Thursday, April 30, 2009


It was hammering outside. Grey and miserable...BUT

My friend came over and I cooked her potato w/ roasted garlic soup. She said it was nice! :)

AND THEN...Big Eva was cleaning out her jewelry box and gave me this bracelet. She said it was her favorite bracelet when she was a teenager and wore it all the time. Cool! A vintage bracelet from the 60's! I love it!

Craig said she was a mod when she was younger. I was like, "No shit?!?" He was like, "Yup, she was a cool and happening gal." Big Eva on a Vespa? That is so like awesome!

Photo courtesy of Mod Mood

Stuff Yer Cakehole!

Mario's Cafe in Westhoughton do a big breakfast for £10! Eat it all in 20 mins without a drink to wash it down with and you get it free!

It's 10 eggs, 10 bacon, 10 sausage, 10 toast, 5 black puddings, tomatoes, beans and mushrooms.

Hang on a minute – where’s the bleedin’ chips? Lightweights!

For anyone fancying the challenge, the address is:

67 Market St
Westhoughton, Bolton, BL5 3AG
01942 813287

Does the £10 include triple bypass surgery and a lifetime supply of Plavix? :-O

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yay! We're Getting Face Masks!

Million Pig Flu Masks on Way To Northern Ireland

More than one million protective face masks are to be delivered to Northern Ireland in the fight to contain the global outbreak of swine flu.

The Department of Health in England is stockpiling 32 million of the facemasks and around one million of those are to be delivered for use in the province if they are required.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said: “The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety already has in its possession 3.6 million protective facemasks for use by healthcare workers and 240,000 special respiratory masks also for healthcare workers.”

Meanwhile, ten people who have been tested for swine flu in Northern Ireland have been given the all-clear while results were today pending on another possible case.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Liz Mitchell said she hoped to receive the last set of results by the end of today.

Eleven people across Northern Ireland have so far been tested for swine flu — all of which Dr Mitchell said had been to affected areas in recent weeks.

She reiterated advice to anyone suffering from flu-like symptoms and is worried that they may have contracted the virus, urging them to remain at home and contact their family GP to arrange a visit.

Dr Mitchell also stressed that the only fatal cases of swine flu have been in Mexico and people affected in other countries have recovered.

Plans were also being finalised today for the distribution of information leaflets to every household across Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey addressed the Assembly and spoke of the importance of high levels of hygiene in fighting the spread of swine flu.

He said: “I would again reiterate the simple but very effective things that everyone can do in these circumstances. Influenza spreads easily from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also spreads through hand to face contact if hands are contaminated.

“Therefore, good hygiene practices, frequent handwashing, and tissues to cover mouth and nose for coughs and sneezes will be the single most effective thing people can do to protect themselves.

“Individuals should listen carefully to government advice which will be made available via the media and distributed on printed material.”

Health officials across the globe are bracing themselves for the emergence of more suspected cases of the virus.

So far 152 people are thought to have been killed in Mexico by the virus.

-Lisa Smith, Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

California Declares State of Emergency Over Swine Flu

Is it 1976 all over again? According to Dr. Ron Paul, one person died that year from the swine flu, and over 25 people died from the vaccination. The only thing that's pandemic is fear! So, everyone, calm the fuck down, wash your hands, and have a joint!

Overreaction, slow reaction, no reaction. Authorities can never get it right, can they?...

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today proclaimed a state of emergency over the spread of swine flu, expediting state agency responses to the outbreak.

The proclamation orders all state agencies to use staff and equipment to help the Department of Public Health under coordination of the California Emergency Management Agency. "While there is no need for alarm, it is the governor’s top priority to limit the swine flu’s spread as quickly and effectively as possible and this action represents one more step being taken to strengthen California’s response capabilities,’’ according to a statement by the governor’s office.

The order also suspends rules requiring competitive bids for services, material, personnel and equipment needed to respond to this outbreak and waives some certification requirements for public health laboratories to help in the state’s expansion of testing capabilities.

