I don’t even know where to start.
We have just returned from a whirlwind tour of the midlands (mostly in Offaly and Tipperary) and my head is just spinning.
Several weeks ago my friend Margaret, over at OldFarm in Tipperary, sent out an email to a few Irish Bloggers to see if any of us were interested in seeing what the midlands had to offer a tourist by way of food, gardens, historic buildings and outdoor excursions etc.
Margaret and her partner Alfie (who have a guest house on their 7 acre farm in the midlands) had come up with this idea to help promote their region, with the help of Mid-Ireland Tourism, and assured us there are hundreds of reasons for tourists to stop and smell the roses in the midlands.
With her impeccable hosting and planning skills, Margaret managed to pull off one of the best bloggers ‘mini-breaks’ I have ever experienced.
Should you find a little time to tour these areas, then make sure you plan to spend a night with her and Alfie at their guest house; I can promise you the ‘best’ sleep ever.
Ok – so let’s get down to business then shall we?
We hit the road around 8:25am Saturday morning leaving Galway in our dust and headed east towards Tipperary. By 10:00am we were seated in the (purpose-built in 1889) theatre in Birr, Co. Offaly. Scones and tea were offered as we listened to the team speak with excited passion about the upcoming shows and how vital the theatre is to the community.
We poked our heads into the main hall, treading tenderly on the original Maple wood floors only to find the room full of school kids all piled in there learning how to make short animated films using Lego, their iPads, and an app called StopMotion. The class was taught by a crew from a company called Brick Flicks (out of Dublin). If you have kids, make a note of this website and keep an eye on their schedule because they are doing classes all over the island. Very – VERY – cool stuff.
Our next stop was a quick hop over the hill to the home of renowned landscape gardener Angela Jupe. While the pictures above and below display a glimpse of Angela’s passion and talent for salvaging and restoring an old home and derelict garden to its finest glory, it was she, Angela, who we wanted to while away the afternoon with. Such stories she could tell about her projects, I’m sure.
Angela greeted us at the gates to her gardens and charmed us with snippets of tales from her last ten years ‘work in progress’ at Bellefield House and Gardens.
The weather cooperated while we were touring the gardens, and we all took time to lose ourselves for a few minutes in the reflectiveness of her water feature, one of the newest additions to the gardens.
We then meandered back indoors and had a peek at her self-catering rental cottages. Such luxury. In off-peak season, you can rent one of these cottages for €250 per week (sleeps 4 adults and possibly a kid or two.
My only regret from this part of the tour is that we did not have enough time to sit and chat more with Angela, who had tea and cakes on offer. I am hoping she will take a rain-check on this offer because I can’t wait to go back.
Next on our tour of the mid-lands was the beautifully restored Fancroft Mill and Gardens, owned by Marcus and Irene Sweeney. This dynamic duo have spent the last ten years pouring passion and love into the restoration of the mill. Needless to say, this was Ron’s favourite part of the tour.
As we climbed higher and higher up to the top of the mill, originally built in 1780, you could feel the history of this building oozing out of each crack and crevice. Irene, sharp as a whistle, moved us through the paces without missing a beat and ensured we stuck to our schedule, even though we arrived a wee bit tardy.
As we wrapped up the tour we traipsed through the extensive gardens, created mostly in the 1990’s by previous owner Angela Jupe, we encountered the above tower, which is filled with teddy bears on the top floor to keep the younger visitors to Fancroft Mill and Gardens entertained.
It was easy to leave the stress of the week behind. Meeting people that have poured their time, money and passion into projects like these restores a gals faith in humanity.
Our next stop was at Leap Castle … one of Irelands most haunted homes.
A turbulent and bloody history, used as a fortress, home and tomb. Leap Castle is home to many fascinating and sometimes horrific spirits. Built in the early 1500′s under the supervision of the powerful and warring O’Carroll clan, Leap Castle has been the centre of much bloodshed and brutal atrocities. The castle is currently owned by Sean Ryan and his family. He is right out of a storybook is Mr. Ryan. Taking up a seat by the stove and his stories whirling around the room, we were all eager to experience everything the castle had to offer. Strangely enough, you can feel the depth of death that has occurred inside these walls.
While there was plenty of prettiness to peruse around the inside and outside of the castle, I would say the ‘spirits’ as Sean called them, have a lot of unfinished business and I can see why this place attracts a lot of ghost seekers on an annual basis.
Needless to say, I was still well able to find the prettiness and solace in the nooks and castle crannies …
Well – at this stage we had worked up a thirst and our batteries needed recharging …
For real …this is what a bloggers lunch really looks like. Phones and camera batteries all lined up waiting their turn for a boost while we were treated to a delicious Chicken Caesar salad at Lough Boora Park. Now if you have not been to the midlands in a while, this (especially with kids) NEEDS to be on your list of places to go – even on a day trip. Dotted with picnic tables and plenty of bikes-for-hire and over 50 km of trails, there is acres ad acres for you to explore. Although there is a brand new café onsite for you to enjoy a snack if hunger takes over, you can also pack a nice picnic basket and make a day of it.
Needless to say, after the batteries were all charged, we were raring to go and jumped back into the tourbus ready for the next slice of Mid-Ireland tourism pie.
We were not disappointed! While Birr Castle Gardens (and ah-mazing kids playground to boot) are open to the public, tours of the castle (interior) are not so easy to achieve. Thankfully, as it was the start of the season, the gates were open and we were given a tour of the castle. Dripping in artefacts and, eh, art, the interior of the castle was quite something to behold. But a warning was given at the gate … no photos please …. sigh.
