going back to my roots, for just a moment…

A couple of weeks back, myself and Bug headed to Dublin for Bloom.

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The last time I was at Bloom, I had a toddler in a buggy and was expecting my second baby, and my mam and nephew came too. I remember thinking that I’d have to come back in more relaxing circumstances because let me tell you its no easy feat trying to get around with buggies, bags and babies.So thats what I did. My little man was great company and my mam and sister joined us for the day. We set off early in the hope to avoid the major crowds, and really when we hauled ourselves out just after 3pm we were glad we did, as the place was absolutely packed. But I must say I came away a little disappointed. I found that there was a lot more commercialism in it this year, which seemed a little bit too tacky, like infomercials, with people demonstrating in that ‘Cilit Bang’ accent how ‘This Super Mop will suck water from your floor like a camel in a desert’ kind of thing ( I really did hear him say that!!!) There were over priced dodgy clothes and handbag stalls, and a few selling plastic junk that was mildly garden related. Regular flower shops and DIY stores were well represented, but really what I wanted was something more natural. Now don’t misunderstand me, if you bypassed that particular area of the festival and headed across to the craft and food arenas, you were into something completely different. Wonderful talent and wonderful foods on show, most with samples, but you’d have to fight your way into those tents, such was the demand. The showgardens were very lovely of course, but way too perfect for me – I’m a permaculture kinda gal and really hate lawns and manicured areas – but thats just me. I liked the Fairy Garden, but only because I wished I could live in it, that it was life size or that I was fairy size – either would suffice. And the Invasive Plants garden grew on me, the concept was very good. We signed up for a years membership with An Taisce and got some sound advice on beekeeping from The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association. And I enjoyed the Community Garden involving Greenside Up, with its ‘yarnbombing’ and plastic bottle cold frame. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

It was only when I got home and had a cup of tea and pondered back over my day that I realised that I had gotten more pleasure from the natural surrounds and environment of Bloom rather than Bloom itself. The magnificent ancient trees of the Phoenix Park, The Walled Gardens with rows and rows of fruit and vegetables, the old building structures, the sounds from the nearby Dublin Zoo. The vast space and fresh air, the birds and the bees – all this wonder right in the middle of the city. To be enjoyed by everyone and anyone, everyday and any day, if only we just stepped outside.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been out of love with Dublin for a long long time. Living now in such a beautiful place, seasonly quiet, very safe and peaceful, I found myself looking on Dublin with distain. I grew up in Dublin, happily I might add, but it started to wear me out. I remembered the library right next to our avenue, where I’d happily wile away hours ‘studying’ ahem….more likely reading Judy Blume or the like, I remembered playing down in the little park beside the old prison wall, having a game of tennis with my best friend against it and just about managing not to hit it right over – but the prison officers always used to give them back to us if we did. I remember hanging out by the Royal Canal and crossing the locks, I remember it being sunny and I remember it being safe.I remember that people used to smile and say hello to you ALL the time,  But not over the last number of years. Maybe its a case of rose coloured glasses, I’m not sure, but it really has changed for me. Its noisy, full of traffic, full of people and then there are the ripped bin bags, the signs of antisocial behaviour dotted all around the outside of pubs and the 24 hour shop, often a bit smelly and very very impersonal. I visit regularly enough but after a couple of days, I just can’t wait to get away again, back here to my haven.

However this weekend was a bit different. After Bloom, we all headed to the Porterhouse North for some yummy food – hot chicken wings, nachos, tobacco onion rings (don’t even ask) and Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer! YUM. My best friend and her little 2 month old called into my parents that night and we sat chatting and catching up and drinking copious amounts of tea and eating a fair bit of chocolate. The following morning, Sunday, myself and my sister took Bug to Blessington Basin Park. I wasn’t sure about it at first, fearing gangs of drunk (or worse) youths just waiting to cause trouble. But no. It was beautiful. And peaceful. The flowers and trees were all in bloom, the football courts were full with young people playing, who stopped when we were walking past with the little man so that he wouldn’t get frightened if the ball hit the rails, the playground was full of children from all places happily playing together, whilst the adults caught up with each other about whatever was important. There was gentle banter with passers by about dogs and weather, and when we went into the basin itself, a little boy offered mine a slice of his bread to feed the ducks. We paid that forward by giving half the slice to a little toddler out walking with his dad. We admired the old black and white beamed house beside the gates, as I remembered going to school with a girl who used to live there. After pausing to look at some wonderful art along the walls, we headed for home and met an old man on a bench with the tiniest dog in the world – Coco – I think he said her name was. She hopped and pipped about and we played with her a while. Picking some bluebells to bring home to nana we stopped for an ice cream and then returned back to the house to pack up. Lunch al fresco in my sisters house – next door to my mams -finished off our weekend. It was a weekend of the Dublin I remembered from old, and I liked it a lot.

