Aug

21

Ireland

August 21, 2012 | Leave a Comment

Orla on Portstewart Strand
Click here for photos from our irish trip….
Orla and I headed to Ireland at the end of June for about 10 days. We had a fabulous time and Orla enjoyed meeting her cousins so much that she was depressed to return to the US!
We flew over on Wednesday 27th, and had a long day of it, what with rushing to catch our train, heading in to the city, then out to JFK, and waiting for our flight. This was the first time in aeons I flew on Delta, and it will most definitely be the last if I can help it. We were glad when we finally arrived in Dublin, where we were met by Niall. Our first port of call was his house, where Orla got to meet some of the cousins again, over a late breakfast. She also got to visit my old primary school, Belgrove, where Sean and Roisin go now, before we headed to Clontarf Castle where we managed a quick snooze. That night we got to hang out with Eimear and Cliodhna, as indeed we did the next night, too, before their departure on Saturday for Spain.
Orla liked the food in Clontarf, but she really liked the Irish breakfast she had in Bewley’s. She couldn’t believe that Irish butter is a creamy yellow, and not white, and loved her yoghurt with honey.
We went to see the Dublin Wax Museum, which freaked her out a little, St. Patrick’s Cathedral (one time home of Jonathan Swift), stopped for some refreshment in the Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest bar which dates back to 1198, and also got to see the crypts in St. Michan’s Church which dates back to 1095, and where we got to shake hands with the Crusader, who’s been dead about 650 years. After all that touristy stuff it was off to St. Anne’s park, where we had a picnic with Leanne and Ronan, who was back home on his holliers from Seattle.
I wanted to take Orla for some Irish music, so with Donal we went to dinner at the Abbey Tavern, in Howth. This, though, was not so hot – next time we’ll go to a session in Johnny Foxes, instead… Howth, though, is always worth a trip, and so we went on a cliff walk with Ann, managing not to kill ourselves, although Orla kept complaining about how tough the walk was!
We stuck around Dublin for a few more days, and got to see Dave and Nicola for a barbecue in Dun Laoghaire, and Orla got to hang out with Solenn, whom she had met on a previous trip. On another trip with Donal we stopped in to see the Casino in Marino and, with Fr. Eoghan and Maria and the rest of the kids we headed down to the National Stud, where Orla once again got to see Arkle’s skeleton.
We headed north for a couple of days so that Orla could see some of Derry and Antrim. On our way we met Anne-Marie in Hillsborough, where the British Secretary of State has his official residence, before we continued on to Bushmills. We visited the Giant’s Causeway and also Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which didn’t faze Orla at all – although it is a lot more secure now than in the old days… The big hit of the trip for Orla (apart from Morelli’s and Mullin’s icecream) was Portstewart Strand, where we spent an unbelievably gorgeous afternoon just lazing around and looking for shells, and where, coincidentally, we bumped into Anne-Marie’s sister Vonnie.
Dinner at the Bushmills Inn was excellent, after which we read by a turf fire. The next morning we visted Swatragh (where Orla got to meet her great-great aunt Martha), Kilrea (for some more icecream at Mullin’s), and Maghera, where she stood on the famous stone, before lunch and our trip back to Dublin.
It was a great, memorable trip, and we’re already planning an extended trip for next summer.
Click here for photos from our irish trip….

Aug

6

Click here for photos from our get-together….
Those who knew me back in my UCD computer science days in the early 1980’s no doubt remember the terminal room G31, where we made use( dare I say that it was unauthorized?) of the college’s DEC-20 and VAX-11/780 systems. Dave, Kierman and I roamed the world using a free Eirpac (X.25 network) account that brought us to, among other places, the Marshall Space Flight Center, to Australia, and to Sweden. It was by connecting to a DEC-2065, AIDA, in Uppsala that we became friends with Bjorn Victor, KPJ, and others in Update, the college computer club, who opened our eyes to what a truly collaborative institution a college could be when it was run by open-minded administrators.
With what we learnt from those guys we had a lot of fun, and several close shaves with the UCD Computer Centre staff, before we finally graduated, providing us with lots of stories from those days that we rehash over pints. Unfortunately we never did get to meet many of the folks there at the time, but we did manage to meet KPJ several years later when we came to UCD to work as a consultant for EuroKom (now TopSec.com), an electronic mail server for EU projects.
Fast forward 28 or so years. I saw from a Facebook posting that Bjorn Victor was coming to New York on vacation, and immediately decided that it would be great to finally meet up in person. With Ian back in town, we met for barbecue at . We had a fun time with Bjorn and his daughter Ellen over ribs, before heading out to several Irish bars, where we chatted about the past over a few pints.
You can see some pictures here.

