Category: Food

Shriners Fest

IMG_4627So much to do! Air show, dog show, midway, food, music, dancing, riverfront, and magical connections… where should we begin?Β  Well, I’ll start by thanking the Esteps for giving us VIP tickets to the festival!

IMG_4414It’s going to be a fine day!

IMG_4416It’s very hot, but gloriously sunny and excitement is in the air!

IMG_4417I love all the color! Umbrellas, the water, the sky, the flowers, the midway, everywhere!

IMG_4388 (2)Savannah (my daughter, right, in flag shirt) and I are hanging out in the air conditioned visitor’s center, waiting for activities to kick off.

IMG_4389 (2)Messing around, trying to take a picture of us via the mirror in the visitor’s center with my “old school” camera… First attempts were deleted (the ones I took). I asked Savannah to try. She’s not impressed.

IMG_20160624_151527Hmm, it’s called a CELL PHONE and it has a CAMERA, and it’s reversible so we can take SELFIES…. sheesh…. Savannah has my old cell phone that I bought in Ireland and is now just a tablet. She’s taken charge of the situation.

IMG_20160624_151538OK, but I’m not looking in the right place… where’s the lens?

IMG_20160624_151542Oh, there!

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OK, enough of this… things are starting to happen now!!! Let’s go PLAY!

ULTIMATE AIR DOGS

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VIP FUN!

IMG_4395Kicking off the festival on Friday evening… a VIP dinner with live entertainment

IMG_4397Chicken dinner by Bauerhaus Catering

IMG_4401Cake!

Also… a presentation by the Shriners, including a film and a silent auction, and a meet & greet with the pilots performing in the air shows this weekend

MIDWAY

IMG_4379Oh wow, the food smells AMAZING! There’s fish fry, peppers & onions, grilled smells, and more… MMMM! If I wasn’t already full I’d be tempted.

IMG_4514Python? WHY??????

IMG_4404The craving for an elephant ear has begun… haven’t had one in probably over ten years, twenty?

IMG_4405Everything’s more fun when the sun goes down and the lights go up!

IMG_4407Doesn’t this look like vintage America?

IMG_4409I love this couple I saw walking on the midway… aw, young love, holding hands while also holding her shoes! (Don’t worry, I asked their permission before posting this) LOL, I just noticed that he’s also holding her purse for her. He’s a keeper. πŸ™‚

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IMG_4410 (2)I’m intrigued by the “Large Walking Taco” – does it walk before or after eating it???

IMG_4410Good to see people starting to gather here on the Midway… I’m looking forward to the bands!

IMG_4412Ooh, but I keep getting distracted by the Elephant Ears! Walter bought one for all of us to try – it was HUGE – enough for everyone. I wasn’t sure about that first bite, but by the second bite I hit the sugar — MMM, yes, that was fun!

LIVE MUSIC

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This band is RETRO SHOCK and they are fully awesome!!!

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All three of them can sing, and the drummer is amazing too. They sang songs from multiple decades and they played ALL of them well. The songs were identifiable from the first set of notes and they stayed true to the song. We could sing and dance along, as our favorite music was done justice. AND – they made the songs their own too, as their smooth vocals gave old songs a new flavor. Honestly, I think I liked some of their covers better than the originals! I’ve seen a lot of indie bands and this band is seriously talented.

Their business card says “A premier Southern Indiana cover band playing classic party rock for any event” You can find Retro Shock on Facebook.

IMG_4402 (2)The Shriners Fest was Retro Shock’s 300th show. WOW! No wonder they are so good.

We stayed and danced into the night! Me and my daughter Savannah having a ball:

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Dancing in the street at Shriners Fest!

Snapshot 4 (6-27-2016 9-48 AM)Snapshot 5 (6-27-2016 9-51 AM) (2)BORN TO BE WiiiiiiLD!

And hey, guess what happened to me while I was dancing? Kevin Thomas from the Shriners Fest who booked RETRO SHOCK noticed that I was having fun… he asked me what I thought of the band. I said that I thought they were amazing and that I’d be putting them on my blog. I explained that I’m an artist and an author… and gave him my card to find my blog later, so he could see the photos. Well…. he asked what kind of art I do and one thing led to another, and in one magical moment I said that, yes, of course I’d like to donate an oil painting for the Shriners event coming up on August 20th – Ink and Iron Fest. The charity auction will benefit Autism Awareness. And hey, guess what? RETRO SHOCK will be playing at the fest! WOOT! I’ll be there, not only as the featured artist, but with my DANCING SHOES ON!!!

Snapshot 6 (6-27-2016 10-02 AM)CRAZY GOOD FUN!

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Snapshot 9 (6-27-2016 10-07 AM)Savannah – I love to see my girl smile! – Thank you for the music RETRO SHOCK! We thoroughly enjoyed it…and now the day is fading into memory….

IMG_20160624_210123IMG_20160624_210127But I just can’t leave… my husband is here now.

