19 April, 2011

Big, big feet.

Confession: I have big feet.

All throughout my years growing up, I outgrew shoes faster than I could wear them in. I remember for a brief period while I was in 4th grade (age 8) I could wear my mother's shoes comfortably. She was a US size 8. I remember praying to God that my feet would stop growing when I was a US size 8 so that I could always share my mother's shoes.
Unfortunately, my prayer for my feet to stop growing took a long time to reach God's ears (I blame the Aurora Borealis, and Solar Winds) and he finally answered my prayer when I was 12 years old... and size US 11.
Just call me Bigfoot Harry.

13 years and Dublin, part deux

The next morning after breakfast, we set out in search for Starbucks...
We had no idea where the nearest one would be, and figured "it's Dublin, how hard could it be to find one?"

Famous last words.

We wandered around for a good while before we found one. We were pretty happy to see that mermaid...

I got a grande caramel frap... my first ever! I usually go for the strawberry. As yummy as it was, I will probably stick to strawberry though.

We found some great sales on Grafton St. and window shopped all over the city. After a couple hours of walking and talking, we realized how hungry we were!! Off to find lunch.
We went to Munchies for some sandwiches. Very reasonably priced for the amount of goodness you get with it. I was very pleased. I got a sandwich called the Italian Scallion that had salad greens, provolone, scallions, roasted red peppers, and salami. Sooooo good.

Even the view was nice.

After lunch, we went back to the hostel to buy tickets online for the Guinness Storehouse Tour. I discovered that if you purchase your tickets online, you save 10% (the same goes for Bus Eireann)... and always up to save a few bob, that's what we did. Then we walked (and walked, and walked) from our hostel to the storehouse.

That's about a mile and a half, folks. Normally, I wouldn't gripe, but considering the amount of walking we had already done this day - it was a lot for me.
But it was a nice day and on the way, we found a shoe shop with a sale of 50% or more off! So obviously, we had to go look. More on that next time.


We toured the storehouse, and learned all about the brewing process for Guinness. Where I've always thought Guinness was a deep brown, I discovered that it's actually a very deep red from the ingredients. I won't spoil the experience for you, save to say I'll never take Guinness for granted. Yum!

 (above) Anne and some hops on display inside the storehouse.

  We learned about all the work that goes into making the casks that the Guinness is stored in. Originally these were all made by hand, and the process is actually quite impressive!

At the end of the tour, (and at the top of the building) we were greeted by a complimentary pint of Guinness (seriously, the best Guinness I've ever had) and a view of Dublin that was to die for.

We stayed there and chatted and took silly photos for a little while, finishing our yummy Guinnesses (?) for almost an hour before it was time for us to head back to the hostel (walking... groooooan) to freshen up. Soon we would meet up with Anne's friends who were flying in from France to meet us.

I decided that after a day of lugging around my Canon 5D Mkii, I didn't want lug it around all evening... and as usual, as soon as we got to our destination (Temple Bar), I was sad I didn't bring it along. I wasn't even a good tourist and left my little camera at the hostel too. Bad Shannon. Bad Photographer.

We found a pub with live music but the whole floor was jam packed. We had already ordered, so we stayed, but people (100% tourists!!) kept flowing through the door. Soon, there was standing room only, but with the help of my Guinness, my anxiety levels stayed pretty low. Finally, we were able to snag a table just as some people were leaving and it was nice to be able to watch the band from there. My feet were killing me anyway.
The band was good, but we preferred the atmosphere of the pub from the night before, so we departed and set out in search for O'Donoghues again.

Admittedly, none of us knows Dublin very well so we got a little lost, but in the end, we found it and were treated to some very nice music and one last Guinness for the night. Around midnight, we bid farewell to our friends and went back to the hostel to sleep.

The next morning, we met up with them again in Starbucks (seriously, it's an obsession of Anne's).

