Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Happy Time Vortex Month!

It never ceases to amaze me how fast the month of December flies by. You'd think that by now, I'd be used to the fact that this month has no regard for the laws of physics and leaves me thinking of this clip from Fawlty Towers.

(That reminds, rewatching Fawlty Towers should be on my list of things to do in 2015.It's been a good two years since I last watched it. Unacceptable!)

Yet every December, I sit down on the 1st to plan out what I'm going to do with the last 31 days of the year and when I look up, everyone is holding champagne flutes and singing Auld Lang Syne. I assume that the month of December just gets sucked into the same vortex as the lost laundry socks.

Usually December around these parts looks something like this:

This year, however, most of the month looked like this:

From the outlook above a small beach close to my mom's house.
On the left is CFB Esquimalt, on the right is Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse.
On the horizon sit the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

Just so we're clear, the picture above was taken on Christmas Day... and we barely needed the jackets we wore. Well, that's not true. I barely needed my jacket. My mom, who is much more acclimatized to warmer temperatures because she's retired and semi-nomadic and I hate love her, needed her jacket. While we did have a good couple of days of downpour - because it wouldn't be the West Coast if we hadn't - the vast majority of days looked like the one above.

Time for a little trip down memory lane. When I was 17, I bought a Han Solo action figure. My baby brother, who hates that I still call him that (tough!), was seven and had just discovered Star Wars. He thought the action figure was amazing. After a couple of times of 'loaning' him the toy, I decided to give it to him as he was obviously getting even more enjoyment out it than I was. Guess what he gave me for Christmas this year.

I don't know how I could have made this any easier to guess.

Sure, it's not an exact replacement for the one I gave him all those years ago, but this one fits much better on my desk... and it still has all his accessories. The other Han is looking a little... naked... and he's lacking in guns.

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ireland 2014: Family Lore

When my aunt Mary was born there was serious concern that she would not make it and it was decided that she needed to be baptised as soon as possible so she wouldn't die with original sin on her. Priorities!

Someone was sent to collect my granddad from the pub - this was 1933 rural Ireland after all, men didn't stick around for the birth - and told him to collect the priest and a godfather. He asked his drinking buddy at the pub if he'd be willing to be the godfather, his drinking buddy said 'sure', and that is how Patrick Kavanagh became my aunt's godfather.

At least, that's how my dad tells the story.

I'm sure this is a shock to none of you, but the Irish do have a habit of improving stories. In fact, some might accuse them of making up half the stories they tell. Which is why I don't know exactly what is and isn't true about this story. Patrick Kavanagh being Mary's godfather, however, is true. (Mary being on death's door is also true. Her ability to cheat death is renowned in the family.)

Still, it has always left my dad with a soft spot for Patrick Kavanagh. Not only is Patrick Kavanagh a well-known (in Ireland) poet, but he's from Co. Monaghan! Patrick Kavanagh later settled permanently in Dublin to help his writing career where, as the story goes, he met a young up-and-coming folk group called the Dubliners and they discussed putting his poem Dark Haired Mariam Ran Away to music. One of the members of the band, a fabulous balladeer called Luke Kelly, suggest instead that it be set to an old Irish tune, Fáinne Geal an Lae (Dawning of the Day in English).

What does all this have to do with  my trip to Ireland?

Well, On Raglan Road is one of those songs that I always find myself humming. If we ever drink together, there is a good chance I will sing it for you. It's not my only party piece, but it's my most consistent party piece.

I knew that Conor's place was close to Raglan Road, but I didn't realise how close it was until we were walking home from town after Croke Park. We turned south too soon and had to cut across to get on the correct road when I saw the sign for Raglan Road. I squealed and did my happy dance as I pointed at the sign to Katie. And then I made her take a picture.

