Monday, October 29, 2007

ireland - dingle town

the town of dingle, on the dingle peninsula in southwest kerry county, was about a 20 minute drive along a winding, narrow, gorgeous little road from our cottage in inch. about half of the drive was along ocean vistas, and then another half was through pastureland, mostly sheep but a few cows here and there, grazing on the steep hills in the fog and rain.

we went into dingle several times, to get groceries, to eat dinner, to buy souvenirs, just to do some sightseeing. it's a very cute little village with a harbor and lots of adorable pubs and cafes and b&b's everywhere. we ate dinner there one night and listened to some live music, first at a hotel in their swanky bar/restaurant, and then later at a lively pub that we ate lunch at a few days earlier. the musicians were amazing -- the singer would play with the crowd and interact with us a lot, and then the accordion player was more quiet and reserved and was just kinda there to do his thing, drink his beer, and get paid. the place was packed and cozy and friendly, strangers singing with each other and clapping along to the tunes. i wish they would have played later into the night so we could have enjoyed it for longer! and, once again, spruitje was doing her irish jig to the music -- we've got a little dancer already! watch our video of the live music here.

on the way home one evening we stopped along the way to admire
the especially marvelous clouds sitting over the mountains across the dingle bay. the day was cool and gray and the fog had been hovering close to land all day, and by evening it had finally formed into clumps of clouds, and bits and pieces of landscapes could escape between the clouds and everything looked just mysterious and ancient and just... irish.

Friday, October 26, 2007

ireland - inch

the biggest reason we went to ireland for our holiday was because adam's parents, bob and rae, were going to be on vacation there for about a week or so. and since we both looooove bob and rae, we thought we'd tag along and crash their holiday. (especially nice of them since i felt like we were always on my schedule: "i'm hungry we need to stop somewhere to eat," "i'm tired we need to sit down to rest," and everyone's favorite, "i have to pee again, we need to pull over NOW!")

adam and i took a bus from blarney to tralee (isn't that a fun name? wouldn't you love to have a town with a name like that so you could make up songs about it all the time???) where we met the folks at a hotel restaurant, and watched a playoff game for the rugby world cup. (all of us are new rugby fans after watching the world cup. it is a REALLY COOL sport, and those dudes are TOUGH! woah!) we drove in the dark of night out to the dingle peninsula, on roads too small for even one entire car, let alone TWO, which was what the road was originally built for. rae and i sat in the back seat and prayed, and dug our nails into each others' legs as we careened in the dark around blind corners and sharp turns, and kept our eyes closed for most of it. when we saw the map the next day, and saw where we were really driving, we were glad it was in the dark so we couldn't see the truly treacherous road we had just been on! eep!

but being off the beaten path of cork, blarney, and other large tourist attractions in ireland was well worth the harrowing drive. seriously. because we now found ourselves in the most beautiful scene i've ever seen in my life: in a cottage, on a hill overlooking dingle bay, with mountains opposite, and a flat, sandy, expansive beach that stretched almost all the way to the horizon. i have never seen such beauty in my life, and i've been all around the world. it was so incredible to see the ocean, but for the ocean to be framed by mountains... because usually when one sees the ocean, it is just ocean, all the way out to the horizon. but from our vantage point in the cottage, we saw the ocean and in the background the mountains, which i don't know if i've ever seen before, and it was breathtaking. (and, who knew that ireland had mountains? like, SIGNIFICANT mountains? maybe they're not as high as the ones we have back in colorado, but when you're starting at sea level they are still mighty impressive. i had no idea!)

the cottage we stayed in was so cozy and wonderful: it had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully furnished kitchen, a washer/dryer, a great reading chair in the living room, and a yard big enough for adam to run around and play in. :-) there was a picnic table outside, and all the windows faced the ocean. since we were up on a hill, we had a totally unobstructed view of the sea. we slept with the windows open every night, with the sound of the roaring sea crashing in our bedrooms. one morning the mist was so thick we could barely hear the ocean even though it was RIGHT THERE, which was amazing, and for the first time that week we actually heard the birds sing since the ocean wasn't drowning them out.

