Authentic Irish Scone Recipe

We’ve lived in Ireland for the better part of a year now, and in these past few months I have come to some conclusions about Irish culture:

1.  “Type-B” personalities run the roost.

2. You must, MUST, support your local hurling/rugby/football team with the undying love of a mother for her only child.

3. Tea and scones are synonymous with life itself.

It is this final conclusion that has brought me to the point I am at now–that is, the point at which I have become obsessed with tea and scones (trust me, my waistline bears the proof). Of course, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to eat fresh-baked bread smothered in cream and jam. And I doubt it will for you, either. So the next time you want a homemade treat or a tasty tea or a light breakfast, just whip up a batch of Irish scones. I have to warn you, though–you just might get hooked!

photo 1 (2)

Irish Scones
Makes 4-6 delectable treats

Ingredients:

2 cups/225 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tablespoons/55 g butter
2 tsp/1 oz fine sugar (optional)
1 cup/150 ml milk
1 handful raisins (optional)
1 egg beaten with a splash of milk

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F/205C/Gas 8
  • Grease and flour a baking sheet
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar (if using) and stir.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour and slowly stir in enough milk to make a soft, pliable dough.
  • Add the raisins (if using) and mix them into the dough.
  • Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and knead very lightly until just smooth, then roll out to about 3/4″ (2 cm) thick.
  • Cut rounds with a 3″ cutter or an overturned glass, or cut into triangles using a sharp knife.
  • Place scones on the prepared baking tray and brush with the beaten egg and milk mixture.
  • Bake near the top of the hot oven for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • Serve with butter and lashings of jam and cream. Drink a cup of tea. Feel very Irish.

photo 2

 

 

 

Advertisements

Authentic Irish Scone Recipe

We’ve lived in Ireland for the better part of a year now, and in these past few months I have come to some conclusions about Irish culture:

1.  “Type-B” personalities run the roost.

2. You must, MUST, support your local hurling/rugby/football team with the undying love of a mother for her only child.

3. Tea and scones are synonymous with life itself.

It is this final conclusion that has brought me to the point I am at now–that is, the point at which I have become obsessed with tea and scones (trust me, my waistline bears the proof). Of course, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to eat fresh-baked bread smothered in cream and jam. And I doubt it will for you, either. So the next time you want a homemade treat or a tasty tea or a light breakfast, just whip up a batch of Irish scones. I have to warn you, though–you just might get hooked!

photo 1 (2)

Irish Scones
Makes 4-6 delectable treats

Ingredients:

2 cups/225 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tablespoons/55 g butter
2 tsp/1 oz fine sugar (optional)
1 cup/150 ml milk
1 handful raisins (optional)
1 egg beaten with a splash of milk

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F/205C/Gas 8
  • Grease and flour a baking sheet
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar (if using) and stir.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour and slowly stir in enough milk to make a soft, pliable dough.
  • Add the raisins (if using) and mix them into the dough.
  • Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and knead very lightly until just smooth, then roll out to about 3/4″ (2 cm) thick.
  • Cut rounds with a 3″ cutter or an overturned glass, or cut into triangles using a sharp knife.
  • Place scones on the prepared baking tray and brush with the beaten egg and milk mixture.
  • Bake near the top of the hot oven for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • Serve with butter and lashings of jam and cream. Drink a cup of tea. Feel very Irish.

photo 2

Only In Ireland

Ireland is an incredible corner of the globe, a region that I don’t think you’d really understand unless you’ve been here and experienced it first-hand. Better still, live here for awhile like I’m doing. Get to know the people and the place. Because, once you do, you’ll learn that surprises await around every green (and greener) corner. You see, there are some things that are just so…Ireland. Things that constantly make me realize “we’re not in Kansas any more”. Things that would only happen in one place: only in Ireland.

For example:

Only in Ireland…can you be speeding down the highway and have to swerve out of your lane to avoid a tractor puttering along in the fast lane.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Only in Ireland…can you be a a rowdy pub in the wee hours of the morning and still order tea and scones.

Only in Ireland…can you live within the city limits (of the second largest city in the country, mind you) and have cows roaming the pastures behind your house.

