A DEMANDING THURSDAY

three stairs

Morning came early yet again. I was awake before 5,00h and sent a text message to my boyfriend at the exact time he was sending one to me. This coincidence seems to happen often with us and today was no different. We saw each other on Skype for a few minutes before he left for work.

The challenges of a long distance relationship are great. Spending the past two and a half weeks together was nice but not without its challenges. Travel places added stress to an already stressful and frustrating situation. The frustration of knowing I will have to leave again, of us not seeing each other for months and having to remain apart for a while longer, and having to delay the plans we had for summer. Skype helps a bit but can never take the place of being together in person. Much patience is needed in our case but patience is not our strong point.

Our focus is divided into two time zones. We both automatically calculate the time in each other's time zones. His midnight is my dinner time. My morning is his time to leave for work. Somehow we make it work. We can only look forward to our patience being rewarded in the end.

The afternoon brought on more challenges on this demanding Thursday. I let the children walk home alone from the bus stop to the front door - a two minute walk at most. Sage was displeased with this situation as he did not like Saffron telling him to what to do and how to walk. She stated she was protecting him from any cars which may come their way. Somehow he saw things differently and appeared at my door crying. He was inconsolable for quite a while. Gladly the girls were well behaved which helped.

Getting to the root of Sage's displeasure was my goal. After the surprise snack of puffy pancake with strawberries I had waiting for the children when they arrived home after school, I took Sage upstairs to read him his new book - The Construction Alphabet Book. Unlike the girls, who enjoy reading and books, he was not thrilled with my getting him yet another book. He wanted more Lego bricks and sets to build. He expressed his displeasure with school yet again. 'I hate school' he stated. 'I hate learning' he went on to explain when I inquired why he hated school. I asked him what I could do to make learning more fun.

My sole idea at the time was to read him the book about construction. I saw a small smile and excitement as we read. Perhaps he did not like the fact his teacher has been away this week. A change of teachers, as a change in family life, has a way of upsetting children and causing them to act out in ways they would not before. More patience is needed in this case as well. Putting together a broken family will take a while. Balance is what we all need. And more patience.

Sage was better by the end of the day. He asked me for papers so he could make a surprise for me. He drew me two pictures - one of me and him standing under black storm clouds with rain pouring down on us, the other of a double rainbow. He also had Saffron make a paper boat for him which he then coloured in red-violet. It reminded me of the paper boats my father used to give me as a child. Now my children were giving them to me. Life continues with all of its demands and rewards, along with the belief that things will get better with time and experience.

THE LUNCH POLICE + HOMEWORK

the three feb 25

Jetlag had a firm grip on me today despite a futile attempt on my part to resist it. I finally gave in shortly before noon when I laid down for a nap. Something caused me to awaken at 14,56h - four minutes before the bus arrived. I scrambled to dress and grabbed my jacket on the way out, running up the driveway to the street and arriving at the top just as the bus pulled up.

Sage was first to exit the bus, followed by the girls. I was still half asleep wishing I could have slept more. The sun was shining and I noticed Cinnamon was without both her sweater and jacket which she packed away in her backpack. The thermometer registered 16 degrees Celsius, quite the change from yesterday's 2 degree weather. Tomorrow it will be back down to 7 degrees.

The children waited outside whilst I ran upstairs to grab my camera. Sage questioned me about my taking a photo of him. Why do I do it, he asked. Then I had to explain to him it was so I had photographs to remember him on the days he was not here with me and to have a record of when he was younger.

As I was photographing the children, I noticed Saffron's sticker on her dress. It said 'MY LUNCH ROCKS!'. All three received the stickers. I asked Saffron why they had those stickers. She informed me someone inspected her lunch and deemed it nutritious - except for the two Croatian napolitanke cookies I packed. Since there were only two, her lunch passed the test. They also had her eat the bell pepper and carrot for them. 'What?!', I said.

The notion of a lunch police struck me as strange. Then again, with the state of American food and the junk food consumed in American homes, it is no surprise the lunches are being monitored. Growing up in a European home, I had 'strange' food I took to lunch. Strange for my schoolmates but normal for me.

My children are exposed to healthy foods at my home. I do not buy junk food and we never eat fast food - ever. Their lunch always contains one fruit and one or more vegetables. The sandwiches vary and are made with healthy bread or naan or a flour tortilla. They usually are made with real peanut butter (the freshly ground one) and honey or some type of real cheese - either Parrano or cheddar cheese. Nothing processed, everything real. They also have one or two snacks: a granola bar where all the ingredients are pronounceable and some kind of crackers - usually Pecan crackers or rosemary crackers. I stay away from Goldfish and other American snacks but on occasion give in to the organic cheddar bunnies. They drink water or pineapple juice - the one which is 100% juice. No juice packs. In the case of the lunch police, I was glad to hear my children's lunches passed.

