Monday, 28 October 2013

Memories are made of this!

Recently I've discovered that a couple of old friends of mine have headed to Asia traveling and are now based in Vietnam. Looking at their facebook updates and instagram photos has left me reminiscing about my tour in NAM man. After a year, I've certainly rocked up some favourite moments.

Seeing my little brother for the first time in months as we landed at the airport, our clothes already sticking to us and tears pricking the backs of my eyes. Who knew? Ironically I spent most of my childhood telling him to leave me alone but as I saw his lanky late self appear in the sea of Asian heads I suddenly realised I had missed him. 

The first sight of the ocean heading along the coast road towards Mui Ne. Bear and I had hung out in Ho Chi Minh city for months, we had toured the city, checked out museums and the nightlife but now, it felt like the city itself was closing in on us so we booked ourselves a weekend at the coast. No, we didn't know it was 8 hours away but seeing the glistening ocean was like Christmas morning. 

Speaking of Christmas morning- our Christmas dinner in McDonalds at the airport in Kuala Lumper was particularly epic. A celebratory feast of mcnuggets and fries was definitely a memory. Not that I didn't miss my parents and Gran sitting around the Christmas table and of course presents and stockings, there is something awesome about wearing shorts and a vest on December 25th. 

And of course Christmas trees and sunshine! 

Hue was another piece of fantastic, like stepping back in time to a century or more ago. With gas lit lamps and no wifi! A simpler time, with simpler food and a curfew. Hue was where we took our trip to the DMZ and Bear got some Khe Sanh sand and I felt like an extra in a Vietnam war movie. We sweated buckets for three days and I developed an unhealthy addiction to cornettos. 

Waiting for Papa to arrive was like waiting for Santa- I had a countdown to 'Daddy Day' and I don't think I'll ever feel so overjoyed again, the way I felt when I saw his head bop head and shoulders over all the Asians at arrivals. I could have clung to him for hours like I used to as a child but I knew he'd be be embarrassed so I choked back tears and led him to a taxi. Some of my favourite memories of being away are from the two weeks I spent with him. Bussing it through Cambodia, crawling through the Cu Chi tunnels and climbing to the top of temples at Angkor Wat- I mean how many of us get to see the one the ancient wonders of the world with their Dad!!? 

Boys and their toys! 

Celebrating my birthday for the first time without my parents should have been melancholy but thanks to Bear, his visiting parents and my super friend Kyla- I had the most awesome time. Dinner at a French restaurant where on Miss Kyla's assistance they rang a bell in my honour and afterwards to a jazz club for a saxaphone fix! 

Hoi An is one of the most special places I have ever visited. The entire town is trapped in a time warp like so much of Vietnam but Hoi An has something more enchanting than any of the others. Specialising in tailoring and lantern making, I bought three beautiful silk lanterns that I can't wait to put up in my new home. 

Naturally, I can't talk about my time there without mentioning some of my kindergardeners. So many of my classes were the best fun and most of the time they were such fun. Most of the time. But who can resist these faces?! 

But the best thing about going away is the coming home- and one of my favourite life memories is the look on my Grans face when I surprised her coming home. Bear and I had some great adventures i Asia- now on with the adventures back home! 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Home Sweet Home

We're finally in!

It's been a busy few weeks for Bear and I- both of us are back in student mode studying and I have teaching placement as well ESOL classes and grinds but somehow Bear managed to put his back in (and out!) into building our little nest.

I can hardly believe I'm sitting in our little love nest which, was once Little Bro's workshop. Only two months ago what is now our kitchen was a mass of angle griders and chopsaws and our bedroom was once a flowerbed.

Papa and Bear put in trojan work making it right, Little Bro put his furniture designer hat on to come up with designs- it hardly seems real- from simple CAD drawing to walls, floors and windows.

We've had apartments galore in the past five years but this place is ours- we picked our own colours, fnishes and could debate about worktops and features. As I said, we've had apartments before but now we have a home. Before we lived together- now we've created a home.

When I say we- I suppose I really mean Bear. I made coffee for the workers, brought breakfast and made sambos- my physical contribution is neglible but Bear and Papa made it for us.

I honestly never knew how much work was involved in building a house- foundations, plumbing, heating, electricity, waste pipes and supporting beams. It's like speaking a foreign language but somehow the men in my life managed to learn the syntax fluently, discussing joining angles and mitering over coffees. What's more- they did it part time.

Moving Day was like Christmas as I rediscovered my dusty artefacts from times gone by in boxes in sheds and attics. Arranging them on our new shelves was the ultimate in satisfaction and joy.