IMG_20160624_225539RETRO SHOCK is still playing… for one more set

IMG_20160624_225617IMG_20160624_225617 (2)Savannah took these photos – that’s me and my husband Brent on the far right (OK, yes, the short couple)

IMG_20160624_225617 (3)Me and my high school sweetheart, best friend, and husband of almost 30 years. It’s hard to explain but this was a magical moment for us… I looked at him and he looked at me, and it was as if he was somebody new. Later I found out that we both had a secret to share…My news is that I’ll be the artist for the next festival (I mentioned this earlier in this blog). That’s BIG news for someone new to the area, hoping to break in! When I couldn’t do my solo art show in Ireland I was heartbroken. But look at what’s happening – I have a new opportunity, and it happened to me when I was letting go… dancing as if no one was watching – or…. maybe dancing as if EVERYONE was watching, and loving me for it! πŸ™‚ It’s a very big deal because we were both worried that I wouldn’t thrive here in Indiana. I had worked for over four years to earn the money for Ireland and then we couldn’t get our visas to stay. I said that it was time to dream a new dream, but… I wasn’t always feeling positive. Some days… well, it was hard. This chance to do an oil paintingΒ  proves that new dreams do come true. Indiana isn’t Ireland, but it could be magical all the same. It’s really up to me.

[Sorry, I can’t reveal Brent’s news yet… I will when I can.]

AIR SHOW

The highlight of the Shriners Fest is the amazing air show, so we’ll get to that next… but first, meet our friendly barista from the VIP Pagoda.

IMG_4624She makes a great Jim Beam and Diet Coke, just sayin’

IMG_4382The Pagoda

IMG_4382 (2)See the upper deck? We were able to get an outstanding view of the air show from there. I took hundreds of photos. It was hard to narrow the collection down for the blog. I also got a great view of the water show from the VIP viewing upper deck. I could so get used to this VIP treatment!

IMG_4419 IMG_4419 (2) IMG_4418 IMG_4418 (2)AND… now for the air show… I took these photos throughout the weekend.

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My personal favorite is when they created art in the sky

IMG_4451IMG_4452 (2)IMG_4452 (3)IMG_4452IMG_4458 (2)I just LOVE this group – their planes look like birds… and oddly there were some real birds who seemed to be mimicking their flying maneuvers… coincidence, or were the birds really copying them? Interesting!

More beautiful flying by the Vanguard Squadron:

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IMG_4474Change of pace:

IMG_4478 (2)IMG_4478 (3)IMG_4481IMG_4482 (2)IMG_4482 (3)IMG_4483 (2)IMG_4488Best place to view the air show! Savannah is enjoying a lollipop from the VIP lounge. They fed us every day, plus cold beverages and candy.

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IMG_4508The Werth & Richards Aerobatic Duo was AMAZING!!!! These stunt pilots are absolutely fearless. They fly within within inches of the water, and each other. They cross flight paths while all of us hold our breath. They spin, tumble, roll, and free fall… stalling engines, gymnastics… it was like watching a movie scene. WOW!

IMG_4529IMG_4530IMG_4534IMG_4535My son Nicholas and my husband Brent were able to make it to the last air show on Sunday – they LOVED it!!! Nicholas is usually sensitive to sound but he was hooked.

IMG_4557My oldest daughter Cassie also turned up on Sunday. She finished her stressful project, got it sent off to the client, and was ready to have some fun.

IMG_4562IMG_4622IMG_4623 (2)The U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet is super loud and super amazing

IMG_4623THE HORNET!!!

EVANSVILLE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

IMG_4515 (2)IMG_4517IMG_4518What a beautiful summer evening! Notice the large white flower in the upper right of the photo? There were flowers, trees, and landscaping everywhere. Truly a beautiful place!

It was a wild ride – what fun! Evansville, Indiana, I know that we are new to each other, but I think we can become the best of friends. The people are friendly, the sun is brilliant, and the energy is incredible. I love interesting people, indie musicians, and dancing with my family among strangers. Is anyone a stranger for long when summer feels this good? Thank you, Shriners Fest for a family festival that we were amazed and dazzled by.

Bacon and Pistachio

Natalie Buske Thomas donating books to Newburgh LibraryI’m back, BABY! We left Ireland two weeks ago as of yesterday, my desk is a cardboard box, and my bed is an air mattress on the floor, but that’s no excuse for sitting on the sidelines. I got up this morning, showered with my mini hotel soap and shampoo, attempted something with my hair, applied makeup, and went on my first cold call to a library in my new town.

It was with a bit of trepidation that I entered the Newburgh Public Library – what reception would I have? WOOT! Meeting with Diana was delightful. We had a fabulous chat! She has the same passion for events as I do. I babbled at her for probably a good half hour and I could’ve stayed longer. I look forward to doing events at Newburgh. Thank you for the best, warmest reception I’ve ever had from a library cold call!

Indiana is good to me already! And, there’s… BACON!!!

IMG_4042Sorry, Ireland, “rashers” are NOT bacon! Bacon, oh how I missed you! This was the first food purchase we made.

But Ireland does butter BETTER…. I’ll dearly miss it. I could cry just thinking about it. Marie got me hooked on it and now… WHAT? Is it true? KERRYGOLD right there at my local Wal-mart!!!! And now in my new kitchen, natch! πŸ˜€

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IMG_4037Our friends Walter and Miki Estep gifted us with all of these goodies from the local Farmer’s Market! I was ecstatic to see the huge fresh tomatoes!!! After a second or two, my heart skipped a beat… I said, “WE HAVE BACON!” So… well, naturally…

IMG_4040BLT baby! That’s how we do it here in America. πŸ™‚

IMG_4039I also put tomatoes on my homemade pizza… MMM!

