Here is a small glimpse at our very first Christmas as a married couple with both friends and family!
Posts Tagged With: Friends
This past week the best thing happened – Matt and I had a group of our American friends come to visit us in Spain! It was a wonderful visit, and we had an amazing time showing our friends the area that we live in and the Spanish/Gibraltarian culture.
On the day they arrived, Monday, they were pretty exhausted, so after a nap we all decided to stay pool-side soaking up some rays. That gave us a great opportunity to catch-up and for them to tell me all about their time in Greece, their first stop on their European tour.
Following a relaxing day by the pool, we got dressed up to head to our favorite local spot, La Finca. We wanted our friends to enjoy the Thai Fusion that we’re constantly raving about, and the atmosphere couldn’t have been better. We had a nice big table out on their beautiful patio, it was a lovely evening and as always, the food was fantastic. I think every single one in our group raved about their dish and the owners, Chris and Syrie, with whom we’ve become good friends, stopped by during an extremely busy evening to say hello. We then continued the evening back at our house on the patio – we lit the tiki torches and candles around our yard, turned on some tunes and kept the drinks (and cigars for the guys) flowing. It was a perfect evening.
On Tuesday, Matt and the guys ventured out for a round of golf in Sotogrande while us gals made our way down to the Alcaidesa beach. It was packed with people and colorful umbrellas, so we joined right in. We relaxed in the sand, enjoyed a snack at the Alcaidesa beach bar, Blanco, and just had a quiet day.
When the boys finished their round of golf, we made our way into La Linea for the fair, or la feria! Talk about a perfect week for the fair to come to La Linea. We gorged ourselves on kebabs (very similar to a gyro), buñuelos (fried dough balls covered with powered sugar or chocolate), and mojitos. Only a few of us were brave enough to jump on the rides – I loved one that reminds me of the Crazy Mouse, while I passed on another that included a lot of upside down flipping. My friends got to experience some Spanish culture – we found that at the fair, the little girls often come dressed like flamenco dancers. We’re not sure why, but it certainly added to the Spanish atmosphere!
On Wednesday, we woke up earlier and made our way to Gibraltar. No trip would be complete without a trip to the top of the rock to see the apes! And boy were the apes out in full force. One of the baby apes sitting on a railing became mesmerized with my sunglasses and kept touching my face, which is definitely a first for me! The rest of the group definitely got their up close and personal encounter with these creatures, until one became a little too close for comfort. My poor friend Lenore, sitting innocently on the stairs, was bitten by one of the apes. Luckily it wasn’t too hard, so it didn’t break skin. However, after that, we decided our adventure was over. We took her to the fire brigade located just at the bottom of the cable car to have it checked out and after disinfecting her shoulder, the firemen declared her safe from harm.
That evening, their last one in town, we took the group to Pura Tapa, another one of our favorites. We enjoyed a full array of tapas like tuna tartar, mejillones (mussels), cuernos de langostino, patatas bravas (a Spanish favorite), mini hamburguesas, and more. After stuffing ourselves to the brim, we relocated to the nearby beach bar, Chambao, where we enjoyed drinks and the atmosphere until the wee hours of the morning. I’ll tell you what, it may have been a Wednesday night, but the Spanish sure do love to party! Chambao was packed all night.
Sadly, on Thursday, their trip came to an end and they were off to the last stop on their adventure in Barcelona. It was so wonderful to have the whole gang in Spain experiencing what Matt and I get to enjoy every day and we had the best time catching up with them. It really has been the year for visitors and I’m so glad this group was able to make it over. Thank you so much for coming and I can’t wait to see you all in September and October!!!
A month has come and gone since my last post, and for that, I’m very sorry. I find that when I’m doing a hefty amount of traveling, I can’t seem to settle down long enough to post anything of worth. That being said, the obvious reason for my disappearance was that I’ve spent the better part of the last thirty days traveling. At this point, I’m sure you’re imagining me in exotic locals, like the colorful markets of Morocco or the storybook streets of Germany. Yet, I was somewhere much more special: with family and friends in the United States of America.