Jun

26

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

Eoghan with the Concorde behind him.


Click here for photos from our trip.

Eoghan and I headed to New York City on Memorial Day to visit The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The Intrepid is a World War II, Essex-class aircraft carrier moored on the west side of Manhattan. The museum is a fantastic place to visit – apart from The Intrepid, it also features the Growler submarine, the Concorde and, best of all (to me, at least) the A-12, precursor to the Blackbird. And, fromJuly 19, it will also feature the Space Shuttle Enterprise.
We took the train in to the city on Sunday, and after checking in to our hotel we headed straight for The Intrepid. We met Ian there and spent a couple of hours just sauntering around and getting a feel for the layout of the ship, and arranging our tours for Monday. The weather was blistering hot, and after a couple of hours we were glad to hop in a cab and head to the East Village, and dinner, at Panna II, one of our old haunts. Afterwards we went to see the movie Battleship, which was like Independence Day meets Under Siege and The Abyss.
We were up bright and early the next morning, and made our way to the museum in time for a Members’ breakfast. That was really cool because we ended up sitting at a table with a retired NYC fire captain who had served on The Missouri in World War II, and which featured prominently in the movie Battleship. Incidentally, it was on this ship that the Japanese Empire surrendered in 1945.
After breakfast we took part in the Memorial Day celebration, which was marked by a flyover of F/A-18’s in missing-man formation. It was almost unbearably hot in the sun, and so we were relieved to be able to head in to the shelter of the ship’s cafe. We had a busy day, with guided tours of the Concorde, the Growler submarine, and The Intrepid herself. By the time we finished the last tour we were totally sunburnt – at least I was; Eoghan fortunately has his mother’s skin – and struggled back to the hotel for a rest. Then it was out to meet Ian again for Chinese and a movie, The Avengers (not as good as Battleship but still fun).
On Tuesday morning we hit the Central Park Zoo, but by this stage we were so sick of the sun that we spent not much more than an hour there – and most of that we spent in the penguin house – before a quick meeting with Seamus and Ivana and then the quick trip to Penn Station for our train journey back home.
Eoghan and I both really enjoyed the museum; it’s a place we’ll definitely return to. We’ll just make sure the weather is a little cooler.

May

3

This just in…Eoghan’s art poster was one of the winners in his age group in a competition run by the US Coast Guard:

I am pleased to inform you that one of your students, Eoghan Haughey, has been selected as a finalist in this year’s contest. Congratulations! We had a record level of participation–more than 150 entries from 7 countries. The judges commented on the exceptional quality of the work and the difficulty of choosing just 12 finalists.

For being selected as a finalist, Eoghan will receive a calendar with the artwork from all 12 winners and a signed photograph and certificate from world-famous oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard. In order to complete the calendar, we will need you to send us Eoghan’s original artwork. Please confirm that you have the artwork, and will be in touch later in the week with directions on where to send it. After we have received the original artwork from all 12 finalists, we will also be posting a gallery of the winning posters. Stay tuned to jason.org/contests to view the gallery in the coming weeks.

Eoghan's poster of the "Titanic"

Eoghan's poster of the "Titanic"


Eoghan is thrilled, as he and Orla spent several hours, at the end of March, watching live webcasts of explorations directed by the famed oceanographer Dr. Ballard, who is famous for, among other things, discovering the wreck of the “Titanic”. Indeed, they were so interested by the documentaries that they wrote to his staff about an item they spotted in the ocean floor. The documentary was about the search for a slave ship, and kids thought they saw chains on the seabed. An NOAA researcher on the program wrote back to them suggesting that what they saw was actually the fecal cast of a sea cucumber:
Fecal Cast of a sea cucumber

Taken by by NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer. Click on the picture to learn more...

May

3

It turned out to be a mild winter in the Hudson Valley, which the kids really enjoyed. I might have known this would be the case, since we went to the trouble of installing the snow plough on our tractor. (I’ll have to remember to do the same thing next winter!) There was very little snow to speak of, although the kids managed to get some sledding a couple of times over the winter. They liked the mild weather, and were out in short sleeves playing in the park in February.