Homework is another issue which will take a while getting used to. Having three children means at least two to three hours of homework time in addition to preparing dinner. I often wonder how parents who work manage this. I know I will have to go to work soon, so it is not an issue at the moment, but I wonder how I will be able to take care of my children after work. A work-at-home parent has certain advantages in this case. I can only hope to find a job with flexible hours and/or the ability to work from home on occasion.

Saffron's homework was my main focus. We sat down for an hour and went through reading, writing, and spelling. Cinnamon did not have her homework with her as I do not own a printer where I can print it out. Instead, she went upstairs and read a book. I am happy she loves to read and does it so well. Sage worked on his Lego dump truck - taking it apart and putting it back together.

Dinner was quickly put together, but not fast enough for Saffron. She was hungry and wanted to eat immediately. 'Hangry' is the term as she threw a fit. Her siblings were happy to eat pistachios as a snack but she refused them. I heated up a tortilla for her and put some shredded cheddar cheese inside. A few minutes later we all ate our soft tacos with rice, black beans, sour cream, avocado, and cheese. Today had its challenges. Tomorrow is another day with possibilities and opportunities for being better.

RETURN TO ROUTINE

the tree bw

So it begins. The return to the routine of every day life. A life outside of travel. Planes have been replaced by the minivan. Albeit comfortable, I would have preferred to stay indoors instead of driving to the grocery stores. But my refrigerator was in desperate need of being restocked - milk for the children, vegetables for various soups, more eggs as you can never have enough, cheese, and bread.

Whole Foods was first on my list. Not the two closest to my house but the large one downtown which has its own bakery. Five different types of freshly baked breads ended up in my shopping cart. There was the French baguette for my simple lunch of Havarti cheese with cucumbers, avocado, and arugula; the seeduction bread with 13 or so different types of seeds - not one my boyfriend could eat due to allergies; half a loaf of muesli bread for me to eat with peanut butter; a round of French country boule; and a half loaf of Parisian sourdough. Naan and flour tortillas were also amongst my purchases for the children's lunches.

Central Market was the next store I drove to this morning. It is where I prefer to buy my vegetables as the Whole Foods prices are higher. It is interesting to note what is in season by the abundance of the particular item on display. There must have been at least 20 different types of apples in the fruit section - Honeycrisp being amongst my favourite.

The cheese selection at Central Market is astonishing. I am not sure how many hundreds of types of cheeses they sell. I was happy when I found the quail eggs in the deli section but not happy at the $0.79 per egg price tag. I remember paying 3 Euros for 18 eggs in Berlin. I simply could not justify the high price here in the States as the kids and I could eat four to five eggs each for breakfast.

Walking through the store, I kept wondering when my boyfriend would be able to accompany me on such mundane tasks as grocery shopping as he did when I was in Ireland. Granted, the shopping experience in Ennis cannot be compared to the time it takes to accomplish such tasks here, but such is life here in Austin. He will soon get to experience this routine, but soon is never soon enough.

Trader Joes was my third and last grocery store visited. They have the best prices on many items but the selection is limited. Smoked Gouda was my purchase there today along with more pistachios. Surprisingly I did not eat all of the pistachios today - some I had for lunch, some after dinner, and some I shelled for the children's lunch.

After the hours spent driving around to the three grocery stores, I ran out of both time and energy to use the ingredients purchased to make the pea soup, meatless loaf, and mashed potatoes I had intended on making for dinner. I was tired as jet lag caught a hold of me. Tomorrow I will continue with the routine when the three have to wake up to get ready for school. I am glad to have the children for the rest of this week. We will make the best of our time together.

FROM COLD TO COLD

new york skyline

By the time I walked into my house in Texas it was 21,00h and I had been awake and traveling for close to 22 hours. I was tired of having to sit for most of those hours and am glad I will be lying down on a bed. Wedged in between the aisle and window seats, I was unable to get up for five hours due to the girl on the aisle seat having slept for so many hours and the guy in front of her having reclined his seat.

