The Toy Show

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I watched the annual RTE Toy Show last Friday night. It was my Toy Show maiden voyage. In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to avoid this Christmas tradition. I only avoided it because we don’t have a TV, really. When a friend invited us to watch her TV, there was no excuse.

For those of you non-Irish readers, the RTE Toy Show’s nearest American equivalent would be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Most of the country’s houses will have it on while the cooking, organizing, table setting, etc is getting underway. Everyone knows what it is even if they have never actually watched the whole thing soup to nuts.

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Most people in Ireland, especially those under the age of 15, watch the Toy Show every year. Both the Thanksgiving Day Parade and The Toy Show are happy reminders that Christmas season is upon us and it is only about shopping.

The Toy Show is a TV event that introduces the nation to the best toys of the moment as well as to some lucky children from around the country. Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade there are big song and dance numbers, adorable children, and too many chaotic moving parts to ensure that things will run 100% smoothly. This is why it is worth watching.

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The Toy Show is hosted by the Late Late Show host, Ryan Tubridy. Everyone my age mourns the loss of Gay Byrne as host. As one of my more detail oriented friends pointed out Trubridy looks exactly like the Scarecrow and Byrne exactly like the Cowardly Lion. I don’t know where that metaphor is meant to go from here. It’s just a fact.

On Friday we cozied up on the couch with mulled wine to watch the whole thing. It is at once hilarious and embarrassing, sweet and offensive, in only the way a three-hour long broadcast with one man talking to at least 30 sugar-high racing children can be.

It was a bit of a surprise to have the show open with a stuffed animal that was “pregnant” (you could pull little ponies out of the big pony’s belly), and then move onto the “farm toys” and “kitchen toys”. There were little boy farmers and a little girl in the kitchen. Obviously.

Tubridy seemed to be running on fumes (and maybe something more potent) by the end of the show, having worn a total of four different Christmas jumpers as well as one full velvet Lumiére (from Beauty and the Beast, the theme of the evening, don’t ask anyone why no one knows) costume, complete with dancing flames.

I don’t think The Toy Show aims to put on a spectacle quite as grand as The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, the other American classic. I mean, a budget for camels, sheep, a mini ice rink, and a rake of Rockettes just isn’t in the budget at RTE and that is fine! Less poop to worry about.

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Rockett’s and Co-Stars

It’s still a huge event. Tubridy did well to get out alive. I think that Irish people watch it now mainly to say “Ah, Jeez, it was so much better when I was a kid.” But I bet they didn’t get to drink mulled wine while watching it.

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The Toy Show

#WakingTheFeminists

#WAKINGTHEFEMINISTS

I realize that coupled with my last post I am getting off the “theme” of this blog a bit. Like my post before the 22 May Marriage Referendum, I want to use this platform to support a movement happening right now. #WakingTheFeminists has exploded onto social media and into newspapers around the world. As a female actor living in Ireland, it clearly affects me and those close to me.

When people in the States ask me why I moved to Dublin, one of the many reasons I list is that “I can work at what I love. I can do what I want.” Dublin is a much easier place to be an independent theatre maker and actor than New York or London. Sure, it’s a smaller pond, but this pond is very supportive and full of incredibly talented fish.

When I want to do something, be it audition for a role in a play or TV show, or even do my own one-woman show, I know that I can call or email someone who will respond to me. I can get seen for auditions. I know that with a little time and elbow grease I can make my own show happen. Once I make it happen I know that “people who matter” (ie casting directors, directors, producers) will come and see it if I invite them. It’s a small town. I know people. I know people who know people. Those people–all of them!–want me to succeed.

Yet I often have to make my own work, or think about new projects that I want to grease with both my elbows because often there just aren’t roles for me. There isn’t enough work for female actors in Dublin. But why aren’t female playwrights and directors getting more work?

Dublin is not alone in this. But Dublin is FULL of talented women actors, directors, artistic directors, casting directors, producers, playwrights and designers. There has been a massive outcry about the lack of representation for all of this female talent, specifically at The Abbey Theatre.

I am going to the Abbey on Thursday the 12th to lend my support to this movement and listen to all the points of view as to how we can move forward. “We” being women AND men of all artistic bents who are ready to focus on gender equality in the workplace.

I’m excited to be living in Dublin during a time of great cultural shift. Yes, of course “it’s about time!” but now is now and I’m grateful I can be a part of it.