Unfortunately, because of the warm weather, the cold and flu season was particular bad over the last few weeks, and it seems as if every bug that was going around managed to find its way into our house. Poor Conall was even sick on his 5th birthday. His birthday wish was to be “unsick”, as well as for a list of trains which he got from Grandma, and which she and Jenn helped him set up on a big train table in our great room. When I came home from work that day he took me by the hand into the room and, waving to it, pronounced “Voila!” He was very impressed with the set up, and showed it off to everyone who stopped by.

Conall is becoming quite the conversationalist. The other day he overheard us talking about mad cow disease, and he piped up
Mad cow disease is a real puzzle. They’re still trying to figure it out.
Sometimes, unfortunately, he’s not very diplomatic. At a play date recently his seven-year old friend had a nerf gun that Conall wanted to play with. When his friend John refused to let him play with it, Conall yelled at him “Idiot!” Poor John was upset, and ran to the kitchen where his Mom and Jenn were talking. When Jenn heard what had happened, she said to Conall, “Now Conall, what do we say?” Conall paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and yelled “Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!”

As he gets older Conall is becoming more and more the extrovert, and a bit of a show off. Jenn, of course, claims that he’s taking more and more after his father. (Wait until I tell him how we’re descended from the Gods in Ireland!). His expressions – both verbal and facial – are hilarious and keep us laughing a lot. When Jenn told him, for example, that he needed to get a birthday haircut, he responded, “So I can look fabulous?”
He’s really gotten into music lately (a new obsession from trains), especially rock music, and particularly groups like Bon Jovi and Stiff Little Fingers. He tells us all that he is going to be a “rocker”, and whenever I come home from work he asks me to put on some rock music for him so that he can do his air guitar and air drums. Unfortunately he’s already hinting that he wants a real set of drums for Christmas…. we better stock up on ear plugs.
Orla enjoys rocking with her little brother, although in real life the playing that she does is on the violin that she took up recently. Meanwhile, Eoghan plays around on the acoustic guitar that Santa brought him…so we continue to have our own little family jam sessions now and again. (Jenn is convinced that he’ll really appreciate it when he discovers girls…)

As far as “country life” goes, our first massacre happened when we experienced our first fox attack recently. Five of the kids’ favorite chickens fell victim to the family of foxes that live in the field next to our barn. I now understand the appeal of fox-hunting, with Orla wanting to take up hunting and shooting when she’s old enough. She dreams of ridding the world of foxes. Fortunately, given the carnage, we added some new chicks to the house and they are just out of the brooder, out to the coop to join the dozen or so survivors. Just two days ago we lost three quail to some small predator that managed to get at them through the small chicken wire in their pen; we’re not sure if it was a mink or some member of the cat family…So the kids are learning pretty quickly about the circle of life! We’ve also added a couple of rabbits to the housefold, and Orla is working with these for her 4H projects. These new additions should help take her mind off of the losses.

Eoghan, more a of computer fan than an animal fan at the moment, has found a group of buddies – including one of his cousins in Ireland – to play Minecraft online with. Jenn was impressed to see that he has even figured out how to install his own “mods”, and with these extensions he is able to apply some of his artistic ability to building impressive architecture and sculptures in some of his “worlds”. Like Orla, he still enjoys his art lessons, and he submitted an art poster on the subject of The Titanic to a US Coast Guard competition. Winners get to have their work framed and displayed in the national headquarters, in Washington D.C. If he wins, I promised to take him to the capital to see it!

Mar

5

Our farm-fresh, organic, free-range eggsIt’s fun to have fresh eggs every day. And they’re not just your usual, boring, white eggs. No, we get white, brown, speckled, and even green eggs! Inside they all look the same, though – and much more appealing than those you buy in a shop. And of course they all taste delicious!

Feb

21

Shrove Tuesday

February 21, 2012 | Leave a Comment

Pancakes

Our traditional pancakes

I made a batch of traditional Shrove Tuesday pancakes tonight, and the kids liked them, even if they were different to what they were used to…

Feb

5

Spring has Sprung

February 5, 2012 | Leave a Comment

Angel and the kids in the snow

Eoghan and Conall sledding, with Angel

Christmas was a big hit this year, with the kids getting trains, Breyer horses, and…more pets. Yes, as if we didn’t have enough animals already, we added some rats guinea pigs, one for each of the children. So now we’ve fish, cats, dogs, chickens and guinea pigs. Everything else has gone to the great menagerie in the sky…

Meanwhile, continuing with the Christmas news, Eoghan and Orla both got a start on their musical careers, since there was a guitar under the tree for Eoghan and a violin for Orla. She has started her violin lessons at a local college and she’s really enjoying it.  Her teacher has promised that she’ll be learning some Irish fiddle music along with the classical violin, so we’ll be able to have a seisiún at An Grianan in the near future.

