Tuesday, February 28, 2006

pictures of damage

The previous post wouldn't let me post any pictures. I think that the website doesn't like pictures posted with long text. So, here are a few pictures of the damage that I took with John's camera on Sunday.

The damage

On Sunday afternoon I went out walking in city centre looking for damage/signs of the riots. It was actually fairly difficult to find them. People had their bikes chained to the posts down O'Connell Street. About an hour after the civil unrest ended, people were able to drive down the street again. All in all, life went back to normal very quickly. The Footlocker was closed on Sunday but re-opened on Monday. The still don't seem to have shutters on their windows, though. I wonder if they will get any.

On Monday, people were talking a lot about the incident. I don't like to call it a riot because it didn't seem big enough to me. From some of the pictures I have seen, I missed the more violent part of it. Also, given the amount of tension in Ireland between the people who think the North should stay separate and those who think the whole island should be one country and the history of violence between these groups, it is impressive that there wasn't more damage done. From talking to people, it sounded like the counter demonstrators (ones who didn't want the original march/parade to happen) had gathered bottles the night before. They apparently planned to throw them at police and the marchers.

Some people were also saying that marches like a Love Ulster (Northern Ireland) shouldn't be allowed in Dublin. I understand their sentiments to some extent. It does seem like when there are supposed to be peaceful marches about an issue dealing with North/South, there is some sort of civil disobedience. Maybe people just aren't ready to put some of the issues behind them. I don't pretend to understand the situation as I have only been in the country less than a year. However, given the long history of conflict, it seems that the issues may need to be handled in a more delicate manner.

Another thing that I found interesting from this civil unrest was the comments about "thugs" and organized crime. Numerous taxi drivers have told me that there is a strong organized crime network in city centre. It seems that some believe that when the civil unrest started, the organized crime groups and "thugs" then took advantage of the situation to break in to places and loot them. The people doing the looting definitely seemed to be young, in their teens perhaps.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Poor Wales Fans

There is currently a Rugby tournament of 6 nations happening. From what I can tell, this tournament takes over a month. Yesterday, Ireland played Wales in Dublin (I think). Anyway, there were a lot of Welsh fans in the city. I feel bad for them and the tourists who came to do some shopping and check out the city.

A couple tourists (I believe French young ladies) asked us what was happening and why. They seemed a bit frightened. We felt bad for them and told them to go down to Grafton street where there was more shopping. However, the unrest got almost that far so if they went there, they didn't really avoid much. It calmed down in the south much more quickly than in the northern part of the city, though.

Fund Raising

While the civil unrest was happening about three blocks away, fire fighters were raising money! They had a fire truck and firefighters in uniform with buckets asking for money! Also, shopping was happening more or less as usual. Granted by the time we saw the firefighters raising money, some of the unrest had moved south. Still, why weren't they helping out? There were fires started during the riot after all.

Store Break-ins

During the riot, people took merchandise from stores and broke into some. When we were walking behind the stores that faced O'Connell street, we saw lots of clothes and items just dropped on the ground. A lot of these had tags on them still. They must have been stolen earlier in the civil unrest.

While we were at the riot, the Foot Locker got broken into. If you look closely in one of the first pictures I posted, you can see the broken glass windows and the police guarding the entryway. When this store was broken into, we saw loads of people running off with merchandise. We were actually behind the store and just saw people running off with sports clothing.

Apparently, Shuh (a shoe store), Footlocker, and another shoe store got broken into. Eddie Rockets and McDonald's had their windows broken. Clothing also appeared to be stolen from Penny's (a discount clothing store). I wonder why these stores were targeted. Merchandise easy to carry, poor security? Oh, there were also loads of store security guards at the entrances of any stores that were open and that didn't have the metal pull down gates.

The Guarda

I had never seen riot gear in person before. Sure, I've seen police in riot gear on the television. During the civil unrest, there were police in riot gear, usual uniform, and on horseback. I didn't get any clear pictures of the ones on horseback. When we saw them, they were riding in a line of about 5. It was impressive.