we spent a great deal of time "down the hill" at sammy's, an all-purpose restaurant/cafe/grocery store/souvenir shop located right on inch strand, the picturesque beach you see in all these pictures. we would often go down there for a cup of coffee, a newspaper (what a treat to read it in english!), an occasional dinner in their delicious restaurant (featuring local beef and lamb!), or to connect to their very slow (but functional) wireless internet. sammy is a really friendly man who seemed to be a jack-of-all-trades, helping guests check in, bringing food to tables, answering the phones, and just generally being friendly and hospitable. his wife, iris, introduced herself to us on our first morning when we all ate huge breakfasts (breakfast! yey!) in the cafe, but we otherwise didn't see her. she was very friendly though, too, and i felt like a VIP that the owners of the place all knew us by our first names.

one morning, the morning with the thick ocean mist, adam and i took a nice long walk along the beach. it was so quiet and peaceful and beautiful down there, and adam took about a million pictures of me and our growing bump, and they turned out really pretty and i'm glad i have pictures of my belly by the sea. i think the prettiest thing we saw that morning were all these seashells that had been gently left on the beach, so that the little clam shells laid open like butterflies in the sand. they were everywhere, and with the gray mist and the gray water, it looked like they were just glowing in the sand. sooooo lovely.

so mostly we hung out in the cottage, playing cards, eating my cocoa krispies, and reading, or we would go hang out on the beach or at sammy's. it really was a vacation because there were significant portions of time where we'd just relax! what a concept! we also spent a few days driving around the area, exploring dingle, and seeing a lot of ancient pre-christian sites, which i'll be blogging about soon...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

cleanup in aisle 5...

but it hasn't been all fun all the time. i've been really blessed to have such an amazing pregnancy, and to have such a seemingly healthy baby, but i do have my (very infrequent) moments...

there was one day when we were in ireland, when adam, bob, rae, and myself all went to do some grocery shopping in dingle town. all day long i had just felt awkward and dumpy and frumpy and fat and awful -- the baby suddenly felt like he weighed a ton, and i couldn't breathe very well, and i felt like i couldn't move, and i was tired and annoyed with being pregnant, and just wanted to take a break from it, just for a day.

and so here we were, in this beautiful grocery store with all sorts of treats everywhere, and i disappear to the cereal aisle to find myself something fun to eat, since the majority of cereal here in hengelo is either muesli or cornflakes. (they're not big on the cereals out here -- it's mostly bread and coffee for breakfast.) and it's taking me a loooong time to decide: do i buy the frosted mini wheats because they don't have as much sugar in them, or do i get the cocoa krispies cuz that's really what i want to eat? and then adam comes to find me, because i'm taking FOREVER, and he tries to help me, and all of a sudden, i'm BAWLING.

seriously, heavily crying. big, hot tears running down my cheeks. because, i'm trying SO HARD to be a good mommy, to eat right and be healthy, but sometimes i don't want to have to worry about how much fish i'm eating, or sometimes i'd really like to have a guinness without having to share it with someone, or sometimes i'd like to be able to sleep on my back without worrying that i'm cutting off circulation to the baby, or maybe sometimes i'd like to be able to NOT be tired for once, or sometimes i'd like to be able to wear something that doesn't make me look like a house, or sometimes... sometimes i just don't want to be pregnant! sometimes i want to be able to buy the cereal that i'm craving and not worry about the amount of sugar in it! is that too much to ask?! and the worst part is, i'm only 6 months pregnant! i still have 3 more months of this bulls**t! is it too much to ask just to be normal again?

and all the while that i'm crying, i know that it's just my pregnancy hormones. i am laughing hysterically inside that i'm having a nervous breakdown in the cereal aisle in an irish grocery store, with my inlaws waiting for me in the car. but i can't seem to get the laughter to come out, only the tears and the frustration.

and adam, like a saint, just holds me and lets me have my private moment and hides my face from the other shoppers. and he hugs me and doesn't say anything for a long time so that i can just focus on the tears and the frustration for a moment, and then after a time says something to me like, "you're an amazing mother and you care so much already, and i think you're really responsible and loving, etc. etc. etc." just what i needed to hear. and then he wipes my tears for me and carries the cereal to the check out counter (even picks up a soy milk along the way!), and saves the day, once again.