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galway girl

Heading to the plane

Heading to the plane

Last Saturday I had to take an unplanned daytrip into Galway. The reason was that I needed passport photos to renew my driving licence, but alas living on an island that has no photo booth (seriously note to self – get photo booth, make a fortune) this warranted a trip to the mainland. Taking a daytrip into Galway on a Saturday from the island is not like nipping into town to do a bit of shopping if you happen to already live in a city! It involves planning.Babysitters, food plans, flight bookings or boat tickets, bus transfers, time constraints, bringing lots and lots of bags or better still a trolley, wearing good comfortable shoes, and having a well charged phone for important phonecalls about any impending incremental weather or how to cook the pasta for the children. You know, the important stuff! And sometimes, truth be known, its just a hassle. Seriously. All that for passport photos! So as I sat on the plane and then on the bus, I thought about all the things I could have been doing at home. But as I sat drinking my cappuchino in the Eyre Square shopping centre just after arriving, I came to the realisation that for the first time in FOREVER, I actually had nothing to actually DO in Galway. Apart from getting my mugshots, I had no other agenda. I didn’t have doctors appointments, I didn’t have to rush around trying to do a million things in the limited time I had. I also didn’t have a baby, either with me or in me for the first time in about 4 years. I had time, me time, and a good chunk of it. And let me tell you, if this is ever the case, then there is no better place to be than Galway!

From the buskers all along Shop Street, right down to the Saturday market which is truly a haven for foodies, Galway just explodes with experiences and emotions. The city has a life of its own. It is full of history. Its poetic. The old fashioned tea shops, the little antique corners, the old pubs, with even older faces sipping coffee and Guinness outside them, the artisan bakeries and the heady aromas from the many restaurants all lend themselves to making Shop Street a feast for the senses.

Saturday Market

Saturday Market

Buskers doing their thing

Buskers doing their thing

So I embraced it all. I stopped to listen to the music. I laughed at the entertainer, dressed like a dog lying on a box, that growled and woofed and howled as people passed. I spent time in the market, smelling all the organic herbs and touching vegetables whilst wondering if my garden would ever produce such goodness. I bought comfrey plants. I bought smelly cheese at Sheridans, the most amazing cheesemongers EVER. I drank some tea.I stocked up on all my health food.And not forgetting a few little presents for my babies. Browsing a charity shop I hit the jackpot – a double Foxford blanket with blue edging – for €10!!!! (I LOVE Foxford blankets. They remind me of bygone days! Simple days. Big heavy wool blankets for warmth.) Lunch at Milano’s pizza restaurant was much anticipated and I savoured every bite. A little glass of wine made it feel special, and a beautiful mint tea finished it off nicely. Funnily I never feel odd having a meal by myself in Milano’s. I feel almost cool! But thats what happens to you when you visit Galway, its makes you feel like you belong, like you’ve all the time in the world even when you don’t, and even though I hail from Dublin, I think there may be a bit of a Galway girl within me.

A few of my favourite things!

A few of my favourite things!

 