I would like to take this opportunity to publically thank Bear's parents for having the serenity and  patience to put up with us much longer than they bargained for and for welcoming me into their home as one of their own. And to my own parents without whom this would never have been possible. Without family so much would never be possible.

Now the only thing left is to think of a name, but what's in a name? Can you ever put a label on something that encapsulates so much?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Having the craic in Dublin

No one does drinking better than the Irish- so while in Dublin, there are many many watering holes to chose from. 

Why not start at St. James' Gate, the home of Guinness. While here, you can take a tour of the factory to see how Guinness is made and at the end take a brief course from an expert bar tender to learn the secrets of the famous Guinness two-part pour. Enjoy the spectacular views of Dublin's skyline from the Gravity Bar while you wait for your pint to settle. 

For something a bit more low key try, Kehoes, some say it's the oldest pub in Dublin and is packed to the rafters every weekend. On a sunny day you'll see punters spilling out onto the street. Based on South Anne Street, a side street off vibrant Grafton Street, it's well worth the visit. Despite the crowds, the pints are rated as some of the best and the wait is never too long. Undoubtedly, you'll ind plenty of banter. 

O'Neills of Suffolk Street is renowned for it's traditional Irish food menu, great rooftop section and traditional live ,music most nights. If it's rhythmic sound of the bodhran you're after slip into O'Neills for a pint of the black stuff. 

The Porterhouse on Nassau Street boasts a prime location opposite Trinity College, is always a busy spot with live music and the real selling point is that they brew their own beer on site and can offer something for everyone's tastes. 

Cafe en Seine based in the middle of Dawson Street opposite the Mansion House offers a Parisian-esque ambiance where the gentle notes of Edith Piaf float through atmosphere. They are renowned for their vast wine selection and delicious bar food menu. 

Ireland is renowned for its pubs and whether you choose to go to the upscale Gravity Bar or decide on a more low key pint in a pub on the corner, there's something for everyone and you're bound to have the craic agus ceol! 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Confessions of a Blogger.

For those of you who don't know I'm currently in Barcelona at the behest of the Catalonian touristboard on  behalf of the fabulous travel writing duo- Becky and Grey of Global Grasshopper (please please check them out on!).

Now it's confession time...

Confession 1:
Despite my constant rsnting about anglophone's inability or pure laziness when it comes to learning foreign langauges and my constant belief that it is respectful to other nations to have a fewwords of the vernacular. However, after spending most of my school time Spanish classes daydreaming, I have developed a complete mental block about learning Spanish. A few speedy you tube videos before I left equipped me with the shaky languages skills of a typical tourist. Thing is, we're not typical tourists- we're travel bloggers and the amazing mulit- lingual skills of my counterparts left me feeling well and truly in the shade.

Confession 2:

I've had a number of disastrous trips to Spain, ranging from the package Canary Island to the small local village job. On the back of aforementioned disasters, I had developed some preconceiving misconceptions relating generally to Spainish people and friendliness. However- I had never been to Catalonia before (bar a whistlestop Barcelona trip about 10 years ago..the less said..), and Catalonian people are super friendly and helpful. The hotel staff, resturant and even in the local store- everyone wants to make sure you have a good time in their city. And that's the thing- Barcelona  is their city. I've never encountered such a collaborative effort by a community- albeit a very large one- to , in many respects, show off their city, proudly. To quote Bear- they like peacocking. And they do it magnificently!

Confession 3:

Despite proclaiming to be an openminded traveller, willing to embrace all cultures I have a dirty little secret. Everywhere I visit is metaphorically measured against Paris. I was completely captivated by the city- I loved every cobblestone, every sniff of arrogance and every inch of glamour. J'adore Paris. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: 'Ireland is my country, but Paris is my hometown'. After all that gushing, lets get to the point and my point is this- Barcelona is delicately nipping at those well shod Parisian heels. The city oozes a charm that is not engulfed in the glamour and pretentiousness compared to Parisian charm. Barcelona has attitude. Barcelona has swag. As you stroll down La Ramblas it feels like any moment a party could start, that all it could take is one wildly swinging feather boa or one vibrant beat and the city will erupt into an impromptu mardi gras!

So basically, what I'm saying is- Barcelona and ultimately Catalonia on the whole is untapped resource for me and I've learnt my lesson not to live precariously on predjudiced judgements.

To embrace all things glamour head to Paris, but to embrace life, head to Barcelona!


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Pigs just flew!