a similar episode happened the next day at a lunch counter in some tiny town that i can't remember the name of, and it was ridiculous because the day was so lovely and amazing and the view was spectacular, and here i was crying over some soup that i wanted to eat that i couldn't order for whatever reason... sigh. it's stupid.

but since then, i've been feeling pretty even-keel again. (and, looking at pictures from those couple of days, i can totally see how big i seem to have gotten quite literally overnight -- my face and arms suddenly look a lot thicker, and my belly definitely looks a lot bigger too, so spruitje must have been growing a lot which might have caused a surge of hormones.) i usually feel like myself most days, and even adam says i haven't really had many emotional surges, even though all the doctors and pregnancy books say that it's a really common thing.

oh, and by the way, we ended up getting the cocoa krispies, and i ate the whole box by myself.


so, i think spruitje had the hiccups today, for the first time!

it was about 11:00 this morning, and i noticed that he kept punching me... but then when i checked in with him, i noticed that the punches were pretty rhythmic, and always the same pressure. (usually when he punches or kicks, he varies the speed and the intensity, so this was definitely different.) and it was coming from a spot normally where his hands are not -- it was a bit further over, like where his back is at. and then i realized... HICCUPS!!! they lasted only a couple of minutes, but it was the best thing EVER!

ooooh! hiccups! my baby has hiccups! he didn't make my belly shake with them (yet) but i bet when he gets a little bigger i'll start to move with the hiccups too. omg, it was tooooo precious! hiccups!

oh, and another couple of stories about the baby, just because he's that amazing and wonderful: last night adam and i were reading by the fire, and being all quiet and stuff, and then i can't remember why, but i said something in a loud voice, and it startled spruitje and i felt him jump a little bit in my belly! and then this morning, as i was waking up, i could feel him kicking me and punching me to get me out of bed and downstairs to breakfast, and adam came upstairs to say good morning, and took out his "ulysses" book and read to spruitje, and spruitje totally started to calm down. just like yesterday, when i put the headphones on my belly so spruitje could listen to ella fitzgerald while i checked my email -- at one point i had to restart my computer, so the music stopped, and within a minute of the music stopping, he got all kicky and squirmy again. and then when the music started up again, he relaxed and the kicks became fainter and fewer. isn't that AMAZING?! that he can already react to his environment?! he's a real live person in there! our child! WOW!

okay, i digress. you know, these stories are going to become even more mundane the older this baby gets, because of course, as a first time parent, i'm going to think that every instant is a milestone. because it is. i'm just so in love with spruitje already and i've never even met him. how is that possible???

Monday, October 22, 2007

ireland - cork

blarney is located just about 25 minutes outside of the city of cork, a bustling metropolis that is the second largest city in the republic of ireland (after dublin). we chose to spend one day walking around cork to see the sights and get some good food.

apparently, everyone else in blarney decided it would be a good day to go to cork, too. the "line" to the bus (more like the mass of people near the bus stop) was quite big and growing by the minute. there were these really high-strung americans there who were totally freaked out that they wouldn't get a seat on the bus. they were all concerned because they heard that some people had been waiting for the bus for an hour (the only reason they were waiting is because the bus only comes once an hour and they probably didn't check the schedule before standing on the street corner), and there was no line, just a mob of people, and they were totally freaked. they kept yelling at each other, "hurry up!" and "maybe we should just get a cab, oh but that's too expensive, whatever shall we do blah blah blah..." sigh. stupid americans. everyone was going to get on the bus and we really didn't know why they were so stressed out on their vacation! and if they didn't, what's the worst thing that could happen? you end up staying in blarney for another hour to drink a guinness in the sunshine? oh, poor babies! adam and i were secretly laughing at them and how high strung they were on their vacation! (do i sound totally annoyed? i guess i was. it was just stupid, but laughable too...) then we met a really lovely irish woman in the line, and as we were trying to get on the bus, she threw a pick for adam and blocked a bunch of people from getting on until he could get on the bus with me ("you're not having your baby on the bus without your husband, dear! i'll make sure he gets on there too!"), which was really sweet of her. and then, because there were no seats left, i just stuck out my belly and a kind american man from LA offered me his seat, which i of course accepted. and EVERYONE got on the bus, even the high-strung americans. see how everything works out? it's all good.

