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Love Ireland, Visit Ireland

We’re Still Hurling

September 11, 2013

Last Sunday’s All Ireland Hurling Final between Cork and Clare was no doubt the much anticipated sporting event of the year. There was great excitement in Cork in the lead up to the game. The match itself proved to be nothing short of exciting. I have since heard of at least one middle aged man spending the rest of the evening under observation in the hospital for chest pains following the stress of the game. By all accounts the final ten minutes were intense with everything to play for. After two minutes of added time it finally had ended….

in a draw….a TIE!!!!!

So what happens when the All-Ireland Hurling final ends in a tie? How many minutes of over-time is there?

The answer is 70 minutes of extra time!!! 70 minutes, an entire re-match will be played at the end of the month.

So for another few weeks the teams will train and prepare. The Cork colours red & white will continue to be displayed outside homes, businesses and on cars.

And once again the search for the coveted tickets begins because being at the match last week does not mean you get into the rematch. The tickets are hard to come by with every GAA club the world over entitled to a portion. The people of Cork and Clare will once again be reaching out to those in other counties…and even other countries for tickets.

So if you’re reading this somewhere back home and have any links with the GAA, I’m sure I can find a few people who would could put a few tickets to use!!!!

Love Ireland, Visit Ireland

The Hurling Tradition

September 4, 2013
Flag of Cork, Ireland

Flag of Cork, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Sunday Cork will play Clare in the All Ireland Hurling Final. Hurling is one of two gaelic sports in Ireland. For those unfamiliar with hurling it is the fastest field sport in the world and probably the closest American sport to hurling is lacrosse. The object of the game is to pass the ball (slioter) on hurleys down the field to score one point by sending it over the bar between two uprights or to score three points by getting the ball into the goal. The players, called hurlers wear no protective padding with the exception of a helmet which were only made mandatory in 2010.

MS Paint image to show GAA colours
MS Paint image to show Clare GAA colours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most countries across, sport is a significant part of culture. Ireland is no different. Hurling is believed to have been played in Ireland for over 2000 years having been brought to the island by the Celts. During the times of occupation by England, while the Irish language was nearly lost, the gaelic games of hurling and gaelic football continued to thrive. Hurling and gaelic football continue to gain popularity among Irish diaspora across the world with international GAA clubs across the world.

The Irish games of hurling, the women’s equivalent camogie and gaelic football are played in schools and at local clubs within each county. Within Ireland there are over 2000 local GAA clubs (with Cork having the most clubs of any county and over 260). Although both hurling and gaelic football clubs exist in Cork, the county is for the most part known as a hurling county. However, the Cork footballers have been very successful in their own All-Ireland campaign in recent years.

Children start playing young and often dream of the honor and esteem of playing for their own county one day. Even my own held her first hurley before she could walk. There are families throughout the country that are associated with the sport having produced multiple county players across several generations.

This week, as the hurling season draws to a close with the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final the men of the Cork and Clare teams are preparing to battle. They are not professional players, most hold full-time jobs in addition to their commitment to the sport. They have trained hard since childhood. They continue to play for their club teams as well as being included on the county panel for selection. Over the years their families, wives and girlfriends have made many sacrifices for the GAA. The senior players are heroes and icons within their county. They are often seen making charitable appearances at schools, clubs and other community events. They are held in great esteem and have undoubtedly accepted this esteem with dignity and respect.

Across Cork people’s homes, businesses, even towns are decorated in the red and white county colours. Undoubtedly Clare is a sea of blue and yellow this week. Tickets to the match are like gold dust. While the entire country will be watching, this Sunday’s match will mean more to the people of Cork and Clare as it is the country you are born in that you will support for your lifetime.

And as an expat married to a Cork man we live the tradition. The house is decorated, we watch the match all our Cork jerseys are ready to be worn and we’ll be watching together on Sunday.

(Photo credit: just4you.ie)

Love Ireland

Beach Bound

July 8, 2013

We’re having a heat wave in Ireland…sunshine and temperatures above 20 degrees celsius. Whenever this happens, as much as possible the world stops a little and everyone goes outside.

