I’m in Ireland: Part Two

Cork, Ireland wild flowersUNO Writing AbroadCharles Fort Kinsdale, Ireland

My first week of classes in Ireland is over. Everything is happening at a lightening fast pace. It’s intense, in the best way possible. I enrolled in two classes (scriptwriting and creative non-fiction workshop) and we’re packing an entire semester’s worth of material into four weeks.  I’m making new connections that will hopefully extend past my time here, and I interact with the locals as much as I can. (I’m looking at you, Monday night karaoke at Old Oak.)

While in Ireland I’ve noticed several differences from our culture in the United States. Some are subtle, some are noteworthy, and the longer I’m here the more I become attuned to. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up on so far.

  • Euros are somewhat cumbersome. There is paper money, but denominations of €2 and less are coins. I feel silly counting out a meal in coins, but it’s the norm here. Ireland is about to get rid of their one cent piece (1/100 of a euro), which, according to a wine shop owner I conversed with, really won’t affect the locals, except for charity boxes. There are boxes everywhere for people to drop change in, including bars, restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. He thought the elimination of the one cent piece might put charities at a disadvantage.
  • In general, everything is a little bit cheaper here. Some things are remarkably cheaper, whereas other items (like grapes) I find more expensive. Even the most touristy of places charge much less than what I’m accustomed to paying in the US.
  • Don’t bother buying an electrical adapter in the U.S. if you can help it. Electrical adapters are readily available for under €4 and work just as well as ones that cost $20 in the states.
  • My American Southern roots are showing. People are friendly but don’t make eye contact with each other on the street. I’m used to telling everyone hello, opening doors for people, and waving at strangers when passing by their house on my bike.  I asked someone on the street for directions and she seemed startled that I approached her.
  • It’s refreshing to see not everyone is glued to their phones here. Except for a solo diner, I haven’t noticed people sitting around at bars and restaurants on their phones. I’m digging it.
  • I love the nuance of language. Irish phrases are just more pleasant than some of the vernacular we use back home. I was chatting with a warden (resident assistant) at campus housing about the weather. “Yes, it looks like it’s about to break cloud,” she said. My American inclination was to say something far less eloquent, such as, “looks like it’s about to dump out there,” or, “It’s getting nasty out there.”

 

photos: wildflowers grow in the cracks on the stone wall that runs down the street I take to campus, group shot in front of Blarney Castle, Charles Fort in Kinsdale, Ireland

 

 

I’m in Ireland!

Jackie Lennox IrelandVictoria Mills IrelandIrelandGuinness

I just arrived in Ireland and am so. flipping. excited. I will be here for a month (!!!) in Cork with UNO’s Writing Workshop. My first thought upon landing- I can’t get over how green it is here. I mean, way to live up to your reputation, Ireland. I flew from New Orleans to New Jersey, then touched down in Shannon and hopped on a bus to Cork. The bus ride was pleasant, with lush, idyllic landscapes straight out of a fairytale. The weather is perfect, especially coming from humidity laden New Orleans. I regret not bringing more sweaters, but I can live with that #firstworldproblem.

I’ve only been here for one full day and have so much to process. The city center (what I would call downtown) is walking distance from campus. There are enough recognizable names (H&M, Subway ) for the place to feel familiar, but there are also enough differences to encourage exploration. My mission is to only eat and drink food and beverages that I can’t consume at home. So far I’ve been somewhat successful, although I did buy a bottle of Jameson for a little nightcap.

Classes start on Monday, and I’m grateful we have some time to orient ourselves before diving into coursework. The University College Cork campus is stunningly beautiful. UCC, established in 1845, is one of three Queen’s colleges, which opened its doors under the reign of Queen Victoria. Limestone buildings are draped with ivy, and the earliest structure dates back to 1810.

I will be documenting my trip here, but you can also follow me on Instagram for more pictures.

Firsts: fish & chips from Jackie Lennox Chip Shop, first night’s view at Victoria Mills Lodge, first view of Ireland from the plane,  first Guinness in Cork at Edison. All photos taken on my iPhone. 

A kiddie pool for adults? Yes, please!

kiddie pool set up

A kiddie pool for adults? Yes, you need one in the worst way possible.

The summer months are downright miserable in New Orleans. The only way to remain comfortable is to stay indoors and blast the air conditioner until late October, or get proactive about cooling off and get creative with staving off the heat.