IMG_4043IMG_4044IMG_4045IMG_4046Thank you for the dinner help, Walter and Miki!

Next, let’s go to their house…

IMG_4049The pretty home of Walter and Miki Estep

IMG_4053Fun times await! (Miki, me in the middle, Brent)

Visiting with friends helps with the transition period. We’ve had to accept Plan B in just about every area of our lives, including where Nicholas would attend his first year of college. You might recall that he’d received a scholarship for a computer major at world class university UCC in Ireland… but we couldn’t stay. Where would he go then?

IMG_4064Here’s Nicholas with Brent outside of Ivy Tech. Nicholas wants a rare niche major that few schools have. World-class UCC didn’t have it, as they are a university, not a tech school. But, even though Ivy Tech offers what he wants, when Nicholas signed up for his classes here, one of the admissions counselors had never heard of his major! No problem, someone else knew exactly what he was talking about, and even gave him kudos on his high SAT scores. πŸ™‚

Nicholas was easily accepted into Ivy Tech in “Linux Server Administration”. The names of his classes all sound like gibberish to me, but he’s excited for school to start in August. (click on the photo below to see it large enough so that you can read it)

IMG_4095 (2)IMG_4065When Nicholas said that he was looking into Ivy Tech (on his own initiative), we were still in Ireland at the time, but we knew that we had to look into State-side options. I asked him if he remembered that my dad used to teach at Ivy Tech (and loved it!). He said he didn’t remember. Maybe on some level he did remember, or maybe this is another one of those strange “coincidences”. Nicholas has always had a special connection to my dad, even though Dad passed away about 12 years before Nicholas was born. It’s uncanny how connected their lives are (this connection is the inspiration behind the Grandpa Smiles picture book).

IMG_4066After only two years, Nicholas will be Linux certified and could be head-hunted. He plans to continue on with a university education though… unless he gets an offer he can’t refuse. πŸ™‚Β  Which can happen… this kid is very, very good. Look at the photos below:

IMG_4076Can you guess what you’re looking at here?

IMG_4078He’s made vents for it…

IMG_4079Power supply sticking out of the box

IMG_4080All of the ports are conveniently accessible…

IMG_4077He’s borrowed a monitor from Miki to use with his desktop computer, that he brought to and from Ireland IN HIS CHECKED-IN BAGGAGE. He had taken his computer apart, wrapped all of the components in tin foil, and then reassembled it. He couldn’t keep the plastic casing, so he built a case out of LEGOs and it was fully awesome. I’m looking for the photo of it to share. That’s how his computer was cased while we lived in Ireland.

This time around, I suggested my cardboard vacuum cleaner box because our shipment won’t be coming for another couple of months (he has only a few LEGOs with him – just the stray ones that were almost left behind). The computer needed a few minor repairs while in Ireland – which Nicholas diagnosed for himself & he asked Brent to help him fix (required tedious soldering).

Anyway, any kid who can do this with computers, set up his own private server and home network, and -ahem- get us into trouble with Comcast for his hacking (<—he’s promised us not to do that again!), is a kid who is going places in the IT world. He’s taught himself coding and Japanese. I’m guessing there’s a reason for that, but maybe not.

Nicholas – we’re proud of you. It doesn’t matter to me where you go to school, only that you are able to pursue what you dream of doing, and that you are happily using the talents that God gave you. Congratulations on landing a grant! WOOT! Every bit helps!

So, we’re getting back on our feet again…

IMG_4091Miki couldn’t wait to give me the prize she won at the art store. All I need is a blank canvas and a brush – I don’t have to wait for my art supplies to come in from the shipment!

IMG_4089IMG_4087For now I’ve placed my new oil paints on the shelf (left in the house) with Marie’s bookmark.

Cassie found us a convention for October, so I better get busy if I want to display something new! And… she might have a job working for Apple! The Irish connection there has panned out after all (Apple Headquarters based in Cork). But we’re waiting to hear if she can still do this from the United States. It is a from-home customer service job, so it’s possible. Cross your fingers!

Brent is at yet another meeting with a school principal as I write this blog. He seems to have landed two part-time retail jobs to get through the summer. He’s still working on the teaching position, but we aren’t worried. There are many open positions and he’s interviewing well. It’s really all about which school is the right fit for him. I look forward to seeing where he lands. Finances will be tighter than a blood pressure cuff, but we’ll get through it.

And… our youngest child is happy… Her simple wish was to have a pet turtle. I’d told her that it would be a long while before we were back on our feet again and we couldn’t get a pet. Even if it was an outdoors turtle? Right, even then. Maybe someday….

Or, maybe God hears the secret longings of a young girl’s heart. Because, what do you think showed up at our door? Literally AT OUR DOOR!

IMG_4072Here’s “Pistachio”, Savannah’s pet turtle… who probably crept up to the house from the woods. This is the step off our kitchen, where we can watch him from the glass doors.

IMG_4073We’ve discovered that he’ll eat bananas. Now that he knows we’ll feed him, he comes to the step every day. I don’t know where he scoots off to when he’s not there. He’s surprisingly fast for a turtle. Savannah goes hunting for him.Β  Sometimes she finds him, sometimes she doesn’t. But so far, he always comes back.

IMG_4074Isn’t he beautiful? Savannah is enchanted by him. He’s exactly the pet she wanted! God moves in mysterious ways. It may feel like good things are moving as slow as a turtle, but when they arrive, they are beautiful… and sometimes turtles move surprisingly fast.

