Posts Tagged ‘new’

Hello Kitty!

I’ve been holding off on posting about another recent addition to the Woodhaven clan. Following the death of my beloved Queen Victoria, I was quite adamant about not getting another pet, least of all a cat. But just as Vicky arrived unannounced (against her usual, more grandeur entries), this little guy appeared at our patio door a few weeks ago.



We managed to capture him after an hour long escapade of ducking and diving. He wasn’t in a great shape either. For the first week we cleaned him up, fed him and monitored his symptoms, which was a runny nose and clotted eyes. Once the week was up I brought him to the vet for a full check and the vet did usual vaccinations and a jab for Feline flu, which is what he believed was affecting the little guy.


He’s now foot loose and fancy free and totally friskified (which is a new word for wild, curious, up to mischief and bold). Oh and he’s also not a he, he’s a she. We haven’t settled on a name just yet, since we thought he was a male and were initially going with Prince Leopold. We’re not even sure we’ll keep him. He’s already stalking the ducks (more on them soon). The only way I’d let her go is if she was going to a devoted, decent home.



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This will be my final post relating to our New York trip. Sad face.


New York certainly gets it right when it comes to street layout, especially in Manhattan. For the majority of the city, its horizontal streets and vertical avenues are the perfect layout. Easy to navigate and understand. Side streets and diagonal streets are minimum so losing ones direction is minimized also. This type of layout radiates to the suburbs and usually with one long main street that is the focal point. These street plans lose their appeal suburbia. There’s something impersonal about it.

Sammy’s. We dined here on our last night. Worth a visit.

But then you come to place like Bronxville. It’s like a movie set or quaint village. We visited this on the last evening of our trip. I’m surprised Damien didn’t bring us sooner. Bronxville had so much charm to it, from the globular street lighting to the small 3 screen cinema. Even the train station was so apparent that it felt like a tram stop. I was reminded of being in a small quarter in Paris.

Pitt it was late. The stores were closed.

I wanted this guy.


Earlier that day we were in Sleepy Hollow. Thinking of Sleepy Hollow evokes images an old spooky cemetery and enchanting aged Dutch buildings. I expected an atmosphere of paranormal presence, promoted by the locals. But my expectations weren’t fully met. I’ve since learned that Sleepy Hollow was known as North Tarrytown up until 1996. It was renamed to honour Washington Irving (the writer of the famous Legend of Sleepy Hollow). Though his book is set in Tarrytown, the rename was simply that, a rename. The town hasn’t been re-branded. God I talk about it, as if it’s a product. I’m sure it’s full swing re-branding around Halloween but the town could bring more tourists if it marketed itself better, much like Salem, MA. Don’t misunderstand me, Sleepy Hollow was lovely and the cemetery there was remarkable with notable famous people resting inside, in fine imposing mausoleums.




However, it was Tarrytown itself that I found more exciting. Tarrytown was buzz with people, all enjoying the sunshine, eateries and galleries. We found a few antique stores too, with reasonable prices. They catered more to the prudent shopper, than the wealthier shopper. And if that’s you, go to Hudson.



Maybe it’s just Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow should get married again and become one. Both offer separate attractions and could unite them in a tourist haven.



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Another thing I’ve noticed about America and I thought this deserved its own post, is something about the Kids of America.

It’s confidence, and not badly to the point of arrogance. Just plain old self-confidence and self-assurance. They have it and it’s like they’ve been bestowed with it from birth.

The main reason we were in America was for Damien’s son’s Communion and that’s when I first noticed this self-belief. None of the kids had any qualms about standing in front of a crowd. Many of them read passages from the pulpit in full view of the congregation. They enunciated clearly and loudly like accomplished orators. I remember my stomach churning whenever I had to talk in public. I only got rid of this in adulthood and it returns now and again and i have to force myself to get over it. I remember feeling like this and turning red in the face with embarrassment, when only having to read aloud to the rest of my classroom. Words would come out with a robotic stammer.

