Monthly Archives: November 2009

Food Monday ~ Parsnip & Roast Chestnut Soup

Parsnip & Roast Chestnut Soup

Preheat the oven to 200°C

  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cooking Oil
  • 2 lbs Parsnips
  • 2-3 pints Vegetable Stock
  • ½ lb Chestnuts
  • Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
  • Grated Root Ginger
  • Swirl of Cream to garnish

Place the Chestnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.Chop up very finely.Cook onions in a large pan with a little oil.Dice the Parsnips and add to the pan, coat well in the oil.Add the seasoning and grated Root ginger

Put the lid on the pan, reduce heat and cover for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.Add the Stock and leave to simmer for a further 30 minutes, cool a little and blend in a food processor.When blended add half of the roasted chestnuts to the soup and stir.Serve the soup hot with a little swirl of cream and a sprinkling of Roasted Chestnuts

What time is it?

Sometimes I spend long hours of the night awake in bed.

Usually the radio is switched on at a low drone in the hope it will lull me to sleep.  There are times when a particular voice or article will bring me to full alertness and I become absorbed in a programme.  Once over I am content to snuggle down again and sleep will take over for an hour.

I have tried reading, getting up and walking around, making a warm drink etcetera, but am finally resigned to the fact that three hours sleep are my lot.  Now please don’t suggest I get up and do some physical work.  My day is long enough as it is without turning the night into day too.   I have a friend who will get up and do household chores and then sleep for long hours during the day.  I don’t want that.

Since Tobias came into my life, he stands guard beside my bed to offer some distraction when I become completly restless.   Today was one such day.  Boy, am I glad.  I was flitting about on the net when I heard a ‘ping’!

It was my Elly finally settled into her hotel in Phoenix, Arizona.  It was almost 6am for me yet it was still yesterday for her!  A very long yesterday.  She boarded a plane on the Tarmac at Dublin, Ireland at 10am Irish time, and twenty hours later she had reached her destination and was talking to me online.

In my very young life, when people went to ‘AMERICA’ it would take a week by ship and many were never heard of again.  Unless you were good with the words and the pen…..

My very first job was as a telephone operator in the Dublin telephone exchange.  Calls to ‘America’ had to be pre-booked with an operator and were very expensive.  The operator in Dublin called White Plains Exchange and they dialled the number.  The majority of calls lasted THREE minutes!

Now not alone can I speak instantly to Elly in far off places but I can see her as well.  Thanks to this same process I have spoken to and seen several bloggers that I now count as friends.

The world might be getting warmer… it is certainly getting smaller!


I found the harvesters in the middle of the road.

Cutting Flax.

This time the 3D steel sculptures are to be found on an A8 Belfast to Larne road roundabout, at Coleman’s Corner. They depict and give tribute to the backbreaking work of the flax harvesters working in the fields to gather flax for the nearby linen mills.

These sculptures were designed by Skelton Rainey, the leisure services department designer for Newtownabbey Borough Council.

This roundabout is sponsored by a local business.

Now I will never have the knowledge of Peter Donegan but I can at least try to share some information about Flax:

Flax is the common name for an annual herb of the Linaceae family, especially members of the genus Linum, and for the fibre obtained from such plants. The stem varies from 60 to 120 cm in length and consists of fibre bundles lying between the outer bark and a woody core. It requires a temperate, moist climate and good soil to flourish, sown around the end of March, the plant starts to bloom at the end of May. Because it is a ‘heavy feeder’, it cannot be grown on the same land year after year and so it is be rotated with other crops.

Most flax matures in 90 to 120 days and usually is ready in August. There are three degrees in the ripening of the flax grown to make linen: green, yellow and brown. The yellow has proved to be the most suitable for fibre production. Flax that is pulled too early -green – produces very fine but weak fibres. On the other hand, in overripe flax – brown – the stems are strong but brittle but produce too high a proportion of undesirable short fibres (‘tow’). When the flax is yellow, the fibres are long and supple, and therefore ideal for further processing.

