Passport to Fun - Ireland!

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You'll remember that I came up with a pretty awesome idea for G's Christmas gift this year.

If I've never met you before, or you just have a memory like a sieve, then feel free to wander on over to this post to read all about it.

I'll wait.

For our third "trip," we headed to a country that just begs to be explored in the month of March.

I mean, pretty much everyone is obsessed with all things Irish on the 17th anyway, so it just made sense to join in and coordinate our "travel plans" with St. Patrick's Day festivities and kill two birds with one stone!

As I mentioned here, I had the fun of spending a St. Patrick's Day years ago amongst all the Dublin madness, so I was all excited to recreate some of the fun here at home for this family night.

I'm also a big Irish nut, so planning for this day was pretty easy for me - I had more ideas than I was able to use, which just gives me an excuse to revisit it again for a future Passport adventure!

March:  Ireland

Set the Stage

I added the next stamp to G's passport so he'd see where we were going, then left it out where he'd find it the next morning before he went to work:

What to Decorate With

To keep things simple, yet do something to lend an air of the locale, Gv and I again made a flag for the wall next to our front door, which would greet G as soon as he got home from work.

I'd also planned to repeat a bunch of these fun activities with Gv for the holiday and spread those around the house, too, but G's spring break fell at the same time and we went camping and so we'll just add that to the list for next time, shall we?

Now, if you're wanting to really go all out, you could print out some of the fun Guinness posters that I talked about here and plaster them all over your walls to really provide a good pub feel.

What to Dress Like

Green!  All green!  This one's easy, especially if you do it on St. Patrick's Day - then you've got no worries about being pinched!

Ah, G.  I guess after my 7,948 selfies of us while walking around Lake Bled, that used up his quota of non-goofball expressions for life.  At least Gv knew who the sane one in the photo was.

What to Listen to

I've got over 28 hours' worth of Irish music on the old ipod, so this trip's playlist was all ready to go - I could just set it to shuffle and let it play all day.

My favorite recommendations for you to hunt down, in case you don't have a similar obsession to all things Celtic like I do?  Try these favorites:

Anything by the Chieftains, but particularly the Fire in the Kitchen Album

All sorts of greatness by the amazing gal group Cherish the Ladies

Rock it out with the Young Dubliners, The Pogues, or the original Dubliners

Grab yer pint, then go all out and sing along with these classic Irish Drinking Songs

Get a little folksy with my favorite Irish Descendants album

Go the pop route with anything by The Corrs

Lend a cultural touch to the evening by listening to a recording from my all-time favorite Broadway production

And, if you don't want to invest in any new tunes, just play anything by these guys.  I'm willing to bet you have at least one of their albums in your collection!

What to Eat

A few specific dishes came to mind when I was brainstorming this menu, but some of the things I came up with can really be found anywhere in the UK and I wanted the focus to be on specifically Irish grub.

Knowing that our temperatures were already climbing well out of "soup range," I decided to get one last hearty meal in with some Irish stew.  Plus, it uses my favorite meat (lamb), so that helped push me over the edge.

I served a classic potato dish, colcannon, (you can't do Irish without including plenty of potatoes, you know) as well as some classic Irish soda bread to help sop up the rest of our soup.

Most Irish desserts center on plenty of whiskey, but since I'm not terribly fond of the stuff (much to G's consternation...although if he thought about it, he would be glad he gets to keep his "peaty" Connemara all for himself), I looked for something a little less boozy (although this still has some whiskey in it) and since we had a whole bag of apples, a Dublin's Finest Caramel Apple Cake did the trick.

Irish Stew

What You Need

Lamb (I used about a pound of boneless leg meat)

1 large onion

4 carrots (my carrots were skinny, so I doubled that)

4 potatoes 

2 cups chicken stock

1 Tablespoon rosemary

1 Tablespoon thyme

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 bay leaves

4-8 garlic cloves (you know I went with the 8...awww, heck, I threw in 12)

1/2 cup frozen peas

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup Guinness (although I just dumped in an entire can of whatever cheap beer we keep on hand to use in cooking)

What You Do

1.  Dice up the meat and vegetables, then dump them into a crock pot.

Be sure to grab a helper to do whatever terrible jobs you want to avoid!

2.  Throw in the rest of the ingredients and then pour in some extra water so that everything in the pot is submerged.

3.  Cook on high 4-6 hours or low 6-8.


Can you make mashed potatoes?  Then you can make colcannon!

What You Need

4 potatoes

3 cups greens (I used spinach, but you could also use cabbage or kale)

1 small onion

1 cup milk

4 Tablespoons butter

salt to taste

What You Do

1.  Chunk up your potatoes and get them boiling in some water.

2.  Dice the onion and add it to the potatoes.

3.  Just when the potatoes are getting to the smushable stage, add in your greens and just keep it going a couple of minutes.