After peace was established in an area, the police then guarded it to keep others out and to maintain it.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

yep, more riot pictures

more riot

The riot

Today there was supposed to be a peaceful protest by people who want to keep the North separate from the Republic. They came down from the North and were going to march to the legislature. They were protesting the treatment of victims of the IRA and that they want to stay separate from the Republic (at least this is what I have gleaned from the news as to the purpose of the protest). However, there were some ultra conservative people there that didn't want this protest to happen. So, before the marchers could get off the buses, the others (not entirely sure who they are as the news has reported different groups) started rushing the police who were there to keep things peaceful. They threw things at the police at first and some police got hurt. The civil unrest lasted about 3-4 hours from what I can tell.

The stores closed on the streets with the unrest, as well as those near it. The police also closed some other areas. Later in the riot, the violent people burned cars, broke into stores, looted, and got into fights.

There apparently was more unrest a little bit further south in the city centre but we missed that. After the people got pushed off O'Connell street, they started to go into Temple Bar and near my building.

What a week!

This has been quite an eventful week. On Sunday, my friend J called me to tell me that she had a falling out with her roommate and she asked J to move out by the 28th! That gave her a little over a week to move. We quickly looked up her rights to know that the landlord (who hadn't told her to move out until later that night) had to give her 6 weeks notice and have a very specific reason (like J being a safety hazard or negligent or not paying her rent: none of which were true). On Monday, she stayed home from work and looked at some places. I went with her to look at a place after work so we got home late Monday evening and went to the Local for dinner. However, she took that place and I think she will like it. It is far away from me,though, so we won't have as many nights at the local.

During the rest of the week, J packed her stuff and brought it over to my place. Since she is in Paris this weekend and won't be back until Tuesday, we thought it made sense to bring her stuff to my place so that her roommate couldn't mess with any of it (roommate had gone into her room when she wasn't there in the past). Friday, J finished bringing everything over. She has moved out of her old place and stayed with me last night. On this coming Wed. she is going to move into her new place with our friend M's help. More on her saga with her former roommate will follow in her own words.

Tuesday I work up congested because I was around someone who "sprayed" my face while we talked. He can't help it and I had to be close to him while interacting. He seemed healthy, probably wasn't. Thursday I got my oven and made a yummy dinner. Mmm, Chicago style pizza. Later this week, someone made an unrealistic request. I tried to offer a compromise to honor the request and not put too much stress on myself but the person requesting declined.

This morning, I woke up late. Actually, I did a few things, then went back to sleep. I woke up again at 1:00 PM when my friend M called me. Oh, I am still sick so the about 14 hours of sleep was needed and am feeling a bit better. I digress again, though. So, M called me from city centre asking me if I could see the riot from my apartment and if she could come over because the streets weren't very safe. That's right, I said a riot!!

I got off the phone quickly and took a shower before M came to my apartment. When she got to my place, I finished getting ready and we took John's camera (easier to hide if needed) to check out what was going on. We walked down to the area that we knew had rioting and watched a bit. I took loads of pictures. I had never seen a riot before.

After checking out the violence, we did some shopping and had lunch. Things had mostly calmed down by the time I got home at 5:30.

For those of you concerned that I was walking around a riot, it wasn't very violent. The news said it was the worst violence in Dublin for over 10 years but nobody died. Some people (I think about 40) were injured and some police were taken to the hospital. Mostly, loads of people were watching the few people throwing things at the police, breaking into stores, looting, and starting things on fire. Ok, that sounds bad but I was never really concerned for my safety. I would have been if M hadn't been with me because she has been caught in riots before so she knew to move to the side if people were running in mass away from the police. That kept us safer.

I will publish pictures and tell more about the riots, like what caused them.

Friday, February 24, 2006

fried palm anyone?