And with respect to the family who calls this castle their home, they graciously opened their doors to us for a private viewing and allowed us to tour and traipse in and out of all the secret entrances and exits of their libraries and music rooms …. the memory of this little visit will suffice.
The end of the touring for our first day had arrived so we all headed back to our respective guesthouses to relax for a few hours before heading back into Birr for dinner where the food was delicious but it was the beer that stole our hearts.
Right before we retired for bed, I asked Margaret, our wonderful hostess, to leave out her French Press and box of coffee for me. Being an early riser, I wanted to make sure I could (quietly) make myself a cup of java and enjoy the sunrise in solace while the rest slept on.
I never saw the sunrise …
I was awoken by the enticing scent of coffee wafting under the bedroom door at 9:00am … yes. 9:00am. I don’t think I have slept past 9am in the morning since my honeymoon – almost 15 years ago.
What.A.Treat. If you just need to sleep … and for a steal at only €35 per night bed & delicious breakfast … book a night away for yourself. Trust me … you will not regret it.
A quick lesson in Bee keeping and honey making from our host Alfie before we loaded up on their fabulous Oldfarm classic breakfast of sausages, bacon, eggs and sourdough toast, we hit the road again for another day of touring around the magical midlands.
First stop of the day was at Memory Lane Antiques and let me tell you, this was the icing on both mine and Ron’s cakes. Holy wow.
First of all, the owner (Breda) had put on a breakfast tea that just outshines any ‘high or afternoon tea’ I have had in Ireland; And I have had some teas. The quality of the baking (all made by Breda and her team) was outstanding and I was only too delighted to hear that they might host a few more ‘Teas’ later in the year. I will be signing up for these and toting along my girls and Mum for sure.
The wonderful thing about this place, aside from the appropriately priced antiques on offer, is the fact that it has an auction house connected to it which is owned by Breda’s husband Conor.
Well, to say himself and myself were in heaven …. was an understatement. We had to be dragged outta there and both can’t wait to go back for their next auction which is scheduled for Saturday April 25th (10am) and you can even bid-online right here from anywhere in the world!
Our very last stop on the #MagicalMidlands tour was a perfect way to round out the weekend of fun and frolics for us bloggers.
While the weather did not necessarily make for a ‘sunning yourself on the deck’ kind of day, we had a lot of fun and plenty of time to just relax and soak it all in.
One of the bloggers, the lovely and talented Regula from Belgium and otherwise well known as MissFoodWise on her gorgeous blog, was celebrating her birthday. Unbeknown to her, Margaret-the-hostess-with-the-mostest who had planned everything to perfection, had asked Ron to bake a special cake to help celebrate her birthday in true mid-Ireland fashion.
Since that weekend, I have been buried alive in domestic chores around the homestead here at Chez Wise and have really enjoyed reading recaps from all the bloggers who attended the #MagicalMidlands weekend away.
You can find a list of all the bloggers who participated right here.
So, if you are wondering how to while a way a few hours, days or weeks during the summer months – there is no reason not to include a few of these places in your plans.
A huge thanks to Margaret and Alfie at OldFarm B&B for hosting us. We enjoyed our visit so much we went back over yesterday with the kids for a bit more relaxing and the kids can’t wait to go back for a week’s holiday later in the summer! Right Alfie?
Ok – now that you have made it this far … here are the details of the giveaway!
The County Arms Hotel has given us a 2-night (weekend or mid-week) giveaway for two including dinner for two on one of those evenings.
All you have to do is first, make sure you are a subscribed reader of this blog – do that right here, then leave a comment in the box below stating why you need a two-night getaway with your loved one!
I will pick a winner on Sunday April 19th, 2015, (in the evening) giving you lots of time to plan your weekend get-a-way!
If you have any other recommendations of places to go and see in the midlands … let me know!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
Thanks for participating in the giveaway – all winners are chosen at random using the PlugIn ‘And the Winner is‘.
Marriage Equality Bill 2015
The Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015 (bill no.5 of 2015) is a proposed amendment to the constitution of Ireland to mandate provision for same-sex marriage. The bill was introduced to the Oireachtas in January 2015 by the Fine Gael–Labour government, which expects both houses of the Oireachtas to pass the bill in time for a referendum to be held on 22 May 2015; all constitutional amendments must be put to referendum.
Voters will be asked whether to add to the Constitution that “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.
A YES vote is supported by the Government as well as all major political parties.
According to polls, provision for same-sex marriage is supported by about 76% of the voters.
The above statistic is fecking AWESOME but only if said voters get out and actually vote!
Have you added your YES Equality 2015 to your profile photos yet? If not, why not? Maybe you can’t find the easy peasy template?
Best response evah …..
I am not going to get up on my soap box on this one guys and dolls … well, maybe just a wee bit … I have A LOT of gay friends and family members. I love them all because they are beautiful, funny, creative, smart and talented humans.
I believe we, as humans, ALL deserve to be treated equally, no matter the colour of our skin or the bedfellows we fall hopelessly in love with.
This is a human rights issue; Stop trying to convince yourself it is anything else.
On that note, and if you dare listen to our national broadcasting radio station these days, a few
fecking eejits folks are feeling the need to phone in and voice their opinions.