IMG_3637

Only in Ireland…can you tell a friend that you’d like to stay in a castle some time (referring to the numerous castles that have been converted to hotels) and have her reply, “You should just go to my cousin’s house. He has a castle in his back yard.”

IMG_2358

Only in Ireland…can you bring your Border Collie to a dog park and not be able to spot her due to the swarms of other Border Collies running around.

Only in Ireland…is traffic regularly halted on main thoroughfares for horses or livestock in the road.

IMG_4132

Only in Ireland…can you be outside basking in the sun and, two minutes later, have to run for cover because a storm has moved in and you are being pelted with hail stones…and, two minutes later, be back outside basking in the sun again.

IMG_4174

Only in Ireland…can you call the name “Patrick” in a crowded room and have nearly every male in the room come to see what you need.

Only in Ireland…can you be dining in a restaurant and have a mama pig and her six little piglets accidentally wander in from a farm.

photo (5)

Only in Ireland…is every dish served with potatoes. Pizza delivery? Comes with a side of french fries. Thai food? Comes with mashed potatoes. Baked potato? Comes with a side of french fries and mashed potatoes.

Only in Ireland…will you find cars randomly parked in the middle of the road or the sidewalk (or both simultaneously). Why? Because it’s convenient. For them, at least.

IMG_4126

Only in Ireland…do they say “Taim in na grá leat” instead of “I love you”. Translation: “You will forever be in my heart”.

And, only in Ireland is that phrase so true. For all of your quirkiness and your rural-ness and your untamed beauty, Ireland, you will always and forever be in my heart.

Life With Boys

I grew up in a family of all girls. My world as a child revolved around ballerinas, princesses, frilly dresses and “playing” house (oh, the irony…). Fast forward a few years and the roles have been reversed. I am now the only female in a house run by boys (children and husband counted in that tally). And, as you might expect, my world is a bit different now. Life with boys usually leaves me dumbfounded and, sometimes, just plain shocked. I offer you the following examples of how my life has changed now that I am living a life with boys:

1. On a beautiful Spring afternoon I took my 3-year old son out to play in the field across the street from our house. As we laid in the grass some daisies caught our eye. David started picking the delicate flowers and I taught him how to make daisy chains.

IMG_3501

As I was adding the final flower to our daisy chain I looked up to show David our beautiful creation…only he wasn’t sitting behind me any more. No, he had stood up, turned around, dropped his pants down to his ankles (remember, we’re in the field in the middle of our neighborhood) and was peeing all over the daisies. No daisy crown for you, son.

2. Due to my boys’ destructive tendencies, I have become an expert at mending all manner of broken things (clothes, toys, books, the family dog).

photo (4)

3. David and Jacob will just be walking along and, all of a sudden, they’ll stop in their tracks, lay down in a pile of mud and start making “snow angels”. For no reason.

4. Most days when I go to put on my shoes or boots there are little surprises waiting inside for me:

1622669_10100811851085970_341617710_n

5. When I point out a cool bug for them to look at their first instinct is to smash it to smithereens.

6. All of my kitchen gadgets are tools with much more creative uses than they were originally designed for. The salad tongs are screwdrivers, the meat mallet is a hammer, the wooden spoons are drumsticks, the whisk is a light saber, the pastry cutter is a violin and the vegetable peeler is its bow. As a result, my boys have enjoyed hours of endless entertainment from my gadget drawer…and I have to re-wash every kitchen tool every day.

7. I always check my drinking glass before I take a sip of water. You never know what might be lurking inside…plastic soldiers:

IMG_3200

…or grapes (but we wanted to see if they’d float, Mom!):

IMG_3936

8. I am trying to allow David to exert his independence and help get himself dressed for school in the morning. Nine times out of ten, though, we end up with something like this:

10001337_10100845969906580_40819762_n

9. I find myself uttering ridiculous phrases like “Don’t pull your brother’s penis!” and “Quit peeing on the picnic table! That’s where we were going to eat dinner tonight!”.

IMG_3947

10. We have actually coerced David into eating his dinner by allowing him to run laps in the kitchen. For every bite of food he ate, he got to run one lap around the kitchen. It was the only time this month that he ate his entire plate of dinner in one sitting (even though he wasn’t exactly sitting).