A while back, I needed to charge "my" palm pilot. I say "mine" because it is really John's but he won't get it back unless he gets me a new one. I really like having it and am not sure why it took me so long to go digital. People here marvel at it and think it is strange that I have a digital "diary" (aka datebook). They ask lots of questions about it. People generally want to know if it is hard to write in in. Do I like it? Isn't it more dificult to be digital? The answers to these questions are: not too hard to write in it once you get used to it and it has a guide as to how to write the letters, yes I like it a lot, and it is esier being digital. Part of the reason I tried it out was that I am in different placces throughout the week and the Palm is a lot easier to carry around. That and I would forget my diary somewhere on a regular basis. The palm fits easily into my purse so I don't forget it nearly as often. Or lose it as often.

Anyway, I digress because the benefits of an electronic diary over an ordinary one is not the point of this entry. So, sometime after returning back to Dublin from my visit home, I needed to charge the palm pilot. I plugged in the converter and plugged the palm charger into it. I need a converter because the outlets look different here than back home and they have higher voltage. Most of my electronics only need an outlet converter. They do not need a voltage converter/transformer because they have one built in. I thought the palm did also. Wrong. So, I took the palm off the charger the next day and started using it. It warned me that my battery was critically low. I was confused. I put it back on the charger that night but it didn't seem to charge. When John got home that weekend, he realized that I plugged the charger into the wrong converter. I didn't convert the voltage. Oops. He tested a couple things and decided that if we were lucky, it was the cord that was fried, not the charger itself. We went to the electronics store and bought a universal chager cord that would plug into the palm's cradle. We tried it. We were lucky. The charger worked! Now I don't have to worry about what plug to use because it has an Irish one. I just have to figure how to charge it when I am home...


It has been pretty cold here for the past few days. Ok, by cold here, I mean it might be about 30 degrees F. Even though that isn't that cold compared to where I am from, the wind and dampness get into your bones and it is hard to warm up. My apartment heat isn't working very well. I have sweat pants and two shirts on with heavy socks. I am still not warm. My bedroom is a bit warmer because I keep the door closed and have a heavy duvet. I think I am going to go in there soon. Hopefully it will warm up soon.

Spring is coming, though. Days are getting longer here. It is still light about 6:00 PM and it is getting light about 7:30 AM when I walk Caineal. There are also some flowers sprouting up and buds on the trees.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

happy day

Today is a happy day. The oven installation guys came around 12:30. I was working on my computer when they came. They brought me my brand new oven. This is the first brand new oven I have ever had. As with many other things in my apartment, it is quirky. It is also a fan oven but at least now I have a manual to tell me what the symbols on the dials mean. I can also grill things in it and it came with a grill pan and utensil to take the pan out of the oven! The quirky thing about the oven is that the timer has to be set in order for it to work. So I now have two safety mechanisms to help me not leave the oven on.

The first thing I made in my oven was Chicago style pizza from scratch. I then made chocolate brownies. The pizza was excellent, the brownies were tasty but better the last time I made them. I forgot to take pictures of the brownies. My friend J and I just ate them. :) The best part about making dinner/baking was that I didn't have rotate my food and it cooked evenly and in the time it was supposed to!

The weather is still cold and rainy here. John says it snowed in the London area today. No pea sized hail today here. There was some on Tuesday.

Are you going to clean that up?

I don't know how many times I get asked that and other questions about my dog. I don't mind the occasional question but the answer should be obvious when I have a bag over my hand watching Caineal and waiting for her to be done doing her business. Yes, I clean up her poo. I don't like stepping in dog shit any more than the next person. Seriously, though, I get asked if I clean up after her when we are just out walking. People somehow feel that they have right to drill dog owners here. I would never think of just randomly coming up and asking a person if they pick up their dog's mess. They aren't nice about it either. Their tone is interrogational, like they are daring me to say no so that they can yell at me.

I have also been asked if I was going to clean up her pee. I actually had a guy yell at me from across a street one day that I wasn't cleaning up the pee. I have since changed our walking route (there aren't trees very close by on that route). I don't clean up her pee because I haven't thought of a good way to do it and think that the rain washes it away and she usually pees on trees so it becomes fertilizer for the ground. Besides, it blends in with the vomit, human pee, and all the stray dogs' urine. Oh, and the grease from the late night hotdog stands. Yep, they drop a lot of that because Caineal stops to smell the corner where the stand is by us whenever we walk by it. She sometimes tries to lick the concrete but I don't let her.