I'm pretty sure most of you who know me well, will be shocked to find me sitting    clad in a Barcelona jersey with excellent seats for the game, munching on a giant hotdog and guzzling beer but here I am. And it's great. 
I've now upgraded my footie status to 'available for live games only'!
The atmosphere is electric and I find myself chanting Barca Barca Barca!! 

FC Barcelona, Catalonia Experience and Global Grasshopper- what kind of animal have you created?!? 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Caution: men and women at work!

Today, I learned a valuable lesson. Advertisements lie. Especially Dulux. 

All the Dulux advertise their broad spectrum of colours in tastefully choreographed adverts of young couples and families frolicking around rooms gleefully painting their rooms in colours like; warm sands, moonlight bay and soft lime. A young couple playfully flick paint at each other and in some scenes a dad sits patiently painting a safari mural on his daughters bedroom wall as she colours in giraffe stripes. At the end of it all, an old English sheepdog ambles in. 

None of the above is true. 

I spent the day painting our little nest. Pale gold in the kitchen, highline in the bedroom as Bear repeatedly rolled brilliant white on the ceiling and Papa pottered around filling in gaps with plaster. Within minutes I was covered in paint, it flicked into my eyes so I had to wear super sexy goggles to ensure I don't become any more blind than I already am. My clothes, boots and hair were splattered in shades of white, yellow and beige. I dread to think of the scene when we start on the red bathroom!! This never happens in the ads- the home owners are always mucking about in pristine jeans and white shirts- not a speck of colour in their perfectly groomed hair. 

This was the scene I was expecting when Papa burst in, telling it was time to paint. I imagined perfect brushstrokes and a playful flick of yellow landing on Bears clean-shaven face. Not the way it worked out, though I couldn't resist when the opportunity to run the roller of white through little bros hair, giving him a Cruella de Ville-esque streak through his thicket of black curls. In saying that, I thought booping Papa on the head with a full paint brush was going a step too far. 

However, painting is slow, boring and slightly soul-destroying it is awesome to see the finished product and for for the first time throughout the entire build I can claim ownership and say: 'I made that!'. Papa was right. I would feel a sense of achievement at the end of it. 

Today, I think, was our most productive on site as everything started to take shape. A doorframe created by little bro meant a hole in the wall became a door and an arrangement of glass blocks became a contemporary design feature, suddenly a shed is becoming more like a home. A home, we decided, created and designed together. This is our baby, something we both created out of both our personalities, and given the amount of care and commitment it needs right now, it's baby enough for me for a long time. I'm exhausted from catering to all its needs and the thoughts of a soft pillow and cosy bed have never been so appealing, though I think the swish swish of the paintbrush will echo in my dreams. 

Some say, get a dog to test your parenting skills as a couple- I say build a house from scratch.   

***the writer wants to acknowledge that without the help of Papa, Ma-Ma, Little Bro and their vast array of skills and talents, none of this would be possible for Bear and I. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Dday arrived!

Dearest readers,

My apologies for the lack of updates, but I have literally been snowed under a heap of college, school and building work with hardly any time left to breathe.

I've been back at my alma mater now for almost three weeks as a student teacher and am thoroughly enjoying it. Although there are some elements that remind me of being in school; the cliques, the bitchiness and chldish moaning about workloads- this time it's in the staffroom!

It's been nice to meet some of my old teachers and for them to treat me like peer equals: some of the time. The students are babies! I don't remember being this innocent and naiive in first year but how times change. I have students sidling up to me telling me they like my necklace or my shoes, or asking me completely irrelevant questions or telling me completely irrelevant stories about their pet dog.

Everyday they say something that cracks me up and makes me smile inwardly- for example; 'Girls, how long do you think the Roman Empire lasted for?', one hand at the back shot up with the answer- 'more than 20 years anyway?'. Yes, definitely more than 20 years but they have no concept of time, the idea of BC and AD completely baffled them so after a stellar class performance on the test I decided to havr an activity.

Using an old plastic container filled with soil and hidden artefacts, I got them to take turns digging and being archaeologists for the class. Well. I'm sure if their dad asked them to help him dig up weeds in the garden they'd shoot him down, no question but bring some soil into the class and a couple of tablespoon 'shovels' and they thought it was the best thing since microwave pizza.

So between, planning classes that make history and english fun for 12 year olds, fielding all manner and kinds of questions and then come 2pm I revert back and become the student again at UCD where I hang out drinking student union coffee and flicking through photos of funny animals on Pinterest during boring lectures.

I think this is what our lecturer calls bi-location....

Thursday, 29 August 2013

My week in food!