11.David April 2013 - 0030Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) revolves around balls: basketballs, baseballs, footballs, tennis balls, rugby balls, soccer balls, golf balls, bouncy balls, bowling balls. Our house is littered with balls. Our topic of conversation at dinner revolves around balls. A good day or a bad day depends on how many balls we played with and whether or not they were full of enough air. Even our food must be referred to in ball terms if there is any hope of getting my boys to eat it (Have you tried your pea balls yet? Look at that chicken–it almost looks like a football! Did you know that the best soccer players eat all of their broccoli?).

12. Every time they see a dandelion they roar with all their might (Get it? DandeLIONS?).

10155186_10100856608915920_2813215466173159116_n

Yes, life with boys is a challenging, head-scratching, patience-testing, learn-more-each-day experience. In the end, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My boys have taught me to be more spontaneous, to enjoy getting messy, to use my imagination in new and creative ways, and to laugh more. They are the apples of my eye, and I wouldn’t trade them for all of the frills and fluff and lace that money could buy.

Easter in Ireland

Easter was a bit different for us this year, and not just because we are living thousands of miles away from “home” (I’m using that term loosely now because I am discovering more and more each day that “home” is not a single place). No, this year Easter was different for many reasons: we are living in a different country with different holiday traditions and customs, for the first time we have two children who are old enough to participate in all of the festivities, we are attending a different church, our family who we usually celebrate the day with all live  thousands of miles away. Perhaps the most noticeable difference this year, though, was our disruptive travel schedule–I got home from Phoenix the night before Easter, jet-lagged and delirious, and then Jon hopped on a plane at 7:00 the morning after Easter for a business trip to Seattle. Needless to say, Easter was a bit more hectic than we would have liked it to be, but we all still had a great holiday together.

Since Easter is my favorite holiday I couldn’t help myself from doing all of my usual Easter activities–all done a week early since I was traveling the whole week leading up to Easter. We started by dyeing Easter eggs, an American activity that I was determined to bring to Ireland. Despite having to dye brown eggs instead of white ones (because all eggs in Ireland are brown), the eggs turned out pretty. I called them my hippie eggs because they were all so earthy-colored and organic-looking.

IMG_3246

We also got crafty and made fingerprint Easter bunny cards before I left for my trip. Then we delivered the cards to David’s teachers at school, some neighbors, and our state-side family members:

IMG_3263

On Easter morning the boys gifted us with sleep (we weren’t awoken until 7:30…truly an Easter miracle!).Then we went downstairs for breakfast and Easter gifts. I explained to the boys that the gifts they were receiving were a symbol of the perfect gift that Jesus gave us on Easter–dying on the cross for our sins so that when we love and believe in him we can have new life forever with Him! They were both overjoyed to see a basket brimming with exciting little gifts: Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys (which I had ordered off Amazon, had shipped to my parents’ house in Seattle, which they then brought to me in Phoenix, which I carried back on the plane with me to Ireland), golf balls (from the golf course near my grandparents’ house in Phoenix), Toy Story fruit snacks, Dora the Explorer action figures and little race cars (thanks, Nana!), bubbles, and an assortment of recently-imported American candy. To be honest, I don’t know who was more excited about all of the goodies, the boys or their parents!

IMG_3833

 

After rifling through the gift basket it was time for breakfast. I was quite proud of myself for being such a good planner on this particular occasion–I actually baked homemade cinnamon rolls in Febuary and froze a batch for us to eat on Easter morning. All I had to do was pop the cinnamon rolls out to thaw overnight and heat them up in the morning. Atta girl, Allison.

IMG_3845

After breakfast I got the boys dressed while Daddy hid eggs for our Easter egg hunt (another American tradition, but one that I can’t live without!). Since we had already made and eaten our hard-boiled eggs the week before I left for Phoenix, we just hid plastic eggs in our back yard. David was a pro at finding all of the eggs, even though Daddy tried to fool him by camouflaging the “ball” eggs in their appropriate stations (the soccer balls were in the goal, the basketballs were in the hoop, the baseballs were on the t-ball).

IMG_3854

Jacob had fun finding the eggs, but as soon as he would find one he stopped everything, opened the egg, and shoved the entire contents into his mouth. As a result, he spent most of the egg hunt waddling around like a chipmunk on his way to the nut nest on the last day before winter.

