Articles by "Móna Wise, Author at Wise Words - Page 3 of 47"
Sep 8 2014

By the time you read this …… I’ll be gone to work

Posted by     30 Comments    in The Snug

What?

Work I hear you say?

Yes. Work. As in the kind of work that pays in cold hard cash.

But before you get too excited, it’s only a little job, with just a few hours per week, but it sure as heck makes me feel like going back to college for five long years –  was totally worth it.

Today, Monday September 8th, 2014, I’ll start my new job as a part-time lecturer (of Journalism) at NUI Galway.

Exactly five years ago, to the day, I sat in a classroom scared to death of college and learning……and felt like a right eejit for following my dream.

Let this be a lesson to all you dreamers….get your ass out of bed and make it happen. Right now.

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Thanks to the love and support of my Mum and my husband and my siblings and my friends, I have come through shining at the other end. I should also go on record to thank our children who, in their own endearing way have kept me motivated to keep moving forward.

My foot would not be in the proverbial front door of the university were it not for the constant support of my supervisor, who has challenged and supported me for the last five years, and the trust my new boss has in me today. They have already taught me so much, and now they trust I can teach others. No pressure there!

It was not all sunshine and roses along the way and there was at least one, if not two times where I felt sure I was dropping out. But I didn’t quit.

Excited much? Yep.

Totally terrified? You betcha.

Worried you might get fired? Of course.

Any chance at all you might feel even a little bit proud of this accomplishment? Ok…yes, if you insist.

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And before I sign off…this you should know. Having a blog was instrumental in keeping sane while enduring my years of study at NUI Galway.

Meeting new friends, on and off line, and listening to your feedback on all my daft stories propelled me to just keep going. I am certain that my digital profile was studied hard before anyone approached me with this opportunity and I want y’all to know…I love you.

Wish me luck….even though you know as well as I do, none of this can be attributed to the ‘Luck of the Irish’ …. It is all down to hard bloody work.

So…. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go….teaching 2nd yr Journalists a class called ‘The Journalists Web’……

I’m sure there’ll be Tweeting … You can find me @WiseMona and the hashtag is #TeachN’Tweet.

WiseMóna

Aug 30 2014

Blackberry Bourbon Old Fashioned

Posted by     8 Comments    in Kitchen

 

Blackberry Sunrise 2014

My day starts so calmly. The most beautiful sunrises can be experienced in Ireland as soon as Autumn’s first blush occurs. A life-long early bird, I usually stumble out of bed somewhere between half five and six o’clock every morning and assuming there has not been a deluge of rain throughout the night and carried over till dawn … this image above is typical of what greets me daily at that hour. We are noted in these parts for having beautiful sunsets … you have surely heard the song, no?  Well, I think it is high time someone wrote a song about our sunrises too.

Blackberry bush 2

Blackberries have been ripening in our back fields since the last week in July. We have picked and packaged them lovingly in the freezer and have a few more weeks of preserving ahead of us. We will be making chutneys, jams, jellies and lots and lots of pie filling. I think it’s time for a bigger freezer!

Blackberry Cong

We have had an excellent summer. Sure, I was bogged down for several weeks finishing up my thesis for college, but the last few weeks, before the kids went back to school were just bliss. We spent a lot of time traipsing about meeting old and new friends for fun frolics about the countryside and even squeezed in a spot of fishing with family.

Blackberry Beets 2014

Now that the weather has turned, and Autumn is well and truly here to stay, all the colours around me seem richer and filled with flavour. The markets and grocery stores are still heaving and groaning with a bounty of fruit so time to get out and load your shopping basket with it all while it’s still in season. See the next issue of Nuacht Chlair for a gorgeous recipe for a late summer Clafoutis.

Blackberry Clafoutis 2014

Now that you have your ducks in a row and your basket is brimming with berries … I think it is time for a little reward. Earlier today, I shared a photo of a Blackberry Bourbon Old Fashioned .. and was bombarded with emails and notifications requesting the recipe. Here’s the thing guys and dolls, especially when it comes to drinks … if you taste it and like it, its perfect. Keep that in mind when you foray into the world of lovely libations.

Blackberry Bourbon Old Fashioned

Makes one drink (but who likes to drink alone?)

Ingredients

2 oz of Bourbon

2 tsp brown sugar or honey (honey dissolves quicker)

1 Tbsp Blackberries, more if you like the fruit

2 dashes of bitters (I love Rhubarb bitters)

2 slices of orange, saving the rest of the orange for juice

Lots of ice

Method

First, macerate the blackberries in the brown sugar. Dump them into a glass and add the slice of orange and muddle it all together. Drop in a few dashes of the bitters, add your Bourbon and stir. Squeeze the remaining orange juice and stir. Taste and adjust sweetness or citrus as desired.

Fill the glass with ice. All the way to the top. Stir and then drink. Use a spoon to eat all the blackberry bits once you get to the bottom of the glass and always, always, always eat the orange slice. It’s chock full of Vitamin C after all.

One small note to make here. This can be made with Irish Whiskey too and it tastes equally delicious but quite different.

And in a few weeks, I’ll be making the exact same drink only with boiling hot water, to ward of any colds or hint of flu that might be threatening and goes hand in hand with the change in the seasons.

Ok … enjoy every bit. If, like me, you have just surveyed back-to-school chaos, you deserve it. And on a parting note … one more photo to help you settle in to your weekend slumber …. just watch the sunset right outside our door.

Blackberry evening sunset Autumn 2014

 

That’s all for now guys and dolls …

WiseMóna

 

Aug 26 2014

Blog Awards

Posted by     7 Comments    in Kitchen

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I’ve had a little time on my hands these last few days and have put pen to paper – with the help of three terrific Irish Food Bloggers – to give you a little insight as to what kind of work is out there for food bloggers in Ireland today. I know it is a .pdf and this might not be suitable for a lot of you on your mobiles … but it is pages and pages long – a very interesting Q&A with the three bloggers I interviewed. Maybe table it for later … with a glasheen of wine or a lovely craft beer?