"The spread of the virus poses a threat to property in the state due to illness-related absenteeism, particularly among public safety and law enforcement personnel and persons engaged in activities and businesses critical to the economy and infrastructure of the state,’’ Schwarzenegger said in the proclamation.

He added that this strain of the swine flu "constitutes a potential epidemic … that, by reason of its magnitude, is beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single county, city … or regions to combat.’’

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors also declared a local state of emergency today.

-- Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

Providence, Rhode Island

Today's topic has nothing to do with Belfast or San Francisco. Imagine that?

I was dumping pics from our holiday onto the computer and low and behold I found pics from Rhode Island! I was looking for these pics for a year and a half and I was going mad thinking that my trip was a figment of my imagination! Back in 2007, my work sent me there to attend a conference. Providence was a really cute and charming city. Charming in a New England way. I was in awe of the Georgian Style architecture. Anyways, here are the pics and I'm so ecstatic I found them!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheap Eats in Belfast

This post was inspired by a fellow blogger from Glasgow who is visiting Belfast. She was asking for cheap places to eat. For the life of me, I couldn't compile a list and when I did it turned out to be a very sad list. Below was my response. Any recs from fellow Belfastians would be greatly appreciated, please feel free to add to this list...

As for cheap eats I've been trying to compile a list and it's a short one b/c I cook most of the time cuz I'm a food snob and am consistently disappointed whenever I eat out. Not sure if they are still open, but here goes...

Stay away from Victoria Square it's expensive.

Around the City Centre, Northern Whig, The Apartment are medium priced, Morning Star is great food, great place but a bit pricey. Chalet D'or, Isabelle's, Blinker's cheap places but all greasy spoons. All Chinese takeaways are cheap. We frequented The Emerald on the Dublin Road across from Pizza Hut but not sure if it's still there.

Take a dander around the university lots of cheap places to eat there. Walk up Stranmillis Road. Sinnamon is a good place for breakfast. Lolita's for Indian. And lots of other takeaways. Conor Cafe is excellent but a bit pricey.

On Eglantine Avenue there's Thai Tanic, decent Thai Food. The Mad Hatter is next door, great breakfast place. Lisburn Road has all the hip restaurants from expensive (Shu, Porterhouse among others), to numerous cafes, Simply Food Marks & Sparks, and The Yellow Door Deli, great sandwich place.

Up the Shankill: Chinese, Thai, Indian, Pizza, KFC, Subway, chippies. There's Tudor Cafe, a hole in the wall where you can get a whole Sunday roast dinner for like 5 quid. Shankill is easy to get to from City Centre, just take any 11 bus off to the side of Shitty Hall on Wellington Place.

That's it off the top of my head. Hope this helps.

Oh and I also forgot...Botanic Avenue! You're bound to find cheap eats there.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Belfast vs. San Francisco

I thought I'd post a Belfastian's impression of San Francisco. One of his biker forum friends asked about San Fran upon return: What do you have to do to stay over there? Marry/have pre-planned work, what? Looks a lovely part of the world. Is it expensive?

Below is Craig's response:

Yes you can marry and move there on a fiancee visa but that requires proof of an ongoing relationship. Phone records, photographs, emails and and an affidavit of support from an American citizen most likely your partner. Not sure how the work thing works. You need skills that are considered in demand in the country. Think it's based on a points system.

San Francisco is an expensive city to live in but there are plenty of cheaper surrounding areas like Oakland, Berkeley and El Cerrito that are across the bay. Getting into the city from these surrounding parts is quite easy as the public transport in the Bay Area is fantastic and fairly cheap. A Muni ticket is $1.50 (£1 currently). That usually lasts for 3 hours so you can jump on as many buses and street cars as you like within that time and get to pretty much any part of the city easily. They also have BART. Bay Area Rapid Transit. It's the system the DART was copied from in Dublin. The price of that is distance dependant but it's still fairly cheap. min ticket price is $1.75 i think and that'll get you 5 or 6 stops. It's mostly under the city but it also goes under the bay and comes out in Oakland and serves the East Bay like Berkeley and further.