Where I usually walk her, because there are lots of trees along the street and few people, is near a taxi rank. At least once a week one taxi driver will roll down his window when he sees us and wait for us to walk by his car and then ask a question. One asked if I had a license for Caineal. Usually they just ask if I clean up after her.

I am also surprised at the number of people who appear to be afraid of dogs. Some people will cross the street when they see us and we get a lot of "eww" looks and some dirty looks. Few people ask to pet her or look at us nicely. Yesterday a lady did, though. She looked sadly at Caineal (she was limping a lot) and then smiled at me and looked back at her. She looked like she wanted to ask me something but didn't. A girl also asked her mom why my dog was limping. Nobody answered her. By the time I had processed what she said, it was too late for me to answer. I wasn't really paying attention because I was watching her walk and trying to get out my keys since we were almost home. And her accent was a bit different than what I am used to hearing.

While I am on a tirade, people are rude in other ways, too. The other day when J and I were walking home from the pub, this guy starting yelling things from across the street at/to us about Bush. There is definitely some anti-American sentiment here. Most people are just curious but I have encountered some who judge me based on my accent. I know that is everywhere and a part of life. Sometimes it just gets tiring to explain that I didn't vote for Bush and why I think that he got elected. I don't agree with many of his policies but I do think that he is effective at reaching and identifying with the "everyman."

On a happier note, today I should get a new oven. I am waiting for the delivery/installation people to come "before lunch."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Green" City

Dublin claims to be a green city. That is, it is trying to "reduce, reuse, recycle." As part of this plan, Dublin area residents are charged to remove their rubbish. There is supposed to be recycling in apartment buildings as well. For me, the rubbish charge is 2.65 a bag! So, what many people do, including me, is use regular garbage bags and then put them into huge ones and pay the 2.65 to dispose of the huge bag because it doesn't matter what size the bag is. The bags that John and I found fit three regular sized (not small) full trash bags. We then have to put a sticker with our address on the garbage and put it out of our apartment. So, because it is expensive to get rid of my trash, I create more trash and reduce my cost. An added drawback to the charge for trash removal is that there are about 10 bags of garbage in the "entrance way" to my building. That is to say, there is a pile of bags of garbage near the stairs leading to the apartments but they are still technically outside since the not all of the entry way is enclosed and it isn't heated.

Also, I don't have recycling bins in my building. As of yet, I have not been able to find a place to recycle or how to get the tags that have to go on recycling. I believe I would also have to pay for the recycling. There are very few public recyling bins. This also means that when I drink a bottle of juice, I have to throw it in the garbage bin, not a recycling bin like in some other cities. It also means that when people throw away the free newspapers given out every morning (if they throw them away instead of leaving them on the bus, train, or on the ground) they go in the bin. Not recycled. I would like to think that someone sorts through the trash and recycles what can be but I doubt it.

While I am on the topic (sort of) people also throw their rubbish on the ground instead of in the trash bins provided. I have seen people just drop their trash on the ground right in front of the bin! I just don't understand why people are so bloody lazy.

In order for this city to be green in the recycling sense, it has a long way to go.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Guest Writer Edition

Hey Everybody, John here, I thought I would write a quick entry on some observations I've made during the Dublin to London commute. First off is the ubiquitous 'Cheers'

I don't think I've ever encountered a word that has so many different meanings. Not only does it have the obvious usage for when people toast with their pints of bitters but many others. It is often used as 'thank you' for small things. It is also common as 'your welcome' when somebody else uses 'cheers' to thank you for some menial task. (They are English after all and thank you for every little thing.) Perhaps they are saying 'thank you' for the thanks. Most people will end a conversation with a 'cheers' too. I find it a hard word to use properly and never feel very confident with it unless I have a pint in my hand. It feels like there are often too many 'cheers' at the end of a phone conversation.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

plastic bags

Like in most of Europe, in Dublin if you want a plastic bag to put your purchases in, you have to pay a government fee of 15 cents. Paper bags are free. So when people go grocery shopping, they usually bring their own bags. It makes sense to bring your own because the bags at the grocery store are small and not very strong. My Lands End canvas bags work very well to carry my groceries in. I usually only take one, though, because if I manage to fill it full, it gets really heavy and that is all I can carry home from the grocery store.

