Tag Archives: Ireland

Murphy’s law for travel plans

It’s as if my house knows I’m leaving the country for nearly two weeks. Why? Because things are going wrong. Very wrong.

Lucy and Ethel

Eeeeeek!

It started when my son Chris came over to help me clean out the basement a little over a week ago. I had seen mouse droppings and a tiny mouse carcass earlier this summer and without backup, I wasn’t about to shift the boxes and random stuff that took up residence down there when I moved in four years ago. I should toss it all, I suppose. If I haven’t used something, or even missed its existence, in more than four years, why keep it, right?

At any rate, I’m not an expert on mice, having had little experience with them over the years. I am, however, confident that I am not a fan. I’m pretty sure I’d shriek like Lucy or Ethel and charge up the stairs if I encountered a live one.

Happily, that didn’t happen. Chris and I made it through most of the basement detritus (keeping most of it – sigh). I innocently swept up the icky remnants of what I was sure must be long gone tiny tenants. Surely those creatures were simply trying to escape a harsh Ohio winter, right? But since fall is technically here – despite the warmer-than-normal temps – I thought I may as well put a gentle little trap baited with a dab of peanut butter in a corner of the basement. Just as a precautionary measure.

Maybe 48 hours later I awoke to the sound of a repetitive knocking in the middle of the night. In my befuddled state, the mouse trap never came to mind. The dogs were cuddled next to me on the bed and were briefly interested, but quickly settled back into sleep. Squirrels on the roof? A poltergeist? The noise stopped, and I went back to sleep, too.

It wasn’t until Saturday that I thought of the trap. Since it’s the kind that doesn’t kill mice, I thought I’d better go see if some little guy was trapped inside. This would mean putting the entire trap inside a garbage bag, inside a box, inside a larger garbage bag, and driving it to another county for release. But I was game. I think.

Beatrix Potter Mrs T and babies

Mrs. Tittlemouse and possibly her entire family want to move in with me and The Boys. Nooooooo.

As it turned out, I didn’t have the opportunity to test my courage. The top of the trap was pushed halfway off and the bottom was obviously empty. That’s when I saw a mouse standing on its hind legs no more than six feet away from me. It wasn’t moving. I gulped and quietly backed away to see what it would do. The mouse looked just like Beatrix Potter’s Mrs. Tittlemouse, so I will call it “her.” We stared at each other cautiously. Suddenly, she tried to leap up the wall but couldn’t get purchase. When Mrs. T darted my way to hide behind a box and a dresser, I screamed like a little girl and ran upstairs. If she couldn’t jump up on the wall, I figured she’d be stuck in the basement until I found Chris or someone else brave enough to go down and set a less friendly trap.

October 2013

Good for nothing little rascals!

Fast forward to Sunday night. I’m happy in my recliner, boys snoozing on my lap, watching my buddies the “Property Brothers” dealing with asbestos embedded in some poor schmuck’s popcorn ceiling. That’s when I notice Mrs. Tittlemouse – or a friend or relative who looks exactly like her – casually saunter into the living room. She stopped near the doorway, took in the domestic scene, then nonchalantly turned around and strolled back into the kitchen. After I pushed my jaw back up into place, I dumped the dogs from my lap and sent them to the kitchen to investigate. Mick likes me to think he’s a brave hunter and Rich is a terrier, which is a breed that goes after rodents. Neither of them made a peep. I’m trading them in for a cat.

Trying to find an exterminator on a Sunday night is a losing proposition. However, I was lucky – I think – to get Randy from Terminix to come out this morning. $1,500+ later, when I get back from vacation this house will be sealed tighter than Grant’s Tomb to prevent further assaults from critters. Furthermore, the Terminix warriors will be on call for three years in case any varmint dares attempt to storm the bastions.

But wait. Am I really that bent out of shape about leaving town because of a little mouse or twelve? No. There’s more.

As I led Randy to the basement to scout for tiny revolving mouse doors flashing neon “welcome” signs, we encountered a leak of a different sort at the bottom of the stairs. It seems that my hot water heater has chosen NOW to begin leaking.

