Tag Archives: living in ireland

Living in Ireland: Back After a Month in the U.S.

It’s flat out STRANGE to visit the United States after living in Ireland for a year.

I tried to put my finger on why exactly.

In part, I think it’s because I’ve changed. Evolved, shall we say? How could you not after moving to a foreign country?

But when I went ‘home’ I realized how much HADN’T changed. There is something comforting in that though.

I also realized that I’d gotten used to being slightly uncomfortable ALL. THE. TIME. while in Ireland.

You can try to look and act local in the face of constant new experiences, but as soon as you open your mouth you see a flicker of “you’re not from around here” pass across someone’s face.

This is especially funny when someone asks me for directions. I take it as a huge compliment that the poor soul assumes I’m a local. Fake it ’til you make it! But then I have to respond to their question and I can visibly see them trying to decide if I REALLY know what I’m talking about. Don’t worry. I mostly do.

When I’m in the United States, I’m not special at all.

Oh, we all know I’m SPECIAL, but what I really mean is I fit in. When I was back, I noticed I fit in, which is a weird thing to be acutely aware of.

That lady at Panera just assumed I’d been in her restaurant quite regularly because I was quick to order. I always get the same sandwich though.

The guy at the gas station just assumed I’d remember what zip code the credit card I hadn’t used in a year was attached to. I did…after a long, awkward pause and a quick prayer.

And the lady at the rental car company…well, let’s just say she should have asked me how long it’s been since I’ve USED my driver’s license, not if I have a valid one or not. Rest assured, I surprisingly remembered how to drive.

Our visit to the U.S. went by super quickly. I’m beyond grateful that I have this quirky blogging job that allows me to be home with the kids and gives me the freedom to work from anywhere. Even from a farm, 10 miles from civilization with slow-as-molasses internet. Talk about roughing it!

I was worried the kids would not want to return to Ireland. Not because they don’t like it here, but because it’s fun being with friends, cousins and grandparents. Thankfully, they were ready to go home. They missed daddy and all the things they normally play with.

Apparently, the neighbor’s cat missed them too. We call her Mittens. I’ve stopped wondering what her actual name is.

(In case you are wondering what my daughter is doing in inside-out pajamas, she is painting her LPS to look like Warrior Cats from her favorite book series. It’s a messy activity best done outside.)

I was a little concerned the kids were having a hard time adjusting when they announced they were going outside to play ‘cold weather survival.’

It was 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

Definitely not my idea of summer temps, I’ll grant them that.

We also needed to stock up on food because Handy Husband’s idea of stocking the refrigerator does not include food things like fruits and vegetables.

I’m teaching the kids how to ring up the groceries because I have dreams of one day just giving them a list and sending them to the store. These are important help your mama life skills.

Now, folks. Jet lag is real and it can whoop your behind. This happened to me the last time we did the 8-hour time change.

I’ve figured out what works for me though. The magic formula is to stay up all day and then sleep for 14 hours straight.

I kid you not, it works every time!

Handy Husband’s idea of overcoming jet lag is to go for a 4-mile hike the day after we land.

He’s so helpful.

I told him the 14 hours of sleep had me feeling pretty good, but no, no.

A hiking we did go!

We did get to see some awesome views of this lighthouse though.

Meanwhile, can you spot which kid and husband are mine?

Finally, we eased back into Irish life by going for a bike ride and discovering my favorite thing of all time a carnival.

This is what happens when I let the kids ride ahead of me.

But!

Here’s the good news. I think.

My boy, who has a healthy fear of these death traps, decided to get on that big sky swing.

If he showed even the slightest sign of being scared, I was prepared to go all mama bear on the entire carnival to shut that ride down, but my concerns were not warranted.

He had a fantastic time. Funny how you blink and they’ve done some growing up on you.

All in all, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to spend time in the U.S. this summer.

The place of your birth has a strange tug on your heartstrings. I realized this when I got teary-eyed listening to the national anthem being sung at a rodeo. Legit tears in my eyes, people.

Someday I’ll be back, but until then I’m happy to be home in my own bed in Ireland.

 

Living in Ireland: As Seen On My Commute

Most of us make a daily or weekly trek somewhere.

My commute has become a lot more interesting since we moved to Ireland.

In the morning I walk the kids to school. It’s 3/4-mile to the train, then a 10-minute train ride and finally about another 3/4-mile walk to school. The kids ride their scooters because it goes faster that way and this is the important part: there’s LESS WHINING.