Christmas brought Jenn’s family up from Florida and the kids enjoyed having the company of their cousins. Eoghan and Conall both discovered the world of Minecraft through Zach, their college-aged cousin.  Now, Eoghan has even set up his own server on one of our computers, which lets him play with local friends and even with Sean, his cousin in Ireland.  Orla plays Minecraft too, but she also continues to enjoy playing with her Breyer horses,  and will occasionally even let her little brother Conall play along.  He got into the swing of things and has christened his horses with unique names – Baby Jesus Japanese Horse, Renewable Energy Saver, and Christmas Train.  We have no idea where he comes up with this stuff!

I took the opportunity to scoot up to Portland over Christmas to catch up on Anthony and Ruth, and the timing worked out well as I was able to bring Zach there to meet a friend that he had planned to visit.

Conall also tags along with his sister Orla when she bakes.  They went on a baking craze over the winter and we enjoyed a selection of homemade cookies, breads, and cakes.  We were surprised to find that actually they were all very tasty! Of course, they were all made with our farm-fresh, organic, free-range eggs from Orla’s flock of chickens.  The chickens keep the kids busy during the day looking after them – feeding the, collecting the eggs, and watching anxiously to make sure there are no predators like hawks or wolverines about.  And, unsurprisingly, Eoghan is hoping to make some money off them.  He already sold his first carton of eggs to a mom at the playground, and has plans of cornering the egg market…

Speaking of predaqtors, we have all sorts of wildlife around. There are skunks, deer, coyotes, possums, and foxes. Not to mention hawks and eagles. I saw a wolf several months ago, Orla and her friend Kayla saw a black bear, and Jenn recently saw a wolverine.

The kids are keeping busy with their classes. In addition to Orla’s violin class, she also goes to a ballet class, and a jazz dance class, both of which she really enjoys. And all three of the kids have an art class with a local artist, and their work is truly impressive, especially Eoghan’s. Together with the other students in the class they had an art exhibition at the local library, and everyone who came was amazed by the standard of all the kids. My kids clearly didn’t inherit their artistic ability from me!

Eoghan at 10

Eoghan just turned 10

And they’re getting BIG!!! Eoghan turned 10 in January, and Conall will turn 5 in March. Jenn, of course, still wants them to be babies…

The weather has been unusually mild here in the north east this spring, and so the kids have enjoyed getting to the playground frequently with their friends.  It’s remarkable to see them playing outside barefoot in a warm 60 degree February day in NY.   Luckily, the good weather has kept Jenn from getting too stir crazy this year.  Usually around February she’s itching to get down to Florida sun.

Dec

21

Christmas Train

December 21, 2011 | 1 Comment

Jenn managed to kill two birds with one stone this weekend. She managed to combing satisfying Conall’s obsession with trains with a visit to Santa, by bringing all three kids to ride on the Santa Train  at the Catskill Mountain Railway. Jenn and I had taken the kids on this railway before, on their route in the Catskill mountains, but this was the first time that any of us were on the Kingston line. Everyone was very excited, and even Grandma had a great time, riding in the caboose and chatting with Santy, while Conall was in his element. From the moment they pulled into the parking lot he was frantic to get on board, and was almost overwhelmed with excitement. In fact, he had so much fun that they had to do it again the next day!

Dec

16

Nutcracker

December 16, 2011 | Leave a Comment

This past weekend I took Orla and Eoghan to see “The Nutcracker” at the Bardavonin Poughkeepsie. It is one of our Christmas traditions, with Orla and I having seen it several times over the years at Lincoln Center in New York, where it was performed by the New York City Ballet. This year, however, we chose to see it locally, as it was being performed by the New Paltz Ballet. As it turned out, however, two guest stars from the NYC Ballet had joined the locals, one of them, Teresa Reichlen, being Orla’s favorite from previous years when she played Arabian Coffee. This year she was playing the Sugar Plum Fairy and was, as usual, excellent. We enjoyed the production immensely, and it was actually pretty good, with the costumes in particular being much better than I expected. Of course, not being Lincoln Center, the music was pre-recorded rather than being provided by an orchestra but all in all the show was very enjoyable.

We were able to scoot behind the curtain when the show was over and the kids had their photos taken with the two stars.

The Nutcracker

The kids and I got to meet the two NYCB performers starring in The Nutcracker at The Bardavon


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