The past week has been a whirlwind of food for me, between celebrating the end of term at the language school and then in anticipation of my week ahead in secondary school, I really had no time (code for not bothered!) to do a supermarket run and think of dinners for myself and Bear so we basically ate out all week!! Spoilt I know....

Our first port of call was to the new restaurant at the top of Bray main street-  Mount Everest of Kathmandu. Having spent a year in Asia we had never tried any Nepalese food so we were intrigued. And I can report that we were pleasantly surprised. The menu was pan-Asian with some distinctive traditional Nepalese dishes while others were more familiar from India, China or Thai cuisines. The service was impeccable, the waiting staff can't be faulted, they were super friendly- topping up wine glasses and seeing to your every whim. Reminded me of being in Asia. The food was absolutely delicious, sumptuous flavours and an overall delectable atmosphere. The bill too, was reasonable and the best thing about it- they deliver!! 

Our tasty dinner was followed by a tastier lunch in Dundrum's Douglas and Kaldi who offer a fantastic gluten-free menu which, is great for me starting out on my gluten-free path. There's nothing like their tasty toasted bagel topped with smoked salmon, poached egg and hollandaise sauce, washed down with a smooth latte, to set you for a day of shopping at Dundrum Town Centre. For an added injection of Med lifestyle sit on the sheltered roof terrace on a sunny day. 

For dinner we returned to our usual haunt- Wagamamas. As always the service is impeccable though at early evening dining times it's packed and there's usually a gaggle of kids running around so if you fancy a bit of peace and quiet hang on until later or head for one of the booths. I had the fantastic chicken raisukaree (bonus points from the server for correct pronunciation!), an aromatic curry style dish with scented Japanese rice while, Bear opted for his usual katsu curry that always goes down a treat. 

Sunday, has always been our day of rest and our day of rest usually ends with a slap up meal in the Martello on Bray's seafront. I opted for the gluten-free calamari rings with a side of fries and Bear had steak, considering I have never cooked a steak successfully in our five years together, this was a wise choice to avoid chronic anemia. The Martello has an awesome outdoor area for the dirty smokers, excellent serving staff and some nice music to play us into a balmy Sunday evening. No one was thinking about work the next day. Including myself, lesson planning and staff meetings never crossed my mind.

Monday, 26 August 2013

My First Day at School

This is a lie. Obviously, it's not my first day in school as a student- been there, done that, wore the crest-embossed T-shirt nor was it my first day as a Teacher. However, it was my first real day back in Loreto, sitting in the staffroom with the 'real' teaching faculty treating me like one of them. I didn't enter a classroom today- instead I sat back and watched the bustling. Let me give you some insider tips about teachers.
1) They hate being back from the holidays just as much as kids
2) Every one I spoke to, hadn't slept the night before thinking about what today would bring
3) They are disorganised, forget their books and ask stupid questions too
4) They DO talk about students in the staffroom!

What seperates me from the other Dip students is that I am a past pupil of Loreto Bray and milling around me were teachers who had taught me, who I had loved, respected and hated. It was like being the proverbial fly on the wall because none of them recognised me. Except one. One Teacher whom, I had spent many many years forgetting. 'Did I teach you once?' she said, 'you did' I responded, 'I thought so, I recognised you. You still have the same smile!'. I laughed thinking to myself, I wasn't smiling much in your French class. As I sat in the HDip Huddle with the other students, I thought about all the comments, jokes and stories I had over the years about the very people who were now my colleagues. A strange strange experience.

As we sat there, I'm sure looking wide-eyed and fearful, the school chaplin came over and chatted with us, until one of the other girls expressed her surprise at one of her stories by shouting 'Jesus Christ!' in her face. Classic. Then another awesome thing happened. I had my first legit cigarette on the school grounds, no ducking and diving instead, sitting openly with a coffee, texting and smoking a Marlboro. So many rules smashed!

Then as one by one we were called into our subject meetings, we had cake and coffee pots delivered to each room as we discussed the curriculum for our classes. I was surprised that my open was valued and asked for, when we debated novels my suggestion was jotted down and considered valid. It was empowering, though I'll wait and see how empowered I feel next week when I'm wrestling with teenagers. Maybe it will all (first years included) go out the window.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

These little piggies went to the market!

As we having been doing the build thing for a few weeks and yours truly was getting bored of the bare construction part. I decided I wanted to rummage for some cool retro/antique pieces to jazz up our little home. You know, when there's walls and a roof and stuff. 

So myself, Bear, Papa and his beloved hit Dublin city for their finest markets. 

