Friday, 15 August 2014

Liebster Award - Part 2

For the second assignment associated with the Liebster Award,  I am answering the eleven questions posed by Doris from Inspired Follies

1. When do you write your blog posts and how long does it take you?
I have to admit to being a most disorganised blogger and, of late, had been thinking of abandoning it until Doris nominated be for this award. I usually write it in the evenings, after work. The photographs will have been taken in the preceding weeks (or even months) and I wish I could say I spend ages honing and crafting my sentences but I never seem to have time for that.

2. Which television programme/s do you watch regularly?
I watch very little television apart from the news.  I did watch 'Last Tango in Halifax' and 'Portlandia' recently on Netflix and enjoyed both.

3. Describe the last meal you cooked.
Yesterday's dinner.  I'm teaching my son how to cook before  he goes to college so have been looking up inexpensive and simple recipes. I married two recipes 'All-in-one baked sausages with lentils' from Sainsbury's 'One Pot' cookery book with the poser sounding ' Toulouse sausage pul lentil' stew from Donal Skeehan's 'Homecooked'. Basically, it's good quality sausages and chopped  bacon, browned in a pan, and then cooked with chopped carrots, celery, pepper, onion, puy lentils garlic, dijon mustard, red wine, stock, bay leaves, and theme, and seasoning. Very tasty.

4. What is your favourite item of clothing?  The yellow aran cardigan which my mother knitted me when I was a teenager.  It no longer fits me but it means a lot to me.

5. Your all time favourite book and why you have chosen it? That's  like asking a parent of a large family to name their favourite child! I have so many books that I like.   But if I had to choose one (and possibly because I happen to have a photo of it on my computer!) I'd pick 'To Kill A Mocking Bird'.

6. Describe your usual sleep pattern - i.e time to bed up, how many hours, any middle of the night wake ups etc. I usually go to bed around midnight and get up around 8am. I am a sound sleeper although our cat Toffee sometimes wakes me up as he meows outside our door looking for food during the night.

7. Which line from a poem/book/play or famous speech appeals to you most? '
The opening lines of 'A Tale of Two Cities' which still seem relevant today.
'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only

8. The city/town you have enjoyed visiting most? My favourite town to visit is Ballycastle on the north Antrim coast while for city it's a tie between Paris and Rome.

Ballycastle, Co Antrim
9. What is the last film you went to the cinema to watch?
It was so long ago that I can't remember, although I'm guessing that it was the first 'Lord of the Rings'.
We now watch films on tv thanks to Netflix and Apple tv.

10. My current favourite nail polish colour is silver.  If you paint your nails, what colour do you usually choose? Pink

11. If you could award your own Oscar or Bafta to an actor/ tv performer, who would you choose and why?
The Irish actor Brendan Gleeson who brings a wonderful presence to his performances and who also has a great sense of social justice.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Liebster Award - Part 1

Doris at Inspired Follies very kindly  nominated me for a Liebster Award. The Liebster Blog Award is a blogger- to- blogger nomination system which promotes blogs with less than 200 followers. 
The award takes three parts: 
For the first I have to write 11 random facts about myself, then I have to answer the  11 questions which Doris has posed for her nominees and lastly I have to nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 questions. I already  know that I won't be able to find 11 qualifying bloggers who haven't already been nominated but here goes with 11 facts about me.

1. I grew up on a diary farm and I loved cows so much that when I was 8 years old it was my ambition to marry a farmer with a 100 cows.

2. I failed  on that one as I married a former city-dweller.

3. I am tone deaf and am a total  crow - I don't even sing in the shower but I love music.

4. The first book I read on my own was 'The Secret Island' by Enid Blyton.

5. According to Irish folk lore I have the cure for chicken pox as my mother had the same surname as my father before they got married.

6. My favourite cuisine is Italian.

7.  I cannot imagine living without pets - at the moment we have a Labrador called Fudge and a cat called Toffee.

8.  I can speak Irish, Ireland's native language, although not as well as I'd like as it's not widely spoken outside The Gaeltacht areas.  I also studied Italian at school and although I've forgotten most of it, I have enough to get by on holidays.

9. My favourite place to holiday abroad is Italy while my favourite place for holidays at  home is the north Antrim Coast.

