Sunday, May 29, 2011


Specious [adj] (spi suhs)
  1. Seemingly true but really false
  2. Deceptively convincing or attractive:

I am in Dublin.  No, really - that's not specious statement.  I, Kristen of the Green Mountain State, am sitting on the tile floor of my room in the buzzing city of Dublin, Ireland.  A little worse for wear in the sleep department, I must admit, but generally whole and ready to take this city by storm!   

And “by storm,” I do mean at a steady, marathon pace that will leave my feet relatively intact. 

Wanting to keep my brain intact, as well, I’ve decided to rely on numbers to summarize my first days in Ireland.  So, without further ado…

Dublin (and travel so far) by the Numbers:

  • 21: the row I sat in during our 6-hour flight to Dublin Airport. 
  • 0: the percentage of joy in my heart when I found out that not only did we not have WiFi in the room, but that my iPhone couldn’t dial out OR receive data.  Here’s to purchasing an international call and data plan for nothing.  (Bitter, me? No…)
  • 10: minutes that we waited to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College.
  • 6: the number of faces that dropped when I ordered chicken liver pate at our first group dinner.  Note: It was delicious – particularly when you stacked the croute with liver and fig compote.
  • 8:  the number of times I thought we were driving on the wrong side of the road thus far and that we were surely going to die.  Or be wounded. Or simply have a heart attack.
  • 1: cups of tea I’ve sipped.  This unexpected cuppa was sipped this morning, with milk and sugar, before heading to the Loughcrew.  The poor waitress has a look of horror when our group descended on Caffrey’s – it was 10:30 AM the morning after the Barcelona v. Manchester United match and there were two dozen of us after all.
  • A LOT: The hills I’ve climbed today. After a trip to Loughcrew (a fantastic (and very windy) megalith burial site) and the Hills of Tara, I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that we climbed 20 different hills – tall, short, steep, steeper, green, yellow, rocky, and covered in sheep poop.  These sites would have been nothing if it wasn’t for Kelly, our beloved guide (and archeologist and Champlain professor – she’s like Indiana Jones, people).   I never knew turf-encrusted tombs could be so…. alive.
  • 17: The age of the pipe player at O’Shea’s Merchant, a pub in town.  He quietly took our breath away and got out of feet tapping while we munched on fish and chips (and “mushy peas,” I kid you not).  Then men in the pub jumped on the bandwagon and sang a capella to the room.  The gentleman next to us (lovely and now educated where Vermont is in comparison [AKA not near Michigan]) egged them all on,  hand clasped around a bottomless pint of Guinness.  Only in local pubs.

What's up for tomorrow? Tomorrow: a walking tour of Dublin, visiting Champlain’s academic center, Irish Parliament, and an Irish House Party for a little craic (AKA entertainment – get your mind out of the gutter!).  Oh, and yogurt.  Can't forget that yogurt... (stay tuned for an entry on that little beauty of breakfast).
[Note: Internet connection is poor, so no images yet.]

Friday, May 27, 2011


Caprice [noun] (ca pris)
  1. Sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated action

While traveling means being at the mercy of every whim and caprice from a slew of factors*, there is one thing that remains in your complete and utter control: packing.

I've always loved and loathed the process of packing.  It's one thing to calculate what to bring on a trip; it's another to change those calculations into a reality that will fit into a single bag

The two-page, two column list.
What does a successful packing venture come down to?  Transmogrification.  And lists, but mostly transmogrification.

I know, I know: "Why are you bringing magic into this?"  But truly: I have no idea how it happens otherwise.  When you're 24-hours away from takeoff, staring at a two-page list of must-have items, it seems like the only thing that manages to get everything stuffed into your bag is something mystical.  

The mystics were with me today.   As of last night, I had a packing list, a pile of clothes, toiletries, electronics, and snacks, and a bag** longing to be filled.  As of the time I sat down to write this entry, I have a filled carry-on and 47 lbs. of  checked bag goodness.

We're packed!  AKA Victory!!!

In a few hours, I will step on the plane to Ireland.  I have no doubt that I'll be fighting to control my excited caprices every step of the way.  And by "fighting" I do accepting without question.  I am traveling to Ireland, after all - what's a journey abroad without embracing the new and unexpected?  See you in Ireland! 

*including but not limited to: Thunderstorms, cranky and/or drooling passengers, and Icelandic volcanoes.  

** His name is Maurice, by the way.  We've been through a lot together, so it was only fitting to christen him.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Lucid [adj] (loo sihd)
  1. Clear, intelligible, and easily understood

Does a lamb shank make a good souvenir?

I suppose if one addresses this question in a simple and lucid manner, the answer would likely nest in the negative.  "No, my uncouth friend," One would begin, resting behind a large gilded desk with one's fingers tented. "A lamb shank does not an acceptable souvenir make." 

And this, dear friends, is where I grow concerned, as a lamb shank was one of the first souvenir ideas I had after learning I would be heading to Ireland, the land of (some of) my forebears.