God bless & never give up – xoxoxo, Nat

 

 

A Dolphin in the Wild

Back when Ireland was just a dream, when it was a faraway fantasy world of rainbows and leprechauns, when it wasn’t a real place… when it was a mythical magical island that only existed in fairy tales… well, back then, I met Marie O’Halloran. She lives here. She could confirm that Ireland is a real place.

As if that didn’t rock my world enough, when I mentioned that I’d never seen a dolphin in the wild, Marie said that I must go to Ireland, where I will surely see a real dolphin in a real sea. In fact, I must go to Dingle, where I will meet Fungie, a very special dolphin who loves to chase boats.

It took me years to get here, years of hoping and planning, years of selling our possessions and saving whatever we could. I wanted a better life for me and my family. And… if God wasn’t too busy, I’d really like to see a dolphin in the wild. Just once. That’s all I ask.

Whenever this journey felt impossible, whenever life was too hard, whenever I felt defeated, I thought of the dolphin. I will see him, I will. For inspiration, my daughter Savannah gave me a beautiful dolphin necklace. I tucked that special jewelry away, and I’d look at it from time to time. I saved it, but didn’t wear it. I brought it with me to Ireland, and I put it out where I could see it every day.

Finally, I wore the necklace. It was April 19, 2016 – the day I saw a dolphin in the wild. My life will never be the same, because I now I know the truth. Dreams do come true, and when they do, it’s worth all of the effort, the heartbreak, and the fear.

IMG_3713I can’t believe we’re actually here in Dingle, Ireland. This is the day I was waiting for all of these years!

IMG_3716We’ve booked the dolphin tour.Β  As you can see, the tours are inexpensive. Because Fungie is a wild animal, they can’t guarantee that we’ll see him. If he doesn’t show up, there’s a refund policy. But, we’ve come all the way from America, and at this point, I know that I’m leaving Ireland and may never make it back. I may never get another chance! No, that’s unacceptable. I won’t take no for an answer.

I’d call the dolphin to me with my positive thinking – oh, you may laugh, but I have a magical way with animals. Even though I’m allergic to anything with fur, animals are drawn to me. They stare at me and come right to me. This happens in zoos, in parks, and in backyards. Sometimes this attention from the animal world is unwelcome, but other times I’m blissfully like Snow White and all the beautiful little birdies and rabbits and butterflies gather round me.

Would this mysterious phenomena work on a dolphin? Possibly. But I left nothing to chance. I prayed. I prayed for God to show Himself to me. Send me the dolphin. Let me see him. Please… I’ve come so far. I’ve had faith. And here I am. Just as You’ve asked. Am I going back home without even seeing a dolphin? After all that we’ve been through to get here? No, no, no! You have to send him to me.

Well… you’ll see for yourself. Fungie not only appeared, but he stayed by my side, even when I went to a different section of the boat! There was a boat full of people he could have chosen, and yet, he went right to me.Β  Cassie was amazed. She liked standing wherever I was because Fungie would soon appear.

Funny thing, it’s like I knew where he was even when he was far away from the boat, deep under the water. I’d look in the exact spot where soon a fin would appear above the surface. The sightings were fleeting – if my camera wasn’t trained on the water where he’d pop up, I’d miss him. But I somehow knew where he was.

Nicholas stood near me and trained his camera in the same location. We have many, many gorgeous photos of this most beautiful and amazing creature. I can’t begin to describe how deliriously happy I felt when I saw him. It took my breath away.

IMG_5047Our boat – love the name! Reminds me of Doctor Who

IMG_5042IMG_5046We’re waiting for everyone in my family to use the restroom. I’m restless and impatient. We can’t miss the boat! I’m staring down at the boat, wishing I was on it already.

IMG_3719We’ve left the dock! It’s beautiful! It’s everything I’ve dreamed of!

IMG_5081IMG_3724IMG_3728Getting close to that lighthouse now!

IMG_3732Near the lighthouse there is also a part of a castle wall or some other ruin. Brent would know… he was listening to the tour. I was too busy taking pictures and looking for the dolphin. No sign of him yet…

IMG_3723IMG_3805bIMG_3806IMG_3734IMG_3735Still no dolphin… beautiful sights though

IMG_3736IMG_3737Praying to see the dolphin – still seeing nothing…

IMG_3738WAIT!!!! Look out there! See it? See it? I do!!!!

IMG_3738bA DOLPHIN IN THE WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IMG_3739Oh my, he’s coming right to me!

IMG_3739bI see him, I see him!

IMG_3740Aww, he’s going away already?

IMG_3741IMG_3742I see him! He’s coming back!

IMG_3743He’s right there, I know it!

IMG_3744THERE HE IS!!!!

IMG_3745Oooh, I see more of him now!

IMG_3745bI can barely contain myself!!!! This is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IMG_3746And back out he goes… he’s very fast!

IMG_3747IMG_3748He’s back!!!!

IMG_3749He’s there…

IMG_3750Just need a little patience…

IMG_3751IMG_3752IMG_3753THERE HE IS!!!!!!

IMG_3754IMG_3754bIMG_3755IMG_3756IMG_3756bIMG_3757IMG_5142IMG_5143IMG_5146IMG_5147Ooh, look at his sweet little face!!!!!