Despite the aid of google maps and GPS we still managed to get lost but stumbled upon the fabulous Thomas Street Mingle Market. It was like stepping into the Moulin Rouge and I expected the 1930's styled dudes behind the coffee dock to burst into song at any moment. There was every type of feather, sparkle, fur and twee for sale in form of hats, jewelry, clothes and coats. While, Bear settled himself in a 1920's style cinema watching old black and white Laurel and Hardy movies while Papa was like the veritable kid in a candy store. Trying on hats- a plain, black bowler was his favorite but we all felt he was missing his horse and cart, trying to persuade his Beloved to try on a set of super sparkly ruby earrings that I felt definitely would have the power to bring you home like Dorothy's
 slippers and generally freaking us both out with all types of fur stoles with paws and heads still attached. Though, I didn't buy anything, I now know where to go for the coolest vintage clothes- as Papa said, when I showed him a Dallas-style glamorous dress 'you need to be going somewhere to buy something like that'. 

Our next stop was the Brocante Market- on the same site as the Dublin Co-Op Food Market and Dublin Flea Market, this particular market only runs every third week and was a tad disappointing. More  carboot sale tat then actual market but I guess, you need to be lucky with these things. I was tempted by a pair of sparkly lace-up Dune brogues but resisted, I was here for housey things not to stock up my wardrobe. Papa was intrigued by a wooden game of pegplay though none of us could figure out the rules- even with the help of smartphones, he then almost bought a spirit level but then decided it was something that he should buy new. All in all, it was disappointing, I thought I would have scored some nice things for our little shed *ahem chalet* but I suppose perseverance is the key. 

Today, I hope to make another trip to the Antique and Vintage Fair again in Dub Laoghaire's Royal Marine hotel, I have gotten some cool things there before- mostly clothes mind you but I'll be keeping an open mind is time. I'm especially excited to visit the Shotsy Vintage and Third Policeman stalls which, are always chock full of gems. Also, Hens Tooth from Wexford always have something weird and wonderful. Not to mention the Best Dressed Lady competition organised by Vintage Ireland- purveyors of all things vintage and the jazz band that play throughout the afternoon. All in all, a very jolly evening can be had. 

Someday I'll raid Gran's wardrobe and put myself in for the Best Dressed Lady....... 

Caution: Men at Work

I can finally reveal that we are building a house. Well, when I saw we, I mean the inexhaustible Bear and my amazing Papa, I am just a tea lady. And....when I say house, I mean a chalet-esque structure in my mothers back garden but regardless of size and shape, the point is it's 100% ours and we have control over the interior, colours and furniture for the first time ever since we moved in together first over four years ago. 

This is Bear and Lil Bro getting down and dirty with some roofing planks and what we have right now is a shell but while the lads are scaling ladders and getting knee deep in cement Mother and I are prematurely perusing colour charts and IKEA catalogues. We are also in charge of wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles of our local Chadwicks, Woodies and B&Q like typical women, with lists of tools and materials that we didn't know. Can I take this opportunity to say a big Thank You to the team there who are always so helpful. 

Bear and I are already disagreeing about colours and style, me favouring a pastel, contemporary, rustic  home with feature walls and furniture (courtesy of Lil Bro, furniture designer extraordinaire!) while, Bear wants more clean lines and a minimalist style. We still haven't come to a compromise. 

Who knew there would be so much work involved? Papa, has been involved in the building trade for as long as I can remember but I never knew or cared to learn, about the ins and outs but I've learnt so much in the past few weeks. Yesterday, for example, I learnt within five minutes of 'walking on site' I discovered that aeroboard will not hold my weight much to the 'the teams' chagrin. I slinked off site to hoots of 'well done Emma!'. *sad face* however, Karma scooted nicely around later in the afternoon when Bear did the same thing. Naturally, ridiculous amounts of cheering and clapping followed. 

I also learnt that pale yellow Converse and faded denim cutoffs are not suitable 'site' attire and had to pilfer clothes from Lil Bro's wardrobe. Though, I am in the process of persuading the men that in order for me to work at maximum efficiency on a wet, muddy and hazard-strewn site I MUST have a pair of glossy black Hunter wellies. So far, my demands for them to be included in the budget is falling on deaf ears. But a girl can hope...

Sharing a coke with the two most important and best men on the planet.*

*this was NOT a bribe......


Thursday, 22 August 2013

And so the end is nigh.

So, today marks the end of life as a normal person and the beginning of life as a student again as I return to my old stomping ground of Loreto Bray as an English and History Teacher while studyng (again) at UCD. Oof. It feels strange, I tell ya, to be thinking about September again in terms of stocking up on A4 pads and textbooks again.