I was really impressed by them, and it made me jealous that I wasn’t more like this when I was younger. I was also taken aback by the overall discipline of the children in the Church, bar one particular child that lost attention now and again. I was later told that the school does Communion rehearsals, 4 or 5 of them. In Ireland, they’d probably do 1 rehearsal and the whole thing would be a shambles.

Side Note: Damien’s 4 year old daughter sat quietly with us, scanning pictures on a camera. She stopped abruptly on one of Richie and me exchanging a very small peck on the lips. She felt the need to move to every single person on the pew and tell them, ‘I saw Paddy and Richie kissing’, in her most adorable American accent. By the time it got to Richie’s mother, she actually thought we were kissing there and then, in the church.

Finally, where else but in America would kids just sing together randomly on the steps of a Museum.

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This is all matter of opinion and if you’re an American patriot, you may feel insulted or aggravated, or complimented and proud. Either way, and getting back to my recent trip to New York, here are few observations I’ve made while I was there and my intention is not to offend.

The first thing I’ll touch on is the attitudes to food. I found myself eating more in New York. I’m not doing a good job at watching my weight here in Ireland but I feel if I lived in New York I’d be obese. The portions are larger and the food is richer and you can taste the entire deliciousness and also the calories. Starters are like a Main.

Yet another ‘bite to eat’.

Some places even printed the calories. How informed but disappointed I felt after I saw that the Special Burger with fries, that I was eyeing up, was nearly 3000 calories. That should be my limit for the day, and more. It’s no wonder a lot of Americans are overweight. And that’s another thing. There’s not much middle ground. It appears as though they have the perfect body or are fat. I still find it hard to see how people remained slim with so much food available.

‘America is a superpower!’ That’s what I got from Damien while we were there. There’s no misunderstanding on that point. But not when it comes to recycling and energy use. Americans are only now feeling the pinch at the pump when refuelling their car. Gas prices have shot up in recent years and are continuing to increase (like everywhere in the world). But this is new concept to Americans. I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist. I firmly believe that someone has already invented the future replacement energy supply and it’s cheap and clean. It’s just that corporations and capitalism is still earning off oil.

I thought Ireland didn’t really recycle much. I was wrong. We have bins for plastics and paper, bins for foods and one for other waste. They are regular sights throughout the country and so too are bottle banks or bring centres. It took a little bit of re-educating but it’s engrained in us now. People look at you weirdly if you say you don’t recycle. I don’t think I saw anything like our bins, in New York. America should be leading the world by example on recycling. Am I wrong about this?

We went to a Yankees game. For me, baseball is kind of boring. The game is long and there’s not much to keep you in your seat. In saying that, I did see two home runs and that certainly got the crowd going. But it lacks the constant noise from cheering and chanting and involvement that you’d be part of at a European soccer match. People come and go. Between innings, which are frequent, you’re thankful of the big screen and interval interviews with the crowd (and prize giveaways), smile cam, beer, hot dogs, etc. I’ve seen enough movies about baseball. All portray them as exciting and fast paced. In reality, they’re not. Richie’s been to a basketball game and he’s said that the entertainment at those are even better and that it seemed some people came to see that over the game. What it comes down to though is that America knows how to entertain.


Everything is overboard, overwhelming and over the top, all in a good way. All designed to stimulate the senses and entrap you in the entertainment. America does a great job at this. It’s like they think of things you didn’t think of. Theme parks are THEME PARKS. Baseball games are BASEBALL GAMES. Even a museum is a MUSEUM.


And on the small scale too, things are overboard. Take the ice-cream parlour, Carvel. There are not many ice-cream parlours in Ireland. My senses nearly exploded when I entered Carvel. I found it hard to decide and pick something. There was, thankfully, too much on offer and generous helpings. There went my calorie count again! I avoided the regular strawberry or vanilla flavour and went for flavours unheard of back here, cake mix and chocolate peanut butter.

If entertainment isn’t overwhelming, in the most positive way possible, then the country is. The buildings are huge and a definite credit to the visionaries, architects and engineers that built them. Right down to the smallest most ornate features.