IMG_5148IMG_5149IMG_5167IMG_5168IMG_5169IMG_5170IMG_3758IMG_3759The tour guide warns us that he’s a wild dolphin and he might not be back to play. She distracts us by showing us beautiful places, but I’m still keeping an eye out for the dolphin to return.

IMG_3760IMG_3764IMG_3765IMG_3766Brent and Natalie in Dingle Ireland

In between dolphin sightings… my husband Brent and me… one of the happiest days of my life!!!!!

Brent and Natalie in Dingle Ireland

IMG_3767IMG_3772IMG_3773IMG_3774IMG_3777IMG_3779Ooh! Got up close to the Sea Arch – STUNNING!

But I haven’t forgotten about the dolphin, nice try Sea Arch…

IMG_3781IMG_3784IMG_3786IMG_3787Look who’s back!!!! I knew he’d come back, I knew it! OK, so I didn’t, but I’m thrilled he did!!!! WOOT!!!!

IMG_3788IMG_3789Hi Fungie! You make me so happy!

IMG_3789bIMG_3790IMG_3790bIMG_3791IMG_3792You have to be patient… he’s there!

IMG_3793IMG_3794He’s smiling! He’s happy to see me too!

IMG_3794bIMG_3794cIMG_3795OOH! He’s jumping! He’s really playing now!

IMG_3795bIMG_3796IMG_3796bIMG_3797I LOVE YOU FUNGIE!!!!!

IMG_3797bHe says “I love you too”!

IMG_3798IMG_3799Ah, we’re both getting exhausted… it’s time for the final goodbye I think…

IMG_3800One last wave!!!!

IMG_3801I’ll miss you! Thank you for letting me see you!

IMG_3802And then, he was gone.

IMG_3803DolphinTourVideo

Brent took these pictures from his phone:

DolphinTour1DolphinTour2DolphinTour3DolphinTour4DolphinTour5

DolphinTour6DolphinTour7And here are the pictures that Nicholas took of Fungie – he got some great shots!

IMG_5209IMG_5211IMG_5212IMG_5213IMG_5220IMG_5221IMG_5222I love this shot that Nicholas captured!

IMG_5223IMG_5231This is my favorite. I will miss you so much, Fungie. You will stay in our hearts forever!

Well, back to the beautiful scenery… Fungie is tired, and so are we!

IMG_3803IMG_3807IMG_3817See my red purse? I hung it there and almost forgot about it. That’s where I was standing most of the time, but I moved around the boat some.

IMG_3824Brent and Cassie on dolphin tour boat

IMG_3820IMG_3820bIMG_3821IMG_3816IMG_3830IMG_3831IMG_3832Well, we are sad to be back on land, but it was the most exhilarating, amazing, and beautiful experience! I feel so loved by that dolphin. I can’t explain it. I had heard that it is magical to see a dolphin in the wild, but I didn’t expect to feel that way for real. I thought it was an exaggeration… it wasn’t. Wow… I just… I’m blessed.

And now it’s time to explore Dingle. Marie had told us about Murphy’s ice cream. It’s been on our list for years – it was second to the dolphin of course! But now that we’ve crossed something off my bucket list, it’s time for ice cream! (My family is enjoying my bucket list – the girls have tried to add something to it, LOL!)

IMG_3835IMG_3835bIMG_3837 - CopyYou probably noticed that it’s chilly. I’m wearing three layers (a heavy sweatshirt, my hoodie that’s crammed with stuff in the pockets–that’s why I look oddly lumpy, LOL!–and my trenchcoat). But… we have to try the ice cream. And besides, the sun is shining in Ireland! What a truly gorgeous day we’ve had!!!!

IMG_3838I chose one scoop of Dingle Sea Salt — made right there from the sea!!!! And one scoop of Irish Coffee. Oh yeah!

IMG_3839I asked Nicholas what he got and he had the most cheesy grin. He got the Dingle GIN! He reminded me that the legal drinking age is 18 in Ireland.

IMG_3842IMG_3843IMG_3840This one’s mine – Dingle Sea Salt and Irish Coffee – MMMM!

IMG_3841IMG_3844IMG_3845Time to go shopping! This is our last Irish adventure… We’ll be headed home soon. I said I’d get a dolphin souvenir if I saw a dolphin, but I’d go home empty handed if I didn’t… I also said that I’d know my special dolphin keepsake when I saw it. Wouldn’t you know, the very first shop window had my dolphin in it??? It was FUNGIE himself, complete with the scar on his fin! And it’s beautiful. Want to see????

IMG_20160419_143901Can you see him in the store window? He’s above the teddy bear and the mug… he’s to the left of the big green mug, hiding behind the little shamrock jar. I saw that as soon as we started walking past Murphy’s ice cream. There it was! That’s my dolphin!

But could we afford it? We’d been doing everything on a very low budget. Most of what we do is FREE. Dingle was a bit more for us, but not that much. We had to budget for the special ice cream and the boat tour. That didn’t leave much for trinkets. Well, if it was too much I wouldn’t get it. Then I saw the sign – Everything 50% off! WHAT? Was this one of those magic stores that will disappear as soon as our family leaves Dingle?

My beautiful dolphin was only about $8 and he’s such a treasure! I plan to display him in our home forever! Do you notice the little notch on his fin? That’s what identifies him as Fungie.