But, credit where credit is due and I was blessed with fantastic students and classes, I only hope and pray my incoming teenagers are the same. Throughout my past six months back in Ireland, I had some laughs and learnt so much about European culture and definitely learnt somethings about Ireland. I definitely began to appreciate my heritage and culture a bit more but no amount of persuading by my classes will entice me to enjoy a plate of Irish stew!

What a last day it was. Firstly, there was a bit of a singsong and at 9.30am I was explaining the intricacies of the trad music tradition and singing along to The Wild Rover. A new student did an impromtu striptease where he showed off his tattoo for the female members of the class...unexpectedly and unprompted, luckily, my Director of Studies didn't decide to pay a visit to the class at that moment.

In the afternoon, after teaching some Irish slang during the week, a student was eager to show off his mastering of Irish slang by telling me he was 'too hungover' to do his homework and then told me that he practiced with his host family the previous night by marching into the kitchen saying 'I'm Marvin!' in a thick Spanish accent. Hilarious.

I was delighted to recieve 20 fantastic reviews from my outgoing students, a definite vote of confidence going forward. Finally, I feel like I've been doing something right, all the hours of planning have paid off. At least, now I no longer have the constant fear of being asked a question about complex English grammar that I can't answer. I can, with confidence, say my first year class are never going to ask me the ins and outs of the present perfect, the format of conditionals and definitions of phrasal verbs. Yes, English speakers- these things exist! Though, no doubt I will have a whole host of other problems and challenges, and the feelings of apprehension and nervousness are being to creep in.

But I will continue on my crusade to make English and History fun fun fun and do my best. As Macbeth said, 'Come what come may, time and hour runs through the roughest days'.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Fantastico! Dolce ristorante! Dolce Pizza!

Last Thursday evening was set in stone as the date for myself and the Terrible Twosome to finally catch up after weeks of ploughing through our individual busy schedules. One wise member of the Twosome suggested the new Platform Pizza Bar in Bray (just around the corner from the DART station) and bobs your uncle- a table was booked. Who doesn't love pizza?

Firstly, what marked the night as uniquely magical was the fact that yours truly was not only the first to arrive but also significantly early. As my stressed self swept into the restaurant demanding access to WIFI and a steamy latte which, was brought to my table post haste and in a giant mug, I was greeted and looked after by a team of friendly, chatty and enthusiastic staff. So far, so perfect.

Though, the rest of my party was super late there was no problem, despite every table being full and and a small queue forming at the door. The decor is eclectic and oozes a chilled Manhattan vibe, all charcoal greys, wooden tables and benches and giant silver candelabras.

Once the ladies arrived we could peruse the menu, the menu itself was small but with all the key choices you would expect from a pizzeria and then some. Pork, beef and tayto meatballs anyone? I chose the antipasto for one which, turned out to be giant, oodles of parma ham, pastrami and salami layered on garlic ciabattas slathered with homemade yummy pesto. Really, it was enough for an entire main course. The girls tucked into juicy meatballs and flatbreads.

No sooner were our plates cleared, than the giant pizza wheels landed on our tables. I chose a simple margarita with a side of blue cheese while my companions decided on a goats cheese, walnut and maple syrup concoction and pizza bread. All washed down with copious amounts of sparkling water but if you're not feeling the teetotaler vibe, there is an excellent craft beer list and a train-themed cocktail menu (including an explosive sounding Ticket Evader!).

We were well and truly stuffed after a carb-binge but the allure of the dessert menu was too tantalizing to be ignored, a retro 99 ice cream or freshly baked American cheesecake were tempting but we couldn't manage another morsel and settled for coffees instead. As the night grew on, the atmosphere was vibrant and busy but Platform had one more surprise for us. A trip to the bathroom was like stepping into Narnia as a giant wardrobe was positioned in front of the entrance to the loo. Pull open the heavy oak door and make like Alice through the looking glass.

Our bill was a reasonable €66, we left a hefty tip for the excellent and unfaltering service and promises to return. Gone are the days of the pizzeria being a grubby, cheap option for fast, unauthentic food where the only Italian thing in the place might have been the house wine. This modern glamorizing of the pizza bar has made it a trendy choice, also catering for various dietary requirements including slimmers (low carb) and coeliacs (gluten free). My only problem now- how to convince Bear that he likes or should like Italian cuisine.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A week of wining and dining with old friends

This past week has been a whirlwind of catching up with old friends- a catch up that was long over due in all cases, but thanks to varying, jam packed schedules, the plan has been months in the making.

