#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

Dublin You Are

Here is a wonderful new poem about my adopted city of Dublin. I think it’s great. I think Stephen James Smith has written a wonderfully full, moving and amusing poem about his city. I think you should have a look and listen and ENJOY.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dublin+you+are

Dublin You Are

Aungier Danger!

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Lining up for food stuffs is something that New Yorkers do. Actually, paying someone to line up for you is something that New Yorkers do. New Yorkers are happy to line up for sweet confections particularly. This started with the Sex and the City Magnolia Bakery buzzness (there are still lines outside Magnolia on any given day), and reached a new zenith with the Cronut craze of 2012.  I’m not saying that these delicious delights did not warrant standing in line for, but when you tell someone who does NOT live in New York that you waited in line for a croissant/donut hybrid for twenty minutes they are going to give you the “um, I think I have somewhere else to be” face.

I stood in line for fifteen minutes for four donuts on Aungier Street last Friday. With a tip-off from C’s sister, I knew that this was the place to be. A donut shop worth waiting in line for. In Dublin. Far be it for me to miss a “food moment”.

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The queue (even if it is for food, it’s a queue in Dublin) was made up of mostly students from DIT across the street. Onlookers would try to get a peek into the tiny shop front to see what we were all queuing for. The street around the shop smells like fried dough in the most seductive way. Bikers craned their necks as they flew by: “why is there a queue on this stretch of road?” each helmeted head said as they sailed pass.

It became obvious that the queue wasn’t moving quickly because we were waiting for the special Halloween Donut to be fried, iced and sprinkled. I wasn’t walking away without the Halloween special. If I was in, I was IN.

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There were only five donuts (including the special) to choose from once I got up to the counter. To be honest, they all looked fairly intimidating; they looked more like mutant donuts for a five-year-old boy’s birthday party than something I should have queued for in an effort to arrive at a dinner party with “dessert”.

I skipped the bannoffee donut. I’m not a massive banana flavoring person and I was the one who queued, so I decide. It’s not like my dinner partners would know which I hadn’t chosen.

So I got the classic jam donut, the Boston eclair, The Halloween special (that was fully deep red with white frosting), and a Cherry Bomb. Whatever that means.

I walked up to my house trailing fresh donut smell with me as I went up the hill. Note to self: new perfume idea? I kind of wanted to eat the fresh donuts NOW NOW NOW, but I kept control of myself.

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It should be noted that I didn’t manage to take any photo of the donuts out of their box and served up (cut into fours) at the dinner party. They were set upon like fresh gazelle meat in the Serengeti.

They were delicious. They were worth the wait. At 3 euro a pop they weren’t cheap, but maybe I won’t share next time. 3 euro is a pretty decent  price for a “self treat”, I think.  If I’ve got time to wait in the queue, of course.

Aungier Danger!

Terra Madre

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One of the main reasons I love Dublin so much is that it is a small city. When something new comes along, be it a clothing shop, restaurant, or stall in the Temple Bar Market, I am pretty quick to know about it. Sometimes there are happy surprises when I discover (or am told about, in this case) a place that has been around for a while, but has remained a mystery to me. Terra Madre is my most recent example of such a delight.

We had dinner there last night with friends who raved about it. They were surprised C and I didn’t know about it as we love food and eating out, so we joined for a pilgrimage together.

Terra Madre is run and owned by Italians. Not the kind of Italians you find in Little Italy, NY (third or fourth generation) but Italians who were born and raised in Italy and want nothing more than to make you their grandmother and mother’s favorite recipes. Far be it for me to tell them not to.

Stepping down off of Bachelor’s Walk into the small low-ceilinged restaurant is like being in someone’s home. Especially if that someone is a first time home buyer and they have quickly furnished with random objects. The tables and chairs are mis-matched tag-sale finds and the place mats are well used. It’s homey. It’s not fancy, but it is CUTE.

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The menu is simple. It’s printed on a single A4 sheet of paper. Our waiter had to tell us that two of the items were not available but were replaced with just as delicious sounding options. Usually it’s down to what meat is available on any given day.

The show stopper last night was the special starter: fresh mozzarella creme wrapped in buffalo mozzarella, served with an anchovy, a piece of roast pumpkin, some pesto balls, a sundried tomato and a preserved slice of artichoke. It was decadent and delectable.

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C and I each had the same main, which was another special of the day: pappardelle with pork sausage and tomato sauce. It was obviously perfectly cooked. I ate the whole bowl. All the pasta came in miss-matched delft bowls. All the pasta is made fresh in the kitchen.