It's a beautiful city. There are so many different areas to it. Belfast has the city center and that's about it, but SF has lots of distinct areas all with their own look and feel. Downtown where Union Sq is, is very touristy and also has the big stores like Macys and Tiffanys and so on. A few blocks north is China Town. Beyond that is Northbeach which is Italian and Marina District, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, The Presidio. In the middle is The Mission which is Spanish. To the west you have The Sunset which is Irish/Chinese, The Richmond which is Chinese/Russian and above that is Golden Gate park which is pretty big. That's where the California Academy of Sciences is and lots of other stuff like the Conservatory of Flowers, and the De Young Museum.

I've been there 3 or 4 times now and I've still got lots to see. Madlyne was born and grew up in SF so I am getting around a lot more than a tourist would and usually places that tourists wouldn't go. Places locals hang out.

It's an amazing place. There's a vibe in the streets. A real atmosphere. It's the kind of place you go to, and when you come back to Belfast you realize how truly backward this place is. I hate putting Belfast and Northern Ireland down and I know I do it all the time which I'm sure people are tired of hearing, but we're not living here, merely existing.

I used to have a pretty bad opinion of Americans based on what I see on the news or seen in movies and little else. I made the mistake of equating the American people in with their Politicians and was always very cynical of the over the top 'have a nice day' crap. You get the impression they're running around shooting each other on the streets constantly (unless you're in Oakland), but in all the time I've been there I haven't seen so much as an argument between 2 people. Even the homeless are polite to you on the street.

My opinion of Americans, or at least Californians is that they are the most friendly and approachable people I have ever met even more so than Toronto when I lived there a few years back. Strangers will just randomly start having a completely friendly conversation with you.

Every store you walk into, the first thing you hear as you enter is, hey guys how are you, or welcome. Sure they're being paid to be nice and they want your custom, but it makes you feel good and generally spreads a friendly atmosphere. Nothing wrong with that. Their customer service is first class. Not like here. You walk into a shop or cafe here and you're generally ignored for the first 5 minutes. I've been in cafes here and been made to feel like I'm being a pain in the ass if I call the waitress for something and interrupt her chat with the other waitress about her recent holiday to Tenerife.

Sure it has it's problems like anywhere else, but people are generally nice and just do their own thing. No one stares at you or shouts stupid remarks if you wear something that's not the 'norm' or whatever. A lot of people in NI seem to think you're interested in their opinion of what you're wearing or doing and take great pleasure in sharing it with you.

It's easy to forget when you live here that this isn't a normal society we live in. No society that has the kind of segregation and 30 odd years of the kind of violence we've had here can be normal. That shit affects people and places.

I've only ever had a problem with one person in San Francisco and guess what, he was from Dundalk. Madlyne and I met him in an Irish bar where some traditional music was being played that Maddy wanted to hear. He came over to us and was nice as pie telling us he'd been out there since 1990 and owned his own construction business and so on. Then after a few drinks he totally changed, became a nasty bitter bastard and started arguing with me over nothing. He followed me into the toilets and grabbed my shoulder so I punched him and left the bar. Totally ruined our night.

The main difference between here and somewhere like San Francisco is that the culture doesn't revolve around drink. In fact, if you get drunk there, people treat you like you're stupid. To go out on a Friday and saturday night and drink until you can't stand and fall down in the street and start fights and throw up all over the place isn't acceptable behaviour like it is here. If you do that over there, you have a drink problem. Here, that's just another weekend for most people.

So aye back to rainy Belfast. Went off on a rant there. LOL!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Check Out My Booty...

Not sure what I'm going to make. I was thinking of Potato and Leek Soup or Beef Stew. Hmmmm....


So I decided to make stew for Sunday dinner. It turned out really well! The meat just melts in your mouth. I cooked it low and slow for 12 hours! Locally farmed veggies, herbs from the garden, and beef from the butchers down the street. You can't get any better than that YUM!