All night long the wind was howling and the sleet sounded like icicles hitting the window. It was cold and the fallen sleet on the ground looked like snow. My boyfriend got his neighbor friend to take us to the airport. It was far too early for either or them but they made the half-hour journey to Shannon airport. Neither my boyfriend nor I wished for me to leave but we knew it must be this way for now.

The cold in Ireland was something I wished to leave behind. When I checked the weather forecast for Austin, I noticed the temperature was to drop from 21C to 2C in a matter of one day. There is a possibility for snow but there will be ice for certain. Ice here means the children will be starting school two hours later. I will see my three little ones tomorrow evening after I will have caught up on much needed sleep.

When I walked into my house tonight, I did not expect the temperature inside to be so low. But with the heater not working, it was no surprise the thermostat registered a mere 9C. Heating the place up for two hours did not make much difference as the temperature rose to 15C but only upstairs and not close to the wall of windows. The windows are not insulated as I can feel the cold air from outside blowing inside. Heavy curtains would solve that issue but making holes in the window frames is pointless at this point and, I believe, not allowed per rental agreement.

Tonight I will have to crawl under the down comforter and hope the room warms up more by morning. It is definitely time to move out of this place to a much warmer one. My boyfriend will also be moving but unfortunately not to the States just yet. Hopefully later this year but moving across the world is not as simple as moving to another part of town or simply across the courtyard, as it is in his case. I am certain he will prefer the warmth of Texas in the summer months to that of Ireland.

A LONG WHILE

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The last day is never a pleasant one as we know what is to come. We know the hours and minutes are limited. The time together becomes tense a little because of this knowledge. Yet we somehow continue throughout the day until it is time to go to bed. An early bedtime due to an early flight back home.

Sundays are still in this town. Close to no shops are open save for the three grocery stores. The streets are bare unlike the day before when the town was full of life with both tourists and residents. But today it was still and cold and rainy.

Rain held us hostage today. It kept us indoors for most of the day. We waited for the rain to stop so we could at least go out for some fresh air. We did - twice. Shortly after we awoke, we made it outside as the rain let up. Not long afterwards, it started again albeit lightly. In the late afternoon we took another walk but the winds picked up and the air become quite cold.

Lunch was burek. I adapted my father's recipe to a smaller sheet pan but did not realise the fillo sheets here were not as the ones back home. I should have read the box which stated '6 sheets' were inside. The sheets were smaller and thicker and dusted with flour. Despite the setback, I made the burek and introduced my boyfriend to another food he has never eaten. I was glad he liked it. 

The evening draws to a close. For the most part, my bags are packed. I had to take my cake pans, spices, and the rest of my baking and cooking items I brought with me last time. He will not need those items, except for the Urfa chilies, and I will not be here to bake a cake for him as I did the banana cake today. It will be a while until we see each other again. A long while this time.

A DAY TOGETHER

the coffeehouse

Getting more days off from work seemed impossible but I am glad he was given both today and tomorrow. We needed it as it gave us a chance to spend one more day out in town before our last day. I can hardly believe it is almost time for me to go once again. It both seems like I have been gone forever and just a few days.

To my children, I am sure it seems I have been gone forever. Sage asked me the other day on Skype when I would be back. He did not like my answer of 'next week'. Mostly he was concerned about the amount of rainbow heart stickers he would have to put on his calendar - the Lego calendar hanging above his bed. I was not able to find more of those stickers this time. Perhaps next time.

Our last time at the coffeehouse is something I will remember fondly. The room was full when we walked in and Conor said my table was not available but the other one by the window was. We were lucky as it was the last unoccupied table for a while. As we sat and waited for our cappuccinos, I started talking about how busy the coffeehouse has been and how nice it would be if Conor would expand into the other space next door which now houses random items for sale.

Upon leaving, we spoke with Conor and I mentioned how I thought it would be nice if he would be able to grab the neighboring space. 'I am far ahead of you' he replied. Then he continued to tells us he will be expanding in a month and should be ready the next time I return. He also talked about the rationale of playing 1920s music. He said if we recognise a song, we might stop the conversation and note our familiarity of it. On the other hand, the conversation continues if songs which we do not recognize play in the background. Interesting, I thought.

After we left the coffeehouse, we had a few things to do in regards to paperwork. Before our trip to the grocery store for items I needed for burek, we stopped at Preacher's Pub for a pint of Guinness. It was to commemorate a time in the past when we almost missed our meeting each other. Later in the evening, after a 'snack' of basmati rice with parmesan and roasted asparagus, red peppers, and radishes, we went to Knox's for a baby Guinness. The day from work was just what we needed. It was a day well spent together.