The one opinion shared that has had the most impact on me, and my kids because we were listening to the radio on the way to school, was the notion that you just wake up one day and ‘choose to be gay’.
So….I am directing this at anyone who feels that being your – fabulous – gay self, is a choice.
Of all bloody days to wake up and choose to be gay – please do so on Friday May 22nd, 2015 and vote for your (human) right to be treated as an equal.
You can click here for voting information.
I feel it is only right to finish up with a few words from the fabulous Lady Gaga herself and stick this ear worm in your head for the day …. or maybe for the next 7 weeks ….
My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir
There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are
She said, ’cause He made you perfect, babe
So hold your head up,
girl and you’ll go far
Remember guys and dolls … It’s ok to be GAY!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
Have a wonderful weekend! The Chef and I are off to visit our friends at OldFarm in County Tipperary where a weekend of #midireland and #magicalmidlands tourist fun awaits us!
The humble head of Cauliflower.
Mostly roasted with coconut oil, turmeric and a bit of sea salt is how we snack on this vegetable or sometimes just raw to dip in a bowl of blue cheese or ranch dip; it’s a favourite here at Chez Wise.
The beauty of this recipe is that you don’t really ‘need’ a recipe. If you have ever made a stirfry, then you already know how to make this.
- 2 heads of cauliflower, leaves and stalk too
- 4 eggs
- 8 green onions
- 2 hot chilis
- 4 Tbsp Sesame oil
- 2 tsp butter
- Pepper (white)
- Trim the leaves of the cauliflower and set aside.
- Cut the cauliflower up into florets and slice the stalk into large dice.
- Place it all in the flood processor and pule until it looks like rice.
- If you don’t have a food processor, grate the cauliflower on a large box grater.
- (This can be kept wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for a few days and it freezes well too).
- Slice the green onions an fresh chilis.
- Using a wok (or a large pan) add the butter and 4 eggs. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper and scramble roughly for 3 mins on high. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Wipe out the pan, then pour in 1 Tbsp sesame oil.
- Start adding the cauliflower and stir it as it sautés.
- As you add in more cauliflower, add in a little more sesame oil.
- The cauliflower needs the oil to cook.
- It will not harden or crisp up – it just cooks into a delicious bowl of something that resembles rice.
- When the cauliflower is piping hot, add in the green onions and chilis.
- Then add the egg into the mix, one spoonful at a time.
- If you want to add a bit more protein to this meal, you can add it at this point (already cooked) and just allow the cauliflower to re-heat it. We tend to eat it asa veggie dish – because no one notices the meat or fish missing, but have had it with sesame crusted prawns and chicken too.
No one has noticed that there is ‘no rice’ in this stir fry. The kids all go back for seconds.
The nutritional value in cauliflower is high and it is very low in carbs. All in all, this is a humdinger of a dish, not to mention quite inexpensive too.
Basic nutrition details for this brassica:
A 1/2 cup of cooked cauliflower has 14 calories, 1.1 gram of protein, 2.6 grams of carbohydrate, 0.3 gram of fat and 1.4 grams of fiber. The low calorie and carbohydrate content of cauliflower makes it a suitable food for helping your lose weight as well as control your blood sugar, if you have diabetes.
More nutritional information right here
Ok – it’s Monday morning and there is a light blanket of snow on the ground in Galway. The mornings are getting brighter (around 6:45am this morning no lights were needed to find my way to the coffee pot!).
The kids are rambling around the house readying themselves for school and I have a long list of ‘crap to do’ this week – so Monday – let’s be having you!
Have a great week y’all.
Remember me? I know … it has been ages since I dragged you into a long winded story. Life had runneth away with me there for the last few months and I’ve been spending way too much time with these guys ….
We have had a few crazy fun-filled, and much quieter-than-expected, months. Christmas stole in right after my graduation in late November and before we knew it the kids were back to school in January and back out again only last week on mid-term break.
This is the first time in five years where I have had such a nice long break. The kids are happy. The Chef is delighted to have his partner-in-crime more readily available to cater to his whims and fancies … and I am finally able to relax. After five years of studying in college, it has taken me months to just sit down with a nice book and read it without feeling guilty … sheer bliss.
So how is it, with no TV in the house, I have not had more time for writing? Shouldn’t I have loaded up the blog with tons of recipes and stories to keep you up to date on the latest food trends in Ireland and alerted you to the new eateries in the West?
Well, truth be told guys and dolls … I needed the break. I have been blogging since 2007. That is (more than) seven years on the trot. They say a break is as good as a holiday and in this particular case … I have to agree.
The thing that most surprises me about not being a slave to the TV anymore is that we are still bombarded with news. Sometimes it comes wafting in over the airwaves, and if I turn that off its a timely notification on Facebook, or a Tweet that has taken on a life of its own making sure the world knows something is happening RIGHT NOW. And even with all notifications killed and the volume turned off on the phone, I still get updates from the Chef when he gets home or the kids tell me what they read on the ‘school internet’ bless their little hearts.
So switching off, not just getting rid of the telly, is actually vital. The stack of board games has grown and some family members have even been caught reading this at bedtime the day before a big game – especially if Granny is calling over for tea.
A few weeks ago, coinciding with his bedtime, Jack insisted we drag our weary butts outside to just sit and stargaze. The sky was heaving with stars … the cobalt backdrop smothering the countryside and a blanket of stars as far as the eye could see.