Laundry doesn’t get done. People work diligently to be able to leave work on time or perhaps a few minutes early. The butchers stock their displays with BBQ meats. The ‘cozy’ pubs are vacant while the pubs with beer gardens our outdoor seating areas of any kind are jam packed.

Everyone is happier, you can honestly see a spring in the nation’s step. Everyone is outside.

We are lucky enough that my in-laws have a small mobile home at the beach and just happened to be abroad on holidays having left us the keys. With constant sunshine forecast for the next few days I spent most of Thursday and Friday packing us up to head to the beach for the weekend.

And yes it did take the better part of two days because it turns out going anywhere these days takes some serious logistical planning. I raided all the wardrobes and drawers to find those few items of clothes we have for weather like this. Swimsuits, shorts, sundresses and tank tops were packed. The car was finally loaded with sunscreen, food, toys, clothes and all the baby gear the Prince requires.

I enjoyed a lovely evening walking on the beach and throwing stones in the water with the kids while we waited for the King to join us after work on Friday. There is something about the ocean that immediately calms me and I was content. We all went to bed Friday dreaming of a sun filled few days together.

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the princesses

We woke Saturday morning to….overcast skies and fog!!!!! Not a patch of blue or ray of sun to be seen.

Remaining optimistic we held hope that the sun would burn it off & leave us with a glorious day. We enjoyed a lazy morning being together around the mobile home.

Then I realized in my optimism and excitement for our beach weekend I packed like I was going to the Jersey shore, not the south coast of Ireland. While packing my brain completely ignored the fact that despite the temperature and sunshine, the Irish coast is windy. And we’re not talking a balmy gulf coast breeze….

I had packed Princess M one pair of leggings and one jumper. The Prince had one blanket. Princess B, having packed herself, was seemingly prepared for all types of weather. The King and I? We were just going to be cold.

How many times have I been to the beach here and I still haven’t learned. Princess M seems to have my American blood and often complains of being cold even in the finer weather (because let’s stop kidding ourselves…it never really is warm here). And yet, 9 years later I still am hopeful that 23 degrees Celsius will somehow mean 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The sun came out and we enjoyed an hour or so at the beach in the late afternoon before the Princesses both were covered in goose bumps. The King and I have vowed to purchase one of those beach windbreakers (that I never saw before coming to Ireland) before next summer no matter how many times we make it to the beach and it actually gets used.

Back at the mobile home we sat in the sun together & Princess M loved just being outside and making new friends. There was less wind and no need for jumpers until the sun went down. I was the only one who knew to miss the heat of weekend spent at the Jersey shore. We were together, and that’s really all that mattered.

We woke to glorious sunshine on Sunday and spent hours at the beach playing in the sand and splashing in the water. We knew to head back to the mobile home when the breeze picked up in the early afternoon. The car is covered in sand and we all have a sun-kissed glow…just like we really were at the Jersey shore. And our heat wave continues…..

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Garretstown Strand, Kinsale, Co Cork

Love Ireland, Missing Home

Paper or Plastic???

June 24, 2013

Have I mentioned how homesick grocery shopping in Ireland can make me?

Trust me there have been many tears shed while standing in the grocery store being unable to find that one ingredient for mom’s christmas cookies she makes every year.

I also must admit I cried at the site of Frank’s hot wing sauce when Dunnes began carrying it.

I also ran to Aldi when it opened last Thursday because they had Libby’s canned pumpkin…..

It will forever be one of those daily mundane tasks that can have me missing home on a moments notice…but I am adapting.

Due to a government levy on plastic bags, I have become accustomed to bringing my own bags rather than being offered that comforting option “paper or plastic” and answering “both.”

Sure on more than one occasion I have found myself stuffing groceries into pockets and handbags while balancing the remainder precariously in my arms simply because I had forgotten my bags and was certainly not going to be buying more at 70cent per bag when I have a press overflowing with them at home.

BUT, I have also relished the moments of triumph when I have remembered my bags.

And while I have experienced the annoyance of having to get the correct change simply to unlock a shopping trolley from the trolley bay, not once has my car been struck by a rogue shopping cart left sailing in the wind by some negligent shopper.