The first stop on my American road trip was Detroit, Michigan to visit my sister, Melissa. I’d never been to Detroit, so having this handy tour guide was a must. Melissa lives in an area called Birmingham that is so full of charm and suburban wonder that the Detroit stereotype seems much more imagined than reality. The reality is that Detroit is a struggling city, but areas like Birmingham make up for it. While I was there, my cousin Dan came in town to visit, I met Melissa’s boyfriend, and I just relaxed as much as possible. We had a great time introducing me to true Detroit culture.
While in Detroit, I made the short trip to Saline to see my Aunt Jen, Uncle Phil, and my cousins Maggie and Jack. They only live about an hour from Melissa, so she’s lucky enough to get to spend loads of time with them on a regular basis. It had been at least two years since I’d seen them, so I went out to catch Maggie and Jack’s soccer games and to hang out at their house for a visit. Melissa joined us for most of the day, during which time we spent most of the time playing Taboo outside on the deck. The next day, my Aunt Jen took me to Ann Arbor to see the University of Michigan and to have lunch. It was really special to get to spend some extra time with all of them, even if I would be seeing them again later in the week. After two days in Saline, though, it was back to Detroit to spend a couple more days with Mel before the next leg of our journey.
From Detroit, Melissa and I traveled to Arizona to see my cousin Katie get married. And we weren’t just spectators – we were bridesmaids! Katie’s immediate family lived in Dallas when we did, and all of the kids are close in age. So we spent many weekends getting into trouble with our awesome cousins. Fast forward to the present day, one of us getting married, and all of us there to take part. The wedding was held in Sedona at an amazing resort called L’Auberge. From breakfasts outside along the creek bed, to the stunning backdrop during the ceremony itself, this was a wedding not to be forgotten anytime soon. Every single detail was planned to perfection and by the time she walked down the aisle, Katie looked as stunning as any bride could get. There was a great amount of joy and love in the air, from sentimental and hilarious speeches to time well spent with family. My favorite moment during the weekend? A moment that lasted a few hours – getting ready with all of the girls. And I mean ALL of the girls. Katie invited all of the women to stop by during the day, so aunts and cousins and grandmothers and friends flooded the room, creating such wonderful memories all day.
After a whirlwind weekend, I was off to Dallas. I wanted to extend my trip to visit with my immediate family a little longer and to see my Dallas friends. I may go months without seeing some of these people, but when we do get together, it’s like nothing has changed. For instance, while playing Catch Phrase with a group of about fifteen friends at a Mexican brunch on Sunday at the end of the weekend, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I can’t count how many times in college that my friends and I would slowly wake on a weekend, gather together, and find food to replenish our energy, whether it be at Pei Wei or The Diner or some other greasy joint. There is also nothing like hanging around the house with my parents during the summer, swimming in our backyard pool, and popping down to the McKinney Square for a burger or bowl of pasta. That is what home should feel like: familiar and comfortable.
Alas, my time in Texas came to a close and the last leg of the journey was upon me. As excited as I was to continue my travels and see Matt after three weeks, I was overwhelmed with sadness to leave. Yet the show must go on, and the final leg of the trip was New York City. This wasn’t originally part of the plan, but when I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness, Matt was adamant that we travel to the Belmont to see the Triple Crown race. While Triple Crown hopes disappeared with the sudden injury of I’ll Have Another (and I must say, this made for a very upset boyfriend), we made the best of the weekend and enjoyed New York and the Belmont for what they had to offer. We saw Times Square and strolled through Central Park. I took a ride on the merry-go-round and we had a beer while watching the motorized boats on the lake. We walked down Madison Avenue and did a bit of window-shopping, ate some pretty incredible food both evenings, had lunch in Battery Park and went to the 9/11 Memorial. This last activity took my breath away and was quite sobering, especially when we came across a family mourning the loss of a victim. One cannot truly put into words the feeling of being at Ground Zero.