If you have ever tried to take photos of the stars (or the moon for that matter) on your iPhone …. you will know that the photos come out like crap … so I asked a buddy of mine, who is clearly very talented, to share a few of his with me for this blog post. Thanks Aidan!
I used to think that to buy a star would all be a bit hokey, to be honest. I was all grown up in my thought process and applied logic to the concept like ‘how can you sell a star’? ….I found this website wwwBuyAStar.ie which is laid out nicely. They have a few different options – like for a kids birthday present, or a wedding gift, a new baby present or, seeing as it is right around the corner, how about a present for your Mum – because all Mums are stars already, right?? (Mother’s Day in Ireland is Sunday March 15th 2015 – mark your calendar now!).
I was explaining it to Jack (who will be TEN on Saturday) when the chef butted in and told him ‘there is no need to buy a star buddy, they are right there for you to see anytime there is a clear night’.
‘Yeah but guys’, and his little hand guiding my face to look at his while he commanded his father’s attention with his other hand, ‘say when you die, and then us kids buy a star for you…….and then when we all die, we can get stars too and then we can use the map to find each other in heaven’.
‘Alright Jack – let’s buy all the stars then darling’.
No logic needed here folks … anyone else want to buy a star?
So, I think I’m going to invest in a nice telescope for him. I am also taking him to the next open night at the Imbush Observatory at NUI Galway (March 11th or 25th 2015).
The School of Physics at NUI Galway and the Imbusch Observatory in Dangan host open nights a few times a year. The open nights will start at 7pm, and there will be an informative hour-long lecture and 3D tour of the universe which will be followed by a hands-on viewing of the sky by night, weather permitting.
Admission is limited to two per person and is strictly by tickets only, on a first come first served basis. All bookings are by email and those interested should send requests to email@example.com
If you have never been, you are in for a real treat!
Tuning out from the (mostly) bad news on the TV, in the newspapers and online is not easy. But I have to say, if the alternative is spending a few evenings in late Winter, bundled up outside with my hubby and kids watching the world go by, star-by-star … it’s a no-brainer for me.
Thanks for all the Facebook birthday love earlier this week guys n’ dolls – another year old and (hopefully) another year wiser folks!
How y’all doing? Anything strange or exciting going on in your life?
Seven years ago, this week, the Chef and I, with two toddlers by our side, packed our bags, left our friends and (restaurant) life and family in Cincinnati, Ohio, behind us for greener pastures in Europe.
We spent a year living and working in Zurich, Switzerland. We lived a block from my brother and the beautiful lake and less than an hour from my sister in the Alsace wine country, France. This was the plan. This was the life. It was going to be fabulous. We would all raise our kids within close proximity of each other … at the time there was only 6 of them and that number has since risen to 12 (eleven in Europe and another one in Canada).
But as luck, or even fate, would have it, we did not love Switzerland and Switzerland did not love us. We were grieving for our friends back in the US and both began to worry that we had made a huge mistake. The eldest, RoriBelle, was nearing school-going age and we began to feel ‘homeless’. We had to face the facts; We had made a bad decision. Was it time to ‘go back home’ to the US?
My Mum finally managed to convince me to move back ‘home’ to Ireland – even if it was just for a few weeks visit. She knew we were heartbroken that things had not gone according to plan. She knew we needed time to heal. She also wanted those grandchildren within her grasp – because at the time (2008) she had no grandchildren living in Ireland and she’s needy like that. Since then, a lot of her prayers have been answered because she now has eight grandchildren living within a ten minute drive of her house. Careful what you wish for Granny .. your kitchen floor will never be clean with this bunch of beautiful brats we have all been blessed with.
Somehow, and under the threat of my Mum’s wooden spoon no doubt, I ended up in college. I never wanted to go. I was certain college was not for me. I have always had a creative mind. Exams, test taking, etc. whilst I did grand in secondary school, was not something I ‘loved’.
I remember, when still in Switzerland, talking to my boss, a lovely tall German lady, and she asked me what my ‘new’ plan was and I told her I was lost. I had no ‘plan B’ and I was just stuck. It’s true.
She said “Móna, self-made people like you always land on your feet”.
She did not mean any harm by that statement, but she, the rocket scientist who was highly educated, reminded me that I wasan employee without a college education. I did not know it then, but it was probably that punch in the gut she delivered, with grace, which propelled me into the university and made me buckle down .. I had to prove to myself and to my family, that I could do this.
Since then, I have achieved lots … the list is not long, but it is interesting and includes writing and publishing a book, winning multiple blog awards (which I have you readers to thank for) a lovely long contract with the Sunday Times, and just yesterday finishing up my Masters in Journalism with first class honours.
For the Americans reading this ….. I know you are thinking 72% seems low … that is because our grading system here is different to yours in the US. So really, a grade higher than 70% is damn near impossible to achieve. Throw in two kids, then add two more (foster) kids into the mix and a job on top of it all .. well, you get the picture.
College is not for everyone. Continuing eduction for a mature student, a parent, is impossibly hard.
It is a life I would not encourage you covet. Not unless you have 100% support from your spouse and your extended family and friends. You will need all of them. At exam time you will need a friends (quiet) spare room to hide in; during visiting lecture series time you will need your so-not-a-morning-person mother to drag her weary butt out of bed to take your kids to school because you have to get in two hours early to just get parking. You will need your partner to cook, do laundry, and entertain the kids by themselves for years and it will almost kill your relationship if you let it …. but it can be done.
The support is there. From your friends, from your family, from your lecturers.