It’s not enough that I have to wash clothes and towels and bedding before I leave. It’s not enough that I would prefer to leave town freshly showered and shampooed. In the end, I don’t see how I can, in good conscience, walk away from a mouse-infested home with no hot water for my dog sitter and son to deal with while I’m sipping Bushnell’s and tapping my toes to a twinkly-eyed fiddler’s tune in a pub in Northern Ireland. I mean, it’s not like I won’t go, but . . . .

Darby

I’m pretty sure this is from an old movie called “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” which scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.

So now I’m not-so-patiently waiting for a contractor to call me back about the water heater.

Normally, in the final days before I’m due to travel, I worry about coming down with a cold (I AM a bit sniffly, now that I think of it) or getting a UTI (the ultimate annoying traveling companion) or breaking a tooth (I had to have a crown repaired hours before I left for the airport for a trip to Italy one year). I’m not a hypochondriac. I’m not even superstitious. But things do have a way of getting complicated before I leave town.

I just turned the calendar page to October and there’s a black cat featured in one of the fun, seasonal photos. Man. Let’s hope bad things do not come in three’s, okay? When I get to JFK Wednesday evening I’m definitely turning off my phone and hiding out for the next ten days or so. Slainte, y’all.

Confessions of a picky palate

 

First, the good news:  I’m going to Ireland in October. Yay!

Northern Ireland map

I’ll be taking a bus from the Dublin airport to Belfast (in red). Pigeon Top is a bit west of Omagh (see right above “Northern”). Dublin is due south from Newry.

I will be spending most of the trip as a guest in the home of my dear friend Bernadette’s sister, Breda. Breda’s home is in tiny Pigeon Top near the city of Omagh, which is about 70 miles or so west of Belfast. Bernadette, who lives on the Isle of Man, will fly over to meet me in Belfast. We’ll rent a car to drive to Breda’s home. In addition to staying with Breda, I’ll meet more of Bernadette’s brothers and sisters and we’ll take day trips to visit places like the Giant’s Causeway and the Ulster Folk Museum.  Bernadette and I have talked about doing this for years and I’m so glad we’re finally going.

pigeon-top

A view from Pigeon Top in Northern Ireland

However, when I told my son Chris about our plans the other night he expressed grave concerns about me staying with Breda and Bernadette. Chris tends to be rather critical of me (in a loving manner), but it’s not without cause. Here’s why he’s worried:

Baby squash from Babies Ideas

This is how I still react to squash. Pic from Babies Ideas – thanks.

The bad news is that I’m an extremely picky eater. I have the palate of a cranky kindergartner. I wish I could tell you that I bravely suck it up and eat whatever is put before me whether I like it or not. But, no. No. I can’t do it. I think the years growing up when we had to sit at the kitchen table and finish a meal no matter what had an impact. I couldn’t quite understand the correlation between my dad having to eat ketchup sandwiches during the Depression and me gagging on liver and onions in 1958, but the logic was there somewhere, I guess. Wasting food, starving children in China, etc. Plus, Dad was a big and kind of scary guy when he was angry.

Usually I can hide my food phobias thanks to the variety of menu choices on offer when dining out. In the privacy of our homes, my close friends and family know which foods I won’t eat and, to be fair, my sister and brother are at least as picky as I am. Maybe worse. Planning a meal for a big family dinner is fraught with culinary land mines. Nothing made with milk for Bob. Nothing orange and mushy for Kate. Make sure Mom’s and Penny’s meat shows not one hint of pink. That’s just the beginning.

We like to think we’re normal, but my Chris is not afraid to laugh and point out that we’re not. After my own experience growing up, I decided not to force young Chris to eat things he didn’t like. As a result, he was never afraid to try new foods and now eats just about everything. I think it’s safe to say that his adventuresome palate is due in no small part to my enlightened parenting skills. (You’re welcome, Chris. Now stop making fun of me.)

Baby eggs New Kids Center

Eggs for breakfast? Oh nooooooo! Pic from New Kids Center – thanks.

Anyway, now I’m worried, too. That’s why I’m writing today. I am outing myself, admitting to everything I won’t eat. I’ll share this post with Bernadette and ask her to pass it along to my unsuspecting host, Breda. Here’s the deal, dear ladies – I decided it may be wiser to embarrass myself up front rather than sit at your table in October trying to figure out how to explain why I can’t eat a lovely meal that any normal person would enjoy.