Come fly with me

This week it is my turn to torment fellow LBC Members: Ashok, Conrad, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria, & Ramana with a topic of my choice  Marianna will rejoin us in a few weeks time.  So this week my choice is:

A Journey or Journeys


The week passed as in the blinking of an eye.

Over dinner the previous evening changes were made to the travelling arrangements.

I was no longer leaving from the local train station alone, but we were going to drive to Paris, sight-see for an hour or two, meet a friend for lunch and then head to the James Joyce pub at Porte Maillot, where the coach to the Ryanair flights from Beauvais Tillé Airport leaves from and arrives to.

I was returning home to Ireland having spent my days with Elly in Troyes, France around 150 km south-east of Paris She was studying there for a year, the third of a four year University degree course. I was house guest of Martine, her adopted French Mother.

So four of us set out early for Paris with Martine’s daughter at the wheel. The journey was uneventful and we parked the car near Chatelet metro station. Time passed quickly as we wandered and shopped until it was time to meet our friend for lunch

In true French style the service was slow and relaxed, wine loosened our tongues and we chatted and lingered over lunch forgetting the time. Suddenly it was all a rush to return to the car park and collect my luggage, we jumped on the metro at Chatelet destined for Porte Maillot, which is near the James Joyce pub.

The metro station at Porte Maillot is under a massive roundabout (Rotary for my American friends) with multiple exits. It is difficult to find the correct exit at any time, so I was happy to play follow the leader that day. In our haste we actually chose the incorrect exit! Since we had walked great distances underground and climbed several flights of stairs with my luggage in tow, we decided to stay above ground and make our way to the meeting point for the coach.

By the time we walked ran charged along the surface streets and reached the corner, it was just in time to see the coach pulling away! 😡

Map of Paris Locations.


I had in fact travelled to France with a friend. My airline ticket was one of those special offers… two for the price of one. I had offered the other half to my friend who had a daughter also studying in France for the year, but in a different direction to Elly. We had parted on our outward journey at the James Joyce pub, and arranged to meet at the coach stop for the homeward journey. Neither of us had mobile phones back then.  I scanned the coach, but did not see my friend. If we didn’t arrive for the flight, then it was a full price ticket for each of us…

“Taxi.  What about a taxi!” I said. There was a rank around the corner, so we went to check the price. £70 was the best offer with no promise of us making it to the airport on time. At this point Martine took over. She suggested that we forget the taxi and she drive us to Beauvais. Her daughter left us at this point to go meet friends, and we three musketeers headed underground once more.

We hopped back on the metro to Chatelet, to retrieve the car. All through the metro journey my two companions spoke in a rather animated way with hands waving all over the place to great dramatic effect. My French is not good, so I was unsure what exactly was going on. It might have been a discussion on the best route to take, or it might have been an argument about me for all I knew, so I decided silence was the best option. My tummy was churning. I hate being a nuisance to anybody. Here I was spoiling a lovely day and wondering when I would ever get home if the one flight had gone without me.

That took over 30 minutes but it felt like 30 hours, and we only had just over an hour left to get to Beauvais, so no time was wasted as we headed off at speed.


Did I say speed? Five minutes later and we came to an abrupt stop. There were cars everywhere and none of them moving. It was like motorway traffic in the UK on a bank holiday weekend! We were approaching the Peripherique, the M50 (Dublin) or M25 (London) of Paris!

Map of the route we took

If my tummy was churning on the metro, it was rumbling like a volcano now. I sat like a mouse in the back of the car, not wanting to look out the window, but unable to take my eyes off the frozen traffic.

“Petrol”! I croaked. It was all I could manage.

Immediately Elly shouted “Essence”! Pointing to the needle slipping to the empty mark on the petrol gauge.  Suddenly she pointed out a petrol station about six lanes of blocked traffic to our right. Somehow, I have no idea how, but we were on the forecourt filling the car with petrol. I handed a bundle of notes to Elly and she paid for the petrol. We went on our way and soon we were burning rubber once more on the toll road. The tornado in my tummy was beginning to wind down….