Follow #wakingthefeminists and http://www.wakingthefeminists.wordpress.com for all the information about the forum tomorrow and the plan for the future.

#WakingTheFeminists

Irish Air Mail Stamps

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Because I am very well brought up (thanks Mom!), I write thank you notes. I love stationary and pens and the whole process of organizing the writing of thank you notes. I am a thank you note writing nerd.

No one doesn’t like getting a non-bill piece of mail through your letter box or in your post office box. Writing a thank you note is a very easy way to give someone a little jolt of happiness in their day.

Because all of my most recent thank you notes were going back to the States, I had to buy international stamps. American international stamps or “forever” stamps usually have an American flag on them. Some are more interesting, and when you buy books of stamps there are always fun ones to choose from.

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As far as I know, you can’t choose what stamps to use when sending post in Ireland. You take what you’re given. The Irish are not overly patriotic but they are certainly proud to be Irish. Yet there is nothing remotely Irish about the international stamps. If they didn’t say Éire on them, you might not guess where the letter had come from.

I like the international stamps though. I think they are fun (the badger one, for instance) and playful (like the otter) and also kind of weird (the underwater creatures). I suppose I am surprised that there isn’t a Molly Malone flying across the Atlantic to all those American fans, or Joyce with his monocle, or Beckett’s craggy visage. Or even a lovely pint of Guinness.

Instead, I get to figure out which of my recipients reminds me most of a wren, and which a badger.

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Irish Air Mail Stamps

Avoca Café

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“Should we go to Avoca for tea, then?”

“Oooohhh, will we?”

“We deserve it! We can share a scone!”

“Ok! What a treat!”

Then my friend, Charlie, and I would giggle and excitedly make for Avoca on Sussex Street. This was when we were at Trinity and going to Avoca for tea and a scone was a big treat. It made us feel fancy. It made us feel grown-up. It was so cozy and certainly a place where we wouldn’t run into many—if any—Trinity students. Avoca was the perfect place to feel unlike a student while getting to catch up on all the gossip and news of student life.

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What we like best about the trip to Avoca was walking through the shop on the way up to our tea and scones. There are books, socks, scarves, blankets, jewelry, nail polish, kitchen stuff, jam, teapots, greeting cards and mittens that fill the floors below the third floor café. It was a feast for our eyes, fingers and wish lists before we even got up to order our scones.

Avoca scones are legendary, and they deserve such high standing. They are big and fluffy and soft and chewy. They are the antithesis to the horrifying “cold scone” you are lumped with at 4am as you make your decent into Dublin airport on an Aer Lingus flight. Note to all readers: I strongly recommend avoiding this cold scone at ALL COSTS. Please wait the few hours until Avoca opens and go there.

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But Avoca also serves wonderful proper meals as well. I rarely go to Avoca. It is always busy with tourists and Ladies Who Lunch. I walk past it frequently, I duck out of a passing shower to finger the new scarves and socks, and I tell absolutely everyone who is visiting Dublin to put Avoca high on their list. But when was the last time I had actually been?

I couldn’t satisfactorily answer that question, so I took myself on a little date there this past weekend. I waited twenty minutes for a table. I thought my 2.15 arrival would mean that I missed the lunch rush but I was wrong. I was also stupid. Who abides by the 1-2 lunch hour on a Saturday?

I didn’t mind the wait as I got to sit under a plethora of silver teapots and read the Irish Times. Many copies are scattered about for the overflow of guests. Also I had time. Don’t aim for lunch at Avoca if you have somewhere you Need To Be.

The menu isn’t too large, but full of plenty of interesting—all healthy—options. There’s chicken, smoked salmon, pulled pork, and lamb as well as a mélange of veggie options and the necessary soup of the day.

I had the vegan option. Not because I’m a vegan but because I felt like a giant salad and I knew I’d be having a lot of meat at dinner. I ordered the quinoa butternut squash cakes. They themselves were a tad bit bland, but the salad that came with them was fantastic: greens, thinly sliced cucumber, fennel and carrot with some herbs and pomegranate seeds. There was also some beetroot and horseradish crème that was delicious. I could have used approximately 100% more than I was given.

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I didn’t partake of a scone and tea on this visit. I need Charlie or Cian or Aoife or Jane—or all of them!—for that.