BETTER OR WORSE

skylight ennis

At some point, the days blend into each other. It becomes difficult to tell them apart. Is it Thursday or Friday, I think. I grab my iPhone to check. It is Friday today. Some days are better. Others are worse. Today was not too bad. My boyfriend had to go to work again but he did not need to leave until noon so there was time for us to eat breakfast together. It is nice not to have to eat alone.

After my shower, I dressed and readied myself for the day. What would come of the day was unknown and known at the same time. I knew I would visit the coffeehouse but did not know what the rest of the day would bring. I went into the kitchen and cracked four eggs into a large soup bowl. I added salt, flour, sour cream, and buttermilk and mixed it all together for what I knew as 'kajgana' growing up. Whilst I waited for the stove to warm up, I cut up the vegetables. Baby tomatoes, green bell peppers, and avocado. Avocados are rare here in Ireland but I was able to find a decent Haas avocado.

My boyfriend claims never to have eaten an avocado. He has tasted guacamole but if it was anything like the one we had in Cork, I could understand why he has kept away from them for so long. He tasted one piece and said it did not really taste like anything. Granted, this avocado was a bit watery and not as tasty as the ones I remember back home. He did not seem to dislike it too much but wondered why one would put salt on a fruit.

Last night when he arrived home, we sat down and ate penne pasta with the tomato sauce I made earlier in the evening. I warned him it was spicy. 'Your spicy' he asked. I knew what he meant. The Urfa chilies I was sprinkling into the sauce came out a bit too fast. I could have spooned out some of the chilies, but left them as is instead. The sauce was a tiny spicy for me but very spicy for him. I told him he would get used to it.

The coffeehouse was the only stop I made outside the house today. The rain made it an easy decision to stay indoors. I took the advice to relax and enjoy the rest of my vacation. I read some of my book and cooked potato leek soup later in the evening. As another day draws to a close, I think about how some days things are better whilst others are worse. Then I think how we simply need to cherish the moment and figure out how to move forward in both good days and bad.

FIVE MINUTES BEFORE

suas rain

He went by the coffeehouse before leaving for work, thinking I was still there. Conor, the owner, told him I left just five minutes before. An hour before, I walked into the room and saw a couple leaving my table. The round table by the window has become 'my' table. Conor tried saving it for me yesterday but two guys grabbed it before he had a chance to save it. 

Today I was lucky as the view is pleasant. I was glad to be able to sit there as I have two more visits to the coffeehouse. It would be three if the place was open on Sundays. It isn't, so Saturday will be my last time sitting and sipping a cappuccino made with the fancy new machine which was not there the last time I visited in December.

Every time I sit at the table, I am told the soup of the day and the flavour of the savory scones which were baked in the morning. Today it was red pepper with basil, I believe, and avocado. It sounded interesting but my eyes caught glimpse of the basket on the counter overflowing with freshly baked plain and fruit scones.

A plain scone is what I chose. It was light, fluffy, and quite high. I sat by the window and looked out at the cloudy skies. Rain started at one point and I was happy to be inside watching from a warm and dry room from up above.

When I left, Conor asked my plans for the weekend. I mentioned to him I was leaving Monday and would not be returning anytime soon. 'Oh, you'll be back in a few weeks' he replied. I told him this time it is not so likely, but you never know. Life surprises us when we least expect it.

After I left the coffeehouse, I walked down the street to Ennis Bookshop. Somehow my boyfriend and I missed each other along the way. Perhaps I was walking into the bookshop as he passed by. Had I stayed five minutes later, we would have seen each other.

The rest of my day consisted of going to three different grocery stores and making tomato sauce for penne pasta. I also bought fresh basil and parmesan which will make the late dinner complete. Then it's a pint of Guinness at Knox's with my boyfriend when he returns from work. A nice way to finish this Thursday.

NUMBERED DAYS

ennis river bw

The days until I return to my home in Texas can be counted on one hand by now. Four more, to be exact. It is then when I return to reality, to a life filled with finding employment - as difficult as it may be. I am looking forward to seeing my little ones and I am sure they will be happy to see me too.

Cinnamon, my middle child, had to go to the pediatrician today due to an earache. In addition to treating the ear problems, she was diagnosed with 'a slight lung infection'. Unfortunately, she missed class pictures but such things are bound to happen at one point or another. My boy is coughing and might also have to visit a pediatrician, although I hope it is not necessary. I am not there to be with them but am awaiting their call on Skype tonight. It is the best I can do until next week.