IMG_3903Here’s what he looks like when the sun from the window hits him… I didn’t know that this would happen. He’s even MORE beautiful than I thought.

IMG_3907I have this beautiful keepsake wrapped in bubble wrap, in a cardboard box, wrapped in my clothes… it’s in my carry-on bag, all ready to go home with me to the United States.

OK, back to Dingle, where shopping was in progress. My girl Savannah found a precious necklace… from the same mysteriously inexpensive gift shop where everything was 50% off. We said YES to the pretty necklace. She hasn’t taken it off since!

IMG_3846Nicholas also found a couple of treasures. He had his own money and he bought two interesting figurines – small, they can fit in his pocket. Cassie found a Murphy’s Ice Cream pencil. Brent said he didn’t need a souvenir. Besides, he’ll see my dolphin forever, and he’ll likely build a shelf for it… I’m finally understanding that he is happy when I’m happy. Life doesn’t need to be complicated. He likes to build things. I like what he builds.

IMG_3847This guy had a bird on top of a dog on top of a donkey.

IMG_3848Can you see the green bird there on the dog? I missed it when he was walking on his back, doing tricks I think. A crowd was gathered around so it was hard to see.

IMG_3849Stopping to take pictures along the scenic coastal drive… we’re headed to the beach – our last Dingle event before we head back

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IMG_3854IMG_3857IMG_3858IMG_3860IMG_3861IMG_3862IMG_3863IMG_3864IMG_3866IMG_3867IMG_3868IMG_3869IMG_3871IMG_3872IMG_3873 IMG_3882 IMG_3881 IMG_3880 IMG_3879 IMG_3878 IMG_3877 IMG_3876 IMG_3875 IMG_3874IMG_3885Cassie identified this shark egg

IMG_3883I found a shell that I want to make a necklace out of. It has a hole on the top.

IMG_3884

IMG_3886 IMG_3891 IMG_3890 IMG_3889 IMG_3888 IMG_3887IMG_3893 IMG_3898 IMG_3897 IMG_3896 IMG_3895 IMG_3894Aww, our day in Dingle is coming to an end. We have one last stop through Killarney… where they have another Murphy’s Ice Cream! Here, we have to try the Sticky Toffee Pudding – Brent’s teacher friend Jen recommended it. She was student teaching here in Ireland. We were able to visit with Jen and her husband when they came through Cork and made the long detour to our remote house in rural Grenagh.

IMG_3900IMG_3899Sticky Toffee Pudding is.. hmmm… it’s like a soft cake type of thing with toffee bits in it, with a creamy ice cream on the top, with a syrup? Not sure if I described it well, but it was sweet and delicious. I’m glad we got a chance to try it!

I’ll wrap up my Dingle story with this beautiful picture of the three shells that Cassie found. They are tiny and fragile – see them compared to drops of water. She wanted one for each of us girls… She gifted the large reddish orange one to me, saying that the one with the “blush of color” seemed like me. She chose the smallest one for Savannah, and kept the third for herself. She wrapped them up delicately to bring home. I hope they make it! Surely we can glue them if broken? I thought of butterfly wings. Cassie thought of angels. They’re both!

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Irish Life

From the American perspective, Ireland is a foreign country and a magical island, but it’s not another planet. Both are Western cultures that share the same language (sort of), the same technological advances (sort of) and the same products (sort of). So, you’d think that there would be few (if any) misunderstandings.Β  But if you know our history of misadventures, you won’t be surprised to hear that some Americans living in Ireland are easily confused… and potentially stinky.

IMG_3656My husband Brent bought the product on the left “Comfort”, 42 loads of sunshiny days. I looked at it and I was immediately suspicious. “Are you sure that this is laundry detergent?” The liquid was so watery. Hmm. He was confident. Meanwhile, I suspected that Comfort might be fabric softener, not detergent with softening agents. So after we bought laundry pods, I switched to that… while the rest of the family trusted Comfort and used it until it was almost gone.IMG_3658

After a few weeks, my family had begun to smell. Brent noticed that his clothes weren’t “getting clean enough”, but when he got a whiff of our 18 year old son, he realized that he should probably take a closer look at Comfort… which was fabric softener, not soap. They’d been washing their clothes with nothing but water and fabric softener for over a month! I could have said “I told you so” but it’s more fun to remember this forever and bring it up at random. πŸ™‚

IMG_3666All right, I’ve picked on them enough. It’s my turn. These are “digestives” or “digestive biscuits“. I know that these are cookies, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious. What did they mean by “digestive”? How do these cookies aid in digestion? Will those of us who need no added help end up with, uh, problems? Was there a laxative effect to these so-called cookies? My daughter Cassie still mocks me for this one. They are just cookies – no hidden laxatives. Although I suppose if you ate too many of them you’d be in trouble, the reason why they are called digestives is because it is thought that food made with baking soda is good for the digestion.

And apparently there’s even a proper way to eat them.

IMG_3667IMG_3668Chocolate is on the top right? No, I guess they say it’s on the bottom.

IMG_3669This is the top, where the logo is. Seems odd to eat it that way – chocolate half definitely seems like the top!

IMG_3670These biscuits are not the same thing as American cookies. They’re like the “cookie” layer of a Twix bar. They are very inexpensive to buy, less than 1€ for a whole roll, and are a staple when serving tea.