It’s not you. It’s me. Boy, is it me. So here we go with the foods I won’t/can’t eat:

  • Eggs – in any shape or form. That’s right – not fried, scrambled, poached, hard-boiled – nothing. Eeuw.
  • Paul and Mary

    Dear ones, do you watch Paul and Mary on the Great British Baking Show? I love them. They would be ashamed of me. So ashamed.

    Mushrooms

  • Anything orange and mushy, which includes cooked squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, yams, etc.
  • Bananas (that includes banana bread, or any other baked good with bananas)
  • Asparagus
  • Liver
  • I love mild white fish like cod and halibut, but no salmon, mackerel, herring, etc.
  • Oysters (do I get points for loving octopus, though?)

I think that covers it. Embarrassing, but there you go.  I’m too old to be coy about this, guys. When I was in Ireland about ten years ago I went with my friends to a pub to grab some lunch. I ordered a BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich) and it was served with a fried egg plopped on top of the usual ingredients. What the . . . ?! I was horrified. What kind of monster would sneak a fried egg onto an innocent BLT, I ask you?

(And on a side note, as you may have guessed, I refused to touch the blood pudding or sausage or whatever it was that accompanied a hotel’s fried breakfast, the price of which was included with a night’s stay. Most folks rub their hands with glee at the sight of a hearty Irish breakfast. I ate the toast.)

Irish breakfast

This traditional Irish breakfast would send me screaming into the woods. Are those mushrooms near that triangle thing? Aargh!

So there it is, my friends. I might add, as soon as poor Breda gets a look at me she’ll wonder that I don’t eat everything, including the kitchen sink. I am not a wispy little lass by any stretch of the imagination. This body is what happens when someone chooses the

ArnoldThumbsDown

Yes, darling Breda and Bernadette! Send me to Omagh if you must!

cheeseburger over the seasonal pumpkin soup. Pancakes instead of an omelet. A Kit Kat rather than a banana.

Other than that, I hope you’ll find me to be a pleasant enough person, dear Breda. If not, feel free to boot me toward the nearest hotel in Omagh. I promise not to throw a toddler tantrum.

Crazy about color

Okay, so my favorite show is “House Hunters International.” One of my favorites, anyway. I DVR every episode in Europe and while I thought I’d seen them all by now, I was thrilled to my toes to discover one in Paris that I’d missed.

Yay!

An American woman working as an attorney in Paris decided to stop renting and buy an apartment in the heart of the city. With her $500,000 US budget, the realtor was showing her one-bedroom, 400 square foot apartments in the Marais, a happening arrondissement, or district, of Paris. Yes. That’s what you get for half a mil in Paris.

She ended up buying the smallest one because it had good bones (you can’t watch as much HGTV as I do without picking up the lingo, guys) and was on a lovely, quiet street, just steps from shops and cafes. Sigh.

The last bit on every episode takes you back to the home buyer’s place a few months after the purchase. In this case, in about four months the woman had completely renovated the tiny flat (spending an additional $135,000) and it was a knock out.

Not everyone would agree, I’m sure – but the decor was so appealing to me. I already have white kitchen cabinets, but the rest of the kitchen is a boring beige. Cheap beige counter top, cheap beige linoleum and white walls with no back-splash. I haven’t done anything other than the cupboards since I moved in 11 years ago. I tend to spend what money I have on TRIPS to places like Paris, rather than on the home decor I also, admittedly, covet.

Anyway, here are photos I took from the TV of the tiles in her kitchen.

"How do you like my tiles, Pierre?" she asked coquettishly.

“How do you like my tiles, Pierre?” she asked coquettishly.

"C'est magnifique!" Pierre enthused.

“C’est magnifique!” Pierre enthused.

I want those tiles. I want my kitchen to look JUST LIKE THAT.

"See how pretty they are up close?" she pointed out.

“See how pretty they are up close?” she pointed out.

I also want to have a pied a terre in Paris, a villa on the Amalfi Coast and a thatch-roofed cottage in Ireland. Since I don’t buy lottery tickets, I don’t see any of this happening. Even if I did buy lottery tickets, it would be equally unlikely.

"Why, those tiles would even work in my Irish cottage," I added.

“Why, those tiles would even work in my Irish cottage,” I added.

But maybe I can put colorful tiles in my kitchen at home. Mais, oui! What do you think?