My days indulging at the coffeehouse are also coming to an end. I went today for my usual cappuccino and fruit scone with whipped cream and mixed berry jam. I know when I return home I will no longer get to indulge in such luxury as sitting at the coffeehouse on a daily basis or weekly for that matter.

Relaxing in bed was something else I relished today as I watched whatever German show I did not already see on ZDF Mediathek. I even found a new series to watch - 'Heldt'. With every show I watch, I understand more and more of the everyday German language. As my children grow, we will be able to speak more German in the house and when we are out and about.

Our days are numbered, our futures unknown. Life is not easy or predictable, though we may at times wish it to be. Nobody knows how our lives will turn out. The future can change in an instant. Being present, being in the moment is what is most important.

ADJUSTMENT TIME

ennis town shops

There comes a point where you wonder how your children are doing without you. My three children are still young but I am sure they miss coming to my place on alternate weeks as I am missing having them. Saffron arrived two days before I left, so there was no time to adjust to the new routine. The one after the divorce. She was shipped off to Germany whilst her siblings carried on without her. Now she has new issues at school - whether or not to put her back into second grade.

Saffron's teachers suggested my daughter to be put back into second grade immediately. That was their first option and one in which they strongly believe. I tend to think the alternate option of her getting private tutoring before classes in the morning and after school at home to be better. The school would then reassess her skills and then determine the next step.

Granted, my daughter is the youngest in her class, but it does not mean her age should dictate her class level. I was also born in August and was the youngest in my class as well. I had language working against me as I knew not one word of English on my first day of kindergarten. My daughter had the advantage of being exposed to English, German, and Croatian since birth. She might simply need a little extra time and patient assistance.

The time to adjust to something new varies from one person to another. We are all adjusting to something at some point in time as change is inevitable but also frightening. Comfort is what we crave and being taken out of our comfort zone makes us uneasy. Traveling has a way of taking us out of our normal routine and plunging us into the unknown. I attempted a return to my routine by cooking potato leek soup and baking spiced cookies tonight. It was not perfect but nothing ever is.

Adjusting to a new routine can take time but I do not believe it is any easier for children even though they are younger. Children crave consistency and as parents we strive to give them as much of it as we can, but above all children need to feel loved and safe. Unfortunately, change in family life is sometimes inevitable and we do the best we can do under the circumstances.

ALONG THE ATLANTIC

cliffs of moher

Today was the day I saw the cliffs. The Cliffs of Moher. The sun was shining for a while but the wind and rain soon appeared. A wind so fierce it almost knocked the lens out of my hand as I was switching lenses. I had to hold onto the railing as I walked back to the visitor's centre. A while later I returned to the top to admire the view nature bestowed upon us as the waves crashed against the majestic cliffs.

A SUNDAY SQUANDERED

ennis church steeple

In a town as small as Ennis, there is not much to see, particularly if one has been here before and has no car to take a drive to the countryside. During the slow months, the coffeehouse is not open on Sundays. It reopens next month, but today the coffeehouse was closed. Had it been open, I would have had someplace to go today even for half an hour.

He had a day off today. We took a brief walk in the early afternoon and had a pint of Guinness at Knox's, but stayed home the rest of the day. It was raining and gloomy - typical Irish weather. I am not used to this weather, to the cold, but am glad for the absence of any effects of allergies as I had back home.

Not many words were exchanged today as we thought about how to move forward. The plans we had for the summer would have to be put on hold. We both need to figure things out. Both of us will be moving soon. He will be moving in with a friend and I will need to find a house to rent in the next month or two.

We took another walk tonight. The effects of staying indoors and watching episode after episode of 'Friends' were getting to us. It was a walk with few words. We both were thinking what our next step should be. Merging two lives on opposite sides of the world is not a simple task.

Earlier in the day we discussed my not returning to Ennis. Our next meeting will have to be in the States. For now, I need to focus on getting my children through the end of the school year and finding employment in the next few months. Convincing an employer to give a stay-at-home mother of 8+ years a chance has not been an easy task. Still, I must move forward.

SECOND SATURDAY

ennis rooftops

Today is my second Saturday here in Ireland. The day started out not too different from yesterday. After saying our goodbyes for the day, we parted ways - he to work, me to the coffeehouse. Conner finally remembered my name correctly. Not that I minded 'Katarina', as he called me several times before. It is a beautiful name of Greek origin and means 'pure'. It would be a nice name for a baby girl and one I would use if the opportunity presented itself, albeit at my age the chances are pretty low if not impossible.

