There were days I saw my own breath in that house.  We spent most of our winters there huddled in the sitting room by the fire.  It was cozy and freezing.

With mixed emotions we had to leave our farm house when I was pregnant with Princess M…we just couldn’t have a baby there.  If it had been warmer and drier though we certainly would have stayed.

Now we’re living in a much warmer house that is right smack tucked into the middle of two other warm houses.  Warm is still a relative term though. I am certain anyone who visits from the US would not use warm to describe my house.

I have come to appreciate and enjoy a warm fire after a long day.  Or in fact on a very dark afternoon.  It’s like lighting a fire forces you to be still and relax.

It has taken me years to learn to build a real fire.  For a long time I cheated with those ‘fire in a bag’ things that you just threw in the fireplace and put a match to.  But finally after 9 years,  I feel confident that I have learned the proper sequence of firelighters, kindling, coal, wood and even peat.  I finally have the proportions right.  I have learned to practice patients and wait until the coals are burning orange before packing more on the fire and tucking myself in on the couch.

Our house currently has the added bonus of a back-boiler which when turned on takes heat from the fire-place and heats all the radiators in the house including the hot water tank.  With a good fire going we can heat the whole house.

I am sure there are a million down sides to a fire, its dirty, probably not the best for the environment etc etc.

But I do think the skill of making a good fire is handy to have…and if/when we leave Ireland fireplaces, the smell of fire and burning turf on a cold winter’s eve will be something I will undoubtedly miss and long for.

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

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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?

Love Ireland

Monday Morning Coffee

October 21, 2013
The Move to America

Molly from The Move to America is running a blog social/link up over on her blog. I’ve never done a link up before and figured this was a good place to start since it seems like pretty much anything goes as long as you are talking about your week ahead.

Here’s hoping I do it right….

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guinessjazzfestival.com

This week is the Guinness Jazz Festival in Cork. It’s also a long weekend since Monday a bank holiday. In years past we have put on our dancing shoes and soaked up the jazz until the wee hours. The great thing about ‘the jazz’ is that you never are disappointed. With nearly every venue in the city participating there is always something to choose from. I have to admit we’re not serious jazz connoisseurs but usually just head out for ‘the craic’ we usually go wherever the mood takes us and pub hop throughout the night. We’ve never been disappointed.

Like I said those are days gone by…this year…with little people in tow we will opt for one of the countless family friendly day time options. Which is also another reason why ‘the jazz’ is so great….it really is a family friendly festival.

One of the gigs that has really grabbed our attention is the Pink Panther Kids and All That Jazz where Fintan O’Neill will jazz up Disney favorites.

And maybe if we’re lucky Nanny and Grandad might take the kids for the night…..

If you ever have a chance Jazz Festival weekend is the last weekend in October and is a great time to visit Cork.