I know I've already shared this picture but I was just that excited about this. This moment was almost better than the rainbow at Slieve League.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Ireland 2014: Croke Park

We originally planned to return to Dublin on the Monday but I did such a great job of talking up Croke Park that Katie decided she had to see it and who am I to deny someone the joy of experiencing the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association?

Hello Gorgeous!
It started to rain just as we arrived. A kindly guard took pity on us and escorted us under his oversized umbrella to the entrance. Thank goodness we were going to be mostly indoors for the next few hours.

The museum at Croke Park is very well done, going through the known history of the sports of hurling - camogie for the ladies - and Gaelic football before progressing into the history of the GAA itself. If you ever find yourself in Dublin and you're a sports and/or history fan, I highly recommend making some time for a visit to Croke Park.

The original Sam Maguire Cup (Gaelic Football)

The original Liam McCarthy Cup (hurling)
We finished up the museum just in time for the tour. Unfortunately, they were breaking down the One Direction concert set up from the night before so we had a modified tour. There was no walking up the passage to the pitch to the sounds of a cheering crowd. Having done that before, I was sad for the other tour takers. I get chills just thinking about it. Still, I did get to see the most beautiful jersey ever created hanging in the locker room so it wasn't a total loss.

Hopp Monaghan!

I noticed I didn't take nearly as many photos this time round. This was in part because I've done the tour before but mostly because the stupid One Direction concert breakdown spoiled pretty much every view of the pitch. Not going to lie, I'm a tad bitter about that.

Look at this beauty!
Croker! Croker! Croker!
We entered the press area on the top floor and found a tribute wall to Michael O'Hehir (English name).

Mr. O'Hehir was the voice of the Gaelic games. He announced 99 All Ireland finals (to say nothing of the non-All Ireland finals and other sporting events he announced). About 2 weeks before his 100th commentary, he suffered a stroke which seriously affected his speech and left him unable to complete his 100th broadcast. He passed away 11 years later in 1996. The wall was covered in some of his more popular phrases.

I am determined to work 'schemozzle' into one of my work documents.
We made our way out to the broadcasting area. The pictures don't really do it justice but it is not a place you want to be if you're scared of heights. It's high and the incline is very steep.

It always makes me happy to be here even if I'm not here to watch a game.
After we wrapped up the tour, we headed off for a (very) late lunch and a bit of shopping before calling it a night. The only downside with this shopping trip was that I had almost no one left to shop for while Katie had about a dozen people still on her list. I don't like shopping at the best of times... I got a little bored...

Thanks to the Irish diaspora, GAA sports are played all over the world these days. If you're interested in catching a match live to see what all the fuss is about (and you don't have Setanta Sports/RTE International), check out the GAA International page (here) to see what's available in your area. (Or google your town + GAA.)

Monday, 8 December 2014

How Not to Start Your Holidays

Today is the first day of my week off. After a weekend packed full of social events and my last little bit of work before I cut out for the week, I sat down last night and made a list of all the things I was going to do this week.

Then I wok up at 2 am coughing and unable to catch my breath... also feeling like I needed to throw up. So that joyful event kept me awake for almost three hours. Guess who got absolutely nothing on her to-do list done today?

Still, I had an absolutely lovely lie-in... after I woke up to an alarm that I forgot to turn off for the week. This week has not started the way I had hoped.

At least it's given me a chance to rewatching Corner Gas. I went to see the Corner Gas movie on Friday night and realised how much I missed the show. I was expecting an empty theatre but the place was packed. The best part? It crossed generation lines. I was even seated near a large family that had three generations in attendance. And you better believe the whole theater sang along to the opening theme song.

God, I love this show. I'm sure I'll lose some cool-cred for saying that but it's true. Also, I can't lose what I don't have.

And with that, I'm going to call it a day. It's taken me over an hour just to write this. The old brain still isn't totally functioning after the night of wrecked sleep.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Ireland 2014: Galway

Galway was once a walled city run by 12 tribes. Today, it's an artsy city which serves as a great base for seeing the west. The Connemara region lies a short drive to the north-west, the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher are a hop, skip and a jump south in Co. Claire, and regular buses connect to Roundstone and ferries to the Aran Islands.