Totally worth your time if you are a blogger or especially if you want to hire a blogger to do a bit of writing for you.

The kids are back to school this week on Thursday. I will cherish the silence in my house and I will think of you all, fondly of course, as I resume life as a stay-at-home Mum eating bon bons and drinking excessive amounts of Nespresso.

I’ll be back to blogging on a more regular schedule too I reckon … so brace yourself.

Ok – clicky down below the image for a bit of a read … and feel free to leave lovely comments in the box when you have finished digesting it all. All the nasty comments will be printed out and sent off to be laid to rest on the men’s room floor in the local pub – where they belong.

That’s all I got for now,

WiseMóna

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Click link below for a read …oh and if it brings you to another screen where you have to click the .pdf again…just click it!

Go figure..pain in the ass, I know.

Bloggers and Awards 

Jul 31 2014

Can you cook weeds?

Posted by     2 Comments    in Kitchen

Weeds. They are the most annoying thing, even for gardening experts. Even those with the greenest of thumbs will curse the blasted weeds that – at this time of the year – rule the ridges of the garden or allotment.

Last night I got an email from someone asking questions about the Electric Car we are test driving for Renault Ireland in conjunction with GIY Nation.

Mary from Athlone was asking exactly how much ‘gardening’ has to be accomplished for the 3 month duration of this little competition we are participating in. Mary mentioned I was very fortunate to have a husband who is not only green-thumbed but also very capable of turning all he sows n’ grows into something lovely for supper.

I do like to be reminded on a regular basis how lucky I am, and occasionally I feel like I should remind himself of just how lucky he is. You see – I have a confession to make. I am an absolute nightmare to live with these days.

In the throes of wrapping up a 15,000 word thesis I find myself waging a war with procrastination (hence the excess blogging). I have resorted to extreme measures here guys and dolls – I am sewing. Like, buttons on shorts, darning socks, holes in t-shirts that should be tossed but there are ‘my favourite shirt maaaawwwwmmmm’ … hows that for avoidance?

It is like the last five years of learning how to write and then learning how to be a journalist all comes down to this last bit of writing …. and I’m as blocked as a port-let at the races.

Today, he just got home from work and is, bless his lovely cotton socks that have been bleached white and darned perfectly, going to take the kids to the park to fly their kites … far far away from me and my laptop.

In an effort to show my appreciation of his willingness to give me a few hours of quite ‘writing’ time … I pottered about the kitchen this morning and made a late lunch for everyone.

Nettles 1

This might seem strange that I am even mentioning it .. but truth be told, I’ve done very little cooking these past few months as I have been buried alive in books and newspapers and writing assignments ….

Jack, aged 9: “Mom, can you even cook?” and a slight look of worry overcoming his always hungry little face.

Lulu: “Are you cooking weeds?”

The thing is …. I’m a shocking bad gardener. I do excel in weeding and lawn mowing skills though. But when it comes to green thumbing it .. well, all I usually have to do with the plant or seed in question is ‘get involved’ and it will surely meet its untimely demise.

So now that we have a few GIY projects on the hop, I am finding that I have to work closely with the kids and having a gardner advising us … is no bloody fun. He is also certain I will kill his vegetables.

Today I decided to cook my weeds for our lunch. Just to show that even if I do unavoidably kill all our growing projects….I can still feed the kids a nourishing lunch.

Nettles 2

Nettles are so easy to cook. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil with a teaspoon of salt. Dump nettles into the pot and turn the stove off. Leave for ten minutes. Strain into a colander and remove the largest pieces of the (now softened) stems.

Chop the nettles roughly then add butter, salt and black pepper.

Nettles 3

Now, while this is lovely on its own just like this … I suggest if you are trying to get your kiddos to ingest it, best to add it to the mashed potatoes. They will eat it, they will love it and they will all be back looking for more.

Nettles 4

When I was plating up our lunch earlier today I had trouble making everything look good on the plate and I am a firm believe that if it looks like you made an effort then the complaints from the peanut gallery will be less … so I had slow cooked Pork, which was brown and slathered in a green marinade (horseradish leaves, leek stems, garlic, parsley, nettles) which had turned a dirty looking black green …

Pears cabbage

The cabbage, pears and onions I had cooked earlier too, as a side dish, looks gorgeous when you start off the cooking process, but the reason it is so good (just sautéed onions, cabbage and slices of pears in a little olive oil, salt and pepper) is that once it starts to sizzle on the pan you turn the heat down, cover it and let it cook down to nothing … it even caramelises a bit.

Pears Cabbage slices

But then it goes from looking lovely (like the above) to turning, you guessed it, brown.

So, I had a lot of brown on the plate and was sure, due to the lack of salad on the plate, that the Chefs discerning eye(brow) would be raised .. happy and all as he might be that I had made the effort to cook for him.

So I worked a little harder …

Nettles 5

It reminded me of a couple of blog posts (or maybe Tweets) I had seen a few months back from another busy Mum (Sineád over at Bumbles of Rice). She called them #Barefaced dinners and it shed light on what she served her family for supper every night for a few weeks.

I know from personal experience impression that (as a food blogger) many readers presume us to be eating gourmet food every night. So she uploaded her week of evening meals in photos and encouraged her readers and fans on Facebook and Twitter to join in the fun. At the time I was unable to join in the fun because of a shoddy internet connection … but I have since followed up and read the blog posts.

Food is huge part of our WiseWorld here in Galway. We grow it, raise it, chase it, kill it, cook it and eat it and then we do it all over again. While I do have a chef-in-residence to do the cooking, the flood of photos in my Instagram feed is what sustains us … and I am the one that takes the time to arrange it on the plate…and trust me … I spend very little time arranging.

OK – back to the sewing Thesis writing … and I’m sure I’ll be back soon again as I still have 15 more days to procrastinate!