My first port of call was to meet the wonderful Miss Katie whom I spent some glorious childhood summers with in the wilds of the Connemara Gaeltacht many moons ago. Despite being out of touch for over ten years we were transported back to our giddy selves upon spying each others grown up self. Katie, unlike myself, has been super busy globetrotting, climbing Everest and establishing a stellar career- if she wasn't so fabulous you'd hate her!! But we spent a fantastic summer evening in the balmy surroundings of South William Street's Dakota bar sipping (too many) glasses of Proseco and chatting a mile a minute to catch up with present day events- stopping only to nibble on some of the appetizers offered by Dakota's bar menu including nachos which, were generously slathered with gaucamole, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream as well as a tasty, crunchy bruscetta loaded with sundried tomatoes, rocket and garlic. I was nervous about going barelegged in a Massimo Dutti polkadot skirt and leather structured tee from River Island but the weather stayed warm enough to sit outside for the evening without even a cardi!

My next gallavanting trick was to Drundrum Town Centre with Bear to finally sit down and have a chat with Aimee and Brian, our long term friends who recently got married You can read about it here and just returned from a sunny honeymoon on the Baleric Islands. Our plan was to meet for dinner, take in the new Red 2 movie followed by some drinks, but due to Bear being delayed working his ass off on our new build (more on that later!) we were uber- late, dashing into Wagamamas at 8.30pm. Aimee is a fellow Shoe Queen and I despaired at having simply thrown on my old reliable Carvella flats (perfect for rushing to a dinner date!) and felt my patterned taper leg pants and cream silk tee (also a River Island find!) was a tad on the underdressed side when meeting with such glamorous company!

Wagamamas as always was delish, and I love practising my chopstick skills although, I tend to play it safe, ordering katsu curry or a chicken ramen dish but this time I ordered the tofu yasai pad thai which was delicious, Bear had his usual katsu curry and we shared a side of duck gyoza. The newlyweds were more adventurous with Brian ordering a dish on the strength of it containing a veggie that he'd never heard of and none of us could pronounce, though they intended to share a side of miso soup it proved to be a disappointment. Our Japanese inspired dinner was washed down with a round of beers and as the chat continued we soon realised the movie was not going to happen. After paying a reasonable bill, we headed to Cortinas to indulge in some cocktails in a distinctly Mexican atmosphere and I have to say, they have the best old-fashioneds in the southside of the city.

It was an early night for all as both Bear and I were due 'on-site' early the following morning to help my dedicated Papa to lay our foundations, however, Bear did let me sleep late and I joined the construction team closer to midday on Saturday bearing coffees and pastries for the men at work.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Old friends are the best friends.

I was in fantastic form slipping out of school today and legging it south side to meet the gorgeous Miss Shanna for a spot of Italian in the yummy Pasta Fresca on Chatham Street, D. 2.

Last time myself and herself sat down for a chat was literally days before I shipped off to Asia which, was more than a year ago so a catchup natter and beers was long overdue. I was thrilled when she said that she'd booked a table in the yummiest Italian restuarant in the city and it was also an excuse to break out a crazy pink flamigo printed dress for it's first outing coupled with a slim fit black blazer- however, I was not brave enough to brace the bi-polar weather (pun intended) without sporting a pair of tights.

Despite the stress of a technology break down of Transformer proportions, slipping over the river and   relaxing into the chilled atmosphere around Chatham Row worries about marking tests, setting tests and planning lessons vanished completely from my brain!

Thankfully, the rain held off and we could sit outside the restuarant, people watching and being waited on by a fantastically eccentric older waiter who hovered in the near distance serving us our every whim. We munched on a truly scrumptious Quattro Formaggi pizza which had chili oil and blue cheese lurking under its crust, shared a cajun chicken salad and shared a garlic and mozzarella bruschetta. Not to mention wine, beer and coffee that were delivered to our table promptly and with flourish. 

As a frequent customer of Pasta Fresca I have to say having spent six weeks touring in Italy, I believe it's Dublin's most authentic Italian restaurant with great service, beautiful menu and chilled out atmosphere, allowing patrons to nurse coffees and drinks for hours without rushing them out. As the sky darkened we decided it was time to quit and settled a very reasonable bill before heading off to get a spot of shopping done before returning home to our respective other halves. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Hump Day.

The only thing worse than the incessant buzzing of my alarm on a Wednesday morning, is it buzzing on a Monday morning. However, despite the dull, overcast, drizzly weather this morning I felt like I had a spring in my step and it was thanks to the team at Jumpzone in Sandyford where I've been attending trampolining fitness classes for over two months now with a few buddies.