Today John and I bought 2 picture frames to frame a collage of our pictures from various vacations. Since the frames were too big to fit in the store's paper bags, the saleslady asked if we wanted a plastic bag but reminded us that she would have to charge the government levy. Now, these bags were the size of big target bags. They cost 15 cents each. She also only charged me for one but used two. The little grocery bags at the grocery store are also 15 cents and are about 1/3 the size. I wonder why they are the same price. The huge bags are a far better value than the grocery store bags. However, the big bags ripped as we continued shopping. Pesky sharp corners on picture frames.

Olympic coverage

Since the Olympics started, I have tried to watch them a little. However, the only station that seems to have coverage is one of the BBC channels (my cable has mostly UK channels, not Irish ones) and they are on "intermission" a lot in Ireland. So, I haven't seen any coverage since the one time it was on, it was on the NBC European station and it was just interviews, no sports.

Today, John wanted to show me a clip of the American snowboarder who tried to do a trick jump, fell, and got a silver instead of a gold medal. When we found the clip on ESPN, after watching a dumb commercial, it said that the clip could only be viewed by people in the U.S. So we went to the bbc's website and found the clip there. When we selected it to view it, it said it could only be viewed by people in the UK! We then tried to think of an Irish news website. We found one and looked at their sports section. The Olympics were in the bottom right corner, the last link. The rugby tournament was the lead story. Ireland is playing somebody but I don't recall who. Anyway, we hit the link for the Olympic coverage and it was one page with stories as old as Tuesday and a tiny one from yesterday. So basically, the Olympics don't really exist here. Rugby and soccer are king here.

Friday, February 17, 2006


People complain about health care in the U.S. Insurance is expensive and far too many people are without it and can't get health insurance. However, health care here isn't perfect, either. I have insurance which costs about 50 Euro a month but can't use it for 6 months unless there is an emergency. A doctor visit costs 50 Euro. I realize that this is much cheaper than back home but the quality of care I have received is far inferior than I received in the States, even in an HMO. When I have gone to the doctor for illnesses, the doctor here hasn't taken my temperature.

When I went in for my sinus infection, the doctor didn't really even do a physical exam. She pushed on my sinuses and agreed I had a sinus infection. She didn't check my ears, my nose, my throat. No real physical exam.

Recently, I had an outer ear infection. When I went in for it, again she didn't take my blood pressure, temperature or examine my throat or nose. She only examined my ears. She took my blood pressure after I asked for a particular prescription. I then asked about annual exams. Well, they don't exist here. Women don't have their first gynecological exam until they are about 25 (I think) unless they have had a certain number of sexual partners. They then get an exam every three years. Basically, at my age, I would get an exam every two years. Also, after a woman has a certain number of normal exams, the frequency decreases. So, as a woman gets older (and her chances of cancer may actually increase), the frequency of exams may decrease. However, in order to keep my new prescription, I have to go to the doctor 2 times a year to have my blood pressure taken! Huh?

At least medicines are less here. My migraine medicine is a fair amount cheaper (even though I was only supposed to get one dose at a time) and my birth control is also a lot cheaper. I can even get Flonase (called something different but same drug) over the counter for less than half the price than at home.

I think the differences in health care here are cultural. First, people don't get the same amount of education in any profession here as they do in the States. I am not sure if I think it is a good or bad thing or just different. Second, and more importantly, people are far more relaxed about health here. They won't do objective tests unless absolutely necessary. People go to the hospital for more things, though.