once we got to cork, we weren't quite sure where to go. we had checked off a few things on our map that we wanted to see, and just started in that direction. along the way we stopped off at a juice bar so i could get some fresh-squeezed juice (not easy to find in hengelo, so it was a real treat) and kept our eyes out for some lunch options as it was getting late in the day.

our first sight was the the most holy trinity church, a beautiful gothic-style church with a sort of art-deco interior. we walked about inside, i lit a candle for a girlfriend of mine who is dealing with some health issues, and we sat and rested for a while. i also had a chance to have a small smackerel of scone while i sat in the sunshine outside and adam snapped some pictures. then i saw the shortest woman i've ever seen, i think she was part leprechaun, and it made me think of my stepmom who is 4'11'' and would likely tower over the leprechaun lady. (i don't think she was a little person or a dwarf or anything -- i just think she was THAT short!) seriously it was cool. rosie would have loved it cuz that never happens.

then we saw the red abbey tower, which we were expecting to be more user-friendly than it really was, but it was just this old structure outside that we admired and took pictures of. i didn't realize that you couldn't actually go inside it. but the story is pretty cool: it's the only structure left in cork that has survived since medieval times, and for a long while it was left abandoned because catholicism was illegal for a period in ireland. it was originally built sometime in the 1200's as an augustinian friary, and later was used for a sugar refinery (in the 1700's). i think the british held it for a while and used it to fire cannonballs into the city during some seige in the late 17th century. i bet the monks didn't like that very much.

and, as long as we were in the neighborhood, we wanted to go see elizabeth fort, which is this large star-shaped structure high on one of the hills above the lee river. this is when i started to wilt, because we still hadn't found any lunch yet and the walk to the fort was uphill the whole way and we got lost a little bit too, which certainly didn't help my mood! anyway, we finally found it, but there wasn't much to do there: the fort is under "emergency renovations" so we couldn't walk along the upper walls to get a view of the city. and we didn't take any pictures of it either because there was a police station located (fittingly) inside the walls, and i'm never sure how foreign police feel about foreigners snapping their pictures. so we left, walked into the first bar we saw, and i plopped my fat butt down and held back tears (literally) of exhaustion. i just can't move the way i used to, and i seriously felt like crying i was so tired! adam was so sweet and ordered a sparkling water for me, and the two of us sat inside the quiet pub and watched a horse race and just rested our feet for while. i felt much better after that.

then a very late lunch at a funky cafe that reminded me of something we'd find in boulder on the hill, with world music and good salads. we also did a little bit of shopping at a babies-r-us type of store, bought a book of irish folktales that we can read to spruitje after he's born, and had a cup of coffee at a cafe before catching the bus back to blarney. had dinner that night at a thai restaurant across the street from our hotel. it was good to have fresh veggies and tofu and spicy sauces in my tummy after a few days of fish and chips, irish stew, and shepherd's pie!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ireland - blarney

to celebrate the 10th annual "a&a day" (the anniversary of the day we met), we wanted to do something fabulous. initially we thought about going to rome, since it's still one of the places we want to visit before we move back home... but then we found out that bob and rae were going to have a vacation in ireland in early october, and the two of us decided to crash their holiday and meet up with them along the way instead. fun!

but first, we wanted to spend a few days on our own, just the two of us, to celebrate our anniversary. there were so many places to choose from... and i remember that when we went to luxembourg, i was really disappointed that we ended up staying in luxembourg city -- it just seemed like a big commercial center to me, when really all i wanted to see were castles and vineyards and stuff. i didn't think i'd enjoy a big city like cork or dublin if i was going to ireland, based on that experience in luxembourg city. so, lesson learned, we decided to stay in a little village with a castle: blarney.

