Monday, May 19, 2014

ten things to do in Ireland

Last week I returned from my 11th trip to Ireland. I have been there enough to have a list of dos and don'ts and favorites. Although a majority of my time visiting is spent seeing my husband's family and friends we always make an effort to get out and do a little something touristy. It is the one major vacation we take every year so we like to make the most of it.

I will admit, about 90% of my time in Ireland has been spent in County Kerry. I have never been to Northern Ireland. I haven't been north of my list is a little incomplete. As we visit new places throughout the country I am sure some of my ten things will change but for now, these are my "must-dos" if you ever find yourself in Ireland.

1. Dublin - It's the big city. Your plane will probably land there. We have spent a few days in the city before and after flights. There are amazing restaurants, there are fun bars, and there are a million places to shop. It's a big city so the normal big city things apply.

If you find yourself in Dublin....

...go to Kilmainham Gaol. It's a jail and has a great little museum where you can learn all about the Irish fight for independence, the civil war, and more. The tour is fantastic but cold! So wear a coat.
...Ride a bus - sounds stupid but they're cheap and you can sit upstairs and ride around the entire city. It's an inexpensive way to see the city.

....Shop at Avoca - it's the Irish equivalent of Anthro and has a wonderful little cafe on the top floor.

....Eat at The Rustic Stone - seasonal ingredients, great salads, and one of the best burgers I have ever had, which is saying a lot because I eat a lot of burgers.

...Shop at The Loft Market - it's a great collection of Irish designers and vintage sellers. It's like Irish Etsy brought to life. And don't think you are going to see shamrocks and wooly sweaters. That stuff is only in the touristy shops.

2. Hold a lamb! I know there are things like foot and mouth disease or whatever but they are the fluffiest, softest, cutest things ever. If you get the chance, hold one.

3. The English Market - It's a food market in Cork and such an experience. I love food so much and this is one of my favorite places we have visited in Ireland. I have only been there once and am always asking to go back. Maybe next time ;).

4. Drink Guinness - it's better in Ireland, that's just a fact.

5. Drive The Ring of Kerry - The views and photo opportunities are worth it. If it's sunny, there's nothing like it.

6. Dingle - a great little town on the water in Kerry. It's fairly touristy but this can be a good thing. Ireland has had some major economic issues so the places that see more people tend to have a huge selection of pubs, restaurants, hotels, etc. 

If you find yourself in Dingle....
....go to Murphy's Ice Cream. It's the BEST.

....check out the Dingle Brewing Company. It's relatively new (we just discovered it last year), the beer is really good, and their business model is inspiring. The country could use more businesses like this one.
....look for Fungie - a dolphin that lives in the Dingle Bay. You can take a boat trip out for a chance to spot him. I have never seen day!

7. Galway - this is one of my favorite cities in Ireland. It's a big-ish city - not as big as Dublin but big enough to have something for everyone. It's considered an "artsy" place and I always have fun when I am there. 

If you find yourself in Galway..... at Ard Bia - a cafe with lots of healthy options that is set in a beautiful and cozy old building right by the water. at Martine's - expensive and kind of fancy but you will eat the best steak of your life here. Just a note, the Irish tend to order their steaks well done or medium-well. In America, I usually get medium-rare. In Ireland, I order rare and it comes out medium or medium-rare. a Claddagh ring - the original one came from Galway City

...listen to traditional music - Galway has some of the best pubs for music if this is your thing.

8. Eat lamb and chicken and beef and eggs and cheese. If you're a vegan...not sure what to tell you. Irish beef and lamb is the best in the world. The beef is all grass fed and you can taste the difference. The dairy is also amazing. I am not a huge fan of lamb but lamb in Ireland? SO good. Same goes with chicken. I pretty much never eat chicken at an average America restaurant but in Ireland, it's different. It tastes like chicken.

9. Watch a Gaelic Football game - it's the country's national sport and it's a fun, fast moving game. It is also a really big deal in Kerry. My husband is obsessed. 

10. Talk to people. I am not friendly in general but Irish people are really friendly, which makes it easy. A bartender or cab driver might be all chat and it's fun to listen to what they have to say. Ireland is a very hospitable country and they are good to their visitors.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

healthy pad thai

Whenever I get back from vacation, I have to reacquaint myself with healthy eating. I always go a bit overboard when I am traveling so I decided to jump right back in to my (mostly) Whole 30 eating. I was on the Whole 30 path before we left for Ireland and felt amazing. Four days back and I have been good about 90% of the time. 

I created this pad thai recipe based on a few different ones I found while searching Pinterest. I used zucchini and carrots for the noodles and made a simple peanut sauce that is delicious. I didn't have any chicken at home when I made this and kind of regretted it. I think this dish would be perfect with chicken. Or shrimp, if you're a seafood eater.

healthy pad thai (serves about 5)
-2 zucchinis - cut into "noodles" with a cheese grater
-1 large carrot - peeled into strips
-1 medium onion - thinly sliced
-2 cups thinly sliced kale
-a few radishes - thinly sliced
-a cup or two of bean shoots
-a small handful of cilantro - chopped
-3 eggs - whisked
-1/2 cup chopped peanuts

-1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
-2 teaspoons red curry paste (if you don't have this or don't want to buy it, try a tiny bit of red pepper flakes for spice)
-1 tablespoon fresh ginger (or use a teaspoon ground - but fresh is SO good!)
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-the juice from three small limes
-1/2 cup light canned coconut milk

1. Make the "noodles." I used a cheese grater for the zucchini and a peeler for the carrot. The cheese grater is a quick option - just make sure to drag the zucchini all the way down the grater top get longer pieces. Put the veggie noodles in a bowl and toss in the radishes, bean shoots, and cilantro.
2. In a large pan, saute the kale and onions until soft. Add in the whisked eggs and scramble them with the kale and onions.  Once the eggs are cooked (this will happen very quickly) transfer the mixture to the veggie noodles. 
3. To make the sauce, just add all of the sauce ingredients into a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. 
4. Pour the sauce over the veggies and toss to combine. Top the dish with the chopped peanuts and serve. This dish will last about two days in the refrigerator.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ireland - take eleven

I am afraid I am turning into one of those bloggers who starts every post with "Sorry....I haven't blogged in forever!" I guess I am not really "sorry" because I doubt anyone is counting on my blog posts but this blog is something I want to continue and I get annoyed with myself for not finding the time to post.

Today, I am back from a two week vacation to Ireland and Chicago. It was such a great time. This was my 11th trip to Ireland (can we go anywhere else?? ;)) and one of the best I have experienced in several years. I am thinking thinking spring is the time to go.

The weather was perfect the first half of the trip - low to mid 60s, sunny, and minimal rain. The final few days in Ireland it did get chilly (low to mid 50s) but for the most part the rain stayed away and we were able to get out and do a lot.

No one ever goes to Ireland for the weather but, I have been there in the cold, dark, rainy days and I much prefer a sunny intermittently rainy Ireland. The rain, after all, is a necessity to keep the place looking so green.

In addition to the nice weather, Spring is not peak season so everything is a little less expensive and a little less crowded.

the highest mountain peak in Ireland in the distance
a little friend we met near the beach
the gap of dunloe 
the sun fighting through the clouds
Neil - taking selfies
Neil - being a goof ;)
gorgeous Rossbeigh beach
quiet road

I will be back later this week with a few more photos + a few of my Ireland travel recommendations.

Have a great Monday!

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