And of course, we ate cheesecake.

well... Anne sorta devoured hers... but that's why we love her. <3

 Their Venti coffee mugs... are seriously as big as someone's head. How do we drink this much coffee, people?! Yikes! But also Yuuuummmmm...

 After coffee, we intended to visit the Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells - but it was graduation day at Trinity, so there was a line as long as the campus... we decided to take fun photos instead.

Then go to visit a ribbon shop.

And by the time we finished, it was sadly time for me to go home...

I gathered my (heavy) duffel bag and walked to the bus station alone, but filled with gladness from seeing my SISTER again after such a long absence. I have two older sisters of my own, and I love them with all my heart, but Anne is the only one I've ever lived with - even if it was for such a short time. Being only a couple years older than me, we were able to bond in a way my sisters and I were never able to do. Borrowing each other's clothes, talking about boys, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning watching Friends reruns. We both agree that that year she was in America was the best of our lives.

I left her with a promise that we'll never let more than a couple years go by without seeing each other again. Next time, it's my turn to visit her! Viva la Paris!

13 years and Dublin

On Saturday, I nervously boarded the bus. Mostly nervous because I hate riding on buses... but also because I was going to be reunited with an old friend after more than a decade of being apart.

Luckily, the bus wasn't too full, and I got to sit by myself for most of the journey... which was beautiful! I listened to my audiobook and watched as the hills and dales of Ireland whizzed by.

Before I knew it, I was in Dublin!!

And greeted by this happy face!
After more than 10 years, somehow she looks exactly the same... I want to know her secret! We had an emotional meeting at Busáras, then went to drop our stuff off at our hostel.

The good things:

We had a "girls only" room
The beds were pretty comfy
We had our own bathroom in the room
Our bunkmates were very quiet
The hostel served free breakfast

The bad things:

The elevator was on its last leg - we thought we were going to die.
Our room was on the street... a street with many pubs in which the pub-goers were loud until well past 4 in the morning
The room was HOT

Definitely the good outweighed the bad though, so all in all, we were pleased. 

Once we settled in, we decided that after a long travel day, we were famished. So we found a new little  restaurant called Bedlam and tried it out. The atmosphere was fun. They had a bunch of magazine pages taped to the ceiling, and their menus were on clipboards.

Because I'm lame, I got what I called "fancy fish and chips", which was really "tempura battered haddock, and basil pesto served on a bed of chips"... or something. At any rate, it was good.

For dessert, I got fudge squares (ok, yes - I slipped on my Lent thing...) with vanilla whipped cream.

Anne is a cheesecake fiend, so you can guess what she got. Sadly though, the cheesecake was just about as good as my picture...

After dinner, we went to a pub called O'Donoghue's. We had seen that they would have live music later that night as we were on the hunt for a dinner location... so we stopped by, and ended up staying well past midnight.
 (above) This fellow was part of a bachelor party who came to the pub for some fun too. He was very eager to show off his Irish dancing skills.... and he ended up losing a shoe because of it!! Finally, we found it and had a little Guinness to celebrate.

We also made friends with "B" from LA, who's studying Journalism here in Ireland. She was about 8 pints in when we got to the pub and was such a funny girl.

After the pub, we crashed hard. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow at 12:30am, which is pretty unusual for me. 

Read part two of our adventure in the next blog!

16 April, 2011


Here I sit, with much to be done, and not knowing where to start. The perfect solution? Blog.

I booked my ticket already - so that's one less thing to worry about. I should be packing right now. You know... since I leave in oh, 3 hours.

Instead, I'm watching Bilbo investigate my spinning wheel and eat tiny pieces of roving off the floor. I imagine he'll have streaks of magenta in his poop later. Great...

I'm off to see my friend Anne, whom I haven't seen in 13 years, in Dublin. What feels like forever ago, Anne came to live with my family for nine months as an exchange student from France. Having never had a sister in my house (I do have two sisters, but both are more than 20 years my senior, so they were long gone from the nest when I arrived), I fell in love. Anne was the perfect big sister. We laughed and crafted and did our homework together. We borrowed each others clothes and went on little trips together. It was a blast. That year was one of the best in my life. I'll never forget how wonderful it was to have a sister at home... even if it was short lived.