greeting the morning aka staying ahead of the game…

This morning, like the last six mornings, I was awoken at crazy o’clock by my 10 month old. She’s normally a great sleeper, but between ‘summer’ colds (I joke, its still like a mild winter here) and some impending new teeth, she’s had some broken sleep of late which means I’ve had some broken sleep. And I don’t do well with broken sleep. So at 4.10am, and 4.20am and 4.33am and 4.55am I resettled her. Now what happens after a session like this is that I tend to fall back into a deep sleep, almost coma like, due to feeling overwhelmingly wrecked, so heavy a sleep that a herd of elephants could cha cha about the bedroom and I wouldn’t flinch. But that sleep is a faker. Its not a real sleep, it’s not a long sleep and its certainly not a nice sleep to wake up from. Which I’ve discovered. Every morning. For the last week. So this last week when my two boys, full of beans at 7 o’clock, came in for hugs, snuggles and indepth discussions about dreams and the like, I’ve been reluctant to wake up. Even though they addressed me at least a million times – ‘mammy, mammy, mammy, mammy’ you get the idea, I just didn’t want to move or talk or read Tractor Ted in the Springtime. I just wanted, needed, sleep!  ‘Go on back into your room for a little longer and play ok’, ‘why don’t you read your book to your little sister for a bit’ or ‘no, its ok, you can jump on your beds, just this once’ and on and on and on. I’m aware I was just prolonging the agony and yet I stayed in bed just that little bit longer, and then I’d glance at the clock – 7.30am  – and the baby was getting a little tetchy, and the boys were starting to annoy each other, so I’d send in a roar, or two, something along the lines of ‘you’re brothers, you should be friends not killing each other’, or ‘don’t upset your sister with all your shouting, I don’t care if you’re being dinosaurs…’ until finally at 7.47am I’d get up, as the mayhem from the next door room had escalated to a dangerous and noisy level. Then I’d herd them downstairs to begin the day. But unfortunately the rest of the day remained an uphill battle. Because I was then in a bad mood, worse than that actually, a bad mood riddled with guilt (for shouting at the children) and of course my moods are instantly picked up by said children, so they were cranky and acting up so I wasgetting frustrated which ended in more shouting. It has been a vicious cycle this last week, and I’ve just had to take myself outside the back door and breathe a bit and then start again. But the problem with mornings like these – rare as they are –  is that not only do they start badly but I end up trying to catch up with the day, for the whole day, pretty much until I fall into my bed at night mentally and physically exhausted from all that chasing! But not this morning!Aha!

This morning, I met the day head on. This morning I got up at 5.30am. Instead of turning over, I decided I had to break the curse of the last few days. So up I got and down the stairs I went. The Quiet Man (my other half who we shall title TQM from hereon in) was having his porridge whilst looking at the weather on the laptop (he works on a boat, the weather is his social media), I whispered hello and went into the kitchen. Popping on the kettle,  I headed back out to the front door and went outside. I stood there watching the sun come up amongst the pillows of grey and white clouds and I greeted it!

Greeting the Sun

Greeting the Sun

Then I took a picture, I came back inside, and I made a tray of scones!

Let me give you a little background on scones. I don’t think there is a family home on this island that doesn’t have their own way of making scones, and you can be assured with every cup of tea you are offered in whatever house you visit, you will also get a nice warm scone with butter and jam. And you just can’t beat a fresh out of the oven homemade scone. My recipe came from Mairead,(an aunt in TQM’s family and a native islander) as I didn’t have any recipes of my own (lets just say before I left Dublin, an omelette would have been the height of my culinary skills). My own aunt uses a recipe from my grandad’s cooking notebook, but i find that Mairead’s one, which I’m going to share with you, produces the most delicious scones.No secret ingredient but I do use our own duck eggs and they are amazing to cook with.

So by 6.30am the house was filled with the heavenly scent of cooking scones, while I had enough time to have some of my Yogi’s ‘Women’s Tea’ (something empowering about that don’t you think) and catch up on some reading in the wonderful dawn silence that encased my house, before my little bundles came looking for me for their hugs, and snuggles and to engage in indepth discussions about dreams! No shouting, no frustration AND there were scones for breakfast! Cycle broken! It would seem that greeting the sun is my way of staying ahead of the game.

Mairead’s Scones

1lb self raising flour

4oz butter

4oz sugar

4oz dried fruit/raisins/sultanas

2 organic eggs (I favour duck)

and enough milk to form a dough.

In a basin,rub the butter into the flour with your fingertip until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add sugar and fruit and mix. Beat eggs and add to the basin(leaving a small amount of egg for brushing over scones before cooking). Then add milk a little at a time, mixing with a knife until the dough forms a ball (you can add a little extra flour if you’ve made the mixture too wet). Flatten dough onto worktop to your desired thickness. I use the rim of a pint glass to make the scones, so out of that recipe above I get about 10 or 11 fairly big scones but you can get more with a smaller cutter, do whatever you fancy. Some days you just need to make big scones!

So pop them on parchment paper on a baking tray and brush with the remaining beaten egg. Into the oven at 180c for 17 – 22 minutes. Judge cooking time based on your own oven as like children, every one is different! Make a cup of tea and enjoy!

Big Scones

Big Scones