Sunday 30 December 2018

Border town USA



Christmas 2018 is likely one that I won't forget!  For all kinds of reasons that I won't bore you with I found myself spending Christmas in a hotel in the town of Port Huron on the USA/Canada border.  Well it certainly was different!

I woke early on Christmas morning (6am-ish) and spent a few hours messaging with my sisters who sent me lovely photos from their Christmas day in Lyttle Holme (my parent's house) and LPA (Enid's).

 Yours truly on Christmas day in fine festive spirit as you can see (Come on!!! I'm wearing a Christmas brooch!)

And then later that day I had a lovely dinner which came over the border from Canada.  Lol how about that for different?!  Did you know, that while very similar to an Irish Christmas dinner (turkey, ham, cranberry sauce etc), a key component of Canadian Christmas is wild rice? It was very good!

I got to know the hotel very well.  At one point I think I was the only guest there!!

So that was Christmas day...

I also want to touch on something else I got up to in Port Huron.  I went to quite a quirky bar on the 23rd.  When you ask for a particular match to be shown on the tv and the bar girl hands you the remote control you know you are on to a good thing.  When the locals come over to commend you on your song choice on the jukebox you know this place is for you.  And when you are drinking Heineken for $3.25 and vodka for $2.75 you know it's the kind of (dodgy divey) bar that is right up your street.  I'm not even going to mention the crazy wood paneling and the gold streamer, bedecked wall which I suspect was not just for Christmas.  Oh!  And best of all - it had a landline on the wall that actually rang and was answered.  Hellooooo 1987 calling, they want their landline back.

If you ever find yourself in Port Huron, Michigan and you like dodgy bars as much as I do, you simply must check out The Office bar :)





Saturday 29 December 2018

Moon room, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Yesterday I ventured over to the South Side of Chicago - one L ride, and a bus - approx. one hour in total. The Museum of Science and Industry was my destination and my mission to see the Moon Room exhibit.

Interesting fact: The museum is located close to Hyde Park which is the area President Barack and Michelle Obama lived when Obama was a state senator.

So before I tell you how much I loved the moon room here are my thoughts on the museum…  It's definitely more of a family (i.e. kids) museum than an adult museum. And I guess I didn't go at the best time being in the middle of school Christmas holidays.  That place was crazier than Ikea in Dublin on a Saturday lol, and if you have ever suffered a Saturday in Ikea you will empathize with me I am sure!

That being said there were lots about it I enjoyed.  I loved the actual real Boeing 727 they have on the 3rd floor.  I really liked seeing a cockpit so close and had a good old look at it.  I especially liked seeing their display of the massive U505 submarine. Naively, I never realized a submarine would be so big.  In size and scale, it brought to mind, the Vasa battleship which I saw a couple of years ago in Sweden.


Vasa - sank in 1628, salvaged in 1961

And finally! The moon room.  Ah the moon room. 

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 Mission, the first manned flight to orbit the moon, the museum had a very cool exhibit.  Making use of the Smart House, a previous exhibit from 2008 to  2015 (more info in the photos below), the moon room is an immaculately curated living room replicating where millions of Americans watched the space mission.






Aluminum Christmas tree with its colour wheel present and functioning (bottom left of the pic)


So there you have it!  The last picture is me looking ecstatic in Mid Century Modern heaven.  I'll be honest, I hadn't known that the room was housed in a house somewhat inspired by the FLW usonian house so it was a win all round.  This exhibition closes early January and as an MCM aficionado I wholeheartedly enjoyed it.







Thursday 27 December 2018

Hallmarks of a Hallmark made for tv Christmas movie

After extensive research I have uncovered the secret* formula for Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel.  I am delighted to announce, that I am starting now and expect to have at least eleventy seventy films written and produced by December 1st 2019, just in time for the Christmas movie marathon.

