How I lived with an Irish family for a week and they survived – Part 2


Continued from Part 1…  (duh)

6.  If Soibhán and her family ever came to visit, I could never, ever feed them enough food.  I know this for a fact.  Every meal I had at her house was enormous.  Seriously humongous.  She fixed a plate for me one evening that would have fed both my husband and myself with leftovers.  Piles of roast beef, mashed potatoes, home fries, parsnips, mashed carrots and cauliflower & cheese.  All covered in gravy.  Plus dessert. I have never seen people eat so much food on a regular basis.  Ever.   And they’re not fat at all.  At all.  I want to know how that works…

7.  Unlike the Vikings and the English, Peeps have yet to invade Ireland.  I brought three packages of Easter Peeps with me in the new flavors – sour watermelon, birthday cake and blue raspberry.  Yuck.  But her three kids devoured them.  Naturally.   Mr. Soibhán loved the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs…  I guess he doesn’t object to peanut butter and chocolate.  Just jam.

8.  People who live in Ireland can fly to the U.S. way cheaper that I can fly to Ireland.  We checked out the Aer Lingus’ website at Soibhán’s house.  The round trip airfare is 40% less to book in Ireland than I can book from the US.  Whaaaat?  Isn’t that illegal or something?  Isn’t there some sort of international airfare equity law?  But it’s probably a good thing.  I’d be eating Soibhán’s ginormous meals more often.

9.  Soibhán’s lives near a Gaeltacht area of Ireland.  That is, the primary language of the area is Irish.  And don’t call it Gaelic.  Gaelic is what they speak in Scotland.  But sometimes Irish is called Irish Gaelic.  Confused?  I still am… Anyway, her three younger kids go to Gaeltacht schools.  These schools are dedicated to keeping the Irish culture and language alive, and the teachers and students speaking Irish exclusively.  Soibhán’s Irish isn’t too good since she didn’t attend a Gaeltacht school. Her kids are starting to talk Irish in front of her.  Gotta love those kids.  Her eight year old daughter sang Uptown Funk to me in Irish.  It was cool.

10. Sadly U.S. reality TV knows no boarders.  Unfortunately.  We spent two hours one evening watching “Say Yes to the Dress”.  Doesn’t really put the best face on U.S. matrimonial rituals does it?  But like a car wreck, we couldn’t not watch.  Or stop watching.  At least she hasn’t seen “Bridezillas”.  Yet.

So yeah – there were some differences – mostly involving the roll of jelly/jam in the Irish diet vs. the American diet.   But I also found out that we had much, much more in common.   And that’s the gift you receive from travel if you “live like the locals” as my hero Rick Steve’s says.

You see with eyes wide open.

So today I went shopping and got the ingredients for a “thank you” goodie box…  A jar of peanut butter and grape jelly swirled, a can of Disney Princess chicken noodle soup, a box of Lucky Charms (her six year old loves them – go figure…), Neosporin spray (can’t get it in Irleand), Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and a pack of Peeps.

They’re going to love it!  But possibly hate the peanut butter and jelly.  I’m willing to take the risk.

The Irish have two categories of people who come to their country.  You are either a tourist or a visitor.

The tourist comes to see the sights, snap pictures, listen to some traditional music and drink Guinness.  They complain about the weather and how long it takes to drive from place to place and about how you can’t get a short answer when you ask a question. Short of St. Patrick and the Great Famine, they really don’t know much about Irish history.  And they’re really not interested in learning that much more.

The visitor comes to see the sights, snap pictures, listen to some traditional music and drink Guinness. They also don’t care if it’s cold and/or raining (not much at least…)  And they love the long drives and exploring small villages and getting stopped by sheep in the road.  Multiple times.  Visitors think the twenty minutes of craic that they exchange on a street corner with the person they stopped to ask directions from is a highlight of their day.  They know something about the incredible history of both ancient and modern Ireland.  A visitor admires the irrepressible Irish spirit that would not be conquered by the Vikings, the Normans, the Scots or the English despite hundreds and hundreds of years of occupation.

And they like nothing better than to spend an evening by a coal and peat fire with new friends laughing about putting jam on toast.

Éirinn go Brách!

How I lived with an Irish family for a week and they survived – Part 1


I met my friend Soibhán in Dublin nearly two years ago.  We were both in the audience at the filming of an Irish RTE TV music special.  You wouldn’t even believe the story of how I ended up there.  It’s crazy even for AGMA.  Let’s just say I was with my then 79-year-old going on teeny bopper MIL who had stars in her eyes.  ‘Nuff said…

Soibhán isn’t her real name.  I’m protecting the innocent.  And I love the name Soibhán. It doesn’t sound anything like it looks in “Ahmurican speak” and it has one of those charming fada marks in it.  I love those.

We became fast friends through Facebook.  Okay – so I guess FB is good for something other than expressing idiotic, ill-informed political opinions that nobody give’s a rat’s ass about.  Oh – did I say that out loud?