IMG_3671I mentioned baking soda earlier. It took me a while to find it when I wanted to bake from scratch. Sometimes it’s called “Bread Soda”.

FrytexI also had trouble finding shortening. We asked at the Tesco grocery store and they had no idea what I was talking about. I had to describe it and what it’s used for. It was a funny conversation. Finally they understood what it was and they led me to the refrigerated section.Β  In the U.S., shortening is typically sold in a can and is found on a shelf near baking supplies, vegetable oil, etc. Here, they sell shortening in blocks that look like butter, and they keep it in the refrigerated section.

IMG_3675See? I wasn’t crazy when I thought that mince pie was made of meat. They call their ground beef “beef mince”.

IMG_3676This (above photo) is not to be confused with this:

IMG_2446IMG_2443IMG_2441Remember the story of my Irish friend Marie surprising us with a big Irish welcome? She was amused that I thought that a mince pie was a meat pie.

But I was off by only one letter! There’s “mince” pie and there’s “minced” pie.Β  Look at this Irish specialty:

IMG_3699IMG_3700This was very good – really rich, so you’d want to go easy on it and have only once in a while, but yes, it was yummy!

IMG_3701We thought both meat pies tasted pretty much the same, and I can’t remember which one was which. Both were good and I’ll probably make something like this from scratch next winter. It’s a comfort food meal that’s perfect for a chilly day.

IMG_3702There’s never a shortage of potatoes here! These are called “salad potatoes”. I mixed them with vegetables in my favorite cast iron skillet that I shipped from the United States. I know, I know… it’s expensive to do that. But those of you who cook with cast iron will understand. I had it perfectly seasoned and it’s an American made Lodge. Besides, it’s a good thing that I did this… Brent threw my smaller skillet into the trash at the airport because our suitcases were over the weight limit. I bring that up to him on occasion. :-/

IMG_3708A lot of people have an electric large capacity kettle, for making loads and loads of tea! I brought a very small kettle with me. I thought Marie was going to break out laughing when she saw the size of it. πŸ™‚ And now we’re spoiled. We like the fast electric kettle that heats up enough water for all of us in a couple minutes.

IMG_3706Speaking of heating up water… this is our immersion shower. I hate it. I really, really, hate it. Most of my showers here have been frigid, either from start to finish, or after I’ve had a short while with some heat. I tell you, if there’s no hot water in that thing it’s like doing the Polar Plunge in reverse. I’ve learned that if I skip shaving my legs it’s no big hairy deal.

IMG_3707There’s a gadget in the attic to boost our cell phone signal. Way out here in rural and remote Ireland, we can’t get any cell phone signal unless we are standing right here in this hallway. And even then, the call could cut out without warning. Hello? Hello? Hello? That’s a lot of fun when on hold with a customer service call or when conducing an over-the-phone interview! :-O

IMG_3648I tried to explain to Marie what a “tater tot hot dish” (a Minnesotan thing) or “tater tot casserole” (other American states) is. She has never had a tater tot! She thought maybe it is the same thing as a “potato croquette”, which is a mashed potato that is shaped into pieces, breaded, and deep fried. Uh, no… but now I was intrigued!

IMG_3650IMG_3685These are much longer than tater tots.

IMG_3686Yep, that’s a stick of mashed potatoes… breaded, deep fried, frozen, then baked in my oven. Hmm… Well, those were weird. The texture was hard to get used to. These are definitely not tater tots. Marie, tater tots are crispy, greasy, and salty – like french fries (or “chips”).

IMG_3687The Irish may not know their tater tots, but they sure do know their banking technology. We held up many a line because we had our inferior lame-o swipe credit cards (that some had never seen before and had no machine to swipe them with!). We finally got new cards, but even now that we have the new ones that have a chip in them, our American cards apparently still respond a bit differently because there’s a moment of befuddlement and then a scramble to find a pen because, unlike the Irish, we have to sign a real slip of paper… and the cashier often doesn’t know which copy we keep. Speaking of pens…They sure don’t have many pens around here. No one seems to have one available when we have to sign something. Nope, all paperless here. The bank even gave me this gadget (in the photo above) to do online banking transactions that are made easier by inserting my debit card. Except that our Internet connection is crap (via satellite, very slow, very unstable, data capped—we always go over!–and expensive), so we can’t get it to work. The bank knows us. We’re the Yanks.

IMG_3679But hey, they seem to like our mustard. There are several products that are labeled “American Style”, like pancakes and BBQ sauce. Some name brand American foods are expensive to buy here. Old El Paso brand seems popular here, along with Kellogg’s and a few others. Some things the Americans just do better… like chocolate chips.

IMG_3674Oh dear, the size of the bag is a bit worrisome! Can I make chocolate chip cookies with this tiny amount of chips? Yes, they turned out fine. But I’m not one for using a whole bag of morsels for one batch – I routinely use only half of a regular sized bag. Those of you Americans (most of you!) who use the whole bag would definitely need to buy two of these to make a single batch of cookies.

IMG_3682Americans – what do you think these taste like? I was thinking Skittles or fruity Tic Tacs. No…

IMG_3683These are kind of like Wonka Nerds… I guess – Nerds that have somehow “gone off”. I thought these were horrible! I gave mine to Nicholas. A while later, Cassie gave hers to Nicholas. He ended up with at least three… I think Brent may have caved and given his up too.