Vetinary care here is also very different. Caineal has heart problems and fluid on her lungs. She also has some nerve problems in her rear legs. It would have been helpful to know some of these things when I got her but they only did a cursory exam. The vet didn't even do blood tests to test her kidney and liver functioning when I found her! When I had her teeth extracted, they did some bloodwork and things were fine. When I took her back to the vet after she passed out one day, the vet didn't want to repeat the blood tests and doesn't want to take an xray of her to see the exact extent of her heart condition. When I asked about it again and mentioned that my friends/acquaintances who are vets back home and the sources I found on the internet stressed the importance of an xray to determine objectively the state of her heart, the vet said she didn't see a need to do that. I can't help but wonder if Caineal gets different care because she was a stray. But she isn't one anymore. Now she is my furry four legged child. When I take her back to the vet in a couple months for her check back, I am going to insist on an xray. If she still won't do it, I think I may change vets. A mate's sister is a vet and I may go to her. I know I will be a difficult client but I want the best for my little girl. I know her time is limited and I want to prepare for how limited and make the best of what we do have.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

what should I bake?

In a week, I get a new oven. I am very excited about this. However, I want help figuring our what to bake first. Should I bake:
a) pineapple diamonds
b) brownies
c) cookies of some sort
d) apple crisp

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I had to go up to Balbriggan. I had a hard time getting up since I didn't sleep well last night. So, I almost ran to the train and almost missed it. I ran up the ramp to get to the train and had to push lots of people out of my way since their train just let them off at the same basic platform (other side but shares a walkway). Some people didn't want to move so I had to push them out of my way. I know it isn't very nice, but I had to catch the train...

I finally realized, that there are people on the train when I get on so this can't be the first stop. On a whim, I decided to check to see if the train stops at my local station, which is a 7 minute walk instead of a 15 minute walk. The train does stop at my local station 4 minutes earlier than the station I've been using. That means that I can leave about the same time and not have to 1)walk as far, 2) walk as fast. While I don't mind walking fast, I usually have a heavy bag and it makes my back hurt to carry it. So next week, I get to use my local station which is also easier to navigate since it is much smaller.

Quirks of my apartment

On Monday, the repair man came to fix my oven. It isn't fixable because the door is missing an important piece of glass so a week from Thursday I get a brand new oven! I am very excited about this. John asked what was going to be the first thing I cooked in it and I told him I didn't know. He suggested Pineapple upside down cake or lasagna. I told him after eating lasagna for three days at almost every meal, it would definately not be that. But I am open to suggestions. Make suggestions in the comments.

Now that I should have a functioning oven, I thought about all the other different/quirky things in my apartment. First, I have to turn on a switch in order for the stove to work. The switch is red and on the wall by fridge, far away from the stove. I am not really sure what the purpose is but I guess it may help from leaving the oven on, as long as you remember to turn the switch off. The second quirky thing in my kitchen is the fridge. It fits under the counter and has a door cover over it so an observer doesn't know where it is! The knob also comes off so you have to open by opening the other cabinet door or with your foot from the bottom.

My washer is a washer and dryer combo. The dryer somehow is supposed to dry using hot water. I don't really understand it and it doesn't really work so we air dry most of our clothes. The water heater is also strange. I still don't understand it. Basically, there are two separate heaters in the one tank. One tank always heats the water and is about the top half. The other half of the tank heats only when the timer says to. It is timed to heat the water in the morning and evening. It was broken when we got back from Christmas vacation and is now fixed and works better than it did before.

The bathroom light is also quirky. While we were in Barcelona, the light burned out. I got a new light and now it can take up to 30 seconds for it to turn on. Not really sure why but I think I am going to make John take the light out and reinstall it this weekend when he is home.

Oh, my heaters are also a bit strange. Well, they are supposed to conserve energy. I can turn the switches on wall next to them to turn the top and bottom part of the heaters on but if it is daytime, they won't emit as much heat as the evening/night time. That is nice and all but sometimes the furry friends get cold during the day.
Another thing I find interesting here (but not in my apartment) are switches to turn outlets on. There are frequently switches next to an electrical outlet that you have to turn on in order to use the outlet. Work has these. I think they are supposed to be a safety feature but I find them annoying since I often think something isn't working because it is plugged in. However, usually the outlet isn't actually turned on and my mates remind me to activate the outlet.