*May or may not actually be a secret formula

Plot requirements
  • A European Prince or Princess on the run from his/her royal duties in a large city (e.g. NYC) 
  • A European Prince or Princess on the run from his/her royal duties in a small town in rural USA 
  • A career driven city girl home to visit her family...yep in rural America
  • A broken engagement
  • Boy (nerdy boy from High School who is now a Hot Man) meets girl (said career girl), a very minor misunderstanding ensues leading them to argue and fall out.  This argument must be resolved far quicker than it would be in real life.  Old high school friend likely candidate to point out the misunderstanding
  • Simply must, I repeat MUST end with a December wedding
  • No major plot twists
  • Holes in the plot are completely acceptable and welcome
Character requirements
  • Blonde mom.  I don't know why but based on my exhaustive investigations I just know all the moms must be blonde.  It's just the way of Hallmark and that's it.  Mom must be full of wisdom
  • Zany aunt.  Mom's younger quirky sister. More wisdom sharing
  • If career girl is blonde then her best friend must be brunette.  And vice-versa
  • Dad is present but not crucial to storyline.  Occasionally pops in head to offer career advice to city girl
Cast requirements
  • A male lead who previously featured in One Tree Hill or The OC
  • A female lead who played a minor part in Mean Girls
  • Winnie from The Wonder Years
  • Or Candace Cameron Bure
Oh my gosh, I almost forgot.  Critical to a successful Hallmark film (not necessarily critical to the plot or storyline - to be fair there is no correlation between a good plot and a Hallmark film lol) there must be a party or a ball close to the end of the  film where the lead female character must appear in a beautiful red dress.

That's pretty much it.  **Seriously, that's it..

Happy New Year all! I am sure you are looking forward to Christmas 2019 already after reading the above and knowing the treat you have in store when watching the Hallmark channel come December coming.

**Some photos to illustrate my points...

Oh look! It's Gretchen from Mean Girls.  That's so fetch

Candace Cameron Bure in a RED DRESS

The European Price gets his December bride

The End


Thursday 20 December 2018

2018, a retrospective

Well hello there! This is me reviewing some of my most notable/favourite posts of 2018

The 8th Amendment was repealed! It seems fitting to read over this post today, this being the day that our President has signed the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill and accordingly it has become law:
We made history

For posterity here are my New Year resolutions from January 2018.  I definitely stuck to my commitment to stop using single use coffee cups.  Read all about them here

Who wants a half bottle of good Irish whiskey for a tenner?!  Click here for info!

2018 was a record year for bad weather in Ireland.  In this post I wrote about the horrific conditions we had when Storm Emma met the Beast from the East.  I must say I got some great photos though! Check out that Irish Life statue!!
Next up is Amy with the weather report. Over to you Amy!

Fishing trip. I caught a feckn' shark!!!
Sharknado

I saw some great comedy in 2018! Read here for my report on two shows I went to see in Iveagh Gardens
Viva Back to the Future

Ok, so this one is important!  5 years ago I was laying on my couch moaning on facebook about how I needed to go on a diet in the new year.  My friend Eoghan emailed me and told me all about Low Carb and the Keto lifestyle.  It changed my life.   How about letting it change yours in 2019?

I have had some amazing experiences presenting the artwork of Irish artist Pigsy. From film festivals (Bristol, Galway, Cork & London), where the Mike Andrews film about him debuted, to an amazing exhibition in London.  What a year for him.
Thanks for letting me be part of it Pigsy!

I took a bucket list trip to Canada to see Niagara Falls

Coming near the end of the year, in advance of my big move I started spending more time with people who are special to me.  This is the report of a wonderful weekend Alice, Enid and I had in a beautiful cottage by a lake in Galway.

A Star is Born!  I predict Oscars

2018 was a terrific year!  Here's to 2019 - my year of adventure!

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Neon Wilderness, Wicker Park

I was excited to check out the new Wicker Park bar, Neon Wilderness, which had opened since I was last here.  It has a cosy ski lodge/winter cabin, laid back feel with a cool drinks menu - good beers, nice mixed drinks.  We decided to go with wine and chose a nice Cote Du  Rhone.

It was really relaxed and a nice treat on a Monday evening!

Ps.  The name Neon Wilderness comes from a short story by Chicago writer Nelson Algren

Toga! Toga! Toga!

Oops!  Yoga! Sorry, I mean yoga.

I went to a bikram class today, and wow it was great.  It must be about two or three years ago since I last went and while I expected my flexibility to be poor, what shocked me was how my strength had diminished too.  Not good!

It is a quirky studio!  The hot room is pretty standard but there's lots of other good stuff going on - nice sitting area with lots of interesting books, a notice board where you can pin your intentions for the week ("Just Be" was one of my favourites).  And the changing rooms! Well that needs a photo to be described properly I think.

Ladies on the left, Men on the right.  Thick canvas sheets hung using bamboo logs and rope.  Kind of cool I think. Plus I guess they can be lowered/removed opening the studio into a large space for events etc.

I have signed up for the two week special ($39) so I am going to go as much as possible over the next fortnight - tomorrow for starters!

Saturday 8 December 2018

What I wore...