Last summer I made the best decision of my life (only a slight exaggeration) and invested in a kiddie pool. They’re relatively inexpensive, a good excuse to have friends over, and if you’re in need of some solitude all you need is a good book, an ice cold Le Croix, and you’ve got yourself a backyard oasis on a budget. I’m not talking about those glorified puddles of water in the shape of a turtle; you need something that your grown ass self can sit down in, chest deep, or fit a pool float in.

Interested in setting up your own? Since I did my homework last summer you don’t have to. Here’s everything you need for your own adult kiddie pool, ice chest full of beer not included.

 

Not too big, not too small

Buy the largest pool you can. I wanted mine to fit on my covered back patio, so a five feet wide by three feet deep framed pool was the best option for me. I purchased it for $60 from Big Lots, but there are plenty of options out there online as well as in stores.

 

The setup 

You need a flat surface – such as an even patch of grass or a level spot on the patio – otherwise you’ll risk puncturing the bottom. I also recommend purchasing two tarps, one to go underneath the pool (for added protection) and one to cover it. If you can buy a pool cover designed for your model get that instead. Even with a cover bugs and debris will sneak in. A leaf rake or net is a must for keeping your pool clean.

I definitely recommend buying a kiddie pool with a built in filter. You want to keep that water moving, unless your goal is to start a mosquito breeding facility. In that case, keep that water nice and stagnant. My pool didn’t come with a filter, so I purchased a pond aerator via Amazon in lieu of hiring neighborhood kids to blow bubbles via silly straws 12 hours a day.

 

Crystal clear 

It takes a lot of water to fill up a pool. Mine holds about 350 gallons, so instead of putting more money into New Orleans Sewage and Water Board’s pockets, I fill up my pool once and maintain the water quality on a weekly basis. Pool supply manufacturers don’t make products for kiddie pools (if you find some let me know) so I wing it with spa products. I like Fresh n’ Clear from Leslie’s Pool Supplies.

You’ll need to figure out how many gallons of water your pool holds to make sure you are using the proper amount of product. Search for online swimming pool calculators that will figure out your pool’s volume based on the height, width, and depth.

I don’t bother with chlorine tablets but I do put two or three capfuls of bleach in the pool and let it sit for a day or two before my next late night dip. Every other week I scrub down the sides and bottom with a sponge to prevent slime buildup.

Packing it up

Unless you want to maintain that puppy during the winter I’d suggest packing it up and storing it away. I give my pool a good scrubbing with soapy water before I store it or after I unpack it from the previous year. You’ll also want to let it dry completely before stashing it away, unless acrid mildew is your thing.

 

Worth the Drive: Mississippi’s Forest Retreat

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forest retreat Mississippi

homochitto national forest

 

I haven’t been to Forest Retreat, a secluded trio of cabins in Mississippi’s Homochitto National Forest, since 2013. Forest Retreat was me and Thomas’ secret spot when the urge get out of the city for a few days would arise. There is no cell phone reception, no internet (the cabins do have wifi now), and the only noise that cuts through the silence is the rustling of leaves and an occasional dog howling in the distance. We used to make the three hour drive at least twice a year with Nadia, our retired racing Greyhound, in tow. The reason I discovered Forest Retreat in the first place was an ad in Urban Dog Magazine that touted dog friendly cabins. We weren’t sure our timid city pooch would take to being out in the country, but I’m pretty sure Nadia had more fun playing in the creek and going on hikes than we did.

Sadly, Nadia passed away two summers ago due to an inoperable tumor on her spinal cord. Her ashes are sealed in a large plastic bag, tucked away in a wooden box on a bookshelf in our living room. I’ve never been able to bring myself to look at her remains, and I didn’t want to go back to Forest Retreat for the same reason that box sits unopened two years later. We only had Nadia for three years, but she was the love of my life, the first dog we owned as a couple, and just like many rescued animals, we had to earn her affection. Most retired racing greyhounds aren’t accustomed to what we think of as a “normal home life” since they grow up around the race track. The dogs can be slightly skittish at best and scared of their own shadow at worst. I worked with Nadia to overcome her fear of the dishwasher, taught her how to climb up and down stairs, and eventually she stopped being petrified of the wind. Skateboards, on the other hand, were the devil incarnate. She would hyperventilate at the slightest hint of a thunderstorm, but fireworks were inexplicably okay.

After Nadia passed we waited a few months before getting another dog. So when we got two – Izzy, another Greyhound, and Beignet, a terrier/Catahoula mix – it just didn’t feel right to rush back to our old vacation spot with our new crew. I equated it with the awkwardness of bringing a new beau to the restaurant you dined at all the time with your ex. How do you explain to your new fling why you know so much about the menu?