WiseMóna

PS – in an effort to be truly #barefaced here … Ron decided against the park and kite flying plan because he did not want to fight any #raceweek traffic, so he stayed at home all afternoon with the kids and I have been banging my head against the wall trying to get a bit of peace and quiet around here. Best laid plans and all that ….

Jul 19 2014

How green are you? Renault Ireland Electric vehicle test drive.

Posted by     No Comments    in Reviews


Summer is in full swing here in Galway. Our little city is heaving and groaning under the weight of holidaymakers as they fill and fuel our city for the annual Galway International Arts festival.

imageThis week, we were the lucky recipients of an electric vehicle! It’s only for a three-month test drive period and there is a small competition attached to it. Renault Ireland has teamed up with GIY Ireland and they are working together to help promote the notion of cleaner greener living. Renault has provided electric vehicles to four recipients dotted about the island and GIY Ireland has handed out several growing projects to us drivers and we have all agreed to share our experiences to the best of our ability online and in person.

At the end of the 90 days, one lucky driver will get to keep their car. Can you say ‘in it to win it’?

Needless to say the competition is fierce.

If you want to keep track of it, so you can enter for next year, then link up with them here on their Facebook pages – GIY Ireland and Renault Ireland – and follow them on Twitter @RenaultIreland and @GIYIreland

It is not everyday you get the chance to win a shiny new car!

 

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The first thing we noticed when slinking off into the sunset on day one, and it as just myself and himself, is how deliciously quiet this car is.

No sound at all from the ignition when it starts up…just a little green light indicating it is time to click into drive and ‘Go’.

The range is 80km – 110km depending on:

a. how fast you are going,
b. how much weight you have in the car,
c. if the windows are rolled down,
d. whether or not you are charging your iToys…sheesh…

I was starting to panic after the first 5km thinking we would not make it home across town on a busy mid-week afternoon.

But we did, and then some.

ESB came out to the house a few weeks ago and installed a charging point for us, and we have already seen a massive savings to our weekly spend on diesel as the Renault Fluence costs only €2 per full charge/80km and if you are charging it away from your home…it is free. Yes. No charge at all public access points.

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Our first real jaunt in the car the next day took us from Galway to Rossaveal (80k round trip) as we headed to the Aran Islands (Inismór) for the day on an EcoTour.

The day was lovely and the desire for a cleaner-greener lifestyle is slowly being churned out on the Islands. I’m looking forward to following their progress over the next few months…but that story will have to be a separate blog post.

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As we headed back home we decided to stop at The Twelve Hotel in Barna and met up with a friend of ours for a drink and a chat while the car charged.

Two points to note here:

1. It takes ages for the car to charge. This is not like pouring petrol at the pump guys and dolls. At least an hour for a 1/2 charge. Don’t be in any hurry.

2. The charging points were very easy to find (and easy to use) but guess what? There was another non-electric vehicle parked in one of the charging spots. I did not take a photo of the car/licence plate this time …but I reckon if I come across another one of these I’ll be naming and shaming…..

Once we made our way back to the house, and to be fair we trucked along at speeds of no more than 100k as that is the speed limit on the road, we both felt that this first little jaunt was a ‘safe’ one and we will be a little more adventurous next time….there are several apps to guide us to all the charging stations around the country and I’m on the look out for ‘fast charge’ charging points in Galway. Do you know of any?

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We spent the evening grinding up a bit of Turkey meat now stored in the freezer and I’ll be posting a recipe for Turkey Jambalaya in the coming weeks. With all the birds we raise for the table around here (Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Guinea Fowl) I have to say Turkey has the best flavour and the volume of meat produced from one bird makes raising them very worthwhile.

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Righto….that’s all the news I have for now. We are headed out for the evening to see our friend over at Bía Oisin … He has a few seeds and seedlings to give us for a few of our growing projects. Wish us luck….The kids are already complaining about all the weeding they will have to do!

WiseMóna

Jul 10 2014

Family fun for FREE in Galway – and a chance to win a €2,000 vacation voucher with Aviva

Posted by     2 Comments    in Family life in Ireland

Fun for the whole family and all for free – right here in Galway.

With school holidays in full swing I am guessing that ‘Mom, I’m bored’ is a commonly used phrase in many homes around the island. Keeping a brood of children occupied for eight weeks of school holidays can be a constant challenge. While we are all too familiar with all the activity camps kids can avail of during the summer, coming up with the money can pose as a challenge for many families.

Mushroom seats Knockma

Keeping the budget-conscious family in mind, I met up with Jill Holtz, co-owner of www.MyKidsTime.ie, to get her advice on ‘things to do for free in Galway’ and she was more than happy to recommend a few of her favourite places. Many of them are perfect day-trip locations so get the picnic basket out of the attic and enjoy the summer holidays right here in Galway.

Knockma world oyster kids

A fairy walk at Knockma in between Claregalway and Tuam is a great way to start the summer holidays. The enchanted circular walk through Knockma Woods is magical. It is rumoured that Queen Maeve is buried at the top of Knockma Hill and Finnbheara, the Fairy King of Connacht, is also said to have built his fortress among the moss-covered rocks and trees. There are several fairy forts at the top of Knockma and, on a fine day, the view from the top is gorgeous. Make a stop at the Fairy stall at the Saturday Market in Galway first and bring along a few fairies to surprise and delight the little ones.

Sturdy shoes Knockma

Coole Park, now a nature reserve, is one of those densely wooded walks you can take even in the rain. The paths are well maintained for buggies and there are even (very basic) toilets along the way. Once the home of Lady Gregory, dramatist, folklorist and founder of the Abbey Theatre with William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, Coole Park is one of those places that reminds us of our heritage. Stop down to the lake for a few photos of the swans before finishing up at the Coole Park Museum, and if time allows pop in to their cafe for a bit of Blackberry crumble. Make a creative day out of it with the kids and encourage them to write little poems about their ‘day at Coole’.