The country is beautiful and I’ve said this before. I never fully realised the expanse of the country. Some say that cities sprawl but the countryside in New York state sprawls. Vast spaces of green valleys and hills, wrinkled with rivers or roads. The people impact is quite minimal once you get outside city and suburbs.

And finally, a word about the people! I heard it said that ‘America? That’s an open asylum’. Obviously that’s not the case. Like every place in the world there are a few crazies. But from the single woman we met in Hudson, who was engaging and interested and interesting…, from the immigrant taxi driver from Russia, with his confusing accent and his almost NASCAR techniques…, from the suburban lesbian couple, taking some respite from wilds of Manhattan…, from the friendly and welcoming bar tenders friend of Albanian heritage…, all the way down to the Priscilla impersonator, broadway ticket street trader, with feathered headdress and queer English accent. It’s the people that make America.

Most offer and contribute to a country that is as diverse as it is big. Diversity and differences were the foundation of the USA. Pride, acceptance and celebration in this diversity is fundamental to its continuing success.


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It was my birthday last week and i arranged to meet my best friend Paul and his boyfriend Mark. Ireland has been in the grip of a glorious spell of hot weather, that is set to continue into the next week. So rather than just visit the guys at their home we met up with them, in a hidden gem, just north of Dublin in county Meath. It’s very close to the town of Ashbourne and it’s called New Barn Farm.


I learned of this splendiferous place through word of mouth from other friends, Paddy and Elaine. They often go for lunch and bring their 1 year daughter with them. And who wouldn’t bring their kids. Not only does Newbarn Farm have the Donkey Shed restaurant but it also has an Open Farm, which is complimentary to all restaurant patrons.

You couldn’t have a Donkey Shed restaurant without a real life mule somewhere.


As I’ve said, we only had breakfast but if that’s anything to go by then lunch and dinner must be a real treat as well.

3 of us ordered the French Toast, with Crème Fraîche, maple syrup and berries, and all 3 of agreed that it was the best we have ever had.


Richie had the full Irish breakfast. He loved it and I can substantiate, from stealing the odd bite, that it was delicious too.


Mark was hungrier than the rest of us, so he grabbed the omelette. Yum, and as you can see he made short work of the french toast. Notice the empty plate.


I can see why it’s a great place to bring your family but as an adult I even enjoyed the stroll around the open farm and taking in all the animals.

Of course Richie was immediately drawn to anything fowl.

This guy I assumed would be lazy in the midday sun.

It didn’t stop him from getting up to shove his snout into the lens.

From a distance, it looked like she had an orange smile.


All the animals were eager for the green shoots they couldn’t reach.

Don’t think I’ve finished yet. What else would you expect to have in a farm? Well it wouldn’t be a farm without a farmers market. That’s right. Newbarn also sell produce, most of which is from the actual farm or locally sourced, where available.



Looks like someone needed some shade to cool off.

Mark couldn’t help picking up some fresh food items.


I’ve lived most of my life in Finglas, and it practically borders county Meath. I’ve driven by New Barn Farm many times and never knew it existed. I’m delighted to have found it and delighted to be able to pass its secret to whoever reads this. I can guarantee you will fall in love with it.

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WARNING: Moan and Rant in progress.

What an awful experience it is to go to Abercrombie and Fitch. My first time in one of their stores was in San Francisco a few years back. That’s when it was a pleasure to shop in. It was brightly lit and seemed like any other normal clothes store.

But on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, they have to be different. Or have they changed to this new dark cave, everywhere? It’s a pointless and stupid experience. My first visit was to browse for myself. After 10 minutes in the store I needed out. I couldn’t see a thing, not to mention even try and make out the colour of an item. I realise why most of the models wear next to nothing. It’s not that I’m jealous of their statuesque bodies (you’ve guessed it, I am), nope, it’s the heat in the store. Every other store on 5th avenue offers Air conditioning, a stop to shop and cool down.

My second visit was a necessity, since a friend asked me to pick up their brand of cologne. I thought I’d be able to grab and go. What a fool I was to think it would be that quick and simple.