She is flying to Dublin from France just to see me! I can't wait to see her, but of course I am wondering what we'll say to each other... now that we're older and (I'm) fatter... hahaha

Mostly though, I'm dreading the bus ride up to Dublin. It's a 4 hour journey one way via bus and I'm just not a great traveler lately. I get motion sickness so easily, meaning I can't read or play a game or anything like that. Hello audio books!!
Actually, the best thing I've found to listen to is ambient noise. It really helps me sleep, which is truly the best thing to pass the time on the bus.

I'll be sure to take lots of photos this weekend and post them for you to see :)

Now... I really need to get my butt in gear and go pack.
Wish me luck!

12 April, 2011


Mowage is what bwings us togevah, today...

Today, our landlord stopped by to drop off a wonderful thing - a lawnmower! He even left some grass seed, so that I can plant the bare patches of our lawn that are still mud (the previous tenants had a dog who ran/dug holes into the lawn).
As you can imagine, after a few months of growth, our lawn was definitely a jungle.

Notice the little stripe of mowed grass? We started the lawnmower up to see if it actually worked. To my very great delight, it does!!! As soon as the landlord left, I transformed the lawn from the above photo, to the below...

Now if only I had a strimmer (weed-whacker) to go around the edges... but I won't press my luck with the landlords. They're already so nice. I don't want to make them feel like I'm trying to take advantage of their wonderfulness.

I went around the lawn once on the highest setting of the mower, and I'll probably go back over it again this week on a lower setting. I love mowing the lawn. I really do - though I always feel a little like the Hulk halfway through transformation when I'm finished...

Also... do you notice my potted plants?! This weekend was sooo nice. I took the opportunity to get out and put our bushes into pots instead of the plastic bags they've been sitting in since we moved. The bush by the shed is Blueberry, the ones on the right are Gooseberry and White Currant. I also planted some lettuce - four different varieties - in some pots and even some flowers!
On the right, you can see the box we'll be putting our strawberries in this weekend (the strawberries are just sitting in buckets - which you can see at the top of the photo above). Not a big garden this year, unfortunately but I'm glad to trade having to walk through an actual jungle and fighting with nettles (and obnoxious, nasty landlords) for having a nice lawn and a few plants. Not to mention a garden shed brought in specially for us and sweet landlords who are ready and willing to fix any problems or reasonable requests we may have.
I think this autumn, we might build a nice little raised bed against that back fence to do some fall planting for things we were too late with this spring (I'm looking at you, garlic...) and possibly some pretty flower bulbs to add a little color in preparation for next spring!
Next step, I think, will be to go dig up the pointy weeds in the lawn so I can go out there barefoot and not have to worry too much about where I step when I hang the laundry. The dandelions might just have to go too while I'm at it.

I got a little package in the post today, too!!!

I bought myself 100g of magenta Merino roving to spin into pretty yarn, and a niddy-noddy to make nice, even skeins.
But first... I need to finish the niddy-noddy before I should use it... which means sanding and a bit of wax, for a nice, natural finish. I love projects.

Now, to go fire up the grill and make some yummy vegetarian burgers. Tonight? Enjoying the smells of freshly cut grass and BBQ smoke while spending time with my loved one and kitty! <3

PS. As I logged onto Facbook today to check on my fanpage, I noticed some of you might have sent me messages. Unfortunately, I won't be able to read them until Easter - so if it's important, please email me at hellophoto-at-gmail-dot-com to get in touch!! I miss checking everyone's updates, but my Facebook fast has actually been very, very nice.

09 April, 2011

Burn, baby burn...