A walk in foggy woodlands, leads to the swan-filled Lough of Coole.

A pause in hectic living, a break from work or school.

Nourishing the Mind, the Body and the Soul,

A glimpse of Irish living, the park in which we stroll.

(by Móna Wise)

Have you taken the bikes (or buggies) to Portumna Forest Park yet? Covering almost 450 hectares of land, this is an excellent day out. The forest offers many habitats from lakeshore to turlough and the kids will be able to spot a large population of fallow deer. Other species, pine marten, fox and badger, might be a little more difficult to find but they will have no trouble spotting the red squirrels that also call the forest home. There are four looped trails in the park and one of them (1.4km) is a multi-access boardwalk trail suitable for all. There is also several little bird watching areas so bring the binoculars.

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How about a day at NUI Galway? Start by taking a few minutes to burn off a bit of excitable energy over at millennium park – suitable for all ages with the skateboard area in the back – then make your way, via the new suspension bridge, to the Dead Zoo, located on the ground floor of the Ryan Institute. The animal specimens showcased here can be traced back 160 years.

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Next stop should be a visit to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland on the first floor of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway. This museum is open to the public from 10:00am – 5:00pm (on weekdays only) during the June – September period. If you want a guided tour you should book in advance otherwise you can just walk in and have a look around. Website: www.ComputerMuseumIreland.com

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While still on campus why not take a walk afterwards (or bike ride if you have the bikes with you) all the way up along the river to Dangan sports grounds. There are picnic tables at your disposal or if it is a rainy day you could always pop in to the Dangan Tea rooms for shelter.

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Geocaching has been around in Ireland since late 2003 and the older kids will love this modern day technology-guided treasure hunt. Geocaching is just like a traditional treasure hunt, but instead of using a paper map with an X marking the spot, ‘cachers’ use a GPS to locate the position of the treasure on the earths surface. First, to find out what Geocaching is all about, click on their website at www.GeocachingIreland.com and get familiar with where all the treasures are hidden, then download the Geocaching App, create an account and then get out there and have fun. This is something you can get hooked on very quickly and, as it is a global game, you can even go geocaching on your next holiday. The really cool thing about this activity is that you can connect with your friends too!

Chef Handy geocache

If planning a drive out Connemara way, why not slot in a trip to Coral beach in Carraroe? Also known as Trá an Dóilin, this is an area of great natural beauty. The beach is lifeguarded and has public toilets open during the summer months. There are a lot of rock pools to explore along with good snorkelling and is usually less busy than the city beaches. Even on a rainy day, a walk on the coral sea shore is a real treat. The kids can gather a few interesting pieces to use as a decoration in their room – a lovely souvenir of summer.

Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height! That is entirely possible if you take the kids to Renville Park this summer, or anytime of the year. Whether you decide to walk out along the point or decide to do the inner loop through the woods, making the mandatory stop in the walled in playground, it is highly recommended you spend the day at this park. With built in BBQ’s and on site toilets (port-o-lets right now as they upgrade the loos), Renville is one of those places every family loves to visit and it affords kids of all ages the freedom to ride their bikes, rollerblade, and fly their kites.

Jack Geocaching treasure

Salthill is still a favourite of many families, be they tourists or natives. Aside from the fact that there are immaculate blue flag beaches safe for swimmers of all ages, you can also find three Fáilte Salthill Family Activity Trails available to download (for free) at www.MyKidsTime.com/3-family-trails-to-enjoy-in-salthill-galway. The three trails are designed to make it easier for parents to plan a family day out in Salthill, with each trail being a loop featuring family-friendly activities, restaurants and cafés, shops, nappy-changing facilities and playgrounds. So, find your bucket and spade and head to the shore.

Kids geocaching treasure

Free ‘First Wednesdays’ – The Office of Public Works continue to offer free admission to Heritage Sites managed by the OPW. A list of all sites you can slot in to your exploration calendar can be found at www.HeritageIreland.ie. The Galway locations are well worth a visit and include Athenry Castle, Aughnanure Castle, (Oughterard), Dún Aonghasa, (Inishmore, Aran Islands), Portumna Castle and Gardens and Patrick Pearse’s cottage (Inbhear, near Rosmuc).

While it is virtually impossible to take advantage of an entirely ‘free’ day, a little bit of organisation can go a very long way when planning day-excursions with the family. Packing a picnic and having plenty of bottled water and a bag of apples or fresh raw veggies on hand helps avoid impulse buys to placate a hungry or thirsty child.

 Veggies

You will most likely experience some form of travel costs, whether you have to pay for petrol or use public transportation, so factor this in to your budget too.

Spending more time with the kids, outdoors allowing them limited access to their communication toys, as many of these areas are dead-zones, can give you all a break from the depths of the doldrums most kids sink into by their second day of school holidays. No sense in bailing on your plans if it rains either, just get the wellies and raincoats out and make the most of it.

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We have our health insurance coverage through Aviva and I gotta tell you, I have never had better health insurance; not in the US nor in Switzerland. This summer, Aviva are running a competition to give a lucky family a €2,000.00 vacation voucher and they asked me to share a link to their FB page. Have a peek and throw your name in the hat. You can follow them on Twitter using this hashtag  and @AvivaIreland and the link to their FB page is right here .

For the chance to have family fun this summer, check out this great competition by Aviva Health: You can enter to be in with a chance to win a €2,000 family holiday voucher to celebrate our great offer: Children aged 5-17 cost only €150 on Hospital Focus from 1st August-30th September 2014 – that’s a saving of 58 %!’

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And remember … Sometimes we plan and plan and plan and a lot of times, especially with kids in the mix, things don’t go according to plan. I have found that the less the kids are scheduled during the summer months, the happier they are. Spend time with the kids this summer….focus on them first and the fun will follow.