I got the bottle and was directed downstairs to pay. I can see the marketing in that. Make me go further into the store so that I see more and possibly buy more. This didn’t irritate me.

It was the waiting in the queue to pay that made me irate. I waited for 15 minutes and there were only 3 people in front me. The sales assistants behind the tills danced and chatted, sang out loudly and screamed when a song came on that happened to be the ring tone on one of their phones. Annoyed, is a word that isn’t strong enough to describe how I was feeling. I really wanted to deck one of them. There were two in particular. Wretched, vile, plastic robots programmed to be happy. All completely fake and unnatural. A&F have succeeded in moving from clothing to people and designed people to be marketed as young and fun. If this hadn’t of bugged me, it was the process they used for packing your items. One person hovered around behind the people at the cash tills. After scanning an item, they’d throw it to the counter behind them. Then to be folded and placed in a bag by the hoverer.

Do you know what, I’m stopping right there. I’m getting angry again, just thinking about it.

NB: In case you are wondering why didn’t I say anything? I didn’t want to be told I was old and boring.

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After Hudson and Olana, it was on to one of the highlights of our trip. Originally, we didn’t think we’d make it to Sharon Springs but because Damien drove us we had the freedom to go where we pleased. This put Sharon Springs back on our itinerary and more importantly, a visit to Beekman 1802 and chance to meet with Brent and/or Josh from the Fabulous Beekman Boys.


From Hudson, Sharon Springs was about 1.5 hour drive away. On the way we stopped at a bar/restaurant called the Stone Castle Inn, Cairo NY. We met a lovely bar tender call Kyla (I’m not sure how to spell her name, but she did tell us stories of how everyone would get her name wrong). She seemed delighted to have company since the bar was empty when we arrived. She was extremely friendly and interesting and also interested in us. It was her last week of work, as she was heading to Virginia Beach the following week, since she was attending college there from the late summer.

The original name and sign of the premises.

After that we made the small 2 minute trip to the Blackthorn resort. I can’t remember why we stopped, maybe it was because Cairo and East Durham seemed to have a lot of Irish heritage. Myself and Richie explored a little, while the other two played pool in the Irish bar.

I had to take two shots of this albino peacock. He was too pretty.


While looking for the location of the Blackthorn resort I stumbled upon this intriguing aerial view. It’s the map of Ireland, obviously. I’m raging we missed this.


Take the picture already!

It was late when we arrived in Sharon Springs, nearly 5pm and we thought the Beekman 1802 Mercantile might be closed. Dark clouds overhead gave the impression of twilight so it seemed later than it was, plus the street lights were on.


Myself and Richie walked into the Mercantile and was greeted by Megan (also from the show). Like everyone else we had met, she was friendly and welcoming. I blurted out that we were fans of the show. I thought there was no point in lying since they must get these types of visits often. We chatted for a bit and she went to a back room and then appeared Brent. All four of us conversed, mostly about the Beekman fandom and our trip from Ireland. Then we got the chance for a quick photo opp.


After that, we bought a few things, including a soap cutter (I intend to use it for cheese) and a Stick of Butter. This was gifted already before I took the photo below.


We went away, travelling back to Yonkers, tired but happy. If it wasn’t for Damien, our trip to Sharon Springs would not have happened and we wouldn’t have met with Brent and Megan. If we ever get a chance to return, I shall pester Brent for a non-stalker visit to the farm, in order to meet Josh, Farmer John and Polka Spot, of course.

One other thing, Brent gave us a t-shirt each also. And here’s my one, just before I become lumber Paddy. Stop laughing! I do chop wood.



That isn’t the last thing. This is. I should’ve mentioned earlier. America has a stunning landscape, well New York state does. It quite reminds me of Ireland and it’s greener than I expected. There’s just so much space with wide views. I couldn’t help wonder what it was like for the first settlers and frontiersmen that arrived when America was new and practically untouched. How did it feel for them to wander into a beautiful creek or stumble onto a lookout point over a valley, never seen by the eyes of any other explorers?

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