All you have to do is ask for help.
So there you go … what is life if we don’t take risks? There is no guarantees that any of my decisions and risk-taking will pay off. I know this and the chef knows this. But allowing oneself to pursue things that make us happy in life is hugely rewarding – and that in itself makes this journey so much fun.
No sense in putting things on hold guys n’ dolls. …. there will never be a good time to ‘have a baby’, ‘go to college’, ‘look for a new job’, ’emigrate’, ‘move home’.
The time is now.
Now …. about that ‘look for a new job’ bit … any ideas?
Where to start …
One year ago:
Me: ‘Put down that remote’
Me: ‘Turn off the TV’
Me: ‘No you can’t watch cartoons all day.’
Ron: Clutches remote tightly … pretends he does not hear me. He is gifted at that.
Kids: Throw hissy fit … whine, rant, rave , even shed crocodile tears because they can’t watch whatever they want, whenever they want.
Today – it’s been a year with no TV in the house:
Silence. Someone is reading, someone is outside weeding with their father, and a couple of them are playing Yahtzee.
I – am blogging; the kids hate me ‘less’.
I did not make the decision to rid our lives of telly. I’ve never been a fan of the telly box, so it really was not my decision to make. The chef, however, could have been described as a borderline TV addict. When we lived in the US, and worked nights at the restaurant, we just taped or Tivo’d everything we wanted to watch. It was bliss. No ads. Never. We never let the kids watch telly either, just pre-recorded episodes of Dora or The Backyardigans …
When we moved home to Ireland in 2008, Ron started complaining about how awful Irish TV was, and how much he missed ‘real’ TV. I did like most good wives would, and totally ignored him, because unless for the odd episode of Antiques Roadshow or Downton Abbey … I never whiled away my time watching telly. I used ‘college work’ as my excuse to retreat to my room and read or study. It worked out just beautifully.
Then a change was made … we moved house late last summer, and the time came to renew our TV contract. I grumbled a little about what a waste of times and money it was, when all he did was complain about how awful it was. So he made a big decision to just ‘let it go’.
No TV and no internet either. We do have satellite broadband here in the boonies but not anywhere close to streaming speeds … so only get to see Netflix on a rare occasion and it is usually a binge fest watching past episodes of Sons of Anarchy or House of Cards.
So how’s it been?
The answers won’t surprise you:
Jack – aged 9: “Well, I miss my Saturday morning cartoons but I really don’t miss all the ads on telly. I like that Dad rents a few movies for us at the weekends and we go to the Cinema a good bit more too.
Rori – aged 11 – “I miss TV but we get to watch it at Granny’s house! Last year, she let us watch the Late Late Toy Show – we were up until 1am in the morning. Ha ha .. it was legend Mom! I don’t miss watching crappy shows when there is nothing good on. I like having LOTS more books to read.
Sam – aged 13 – “yeah, I miss it. We used to watch Victorious .. and the music video channel .. I miss that, but now that I have more music on my mp3 player it is fine like”.
Lulu – aged 8 – “Yes, I miss cartoons … and miss having a TV but I love all the boardgames we play”
I asked Ron if he was going to sign a contract with Sky to get the TV service back and to my surprise .. he said ‘no’ very quickly. “I really don’t want to pay for mediocre TV. The kids and I are all happy to watch movies I rent from extra vision and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed honey, but I’m reading more now than I have ever done in my life.”
Oh – I’ve noticed alright because he is the kinda husband who has to read passages of a book out loud when he thinks you should listen to what he has discovered.
He is reading a lot more. The kids are reading a lot more and are all playing outdoors a heck of a lot more! There is very little Wii allowance time (less than one hour a week) and they have exhausted their library cards. Only one of the four of the kids still really dislikes reading …. the other three fight over books.
They are reading more. They are cooking in the kitchen more with Ron and they are doing all the weeding and garden projects with him too.
Just today, we were at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in town, at a very cool ‘Build-a-book’ workshop for kids, which the MA students from Lit/publishing and Writing programmes at NUI Galway were on hand to help with, and I told Olivia, the Children’s section media manager I had to frisk my kids when we left because I was afraid they had stolen a few books.
Her response was brilliant: ‘Isn’t it great to worry that they’ll want a book *that* much!
We are spending WAY MORE quality time together. We have always made a point to eat at least one meal together around the table with the kids – every day. There is no annoying noise from the telly. There is chat and talk and conversation and lively debate. Sometimes, there is so much talking all one-over-the-other we have to just wait our turn and marvel at the fact that they are very much present and engaged.
I’ve noticed that anything I need to watch on Telly – Twitter tells me what is happening. If there is a big story breaking, the Tweets guide me to a link and I can catch up the next day on playback … if it is really important – and it rarely is.
So there you have it. Life without the TV is just bliss.
TV viewing robs us of our time, our most precious asset. Even with the internet, the average person watches more than four or five hours of TV a day. That’s 30 – 35 hours a week. That’s a lot of TV. If you get rid of your TV, you can reclaim this time for yourself and you just never know what you might accomplish with a few extra hours a day to play with.
