Last March I visited Ireland and came away from that trip absolutely loving it and the Irish people. While touring the country, I couldn’t help but notice how similar the landscape was to my home state of West Virginia. I often tell people that Ireland is West Virginia with a coastline. Similar in size, Ireland also sits mainly on limestone rock, which was evident when I toured caves and caverns. Affected somewhat by warm ocean currents from the Gulf of Mexico and Central America, the island country’s southwestern tip supports Palm tree growth, which I found surprising, as I drove around The Ring of Kerry. ipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Kerry
We started off in Dublin for St Patricks Day, then rented a car and drove south west, making stops in Middleton, Cork, Tralee, Ennis, Cong, Athlone and back to Dublin for my flight home. While on this little road trip, I met some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered and will never forget their hospitality. My friends stayed one night in Ashford Castle and I rented a B&B near the small town nearby. While chatting with the owners, I asked where was a good place to grab a pint and bite. They told me where to go in town and asked if I needed a ride. When we arrived at the pub, the B&B owner asked the pub owner if he would drive me back to the B&B when I was finished. I offered to pay, but they would have nothing to do with it. I did leave a nice little tip under the door. Like I said, some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered and a reminder of my West Virginia roots along with the people of The Mountain State. Thank you Ireland, for being like West Virginia and making me feel at home.
Matcha is a type of green tea that is picked very young then ground into a fine powder, which is a bright green. The powder is then whisked into water or almond, coconut milk or whatever. Traditional tea is steeped or infused . I like my Matcha Latte with a little almond/coconut milk! Here’s my recipe.
1.) Good quality Matcha. Japanese is usually best quality. 1 tblsp
2.) Any type of green tea you like. 1 bag/ tblsp
3.) 1 cup of heated almond, coconut milk, a combo, whatever you prefer.
Steep some green tea in about 1/2 cup of hot water, then add the tea to 1 tblsp of the Matcha. Wisk the liquid until most of the Matcha dissolves and you see a slightly frothy top. At this point you can add whatever you want to sweeten the Matcha and wisk again. Add the warmed cup of almond milk and wisk one more time and you should get a beautiful green color with a frothy top.
Please enjoy your Green Tea infused Matcha Latte!
Three of my fraternity brothers were on vacation together in South East Asia in 2012 when the subject of birthdays came up in casual conversation. One buddy said to the other, “well, what do you want to do for your 50th Birthday?” The other jokingly said, ” how about running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain? He happens to be an English professor and Ernest Hemingway is one of his favorite authors. They each did a little research on getting to and from Pamplona and while researching, one found affordable roundtrip airfare to Madrid. They consulted each other and planned a trip for July of 2013. Thinking nothing of it, they put the trip out to friends and other fraternity brothers just in case anyone wanted to tag along. The trip consisted of stops in Madrid, Pamplona and Barcelona, Spain, with a little side trip to Marrakech, Morocco (North Africa), (I’ll touch on that city in a future blog), and ending in Amsterdam. The Running of the Bulls is a part of the San Fermin Festival, which takes place in Pamplona from July 6 to July 14 every year. Amazingly, 8 fraternity brothers jumped on that trip and ran that year. Thankfully no one was hurt.
The Fiesta de San Fermin is basically 3 different events which take place over 9 days. The opening ceremonies start at 12 noon every July 6th. Thousands of people gather in the central town plaza in anticipation of the firing of the first rocket and the donning of the red bandanas. This is called, chupinazo, which signals the beginning of the festival. The first bull run, or encierro, takes place the next morning at 8am and run every morning for the next 8 days, honoring Saint Fermin. Saint Fermin is considered a martyr for the Catholic church. He was beheaded in France for spreading Christianity and is believed to have died on September 25th, AD 303. Bull fights take place every evening of the festival, and yes, they are the bulls that ran earlier in the day. Pamplona is a small city of about 200,000 people. Throughout the festival, approximately 2 million people visit Pamplona during those 9 days. I have been fortunate enough to participate in this festival twice and will be going again next month. Make sure you check out the blog on Tuesday July 10th; I’ll be video blogging from Spain, you won’t want to miss that.