As for the Belmont itself, the crowd was still rather large considering it was no longer a Triple Crown race. We bet the races leading up to the big event, and Matt (the horse racing guru) won a lot. The big race was exciting nonetheless, with a last-second victory by Union Rags. The weather was perfect – just slightly overcast so that there was a continuous breeze, keeping the temperatures down and the enjoyment up. On Sunday, Matt flew back to London, followed by me on Monday, and together we finished the journey to Gibraltar on Tuesday.
While I’m happy to be back with Matt and at work again, there’s really nothing quite like going home again. When you move abroad you make new friends, create a home for yourself, and do everything possible to create a normal world in which you can feel happy living. However, new experiences and new places do not replace the friends and family back home, rather they add to your happiness. The same could be said after I left Ireland and the friends and “family” I created there. I try not to think of it as leaving behind anymore, but instead, making anew. That being said, I don’t forget where I come from or the people that have impacted my life along the way, so going home – whether it be Dublin, Dallas, Cincinnati, Norman, Indianapolis, etc. – means reconnecting with those that I love and the country I’m proud to be from.
There are nights when Matt has meetings that will keep him at the office rather late into the evening. Since we share a car and have a small commute, it makes more sense for me to hang around on these evenings until he’s done. Normally, I might go for a run and then finish up some work at the office, but there is one particular night each week in which I could be waiting until nine or ten. Last night was one of those particular evenings, so I met my friend Tina at her apartment for a glass of wine and good conversation. The sun has been shining (until today), so we sat on her balcony while her adorable little kiddos played around and with us. At one point, her little toddler had given me every single one of his toys, marching them over to me one by one. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Tuesday night than with a friend, a glass of wine in hand, and the playful laughter of children.
Not a bad view they have there, right?! The Ocean Village port in Gibraltar is a great spot to be located.
I cannot take credit for this fabulous photo. This is courtesy of Tina, who is quite the creative artist.
What started out as a glass of wine with a friend turned into a tea party, thanks to her cutie’s generosity with his toys. 😉
Remember when I said at the end of my last post that life would be changing quite a bit for me and Matt in the coming months? Well, if you are reading this, you stayed tuned and I am ready to reveal. I would’ve waited a little bit longer, but sitting here on my couch this Sunday evening amidst packed bags and empty walls, I am compelled to finally share. So, for those of you who do not know…
Matt and I are leaving Ireland – permanently. That’s right, we’re moving this Tuesday.
After one amazing, educational, at times difficult, and life-changing year, we’ve made the decision to move on. Now don’t feel too shocked. When I decided to move to Ireland, it was with the knowledge that it would only be for about a year or a little longer. Yet that doesn’t change the fact that this feels oh so bittersweet. Though life was a challenge here at first, it became my home. I love our apartment, the farm next door, the Irish way of life, Suas, the AWCD, and most importantly, all of my new and fantastic friends. And in one year, many of these friends became like family.
As someone with a lot on their mind and with so much to say, I can’t seem to find the words to truly articulate the way I’m feeling about the changes in our life right now. Last Wednesday, my closest friends threw a going away party for me and Matt, and though I didn’t cry, each and every goodbye hug and toast made things more real for me. I will take a lot of great things away from my life in Ireland and I am encouraged by the idea that I will be back someday.
So bear with me, because Matt and I are about to jump on the crazy ride of life. Along the way I will be sure to share just about everything, including one week long tour of Europe before flying to Texas. In the meantime, pop back to some of my old posts. I am so very glad I created this blog, because with just a click of a button, I’m transported in time to some of the most memorable, amazing, and crazy moments of my time in Ireland!
Some of my favorite pictures from the last year. 🙂
Boomer Sooner! Let’s send those traitorous Cornhuskers off to the Big 10 with one last loss in the mighty Big 12! The history of the match-up between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Nebraska Cornhuskers goes back for decades. It is only fitting that the last Big 12 Championship game happen between these two teams. In honor of this momentous and historic occasion, I leave you with a few fond memories of my Big 12 Game Days spent at Oklahoma.