P.S. Sorry for the blurry pics, I took it with webcam, my camera ran out of batteries. :D

Friday, April 24, 2009

Seamus O'Kane - Master Bodhran Maker

My bodhran teacher suggested I see this documentary awhile back about Seamus O'Kane, one of the most important and influential bodhran makers in the world. He hails from Derry! What an excellent documentary, I'm so glad I found it on youtube!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Farewell, My Beloved City!

As cheezy as this song is, deep down inside we know it's true even though native San Franciscans such as myself refuse to admit it...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Portrait of a Depressed Man

In about 24 hours, we will be leaving sunny California for the grey skies of the UK. One person in particular is not too happy about this...

A few days ago, one of his mates from work sends him a text which made him even more depressed:

I want you to open Maddy's door and take a deep breath and hold it, exhale slowly and savour the feeling. You may not know it yet, but that is the taste of freedom, equality, tolerance and above all...acceptance.

So here's a parting thought: when you get back to work for a permanent day shift, do evening courses and get the hell out of Northern Ireland!

I think we're going to have "the talk" very soon. And I think this is the final talk where a final decision is made.

Our Last Jaunt to The City (For Awhile Anyway)

This is the second to last day of our holiday. We wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather in the city. We took the ferry and soaked in the scenery. I couldn't help getting teary eyed when I saw the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline for the last time.

Ferry Building and Farmer's Market...

Alamo Square and The Painted Ladies...

Golden Gate Park...

Conservatory of Flowers

The Concourse

At the California Academy of Sciences we saw...

the Planetarium, the largest digital planetarium in the world

The rainforest and butterfly exhibit

Claude, the albino alligator

The Living rooftop

The Haight...

Cuban Fusion Tapas at Cha Cha Cha

Sutro Heights...

Sutro Baths...

The Cliff House...

Ocean Beach...

Watching the sunset, an end to a brilliant day

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Random Wacky Weirdness

What in the heck? Craig had the brilliant idea to walk around the neighborhood in the middle of a heatwave. Not even a half block away from my house we saw a field of goats! Hundreds of them just chillin' in the sun. We looked at them. Looked at each other. Rubbed our eyes and looked again. Yes, they were goats.

Either that or it must be heat stroke.

Monday, April 20, 2009


It has been a scorching few days. It climbed up to 90 yesterday. I swear you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. Last night was fun, both of us were tossing and turning, it was 11PM and the heat didn't let up. We didn't get to sleep around 4am. I'm so exhausted.

There's a heat advisory warming out. I'm going to safely assume that we aren't going anywhere today. It's just way too hot! Maybe while lazybones is asleep here, I'm going to Target and buy a watergun! *snicker*

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another Reason Why I'm Marrying an Irishman

They do stuff like wash your car. Hehe. It was a scorching day today and I felt like doing fuck all. What better reason to wash the car outdoors and bask in the sunshine. It's going to be even hotter tomorrow, maybe climb up to 90!

Driving Through Wine Country (Long Post)

The weather was a gorgeous 75 degrees yesterday so we took a drive through Napa Valley, the Provence of California. The endless acres of vineyards with the valley as a backdrop against a pristine blue sky was absolutely stunning! Another reminder of how beautiful my hometown is, definitely one of the reasons why I will miss this place when I leave.

Our first stop was St. Helena...

Napa Valley Wine Train

Cute little houses along Main Street

The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, the Harvard of culinary schools...

Vintage wine presses

Lecture theater

School supplies...


Our way back, we took a detour on a beautiful backcountry road which also happens to be the same road that the Zodiac murdered two people in 1968, to this day he still has not been caught. Skeery!

Lake Herman

If it weren't for the blue skies and sunshine, I could have sworn this was Norn Iron!

California Poppy surrounded by Blue Lupin. The California Poppy is the state flower and it is against the law to pick, dig up, or destroy. The California Poppy is also where The Golden Gate Bridge got it's name from. Before there was ever a bridge, the area where you sail into the bay was dubbed "the Golden Gate" by john fremont because the poppys were in full bloom and covering the hills on either side of what is now called the Marin headlands and the Presidio.

Grassy knoll dancing in the breeze

A video clip of our drive leaving wine country...