Lovely, Lovely Ireland

I recently went on a trip to Ireland, which is why I have been silent for the past few weeks. This vacation knocked another item off my bucket list, so I have a lot to say about my adventures to the Emerald Isle—more than can be said in just one post.

My first observation is that referring to Ireland as the “Emerald Isle” is truly apropos, because almost everywhere I went, with the exception of “The Burren” (more another time), the landscape was covered with lush green grass. I guess there is something to be said for rain, because my lawn here in South Carolina is an embarrassment compared to what I viewed there.

As I mentioned in a previous post (The Best Places to Pee), I am not a fan of American bathrooms, which are severely lacking in privacy, because people waiting for a stall can easily peak while you leak because our doors are just not tight enough. Observe a typical Irish stall:

I smiled while waiting for a stall to become available when I visited the famous Cliffs of Moher. It appeared to be a typical bathroom—lots of stalls and sinks—and a bit of waiting, but when the door opened up, out popped a man who headed to the sinks to wash his hands. It was a coed bathroom, and guess what, the sky did not fall and no one gave him a glance. I wondered how Vice President Pence and his wife, “Mother,” would react if confronted with a similar scenario.

Most of the toilets had two buttons to flush—regular and super charged. Sometimes you just don’t need the extra boost, so why waste water?

Moving on… I never saw so many sheep in my life. Cows came in a close second. The hills were alive with visions of mostly white sheep grazing peacefully in the fields and occasionally causing our tour bus to come to a halt while they crossed the street.

Irish kids really like blue hair, and they are into the puzzling-to-me-fashion of the ripped jeans look. I just don’t get it!

While all the restaurants were thankfully smoke-free, the same cannot be said for the streets. It appeared to me that there is just a lot more cigarette smoking going on in Ireland. That was disturbing and unpleasant.

Most of the people we met were extremely friendly and were particularly interested in expressing their distaste and puzzlement with our president. When we visited the town of Castlebar, they expressed hope that Joe Biden would become our next president, particularly because he had visited there in 2016 since he has roots in the area. It was personal for the townspeople. They even had a flower with his name.

On the return train from Belfast, two young women who were seated opposite us explained their shared shock with the rest of the world on hearing the election results. This led to an explanation of the disparity between the Electoral College results and the popular vote, which puzzled them even more. They just shook their heads in confused amazement.

During a cab ride in Dublin, when our driver learned we were from the South, he just assumed we were Trump supporters. When he learned otherwise, he asked us how the voters in the Bible Belt could support such an immoral, uncaring, heartless person. We agreed that we were perplexed as well.

A surprise to me was learning that some Irish people speak only Irish. I wrongly assumed everyone spoke English, and some spoke Irish as well. All the signs are in both English and Irish. It is an interesting language to hear and reminded us of the Hebrew language in which many sounds come from the throat, sounding to me like someone trying to clear their throats of phlegm.

And for those whose drink of choice is iced tea, I must say that while it was never a problem getting hot tea, I never saw what we in the south call unsweet or sweet tea. But Guinness is everywhere!


The Last One Bites the Dust

We recently celebrated the end of an era and now all our chldren are married. This time, we were smack dab in the middle of God’s country. (I even saw a sign proclaiming this.) As an aside, in researching this location, I learned that this was the area where the Seventies television show, The Waltons, was set. My Baby Boomer readers will understand when I say that this is a severely remote part of Virginia!

Nellysford, the town where all the festivities would be occurring, is so remote that tea bags were apparently unavailable for purchase. In order for our guests to have tea in addition to coffee at the reception, we had to buy them in South Carolina and deliver them to the reception. (I could never live where I could not get myself a box of Tetley tea!

But back to our celebration weekend. A lot happened before we walked Casey down the aisle, and I mentioned to more than one person that I felt as if I were in the sequel to the 1970 film, The Out of Towners. I called our film The Out of Towners: Mountain Edition.

Dad and I were on the road before 8:30. Kelly, Mark, and the kids were set to follow after school. That didn’t happen, because within minutes of their planned exodus from their home, Lily projectile-vomited all over herself and her daddy.  We all talked and agreed they should wait until the morning. Lily told anyone who was remotely interested about the details of vomiting on Daddy, complete with the specifics of the color and volume.

Our hotel was on the top of a mountain on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While I admit it was beautiful, it was also exhausting, and I did not enjoy hearing that Mark had purchased bear repellent in the event of an unfortunate meet-up with a wooly friend on his planned hike.