In all of that back and forth during the day, I have the opportunity to see some interesting things. These are just snapshots. I don’t have the context around what I see. I don’t have the backstory. I don’t know the characters. I’m not making fun. It all just makes me wonder.

Like glitter boots at 3 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.


I only found this interesting because I don’t know when I would ever put on glitter boots. So the fact that this woman was rockin’ the glitter boots on a Monday afternoon makes me curious about her personality.

This is what I usually see on the train (below) – at least in the morning. Business suits and tennis shoes. Everyone is on their phones with earbuds in. No one talks – except my kids!

For reference, we get on at the second stop of this particular train route. This is how busy the train is after the third stop of the morning during the 8 a.m. hour. It’s not too bad. After we get off is when it becomes a human mosh pit.

Since we get on the same train car every morning, we see the same people. I have names for them all: book guy, breakfast-on-the-train girl, doing-her-makeup lady, etc.

These passengers have kind of gotten used to our routine, or so I’d like to think! Mainly they just ignore us.

Sometimes when I’m on the train I will glance around and wonder what the heck decade am I in? Did I just have a Back to the Future moment?

Fashion from the 80s and 90s is definitely making a comeback. As we speak, I’m wearing high-waisted jeans. Oh, yes I am! Let’s not call them mom jeans though, okay?


My train rides during the middle of the day are pretty empty, which is why I happened to see this guy collecting stumps from the train station after Iarnrod Eireann had trimmed the trees by the train platform.

I’ve collected trash off the side of the road to decorate my house, so I’m not judging. I did wonder if he was going to use them for art or for his fireplace. Either way, he was putting in a lot of effort.

I see a fair amount a horrendous amount of graffiti in Ireland. Is that normal for a metro area?

All I know is my kids have learned some really interesting 4-letter words since moving here. I apologize in advance if they share them with you.


This is the view out the window on our train ride. That’s the Irish Sea. You’re feeling super sorry for me, I’ll bet.


And those people down there at 9 a.m. in the morning? Let me zoom in on that picture from the train and show you what they are doing…

Swimming.

Naked.

At least, the person on the left is.

People here swim in the ocean all year long. I see this sight almost daily. My kids get a BIG kick out of looking for the naked man. I’ve given up trying to convince them that there is more than one person that does this.

Closer to home where everyone wears their clothes in public, our neighbor was very kind to put this sign in the grass next to the sidewalk. My kids thought it was funny that the sign, which was held in place with a screwdriver, was in a different location in the grass each morning.

This neighbor, by the way, is in his late 80s and he has bought my kids chocolate for Christmas and Easter. How nice is that? And now I feel super bad for not getting him anything.

Oh! This next one is super special.

Here’s a picture of me carrying a new frying pan, price tag and all, home in my backpack.

There was a time when I might have found this embarrassing. Not so much anymore.


Sailing is pretty big in the Dublin area. There’s even a school near us that teaches kids as young as 6 to sail.

My kids don’t seem interested in putting on a wetsuit and a heavy jacket to learn how though. I don’t know why not? HA!


I don’t like to freak out about things, but I found it highly alarming that the park near us has been WATERING THE GRASS and flowers WITH A SPRINKLER. You know I live in a place that is famous for its rain, right? So famous you need a rain jacket year-round.

It has been especially dry in Dublin this spring and the grass and flowers are feeling it, I guess. Is this climate change or an anomaly?

I keep asking the locals when the last time was that they saw someone watering their grass and they all look at me with a blank stare. Then they repeat the question back to me like they can’t believe I asked something so dumb. “Water the grass? We don’t do that here.” Uh huh.


Here’s another part of that same park on a sunny day. Gorgeous, right?

Sometimes I forget I don’t live in a tropical climate.

Then I take off my coat.


I’m not in the habit of taking photos of random kids, so please don’t think I’m a creeper.

This kid was unidentifiable, so I thought I’d share. Contrary to what this photo looks like, he’s not crying. In fact, this kid was happy as could be. I watched him for awhile playing with his mum. Then she gave him a bread roll for a snack and that kid just laid down in the bocce ball gravel and was happily eating away.

What I’m trying to say is, I GET THIS KID. Totally get him. All the time Sometimes I feel the same way about carbs.

Also, I have never once seen anyone play bocce ball here. But every single morning I see the grounds crew at this park blow the rocks back into the bocce ball area that the kids throw onto the sidewalk.

This next photo was a first for me. That’s a guy waiting for the train with a pitchfork.

If this was in the United States, people would probably be FREAKING OUT and calling 911.


There are countless miles of stone walls in Ireland. The below wall is located along a pedestrian path we take to school.