10. I haven't  kissed The Blarney Stone and have no desire to do so.

11. Photography is a passion and I rarely go out without a camera. Of course, when I do, I usually  spot a great missed photo opportunity! I do a photo a day (almost) project  on the photo sharing site 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Catching Up

Summer has been most delightful so far this year.  Lots of sunshine, warm days and bright evenings. It's  been the ideal summer for holidaying at home, for enjoying the Irish countryside, for spending time in the garden and going for evening walks.
I've been neglecting my blog because it seems a shame to sit  indoors at a computer when I could be enjoying the warm sun outside or relishing those special long summer evenings.
So here is a quick collage to catch up with both June and July.

In June I enjoyed the excellent Co Louth Agricultural Show which was held just down the road in Bellurgan Park, we discovered the beauty of Connemara on a short trip to the west coast (which really deserves a post of its own) and the garden began to bloom.
As the warm weather continued in July, I loved spending time in the garden, taking my breakfast out before going to work in the mornings.
The perfect summer evenings enticed crowds to Gyles Quay where local teenagers had great fun jumping off the pier.
Even those days with showers brought their own beauty with rainbows.
The teen is learning to cook in preparation for  leaving home and going to college in September - he treated us to a delicious meal of turkey and mozzarella meatballs.
Doris, who has a very interesting blog over as Inspired Follies  has kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award, even though I've only been an occasional blogger of late. I'm deeply honoured by her nomination and will fulfill the tasks in the coming days. If you  haven't read Inspired Follies, I suggest you pop  over there and have a look.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Chasing Rainbows

I haven't gone away. I've been chasing rainbows.  Finding beauty in a glorious Irish summer, enjoying warm days and bright evenings, spending time in the garden. And just when I think 'this is perfect', I remember that, for countless others, life isn't perfect.  My heart is sad for those families who lost loved ones when the plane went down over Ukraine, sad for the families living under siege in Gaza,  sad for the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, for the Christians forced from their homes in Iraq, sad for the Irish families who lost children in tragedies of unbearable sadness.
Yet life goes on. And there is still beauty to be found in the rainbows which follow the rain. I hope those who are struggling to survive will one day be able to enjoy such beauty once more.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

May I?

May I? Catch up with May, that is. May really whizzed by and I should have had so much to share but life kept me away from blogging for a while.
Having been away for what seems like ages, I'm not sure where to start.
May was something of a mixed bag weather wise (you see, us Irish always like to talk  about the weather) with warm sunshine and heavy rain. The flowers really appreciated this and the garden
looked lovely with a profusion of apple blossoms on the old trees and heavenly scented lilacs.
May was the  month that Dundalk turned pink as the town welcomed the Giro D'Italia Big Start.
For weeks beforehand, shops, restaurants, and pubs turned pink in preparation for the famous race passing through town.
May was also the month that our son finished his art course and had his work included in the end of year exhibition - he's off to art college in September.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Vantastival At Bellurgan Park

May is almost over and I'm only now catching up on blog posts. As fate would have it, I had plenty to blog about but no time to sit down and create posts.
Vantastival took place in the wonderful setting of Bellurgan Park over the May Bank Holiday weekend.   Just down the road from where I live, it means I can enjoy all the fun of a music festival yet come home to the comforts of home cooking and a warm bed.

It's a family friendly, dog friendly music and camping festival. 
Many came with their   VW camper vans
and had  their own cookout competition
There was lots and lots of music

It's all  very laid back and relaxed
Dogs are welcome
Festival fashion - silly hats and wellies

Art for sale
Late night shopping

Thursday, 22 May 2014

What I Read in April

I am woefully behind with blogging so I'm only getting round to posting my reviews of my April reads.
And I haven't even started my May book which may turn into my June read.