If you are thinking about it – unplug the TV for a weekend. Starting Friday – just go cold turkey. Before you know it, your sunrises will be brighter and you will be finding excuses not to spend time walking along the beach with your loved ones watching the sun go down on Galway bay …
That’s all I got for now folks. I’m kept on my toes these days. Along with lecturing a few hours a week I am also working (freelance) in the Marketing and Communications office at NUI Galway – writing a few articles for their annual Amumni Magazine, Cois Coiribe. This year, the magazine will be distributed via The Irish Times – thats over 120,000 copies of our magazine available to people living on the island of Ireland … on Friday 28th November which is (purely coincidental) the day after my graduation from the MA in Journalism – which, also purely coincidental, falls on (US) Thanksgiving.
This WiseWoman has so much to be thankful for …
But this is the latest task bestowed upon us by our friends at GIY Ireland #GIYNation. They sent us a few seed potatoes and asked us to plant them outside, with the suggestion that we might have spuds for Christmas dinner.
So a planting we did go.
The compost is looking great this year, and this is thanks to the fantastic family of fat worms living in and working the dirt.
The kids got stuck in digging and shovelling as much as they could over onto the new makeshift potato bed. Ron thought it might be a good idea to build a little enclosure around it, still allowing for the rain to seep in at the back, but covering the top and sides to protect it from the wind in the back garden. We also planted the spuds right next to the compost heap so this will help keep that area of the garden warmer during the winter.
Of course, the minute you start any gardening project around our place, there are always a few onlookers … waiting for scraps …
We had to shoo them away because we need those worms …. the ducks were relentless though and spent the latter part of the evening aerating the compost pile for us. They did in turn show their appreciation the next day by laying some of the biggest eggs I’ve ever seen. One of them – a double yolker!
It has taken both of us all summer to get through Dan Barbers’ tome of a book ‘The Third Plate’ and it should be noted that this is a great read. Understanding where our food comes from is becoming more and more important to us as a family and now, monitoring ‘what’ these table birds of ours are eating is our new experiment. Feeding them an unhealthy diet of GMO Grain only means we are eating the same … you are what you eat, right?
We have had a fantastic summer. The kids are all healthy and happy and settled back into school. I am working at the university (part time as a lecturer for the Journalism department and part time freelance journalist) and Ron is still trucking along baking his little heart out at Morton’s of Galway where his Sourdough bread is flying out the door daily.
In another few weeks … I will graduate (late November) and then have a few big decisions to make (again) about the next steps to take … ‘more school’ or ‘get a real job’ are the two phrases tossed about each night around the dinner table …
Any advice or suggestions …. throw them my way please x
That’s all I got for now ….
Stay tuned … the next blog post is ‘surviving one year without TV’ ….
Funny how the time slips by so fast, isn’t it? One minute you are walking along minding your own business and the next minute you are wham! head over heels in love with a man who is just not that in to you.
Well, at least not until you got him drunk on Irish coffees and kept him that way until he succumbed to your wildly Irish ways.
19 years later … he is still here by my side, cooking and feeding our family with so much more than food.
I have just finished judging the finals of the annual Blog Awards, and honestly, bloggers out there, hats off to you all. The very best part of blogging, aside from meeting lots of new friends right here on this blog and then in real life, is discovering all the new voices and talent behind so many new (and old) Irish blogs.
I had some real favourites this year and I can’t wait to see who cleans up at the awards ceremony in a few weeks. Best of luck to you all!
Now, on to the crux of the matter.
A recipe for these excellent little balls of dough stuffed with even more excellent spoonfuls of shredded Oldefarm pork and vegetables.
- For the buns
- 2¼ tsp dry active yeast
- 240 ml milk
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 700 g flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp sugar/honey
- For the filling
- 450 g shredded (cooked) pork (or could use ground (raw) pork too.
- 250 g shredded cabbage
- 1 carrot, diced small
- 1 onion, diced small
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp Sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tsp grated ginger, fresh
- 2 green onions
- 4 garlic cloves
- First .. for the buns
- Heat the milk and oil in a pot until it is lukewarm. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid and let it sit for 8 to 10 minutes – this helps activate it.
- Sift the flour, salt, and sugar together in a bow.. Add the yeast liquid into the flour, mixing with a fork. Once all the liquid has been poured in, knead for 15 seconds until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough – or it will become chewy.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes max. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover, and let it sit for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- When the dough is almost done with its rise, sauté it all together in a pan the ingredients for the filling — pork, vegetables, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, ginger, green onion and garlic.
- Next, punch down your risen dough. Turn it onto a floured surface again and knead for just a few strokes.
- Cut off a ping pong ball-sized piece of dough and roll into a 3″ diameter flat circle.
- Place about a tablespoon of the pork mixture into the circle and fold the dough up around the filling, pinching and pleating until the top is sealed. It doesn’t have to be perfect
- Place the finished buns on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel to keep them from drying out as you fold the others.
- Fill a wok (or pot or rice cooker, depending on what you’re using) with about an inch or two of water and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. After the water has begun to simmer, set the basket over the water, covered, and steam for about 15 minutes, or until buns are resilient when touched and the filling inside is cooked.
- Make sure to refill the water between batches, as it will likely evaporate during the boiling. You may also need to adjust the heat to low as the water boils — a low simmer is all you need.
We did lightly pan fry ours right after steaming, in a toasted sesame oil, and served it with a Korean dipping sauce – a staple here at ChezWise … and Jack, our nine-going-on-nineteen son, can make it with ease.
It is delicious. Give it a try.
Korean dipping sauce
When planning a meal around here, the sauce always has a big role to play in the end result. When we come across a sauce loved by the whole family we tend to keep a jar of it on hand in the fridge and that way, when trying to feed a hungry brood in a hurry, there is one less thing to make. This dipping sauce can be used as a favourite sauce served alongside a plate of wontons, poured over a delicious fried rice or noodle dish, or as the perfect accompaniment to seafood pancakes.