Ah, the 1st of December. For many, this indicates the end of beautiful autumn and the beginning of snowy winter. Christmas trees have now become an acceptable centerpiece in homes across the world and children dream of the day that light sprinklings of snow will descend upon the thinning trees. For this young individual, snow is becoming a constant force to reckon with in my daily proceedings. We’ve been receiving sporadic downpours of it since the early end of November, and by now I’m becoming slightly irritated with the slush and my freezing ears. My cold, wet, and tired feet are paying the price; recently, my socks got completely soaked through my shoes and I had to dry them on the radiator at work. That’s not embarrassing.
Yesterday was the worst weather by far and I found myself stranded at work at around 4. My mode of transportation, the LUAS, was closed due to iced tracks in 2 stops, and I was no where close to home. When I finally found an unoccupied taxi, the snow was coming down like rain and hundreds of people were walking on the LUAS tracks in an attempt to use the shortest walking route home. At one point, our cab got stuck on a small hill, wheels spinning, and I was still far from home. With the help of a bystander, I got out and we pushed the cab to the top of the hill. I hopped back in yelling thanks to my helper and crossed my fingers that there were no more hills en route to my apartment. With a little luck on our side, I got back to my warm and cozy abode, dinner waiting thanks to Matt. 🙂
Yet, amidst the gloom and extremely icy conditions, it hasn’t been all bad. Last Monday evening, when the weather was just starting to take a turn for the worst, a Women’s Club charity event was set to take place. Combine a cozy cafe with custom-made Christinabelle Jewelry, free wine, free appetizers, and I would’ve braved most weather conditions to participate! The event took place at Barista’s Cafe and Wine Bar just 2 LUAS stops away from my apartment and at that point it wasn’t experiencing any problems. I bundled up in my peacoat, boots, gloves, scarf, and grabbed my umbrella to make my out in the cold.
Christinabelle Jewelry hosted the event, with 20% of her sales going to our charity, the ISPCC. Karen, our Philanthropic Chair, was there and even baked cupcakes for the ladies in attendance. Unfortunately, only a small handful of us were able to attend, thanks to the weather, but it was still a successful event. I enjoyed two delicious glasses of red wine and ate my weight in pâté. For the first half of the night, I sat with the other women chatting and enjoying the hor d’oeuvres. The second half was spent browsing through the beautiful jewelry. There was a good mix of classic and funky jewelry, and the prices ranged from very affordable to “I think I’ll just gaze at this for awhile.” I purchased 2 beautiful pieces for 2 lucky ladies (Christmas gifts, I can’t spoil the surprise!). As far as I could tell, none of the ladies in attendance could say no to the glamorous display, each leaving with a piece or two of their own.
So, Dublin, bring it on. Bring on the snow and the cold, because you haven’t stopped me from attending an event. I’ve even dried my socks on the radiator and helped push a cab up a hill. I won’t let the winter blues get me down, not when I’ve got all kinds of Christmas parties coming up!
Well, I did it! Thanksgiving was a complete and amazing success, though we did have to hurdle some obstacles along the way. The whole process of preparing the food, making sure it tasted good, and having it all come out at the same time seemed a little daunting. I was afraid something wouldn’t come out right or that it would get cold, but like magic, everything found their way to the table at the same time and temperature.
When Matt left for work yesterday, I immediately got up to clean the apartment, the new dishes, and to make the white salad, since it would need to sit in the refrigerator all day cooling. The white salad was the first of my worries, since the custard is cooked on a low heat and the egg yolks will start to scramble if you’re not careful. I stood at the stove, stirring and stirring for quite awhile, lifting the pot off the heat whenever the egg yolks looked they wanted to scramble. Eventually, the sauce thickened and with a few more preparations, it was added to the marshmallows and pineapple. I hoped that people would like it since it’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes (and easily Melissa’s favorite!).
I thought it would all be smooth sailing from there until I turned the cold water facet handle in the kitchen and nothing came out. The hot water was working just fine, but I couldn’t get cold. Much to my dismay, I realized that this problem could eventually lead to a complete water cut-off, causing me to completely freak out. I called the apartment company, the caretaker, and probably some random numbers in between, hoping to get someone who could help me. Matt even left work early to get jugs of water to cook with in case the problem wasn’t fixed. Of course, the minute he got home, the caretaker called, saying that kids had gotten into the basement and turned off the water to our building and that it would be up and running in no time. Though we were beyond relieved, we now have about 12 humongous water bottles.