Just as  Roddy Doyle's description of Dublin in 'The Commitments' might have been at odds with what Bord Failte  (the Irish tourism board)  was trying to promote, so too his portrayal of Ireland's fight for freedom isn't one that you'd find in most history books.
The central character is Henry Smart, who right from the moment he is born is a second class citizen and a painful reminder to his mother of her firstborn, the Henry of the title.
Henry grows  up in a Dublin of grinding poverty and slums, of men and women old before their time who find solace in alcohol. His mother never recovers from the loss of the babies who became 'stars'  in the night sky while his one-legged  father is a hitman providing security for one of the city's most popular brothel. Soon Henry and his younger brother are fending for themselves on the streets.
By the time Henry is 14, he's fighting with the Citizen's Army in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising and the description of Dublin under siege is superb. He later joins the Irish Republican Army and becomes one of Michael Collins' right hand men during the War of Independence. Doyle pulls no punches in his account of  the bloody nature of war.  There's a sense of disillusionment  also, as Henry realizes that some of those fighting for Irish independence will, in their own way, become a new ruling class and the rights of the plain people of Ireland will once again be ignored.
Henry's romance with Miss O'Shea is another thread in the story, with the passionate teacher refusing to  remain in the background making tea.
Altogether a most enjoyable and insightful read.
The other book I read was 'French Women Don't Get Facelifts' by Mireille Guiliano, the author of the hugely successful 'French Women Don't Get Fat' and 'French Women for All Seasons.'  If you've read her previous books, you will be familiar with her mixture of anecdotes  and helpful hints, this time repackaged for an older market. Subtitled 'The of aging with style and attitude', the book dishes  out a lot of common sense about eating, exercise, drinking lots of water and a little wine, taking vitamins and planning your wardrope so that you don't end up looking like  'mutton dressed as lamb' as my mother used to say.  There's probably nothing in it that you wouldn't find in magazines but Mireille writes with a beguiling tone and gives advice like an old friend.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Backward Glance At April

April already seems so long ago. Those mostly perfect Spring days have been replaced by a miserable start to May, especially this Bank Holiday weekend.
This year's Spring was particularly pleasant, with lots of blue skies and warm sunshine, and who cared if there were a few showers. Hey, April wouldn't be the same without some rain.
The air was filled with birdsong with a songster in every tree and bush. There was the sweetness of spring flowers - the blackthorn blossom was really spectacular this year, and, of course, the sweetness of chocolate eggs at Easter.
April was also a month of firsts, the first swallow, the first butterflies, the first bees, and the first ladybird, all milestones to be marked as welcome signs that winter was well and truly gone for another year.
We got out in the garden and enjoyed seeing how the work which we had done last year was bearing fruit (figuratively if not literally). Plans were made for new projects for this year  and the pets loved the freedom of joining us  outside.

Friday, 2 May 2014

April Scavenger Hunt

Joining with Greenthumb for the monthly scavenger hunt  once again. Struggled with a couple of images this month but made it in the end!

A is for Abandoned

No one lives in this pretty little village of former workers' cottages

Where  you'll sometimes find me on my coffee break.


Pebbles and sea glass worn smooth by the waves


Fish scales - marinated salmon for dinner

Decorative tiles on a traditional butchers shop in Castlebellingham, Co Louth


Logo on my husband's Fender stratocaster


Traditionally patchwork quilts were made from scraps of material, like this family heirloom.


Matching carving on the gateway to Bellingham  Castle


A path through the gardens of Ballymascanlon House Hotel, Co Louth


Misty layers in the background across the Castletown River as it flows into Dundalk Bay.


Fudge loves to retrieve  his ball and carry it back for us to throw it again and again and again.


I ran out of inspiration for this one when I discovered we no longer had toy trucks in the  house so ended up playing around with this in Picmonkey.

Monday, 28 April 2014

See What I Almost Missed

Isn't this the most amazing sky? Aren't the colours wonderful? And can you see the sun column?
And to think I nearly missed it altogether.
Yesterday after a relaxing (i.e. lazy) day spent in the garden ( reading not gardening), I was catching up on my social media obligations indoors.
I had  uploaded my photo to my favourite photo-sharing site,  Pbase,  and  has commented on photos by my friends over there, I had  planned a long overdue blog post, and while checking my Instagram feed, realised I hadn't taken a photo with my iPhone, even though I'd taken lots of photos with my DSLR. So I walked outside with my phone and saw  the most amazing sunset.
I  just  had time to run back into the house, grab the camera,  and change the lens before the colours started to fade. It was the most beautiful sky with rich pinks and golds contrasting with deepening blues and grays.