We saw none of these things on this trip.

A storm front had moved in off the Atlantic and combined with almost two weeks of go-go-go, the rain was a good excuse to stick close to town. With some well planned lunch and dinner breaks, we managed to miss most of the downpours but when they did come, they were something fierce!

We arrived late in the afternoon and I took Katie on a quick tour of 'my' Galway which amounted to me point out my old apartment as we walked past Eyre Square. We did a quick wander down the main pedestrian street which changes names more times than I change underwear before hunkering down in a pub out of the way of the tourist crowds. It was there I had made my first Hooker.

Beer, you dirty minded sods. If you can't tell from the pint glass, a Galway Hooker is a type of boat, a fishing boat to be specific. Two cousins started a brewery in 2006 named after the boat. The result is the Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale and annoying tourists like me have been making hooker jokes ever since.

After dinner, we headed back to the hostel for a quiet night of postcard writing and journal catch-up.

The main pedestrian street. Full of bars, shops and tourists.

We woke up early the next morning with the intention of going to Inishmore (one of the Aran islands) to find it absolutely bucketing down. Seeing as the only thing to do on the Aran islands when it's raining like that is to sit in a pub and drink and we could do that just as easily in Galway, we skipped the rough ferry ride in favour of a bit more sleep.

By the time we had finished breakfast and were ready to brave the downpours, the rain had all but disappeared so we decided to join a free walking tour. On the way to the meeting point for the tour, I took Katie to the old wall of the city which is now inside a mall. Well, it's not really the old wall. It's a recreation of the old wall on the spot where the old wall stood and it was made with some of the original rocks. Close enough.

Ridiculous pics or it didn't happen seems to be my motto!

We took a tour with a company called MacCoole who run all manner of tours around the city. We had a great time on the walking tour. Our guide was really knowledgeable and entertaining, and you see a great deal of the city. Unfortunately, I apparently forgot I had a camera for most of the tour.

Looking across the River Corrib at the Galway Cathedral.

Our tour guide also played a game with us based on the YouTube video of animals talking (this one in case you've never seen it). If he noticed that any of us started to look a miserable (usually weather related), he'd say "night time" and we'd say back "day time". It worked wonders because it's almost impossible to play 'night time day time' without smiling. Six months later and Katie and I still play it with each other. (I send her this video when I want to be really annoying.)

The way the free tour works is that at the end of it, you tip the guide what you think the tour was worth. This isn't sprung on you at the last minute, you are told this right off the bat of the tour. It's the first thing the tour guide talks about after he tells you his name. I would just like to take a minute and say that I was disgusted with the number of people who just scattered at the end of the tour. I'm sure the guides expect a certain amount of the people to do that, but I really felt like screaming after them "you can't even find one fucking Euro in your pocket?"

After a late lunch, Katie and I spent the afternoon shopping where I found a wooden Ireland puzzle. I hummed and hawed about getting it until Katie yelled at me that if I didn't buy it, I would regret it and she would slap me. Those both sound like very good reasons to buy the puzzle.

We headed to O'Connell's Bar on Eyre Square. If you're ever in Galway, stop in there for pint. Just do it. Trust me. O'Connell's is touted as having the best Guinness in Galway (they do do a really good pour) which is why Katie and I both decided to have a pint of the Galway Hooker Irish Stout. Meh, same colour.

Late lunch meant a late dinner and by the time we were ready to eat, everywhere was closing. We managed a find about the only restaurant that still had an open kitchen at 9pm. When you finish dinner at about 10pm, sleep seems like the only viable option.

A lot of this trip had been Katie following me where I wanted to go, so when she said on the Sunday morning that she'd rather go to the brew pub in Salthill instead of tour the Connemara, I was happy to oblige. Salthill is a small community that sits on the other side of the Corrib from Galway, just past the old fishing village area known as Claddagh. Yes, that Claddagh.