What you will need
236 ml [1 cup] soy sauce 129 ml
115 ml [1/2 cup] water
1 Tbsp brown sugar/honey
1 pinch black pepper
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp concentrated vinegar (Essig essence)
2 green onions, chopped
2 chili peppers
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
How to prepare
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
Store in the fridge in a jar with a tight seal for weeks on end.
We use this sauce a lot here at home. We have basted roasting chickens with it, dipped dumplings in it and it is also an excellent choice for drizzling over a bit of fresh salmon sashimi if you are fortunate enough to have it on hand.
Anyway … it has not all been a bed of roses guys n’ dolls … and there have even been a few times where neither of us knew which way was up or which country we were headed to next.
But we have hung in there and are still working out our differences – every single day of our version of this wedded bliss. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Would you?
A quick reminder for those of you who have been following along … this is how loaded our special day really is.
September 30th was the day we met, the day we got married, the day we opened our restaurant, the day we brought Jack home to live with us and the day we closed our restaurant right before moving back home to Europe.
We have kept it fairly uneventful since then … but I always have a feeling that something significant will happen on this special day.
Another week awaits us and this one brings a new month rolling in with cooler breezes.
Thanks for tuning in x
Wow .. where to start. This journey we are on with the Electric Car from Renault Ireland and GIY Ireland has taken several twists and turns over the course of the summer.
The first thing worth mentioning is … it is still summer here in Galway. Although the air has cooled a wee bit, and the leaves are starting to turn and tumble, the sun is shining, the kids are not wearing coats to school and there is beer n’ BBQing happening in the backyard every evening.
Himself has never experienced anything like it and has been wearing shorts since April. He said it ‘feels like an American summer’. He still refuses to swim alongside us in the sea though … that would be admitting he has now, finally after 6 long years of fighting it, acclimated to his new home.
A few weeks ago, while I was wrapping up my Thesis for college, he was banished from the house two weekends in a row. I had to get my work finished, so he planned a few excursions with the kids and decided to do a little driving experiment to go along with it.
I asked him to document the details because he took the eCar on one excursion and the diesel guzzler van on another outing.
Enjoy the unedited version of my husbands detailing of his little jaunts through the Irish countryside on a quest. Best if you read it with a half Alabama/half Galway accent. And read it slowly … because that is the way he talks … real slow …. like ….
It ain’t about the money…Well, actually, it is.
by Ron Wise
A few weeks ago I started my journey from Galway to Claremorris with a two-fold purpose. The first, was to do a little experiment with the eCar v’s the family ICE vehicle (Internal Combustion Engine) otherwise known as the 3 litre diesel van that sucks the life out of my wallet every time I turn the key in the ignition (which I ran on the same trip the week later).
The second purpose was to find our gander, Pippin, a lady friend. Pippin has become an integral part of our flock management system here at Chez Wise, and lends his watchdog services to ward of stray dogs and greedy foxes, and he also, alongside Pearl the terrier, keeps a watchful eye over all the babies that hatch over the course of the summer.
See short 6 second video here.
The trip from our home in Galway to Claremorris was about 60km so I had to plan accordingly, as we don’t have a fast charge capability with the Renault Fluence. A few phone calls later, we had received the OK from the lovely folks at the McWilliam Hotel to allow me to park the car and charge-for-free in their parking lot, while I spent the day at the Claremorris Country Fair with the four kids, and without my wife … because she was still writing her damn thesis.
Although we had a wonderful experience at the fair, and the kids were well behaved, we did not find a mate for Pippin.
We made our way back to the hotel, loaded up all our purchases of the day and did a quick headcount because Móna gets mad if I misplace a kid …. and we headed home. The cost of the trip, there are back with the eCar was €2.00 – as we charged at home before we left Galway and the McWilliam Hotel, as with all public chargers are all still free.
The following week, still determined to find a mate for my gander, we headed back that same way in the Diesel van. The same trip to Claremorris and back cost just under €15.00
You can see why I love the eCar. It is about the money, well more like the savings.
Having to figure out a way to encourage all the kids to become more involved in the gardening projects this year was a challenge we were ready for. There is a lot of finger-pointing going on and ‘it’s her turn’ etc. but the unexpected side effect of it all, is they have now started to fight over who gets to harvest and eat the goods. The cucumbers are chopped in salads, we have a few late strawberries popping out this week thanks to the Indian summer we are experiencing, and the most recent project assigned to us by the folks at GIY Ireland is to plant a winter crop of spuds for Christmas day.
Rumour has it they will not grow to produce ‘Spuds for Santa’ as the kids have nicknamed it, but all we can do is wait and see.
For now, and especially with regard to driving the eCar for a few months …… we are really enjoying the ride ….
That’s all for this week,
Well, everyone keeps asking ‘Are you going to do a PhD?’ … it seems like the next step doesn’t it?
Hello husband of mine. Please, remember to place the oxygen mask firmly over your mouth first, and take a deep breath before bellowing out your outrage at the thoughts of me even considering this.
Before I allow myself to think about taking on another FOUR LONG years as a student, I decided to ask my good friend Sally McHugh to give me the run down, on what a person needed to do in order to put the wheels in motion, when thinking about applying to do a PhD at NUI Galway.