4.  If there's water left, drain it out, otherwise, add the milk and mash and stir away.  Start adding salt, which gives you the excuse to begin sampling the dish before anyone else. 

Irish Soda Bread

What You Need

4 cups whole wheat flour

4 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons caraway seeds

1 Tablespoon baking powder (are you making your own?)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

1/2 cup butter

1 cup buttermilk

What You Do

Make sure you put those helpers to work for you again!

1.  Mix everything up and knead the dough just a bit before forming it into a nice round shape on a greased cookie sheet.

2.  Slice an "X" across the top, if you want to get fancy.

3.  Bake for 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Dublin's Finest Caramel Apple Cake

I managed to get a photo of the dessert this time, but was obviously so sleepy by this point I couldn't hold the camera still...

What You Need

A batch of my Coconut Milk Caramels

1/3 cup chopped pecans

4 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup honey

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups buttermilk

3 Tablespoons whiskey

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 finely chopped apple

1 egg

4 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup culinary coconut milk (or heavy cream)

2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons whiskey (although this one doesn't get cooked, so I left it out to prevent a tipsy Gv)

extra cinnamon

What You Do

1.  Cook up the caramel recipe, but after you stir in the butter and vanilla, add the chopped pecans and then pour the whole thing into a 9-inch greased baking dish.

2.  Mix everything from the flour through the butter together, then pour that cake batter over the caramel in your dish.

3.  Bake 30-50 minutes at 350 degrees, until you stab a knife into the center and it comes out clean.

4.  Allow the cake to cool a few minutes, then invert it onto a plate.

5.  Beat the coconut milk (or cream) until it forms soft peaks, then add in the sugar (and whiskey, if you're using it).

6.  Drizzle (or spread, depending on your cream-beating patience) this glaze over the cake and then sprinkle everything with more cinnamon.

What to Do

You could easily get away with doing the most Irish of activities out there and just drink yourself silly for this trip's activity.

We, however treat this as a family date night, and while that wouldn't stop us from imbibing a bit ourselves, we generally want to enjoy things that all three of us can have fun with.

Cue this how-to video, which I've had for over a decade and pull out whenever I'm brave and in shape enough to attempt to keep up with Colin's fantastic instruction.

Once we were all nice and sweaty, and our sides ached from laughing at all our fumbly bounces and hops, we set off on a rainbow scavenger hunt.

My absolute favorite part of attending the St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin was the Festival Treasure Hunt, so I tried to re-create it a bit here at home.

Plus, it gave me another excuse to do something centered around rainbows, and we all know I can't pass up any opportunity to include rainbows in my life!

I folded an index card in half, drew a rainbow on the front and wrote the clue to the first color strip inside.  My clues were all little family inside jokes and secrets, so that G and Gv could work together to find them around the house.  Here they're discovering the fourth clue on the big present Santa brought Gv this year.
I stapled all the color strips (where I'd written the rest of the clues) into a chain attached to the original rainbow card.  I dropped the whole thing onto the couch, which was the final spot in the treasure hunt.  Gv thought it was pretty exciting to discover that all the pieces magically transformed into a rainbow like that!

What to Watch

I again gathered three great movie selections for G to choose from this evening:  Finian's Rainbow, Darby O'Gill & the Little People, and Patriot Games

Three others I'd considered were My Left Foot, The Crying Game, and The Secret of Kells (a stunning animated work - be sure to watch it, if you haven't already!), but I decided to save those for another time.

We played the Disney movie first, followed by the Tom Clancy flick after Gv went to sleep. 

We also plan to view a couple of the other movies in the near future! 

And that wrapped up our third "trip" together for the year.  It was another huge success and we can't wait to jet off to someplace new next month!

Travel all over the world, without leaving your living room!  Come back each month to see where we head next.  Can you think of any other ideas to add for a trip to Ireland?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox.

Want more?  Check out some of our other trips:

Italy - India - France - Africa  - Switzerland - Canada Greece England Germany Thailand - Russia China - Jamaica Egypt - Mexico - Japan - Brazil Cuba Scotland - Australia - Scandinavia

Love this idea, but want the easy, made-for-you-and-all-you-do-is-print-it version?  Click here to get your own pack and see what inspired me to create this series!

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  1. This sounds like so much fun! Thanks for SB at the Inspiration Spotlight party. Shared

  2. How fun and you just made me really hungry right now. Thank you so much for sharing this over at #bloggerspotlight link and Pin-it Party. I do appreciate it and hope to see you again! Pinned!

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