Crossing the River Corrib

They've done a great job of fixing up the waterfront walk along the Claddagh. There had been vast improvements in 2011 since I had lived in Galway, but since 2011 they had made even further improvements to the walking path. It was absolutely lovely, even on the grey Sunday.

Tide's a wee bit low

Looking back at Galway

The area is prone to flooding which saves it from being developed

You can walk out to the lighthouse but we had beer on our minds and that was an
unnecessary detour for two girls who live next door to this lighthouse

Looking across Galway Bay to County Clare
We hit up the Oslo bar, the original bar of the Galway Bay Brewery for some beer and lunch. The beers we tried were fantastic, the food was melt-in-our-mouths groan-worthy, and the decor was fun to look at.

The whole place was covered with pro-beer slogans and
their motto was 'no crap on tap'. I want to move in.
A few beers later and we stumbled back to Galway, grabbed out bags and were off to catch a bus back to Dublin.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

It Shouldn't be this Challenging!

I tried to reschedule the Ireland posts so they would start again last Thursday... except I scheduled the next one for this Thursday. Calendars are hard!

One of my job duties these past three months was to schedule over 600 people from 8 separate organisations into non-sequential, multi-day training sessions and webinars. I'm like an MIT mathematician who can't balance her own cheque book.

I have a week off coming up and I'm hoping that some couch time will set my calendar abilities back to right. Who am I kidding? I have three months of not-just-wiping-the-counter cleaning to do. Still, I can clean my apartment wearing my pyjamas and that's all I care about.

Let's be honest, if I had a French maid outfit...

I attended a work celebration on Friday night for our project. I really enjoy these types of events because it gives us a chance to socialize with people in other departments that we only know from meetings. We had so much fun that I may have implied that I would host an outside-of-work social event at my apartment in January. Did I mention the free drink tokens from my company? I probably should have mentioned the free drinks.

Also, party at my place sometime in January. Everyone's invited! Apparently.

After using up my drink tokens a reasonable amount of work socializing, I left for the Quote-Along Anchorman event in support of Movember. I never knew that wearing a fake moustache, drinking a beer, and yelling" I LOVE LAMP!" with a bunch of like-minded people in a movie theatre was on my bucket list but it is definitely retroactively on my bucket list. If you ever get a chance to attend a Quote-Along, DO IT!

I think I  just decided on a theme for the January party.

I woke up Saturday morning to a light dusting of snow. My dad phoned me and told me not to come out because of the weather. We were planning on going out for lunch and he didn't want to drive in the not-even-an-inch-of-snow. Snow is Victoria's kryptonite. I'd laugh at how ridiculously unprepared this city is for any sort of real snow but then we also do our flower count in February so suck it, rest of Canada.

Free of all daughterly duties, I went back to bed. Save for venturing out to see a friend on Saturday night for board games, that was pretty much the rest of my weekend. Honestly? Best weekend I've had in a long time.

If there isn't an Ireland post on here tomorrow evening, feel free to laugh at me on all the social media. Goodness knows, I will be!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


I have to interrupt the scheduled Ireland memory posts for two very important reasons:

1. I accidentally scheduled this week's posts for next week because apparently I don't calendar.


Sort of.

In a way.

All that "I'm too busy to even tell you how busy I am"? It's done! Or, almost done. The brunt of it is done. There are still a few things to be cleaned up, a few people to still train, and a couple of t's to cross, etc, etc. But last week, I left work on time twice.


It was like winning the lottery except better somehow.

And this past weekend? I didn't have to go into the office at all. The fact that I didn't spend the entire weekend in my pyjamas, on my couch, and so drunk I confused dusk and dawn has more to do with the fact that a friend needed me to house sit than any self-control on my part.