It was a timely reminder for  me that it's all too easy to spend too much time in the virtual world and miss out one what's happening in the real world.
And it's not just sunsets that we miss by obsessing with our computers, iPads, tablets, smartphones.
We miss interacting with family and friends, we miss sending real letters  instead of emails, we miss greeting cards with a heartfelt message instead of a hastily composed 'Hope  you have a great day' written in response to a prompt on Facebook. We miss family conversation when everyone is too busy with their own personal device to talk to the person sitting beside them. What's the point of meeting friends if you ignore them because  you are too busy updating  your Facebook status, tweeting or snap chatting?

It's a thorny question I know, as social media is also a wonderful way of keeping in touch with family and friends who live away from home, of sharing photographs and words with friends and strangers, of learning and exploring how others live. I've made some wonderful friends though social media, some I've been lucky enough to meet, while there are others I'd love to meet some day. As the saying goes 'strangers are friends we haven't met' and as far as social media is concerned, that is often true. (Don't worry, I'm fully aware of the pitfalls, especially for young people who may be lured into situations which are downright dangerous).

At the end of the day, it's a question of getting the balance right. These past few weeks, I've decided
that in addition to keeping up with my 'virtual friends', I will also devote time to those friends whom I've actually meet in real life. I'm trying to send emails to those I haven't corresponded with for a while and am making an effort to meet up with those I haven't as often as I'd like.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

On the Road - Part Two

The purpose of our road trip to Cork was so that the teenager could attend an interview at the art college.  Sight-seeing and photography were not on the agenda, or so I was told.
Thus, my only opportunity for the aforementioned pleasures was when the teen was attending said interview.
Luckily, Cork's art college is close by the stunning St. Fin.Barre's Cathedral, so I spent a pleasant while wandering around taking photos.
The French-influenced Cathedral was designed by architect  William Burges who won a competition to build it in 1862. One of the conditions was that the building was not to cost more than £15,000 and he came in for much criticism from  other architects as he didn't include the cost of the towers, spires and carving in his estimate. The Cathedral ended up costing £100,000!
He wrote to the Bishop of Cork (no doubt in response to queries about the budget overrun)  'In the future when the whole affair will be on its trial and, the elements of time and cost being forgotten, the result only will be looked at. The great questions will the be, first, is this work beautiful and, secondly, have those to whom it was entrusted, done it with all their heart and all their ability.'
As the Cathedral attracts many visitors, the answer to both these questions is undoubtably yes.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

On The Road - Part One

I sometimes feel ashamed that the average tourist who comes to Ireland sees more of the country than I have.
While I know our  own wee corner of the country quite well, I haven't seen many of the famous sights which attract visitors from all over the world to our Emerald Isle.
And the reason for that greenness - rain- is the very reason why summer holidays are usually spent somewhere around the Mediterranean as we like to get some sunshine with our culture.
Last month, as I took our son and his portfolio around a number of art colleges, I also managed to do some sight-seeing.
The Rock of Cashel, pictured above, attracts around half a million visitors a year, according to the helpful guide.
Thankfully, March is definitely not high tourist season in Ireland, so we had The Rock more or less to  ourselves, with just a handful of American and Italian tourists all enthralled by the old ancient stones atop a rocky outcrop.
As the wind whipped our faces, it was easy to see why the site  had been chosen, initially as a fortress, as it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside - and any enemies that might be approaching!
Once the seat of the kings of Munster, the Rock of Cashel has been a centre of power going back to the 4th or 5th century AD.
In 1101, the King of Cashel gave the Rock to Church,  and shortly afterwards the first of a series of large ecclesiastical buildings were built  on the site,  including the impressive  round tower.
Cormac's Chapel, currently under conservation, was consecrated in 1134 and is one of the earliest and finest Romanesque churches in Ireland.
The Gothic cathedral dates back to the 13th century with alterations  added in the 15th century. It was used up until 1749. The graveyard  has been in use up until recent times.
Cashel itself seems a delightful town with lots of inviting shops, pubs and restaurants but unfortunately we didn't have time for any further exploration.
It is easily accessed, just a short distance off the M8 Dublin to Cork motorway.