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The wine list is extensive and there are bottles displayed on counter tops around the room. So if, like me, you do like to choose your win by the label, you are able.

The prices are reasonable and the amount of food you get is almost reaching American standards, so you won’t go hungry. It’s good value.

I will certainly be back. It’s great to know there’s another classic, cozy spot to share with friends!

Terra Madre

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

National Gallery Café

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Another day, another trip to a gallery I don’t visit often enough. I can safely say, however, that I DID know about the National Gallery before walking in the other and I am a fan. A fan who doesn’t go nearly enough.

The last time I was in the café was March 2014. C and I sat nervously waiting to meet his mother and sister who’d taken the bus up from Wexford. C’s mother was on her way to visit her grandchildren in Belfast. We convinced her to get off in Dublin “to see a house we like”.

It was all a ruse. Once we had our tea ordered and were sitting at the table, C said, “so, we didn’t ask you to come and see a house today, mum. Myself and Annie got engaged last weekend down in Cork.”

My mother-in-law is not often lost for words. There was a full ten second pause. Both his mother and sister had open mouths. After hugs and excitement and laughter, we decided we should pop across the road to the Lincoln Inn for some fizz. Who cares if it was only 12pm?!

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So I have some lovely memories in the NGI café already. Since March 2014, they have put in new tables and chairs, new lighting and some olive trees. The overall affect is delightful. The building itself is light, interesting and easy to be in. It’s the perfect city centre retreat. I sat for a good two hours and did some writing. It’s busy but not loud.

Tea, coffee, and cake is available at all times, but there is proper food too. There’s a wonderful gift shop and clean bathrooms. It’s free to view the collection, and I highly recommend doing so. Whether you have an hour to kill or only a few minutes, this is a good stopping place.

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National Gallery 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

Considered. By Helen James

Real Truth
Real Truth

When my friend and I walked into Dunnes Home store last autumn, we went right to the newly released Helen James line Considered and ooohhhhhed and aaaahhhhed over the classically chic yet modern pottery, copper pots, measuring bowls and vases. One mug in particular shouted right at me: YOU HAVE TO HAVE ME. It says “I’m Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hungry” all around it. So I bought it for my husband as part of his wedding present. It’s a phrase that is commonly uttered in our house.

The housewares line is very lovely, and there are many more items I want to buy that I cannot buy because a) I don’t have money to be throwing around and b) I have no space in our tiny cottage for everything I want.

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A few months ago a Considered café opened on Drury Street. Behind large, wide windows is a café that looks like the kitchen of my dreams: tiled floors, big wooden table, shelves stocked with jams, mustards, vinegars and cordials, lovely pots and pans, elegant cups and plates. You know, the usual.

Potted herbs sit on the bare wooden tables and counters, chalk boards hang on the walls and remind us of the “fresh today!” food available. It is kind of twee–highly styled–but very nice all the same.

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I only had a cappuccino and resisted the taste treats. The special sandwich of the day (cheese and ham, but melted and yummy with pesto and tomato to make it extra special) looked and smelled delicious. The coffee was good. The clientele was all couples (mostly women) over forty. It was very busy and only getting more so as the 1pm lunch hour crept up.

I sat and sipped my coffee and looked out onto Drury Street. It’s a nice spot; great people watching.

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I don’t know that Considered will be my new “go to” café in town. The siren song of all the lovely mugs and jugs and vases for sale might be more than I can handle. But for a decent cup of coffee on the sunny side of the street, it’s a perfect pit stop.

Considered. By Helen James

Turkey: It’s Not Just For Christmas.

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Turkey is almost strictly for eating at Christmas in Ireland. When you get out of Dublin, you may find “Turkey and Ham” on a menu in a country pub for a Sunday dinner. Often this looks like a slice of turkey breast, some stuffing, and a slice of ham. Basically, Christmas dinner.

Turkey is hard to find on menus of the best restaurants around Dublin. Not that I would know, exactly. It’s not like I go looking for turkey. It’s a boring meat. “I really hope they have a nice turkey breast on the menu,” said no one ever who was about to spend over forty euro on a dinner.

Well, here’s a way to make turkey super exciting. Super. Exciting. Turkey Chili!

Turkey is really good for you. It’s 2015, so we all know that white meat is better more often then red meat. Turkey’s not as over farmed as those poor chickens, so you are more likely to get a bird that was not pumped with stupid steroids. It is a great source of protein and it is low in calories. I am writing those things because I imagine they mean something to some of you, my beautiful readers. I am, like, whatever. It makes good chili.