IMG_3863

After all (or, at least, most) of the eggs had been found we went inside so the boys could admire their bounty:

IMG_3884

After all of the morning’s excitement it was time to clean up and go to church. As we were driving to church we were struck by the streams of people pouring into every church and cathedral we passed. In America we were used to seeing more people than usual in church on Easter, but nothing like this! It was almost like a parade of people walking to church on Easter morning. We had a lovely service at our church, Calvary Cork, and snapped a quick family photo before the boys dove into the cake table after the service:

IMG_3892

It was a beautiful morning, so on our way out from church we decided to walk along the River Lee before returning home:

IMG_3901

Jacob had a great time running up and down the sidewalks chasing his big brother:

IMG_3910

We spent the afternoon napping, unpacking (my things), doing laundry, re-packing (Jon’s things), and playing outside in the sunshine. Here’s Jacob, our caddy-in-training, posing with his golf club:

IMG_3920

We ended our day with a perfect Easter dinner: roast lamb, mashed potatoes, asparagus, crescent rolls, and Irish mead for Mommy and Daddy to drink (again, quite proud of myself for pulling this off. Before I left for Phoenix I ordered groceries to be delivered the day before Easter so we would have all of the fixin’s ready upon my arrival):

 

photo (3)

Despite the craziness of this year, we managed to have a fun and memorable Easter together as a family. And, I have to say, it was so good to be home–home with my family, home with my loves, home in the home that isn’t even a place. From my family to yours, happy Easter!

Arizona

IMG_3591

 

My grandfather, “Popop”, passed away on March 22.  Last week I was able to travel out to Phoenix for his memorial service. While the reason for my travel was not the happiest, I was still excited to make the trek–I got to travel alone (reading! movies! sleeping!) and spend a whole week with my extended family recounting our memories of Popop and creating new memories together. This was also an important week of travel because it was the first time I had ever left my family (gasp!). Jon stayed in Ireland with the boys, making this his first time alone with both children for more than a couple of hours. While Jon was at work each day some incredibly amazing friends of ours took care of our kids and helped them have so much fun that they cried each day when they had to leave (true story!). It was, in short, a momentous week for all of us.

After a long day of travel, I arrived in Phoenix on Monday night. I had Thai food for dinner at my Uncle Brad’s house and then fell fast asleep for 12 glorious hours. On Tuesday we drove up to my grandma Sandy’s house in Cave Creek (about 45 minutes north of Phoenix) to help clean her house and set up tables for a BBQ we were having that night when all of the family arrived.

The BBQ was great, just a casual evening where we could all hang out, eat, and have fun together. Here I am with my cousins Natalie and Chrissy, my sister Erin (who had just driven over from L.A.), my nephew Noah (he’s getting SO BIG!), and my cousin Chrissy’s new (at least to me) baby Maverick:

IMG_3528

We all sat around tables outside (oh, how I’ve missed the sun!) and ate our nummy BBQ:

IMG_3536

We had family members travel from all over the country for the memorial. We had representatives from Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, and Louisiana all together to celebrate the life of our beloved Popop. I know that he would have loved seeing all of us together and that he would be proud to know what a special family he was a part of.

One of my favorite family moments came early on Wednesday morning when we were all getting ready to leave for Popop’s memorial service.  Shortly before we moved to Ireland I bought a puzzle necklace for me, my mom and my sisters. We each got a piece of the puzzle–something to remember each other by since we all live so far apart now. It’s been nearly a year since we got our puzzle necklaces and we still hadn’t been able to put all of  the pieces together yet. Finally, we were all in the same place at the same time with our necklaces! At about 6 AM my nephew Noah was running around the house shouting, “The puzzle! The puzzle! You have to put together the puzzle!” And, so, we did:

IMG_3548

We actually had two memorial services on Wednesday morning, one at the national cemetery for our family and then another at my grandparents’ church for family and friends. We started the morning at the National Cemetery in Cave Creek where Popop’s ashes will be buried among other veterans. Popop served in the military when he and grandma Sandy were newlyweds. In fact, my mom was even born on the army base in the territory of Alaska (it wasn’t even a state back in those days!). The service at the National Cemetery was short and sweet. Our family gathered together:

IMG_3575

And Grandma Sandy passed out family heirloom hankies for us to dry our eyes on:

IMG_3554

The service was conducted with full military honors including the folding of a flag:

IMG_3583

And a gun salute:

IMG_3584

After the military service at the National Cemetery, we moved on to Sandy and Popop’s church for a larger memorial service. There was a table set up near the entrance with some “Popop Memorabilia”–shirts from his favorite sports teams, M&M’s (a favorite treat), flowers, and photos:

IMG_3593

The service itself was beautiful. The pastor gave a thoughtful eulogy and then family and friends took turns sharing memories of Popop. My mom and dad both shared so I felt brave enough to get up and say a few words myself. I spoke about the love that Popop had for us, how he led our family in love, and how he left that legacy to each of us. Everyone who meets our family always says that they can tell how much we love each other, and it’s true. We love well because we have been loved well. Popop loved us and it showed, and will continue to show.

IMG_3597

After the memorial service we had a grand lunch buffet at the church that was put on by grandma Sandy’s “Lunch Bunch” friends. Then we all went back to Grandma Sandy’s house to spend the rest of the day together (and eat all of the food–oh my, the food! So much food!). Popop was always fond of Mountain Dew (the soda)–which always struck me as funny because I never knew an adult, let alone a grandpa, who loved Mountain Dew so much. When we got back to Sandy’s house we had a toast to Popop–with Mountain Dew, of course!

IMG_3615

Then it was time for family photos. After all, who knows when the next time will be that we’ll get this whole crazy crowd together! Here is the large group photo including all of Popop’s direct relatives: his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, in-laws, nieces and nephews. The group was so big that I barely made it into the photo (you can see half of me in the bottom right hand corner of the photo):

IMG_3677

After spending a whole week with my family I have concluded three things:
1. We are loud
2. We are fun
3. We are awesome

Seriously, I have the best family! It had been a long time since I’d seen most of the extended family (and this was the first time that I’d met a few of the more-distant cousins) but after this week I sure hope I get to see a whole lot more of them. Our family is full of wild west cowboys, cattle ranchers, and Physical Therapists–all kinds of crazy under one roof. I love it.

After the memorials we had a few days to spend time together and enjoy the Arizona sunshine. We went for a family hike in the desert:

IMG_3732

Went swimming at Uncle Brad’s pool:

IMG_3766

Went shopping at COSTCO!!!! (O.K., probably only a person who has been deprived of Costco for a whole year would be this excited about Costco but let me tell you…it was every bit as good as I remember it in my daydreams):

IMG_3513

 

We even had a fun night out at a bull riding show. I, the city slicker, had a great time watching the show. The real cowboys in my family, however, were not as impressed. At least, I don’t think they were impressed…I kept having to ask my cousin to interpret for me so I could understand their lingo:

IMG_3773 IMG_3771

On my last day in Arizona we even had a “Feaster” egg hunt (Feaster being fake-Easter–a holiday we celebrated every year when I was growing up during our spring break in Arizona). Noah had no competition this year so he came out a champ!

IMG_3799

And then, just like that, my week in Arizona was over. Back to the airport, back on the plane, back to Ireland I flew. As we flew into Ireland I reflected on the incredible week I’d just had–the memories, the laughter, the tears, the love, the joy of family.

IMG_3827

 

Before I knew it I was back home again, snuggling my sweet little boys. Yes, the joy of family, indeed.

IMG_3831

Limerick: “Angela’s Ashes” Walking Tour and King John’s Castle

IMG_3465

Several years ago I read a book that touched my heart: Angela’s Ashes. It is the childhood memoir of Frank McCourt, an American-born son of two Irish imigrants who returned to Ireland with his family when he was a young boy. His story is one of extreme poverty, neglect, sickness, death, constant struggle…and hope. It’s an incredible story that is told through the innocent and witty eyes of a boy who overcame all odds (McCourt went on to be a respected teacher in New York City and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author). The story is set in Limerick, Ireland where McCourt grew up. When we moved to Ireland I kept thinking back to anecdotes and references from Angela’s Ashes and I kept thinking, “I should really read that book again while I’m living here.” So, I did (and, let me tell you, it’s just as good the second time around!). And then I couldn’t stop thinking about Limerick. I wanted to see all of the places from the book–I wanted to experience first hand the city of this story.