I am always amazed when I see gorgeous flowers growing out of the stone and concrete.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


An enterprising gentleman has been making sand sculptures on the sidewalk near my grocery store.

He’s pretty good, right? I wonder how much he makes by doing this. I wonder if he needs a permit. I wonder if he can make anything other than a dog because it’s been the same thing for MONTHS now.


The location in the photo below is at the start of a long pedestrian pier. I’ve only seen the Irish Sea act this way once. You’d think it would have been grey and stormy this particular day, but it wasn’t.

Usually it is completely calm in this area and we walk and scooter down where the water is washing up onto the concrete.

It was a spectacular sight to see. Not long after this was taken the Garda (police) shut down the pier to pedestrians.

Last, but not least, this is a cool bike I saw in Dublin’s City Centre. The River Liffey is behind it.


So there you have it, pictures from my commute. These were all taken in the last few months, so I am quite entertained on a regular basis. Living without a car has been an interesting life experiment. I can’t say I’m always happy and cheerful to head out on this commute – especially when the weather is dreadful. I can say it has forced me to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me though.

Living in Ireland: Groceries

Food. We all need it. We all hope someone else will cook it for us. Am I right?

One of the questions I often get about Ireland is how much do groceries cost?

Because I’m a smart aleck, I like to say “it depends.”

Seriously, though. It really does.

In general, I find things like cereal or pre-packaged foods (e.g. macaroni and cheese) to be more expensive – especially if you want a brand name. If you are okay with store brands, then you can find great deals.

So far, I find produce and dairy products to be very reasonably priced and of excellent quality.

It does crack me up that orange juice with pulp is called orange juice with bits. I love that. Also, I can make two separate dishes out of that 2 lb. package of hamburger for our family of four. Or, we can eat tacos all week…but I’m the only one who thinks that’s okay in this house.

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Here’s an example of one recent grocery trip and a sampling of what some of those items cost.

Bag of sweet potatoes – €1.46
Carrots – €.89
Grapes -€ 2.19
Banana – €.36 each
String cheese 8 count – €2.03 (it was on sale)
Blueberries – €2.19
Red Peppers – €1.50
Bag of Salad Greens – €1.15
Chicken – €5.00
Chocolate Milk – €1.59
Coffee – €6.50 (that size was on sale)

All of the items below totaled €32.38. If you are converting euros to U.S. dollars, a rough estimation is €1 = $1.10. So, the below items cost $35.23.

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Here’s another example for you with some non-food items and a sampling of what some of those items cost.

Frozen shampoo – €2.69
Large black trash bags – €1.99
Small white trash bags – €1.00
Clothespins – €2.85
Hand soap – €1.64 each
Contact lens solution – €8.27
Brown (wheat) flour – €1.85
OxyClean – €3.30
Baking Yeast – €1.89
Salsa – €1.00
Artisan bread – €2.00
Cereal (500 g) – €4.49
Laundry detergent (21 washes) – €1.79

This shopping trip, which also included some dairy items that weren’t in this picture, was €49.56, which is $54.09.

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Grocery stores here offer a loyalty card with various vouchers or coupons that you can earn. I mainly shop at Tesco because of convenience, quality and price. I do shop at SuperValu for items I can’t find at Tesco (such as molasses). Their prices are higher, but their customer service is amazing. Lidl also has stores here and then there are a variety of organic-type stores too. It’s also very common to see stand-alone butcher shops and bakeries.

Self-checkout is really popular in Ireland and it’s a lot easier than what I was used to in the United States. That’s mainly because everything – even produce – has a barcode. So they are mainly selling items by unit, not by weight.

If you are in a lane with a cashier, it is not unusual to see the cashier sitting on a cushioned barstool instead of standing. Also, it doesn’t matter what lane you are in, you have to bag everything yourself. If you don’t have a bag and need one, you’ll have to pay for it. To contrast, clothing stores are more than happy to give you a free bag for your purchases.

All in all, I’d venture to say we are spending a little less on groceries than we did in the United States. What I am most happy about is that we waste virtually zero food. I attribute this to the frequency of my grocery shopping (almost daily) and because we don’t have room to store a lot of extra food. Food doesn’t have a chance to spoil when you are buying smaller quantities more frequently. Go figure! In my past experience, the more often I went to the store, the more often I’d buy stuff we didn’t need. I haven’t fallen prey to that reality here simply because I have to carry everything I buy home – either in a backpack or a reusable shopping bag. I can’t emphasize enough how this really helps you prioritize your purchases! My biceps seem to benefit too. We don’t have any plans to get a car, but if we do, all bets are off.