The grocery store was my next stop to buy a few items for baking. I intended to spend some of the day in the kitchen. Upon my return home, I read for about 15 minutes until my eyes started to feel heavy. I stretched out on the couch and slept for two hours. The sun was making its way lower in the sky and I debated about going out once more. I decided against it and stayed indoors instead wondering what to bake.

Lentil soup was first to be made. I chopped the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. I measured the lentils - 150 grams - and selected three nice sprigs of fresh thyme. Seasonings were sea salt, black pepper, and two bay leaves. After sautéing the vegetables, I added the seasonings and a liter and a half of water. The soup cooked for close to two hours and I baked a cake in the meantime.

Lemon poppy seed cake was the one I chose to make for us. It is a recipe of mine I wrote for a 5-inch cake pan. The recipe has many revisions and today was yet another. Having left my measuring spoons back home, unless they are hiding somewhere in my luggage, I had to guess the half teaspoon amount for the baking powder and the quarter teaspoon amount for the baking soda. This time I used buttermilk instead of sour cream and heavy cream. I also increased the amount of eggs, but I guessed on the poppy seeds. Later we will taste it and see how it turned out.

For now, I await my boyfriend's arrival. He is still at work but should be home soon. Both of us will be glad to spend the next two days together.

THE DAY IT RAINED

rain ennis

Ireland sees much rain throughout the year but I have not seen any of it since my arrival last Thursday. That is, until today. Today was the first time it has rained here in Ennis during my trip thus far and it also happened to be the day my boyfriend had to return to work. He had asked for time off during the entire time I am here and was not happy about having to go in today and tomorrow. I walked with him to work, said goodbye, and continued on my way to the coffeehouse.

At the coffeehouse, I ordered my usual - cappuccino and a fruit scone. I asked the Polish waitress if there was cream to be had for the scone. There was, so I sat and started eating the scone with cream and blackberry jam whilst I waited for my coffee. Afterwards, I ordered the soup as it sounded as if it would taste good. It did. Roasted peppers with tomatoes and ginger. The combination was rather good.

Rain started to fall as I finished eating. I walked outside but did not bother with an umbrella or the hood on my jacket. My next stop was two bookstores. At the second one I decided to buy a new book even though I had not yet finished the other one I had brought with me. I will save it for a later time.

Wondering what else to do today, I turned to reading then watching the German shows on my iPad. In between shows, I decided to clean the kitchen. Cooking will wait until tomorrow. Cheese with bread was fine for today after my meal earlier in the day. The rain continued harder in the afternoon. It would have been a nice day to spend the day in bed.

This evening I was able to attend my son's Valentine's Day party at his school. I wrote to his teacher last night and asked her if she would be willing to set up a time to Skype with him during the party as he had wished for me to be there with him. My being in Ireland, I was not able to be there physically but was happy for technology allowing us to see each other from all the way across the Atlantic. I am sure he was happy as well.

JOURNEY TO DUBLIN

dublin bridge

'Fake snow' we both said at the same time as we were approaching Dublin this morning. We looked at each other in disbelief as I was looking off into the distance, half asleep, and he was looking the other way when we both uttered those words. We were referring to the lone mountain I pointed out which was white. I said 'snow!', he said it was not snow. 'Salt?', I suggested in a sarcastic tone. As we approached closer, we noticed an entire mountain range covered in snow behind another mountain range which was bare.

Arriving in Dublin at 10,30 this morning, we were both still tired as we awoke around 5,30h. The drive was long and I was feeling the effects of my motion sickness early in the drive so I remained as still as possible and even fell asleep for an hour. It was my intent to find 3fE as soon as we arrived. Having been there twice before over a year ago, I knew the general direction and was proud of myself for not getting us lost and ending up on the exact street which would take us to the corner where it was located.

It took us half an hour from the bus stop on D'Olier to arrive at the coffeehouse. The small tables were all full, save for the two outside in the cold. I ordered us two cappuccinos and a cranberry almond scone whilst my boyfriend grabbed two empty seats at a high community table. As we waited, we kept a lookout for people who might be vacating the lower, more comfortable tables. As soon as one became open, we ran for it.

3fe dublin

'Where now?' he asked as we left the coffeehouse. 'That way' I said pointing in the direction from which we came. I knew the way. Not exactly, but the general direction. I knew, as I had walked all the way from my hotel in Clontarf to the centre of Dublin in search of the O2 back in November 2013 when I needed to know where Depeche Mode would play that night. It took me two hours to walk all the way and explore the city centre.