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AND as I am still trucking along on work placement at the Connacht Tribune they have offered to advertise (for FREE) any events you might have popping up over the summer that cater to the whole family. Drop me an email if you have something exciting happening in your neighbourhood at MonaZWise@gmail.com

Thanks for reading along.

WiseMóna

 

Jul 4 2014

‘SOMM’ at Galway Film Fleadh. Oenophiles take note – two tickets up for grabs!

Posted by     10 Comments    in Kitchen

I am not even going to try to hide the fact that this is a press release down below.

If you are wondering which movie you should go see during the Galway Film Fleadh .. this one is right up your alley if you are working in the service industry or just happen to enjoy your wine. Read all about it … then as long as you abide by the rules down below you can enter a drawing to win TWO TICKETS to see the movie AND thanks to our good friend Peter Boland at Cases Wine Warehouse over on the Tuam Road in Galway, you also will get to drink the wines. Perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening methinks!

I know … I know … I know …. another giveaway … Galway peeps … we love ya …

Galway Film Fleadh

‘Somm Night’: Wine tasting with Master Sommeliers at Galway Film Fleadh

 

The 26th Galway Film Fleadh, in association with wine merchants Cases Wine Warehouse, are delighted to present an innovative sensory screening of Somm, a unique documentary which takes the viewer on a humorous, emotional and illuminating look into a mysterious world—the Court of Master Sommeliers and the massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. This will be the first festival screening of Somm in Ireland.

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On Wednesday 9th July at 8pm, ticket-holders will sample wines as they are discussed on the screen, in the Veranda Lounge of the Radisson Blu Hotel. The screening will be preceded by a brief introduction to the wines from Peter Boland of Cases. Somm has won multiple film festival awards and all the wines set for tasting are top-end examples of their style so the night should prove a thrilling experience for wine lovers and film buffs alike.

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Somm is the story of four friends attempting to conquer an exam with a failure rate of 90% – the prestigious Master Sommelier Exam. This is a test that can cover literally anything to do with the entire world of wine and that’s only the beginning of the challenge! In over fifty years, fewer than two hundred people have ever earned the title of Master and the ones who succeed have risked their personal lives, their wellbeing, and often their sanity to achieve this feat. Known for its secrecy, access to the Court Of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam until now.

Tickets are €30 including wines. Spaces are limited so early booking is recommended. Further information and ticket booking is available at www.galwayfilmfleadh.com.

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AND – the very (very) generous Peter Boland from Cases Wine Warehouse has just given me TWO TICKETS to offer our readers for this event next Wednesday, July 9th, 2014.

Throw your name in the hat by leaving a comment below … the usual rules apply:

1.    You must be a registered reader of our blog – signup here for that and

2.    Tell me why you want to come see this movie

3.   AND also tell me … where is Cases Wine Warehouse?

I will pick the winner at random on Sunday evening (July 6th) … and that will give you enough time to get your ducks in a row.

Thats it for now folks … may the 4th be with you … sorry … could not resist …’tis the 4th of July after all!

WiseMóna

Jun 26 2014

{Giveaway} Thai Garden in #Galway #review #giveaway

Posted by     10 Comments    in Reviews

Thai Garden

Spanish Arch, Galway

(091) 567 865

Earlier this year – the folks from Thai Garden participated in the Galway Food Fest.

Watch their little video here. It is just gorgeous.

 

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If Trip Advisor is anything to go by, and let’s face it, they do have some serious clout when researching restaurants and hotels online, then there is no reason not to put Thai Garden on your list of places to eat next time you are feeling peckish in Galway.

A few weeks ago, after having spent the afternoon Geocaching with the kids, we ended up at Thai Garden for supper. Taking the kids to supper in town is not something we like to do often and there are many reasons for this.

The first being that they are still at a fairly rambunctious age with all four of them ranging in age from 8 – 13. The second reason, already cited in the first, is that there are FOUR of them, and the third reason … possibly the ‘real’ reason we leave them at home, is that they are little savages.

I’m not kidding. That whole ‘encourage your kids to eat everything from a young age’ – what a bad bad idea. You end up having kids sit at a table in a restaurant ordering anything and everything – then eating it all and never given the  kids menu a look. This gets expensive. Fast. Multiply it by four and you’ll feel my pain.

 

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They must have felt sorry for us when we arrived as I was trying to hold on to one of the friskier ones by the ear, in order to prevent him from knocking over one of the tables as he tore through the main entrance way of the restaurant right off the Spanish arch, kind of opposite the fast food Mexican joint, Boojum.

As soon as we were seated outdoors – right on the Spanish Arch, they brought us an ice cold bottle of French white wine. Normally I look at the wine label and even glance at the price before sampling … but the sun was shining and the wine, which Tariquet Classic at six euros a glass, was fabulous.

 

Summer spring roll

The menu was a little overwhelming to be honest. They first gave us a menu that was like called ‘Gup Glaam’ which just means Thai Tapas and every single one of the items on that sounded delicious. Ron and the kids were getting antsy so he ordered a bunch of items – most of which I never got to try because (a) they were starving and (b) they were all delicious.

I did manage to try the BBQ Shrimp which had a massive amount of white pepper in the sauce and that was interesting, unlike any BBQ sauce I have ever tried actually, and I’m determined to make it at home myself. Ha ha .. no, just kidding. I am determined to get my husband to make it. I will come back to you with a recipe for it though – it was that good.

Chicken wings

Chicken wings, Calamari, Summer spring rolls ……….. excellent flavours, fresh and cooked perfectly. Each portion all five euros. Well worth it and I’d even venture to say that this would be plenty for any of the smallies in your family. They were overly cautious on asking us about the spiciness of everything – but we assured them we could all handle the heat. Every bite was seasoned perfectly.

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While we were all enjoying our appetizers, the (very attentive) waiter kept coming back asking us for our order. We were intent on just chilling for the evening but I got the impression he could feel the tidal wave of business they were about to get slammed with and he just wanted to get our order in to the kitchen.

