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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?)
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
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.
That’s all for now guys and dolls …
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,
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 …
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.
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 …
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!
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 ….
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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SHE WRITES, HE COOKS, THE KIDS MAKE A HUGE MESS