Soibhán & I got together again when I was in Ireland last October and shared a couple of pints of Guinness one evening in Killarney.  Well, I drank the Guinness, she drank tea.

Yes…I managed to make friends with one of the 29 people in Ireland who don’t drink alcohol.  I had no idea there were so many.

So one thing lead to another and I found myself headed to County Waterford a little over two weeks ago to stay with her and her family for six days.

A couple of days into the visit, Soibhán asked me if I or my husband had any misgivings about me staying with them since they were basically strangers.  I laughed.  The real question should have been if she had any misgivings letting AGMA staying with her. She should have…

After reading my blog, wouldn’t you?

I learned a lot about the Irish way of life and some of the funny differences between us. Like they are just plain weird about some stuff…  And I’m perfectly normal.  Right.

So in no particular order (although the first five do seem to have jelly/jam theme happening…)

  1. If you’re having eggs and toast for breakfast, you can put butter on your toast. And orange marmalade.  But not jelly.  But call it jam because jelly = Jello in Ireland.  They think you’re crazy if you put jam on your toast.  They get funny looks on their faces if you take a bite of egg and then a bite of your jammy toast. Like they’re going to get sick
  2. It’s okay to have jam on a scone you’re eating in parallel with your eggs.  But they’ll also expect you to eat toast with butter with your eggs.  Scones evidently aren’t counted as a carb.  And a jammy scone must not be eaten with eggs.  It’s as if they believe that jam and eggs are a volatile combination in the gut that could possibly trigger a chain of dire events in your body leading to an early death or worse.  Like eating to much pork and beans.
  3. Soibhán’s six-year-old son asked for jelly and ice cream.  I thought that was a very odd combination until she explained to me that they refer to Jello as jelly. Ummm…  Jello and ice cream.  That sounds much better.  Not.
  4. I got the “I think I’m going to get sick” look again when I explained that a staple of almost every American child’s diet was the classic peanut butter and jelly (NOT Jello) sandwich.  What??  My jaw dropped in disbelief trying to comprehend a childhood without PBJ’s.  Clearly there are very, very strict rules about the use of jam in Ireland.
  5. They don’t eat chicken noodle soup.  Or chicken & rice soup.  Oh the humanity!  I was going to mention a that a PBJ and a bowl of chicken noodle soup is one of the ultimate comfort meals in the US, but I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be welcome in their home any longer if I did.  That might have put them over the edge.

To be continued…

All hail High King AGMA


Hot diggty dog… I’m home!

It was wonderful trip to Ireland.  But then again, I think you’d have to really try hard not to have a wonderful trip to Ireland.  Just sayin’…

And miracle of miracles, the weather the last six days of my stay was spectacularicious! Blue skies, sunshine, mild temps… The kind of weather that you always dream about when visiting Ireland but know you’ll never, ever get.  Ever.

Pinch me.

The kind of weather that sends the “Visit Ireland” photographers frantically running around the country as fast as they can go to take breathtaking photos of a stunning land of azure skies, white sheep in emerald green pastures, dramatic ocean cliffs, ancient ruins and bright sunshine before the normal weather returns.  And it always does return.

Rain, mist, wind, coolish temps.  That’s the norm.  But in my seven trips to Ireland, I’ve learned the weather is just secondary to the “Irish experience”.  Yes – I said seven trips.

Don’t judge me.

On this trip, I stayed with a lovely Irish family in County Waterford for nearly a week.   I mean, after that many visits, AGMA’s managed to make a friend or two.  Clearly their character judgement is suspect…

This was an eye-opening experience.  Just like you never know a friend until you travel with them (trust me, I have personal experience with this… ), you never really know a country until you’ve lived in a home with a family for a week.

I’m very jealous of my Irish friends.  Because they’re Irish.

There are 4.6 million people living in Ireland.  And there are over 35 million people around the world who can claim Irish heritage.  Despite their prolific reproductive abilities, I am not one of them.

I hate that.

Thanks (or no thanks) to my husband who’s into genealogy research, I was in my 40’s when I found out that my Irish great great grandfather was actually German.  Crap.  It was a sad day when I had to put away my “Kiss Me I’m Irish Button”.  I blame my husband every St. Patrick’s day when I feel like a sham and a wannabe wearing my green “Guinness Is Good For You” shirt.

It’s just all so humiliating…

However I feel strongly that I may have been Celtic Irish chieftain in a past life. Possibly a High King.  I’ve absolutely nothing to base that on other than I feel I have to come up with some explanation as to why I keep going back to Ireland.  The “I love to drink fresh Guinness” excuse is getting pretty thin.  Being Túathal Máelgarb in a former life just makes so much more sense.

So stay tuned for AGMA’s Irish travel blog post, “How I lived with an Irish family for a week and they survived” in a few days.

‘Cause it ain’t easy having a crazy AGMA living with you.

So happy to be back on WordPress!