PS: Avoca Cafés also exist in other various locations around Ireland. Here for more: http://www.Avoca.com and you can take home their recipes in the form of many cookbooks and jams and chutneys, etc from the shop downstairs!

Avoca Café

George’s Street Market Arcade

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“Let’s meet at Simon’s” my friend’s text reads.

“Where?” I think, so I type that back.

“You know, the place that smells like cinnamon buns on George’s Street. The Arcade.”

Yes. It DOES smell like cinnamon buns. In fact, Simon’s makes the whole upper half of George’s Market Arcade smell like cinnamon buns. Delicious.

The Arcade is one of those places–pass-through, walkway, connecting tunnel–that I have come to take totally for granted. So much so that I didn’t even know that Simons was called Simons. I walk through it many times a week but don’t really take stock of the building or what it contains.

The other day I came out of a bar across the road from it and looked up. I had to snap a photo, it just looked so good sitting across the road. It is a stunning building. It sits squarely on one whole city block, and the middle of it is a market.

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There are offices upstairs, a cavernous bar around one side, a super market around the other with two music stores, and a fancy restaurant. There is also a chinese restaurant, a fast food Peking Duck place, a bike repair shop and a new health food store. You can get your haircut on both the west and east corners. That’s just what is along the outside!

Inside is an eclectic mix of vintage flannel, Irish wool, Italian Olives, homemade fudge, Chinese reflexology goods, bubble tea, frozen yogurt and jewelers. You can have your tarot cards read as you nibble a tiny cupcake or buy something clever and useful but very attractive for your home. You can also find a lot of crap. All of this within 100 yards!

I forgot to mention that you can also buy an old fashioned portion of fish and chips.

It is populated mostly with tourists poking around, students doing the frozen yogurt and bubble tea thing, or Dubliners just trying to get quickly from George’s Street to Drury Street and onwards.

There is a stall that sells old books and hanging off one of the walls is a photo of the Arcade in the 50s. There were no stalls down the middle, only shops along either side. It appears so much larger than it does now. Cars were allowed to be driven through it! It looks very elegant with the ladies in tailored wool coats walking along as the sun slants through the roof.

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George’s Street Arcade is one of those magic Dublin places where you can find just about anything you ever (or never) wanted.

George’s Street Market Arcade

Electric Showers

"Ugh. Makes a Shower Hard Work." This Spoiled American
“Ugh. Makes a Shower Hard Work.” This Spoiled American

Electric Showers. Americans are like, “WHAT?!”

I never occurred to me that that I took water pressure for granted. Spoiled American that I am, I assumed that in any country in the western world, hot water would spring from the hot water tap at any time: day or night. I understood a shower to be this: plentiful warm (sometimes hot) water cascading over my head and body for as long I wanted.

When I moved to Dublin in 2001, I (and the twelve other Spoiled Americans I was sharing a house with) had to be given a lesson on how to work the showers in our bathrooms. They were all electric. We were shown how to pull a cord by the door, which “turned the shower on”. There were then two nozzels on the shower box; one signified pressure, one temperature, which you could adjust to meet your personal needs. No amount of fiddling would ever meet our Spoiled American needs.

We cracked jokes about the dribble of water that came out of the spout, discussed at length how to get the temperature just right (we could have written three hundred words on the fluctuations between luke-warm and scalding), and we ladies gave each other demonstrations about how to shave your legs in the tiny space with very little water.

You would think we were living in a country entirely different to our own, and so proud at our dedication to the new experience.

When C and I were looking to move house two and a half years ago, not  having an electric shower was high on the list. We had been living in a house that had been renovated by an American. The shower was full-on American: plentiful, powerful and hot. Not going back to an electric shower was a big deal. That and having gas hobs in the kitchen. Gas hobs and not an electric shower. Not easy to find. We did find them tucked into a perfect, if tiny, home. (This perfect home we have since discovered was designed and owned by a famous convicted murder. No big deal. He definitely had his appliances down.)

Very close family friends own a house in Kinvara, Galway. He is born and raised there. Cold, dribbly showers is what he was reared on. Thirty years of living in the States however, has lead him to apologize profusely every time someone says they are going for a shower in his Kinvara home.

I still groan when I see that I have to survive an electric shower. I’ve never really got the knack of it. You can take the American out of America, but obviously getting rid of the “Spoiled” descriptor is much harder.

Electric Showers