Seafood dumplings

We were hemming and hawing quite a bit over what to order and in the end, a little exasperated and I’m sure he would have loved to Reverse Yelp us!, he just asked simply if he should place the order for us. He made a few quick suggestions which included beef, fish, chicken, prawns and the rest of the evening was just glorious.

 Sea bass with chill oil

The above dish, was a family favourite and we will be going back to have this again and again. Fried sea bass with a spicy chili oil. WOW…still licking the fingers here. The only dish we did not care for was the Prawn Pad Thai.

I was sad about this because I love a decent Pad Thai and as far as I am concerned the best on in the city is from Asian Tea house. I think Thai Garden could benefit from popping in to have a bite of theirs and try to improve their own. The noodles were too soggy and the there was no fresh slivers of onions or other fresh veggies and the sauce was just very bland.

But don’t let this stop you from going because everything else was worth going back for.

Deep fried banana

The service staff were zipping all around the place in fervent fashion by the time we were ready to go, and we fully intending to skip dessert and head home, but the kids were tempted by the fried Banana … yes – it was good, and the frozen orange sorbet – which we are making at home this weekend – because it was just incredible.

Orange sorbet

So in a nutshell … this is a grand place to go for supper with your loved ones. The folks there are so nice, and have given me a gift certificate to share with our readers. Dinner for two plus wine.

I’m going to ask you to sing for your supper.

A little rhyme please letting me know why you need a little treat. I’m going to pick the winner so make it good!

Pop over to their Facebook page here and as always, you must be signed up (via email) as a subscriber to our blog. You can do that right here. I will be picking the winner on July 15th, 2014.

Thanks for reading along and brace yourself … Schools out for summer!!

WiseMóna

Jun 24 2014

Bog butter

Posted by     8 Comments    in Kitchen

Bog Butter

Dunmore residents give us the dish on an old delicacy

by Móna Wise

15 June 2014

(Originally published in the Connacht Tribune on Thursday 19th June 2014)

Dunmore Demesne golf club looked fabulous in all its summer glory as I wheeled my way through the Galway countryside last weekend.

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Larry McGuire and Anne Reddington, owners of Galway Goat Farm based just outside Dunmore, had made a recent discovery of Bog Butter and curiosity got the better of me. It was easy tempt me to make the hour long journey out from Galway city to see it, and even taste it.

Butter, it seems, is quite a common thing to find in the bogs of Ireland. Over 274 instances of bog butter has been recorded between 1817 to 1997, and several more since then. A recent find in 2011 of over 45 kg of bog butter found in Tullamore, County Offaly, thought to be 5,000 years old.

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A few weeks ago, when taking a walk down in the bog, Anne’s brother, Michael, happened upon this small wheel of butter and phoned his brother-in-law Larry, straight away. Larry, being familiar with all things dairy, due to the fact that he milks his goats daily, raced down the bog after them to check it out.

“They were gone ahead of me so I tore off in the van down the road after them. I had heard of other people finding butter in the bog, but was curious myself to see this. It looks like it had been wrapped in some kind of leaves, maybe cabbage, and there was lots of moss and maybe a bit of straw wrapped around it too.”

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The tradition of burying butter in the bog dates back centuries with their even being a poem by London poet, William Moffet, written (in 1755) to describe how much a part of every day life this was:

 

“But let his faith be good or bad,

He in his house great plenty had,

Of burnt oat-bread, and butter found,

With Garlic mixt, in boggy ground,

So strong, a dog, with help of wind,

By scenting out, with ease might find;

And this they count the bravest meat,

That hungry mortals e’er did eat.”

 

The reference to garlic comes from the fact that a lot of the butter might have been wrapped in wild garlic, it certainly grows a plenty in this part of the world, but this particular stash had a very mild scent and certainly no trace of garlic essence to be found.

 

“Gurteen, the area where we are now” said Larry, was predominantly poor land years ago, with not much around here except a massive oak forest. The area was hard hit by the famine, and due to there being so much bog land around here, there would have been very poor grazing land for cattle around here, so it is hard to tell why the butter ended up being stored right out here in the middle of the bog.”

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After Larry unearthed the butter, weighing more than a kilo, it was surprising to see how intact the butter still was. The texture crumbled easily enough like a dry waxy cheese, and although quite odourless, it had a mildly rancid flavour, something that can only be described best as ‘really old waxy unsalted cheese’.

 

While some forms of bog butter found are meat based made from tallow, it seems more plausible that this one is dairy based as the colour still leans more towards yellow.

Jack Wise. Age 9. Claregalway

Larry and Anne have a call in to the curator of the Galway Museum in the hopes that they might come out and have a look at it and help them identify a timeline for their find.

 

In days gone by butter was considered a luxury item, and it is really no different today as it is one of those items that carries an ever fluctuating price. In the past, because it was always deemed valuable, that reason alone made it worth hiding. As none of the butter found in recent times in Irish bogs have been known to have salt in them, the best conclusion we can come to is that this was buried, wrapped in leaves, moss and grass, in the bog as the only way of preserving it, pre-refrigeration days.

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The mystery as to why it was buried so far removed from any form of dwellings even ancient ruins, remains a mystery we hope the curator of the Galway museum can answer.

Rori Wise, Age 11. Claregalway.

One thing is certain though, preserving a fabulous food-find right here in Galway is vital to us finding and revealing a lot more of the gastronomic details of our ancestors daily diet.

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Who needs a fridge for butter with the bog nearby?

Our cultural landscape

There are many theories behind the burying of butter. A common tactic in war was destroying the enemies foodstuffs, ensuring a famine, so butter might have been buried for reasons of security and defence, so this find might indicate a sudden attack or flight of the people who stored it.

Another theory is just a practical farming one, in that the cattle were released to graze in greener pastures during the warmer months and the butter was made and stored nearby.

Why the bog?