I quickly decided to abandon my physical therapy exercises after seeing that I would be replacing my leg lifts with never-ending stairclimbing—even when going to the bathroom. (14 steps up and 14 steps down.)

We unpacked our suitcases and stocked the kitchen with the snacks and drinks we brought in anticipation of entertaining some of our guests. With horror we discovered that the kitchen had a Keurig rather than a coffee pot. While we are regular Keurig users, which I love for their convenience but hate because of the negative environmental impact, we had only brought a can of coffee because “Kitchenette includes mini fridge, range top, coffeemaker, toaster,” according to the resort website. Left behind was probably 300 Keurig pods. We asked for a coffee pot and was literally brought the pot, but not the entire coffee maker.

Jamie and Geoff arrived close to midnight amidst so much fog that Geoff had to literally get out of the car to determine whether Jamie should turn left or right. It was quite the frightening end to an exhausting six-hour drive in the rain.

Kelly and Mark left before dawn the next morning, with the kids covered in protective sheets and with barf bags readily available for the next “episode.”

The wind on the mountain top was notable—so much so that it literally knocked Dad to the ground when he was leaving the car to check the address on one of the condos. While his jeans remained unscathed, both knees were scratched and bloody. He was limping the next day, and he worried about walking down the aisle looking like Walter Brennan. (Again, you need to be older to understand the reference.)

The big day was sunny and warm. Despite the lack of a DJ, which I wanted, and an abundance of hors d’oeuvres, which the bride and groom did not want, everything went well. The ceremony was beautiful, we had enough wine and beer, and as far as I know, no other vomiting events occurred until that night, when I joined the club five times.

Now I can add my new son-in-law to our family tree and relax until the next family wedding, which won’t occur until Dad and I are wobbly and wrinkly—when the grandchildren get married.

Congratulations Casey and Chris. It finally happened!

Not Your Most Conventional Career Goal

Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and you may be surprised by their answers. Perhaps they want to be like Mom and Dad and have a job just like them, or maybe they dream of becoming a teacher, firefighter, astronaut, doctor, or superhero.

Bryce, being a child of the Internet age, has quite an interesting aspiration. He wants to have a kids teaching YouTube channel—complete with commercials. He was telling me today that his first episode will be about vegetables, and although there are already several videos teaching children about every vegetable from A-Z (that’s how a three year old was able to tell me all about fennel), Bryce wants to both inform his viewers about vegetables and then have his dad make a pot of vegetable soup.

He has also given a lot of thought to his first commercial. He wants it to be a commercial for his newest favorite sandwich restaurant—Subway. Similar to how a man named Jared lost 245 pounds by eating a six-inch turkey sandwich for lunch and a 12-inch Veggie Delite sandwich for dinner for eleven months, Bryce wants to show his viewers how eating Subway sandwiches can make kid grow taller.

It turns out that Bryce is not unique in his career aspirations. According to a survey of 1000 children, the number three dream job for boys under the age of sixteen is having their own YouTube station. Check it out:

What’s his next show, you ask? Bryce is already planning episode #2, which will be a show about marble races. Stay tuned!

She Knows About Fennel?

Our grandchildren are being raised similarly to the way our children were raised as far as food is concerned, which is to introduce them to all sorts of food—lots of ethnic meals, fish, and spice-filled dishes—at very early ages.

Therefore, I should not have been surprised when I was asked by three-year-old Lily, “Grandma, do you like fennel? I like fennel, but my friend Sophia does not like fennel.” I admitted to her that I had never tried fennel but I would find a recipe with fennel soon. She then went on to tell me that “fennel is a root vegetable.”

That was a surprise to learn that she knew that. How did she know that? I soon had my answer. While visiting her yesterday, she asked to watch some videos, and one of them was about vegetables. I remember hearing that while both kids were at the grocery store, they pointed to a few items in the produce aisle and informed their dad that they were root vegetables.

So this brings up a problem. We all know that both adults and children are too connected to their electronic devices and plugged into their televisions far too long at the expense of free play and outdoor time. The obvious answer, particularly in the case of very young children, is to severely limit their e-time. However, I look at what they are learning—identifying root vegetables,the names and capitals of the states, and  not only the names and characteristics of the planets, but the dwarf planets as well.

What is today’s parent to do? How much is too much—that is the question.

Nobody Was Surprised

Yesterday, I wrote on my other blog about my recent discovery that my dad attended intelligence school (aka the “Ritchie Boys” Spy School in Maryland) while he was in the army. If you haven’t seen it, check out “Daddy Went to Spy School.”