...Ginger inferno!!
My friend, Hikari recently did a body cleanse that included drinking ginger tea. I was so very intrigued by this, that of course I had to learn more.
I have always known that ginger is good for digestion, so of course it would be included on a body cleanse. In fact, in 9th century Europe, they used to place little pots of powdered ginger on the dinner table right along with the salt and pepper.
Good news for people like me - it's said to be an aid to minor upset stomach, morning sickness, and even - YES! - motion sickness. If I look anywhere but outside the window while a car is moving, there's no doubt that I'll need to roll down the window immediately to blast myself with fresh air to ward off the sickness. Maybe I should also carry around a little bottle of ginger tea!! Some studies even show that ginger tea can be good for the relief of headaches.
This tuber is pretty amazing... dare I say, Tuberular? Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk...
With all the helpful things that this little root boasts, how could I resist trying it out? Besides, all the cool kids are doin' it... 
Time to bust out the ole teapot.

 Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was doing when I picked out my ginger root from the produce section. I thought "hey! big!" and picked the most fancy root of the pile. Turns out, upon further research that mine was a bit mature. It ended up being a bit fiber-y but other than that I figured it was ok. After all, I'm not going to be biting into it...
Apparently, one is supposed to choose a root that has the least amount of arms or branches. Oh well.

I scrubbed my ginger under some warm water to wash away all the nasties from other potential ginger purchasers (and all the hands that had touched it up until I brought it home), then cut it into fairly thin slices and stuck them in my pot.
I didn't know how much to use, so I just guessed. I boiled some water and put it in the pot and let the ginger steep for about half an hour.

When I came back to it, not only was it the perfect temperature to drink warm - but it was SOOO SPICY! A delicious kind of spicy though. My tongue was ablaze, but it is definitely a pleasant burn, in my opinion.
I finished one cup of fire, and went for another... but this time I added a bit of honey.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you have never tried ginger tea with a bit of honey, I urge you to do so now. Run to your store and get the supplies if you don't already have them. I'll wait here, drinking my own cup of amazingness.

Go forth now, and become a Ginger Ninja.

05 April, 2011

Loan woes

A few years ago, in an effort to celebrate my newly discovered independence, I decided it would be a great idea to go to school!
I applied at a school a few friends had previously gone to (without asking their opinion), was accepted, and promptly given a slew of loans from Sallie Mae.

It is this point in my life that I would return to in a time machine to warn my younger self, if given the chance.
*poof* A strange machine appears. Young Shannon stares in awe and wonders if this is a new form of art in downtown Seattle.
Slowly, the doors open. Young Shannon backs up slowly, watching the doors warily.
Smoke wafts out of the open doors and a figure appears... there's something familiar...

Familiar figure: Greetings.
Young Shannon: Uh... hi.
FF: Don't apply to AiS.
YS: Wait... w-what? You look so familiar...
FF: Don't apply to AiS... don't take a loan with Sallie Mae. You'll regret it forever! They'll haunt your life until you die... then they'll haunt your children!!!
YS: ... like me... only... fatter...are we related?

Yeah... knowing me, I wouldn't have listened anyway.

So for the last several weeks, I've been trying to get all my loans caught up and placed into some sort of deferment or forbearance, or whatever it takes to keep their demands at bay. This company demands more than my monthly rent per month to keep the account current. Estimated payoff date? 10 years from now.
I don't imagine I'll actually ever be in a position to pay them more than my current rent per month... so I suppose I'll continue to put my loans into forbearance for the next several years - and I'll be in debt up to my eyebrows for the rest of my life. For what? A (school)year and a half of basic 101 and 102 courses that I aced because I had learned the material in high school - but were required to get credits toward my degree program.

Less than two years of institutional education at a non-accredited school (which means that my year and a half of basic 101 and 102 course credits do not, i repeat not transfer to any other college or university in any nation, unless the school is affiliated with my original school's franchise). Wasted education. Isn't that nice?