IMG_3652We liked these. They remind me a little of a Caramello bar, except it has a cookie (“biscuit”) base like a Twix.

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IMG_3678The fish here is really good & fresh, even when buying frozen from the grocery store.

IMG_3681Speaking of fresh… they sell a LOT of eggs here… a LOT. They are everywhere–even outside of stores in sort of a vending machine! They don’t refrigerate the eggs, but we pop them in the fridge as soon as we get home because we are Americans and can’t bear to see eggs at room temperature (especially Brent who got salmonella from under-cooked eggs while in the Army). The eggs are brown (haven’t seen any white eggs so far) and are delicious. I’ve made eggs for meals much more often since moving to Ireland. Great source of protein, inexpensive, and keeps the five of us fed!

We also love the Irish sausages, although they are quite rich compared to the American version. The “Full Irish” is a huge breakfast platter, and I do mean HUGE. It can be shared by two or more people. Ours had eggs, toast, sausage (delicious and very different from American or German sausage), rashers (like bacon, but unfortunately not the same at all), blood pudding (breaded and fried with seasonings), potato cake (like a McDonald’s hashbrown), and… I want to say something else… maybe ham? I think there were baked beans and fried mushrooms too. I tell you, there was a LOT of food on that platter! Brent and I had been doing errands and wanted to try the Full Irish. We had no idea that it would be such a feast! Had we known, we would have picked one up for the whole family.

IMG_3680Well, they can’t do cheese like Wisconsin, but they have good cheese. They have even better BUTTER…. Remember me mentioning Kerrygold?

IMG_2470IMG_3677Here’s another thing the Irish do better than us Americans – they offer huge quantities of vegetables at low prices! Look at the size of that bag compared to my hand. Fresh vegetables are less expensive too. The local Aldi (I know, German owned, but they carry a lot of Irish locally grown/produced food) has a special section called Super 6 for “fruit and veg” deals. This week we picked up a large container of fresh mushrooms for only 39 cents!

IMG_3659Oh but here’s where we long for an American product! See that dryer on the left? It is the bane of my existence! In fact the “!Β£#! chime is going off right now.

IMG_3660See the open door on the bottom? That plastic jug/tray has to be emptied… often.

IMG_3662IMG_3664IMG_3665IMG_3661It takes hours to dry the clothes, sometimes ALL DAY. Now I know why hanging clothes on a line is so popular here.

IMG_3709Jelly Babies are a British invention, not Irish, but Ireland is a great place for finding specialty items from all over Europe. We get our pasta from Italy (MMM!) and Kinder Eggs from Germany (fun!).

Jelly Babies were featured in Doctor Who. Our son Nicholas is a Doctor Who fan who built a TARDIS console with his father and played guitar at the Minneapolis Doctor Who convention. So, when I saw Jelly Babies, I just HAD to get them!

IMG_3711But… these are absolutely REVOLTING, lol! I can barely stand to touch them, let alone eat them. They have a slippery coating of powdery sugar over a solid gummy exterior that holds a gooey gummy interior. The red ones taste good, but it’s hard to get past the bizarre texture. It’s the slippery powder that gets me.

IMG_3712There’s the red one. It’s tolerable because the flavor is good and it’s sort of like a jelly bean. But… the other flavors aren’t as easy to handle. If you get one that you don’t like, getting past the slippery powder is like eating a slug… or something. It’s in a class of its own, the Jelly Baby. :::shiver:::

It’s been great fun trying all of these foods, products, and candies!

Along with eating new foods, we’ve had to learn the local language. When I first met Marie, she said, “Shall I put the kettle on?” I couldn’t understand her Irish accent at all. I stared at her, blinking. She said it three or four times. Only when she picked up the kettle did I finally get it. To my ears it sounded like this: “ShallIputthe (<–so fast that it sounded like gibberish) keh-hill un”.

Since then, we’ve adapted and can usually understand even the thickest of Cork accents. We’ve also picked up on things that people say all the time, and what they probably really mean.

“Thanks a million!” – What they often really mean is, “I’m done with you, please go.” πŸ™‚

“sorted” – Anything taken care of is sorted. Need paperwork? “Get that sorted.” Done with shopping? “That’s Christmas sorted.”

“No bother.” – Something people say even when what they’re doing is just an expected part of their job. I get the impression that they don’t like to be bothered, so they’re really saying the opposite when they say “No bother”.

A “cowboy” job/company/etc. – Shoddy work, shady

“Yanks” – Americans from anywhere in the United States, even if you’ve never stepped foot in NY or the East Coast.

“Brilliant” – Used to describe something or someone that is impressive, but not reserved for only the best… even only mildly interesting or entertaining things/people can be brilliant. Adequate customer service replies might be “brilliant”, bland and expected responses to standard questions might be “brilliant”, getting one’s own way is especially “brilliant”. So, when people have called me, or something I said, “brilliant”, it probably wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I may have been marginally interesting. :-/

Well, I’ve found the Irish to be more than brilliant, as they are certainly an interesting lot (“lot” = group of people).Β  We almost speak the same language, but not quite. I look Irish, so no one knows that I’m an American until I open my mouth. And then the grins appear, especially if I don’t say “Thanks a million”, but instead, in my typically American accent say, “Thanks a lot”. I don’t know why, but I’ve nearly cracked the Irish up by saying this.

So, thanks a lot for reading my blog, and thanks a million. πŸ˜‰