The 18 pound turkey should be a blog post on its own. That thing was so massive and heavy and I had never dressed a turkey before…talk about pressure! While my Mom, Dad, Aunt Jen, Uncle Phil, and cousins Maggie and Jack looked on, Matt and I attempted to tie up the legs of the turkey. They were laughing so hard I swear I could see tears coming out of their eyes. The thighs on this turkey were like nothing they’ve ever seen! And to make matters worse, it meant tricky skills were needed to get the legs tied up. I think Matt may have used half a roll of twine. Needless to say, we were already exhausted just after preparing the turkey and providing such entertainment for my family.
Matt’s co-workers started arriving around 7:15 or a little later, so we made sure to have some appetizers ready for them. Being the Texas-loving American that I am, I made sure to make queso, which I am happy to say, was devoured! Most of our guests were Irish or European and had never had queso, and they were loving it. We also put out a creamy, baked spinach casserole and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. At this point, the turkey was done and sitting on the island under foil, absorbing all of its juices.
Matt got to work entertaining our guests, while I made the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. The mashed potatoes were quite easy, and I sure made a lot of them – about 5 pounds worth of potatoes. I moved those to a serving dish to set aside while I got to work on the gravy. This was the part I was most nervous about. My mother instructed me on exactly how to use the drippings, make my roo, and combine it just-so to make a perfect, and thick, gravy. I was still quite nervous, though, because it was all about improvising as the concoction simmered. I even called my Mom halfway through to ask, “should it look like this at this point?” The stuffing was a bit easier, as I pre-made it the night before, and it would just need to heat up in the oven before serving. I stuck my mashed potatoes in with my stuffing to heat up, Matt microwaved the corn, I transferred the gravy to our gravy boat, and all at once it was taken out to the table. And now I will quote my first statement: “I did it!”
Matt ceremoniously carved the turkey at the table while our 10 guests watched on and then the chow-down began. I was so pleased when everyone went back for seconds and thirds, saying it was all delicious. Even better, the white salad was a huge hit. It was a complete success and I smiled all night. I realized I really do have so much to be thankful for; my amazing and very handsome boyfriend ;-); my loving and supportive family; all of the great friends in my life; this incredible experience abroad; and all of my every day blessings – including this scrumptious meal! And I am especially thankful for our generous, thoughtful, and polite dinner guests, who all brought alcohol in thanks for the meal, leaving me and Matt with a few weeks worth of “booze.” Happy Thanksgiving!
When you combine a group of women, a good book, Moroccan food, nice wine, and a colourful ambience, it is likely that a great night is in store. Last night, this was the plan exactly. The monthly “supper out” Book Club with the women in the American Women’s Club was scheduled to happen at El Bahia in City Centre and we had a great book on the agenda: The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.
I left straight from work to head over to the restaurant around 6:30, ready to do some book dissection. I’ve never had Moroccan food before, so I was stepping into a pallet adventure. There were 10 ladies in attendance, so they put us in our own little room with colorful cushions and drapery. The music was a little too loud for our discussion, but once it was turned down, it made for beautiful background noise. Luckily, we had a new member join who is married to a Moroccan man, and was attuned to the best flavours and dishes on the menu. Not that we ended up needing her advice, though, because everything was so delicious. I had a chicken cous cous with raisins, nuts, and other spices that left both sweet and spicy tastes on my tongue. The other dishes enjoyed by the women looked equally as good and I have no doubt that I will be dragging Matt back in the near future for dinner.
As for our book discussion, for anyone who has read The Help, you know that it is a fabulous book. We talked about the entertaining characters, the well-done dialect, the obvious conflicts, and the inspiring way the women in the story handled the prejudice and problems that constantly came their way. Of course, the discussion led us into a digression of other novels with similar plot structures and conflicts, leaving me with a short list of other stories I need to read soon.