Peat bogs provide a cold and wet environment with virtually no oxygen circulating in its muddy depths.

The build up of plant materials over thousands of years creates highly acidic conditions making it perfect to preserve many items including food and even bodies. Whilst we have butter in our bogs, many other countries have buried and re-discovered other food products such as eggs in China, ghee (clarified butter) in India, cheese in Italy and even milk in Norway.

Interesting details

A piece of bog butter found in Rosmoylan, County Roscommon, was discovered in wooden barrel with a selection of plants like ‘sedge’, ‘wheat grass’ and ‘hypnum’ a type of moss. All three of these types of plan materials were commonly used by people to stuff their mattresses for bedding, with the Latin word ‘hypnos’ even translating to the mean ‘sleep’. It is lovely to think of the Irish milking maids of days gone by wrapping up their wheels of butter and laying them down in the bogs for a nice long sleep in the bog.

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Thanks for reading – if you are in or around Galway this week, then keep an eye out for this weeks Connacht Tribune on Thursday 26th, 2014. I have a two-page spread on fun activities ALL FOR FREE ….. a cut out and stick on the fridge piece to help keep the kids occupied (and not break the bank) this summer!

WiseMóna

Jun 21 2014

{Giveaway} The g hotel in Galway (review)

Posted by     116 Comments    in Reviews

The G Hotel

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T: +353 91 865200

G Hotel Bedroom

Welcome to the g hotel Ron & Móna – we hope you enjoy your stay” –  That is what the note said when we checked into the g hotel a few weeks ago for a night of deliciousness.

Over the last five years, we have dined at the g hotel a few times, and to be honest, the food has never wowed us. We usually left feeling underwhelmed and certainly not feeling like we had just had a five-star dining experience. I had heard from several of my food-loving friends around town that the food was alright – but nothing to write home about. The national food critics come and go annually it seems and give it great kudos – nice hotel, decent menu, a bit pricey but worth it. So I have carefully avoided writing about it – until now.

The g hotel is the only 5 star hotel in our city and I think they have done an excellent job of selling their brand; everyone knows what it is, and where it is but it has developed a reputation with the locals as ‘pricey’ and even ‘a special occassion’ place.

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There is no question that this place is pricey at €120 per person (a special rate on their website for an overnight accommodation with a three-course dinner & a leisurely full Irish breakfast the following morning) and I am happy to report, if you are saving your pennies for a nice night or two in the West this summer, then look no further. It is worth every penny.

Soft .. sleepy ... slumber

Soft .. sleepy … slumber

The capabale crew at the G Hotel checked us in and guided us to our room in a flash, in the middle of what appeared to be a chaotic Friday afternoon of hotel check-ins.

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After having a mooch around our room, we took the halls and meandered around the hotel trying to get a feel for what Philip Treacy was thinking when he put pen to paper, or brush to easel, when he began designing the look and feel to this funky hotel.

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Bright colours – neon lights and carefully chosen pieces of art decking the halls, walls, and windows throughout the hotel led us to believe that the main objective for anyone staying at the G Hotel should be, quite simply, having FUN.

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Whilst meandering around the lobby, through the grand salon and on past the bar, we stumbled upon the restaurant service crew in the middle of a staff meeting. They were enjoying a sampling of several new menu items …………..

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and as luck would have it, I had my camera surgically attached with me so was able to grab a couple of quick shots of the food and the dining room before the hustle and bustle of the evening took hold.

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The crew were all quite relaxed and were eager to tear into the meals they were drooling over. In typical food blogger fashion I asked them to all hold a plate closer to the window so I could shed natural light on a few of these delectable dishes .. before the sun began to slink away for the evening. They were only too happy to oblige.

Sea bass with prawn Barley risotto

Sea bass with prawn Barley risotto

Shortly after that, we traipsed back up to our room to take a long hot bath in the gorgeous soaking tub then bolted downstairs for cocktails and dinner. We met up with another couple also impossible to please and we all deliberated on menu options for much longer than was necessary. The drinks whetted the appetite … a delicious selection of top shelf Bourbons, flights of whiskeys and the piece de resistence … Galway Hooker – on tap.

Classic Negroni ... excellent choice

Classic Negroni … excellent choice

Our waiter Stephen, who looked like the guy who chose the short straw and got stuck with the worst customers ever, informed us that he was not being punished … he assured us were were randomly seated in his section. One rocky table got us of to a dodgy start (a big pet peeve of mine) but he fixed it in a flash, giving me no reason to start griping.  Attention to detail and the ability to understand customer’s body langauge is a skill many restaurants managers, and customers, wish to see in the service crew.

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One of our dinner guests eats an entirely Gluten free diet and we were all delighted to see that a GF beer featured on the drinks list. It would be nice to see more GF beers on restaurant/bar menus, especially in Galway where there is a higher rate of people afflicted with Celiacs disease. The menu at the G Hotel offers several (I mean way more than any other restaurant I have ever seen) GF items. They even have ‘AGF’ written beside a few items – which means just ‘ask’ your waiter to see if the chef can make it GF. I gotta tell you guys n’dolls … I’m seeing a #hastag already circulating in my head – #GlutenFreeAtTheG

Their willingness to cater to customers who cannot tolerate gluten in their diet, is commendable.

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The food (with or without gluten) was excellent, and a few of the dishes even exquisite. A starter of scallops with pea puree and small pieces of fried black pudding, could only have been improved had their been one more scallop – and no black pudding.

I think now is a perfect opportunity for this to be stated .. the’ black-pudding-on-everything’ days, needs to come to an end. I am not sure which Irish chef thought this was a brilliant idea, as it has been going on for at least 8 years now … but it is time to let it go. Were it to catch on on a global scale, it would have happened by now; It hasn’t. Black pudding’s place is best left at the breakfast table. It otherwise just ruins a perfectly delicious dish. And this is coming from someone who likes black pudding. Imagine how the folks who hate it feel?