I am of the camp that declares edible gifts to be some of the best gifts to receive.  Food from exotic lands is exciting - it's new, it's culturally significant, it's not FDA approved!  A slice of packaged turtle jelly, a hunk of freeze-dried poutine, or a bundle of seaweed "rice cakes" all say so much about the place they were sold and the people who by it.  I've never been so excited as when someone brought me Pocky sticks from Japan - well, except maybe that time I was brought Vietnamese coconut candy or those Mexican sugar skulls.  The excitement stems from the idea that you're partaking in a small, but significant piece of another world.  After all,  food is culture, culture is food.

Turtle Jelly. China 2009
This week, I'm preparing to depart for Ireland by adding footnotes to my packing list ("...what's missing here? Headphones? Nope. Toothbrush? Nah. Maybe - oh, SOCKS!"), agonizing over my ticket (Me trying to call the travel agency: "No, seriously, where is my ticket?  What about my confirmation number?  THERE'S NO NUMBER HERE!!! FOR THE LOVE OF PETE...oh, sorry, ma'am, wrong number.") and, being a somewhat crazed individual, calculating my souvenir list.  This list is currently chock-full of food - most of which I cannot begin to know, A) If I can find, B) If I can bring back, and C) If it would survive the trip.  And yet, here I am, homing in on finding Cadbury chocolates, rashers (AKA Irish bacon), and Marmite. Oh, and a lamb.  A lamb would be nice. (Mr. Norton - the lamb's name - could masquerade as a guide dog, no?)

Of course, I have a foodie list for my culinary delights while I'm in country, too.  Irish stew, Shepard's pie, fish and chips, baggers and mash, freshly steamed mussels, boxty, and even black pudding make the list.  With so many interesting gastronomic options before me, it seems almost rude to not offer a sliver of this experience to those at home.

So, does a lamb shank make a good souvenir?  Yes.  Yes, I do believe it does.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Idiosyncrasy [noun] (ih deeh uh sihn kruh see )
  1. Peculiarity of temperament
  2. Eccentricity

I wear striped knee socks with my running shoes.  They're not overly shocking, just grey and black and cream.  Neither sock is threadbare or allows for my big toe to stick out uncomfortably, which I consider a boon.  They do, however, look a tad - what's the word? - odd when paired with my sneakers, go-to workout capris, and (high school) freshman field hockey sweatshirt.

It is for this idiosyncrasy that I workout in seclusion. 

[Well, and the fact that I run like one side of my body is in the process of being sucked into a black hole, but that's neither here nor there.]


When it comes to exercise, I do have a few quirks beyond my ensemble.  There's the order in which I arrange my bike, weights, water bottle, and TV (1, 4, 2, 3).  The fact that I turn the heat up when I'm warming up (heat? warming up? The connection is not lost on me).  The way I roll up my yoga mat (side note: Don't you hate it when it doesn't roll evenly? If yoga's about centering yourself, my mat sure as all out has to be centered, too).  Each of the aforementioned tasks is a tradition - a good luck pep talk to myself before and after all the stretching, sweating, and general chaos ensues.   I see similar acts of eccentricity occur all the time and while a particular choice may look out of place from an outsider's perspective, I know it would make perfect sense if I were to spend a few minutes in that person's reality. 

Without our quirks, the entire world may go down in flames.  Or, you know, at least my workout and that would be a shame.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Bonhomie [noun] (bah nuh mee)
  1. Good-natured geniality
  2. Atmosphere of good cheer

Looking to improve your workplace bonhomie?  Two words: Silly Putty.

If, for some strange reason, you do not have a well-loved container of this pliable gunk, I highly recommend running out to the closest dollar store you can find and buy some!  Putty is perfect for kneading, molding, ripping, destroying, and repairing - all things that one is bound to want to do on an overly hectic day!  Heck, it's even fantastic for creative pursuits!

Looking for a job in the fashion industry?   Say, hello, to the House of Putty!
Fashion and Putty.

Or maybe you're more of a stylist?
I Love Lucy (the Duck).
Into the pursuit of zeros and ones?  Shout your love for web traffic in moldable rubber!
"Very Unique Visitor"
 But, if you're like me and enjoy patterns, perhaps you'd rather just play and see what happens:
Pebbles.  Or bubbles.  It's up to you.

Thanks to Maureen for letting me post some of her gifts of Putty art!  A prettier dress and banner were never crafted. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Glower [verb] (glow uhr)
  1. To glare
  2. To stare angrily and intensely

Frown, be gone!  The stark glare of winter has lifted and the effervescent blush of spring is upon us!

Don't believe me, do you?  The fact that today is the first of May, the temperature is in the 50s, and birds are signing their merry song isn't enough to stir hope in your heart?

Oh, I see: You need proof - photographic evidence.  Well, evidence you shall have:

Ta-da!  Greenery!
See that?  That's the color green.  You may not recall this verdant hue, as it has been a good 6-months since it's made an appearance in nature.  Nonetheless, it is here now.  Welcome, green!  You will always be appreciated in our halls.

[Unless, of course, you come in the form of mold, mucus, or the teal tone of gangrene.  If you arrive under such circumstances, you will surely make us glower once again.]

With a backyard full of new life and vegetation, let the countdown begin to the blooming of those lilac buds, another season of (endless) lawn care, and my arrival in one of the greenest isles around!