I'm laughing at the title of this blog post.  Normally when a blogger talks about "what I wore" it tends to be a description of a something glamorous or a fashionable "outfit of the day"...hashtag ootd :)

This "what I wore" is a little different.  If you are following my blog you will have seen that I was downtown yesterday evening.  It was minus 8c/22f and I was outdoors for a long time - looking at Marina City, plus strolling around the cute little Christkindl market. Yet I wasn't cold!  All down to good forward planning and lots of layers:

What I wore:
- Thermal long sleeve tshirt
- Thermal long johns/leggings
- Thick Socks
- Long sleeve blouse
- Jumper
- Jeans
- Thin layer puffa 3/4 coat
- Thick layer puffa coat 3/4 coat
Yes, that's correct.  I wear 2 coats!

And then, pictured below
- Knee length furry boots (read my review of them here)
- Furry hat with wings/sides
- Balaclava
- Furry mittens


Downtown Chicago, Friday night

Yesterday was a great evening!

I headed downtown around 4.30pm with the intention of going to see The Bean.  I had seen some cool photos of it in Winter on instagram - it goes all frozen and I think it looks like a big fossilized dinosaur egg.

Anyway that plan changed.  For the better! So, I cannot follow google maps to save my life while I am walking - no problem at all while driving - but walking I am guaranteed to go the wrong direction.  Which I did.  And suddenly I looked up and right in front of me was the corncob buildings of Marina City.  Oh my gosh.  So wonderful.  I had a good potter around and went right in below them and around them.  Very very cool.


Then I headed to the Chicago Christkindl Market for some gluhwein to warm up. The market has a different mug every year and this year's one is heart shaped and ADORABLE! 


Finally we ended the night in Pizano's pizza where we took our time over some drinks (a lovely malbec) and the famous Chicago Deep Dish pizza.

A bad buy v a good buy


Don't buy these! (Aldi)

Buy these! (Aldo)

Last year, I had a pair of boots from Lidl which were absolutely brilliant and got me through the whole Winter - which if you remember included a trip to Chicago (minus 22c!!) and the Beast from the East hitting Ireland.  They were however totally dead after those tough conditions and I needed to get a new pair before my move to Chicago this week.

Unfortunately Lidl hadn't got their ski/winter/boots in stock, but Aldi had.  Figuring how good the Lidl ones were I assumed the Aldi ones would be the same.  Big mistake!  Awful.  Awful.  Tough and hard - like moulded plastic.  Little to nil (or at least not comfortable) inner soil lining.  And simply a bad fit.  Very uncomfortable to walk in because it felt like my feet were slipping in and out of them.

They were a BAD BUY.  I regret not doing a good lap of the shop when I bought them as all of the above would have been exposed pretty quickly.  Instead I just quickly tried them on and without much thought I paid for them.  (I guess, again, I was relying on them being the same as the year previous' ones from Lidl).

So what to do! Here I was in Chicago with a crappy pair of boots that aside from feeling terribly uncomfortable I really felt were just not up to the job. I dreaded being outside too long in them, I am sure they would not have kept the cold out.  Luckily I spotted an Aldo shoe shop near me. And they had the cutest pair of boots which were most importantly GOOD - insulated and comfortable.  And best of all the Aldo was a sale shop.  So boots that should have been $200 cost me only $40.  I couldn't believe my luck.

Long story short. Aldo trumps Aldi

Ps. How super cute are the Aldo boots!






Wednesday 5 December 2018

A culinary tour from London to Dublin to Chicago

It's been over a month since I last blogged!  How the heck did that happen?!  Well, considering this post, I guess the answer is that I have been busy - eating!

Below is a flavour (d'ya geddit!) of my last month


London

Enid and I travelled with Irish artist Pigsy for the screening of the Mike Andrew's documentary film about Pigsy which was featured in the Irish London film festival.  Pretty exciting, and some achievement to make it to London it has to be said!  Plus very well received which was fantastic!



Red carpet! Enid & Ciaran/Pigsy

While we were there (just for two days, one night) we did our fair share of eating.  You need to know that I have a love/hate relationship with London when it comes to eateries. 
So.Many.Chains. 
Very nice chains I will say!   Restaurants, that you would not think are chains. Great food places.  Nice d├ęcor places.  Good atmosphere places.
But chains!  All chains! 

Bill's

We were fresh off the plane with big wide-eyed Oirish heads on us and we were hungry.  Enid knew of a chain (sigh) called Bill's which she said was good and would be just what we needed so we headed off to the Bill's in Soho.
The food was "fine"  The drink was better - I had a Malbec, Enid had a Prosecco (hey, we were on a mini holiday lol!) and Pigsy had tea, the wild thing.