So when Thomas recently suggested we plan a weekend getaway to Forest Retreat, I surprised myself and said yes. We ended up going this past weekend and my only regret is that we waited so long to go. The dogs loved it, we enjoyed the break from our day to day lives, and we both had to ask ourselves “What took us so damn long to get back here?” I’d like to think that Nadia is somewhere in that big dog park in the sky, running her skinny little butt off and being as stubborn as ever. I think she would agree that it’s finally time to move on and give some other pooches their turn to run through the forest.

For more pictures from Forest Retreat check out my Tumblr: christylorio.tumblr.com

If you decide to go on your own Forest Retreat weekend, here are a few things to consider:

  • GPS will only get you so far, so make sure you print out the direction given to you upon your reservation. That said, the directions aren’t the clearest (we get turned around every time) and cell phone reception is spotty on country roads. Give yourself ample time to backtrack. Trust me, you don’t want to traverse forest service roads at night.
  • The owner recently added wifi in the cabins but there’s  no cell phone reception, unless you stand on the parking hill, cross your fingers and make a wish. You’ll want to unplug but do keep this in mind in case of an emergency.
  • You’ll need to bring all of your food with you. The nearest store is several miles away and once you start to unwind you won’t want to see an ignition switch until vacation is over. The two cabins are furnished with essentials such as bed linens, towels and kitchen gadgets. You’ll need to bring your own toiletries and if you’re going in the summer bug spray is a godsend. I like to bring a good book, a board game or two, a flashlight, appropriate shoes for wading in the creek, my camera, and my laptop for playing music and watching movies at night.
  • Bring your dog’s bed and a blanket for the sofa if you have a four legged couch potato.

Summer starts right now

IMG_3797IMG_6483new orleans city park sculpture gardensummer starts nowyou go girlswoon breastfeeding

 

My summer starts right. about. now. Last Friday I slid my final exam onto the teacher’s desk, handed over my keys to the Driftwood newsroom (read my last column for the paper here), and finished my last spring semester as an undergraduate. Taking 16 hours and running a college newspaper wasn’t easy, and I’m strangely looking forward to the fall semester (my last one!) when I can just focus on classes. So instead of having a mic drop moment when I turned that last test in, I just enjoyed the relief that the semester is over. I am milking my newfound free time before summer school starts. In between catching up on mundane tasks like housecleaning and laundry, I’m making a point to take daily bike rides with no particular destination in mind. I’m also trying to catch up with much neglected friends, attempting to learn Spanish, and this weekend I’m heading to Mississippi for a break from the city.

I’ve taken summer classes every semester since I went back to college two years ago. I usually opt to enroll in online classes, but this June I’m going to Ireland with UNO’s Writing Workshops Program. I’ve never been to Ireland nor have I ever studied abroad, so the opportunity to get out of the sticky Louisiana heat for a little while to solely focus on my creative writing excites me. I’m not going to lie, having my own bed for a month will be downright luxurious as well. No cats piled up on my pillow! No fighting for the sheets with my husband (I will miss that a little)! No waking up to dogs barking in the morning to go outside! I have a feeling the things that annoy me the most are going to be the things I miss the most when I’m gone. But who knows, maybe I’ll try to sneak a kitty into my suitcase.

 

 

all photos by me:

hotel pool in Asheville, North Carolina | sculptures in New Orleans’ City Park Sculpture Garden | magnolia blossom, French Quarter | You Go Girl and Swoon, New Orleans City Park

 

 

 

 

Festival season is here

 

Cha Wa Band

Cha Wa BandTank and the Bangas

festival season

 

Festival season is finally here in Southern Louisiana. Springtime hits that sweet spot of (relatively) low humidity, pleasantly warm days and breezy, balmy nights. It’s downright criminal to not take advantage of the weather, especially since summer is going to slap us in the face with a wet wool blanket faster than we can order another round of frozen daiquiris.

I like festivals but sometimes large crowds, long lines at the food booths and dirty port-a-potties just aren’t my jam. I live on Freret Street, so the Freret Street Festival is the one fest that comes to me.  All I have to do is walk out my door and I’m there. When the crowds get to be too much I can just head back home and sit on my own front porch.

 

Photos:

J’wan Boudreaux, vocalist for the Cha Wa Band and Spy Boy for the Golden Eagles, is accompanied by bassist Bill Richards.