I'm not sure who sowed the seeds of the bouncing idea but we were all bored with running circuits, hitting the gym and power walking. Trampolining was definitely the answer- led by the wonderful, ass-kicking Eileen who has pushed and pummeled our squidge into shape. She promises an intense, cardio workout which, if you can keep the pace, burns 1,000 calories.

Our first time out on the trampolines was a shock to the system as our excited bouncing turned into jelly legs, tightened chests and gasping of breath. Though, as we've continued to practice, I've started to notice that I'm a bit more flexible, my muscles are a bit tighter and I'm able to work through the class without feeling like my heart is trying to escape from my chest.

Now, I feel like my energy levels have skyrocketed, like a burst of adrenaline. Now, Wednesday mornings aren't such a drag and hump day doesn't feel so humpy. So, if you're looking to burn some major calories in a fun, supported environment- give Jumpzone a call. You need to book in advance because the classes are super popular and often full.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Dressing for four seasons in one day!

Without sounding like an atypical Irish moaning ninny but this weather is wrecking my karma. Don't get me wrong, I was completely at home with the tropical heatwave that graced our shores and launched the first 'heat warning' issued by Met Eireann ever. It reminded me of my year in Asia where every day involved short sleeves, sandals, brightly painted toenails and a golden tan. What also reminds me of Asia, are the random monsoon bursts of torrential rain we are experiencing here and they're wrecking my buzz. More than once, I wished for a plastic disposable poncho as I sloshed around the slippy streets of Dublin. What's more, It's creating a serious wardrobe deliemma. Too hot for a mac or coat, but then once the haymaker dulls the sky, even the slickest of slickers isn't going to keep you dry. Skirts and dresses require a certain amount of daily maintenance and shorts are out of the questions- although, I did spy a girl this morning in a teeny pair of denim hotpants accessorized with an uber-sexy pair of Hunter wellies, I'll be honest- I internally mocked her under the security of clear blue skies this morning but was certainly laughing on the other side of my face by late afternoon as I stood in the teeming rain at an unsheltered bus stop. I can't seem to make the right fashion choices for this weather. My job dictates a lot of my decisions in terms of hemlines, patterns and colours as well as fabrics- all delicates (silks, satins, cashmere) must be avoided due to my clumsy interaction with whiteboard markers, red pens, glue sticks and photocopying toner every day. While, a uniform of shirts, pencil skirts, shift dresses and cigarette pants regularly see me slowly overheating in stuffy classrooms on a daily basis but once I step outside these days I'm blasted by a cold wind or followed by an ominous black cloud that doesn't open until I am well and truly out of range of any shelter. When I leave the house in the morning, I believe I have captured the trend, nailed the look and sashay to my car filled with confidence- but by the time, I get on the bus, sit for 2 hours among other hurried commuters and then walk to school, that confidence has been dashed as I wrestle wind, rain, scorching sun or all of the above. I often return home with frizzy hair instead of straight, my ballerina pumps expanding from immersion in too many puddles and a top that's changed colour ever so slightly. It's true what they say about Irish people, we're never happy. A bit of sun- we moan, a lot of sun- we whine bitterly to the point of fainting willy nilly in the street and I am no innocent. But wait, fellow Paddies- wait until the long, dark, overcast winter and I think you will rue the day you moaned about that shining orb of light in the sky. To be sure, as November slinks around the black, freezing corner, you'll pay any price to feel 30 degree heat on your bones, most likely courtesy of the isle of Lanzarote!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

New Beginnings

My initial foray into the blogosphere began with my travel musings when I exited the rat race for a more relaxed life in Asia. I use the word 'relaxed' in its loosest form. Looking back with the benefitof  heinsight, I think the word I was looking for was- 'different'. You can check out my adventures on

Since returning home, I began to feel that a title like let there be no foreign lands seemed to loose its meaning as I was holed up in freezing cold Ireland. However, over the past few months some weird and wonderful things have began happening to me so I decided to relocate my old blog.

This will be a haven of thrifty shopping tips, travel and tourism titbits and a step by step documentary on the building of the much-awaited Chez Nous for myself and Bear (my long suffering and often considerably better half!). Not to mention all the good food and terrific nights out we encounter along the way with my gaggle of sanity-challenged best friends.

I am also- for reasons known only to God, starting college again at the ripe old age of 28 to study for the HDip and launch myself into the world of secondary school teaching. I was bad bad bad in a past life!

I am not narcissistic enough to assume that those of you suffering the ether of the internet are remotely interested in the goings on in my little life, but if nothing else it will serve as a shining beacon of youth for when I'm old and bedridden either that or a way for Papa to keep tabs on me....