Cote

We came across Cote near the film festival cinema - which was on Regent Street.  We were on a high after the great showing at the festival, and this cute little French restaurant was the perfect place to toast the success of the film we thought.  I took a bet with Enid that although it looked small, cute and authentic, it was a chain.  She lost the bet - these chains are sneaky I tells ya!
Anyway.  The chain thing aside, this was a good place.  The food was very nice - I had pork belly and Enid had beef bourginon.  The wine was good and the atmosphere nice too.  All in all a nice place for a fine evening.

The Ivy

So on our last day we decided to go all out.  Enid and I normally go for what we call our "boozy lunch" a few days before Christmas, but because I will not be around this Christmas we said we would do it in London.  Throw in my graduation, Pigsy and all his recent triumphs, plus that this would be likely the last time the Three Amigo's were travelling together we said we would push the boat out and go somewhere decent, and a little bit exciting.

So the very famous Ivy it was.  Which IS officially a chain btw.  But it has been around since 1917.  And the food was incredible and the service immaculate.  So I guess I can overlook my aversion to chains on this occasion.

Celebrate!


 

Dublin

My little trip to London, and my little rant above about chains, makes me appreciate how great Dublin is and how many nice little independent places we have.  And that is something I took advantage of over the last few weeks, while out and about with friends and family saying goodbye before I departed on my little year long adventure!

Dillinger's

I met up with my two best friend's, Enid and Alice, Sunday fortnight ago and we simply had the best night ever.  A ton of food for a really good price - the Dillinger's happy hour offer is very very good.  A lovely malbec with the food AND two Brandy Alexander's after dinner!!!  Today was the day that Brandy Alexander came into my life and it deserves to be marked.  If you have never had one of these cocktails I recommend you try one this weekend.  You will thank me for it.

Dillinger's.  It's plain and simple, consistently great.  You can always rely on it.  The food, the staff, the service, all lovely.


Do it! I am telling you, do it!


The Shelbourne

Hmmm.  Where to start? Well actually, first things' first.  I had a great night with Enid and Cousin Kasey! I always do with those pair.  And I really appreciate them coming out during my last week on a work night.
Everything was very nice as would be expected of the Shelbourne.  I had Guinness bread (mmm!) and tomato soup, a glass of malbec and a Brandy Alexander (it gets capitalisation because....emm...because it just deserves it ok!).  The gals had pretty much the same,  Oh and we got a plate of truffle fries for the table which was delish.  It was just a tad expensive I thought - particularly when compared to Dillingers.  For the same amount of money I had had a starter, main and three alcohol drinks in Dillingers.

But you know what.  It's The Shelbourne.  And I love it. A Dublin classic, always atmospheric and particularly so at Christmas.  Oh and always the chance of seeing someone famous lol.  Case in point, when Enid and I met Cuba Gooding Jnr!!

Hugo's

An ambient little Irish/French restaurant on Baggot Street.  I had the game terrine which was as punchy with flavour as game terrine should be.  And then for my main I had a melt in your mouth featherblade of steak.  Looking for a cosy little spot with great food and wine?  Hugo's is that place.  Lovely atmospheric Christmas decorations too!

The Rustic Stone

Everything was great about the Rustic Stone, except what I ordered.  Steak on a stone.  Cook your own food eh?!  I just don't get it!  I won't be doing that again. 
That aside; great starters (baba ganoush, my gosh the flavour) great company, great wine.  Bit of a dodge dessert - chocolate "soup" (a really weird, yocky chocolatey, thin watery excuse of a sauce) poured over a chocolate mousse with two florettes of cream - which were either sour cream or were gone off.
Hmmm.  Contrary to how negative the above sounds, I did actually like this.

Wigwam

Two mojitos for €12.  What's not to like?  Check it out on a Friday night.  A cute little Cuban inspired hipster coffee bar and pub on Middle Abbey Street. However, it's not fancy - be warned!

Chicago

Since arriving here in Chicago, aside from having a lovely time I also have been doing a lot of eating.  See below.  BUT! I also am being very good and trying to eat keto/no sugar.  Any carbohydrate (rice, pasta, noodles) you see in these photos, I did not eat.  I repeat, did not eat!  Anyway, all the rest of the dishes were so good, I simply don't need those evil carbs!

At Home








Shrimp and Lobster tail cooked on the barbeque!


Scallops and guacamole







Shrimp Jalfrezi

Eating Out

Seadog



Sashimi platter!
Yes!  So very good!
We are going back in two weeks with friends for a big night out and I am looking forward to it already!