Amidst all the craziness of the last three months, I was made a regular full-time employee in my department. I have a job after December 31st and even better? It's doing something I absolutely love.

There are not happy Pingu gifs in the world to show how happy I am about the work part of my life right now.

Also, there will be some semblance of regularity and order to the blog commencing shortly.

That's all. We'll be back to the Ireland posts shortly.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Ireland 2014: Slieve League and Southern Co. Donegal

During my visit in 2011, our plans to visit Slieve League were rained out. It was my goal to get there this time. We went with Andy of Donegal Coastal Tours (not Andy, Linda's husband from the last post.) I would, without a doubt, recommend him. He's the guide that the Tourist Office and the hostel both recommended and there is definitely a reason. I would gladly have paid twice what we were charged.

We met at the tourist office at 11am. In the end, there were five of us on the tour and we all got along well, which is pretty important when you're spending the day in a minivan. Our first stop of the tour was Killybegs, a small fishing village just down the road from Donegal Town.

Shortly down the road from Killybegs, we stopped for a picture opportunity. Andy did not disappoint with his choice of locales.

Those mountains in the far distance are Co. Sligo and Co. Mayo (left to right)

We continued on down the road with Andy chatting away and telling stories about the places we passed. The nice thing about this sort of tour is that any time we wanted to stop, we just told Andy and he'd pull over. No schedule, no set itinerary, just a guy driving people around for the day.

And just to prove we really were on the tour:

The day was one of those windy, rainy, sunny days where you take three pictures of the same thing within a minute and each picture looks like a different season. Our next stop after this photo was Slieve League, the whole reason why I insisted we took this tour in the first place and it was heavily misting as we drove into the parking lot. I was a little worried that I was going to be 0/2 on seeing the cliffs.

But then we came around the bend in the walkway and I kind of stopped caring whether I actually saw the cliffs or not.


As I keep telling people, Katie and I were literally over the rainbow at seeing Slieve League.

Oh, and we did see the cliffs.

And more rainbow!

It was also just a tad bit windy. Just a little.

There's a narrow pathway that runs along the top of the cliffs but it takes roughly 5 hours to hike the whole thing one way and we didn't have that sort of time, so we set off to reach an outcropping we could see from the first lookout point. Thomas beat us up there.

We had to be careful walking up there because there were balls of sheep poop everywhere. Katie took to calling them shitbombs and I really can't think of a more apt description of them. Unlike Katie, I did not take a picture of them because I don't need a visual reminder of sheep crap, thank you very much.

This was where we stepped of the path to being our scramble up the rocks.

From the top of the outcrop. Not too shabby a view!

Looking back the way we came.
You can just make out our van in the parking lot.

Thomas getting all philosophical about life.

We returned to Andy's van and continued along the coast to Silver Strand, near the town of Glencolmcille. In case you didn't know, strand is another word for beach. Also, Silver Strand is a very common beach name in Ireland. It seems like every county on the sea has at least one Silver Strand.

In the summer this place would be packed with people, but on a random wet day in May we pretty much had it to ourselves.

In case you're wondering, there are 129 steps to the beach.

Thanks to the time delay on Katie's camera, we attempted this photo 5 times
and this is the closest we go to me actually in the air for my jump.

As we left Silver Strand for Glencolmcille, two things happened: 1) the rain set in for good and 2) one of the other tour members mentioned that she had to be back in Donegal Town to catch a bus at 17:15. Due to both of these items we hurried through the rest of the afternoon, only stopping at Glengesh Pass for a quick picture. I'm sure it's really beautiful when it's not pissing with rain.

I could have kicked the girl from not mentioning this at the start of the tour when we could have been more conscious of our time at the various places. Glencolmcille was adorable, the drive through the peat fields to the pass was straight out of old Ireland with the peat all stacked for drying - of course, with the rain, none of the farmers were out harvesting it - and I really could have done with a hot drink of some sort by the time we got to Ardara.


Just another reason to go back!