Bits and pieces

It’s the end of the week and I’ve been slacking on the blobbin, which means that this will be a hodgepodge roundup! YAAAAAAAY!

Here’s just a few wee things that popped into my head about NI during the past coupla days.

First item on the agenda: buses

Buses here are pretty sweet, especially for peons who can’t drive manual like moi. They’re mostly double-decker, heated, and pretty regular (every 10 min, yo). Sometimes, though, traffic gets blocked up for miles (like if a kid drops their chocolate wrapper or leaf falls from a tree). Then, you have to resign yourself to wait for 50 minutes…and just when you’re about to give up on life, three buses come at once.

The good thing is that buses have their own lanes in most parts of the city, resulting in traffic that basically looks like this:
I took the bus into the center of BEAL FEIRSTE on Wednesday, and it worked a charm. Only downside was having to listen to the likes of Sketchy McDodgy and Ratty O’Scumbag talk about their friends with STDs. If only that was a joke.

Agenda item #2: mold


Mold has made cameo appearances in my previous blogs. During Japan’s rainy season, I awoke one morning to find that my entire bathroom was covered in black slime. My clothes had also seemingly rotted overnight, pocked with stink spots. I chalked it up to living in a super humid, hot climate. Oh, the age of innocence!

Winter here is chilly and wet. I naively thought that the cold would stifle any potential growth, but a few days ago my nose led me into our damp closet. There I found them — all of my clothes, besotted with fungus.

Fortunately(?), I know from experience that the rotten cheese smell washes out right away. I currently have my first of approximately 4 loads of wash in the machine. THANKS, IRELAND.

Final item on the agenda: saying goodbye

The way folks say goodbye here is part of the unique local flavor. It’s not so much the words they choose. It’s more the fact that they use 3-5 farewell salutations to do it. I am constantly suppressing my snickers when people say goodbye.

NI Rando: Cheers now, all the best, take care, bye!
NI Rando 2: Dead on, good to see yeh, safe home, God bless, bye now!

Awww. It fills my icy, moldy heart with warm fuzzehs.

And with that, let’s take it into the weekend!
With only one goodbye,



Do you even tea, bro?

You knew it was coming — the inevitable tea post!!!!!!1!!!!11!!!!!1
Tea is Northern Ireland’s center of gravity everything else revolves around it. You know that ultra basic T.S. Eliot quote about measuring out life in coffee spoons? People here measure out their lives by metric ton of used tea bags. It’s NI’s panacea tea is used to soothe virtually any and all situations.

“Your husband left you?! Ach, pet — I’ll put the kettle on.”

Translation: It’s 3:30? Make some tea or else!!

“You’ve just been in a road accident? OH MY WORD, THAT THERE BONE IS STICKIN’ OUT, SO IT IS cuppa.”

In fact, at the company where I worked a few months ago, there were two 15-minute designated tea breaks (10:30am and 3:30pm). Everyone lived for the flippin’ tea breaks, myself included. Oftentimes the 15 minutes would casually slide into 45 minutes, reminding me of the Munchkins’ song in Wizard of Oz:

We get up at 12 and start to work at 1
Take an hour for lunch,
And then at 2 we’re done!
Jolly good fun!

I’ll be the first to admit that I love, love, love tea culture, though my habits have changed as of late! Some of you longtime readers (Mom) may remember when I lived in London and reused my tea bags, much to the horror and astonishment of my English friends. Well, I’ve seen the light. I’m no longer a pig wallowing in my own crapulence, so rejoice, British overlords: you won. Now I’m super fussy about my tea.

First of all, Punjana is where it’s at. DON’T EVEN TRY TO GIVE ME TWININGS. Secondly, you gotta get some milk in that teezy. No sugar unless you’re a cracked-out hedonist. ALSO: tea tastes best when sipped from a thin-lipped cup. DELICATE, YO. And you’d better be making this face:
To add to the unending confusion of NI slang, “tea” has double-meaning here. There’s the usual usage steeped drink — but it also means dinner.

Look at this mess. Try to figure out which questions are referring to actual tea, and which to dinner.
1) “Have you had your tea?”
2) “Would you like some tea?”
3) “Want to come for tea?”
4) “What do you want for tea?”

1) dinner
2) tea
3) dinner
4) dinner
I know, I know. Here’s the other thing whenever someone enters your home, you are obligated by law to offer them tea. I recently learned this when we had workmen come to our house to install new doors. As he was leaving for work, Matt casually said, “oh yeah don’t forget to give the work guys tea.”

I immediately had so many questions. How would I know when to present them with said tea? How would I know how they take their tea? Do I give them biscuits? HOW MANY BISCUITS PER PERSON?

I texted all of these questions to Matt, and he said to offer as soon as they arrived. I did so, and asked the guys how they liked their tea. “One sugar in each,” they said.

I had to text Matt again. Was it just UNDERSTOOD that there would automatically be milk in the tea? So they didn’t need to mention it? Or are they FREAKS who drink black tea with sugar?! Matt said to add the milk.