Smoked Salmon salad

Smoked Salmon salad

The Kinvara smoked Salmon plate was not only a beautifully presented plate, it had ample (tasty n’ tangy) dressing to go along with it and the Beef Carpaccio (below) whilst looked ah-mazing, fell a little short on flavour but nothing that could not be tweaked in a flash for the next time. I don’t know about you, but when eating raw beef, the holy trinity of raw garlic, olive oil and parmesano reggiano are essential to the success of this beautiful appetiser.

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Moving on to the main event, we had toyed with the idea of ordering the châteaubriand of beef but at €99.00 for two people, we decided to table it for another time. I’m happy to say, that there is no need to splurge … the rest of the choices were fabulous.

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A trio of lamb all teased and tender, tempting my dining mates all to steal a bite from my plate served with buttered and grated cumin carrot and (almost) baby-food like mashed potatoes, could not have made a girl happier. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had Lamb or beef presented ‘3-ways’ on a plate only for it all to taste the same. This was like eating three very different pieces of meat and every bite so memorable I am dying to go back for the exact same dish again.

untitled-59The Fish was no slouch either. Nestled atop a bed of oxtail stew and dressed with small bites of baby potatoes and carrots, the only complaint I heard was a pining for more of the oxtail. Plate licking might have occurred here were it not for our uber efficient waiter Stephen, who reminded me what it was like to experience a high level of 5-star service for the evening. We didn’t need a thing; carefully present but never annoying kind of service.

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The Rib eye (sadly not on the bone) was also a huge hit as was the gluten free fish and chips. It is safe to say at this juncture that all portion sizes were perfect too. Nothing to big or small, enough side dishes/salads to sate us all.

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By the time the tea arrived, in solid sterling silver service pots with fresh Assam tea leaves steeping, we were entering into a food coma. A few sugar addicts jumped on the dessert train and this is something you should save room for too. A GF hazlenut parfait, eaten so fast there is no photographic evidence of it, went down a treat, as did the above Rhubarb dessert. The pastry chef at the g hotel really does know how to make the end of a meal sing.

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The next morning … whilst some laid on in bed for an extra snooze, I stole away to the eSpa for a bit of reflective time – just for me. I am so rarely left alone these days (with four kids, it is nigh impossible to have ‘me time’) so I treasured every second and might make this a regular stop on my ‘places to relax’ in Galway from now on.

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The upstairs relaxation lounge is lovely, to be sure, but the hot stone loungers in the Thermal Spa suite, is where I was able to totally drift back into a second state of slumber … trust me y’all … don’t be waiting for a special occassion. Life is too short. This was a real treat.

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By the time I meandered back downstairs for a lazy weekend brunch, I was delighted to see such a fabulous breakfast menu available to those of us that turn their noses up at the breakast buffets.

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I mulled over my options, but as himself had already ordered off the menu I decided to chance my arm at the buffet and have to tell you, it might be the nicest breakfast buffet I have seen in an Irish hotel (save for the one at Gregans Castle). The only complaint I had here was that they were not bragging about the locality of their food. I already knew the Salmon was from Kinvara … but would have loved to see a little sign stating that.

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Over the last two or three years I have declined so many invites to attend events at The G Hotel because it is difficult for me to stand (or sit) around pretending that the food is great when it is not. But these guys were persistent in their efforts and kept coming back to me inviting me in for this and that. Timing is sometimes very important. We were delighted to have had a very possitive experience and although there were a few things that we could call ‘a bump in the road’ we shared our thoughts (a long letter detailing all that was good and all that needed tweaking) with the management, who were delighted to get the feedback, we are confident that their new menu will attract a whole new line of local customers. The G Hotel is so much more than a special occassion place; It is a vibrant part of the dining scene in Galway.

Pauline Reilly, who has headed up their kitchens for the last few years has moved on to greener pastures, so now the g hotel have a new chef running the show. Paul McDonald, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, has recently taken on the role as head chef at the g hotel. Paul has worked at many fine establishments, including his former role as Head Chef at ‘Wilde’ restaurant in the 5 star Westbury Hotel Dublin, where he worked alongside the hotels Executive Chef, Thomas Haughton.

At just 21 years of age, Paul received his first Michelin recognition, a Bib Gourmand, and that same year was appointed Head chef of Dublin based restaurant, ‘Bleu’. He then went onto work with some world renowned chefs including the UK based Aidan Byrne, the youngest chef in the world to receive a Michelin star.

As a highly motivated, ambitious and passionate chef, Paul’s philosophy is “I like to think outside the box with my food”.  He is focused on continuing to build on the success of the g hotel while engaging with artisanal suppliers in order to source the freshest and best of locally produced foods. In the creative chef’s own words; “I want the g and Restaurant gigi’s to be at the very fore front from every perspective. Essentially, we aspire to design cutting edge dishes that will challenge peoples taste’s and culinary horizons. In addition, we are dedicated to building a reputation for presentation that will mark us as the standard bearer for everything 5 star not only provincially but nationally.”

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And the winner is ……

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Now, down to business and probably the part you have all been waiting for.

How would you fancy a two-night stay at the g hotel for yourself and your bedfellow? As they are slammed busy this season, the giveaway is restricted to mid-week nights but as with a lot of our other giveaways, I always suggest you add on a paid night or two and make a real holiday out of it. Staycation all the way guys n’ dolls. This is just a great way to breakaway to the West for a few days.

First, make sure you are a registered reader of our WiseWords blog … sign up right here and then answer these questions in the comment secion below:

1. Where is the G Hotel?

2. What is my husbands name?

3. Why do you want to come to Galway and stay at the G?

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Play nicely guys n’ dolls … the winner will be chosen at random on July 4th, 2014.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.

WiseMóna

 

 

About Móna
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.
You can find me here
  • Contact Mona
Ron Wise About the Chef
You can't find the Chef here.
You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.

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