Irving “Honey” Banister of the Cha Wa Band and Flag Boy of the Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians kept the crowds dancing at the Dat Dog Stage.

Tank of Tank and the Bangas entertained the crowds with her infectious energy at the Ochsner Baptist Stage.

Freret Street Festival took over its namesake thoroughfare between Napoleon Avenue and Soniat Street on April 4. Three stages hosted local bands and 150 vendors selling food as well as locally made arts and crafts lined the street from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

festival season festival season festival season

Flamingos at the Audubon Zoo

IMG_5946 IMG_6167 flamingos at the Audubon zoo

I feel like I’m cheating with these photos. I mean, it’s kind of hard to take a bad photo of a flamingo, am I right? The flamingo exhibits are some of my favorite exhibits at the Audubon Zoo. There are actually two of them, but the one nearest the entrance is the best; the birds are so close you can practically touch them. I used to volunteer at the zoo, and despite living a short bike ride away, it’s been years since my last visit. (Tip: students get $2 off admission with a student ID.) I’ve always been a big fan of the reptile house (see my snake tattoo for the proof) but on this past outing I realized that I really enjoy taking photos of birds.

Check out more photos from my day at the zoo on my Tumblr.

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Slow Southern Style has a new look

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Whoa now.

Do not adjust your computer screens; Slow Southern Style has a new look and a new logo. I’ve been meaning to freshen up around here for at least two years, but a redesign just kept getting pushed off and pushed off until I couldn’t take it anymore. I think the new look better reflects the content now that I’m not blogging about fashion anymore.

So, what have I been up to? Nothing noteworthy, really. My weekly routine revolves around class and putting out the school newspaper. My Lenten social media fast is going well. I’m not gonna lie, I peek a little bit every now and then, but overall I’ve been pleased with how much more free time I have when I’m not glued to my phone. It’s not a drastic change, but enough to where I realize that hey, it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m (sort of) caught up on homework enough to do some yard work and catch a comedy show later on. Maybe I’ll keep it up after Lent is over.

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The levee and life

uses for tires

new orleans levee
chain link fence
rusty cables
Louisiana sunset
Sometimes you just need to put life on hold and go watch the sunset from the levee. My brain is a pile of midterm exams and research paper mush, beaten with a whisk until frothy and spooned out into a leftover Mardi Gras go cup. My last spring semester (I graduate in December) has reached the midway point and I’m pretty sure I’m starting to develop a case of senioritis. I just want to read books that aren’t served up on a syllabus, take my girls to the dog park, and relieve some of my stress load by trying to get downtime in any way I can.
One thing I told myself this semester is that my sanity is more important than my grades. I never like to get uncomfortably personal on my blog, but after having several panic attacks last semester, I promised myself that I won’t compromise my mental health for the sake of getting straight As. Running the campus newspaper, taking 16 hours, and working a part-time job on the weekends can be a crippling workload. So I didn’t feel too bad about catching the sunset on the levee on Friday instead of starting a paper that’s due on Monday (yea, some things never change, even as a grown ass woman) then so be it.
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Call for some Slow Southern Submissions

A few years ago when I had my shit together I used to put out calls for submissions to Slow Southern Style. I stopped doing them for a few reasons, mostly because I primarily attracted businesses trying to build SEO – keep in mind I was also charging advertisers for sponsored posts and banner ads at the time. I didn’t mind giving a free platform to small local businesses or my friends, but I didn’t want Slow Southern Style to become a dumping ground for brands that didn’t have much interest to either myself or my readers. You know the type of sites; everything has a link to a product to buy, or the blogger  showcases nothing but “c/o” outfits.

I’d like to try opening the flood gates once again. I want to help writers and photographers get their work in front of an audience. What do I want? Personal stories. Travel stories. Book reviews. True stories. Critiques of the fashion industry. Your submission should fall somewhere between blog post and literary magazine essay. Need help? Take a gander at some recent posts. Feeling lazy? I’ve linked a few here:

Shoot me an email to slowsouthernstylellc@gmail.com. Let’s figure something out. Oh, and before someone asks:

1. I can not pay you. Labor of love, baby.
2. Photos should be no larger than 500 pixels wide and they definitely need to be your own. Ditto with the writing, minus the pixel part.
3. I’m a full time student running a college newspaper. Please be patient if I don’t respond to you right away.

Twitter: christylorio Facebook: Slow Southern Style
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