I presented the guys with their steaming mugs and with a ridiculously large amount of Tesco Value custard creams. I only found out later, after only ONE of the creams was eaten, that apparently custard creams are garbage biscuits at the bottom of the tea snack pyramid (tea snack hierarchy post forthcoming).

We had originally bought them because I’d never had a custard cream. Well, I tried one of the rejects off the workmen’s plate. It was basically a chalk sandwich.

P.S. – Matt came home during his lunch break to see how the doors were going. The workmen complained to him that his American wife had only offered them one cup of tea. I immediately made them more tea and then cried for 2 weeks.


Yakkity yak

A few months ago, an epiphany hit me like a ton of bricks. THE BRITISH TALK SHOW FORMULA.

It occurred while I was vegging out with Matt (possibly watching 8 out of 10 Cats?). Suddenly, I screamed, “BRITISH SHOWS ARE JUST PEOPLE SITTING AROUND MAKING FUNNY COMMENTS!”

It’s a bit of an exaggeration, BUT there is a ubiquitous type of British TV that appears with slight variations across multiple channels: the witty panel talk show. It’s basically the answer to the American talk show. Here’s the American formula:

White dude host + smattering of silly skits + guest + studio audience =

The British formula is a bit different:

White bloke host(s) + panel of constantly recurring quirky TV personalities & celebs + loose game show structure (optional) + deliciously silly Brit banter =

There are quite a few of these shows  here are a few:
8 out of 10 Cats
Room 101
Jonathan Ross (bit more like American talk show, but with lots of guests)
Have I Got News for You
Never Mind the Buzzcocks
Mock the Week

Despite my poking fun, British TV is pretty great. Perhaps tonight we’ll tune in to one of these bad boys! It’s also Friday, which means it’s time for MOSCOW MULES  our latest obsession. Of course imbibed from ridiculously pretentious copper mugs.

Me + Moscow Mules:
Feelin’ groovy,

Serial calling

No, I’m not talking about the Serial podcast, you disgraceful hipsters! Although it did raise so many unnerving questions…


Serial calling is a term I coined shortly after moving to this quaint isle. “Calling” over here doesn’t mean ringing someone on the phone. It’s the more traditional/antiquated meaning of “dropping by someone’s house to politely socialize and hopefully score some cake.”

Calling is part and parcel of life here. If you don’t call in with your family and friends on a regular basis, something is terribly, terribly wrong. Assumptions are made. Are you ill? Angry? Dead? ARE YOU ACTUALLY DEAD? WE HAVEN’T SEEN YOU SO THERE’S NO WAY OF KNOWING.

Full disclosure: I love calling in with people! Especially Matt’s family, who are the best. Chit-chat, tea and family time  it’s a good thing! Well, Matt found a way to pervert the system. That’s right, serial calling. AKA going to 2+ households in a single day. I believe our record is five houses in one day. He’s got a big family!

It all starts off well. First house: BOOM! Tea and a biscuit, nice and relaxing. Second house: bit full, getting tired, but still a valiant effort. Third house: it’s over, Johnny. My craic is fully tapped and all I want is to lie in a sensory deprivation tank for the next five years.

Meanwhile, Matt is flying high on life, driving from house to house with a maniacal smile, brainstorming who else we can squeeze in that day. Luckily, ever since I put my fat foot down and told him I couldn’t handle such extroversion, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Actually, it’s been months since we’ve been to more than three houses in one day! Awww, compromise. #Mawwadge

There’s also the flip side, though people stopping in at our house unexpectedly. If the house is clean and I have some freshly baked goodies to offer the guest, this is me:
However, more often than not the house looks like a warzone and I have approximately 5 seconds to make it look presentable. This is how it goes down:

Matt: Oh, so-and-so’s at the door! Could you put the kettle on?
To be fair, this is a rare occurrence. However, whenever I offhandedly think to myself, “someone might stop by today,” I become so overcome with paranoia that I clean the entire house in a mad frenzy. Hilariously, in Japan my cleanliness was similarly prompted by fear of judgement.

What if I get sick and someone from school lets themselves in to check on me? What if they see my dusty shelves and my crusty bathtub?! OMG, WHAT IF I DIE AND THEY DISCOVER THE DIRTY NUTELLA SPOONS ALL OVER THE APARTMENT. MUST CLEAN EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW.

I fully blame Japan for my insurmountable feelings of shame.

But anyway, I got a bit sidetracked there. The point is that serial calling is my downfall and is only okay at Christmas.

With that, I’m off to clean the house.

Ashamed Gingy

Scum of the earth

There is a dark, twisted underbelly to this country  a disfigurement so personal, so hidden, that it’s never spoken about or even acknowledged. Visitors have no idea; only by living here can one grasp fully the horror that lies beneath.

No one knows how to do the dishes.
I mean, people think they know how. But they have no idea. Okay, okay, I’ll admit that there are some aspects of the NI washing up that are superior to America’s methods. Shall we compare and contrast?

