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.