This is her story and while it is all told in an excellent and very engaging manner, Sally wants you all to remember that this is just her experience. It is meant to help you navigate through what might be entailed when it comes to the grant(s) and application process. I think it is the best guide I’ve seen to date.
Take it away Sally!
I was lucky enough to be recently awarded a 2014 Hardiman Research Scholarship from the College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies at NUI Galway. My journey towards this point started back in 2007 when I enrolled on an evening diploma class at NUIG. Two years later I commenced a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and graduated with a Master of Arts (MA) degree in 2013. I loved my time studying in the university and really wanted to continue researching so I began to think about doing a PhD. Different ideas went through my head over time but it wasn’t until I experimented with different concepts for my MA thesis that my topic fully developed. I hummed and hawed for a long time over whether I would apply or not and it was constantly niggling away in the back of my mind.
Once I decided I was going to go for it, I had to make contact with a supervisor and find someone that would share the same interests as myself. A list of NUIG potential supervisors and their research interests can be found here and that was a good place to start. The next step was to email and arrange a meeting with a potential supervisor and have a chat. Before either of us made any commitments, fully discussing my topic was good for sussing out if we could work together. Once my choice of supervisor had agreed to come on board, it was time to start researching the different funding available and how to apply for the different grants.
During the academic year the Graduate Studies Office run information sessions and these were very useful and helpful for understanding the application process. At the 2013 sessions, the Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr Lucy Byrnes and the Vice Dean for Research, Dr John Walsh, gave all the necessary information on the different scholarships and how to apply for them. They went through the application process in detail and spoke about what is expected in the different applications. They also gave pointers as to what else to add into your application, for instance, have you a vision for something and if so to tell them about it; are you passionate about your topic and if so to demonstrate that passion. This was good advice because often we (I) tend to be more formal when doing applications, but realistically how are those selecting the candidates supposed to know how you really feel unless you tell them? They advised mentioning what position you came in a class, any academic awards you may have won, scholarships, or anything relevant that might make you stand apart from your competitors. Attending these talks and taking everything suggested on-board was vital in preparing a good application.
Before you start the scholarship application itself, you will probably have to write a proposal for the college department you wish to study in. This usually consists of roughly 5 pages (A4) with headings such as Introduction (outlining your research question), Aim & Objective(s), Theoretical Framework, Methodology and Research Plan, Significance of Study /Relationship of Project to Existing Research. Your supervisor may be able to assist you in the drafting up of this document and once it’s done, it will be the foundation for all the scholarship applications that you apply for.
In the academic year the first opportunity to apply for funding was the Hardiman Research Scholarship and the Dr Tony Ryan Scholarship Scheme (your one application is considered for both scholarships). This usually has an annual deadline in late November and those short-listed are interviewed in December/early January. The stipend is €16,000 p.a. and fees are also paid.
The Second opportunity is the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme, more commonly known as the IRC (Irish Research Council). These scholarships have the same funding as the Hardiman/Ryan scholarships but will also pay research expenses up to the value of €2250 p.a. The deadline for this application is usually the end of January. The IRC website gives all the relevant dates including information on other funding opportunities such as the ‘Employment Based Postgraduate Programme’ and an ‘Enterprise Partnership Scheme’.
The third opportunity is the Galway Doctoral Research Scholarship Scheme, usually advertised in March/April but like the other scholarship schemes, is subject to change. These scholarships are for €16,000, but fees have to be paid out of this allowance.
Scholarships are also available under the Digital Arts & Humanities (DAH) structured PhD programme and this year the closing date was in mid-May. Funded by the Higher Education Authority the scholarships are also €16,000 plus fees paid.
More information on these and other scholarships like Bioinnovate and the Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme can be found on the Postgraduate research courses page on the NUIG website. There may be more funding available in the different schools that I’m not aware of, so it’s worth checking that out directly with the schools.
People are notified about the outcome of their NUIG Hardiman Scholarship application in early January as one of the conditions of acceptance is that you also submit an application to IRC, the Irish Government scholarship, and that closes end of Jan/beg of Feb. (all dates are posted on the Postgraduate Research Courses webpage). Although you may be successful in receiving the NUIG Hardiman/Ryan scholarship, by applying for and possibly receiving an IRC scholarship, your IRC acceptance frees up another place for someone else in the Hardiman scheme. The results from the IRC are usually out in late May/June and are available online. Later, they send you some feedback on your application so that you know what to work on if you apply again.
All scholarships are very competitive and so the application process is very important. The approach I took was to be honest, to say exactly how I felt in simple language, to show my genuine enthusiasm and passion for the research, and to explain the importance of the research from my own point of view. I also believed it important to maintain an authentic professional online presence, because although it’s not mentioned on any application forms, you are surely googled at some stage! As you have to include your CV on applications, another good idea is to make an appointment at the NUIG Career Development Centre where a member of staff will sit down with you and work on your CV.
I’m looking forward to beginning the PhD journey and I’m sure there will be many obstacles along the way but it’s exciting to get started (and to get to fill in the blanks below!). I’m hoping it will be a rewarding experience.
Good luck with your application!
Thanks a million for this handy ‘how to apply for a PhD’ guide Sally.
Now … must be time for a cuppa, anyone?
OH – and on a side note. First day as a lecturer went alright. I spoke too fast and tried to cram way too much into a short space of time. Today – I will practice breathing … then talking. Thanks for all the love, support, message and emails. Ye are lovely, really x
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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