Step 1: Run water continuously for duration of washing up; waste thousands of gallons of water BECAUSE THIS IS A FREE COUNTRY AND NOT SOCIALIST EUROPE, AMIRITE?
Step 2: Do each dish painstakingly slowly, scrubbing with soapy sponge.
Step 3: Rinse with running water.
Step 4: Fire your pistol into the air because you are an American hero!

Step 1: Put plastic basin in sink; fill with hot, soapy water. Okay, all jingoism aside, this is the step I can give my support. It definitely makes a lot more sense to use a contained, limited amount of water. Good job, NI! It’s all downhill from here, though.
Step 2: Dump all your gnarly dishes into basin o’ water.
Step 3: After allowing enough time for all the food bits to loosen up and turn the basin water a lovely grey (with bits of orange-colored oil!), it’s time to scrub! Scrub your dish. Then  and this is crucial  DUNK IT BACK INTO THE POLLUTED, SOAPY BASIN WATER before you put it on the drying rack.
As I’m sure you could have guessed, Matt thinks this is just peachy! “The soap slides off on the drying rack!” he insists. But it doesn’t slide off, you guys. It just pretends like it’s going to slide off, then it gathers around all the edges, leaving our dishes covered in dried soap scum.

So I’ve found a solution  best of both worlds! Dunk and scrub all of your dishes in the basin, then give them a light rinse with **~clean, running water~** before putting them on the drying rack. 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, plz.

Anyway, I’ve tried to convince Matt to try my way, but he won’t because of “the environment” (LOL, cause this region is infamous for its ongoing droughts). Well, I’m going to keep trying to spread the word. And if our dishes happen to be crusty, I’ll try not to act like this…

Squeaky clean,

TGIF, foo!


By the by, lest you think I’m a leech scheming the system (jokes on me, my visa says in block letters ‘NO ACCESS TO PUBLIC FUNDS’), I am actually gainfully employed! Doing comms stuff for two local politicians. But let’s be real, that’s just my cover for when I pull a Frank Underwood on this piece and use my hard-won political clout and deceptive Southern charm to overthrow the monarchy.

Until then, though, time to celebrate the end of the week AND that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!

A dig in the bake

Allo, allo!

Pop quiz: what is a dig in the bake?
a) sexy time
b) eating the insides of a loaf of bread and leaving all the crust like a filthy rat
c) a punch in the face
d) a C-section

I know, I know…they all seem plausible. But if you guessed “a punch in the face,” you’re right! Good on ye boyie (or girlie)! If you chose eating bread from the inside out, I guess you know about my shameful childhood secret. THE INSIDES WERE SO SOFT.

Anyway, totally irrespective of this blog’s title, today we ain’t talking about punching people. I wanna talk about bread. BREAD! I got the title for this post from a half-baked (ha!) conspiracy theory I have about the Norn Irish phrase “dig in the bake.” Basically, Cockney rhyming slang for “head” is “loaf of bread.” I think that’s how the Belfast folks started calling someone’s face a “bake.” Don’t actually know, though, can’t prove anything and too lazy to look it up. JUST BLINDLY BELIEVE ME.

So I’m pretty much obsessed with NI’s bread game. You hungry? NI will always come through in the clutch with carbs on carbs on carbs. This is me in the bread section at Tesco:
The bread selection is OUT OF THIS WORLD. They’ve got it all, plus all the diggity dank Irish variations! Let me take you on a floury journey…

A heavy, thick bread, wheaten seems vaguely healthy  until you slather it with globs of luscious Irish butter. I tried to make wheaten once back in LA, but it was a massive failure. It could have broken someone’s windshield. The stuff here is way better!

The most massive single serving of bread you could ever hope for. It’s like a hamburger bun, except about 5 times as tall. There’s SO MUCH BAP.

My favorite! I remember at an “International Day” in high school, someone’s mom had sent in soda bread and it was super boring. I also believed, literally until like two years ago, that soda bread was made from Sprite. I know. I am ashamed.

But soda bread is so bomb! Toasted, and smothered with butter, it is the ultimate comfort food. It’s also about one million calories per square inch.

FYI, the quartered chunks of soda bread (and potato bread, as shown below) are called “farls.”


potato farl
dem farls doe.

A staple in any Ulster fry, potato bread is the perfect companion to bacon, eggs and snausages. It’s really dense, has basically no air pockets and has a lovely derder flavor. It’s fondly referred to by locals as “tatey bread” (pronounced TAY-tee). I had a shrivelingly awkward interaction with a Tesco cashier one time about tatey bread.

Cashier: Do ye like wheaten bread?
Me: Yeah!
Cashier: Do ye like soda bread?
Me, full of pomp: Yup!
Cashier: Do ye like titty bread?
Cashier: I said, do ye like titty bread?
Me: Ummm….sureIguessIamsosorry

There you have it, folks! My totally bootleg summary of Northern Ireland’s glorious carbohydrate cornucopia. Give it your admiration, or get a dig in the bake.