A year and three months later, I was back in Dublin exploring the city once more albeit this time with my boyfriend.

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unicycle man
sand mermaid
flowers
horse and carriage


WEDNESDAY SAUNTER

town hall street

We sauntered around the town of Ennis much of the day. From the first walk in the early afternoon to get a cappuccino at Suas CoffeeHouse until the evening when we went for a Guinness at Knox's. Albeit the town is not large, we managed to make it out several times today. It was a pleasant day spent outdoors in the cold and out of the musty apartment. We are taking advantage of all the time we have during the day when he normally would be at work as Friday and Saturday he will have to return for the busy Valentine's Day weekend.

In a small town, one is likely to run into familiar faces. Today was the case everywhere we went it seemed. At Aldi, we saw a co-worker of his - the guy who danced with everyone at the staff party - and a friend of my boyfriend's I met the first time I was in Dublin. He was there with his girlfriend and we chatted for a while. Then there was a Polish friend of his who was on his way to the store to buy food before his shift at Knox's. He did not seem surprised to see me, perhaps since I have been here many times the past year. Later we met another friend who was a roommate of his for a brief while last year. In the evening, we saw two other people from his work when we were at Knox's.

After seven days of my being here, I finally made it into the kitchen. I sliced two small onions, half of a red bell pepper, and half of a green bell pepper. I seasoned the mixture with Mayan sea salt, fresh thyme leaves, and Urfa crushed chilies. Meanwhile, I boiled 150 grams of basmati rice with three sprigs of thyme. When the rice was cooked, I added it to the pan with the vegetables and mixed in some Greek feta. My boyfriend, not being a fan of vegetarian food, could not stop raving about it. He did not believe vegetarian food could be so tasty.

My Saffron called me tonight and I spoke with her and her siblings. Cinnamon and Sage were doing homework but I had Saffron go get them so they could take a break to chat with me. The girls are doing better after the sickness that kept both home yesterday and all three were happy to see me and talk with me.

Tomorrow we will continue our saunter around Dublin. It will be a short night for us as we plan to make the express bus leaving at 7 in the morning which will bring us into Dublin three and a half hours later. My boyfriend already made us sandwiches for the trip. Unfortunately, I already devoured the package of Riesen throughout the day which I had planned on saving for the bus ride. They are addicting as pistachios - open the bag and they will be gone within hours, if I am so patient. A day spent sauntering is a day well spent.

THREE TWO

tree branches over river

The first goal for Liverpool was made by a Croatian - Lazar Marković. I looked over at him, my boyfriend sitting on the barstool next to me, and smiled. Liverpool versus Tottenham. In the end, the score was 3-2 in favour of Liverpool. He was happy about it. I was actually enjoying watching the soccer game at Knox's this evening and commented on how it was a more interesting game than the last one we watched a few days ago where nobody scored the entire game.

Before this evening's game, we spent as much time outdoors as possible. The temperature averaged 5 degrees Celsius today but it felt colder due to the proximity to the ocean. Despite the cold, I preferred being outdoors today.

I was awake before noon, showered, dressed and was ready to leave for the coffeehouse by the time he returned home from a brief meeting with his boss. I left alone, wanting to spend time reading my book which is taking forever to read. I bought it at the bookstore around the corner when I was here back in November. I believe I read two pages today before being distracted by the soup which arrived. It was vegetable soup and was tasty. I was hungry.

castle building

He arrived moments after I finished my soup and soda bread. We chatted for a bit until he left. I stayed and ordered a cappuccino and a plain scone. No more of the book did I read. I simply put it away in my large camera bag and walked outside looking for something interesting to photograph. Bare tree branches caught my attention as I descended the stairs by the River Fergus.

close up branches bw

I arrived at the apartment building just as he was leaving. When he arrived home we talked some more before heading out for our walk. We came upon the Eason bookstore where I ended up buying three books for my girls to encourage their reading.

Later in the afternoon I received an email from Saffron asking when she could call me on Skype. I thought she was sending the email from a computer at school until I found out she stayed home because she was sick. We spoke via Skype for a while and promised to talk again tomorrow.

Though the day started out one way, it ended up being better. Sometimes a little time and clarity is all one needs to turn things around and make it a winning situation for all.