For at least the first year i lived here I broke out in a sweat trying to bag my own groceries in a speedy manner rather than suffer annoyed glances from other shoppers more adept at bag packing.

But I have learned the efficiency of loading the conveyor belt in such a manner that permits speedy bag packing such that all the fridge/freezer food is bagged together making unpacking at home also more efficient.

After 9 years it seems I have grown accustomed to my new way of life. The last time I was home visiting my favorite grocery store, I was shocked to find myself almost irritated while shopping. I mean really is there a need for paper AND plastic bags???

I was tempted to point out to the cashier (and therefore bag packer) that I was (believe it or not) a relatively fit person who could in fact carry bags containing more than 4 items in them.

And why the hell can’t people in NY put their shopping carts back where they belong?!?!

Does anyone else find there is something that can make them both long for home yet they have also grown to appreciate as a new way of life abroad??

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.

Being Mommy, Love Ireland

Maternity Leave Bucket List

June 21, 2013

The Prince is just over a month old and already I am panicking at the thought of having to go back to work full time.  With Princess M I didn’t have this strong urge to drastically change my professional life (as in lessen it).

The truth is I love my job.  I worked and studied hard to qualify in my profession.  I work with some great people, my mind is challenged and I like to think I make a difference.  I love my job, I do want to go back and continue to work hard there, ideally I would however wish I didn’t have to do it so much.

So until I win the lotto or come up with a grand idea that will allow me the financial freedom to work less, play more.  I am intending to make the most out of every day of my maternity leave.

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 hearThe Apple Farm in Tipp will have pick your own in a few weeks.

2.  Manis or Pedis with the Princesses now that there are two men in the house it’s time us girls start sticking together.

3.  Lunch at The Pink Elephant on a sunny day.  With a nice beach walk and shell/rock hunt after.

4.  Paint Rocks  We spent an entire summer painting and selling rocks when I was small.

5.  Homemade popsicles/ice lolls

6.  Visit Dublin Zoo and FOTA Wildlife Park in Cork.

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

8.  Splash in muddy puddles….this is Ireland afterall

9.  Eat chocolate/vanilla twist soft serve ice-cream in NY.

10. Swim in a lake in NY.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!!!!!  ( on life’s bucket list)

27.   Plant flowers

28. Take a road trip somewhere new.

29.  Make sundaes

30.  Have a make your own pizza party.

Living Abroad, Love Ireland

Starting today….maternity leave!!!!

May 1, 2013

Every once in a while (alright more often than I would like it to happen) a family member or friend will give me the “well you should more back to the US” comment.

This usually happens when I am at home diving head first into my favorite wings, or when I am complaining about the weather in Ireland…so it’s a pretty fair to expect certain loved ones to seize the opportunity to remind me it’s not to late too come back.

…as if Syracuse gets more sun than Cork!

Besides talking about the weather is a cultural pastime for the Irish.

I know it all comes from a good place but I like to think of it as bullying tactics…sure bullying is the buzz word these days, right?!?

Anyway, I often feel the need to remind them of one of the million reasons I choose every day to stay in Ireland (& there are a million) but today it is this……

6 months PAID maternity leave!!!!! You heard me….6 MONTHS PAID!!

Starting today I am on a 6 month paid holiday (because surely baby number 2 will be a breeze right?!)

Before I go any further I have to explain that while I am incredibly fortunate that my work “tops up” what the government Maternity Benefit gives me weekly, there are certainly a lot of Irish women who don’t actually get their full salary while on maternity leave.

But like I said I am incredibly fortunate.

A lot of Irish and Europeans feel maternity benefits could be much improved across the board.

However, coming from one of only FIVE countries in the world that still have ZERO national paid maternity leave benefit for new moms I am pretty damn happy.

So surely, maternity benefit alone is reason enough for me to remain on the island throughout my childbearing years don’t you think?

But in all honesty it’s just one example of the far better work/life balance I find over here.
And that is really one of the biggest (of the million) reasons I love living in Ireland.

** apologies if this post causes any undue upset to my American friends who are facing much less (non-existent maternity leave) I don’t mean to gloat. OK maybe I do…..no really, I don’t.