Your first challenge will be to find turkey mince. I usually find mine at Lidl. If you find it, buy a few packs because it freezes well, and it’s not always even in Lidl.

You are now going to have to go to another shop to get beans. Lidl loves to stock kidney beans. Get a can or two at Lidl, but I like to mix my beans up and Lidl seems not to believe bean diversity.

Hopefully, when you find your diverse bean selection, you will also find a ripe avocado. May the force be with you.

Back in your kitchen with your favorite tunes playing, it’s like any other chili and you make it in exactly the same way:

2 Onions chopped

5-8 cloves of garlic (turkey can take a LOT of flavor because it has very little of it’s own.)

Cumin

Bay Leaf (or 2 or 3)

Smoked Paprika

Chili Powder

Cayenne

Salt

Pepper

Turkey Mince

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

2 cans of Bean of Your Choice, BOYC, drained, rinsed or soaked over night if you are that kind of overachiever.

If you feel like grating in some carrot, or adding peppers of some description, go nuts. Be your own chili king/queen.

I sauté the onions in a glug of olive oil until they look soft and tasty. Then I add the garlic and the turkey and the spices. I brown the meat, and then add the tomatoes (and any other veg at this stage). After I let that bubble around a few minutes I add the beans, stir and taste. I adjust spices as needed. The longer you let it cook over low heat, the better it will be.

As you’ll notice I don’t have exact amounts for the spices. That will drive some of you nuts. I don’t intend to drive anyone nuts, I just wing it when I cook. It’s about a teaspoon (a bit more a bit less) of each. A little more cumin, a little less cayene. Improvise! Taste as you go! Create your own magic! If that freaks you out (and I know plenty of people for whom improvising in the kitchen is a no go), just follow the spice requirements for a regular beef chili.

Chili is often served with rice, but C and I have gotten used to serving this chili with roasted sweet potato cubes. Half way through their roasting process, I toss them in melted coconut oil and a spice rub C made (it has many of the spices in the chili but includes thyme, rosemary and celery salt). These tasty delights add a richness and texture that I enjoy. But if you are a rice and chili fan, do it your way. You could also keep it super simple for yourself and just add extra beans to the pot so you don’t need any other carb or filler or whatever you want to call it.

I think smashed avocado (or guacamole if I’m feeling fancy) is necessary. It lightens everything up, it adds some green for aesthetic purposes, good oils and fats, and saves you having to add sour cream or yogurt as a topper. Not that you can’t! Do what makes you happy!

If you are an ambivalent Christmas turkey eater, this could take turkey to the top of your Weekly Protein Choice list. We all have that list, right?

Turkey: It’s Not Just For Christmas.

The Happy Pear

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I am not the first, nor shall I be the last, to wax lyrical about The Happy Pear in Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

My first experience with this jewel box of a grocery store/café/organic food movement came about four years ago. I’d just walked over to Greystones from Bray along the cliffs. (That cliff-walk is well worth doing if you are visiting Dublin.) It was March. As I walked into Greystones’ village, there was The Happy Pear with boxes of fresh produce piled outside looking like a sea of heavenly, tasty vitamins and hydration to this weary walker. On the top shelf were fresh passion fruits! Passion fruits! In March! In Ireland!

The little grocery store is stocked with organic fruits and veg., homemade pesto (which you can find in other shops around Dublin which is a GOOD THING), organic dried fruits and nut butters; it’s the usual health-food fair.

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The café serves two or three hot meals a day with a selection of four salads. The plates are HEAPED with organic vegetarian food. It’s a lot of bang for your buck (or euro). On my most recent trip (pre cliff walk with my aunt and cousin), I had the aubergine bake. It was cheesy and warm and rich. My aunt had a black bean curry that was warm and spicy and my cousin had the soup of the day with homemade brown bread. We were all not only happy with the taste sensations while eating, but totally fueled up for our long walk too.

The Happy Pear caters to those with crazy sweet-tooths as well. They make incredible gluten free, refined sugar free treats like the raw twix bar and tiffen bars. We had one raw twix and one chocolate caramel bar. Rich is an understatement but that didn’t stop us from eating them.

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The Happy Pear is run by the Happy Pair Flynn Twins. They have just put out a cookbook. They run week-long detox programs and workshop nights that help people get on the “good food, good body, good brain” gravy train. They are hard to resist.

I don’t have to tell you all that I am a huge supporter of Irish food, and The Happy Pear is just about everything that is so great about this healthy Irish food movement.

Just a View of Some Passing Rain Along the Cliffs
Just a View of Some Passing Rain Along the Cliffs
The Happy Pear