Tag Archives: living in ireland

Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail 2017

We are counting down the days until we celebrate our second Christmas living in Ireland!

Last year I didn’t know what to expect as far as the holidays go and I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone – including retailers – really get into the Christmas spirit here. This makes sense given the heavy Catholic influence in Ireland.

There is no “buffer holiday” between Halloween and Christmas in Ireland, so the holiday decorations starting going up in early November. As an example of how early festivities start, the tree lighting event in our town was on November 18. Santa arrived on a Harley Davidson (why not?) to turn on the town’s Christmas lights. Then there was a fireworks show, which we watched from the pier along the bay. It was pretty fantastic!

Retailers get in on the action too. They don’t miss an opportunity! Perhaps it is no surprise then that Black Friday IS a thing here. It came to the U.K. and Ireland not too many years ago due, in large part, to the influence of American retailers. It happens on Thanksgiving weekend, just like in the U.S.

Today, as I did last year, I am sharing some pictures of Christmas in Irish retail. Mainly just storefronts because I avoid actually going IN stores for holiday shopping as much as possible.

These pictures were taken on my daily commute around South Dublin. The lighting and conditions are less than ideal. Terribly, really. So, in the spirit of the season, please forgive the quality of the images and ALL the window glare!

Come along on my walk…


Here’s a children’s clothing retailer riffing on the magic of the season.

Right next door is a men’s clothing store giving me ALL THE PANIC.

You’ll see why…

Really, people? Really? That typo made me hightail it out of town the mall!

Kidding, but I did leave town to get pictures of the Blarney Woollen Mills during our visit to Blarney Castle.

This is the largest gift shop in Ireland according to their sign.

If I’m going to be in a store this is the type I’d choose!

The Christmas decorations were among the best I’ve seen this year.

The store had a mixture of high-end clothing and home goods coupled with your traditional souvenir tchotchkes.

Closer to home, here’s the sidewalk outside of a cute flower shop.

I see this every Wednesday when I drop my daughter off for her painting class.

An outdoor retailer opened a new location near us and this is their Christmas display.

It’s been quite cold lately in Dublin, so I’m sure their business is hopping!

I’m pretty sure I shared this one last year, but it’s just such a sweet window.

The animals all move and the kids love it.

This cafe is never open when I walk by early in the morning.

That’s a shame because look at their tree!

You know I’d like to make one!

Handy Husband is a little bah-humbug on the idea. He says things like, “what would we do with it?” And I say, “hang all of our leather flipflop keychains let’s not worry about the details.”

Here’s one of the windows from the bookstore, Eason.

Eason is like the Barnes and Noble of bookstores in the U.K. and Ireland. This is also where you buy things like office and school supplies.

Even thrift stores get in the Christmas spirit. This one is run by St. Vincent de Paul.

There is not one dominant thrift store retailer like Goodwill or Savers in Ireland. Instead, every single charity runs a tiny thrift store. I might have to write more about that at some point.

I also shared this storefront window last year. I just love what this high-end women’s clothing shop does to decorate for Christmas.

You can see a very nice reflection of a church in the window too. These pictures…oh well.

I’m not exactly sure what this place does, but they sure like cold weather creatures.

Not a storefront, but the best use of a trash can I’ve seen in awhile!

Also, they call them bins instead of cans. So, a garbage truck is a bin lorry.

I love the use of greenery on the front of this cafe.

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but they have blankets on each of those barstools so you can wrap up while you drink your latte. I like small touches like that.


As I finished typing this post, I looked up and IT WAS SNOWING! Teeny tiny flakes, but it was snow! That counts. Being right on the Irish Sea with moderate temperatures, it is really hard for it to snow in Dublin.

My kids are at school and I just hope they got to see it. It lasted maybe 10 minutes and, of course, did not stick. My son put a wish for snow on the wishing tree at a local church last week and he would be so happy to see his wish come true.

P.S. If you want to see last year’s Living in Ireland: Christmas in Retail post, click here.

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Living in Ireland: Storm Ophelia

I had planned to share a delicious recipe with you today, but food isn’t on my mind.

Coming from me, this is pretty shocking, I know! I’m always thinking about food.

Storm Ophelia, the remnant of Hurricane Ophelia, pounded Ireland on Monday. It was predicted to be the worst storm in 50 years to hit the island.

The island, which includes two countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is the size of Indiana in terms of land mass and approximate population.

If you’re thinking it is extraordinarily rare for a hurricane – even one downgraded to a tropical storm or depression – to make it this far north, you’d be right. It’s definitely not normal.

At first, just a handful of counties on Ireland’s west coast were expected to be adversely impacted by Ophelia, but by Sunday night that changed. A red weather warning – the highest category – was issued by the Irish government for the entire country.

This declaration prompted school and government office closures for Monday. My kids were THRILLED to have a day off.

In the Dublin area, where we live on the west coast, it had been unusually warm for 3 days prior to the storm hitting. It was awesome, but a little strange. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll remember I mentioned that on Friday when I was in Dublin.

If you’ve lived in Ireland for longer than two seconds, you know that bad weather is to be expected and you do not squander warm, sunny days. It’s an unwritten code or something. So we did all the things you do when Mother Nature gifts you warm days in October – go to the park, walk on the beach, play outside, do yard work, etc. It was awesome! Well, maybe not that yard work part.

The red weather warning and subsequent school closure notice didn’t come until maybe 8 p.m. on Sunday night. All the things I had planned on doing on Monday were definitely not happening.