THE DAY AFTER

ennis street by easons

'It will be crazy' he warned. He was right. Fill a room with people from Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Kosovo, and Russia; add food and drinks, and a fun party will take place. Last night was the staff party from his work. We arrived close to 21,30h, half an hour after the party was scheduled to begin. We found seats at the table adjacent to the 'Polish table' and would have sat there had there been seats available.

A party where you know one or two people takes a little time to get comfortable with the surroundings but it did not take me too long. The people were friendly and accepting. There was an open bar, good food, music, and dancing. At first I was hesitant to get out onto the dance floor despite my many years dancing in my youth. I loved dancing but had long since forgotten how fun it can be.

Someone eventually got me out onto the dance floor - either my boyfriend or one of his colleagues - one of the Polish guys. I then remembered the fun I used to have dancing and enjoyed tonight's time on the dance floor. People were laughing and enjoying the evening. It was noticeable how different 'office parties' are in the States where people are more reserved. It was a nice difference.

We stayed for quite a while. I ate little during the day and not much at the party since I no longer eat meat, which meant the red wine I drank took effect after the first glass. I first talked with the couple from Kosovo. It was nice to be able to talk in Croatian with them. My boyfriend introduced me to several of his co-workers, went off to talk with some of them at various points in time, and I eventually got used to my new surroundings.

About two hours after midnight is when we finally left. Many people were still partying but I thought it was time to go home and get some sleep. Luckily home meant only a five-minute walk. We ended up getting a lot of sleep as I noticed it was 14,30h when I finally crawled out of bed.

The coffeehouse was not open yesterday, so I was glad we had a chance to get coffee there today. I did not wish to go home just yet but knew most shops would be closing in the next half hour. I walked to the bookstore for a few minutes whilst my boyfriend went to meet a friend. I found a few books I wanted to get for me and my children but did not buy them this time. Perhaps when I get ready to return home.

This evening we sat and watched 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' whilst eating spaghetti. My waning appetite prevented me from eating much but I knew I had to eat something. Perhaps tomorrow my appetite will return and I will want to make lentil soup or potato leek soup. The 7 degree Celsius temperature today was perfect soup weather and should be perfect for tomorrow's prediction of cold as well.

LITTLE PLEASURES

willows ennis

The simple things in life are the ones most memorable. They are also the ones we take for granted most often. A hug, a kiss, the holding of each other's hands. We busy ourselves daily with mundane tasks which we bemoan. We tell ourselves we do not have time for a walk or a chat with a good friend as we have chores to complete. But then come the days when we regret those choices - days we wished we have slowed down and enjoyed the small pleasures life gives us.

Today we took a walk, as we did yesterday. Albeit a short and constructive walk to grocery stores for a few vegetables and cheese, it was something we are not able to do together often. There are many things we are not able to do from afar as distance is our enemy, our challenge. Skype is fine for communicating on a daily basis but nothing takes the place of being together in person. The little time we have now we make a point to not take for granted even if it is simply a walk to the store or time spent sitting in silence together.

Early this afternoon we parted ways for an hour. He went to meet a friend, I went to the coffeehouse. Going to the coffeehouse is my simple pleasure and not something I enjoy back home. For the past three years I have boycotted Starbucks and thus no longer frequent the chain coffee shop. On the rare occasion, I drive the 30 minutes to downtown Austin for a cappuccino at The Hideout, but more often than not it is a hassle due to the lack of parking. So, today I enjoyed my quiet moment upstairs at the Suas CoffeeHouse in Ennis.

The soccer game between Liverpool and Everton was playing this afternoon, so he needed to be home in time for his game. I sat on the couch and watched with him although I am not a fan of any sports. Soccer (European football) I can watch and have played the sport as a child, but I told him if he watched American football I would have to leave him.

He prepared dinner during the first half of the game. You know a man loves you and cares for you when he sacrifices a game he has looked forward to watching in order to make you a nice dinner. It was a lovely dinner of sea bass, potatoes with onions, and cucumbers with red peppers on the side and I greatly appreciated him taking the time to make it for us and to clean up the kitchen afterwards.

We sat and watched the rest of the goalless game and laughed hard when I commented on one of the important players being exchanged because he had to take a bathroom break. I knew it was not the case, but my boyfriend said he was injured. I said he didn't look injured and maybe needed a break.

The little pleasures in life we need to make sure to take the time to enjoy. If we hurry through life, we will miss out on important memories. Sometimes work needs to be set aside in order to make time for a child's school party, a bedtime story, dinner together, or to simply sit together and enjoy a silent moment. Regrets of the future can be avoided if we remember to take time for the simple things.