Following dinner with the ladies, I made my way around the corner to meet Matt and some of his work buddies for music trivia at The Porterhouse Central. The Porterhouse Central is a pub that specializes in brewing its own beer and I believe it is an extension of The Porterhouse in Temple Bar that I mentioned in a previous post. This location is ideal because it’s not as far from the LUAS and it is very generous with open seating. Also, it hosts music trivia night every Tuesday, which I think we will become frequenters of since Matt’s friends love to go. I had a great time listening to the 5-10 second music clip and then trying to figure out with the group what it was that we were hearing! Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but I didn’t mind, as it was an entertaining way to spend a Tuesday.
Something I am learning the longer I live here in Dublin is that every night of the week can be host to an evening out. Nothing deters the average Irishman (or woman) from having dinner followed by late night drinks on a weekday. Quiz nights are popular, and often occur in the middle of the week. I think this is a lifestyle I can definitely get used to! 😉
You only turn 25 once, so why not celebrate in style, right? While being abroad for my birthday had its disadvantages, i.e family and friends so far away, it had its upsides, too. With a little help from my wonderful family, my amazing boyfriend, and his fantastic family, I had a day that set the expectations for my future birthdays quite high.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone enjoys getting a package in the mail. So when I received a big box from my family 2 weeks ago, I was giddy with anticipation. Of course, I had to wait until closer to my birthday to open it, so open it I did on Monday, a day early. With my mom on Skype to watch me unwrap my gifts, it felt like I was at home celebrating, which was a really nice feeling. Along with my sister, my family put together a wonderful birthday package fit for a girl living in a cold place like Ireland. One cute little black hat, a beautiful cream peacoat with big black buttons, a scarf, mittens, and other essentials all combined had turned me into the most classic and elegant looking girl in town. Watch out Audrey Hepburn!
I woke up yesterday to a pretty gloomy day, which is becoming the norm around these parts, but I wasn’t worried about it getting me down on my birthday. Oh no. I had a spa day planned at the Seafield Golf and Spa resort about an hour south on the coast, courtesy of Matt and his parents (thank you again!). A short drive and I was sitting in the hot waters of an outdoor jacuzzi, watching the cold rain come down just inches away from me. I had a couple treatments planned: a back and scalp massage, and a facial and back exfoliator, both of which were so relaxing that I nearly fell right asleep on the table. I spent time in the sauna, an aromatherapy room, and had a beautiful lunch of french onion soup and caesar salad. To top it all off, the entire staff called me by first name all day and I was left alone in complete peace to read my book. Ahhhhhh.
But like a little kid who won’t get out of the pool the first time their parent’s ask, I repeatedly had to force myself out of the comfort of the jacuzzi toward the end of the visit. I needed to be home in time to get ready for my evening out. Matt and I went to my favorite tapas bar in City Centre, The Port House, and I wore my new peacoat and hat, of course. After a beautiful and romantic dinner, including a small burger topped with foie gras (amazing), we met up with friends at Venu, a bar that is known for its martinis. I know all of my friends back home kept telling me to celebrate Irish-style, or to have a Guinness/Irish Car Bomb, but I seldom get to enjoy my favorite American things, and martinis are one of them. Venu did not disappoint. My dirty martini was made with a fine Polish vodka and was chilled to perfection. Our friends and I had a great time talking, laughing, and celebrating my birthday like an adult would…well, followed by some pub action afterward!
And so another year has come and gone. If I think back on the past year, it’s crazy to imagine the changes that have happened. A year ago I was celebrating with all of my girlfriends in Dallas, minus Matt, who had already moved to Ireland. Our only form of communication was via Skype video chat, I was teaching at Apollo, and my sister was even still in college! In fact, this blog was not in existence or even a consideration, because I didn’t even know I’d be moving to Ireland anytime in the near future. And here I am, 25 years old, Matt playing on his computer, me in my recliner in Dublin, rain pouring down outside, writing about my European adventures. Kind of makes you wonder where you’ll be in a year, huh?