Today, I received a voicemail from an account manager saying he wanted to help me get my account current and so forth.
For the past 3 weeks or more, I have been trying desperately to get in contact with Sallie Mae over my private loans (which is another thing!!! when I was applying for loans for school, it wasn't really me applying for them - i told my needs to the school counsellor, and they applied for loans on my behalf and just told me to sign paperwork and that everything would be ok in the end!! Looking back, all i can think is WTF?!) but have not been successful. Why? Because each and every time I call them, I am told I'm being transferred to the correct "department" and then the line cuts out and I've been hung up on. In one day, a day where I felt especially vigilant, I called and re-called Sallie Mae TWENTY-TWO times and each time, I was hung up on. Around call 18, I started begging the person who answered not to hang up on me. Or alternately, if they had to transfer me, to walk the phone over to the person I needed to speak with...
Finally, I decided to call the Department of Education and guess what! They helped me sort everything out in one phone call. Everything, that is, except my private loans through the devil himself  Sallie Mae.
That day, I was done with being on the phone. Emotionally, I just couldn't take it anymore. I didn't even answer the phone if my friends called me for the following two days.
A few days later, and a few times a week since then, I've tried to reach Sallie Mae to figure out my private loans. I emailed them. I called them. I tried having someone else call on my behalf. I went online...
So I call the number I was given in the voicemail I received and lo and behold! An actual person!
After speaking to this person though - i realized that she was one of the devils minions  decidedly unhelpful, as she was rude, inconsiderate, pushy, nosy, and just plain nasty. She refused to transfer me to the person who left the message stating he was away from his desk and I'd have to call again later. She lied to me and tried to trick me into making a payment and saying that forbearance was no longer being offered to me. She tried to make decisions on my account on my behalf to which I had to remind her that this was my account and it was ultimately my decision to put the loan into forbearance again or not. At one point, she asked a personal question in such a nasty way that I wanted to reach through the phone and smacked her in the head. Instead, told her that my personal life was none of her business and hung up on her.
I called right back and was transferred correctly to the person who had left me the message (apparently he wasn't really away), who helped me place my accounts into forbearance yet again.

In closing, I regret ever going to school. If anyone happens to have $30,000 they'd like to donate to my cause, I would happily pay off my Sallie Mae debts with it and get a tattoo on my head in their honor.

*ETA* In order to put private loans into forbearance, one has to pay $50 per loan with a cap of $150. I have two loans. TWO private loans.
The bastards took $150 in fees to put my TWO loans into forbearance!!! AHHHH!!!! I HATE THEM!!!

03 April, 2011

One Person's Trash...

This weekend has been full of treasure finding. V and I went to Cork city on Saturday to find some shoes for a little girl's dress that i sewed (and did not take photos of... stupid me), and look around at the second hand shops. Our main item to find was a pair of new jeans for V. All of his work jeans have holes in them. I mean ALL of them.

I tried to fix them, but honestly, they didn't look any better and I was a little embarrassed to have him go to work in the ones I had "fixed". So we decided that for the low price of 2-6 Euros, we could afford a few new pairs.
So far we have found two pairs of jeans, and V is almost hesitant to wear them to work because he likes them so much and doesn't want to ruin them!

I found three books, two shirts, and a skirt in Cork that I am pleased with. Above, I am modeling a shirt and holding the rest of my loot. The red shirt I found was still hanging out to dry.

Today we went to the Rathcormac car boot sale. For those who don't know, a car boot sale is basically a field with a couple hundred people selling their crap unwanted items out of the backs of their cars, or on a blanket on the grass, or however they set it up. Sometimes we find something and sometimes we don't - mostly it's fun just to go look.
We hit gold today though! Have a look!

I have plans for that frame - as it is, it's horrible. Three, 3 litre glass jars, a kitchen scale, an (empty) cat dish, and an Xbox360 game! All for about 20 Euros. I can't wait to wash the jars and put pantry items in them. It's always fun to reorganize the pantry - even if the rest of my house isn't that organized... :)

Also, we went to Lidl (a grocery store - think upscale Aldi), and got some juice...

Ok... maybe some is an understatement. What can i say? We really like grape juice... when it's fermented. Check back soon to see the beginnings of our wine-making project!


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