we stayed in a really cozy hotel right on the village green, in the center of the village, directly across from the bus stop (easy!). on the other side of the green was blarney castle, literally a 2-minute walk from our hotel. (our room is the one right above the street sign, the fourth from the left, and this is the view we had from our room.) the entire ground floor of the muskerry arms hotel is a really cozy pub, with very friendly bartenders and several beers on tap (including coors lite -- who knew?!). (ps, anyone interested in visiting blarney, i would definitely recommend this hotel -- amazing breakfast, incredible staff, free wi-fi, beautiful rooms. seriously. we loved it!) it seemed like the hotel guests and village residents alike would hang out in this pub, since it was i think probably the largest pub in the area. one night that we were there, they had live music (located directly underneath our room, and it kept us up until 1:00 a.m., but it's hard to complain about live music in ireland so we got over it). spruitje had been quiet up until that point, but as soon as the music started up, she started to do a little jig in my belly. even adam could feel it when he put his hands on me! it was soooo fun! but then after a little while she settled down again -- it was the end of the day and i assume she was probably pretty tired from all the activity we had been up to.

we spent one day exploring blarney castle and the sacred druid rock garden located on the castle grounds. blarney castle originally dates back to sometime in the 1200's i believe, but was destroyed at some point and rebuilt in 1446. it was the castle that the cheiftain of munster lived in. (munster is the southwest portion of ireland, which is now divided up into several counties including cork and kerry and probably something else too...) at the top of the castle is the blarney stone, which people lined up for, for their chance to kiss it. kissing the blarney stone is said to give one the gift of eloquence. (there was a sign up in the castle explaining the difference between blarney and baloney: baloney is telling a 50 year old woman that she looks 18. blarney is asking a woman how old she is because you want to know at what age women are the most beautiful.) you can see everyone lining up in this picture, and we are all at the very top of the castle. in order to kiss the blarney stone, you lay on your back, hold onto a couple of iron bars, and pull yourself backwards over this sizeable hole in the floor (a sheer drop down to the ground beneath!), and kiss the stone. there is a man there to hold you, but it didn't look very safe anyway! i decided to pass on this activity, given my "condition" (uncomfortable, dangerous, and probably impossible for a pregnant lady to get herself into that position!), but i was fine with it because the views from the top of the castle were breathtaking and worth the hike up there anyway. (and besides, i heard that the irish go up there and pee on the stone at night, and i didn't want potty breath. nast!)

notice at the top of the castle the hole in the roof... that is where the blarney stone is located, the large hole over which you need to twist your body upside down in order to kiss the stone! scary!

after the blarney stone and the castle, we wandered over to the "rock close," an ancient druid rock garden which was probably used for sacred gatherings and rituals and merriment and who knows what else... it was BEAUTIFUL. it looked like something out of some mystical celtic painting, like on a tarot card or something. just lovely. trees with knotted roots, stones with ivy and moss and ferns growing out of them, large altar stones with "cups" carved into them, and a lovely path through the forest that we were able to explore for a short walk. though i wasn't able to kiss the blarney stone, i was able to do the "wishing steps." they are a set of steps, through a small cave, ancient and uneven, which you can walk on to make a wish. but the trick is to walk up and down the steps, backwards and with your eyes closed, in order for your wish to come true. so that's what i did, and adam guided me along the way, telling me how many more steps i had to go, or to duck my head, or whatever. very helpful! but honestly, once i was in the steps, focusing on my wish, i really didn't hear much else... i was really concentrating on my wish and trying not to slip, and everything else was just background noise.

after the rock close, we had a relaxing picnic on the green pasture beneath the castle, and we napped in the sunshine and ate irish brown soda bread and yogurt and fruit and juice and scones and... i don't think any chocolate this time (that's a first!). we were so worn out by the end of our walkabout that we pretty much took it easy the rest of the afternoon, taking a nap and hanging out in the pub downstairs.

on our way out of town, we met this cat who seemed to always be sitting on the same bench, no matter what time of day you walked by. so we sat on the bench too to wait for our bus, and this friendly kitty was nice enough to let us pet her. she was enjoying my scratches so much that she started to climb onto my lap, but with my big belly in the way there wasn't enough room for her, so she kept on going and made her way onto adam's lap! how fun! we named her "blarney." (how original.)