As I was reading the book I took notes of locations that held special importance to McCourt: where his homes were, his school, the library where he spent countless hours reading, the pub where he would frequently retrieve his drunken father. Then I entered all of my “places of interest” into Google Maps and made myself a customized Angela’s Ashes walking tour of Limerick:

IMG_3261

 

Now, there are a couple of official Angela’s Ashes tours led by different people in Limerick, but none of them were running at this time of the year (this time of the year being NOT the busy summer tourist season)–and, besides, our crew with two fussy boys under the age of four just doesn’t do well on guided tours. I did, however, find a great walking tour online that covered a few of the places I was already planning on visiting so I printed that off as well. With all of my maps and little waling guides in hand, it was time to pack up the family and drive up to Limerick.

We got to Limerick at lunch time. There was a cute Farmer’s Market set up on one of the streets downtown:

IMG_3298

But, being the lazy, grease-hungry Americans that we are, we opted to eat at the Burger King across the street.

After lunch we walked a few blocks away to a little park where we could see the Shannon River. It’s a huge river and at low-tide (which it was when we were there) little rapids form at the crests of the river. There was a group of kayakers paddling through the rapids having a grand time. In the distance you can see King John’s castle…more on that later. Now, moving on to the Limerick of Frank McCourt.

IMG_3304

Our walking tour began at the Parnell Street Railway Station. This is the railway station that the McCourt family arrived in when they first came to Limerick (OK, a little back story for those of you who haven’t read the book: Frank’s parents–Malachy and Angela–met in New York City the day that Angela immigrated from Ireland to start a “better life” for herself. Malachy had just gotten out of jail and was on the run for some anonymous crimes related to his involvement in the IRA back home in his native Northern Ireland. So, Malachy and Angela meet, they hit it off, and…9 months later Frank is born. It’s quite the scandal. Malachy and Angela quickly marry and even more quickly start making babies. Within four years they’ve had five children. They have no money, no love for each other, and very little love for their ever-growing brood of children. So much for the “better life”. They do have one saving grace: a baby girl who everyone adores. When she dies in infancy due to the horrid conditions the McCourt family is living in, it’s more than anyone can handle. They decide it’s time to leave New York and start back over in Ireland. Angela’s mom pays for the family to travel to Ireland because the McCourt family doesn’t even have enough money to buy a loaf of bread, let alone six one-way tickets to Ireland. So, they arrive in Northern Ireland where Malachy is from, they get kicked out; they go to Dublin; they get kicked out; they decide their last chance is to go to Limerick where Angela’s family is from. They ride the train all the way from Dublin down to Limerick and they arrive at…the Parnell Street train station. There. All caught up.)

The railway station is a beautiful building and I was fortunate enough to see the inside where trains have passed through for centuries (we had to run in so David could use the potty):

IMG_3307

After arriving at the train station, the McCourt family carried their meager belongings through town to their new home in Limerick. The first place they passed through on this walk was the Peoples’ Park. I’m not sure what little Frankie was feeling when he first saw this park, but we loved it. There was a great playground for the kids (which we enjoyed immensely, but I’m sure it was not there in the 1930’s when the McCourt family arrived) and beautiful flowers everywhere.

IMG_3315

 

At the edge of the park there is an art center that used to be a library. This is the library that Frank McCourt used to frequent as a boy so he could check out books for his mother and, if he was lucky, be allowed to sit in himself to read books about saints (guess libraries hadn’t caught on to the idea of a children’s section and weekly story times yet).

IMG_3400

 

Just past the library is St. Michael’s Church where Frank and his friend Billy Campbell (jealously) watched the Protestants play croquet on the church lawn after service on Sunday mornings:

IMG_3323

About a block past the church is South’s Pub–the infamous pub where Malachy McCourt infamously drank away every penny he ever earned (meaning his own family was cold and starving). This is the same pub where Frank’s uncle bought him his first pint at the age of 16 so he could become a “real man”:

IMG_3326

And, to be quite honest, I don’t think I would have minded spending a bit of time inside South’s. It’s a beautiful pub, warm, welcoming–probably a lot nicer place to hang out than the overcrowded, damp, cold, nasty slums where the McCourt family lived:

IMG_3327

And that brings us to the overcrowded, damp, cold, nasty slums where the McCourt family lived. This is Windmill Lane, the location of the McCourt’s first house in Limerick. The tenements where the McCourt family actually lived in the ’30’s have been torn down and replaced with more stable homes. This house was so poorly-built that one of Frank’s brothers, a twin, died here of disease when he was only two years old:

IMG_3335

The family was distraught by little Oliver’s death. They couldn’t stay in that house on Windmill Lane a moment longer, so they moved to a house on Hartstonge Street (again, the old tenement houses have been replaced):

IMG_3345

 

Unfortunately, little Oliver’s twin, Eugene, was so heartbroken over the death of his twin that he, too perished. The family decided to move again, this time to the top of Barrack Hill on Roden Lane:

IMG_3339

This is where Frank lived for most of his childhood (and, once again, the original houses are long gone). The house on Roden Lane was at the end of the lane near a stable. There was one outhouse that the entire lane used–and it was right next to the McCourt’s house. The stench was unbearable in the summer. In the winter, the bottom floor of their house was constantly flooded and they were forced to move upstairs where it was dry–a place they fondly referred to as “Italy”.

After seeing all of the McCourt houses (well, the general locations, at least) we made one final stop on our Angela’s Ashes tour: Leamy’s National School. This is the school where Frank received his formal education–all six years of it.

IMG_3347

 

Today the school is home to the Frank McCourt Museum, a wonderful privately-run museum. There are only two rooms in the museum–a classroom and a room set up like the McCourts house on Roden Lane–but they managed to fit a lot of information and memorabilia into the small space. The photos in this collage are: (top left) entrance to the museum, (top right) me and David with Frankie boy, (bottom right) Frank’s classroom (with some extra-cute pupils), (bottom left) school photo with Frank McCourt (he’s sitting in the front row on the right with the dark hair):

IMG_3499

The museum is run by this woman (the one drawing at the easel in the photo):

IMG_3379

Her father-in-law bought Leamy’s school after it became derelict and turned it into a garment shop. Once he retired, the building was sitting empty and she decided to make it into a museum. She drove around the country collecting information and artifacts and set about creating this little gem of a museum. And, speaking of gems, she was a gem herself. She gave my children paly-doh and markers to play with while she showed me and Jon around the museum, then she sat the boys down to draw portraits of them (she’s an artist), then she gave them candy for being such good little museum-goers.  Seriously, one of the best museum-with-children experiences I’ve ever had! I would highly recommend that anybody who finds themselves in Limerick make a quick stop by the Frank McCourt Museum and give this woman a little hello.

 

After a full afternoon of walking around Limerick we had the option of driving home and crashing or…going to a castle! We, of course, went to the castle. Limerick is home to King John’s Castle, a fortress that was commissioned by King John (of Robin Hood lore) in the late 12th century. Last summer the castle was restored and renovated to include some incredible exhibits on the history of the castle and what life was like in Medieval times. There were lots of hands-on activities and interactive displays that kept us all entertained for hours:

IMG_3500

As an added bonus, we were treated to beautiful views of Limerick from the top of the castle walls:

IMG_3472

As we were walking back to the car at the end of the day I asked David what his favorite part of our day had been: The fun playground at the park? The lollipops at the museum? Climbing up castle walls?  Nope, none of that. Do you know what his answer was? Getting rocks stuck in his boots. Yep. There were lots of pebbles at the castle and while he was running around like a wild banshee kicking up all the gravel, some of it got stuck in his boots. It was…awesome. At least for a 3-year old.

On our way out of town we made one last quick stop. Jon’s friend from work heard that we were in Limerick for the day and there just happened to be a Munster rugby match happening RIGHT THERE in Thomond Park, and he had an extra ticket, and could Jon come? Please, please, please could Jonny come out to play? So, as we drove out of Limerick we swung by the stadium to drop Daddy off for his first Irish sporting event (and, if you know my anti-sports-watching husband, you know that this is a big deal). He had a great time, and he even bought himself a Munster rugby hat. Up, Munster!

IMG_3488

As I drove home alone with the boys I was treated to beautiful views of the rolling green hills in the Irish countryside. We ate granola bars and fruit snacks for dinner in our car, and it was perfect. An absolutely, perfectly Irish-y day.

IMG_3497