In happy news, John got a job offer in Dublin today. If he gets his work authorization, he is planning to start his new job March 20! We are very excited about it since it seems like it should be a good job for him.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

cold apartment

Sometimes at night the living room/kitchen/dining room get pretty cold. The bedroom stays pretty warm because it is a smaller space for the heater to heat and we have a warm duvet to climb under. The apartment gets cold because the windows let in a draft and their is only one heater in the living room and it just can't keep up with the space and draft. Anyway, one night, we came home to find Caineal curled up to the heater because she was cold. She was also snoring! Poor dog. I put a blanket over her after taking the pictures.

Happy Birthday John!

Saturday was John's birthday. To celebrate, I made him lasagna and we had some of my friends over for dinner. John wanted a pot luck but I misunderstood. He wanted everyone to bring "their signature dish." I thought pot luck was everyone brings a dish and we coordinate what to bring so that their aren't duplicates and the foods go together. My friends all agreed with me so we had lasnagna, salad, garlic bread, pecan pie, and pineapple upside down cake. M made the cake from her new cookbook that I gave her last week for her birthday. She was very excited about it because I don't know if she has baked a cake before and had never heard of anything like pineapple upside down cake!

The lasasgna turned out pretty well. I made two: one meatastic and one vegetable. The meatastic one had this "bacon" that was packaged similar to breakfast sausage in the States. Given the similarity of packaging, I thought it would be a similar product. Nope. It was basically spam in plastic wrap. It looked nasty but tasted OK in the lasagna. John said it tasted good and that is what matters.

Cooking the lasagna went better than baking the cake last week. John figured out how to get the oven door to open better so I made him open it each time to check on the lasagna and garlic bread. He hadn't realized how broken the oven door was. Basically, the two pieces of the door are coming apart. The repair people said that they will come on Monday. I get to work from home all day to wait for the technician to show up. That should be fun.

The food was good, the company was good and I think John had a good birthday. He said he did anyway. :)

Friday, February 10, 2006

never to early for beer?

One day this week, I stopped at the Grocery store to get a banana and juice for breakfast. In line in front of me was a guy with 5 cans of beer. He was with someone carrying a few cans himself. I guess it is never too early for beer.

Lately when I walk Caineal in the morning, I have also noticed half consumed glasses of beer. Bars here seem to let people take their glasses of alcohol out of the establishment. On the weekend mornings, there are usually at least 2 broken beer glasses and a couple glasses with beer still in them. When I got her, Caineal would try to drink out of these glasses. She doesn't anymore.

Last Friday, John went to the airport bar in London and he drank a Budweiser! Don't worry, it wasn't the American version, it was the original formula that is a Czech beer. He insists it is a respected beer.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

baking a cake

On Friday it was my friend M's birthday. She invited John and I over for dinner and planned to have some of her other friends over as well. They ended up having other plans like travelling in the U.S. and around the world. Pesky travelling.

M made a traditional South African dish, babuti, for dinner. It is similar to meatloaf but is flavored with curry and has raisins in it. It is also served with sliced bananas and cocunut. Now, coconut, banana, and ground beef may not sound good together but it was really good. I had a very small serving at fist since I have only had beef a few times since 1992! However, it was really good and had a mild flavor. I was surprised but I liked it. It had good texture and flavor. I ate my whole serving.

For dessert, I made M a lemon layer cake. While home for Christmas, I had gotten her a cookbook and measuring cups/spoons to give her for her birthday. The cake recipe was in this cookbook so I made a copy of it on Friday so I didn't mess up her cookbook. On Saturday, I looked at the recipe and sent John to the store for everything I needed to make the cake. I started looking at the recipe and my cake pans. The cake was supposed to be three layers but I didn't have the correct sized pans. I had one 9-inch pan so at John's suggestion, I put as much water into the pan as I would cake batter and then poured it into the other two pans I had to see if they all had roughly the same volume. They did so I greased and floured them.