The reactions by members of my family were amusing considering the subject matter. While two of my siblings had not heard this, they were, like me, not surprised. I guess because of Grandpa’s Russian background and the visit by the FBI during the fifties, it was always a thought in the back of our minds that there was a lot more to him.  I think he would have elaborated, but most of us never asked him.

One of my sisters said my father had mentioned it to her, but she did not know any of the details, particularly why he never worked as a spy after having been trained as one.

Dad and Mark said they thought this had been a fact. It was not news to them. “Of course your father worked in intelligence. Didn’t everyone know this?”

I need to take another trip to the National Archives to see what else I can dig up about him.

Snazzy Yet Sensible

It is now a little more than three weeks until our big family wedding and I still do not have a dress. I think I have decided on an alternative outfit, which is the jumpsuit I stumbled upon while passing through Macy’s when I went to see if the spring line of clothes was finally available.

I like that little navy blue number, and I have received enough encouragement to make me feel confident that this is a good choice. Still, I can’t stop thinking about the trips to the loo, because there is no way I will not have a glass or two of wine and a sip of beer during the entire day. Sadly, there is no trap door in my jumpsuit.

So I made two trips to the mall as well as two to Macy’s and left without finding a dress, but I did feel better after seeing an abundance of jumpsuits, so at least I know this mommy/grandma will be stylish. Next, I needed to decide on the shoes, so since I hate to shop, I decided to see if my closet would save me a trip to the shoe store of torture.

My in-home shopping trip yielded five possibilities: 1 silver, 1 gold, and 3 black. All but one were opened-toed and open-backed.  Which to choose, which to choose since they are all comfortable?

We have been told that “it probably won’t snow during the last weekend in April.” Probably is not the same as definitely, and I would prefer to keep my toes warm. So knowing that the fashion police will hall me off to style jail if I am caught wearing pantyhose or knee highs with anything other than a closed shoe where I can hide my little tootsie warmers, I am leaning toward the closed shoes.

I have finally decided that, as my mother always says, “Who is looking at me?” I am a grandmother of two and am collecting social security. I am not far from collecting Medicare, I have a replacement hip, and more than one achy bone. When Bryce recently asked me how old I was, his response when I answered truthfully was, “Uh oh Grandma!” I am able to admit that that I am no longer young.

But if my outfit is snazzy, who really cares what I am wearing on my feet? And if I end up dancing the evening away, I may end up kicking off my shoes anyway. So it’s decided. I am wearing the groovy navy blue jumpsuit and my closed-toe shoes. Anyone who doesn’t like it will not get invited to the next wedding!

The Russians Love Lowe’s

As a country of immigrants, it is common to meet people from different countries and to hear different languages being spoken. I love walking into a restaurant of a country whose cuisine I have never tasted or experimenting with a recipe from a country whose food is unfamiliar to me.

I am accustomed to seeing signs printed in both English and Spanish, but I must say I was surprised with the sign I saw above the cashier during my recent visit to Lowe’s Home Improvement store. At the top, in bold white letters on a red background, were the instructions to “point to the sentence you can read,” followed by the same sentence in four other languages.

“That’s nice,” I thought, but as my eyes drifted downward while I viewed the entire sign, my thoughts changed to “That’s weird,” when I noticed the fourth language on the list: Russian! The others, in order, were Spanish, French, and Chinese.

Now I know Russia is all around us, and if we watch the news or even many television shows, we cannot go a day without hearing about someone or something Russian-related. But are there really enough people in my country, or my state, to warrant a sign at Lowe’s having Russian as one of the five languages on that sign? I decided to do some research.

The most commonly-spoken languages after English are:

South Carolina                                                             United States

Spanish                                                                         Spanish

German                                                                        Chinese

French                                                                          Tagalog

Chinese                                                                        Vietnamese

Tagalog                                                                        French

Vietnamese                                                                 Korean

Arabic                                                                          German

Russian                                                                        Arabic

Korean                                                                         Russian

Gujarati                                                                        African Languages

On both a state and national level, the census bureau puts Russia at #8 and #9 of commonly spoken languages, so are there, perhaps, more Russian spies making purchases of hammers, saws, vices, and toilets at Lowe’s than the average speakers of that language? And what could possibly be the reason that Russian beats out Chinese and Tagalog (a language spoken in the Philippines)?

This inquiring mind wants to know.