Because my internal body alarm likes to show me who’s boss, I was up bright and early on Monday. Why can’t that happen every Monday? At 7:30 a.m., I walked to the store for milk. It was still unusually warm and there was a mist in the air, but hardly any wind.

Buses and trains were operating, but there weren’t many cars out and about. Although, it was 7:30.

Strong gusts in our area started around 11 a.m. just as Handy Husband made it back from work. His company had issued an evacuation notice ahead of public transportation shutting down at 2 p.m.

If you got stuck in the city after the trains and buses shut down, I’m sure it was not pleasant trying to find a way home.

In the mid-afternoon I took this photo out my daughter’s bedroom window.

I was fully anticipating our power to go out based on the winds we were experiencing, which continued well into the evening.

News reports were rolling in all day of power outages. At the peak, 360,000 were without power due mainly to trees falling on power lines. The morning after the storm, 245,000 were still without power. 3 people died. There was flooding and wind damage in various areas along the west coast.

For our family, this storm became a great exercise in being smart and prepared, but hoping for the best. We had water, food, flashlights and back up batteries for phones. We’ve lived in areas with earthquakes, snow storms, ice storms and tornadoes, so we have a healthy respect for Mother Nature.

This is the view I woke up to on Tuesday morning. What a difference a day makes, huh?

I’m glad public officials operated with an abundance of caution in shutting down schools and government offices during the storm because you just don’t know. There’s no reason little kids should be walking to school when winds are strong enough to uproot trees.

I am extraordinarily thankful that the storm left our neighborhood relatively unscathed. I’m so happy for the unexpected family time too. We had dinner together – all 4 of us – on a Monday night, which never happens. I’m also saddened for the people who lost their lives and for those who suffered real damage. It’s a weird thing for us human beings to carry so many conflicting emotions at one time, isn’t it?

If you are moving to a new state, region or country, I encourage you to figure out right away what the local news sources are in your area. It can be frustrating or uninteresting to read about local news when you have no idea what they are talking about and it’s hard to relate to the information. However, it is important to know where to go for trusted information should a local emergency develop. This includes signing up for news or emergency alerts for your area. You don’t want to be caught unaware.

Since I’m dialed into my local news, I now know that Storm Brian is on its way.

*sigh*

I was hoping for a slightly happier story about baby kittens or something.


Here are a few local Irish resources, but by no means an exhaustive list.

An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s National Police Service)

The Irish Meteorological Service 

Office of Emergency Planning

Irish Times

Irish Independent

Bus Éireann

Irish Rail

Dublin Bus

Luas

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Living in Ireland: That Time A Tree Came Down

In mid-August the Irish village I live in started replacing sections of sidewalks (aka footpaths) on our street.

It’s now October and they are still working on it.

One might assume I live on a really long street.

Nope. Not at all. There are probably 14 houses along this stretch of road.

One might also assume this construction crew is juggling projects all over the area.

Wrong again! I know this because I finally broke down and asked.

Anyway, the point is I like to judge things I have no expertise in I don’t understand why, but it’s taking a really long time to replace the sidewalks.

So imagine my surprise when I left the house one afternoon (not much was happening in the way of construction) and I come home two hours later to find an entire tree that was right in front of our house has been chopped down and wood chipped.

(The cherry tree to the left of the machinery. This was taken a few days prior to Tree-pocalypse.)

WHAT?!?!

Prepare a girl!

I smiled and waved hello to James, Sean and the rest of the crew. Yes, they’ve been working here long enough I’ve learned their names. Then I casually sauntered up my driveway like trees being cut down in front of my house with no notice happens all the time.

I spent about 5 minutes unpacking my groceries and debating with myself on what I should do next.

Do I want to feel like an idiot? Or will I regret doing nothing more? Hmm…

Choices, choices.

Not a fan of the idiot feeling, I must say. Or the dumb American feeling.

But, I went out there.

And I asked the group of worker men, very sweetly, if I could have a slice of the tree’s trunk that they decimated was laying there in chunks outside my house.

I know they understood me because I’ve been told Americans speak very slowly. But it took a half a beat for them to process my request. Like, why in the world would she want a slice of the tree?

But, one of them – not the guy who would do the work – said, “sure!” And sent his subordinate off to the truck to get the chainsaw.

It took two of them and one mess-up (he didn’t make a straight cut for which he received merciless ribbing), but I got my wood slice.

They asked me what I was going to do with it and I said in a not-at-all-idiotic way, “I’m not sure. Yet!”

Honestly, I was so excited – ridiculously excited to have a slice of this cherry tree – that it was all I could do to not GIGGLE like an Irish school girl.

I tried to beat a hasty retreat after they gave me my tree slice, but who knew it was going to be so freaking heavy?!?

Not 5 minutes after I brought my treasure inside did I look out the window to see the wood chipper truck pulling away. That’s how close I was to missing out on this treasure.

It still boggles my mind that anything happened THAT quickly in this construction zone, but it just proves…I’m not sure what it proves, actually.

Draw your own conclusions.

The slice is drying and it did crack, but that’s okay. I love that wood slice. Someday when we leave Ireland, I will be able to take a piece of the island, from right where I lived, with me.

In case you are wondering, I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the wood slice. I’ll be happy to overshare all the details when I do figure it out though!


P.S. James and Sean said they’d plant a new tree with less invasive roots to replace the one that came down. I’m still waiting. But the new sidewalks are fabulous.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

grocery-1
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.

grocery-3
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.

grocery-2

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.

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