Our adventures together – Part 5

#FirstDate #FirstDates #FirstDatesIRL #Dating #Kilkenny #CountyWestmeath #CountyWaterford  #AlPastor #Recipe #COVID #LEGO

Due to COVID, I had not been back to California to visit my parents since 2019. Although I could have flown earlier, I was waiting for Aer Lingus to reinstitute their direct flight from Dublin to Los Angeles. In late 2021, they made plans to reopen that route in Mid-May 2022. So, I booked my trip back to SoCal about a month before I met Jeanne.

Because I was going to be gone the last two weeks of the month, we spent the early part of the month doing as many activities together as possible. We took Brownie on a walk up to the base of  Mahon Falls. The Mahon River flows through the Comeragh Mountains in County Waterford.

Lá Bealtaine is the first of May. It is a Celtic festival that celebrates the beginning of summer. Ancient Irish would celebrate by lighting bonfires and the flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around or between bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Bealtaine bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí (fairies).

Jeanne and I celebrated Bealtaine on the hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath. I used to go to Renaissance Faires as an historical reenactor, and the feel of this festival was very much like that. I didn’t know that Ireland had a large hippy community, but they were all present and accounted for on this day. Music was played, dances were danced, drums were drummed, and fires were lit – it was all pretty far out and funky.

And then I went to California for two weeks. It was great to see my family and friends. My mom is a painter, and I have a few of her paintings in Kilkenny. She even sends hand painted cards at Christmas. So, I wanted to bring her and my dad some art, but since I only know how to work with LEGO, I made a mosaic with LEGO Dots. They loved them.

Jeanne was good enough to take care of Brownie and Linc while I was away. And while I missed seeing her, I had missed eating proper Mexican food even more than that! Ireland is great for so many things, but Mexican food is not one of them. One of my favorite Mexican meals is anything containing Al Pastor (usually tacos). Al Pastor is marinated pork. I have not made it myself, but I have found this Slow Cooker Al Pastor that I now have to try!

Slow Cooker Ingredients:

  • ⅔ large pineapple – peeled, cored, and chopped into small chunks
  • 1 small white onion, quartered
  • 1 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, or more to taste
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded, or more to taste
  • 1 dried chile de arbol pepper, stemmed and seeded, or more to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons achiote powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (3 pound) boneless pork loin, cubed

Taco Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, or more as needed
  • 20 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • ½ cup diced fresh pineapple
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ⅔ white onion, diced


  1. Place pineapple, onion, chipotle peppers plus 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce, guajillo chiles, chile de arbol, garlic, and oregano in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add orange juice, vinegar, achiote powder, salt, cumin, lime zest, chile powder, and black pepper. Mix sauce well.
  2. Place pork in a slow cooker and cover with the sauce. Cover and cook on Low until pork is very tender, 7 to 9 hours. Begin heating tortillas 35 to 40 minutes before pork is done.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan over high heat. Cook tortillas one at a time until brown spots appear, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Plate tortillas in stacks of two for each taco.
  4. Shred pork using 2 forks; mix to coat with the sauce. Scoop pork onto tacos using a slotted spoon. Top each with a portion of pineapple, cilantro, and onion.

Jeanne and I texted each other every day. While I definitely enjoyed seeing my family and friends for the first time in 2 and a half years, I was eager to return to my new home and see her again. And she was clearly happy to see me back in Kilkenny too.