The morning of the run starts very early, usually waking up around 6am and making your way to the course. The course is set up by fencing off and boarding up the businesses and buildings, because the bulls run over the cobblestone streets right through the town. The runners show up early to get a good spot on the 8/10’s of a mile long course, which makes it virtually impossible for someone to run the entire course due to the speed of the bulls, (35mph), and the shear number of people on the course. I’ve always said since my first run, ” it’s more of a battle against the sea of humanity, than it is actually running with bulls”. The best $65.00 I’ve ever spent, was given to the guide who walked us through the course before our first run. He told us where to be, where not to be, what to look for, the most dangerous and so called “safest” spots on the course. Nothing is guaranteed, especially your safety. Once you find the section you want to run, the seriousness of what is about to take place sets in as you physically and mentally prepare yourself for an adrenaline rush that is like nothing you’ve ever experienced, unless you’re an adrenaline junkie and used to this kind of thing. Six bulls and six steers are enclosed in a corral at the bottom of the course, waiting for the 8 o clock hour and the firing of the first rocket, which warns all the runners, 30 seconds to start. A second rocket is launched and the bulls are released. Where you are located on the course determines the time it will take for the bulls to get to that section, but it’s the sea of people that start moving and running before the bulls get to you that creates the first obstacle. One has to stand their ground while the sea of people start to run past you and bump you, almost knocking you over. You really have to watch the moving TV cameras set up along wires above the course, because they indicate when the bulls are close. When the cameras are approaching your position, get ready to run, because the bulls are on you quick. The bulls stampede can be heard and felt through the street to your feet; there’s really nothing like it. Some runners have been doing this for years and have experience running right along side or in front of the bulls. The object is to position yourself between the bull’s horns, which gives you maximum adrenaline. I only know this from friends experience, as I’ve not had the opportunity to, “run between the horns”. If you’re lucky, your run will last for 30-50 yards possibly shorter or longer, but the speed of the bull takes over and we humans can’t keep up. What do you do? how do you get away and off the course? Well, you either jump the split rail fence, dive under it, or the bulls run past you without incident, hopefully! Is it dangerous? YES. Could you die, YES.
As Americans, we may be a little weary of this sport because of the brutality to the animal. I will tell you that the Spanish are very proud of their Fighting Bulls. Their lineage can be traced like our thoroughbred horses and it’s a very serious business to the Spanish. They take extreme pride in these animals and will not allow you to disrespect them on the course. No tail grabbing, no striking or slapping the bulls. The bulls are kept moving along the course by men with green shirts and long sticks, which may be used to smack anyone disrespecting an animal. I’ve seen it happen. These bulls live a well respected life of grazing, and reproducing, until they are selected for a run. The bulls life will end in the bullring at the tip of a Matador’s sword and its meat is either donated to a church or sold to local restaurants. I remember having a conversation with a Spaniard about the bullring and its brutality. His answer to me was, ” how do you slaughter your meat in America; do your cows die with this much dignity, pride or respect”? I had no real answer and at that point I understood their long tradition a little better. All that aside, this is truly one of the greatest festivals I’ve ever been to, from beginning to end and everything in between. The energy, the people, the culture is electrifying. The streets come alive at night, with vendors selling everything from photos of the days run, to small trinkets and souvenirs. Nightly fireworks and partying into the early morning seem to be a norm for this festival and I am happy to bring this story and these photos to you.
VIVA SAN FERMIN!
At the thought of homemade almond milk, I’m sure you’re thinking- no way! BUT this almond milk is super easy, goes a long way AND gives you such a fresh almond taste! It’s worth a try!
You will need:
1. Raw Almonds
2. Cheese Cloth (you can find this at Walmart)
3. Fine mesh strainer
5. Vanilla Extract
8. Cinnamon (optional depending on taste you’d like)
Place 1/2 cup almonds into the water, cover and let them soak overnight
Once soaked, wash the almonds and then place them into your blender
Add 3-4 cups of fresh, filtered water into your blender along with a few drops of vanilla extract, 2-3 dates (depending on how sweet you would it).
Blend on high for 30 seconds or until almonds are crushed and let sit for 1 minute
Place your cheesecloth over a fine-mesh strainer (all over a mason jar) and strain the almond pulp out
And just like that, you have ALMOND MILK! Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator (best drank cold)
***Optional: What to do with your almond pulp (meal)? You can make almond meal with it by just baking it on low temp. Almond meal is yummy to add to pancakes for extra protein!
Trying to get turmeric into your diet. Heres a good and simple technique. Here’s what you’ll need:
2 tea spoons of ground turmeric
2 tea spoons of distilled vinegar
In a medium sauce pan fill halfway with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; stir in vinegar and turmeric. Before adding eggs to the swirling water, it’s important to create a whirlpool motion to the water. Crack 1 egg at a time into a small bowl, and gently slide egg into swirling water. This allows the egg white and yolk to stay together.
Gently move your spoon in a circular motion to help the egg whites come together. Repeat with remaining egg. Cook for about 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg and allow excess water to drain. Now your turmeric infused egg is ready to eat. put it on a piece of toast or bacon and toast for a different version of eggs Benedict. Top that off with a dash of cayenne pepper some fresh greens and voila, you have yourself a nice healthy little brunch. Replace bacon with avocado slices for a slightly healthier version.