I mixed all the ingredients together and stated to pour the cake batter into the first pan. After filling it about half full, I realized that there wasn't enough batter for three layers so I poured the rest of the batter into the second pan. I then put the two round layer pans into the oven. I can only bake on the very bottom of the oven so the pans had to fit on the same rack or they would have to bake one at a time. Since I didn't have time to bake the cakes separately, I poured the batter into my new mini bundt pan that I got for Christmas. This pan has to be set onto a baking sheet when it is in the oven because it is silicone. So, I got out a baking sheet, slid it under the first pan, trying to make the cake as even as possible and then slid the small bundt cake pan onto the tray also.

15 minutes later, it was time to rotate the cakes. My oven is crap. It is a fan oven which means it blows lots of air and has different settings that I still haven't figured out because the labels of all the dials have worn off. So, I have vaguely figured out which setting to use to bake things on the bottom rack. However, I have to rotate anything that I bake around in the oven because it still heats unevenly. If I leave anything in one place, half of the food will be burned and the other half uncooked! So anyway, after 15 minutes I do the first rotate and check the cake because my oven also sometimes bakes/cooks things really fast.

As I open the door, I realize that the handle is pulling away from the oven door. This is bad. I opened the door carefully, rotated the cakes, and put them back in the oven. I then do the same thing 15 minutes later. The oven door appears more loose and the front plate of glass seems hotter than usual. I send a text to my landlord letting her know that the oven door is breaking.

My friend M calls me to give me the details about the evening. While we are talking and I tell her I am baking her cake, the fire alarm starts to go off for no apparent reason. There is not smoke in the apartment but this is the most sensitive smoke alarm I have ever encountered. So we got off the phone, I took care of the alarm and turn the fan above the stove on high speed to suck up the imaginary smoke.

Then the timer went off and the cakes were done. I take one out of the oven just fine. The other wasn't done yet so I put it back in the oven and let it bake. The cake was done a few minutes later and when I opened the door, the front glass oven door came out from the handle and touched my knee! I managed to get the cake out and keep the oven door from falling out all the way. Unfortantely, John was at the store looking for powdered sugar so he couldn't help me. A couple minutes later my landlord called and I tried to explain what was wrong.

The repair people are supposed to call me to set up an appointment. I haven't heard from them yet...

But back to the cake. I let it cool and made the frosting. I then tried to frost it. This was difficult because I put a lot of lemon filling between the two layers. Anyway, after effort, I got the cake frosted and it tasted excellent! It was one of my better cakes.

Monday, February 06, 2006


About three weeks ago I got my hair cut at Whetstone, an Aveda salon in Dublin. My stylist is from South Africa and had just gotten back from a trip home earlier that week. He looked exhausted. So, I arrive for my haircut and wait a couple minutes. K brings me back to the chair, we discuss a bit about what I want and that I am trying to grow my hair out but the back is annoying me. We decide on a plan and he washes my hair.

While cutting it, we chatted about Brokeback Mountain and how people are getting all upset about the idea that there may have been gay cowboys. He and I laughed at the idea that some of his coworkers still think that gay men are either in theatre or are hairdressers. Obviously homosexuals can do any job and don't have to fit the stereotype. When he was finished cutting my hair, I hadn't had finished my extra yummy Aveda calming tea so he told me to stay and finish it. We chatted more about some opera singer he currently liked, his apartment that he bought, and other things going on. It was really nice. I then finished my tea, got some moisturizer, paid and left. However, I have a hairdresser! I don't think that he really understands or agrees with my vision for my hair but it will come. Sometimes it is just as important to have a connection with the person. Besides, my hair is at an odd stage and he quite likes it short. Well, so do I but I promised John I would grow it out and want to donate it to Locks of Love (in like 5 years when it is long enough)

Sunday, February 05, 2006


And thank you for visiting Barcelona! We hope that you enjoyed your stay and that you return soon. When you return, the weather should be warm and sunny.

These pictures were taken with John's camera on the way over but I thought they were fitting for the "final" post on Barcelona.