Monday, October 01, 2007


last weekend we celebrated oktoberfest in munster. though the best oktoberfest takes place in munich, we didn't want to travel that far, and crowds kinda freak me out these days with my ever-bulging belly. so we settled for munster, which was less than 2 hours away and was bound to be more down-home anyway. and it was just what we were hoping for...

i had a really difficult time finding much on the internet to guide us to the festivities, but finally i discovered a pretty unhelpful site that made it look like there just might be something going on after all. there were no directions, no map, and no telephone number, but we went for it anyway in the hopes that we'd be able to figure it out when we got there.

well, we got to the train station just fine, and got to the neighborhood of the festivities alright, but spent the next 30 minutes getting turned around, walking into dead ends, and backtracking. the problem was that this event was set up in a temporary beer tent, contained within a parking garage/exhibition hall, down by some wharf or harbor or industrial drainage ditch or something. needless to say, i was not happy to be doing all that walking, especially because i had this enormous baby head pressing down on my bladder the whole time. and i was hungry, and i could hear the music and see the building it was in, but we just couldn't find the door! how frustrating!

anyway, we finally figured it out, and there was a bag inspection at the door and they almost stole my favorite nalgene water bottle. i explained to them that i'm pregnant and need to drink a lot of water, and the guy looked at me with a totally straight face and was all, "do you have your pregnancy pass with you?" and because adam and i were not in the mood for jokes after taking so long to get there, we immediately started imagining the SS or gestapo or whatever they were and panicked a little bit that he just might steal my bottle from me. so i unzipped my jacket, pulled up my shirt to show him my belly, grabbed my water bottle out of his hands, and walked away in search of a toilet. aaargh! only later did i realize how he was just messing with us and that i totally looked like the impatient and rude american that i try so hard not to be. oh, well.

BUT when we finally got there, it was TOTALLY worth it! the tent was set up to resemble an authentic bavarian beer hall -- the high ceiling, one giant room, lots of long picnic tables to share with your best drinking buddies that you've never met before that night... and right in the center was an oompah band, complete with lederhosen. too fun!

we got there early (about 6:00 pm) and sat to the side of the oompah band, near several tables of young german college-age kids, wearing fun hats and with their socks pulled up over their pants all the way to their knees to make it look like they were wearing lederhosen. they would stand on the benches and sing and stomp their feet, and had entirely too much fun.

we ordered some food when we got there: something called leberkas i think, with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. we didn't like it too much because it tasted like spam, but i was so hungry i ate as much as i could. adam had one bite and decided to just eat a pretzel that the cute pretzel lady was selling. she had them all stacked up on this stick and when she came to our table adam asked if we could get our pic taken with her. i just looked at her and apologized, but she seemed happy to oblige us.

but the best part of all was what i got to drink! initially i thought i'd have to spend the entire evening drinking fanta or bottled water and clinking my tiny glass against adam's giant mass of beer. but behold! non-alcoholic beer! and, unlike the n/a beer i tried in belgium (which, for lack of a better word, tasted weak), this beer actually tasted like beer. had she not told me it was alkoholfrei, and had my mass not had a special tag on it to indicate it was such, i seriously would have sent it back. it was that good. so, i got to yell "PROST!" and crash my stein against adam's and pound it on the table in time to the music just like everyone else. it was so fun!

there was an oompah band playing some great german drinking songs, but we didn't know the words to any of them. so we just made them up as we went along. one song i thought they were playing "bubblegum fruity flavor drops" so that's what i sang. but you have to check this video out to hear us at our best: we call it, "eins, zwei, something!" because that's what they were singing... one, two, something! (i apologize for the shakiness of the video. we took it on our little digital camera, and adam had ahold of the camera for the last bit, and his beer was not non-alcoholic.)

we left around 8:30 and caught the 9:00 train home and we were back by 11:00, with just enough energy left to have a snack and go to bed by midnight. how cool is that that we can just go to oktoberfest for an evening and still be home in time for bed? uberawesome.