The Gendarmes stopped us just as we left the toll road heading for the airport, we were about fourth in the queue. It was enough time for Martine to realise she had no documents, as they were in her daughter’s purse. Elly asked me for my ticket and passport. With much waving of documents and pointing at me in the back seat, Martine & Elly managed to talk the gendarme out of keeping them there, and so we reached the airport building. There was only one plane and it was on the tarmac with engines running. Martine screeched to a stop at the front door. Thank the Lord that Beauvais is a one room airport, Elly shouted to me: “Run for it mum, I will get your case!” I ran in and all the gates were closed, there were very few passengers about, none of them in a hurry. Elly ran in shouting at anyone in a blazer and persuaded them to re-open check-in for me. All the other passengers were already boarded.

A check-in desk was opened for me, I was rushed out onto the tarmac and the steps were pushed back into position and I was allowed on board. I had no breath left, scanning for an empty seat; I saw one about ten rows back. Flopping down into it, I heard a familiar voice… The passenger beside me was my friend!

It took me ten minutes to catch my breath and explain to my friend what happened. So, as we were winging our way back to Dublin, Elly and Martine took a different road into Beauvais for a reviving beer before returning to Troyes by another route.

We managed to reach Dublin Airport on time, and retrieve my car from the long stay car park. We then headed up the road on our three hour drive to Co Antrim and home.

It was a long day, an even longer journey and one I will never forget.

A little dander

I was out shopping the other day in a modern shopping centre.

Look what I found:-

Not a very clear picture taken with my phone.  This little one was leading the animals so gently and carefully as part of a promotion for the switching on of the Christmas lights.

Alas the only trees I saw being erected were cone shaped metal structures covered in plastic greenery and tiny coloured lights.  For me there was nothing Christmassy about them.

I did dally long enough to have a coffee.  The place was small with very few tables.  The coffee was good and so was the music… soft and gentle.  I actually thanked the waitress, as I often do, both for the coffee and the fact that the choice of music had nothing to do with Christmas.

Now I am off to play my music and dance about the room until 3pm.  See you then!

Thursday Special ~Mind my Own Business

I was walking past the mental hospital the other day,
and all the patients were shouting, ’13….13….13.’

The fence was too high to see over, but I saw a
little gap in the planks, so I looked through to see
what was going on…..

Some bastard poked me in the eye with a stick!

Then they all started shouting ’14….14….14’…




Nancy, I think I will wear safety goggles from now on. Thanks for the tip.

Art with My Needle ~ Week 14

Today I fulfil a promise.

Many weeks ago I said I would return to the technique of Carrickmacross lace.

Carrickmacross lace originated in the early 1820’s and its style was inspired by some examples of appliqué lace collected by Mrs Grey Porter while on her honeymoon in Italy in 1816. She was the wife of the rector of Donaghmoyne, a village close to the town of Carrickmacross in County Monaghan.

Mrs Grey Porter saw in the craft a way to provide much needed employment for young women in rural Ireland. She and her maid learned the appliqué technique by copying the Italian work and in about 1820 they established an appliqué lace-making class which attracted a number of young women from the area. Other wealthy individuals in the area followed suit and during the famine these provided a very much needed source of income in the area.

Carrickmacross lace is an applique/cutwork type of lace worked over machine made netting. The lace is made attaching fine organdie to a delicate net ground, with the main part of design outlined in embroidery on both the organdie and net. When this process is complete the excess organdie is cut away revealing the design.  The craft of Carrickmacross lace remained strong, primarily thanks to the St Louis Convent in the town whose pupils continue to be taught the craft right to the present time. Lace makers in the area now produce lace mainly by commission and often for fashion designers.

During the time of the Great Famine in Ireland, when the potato crop failed and thousands died from starvation and fever. A Captain Morant, agent of the nearby Shirley Estate, gave the use of a vacant house in Carrickmacross town as a central school from which designs, instructions and orders for work were sent out so that the lace-making schools made a great contribution to the survival of many families.

To make your own piece of lace you will need:
Tissue paper for drawing the design, net, organdie, tacking tread (use a different colour), couching thread and sewing thread, 2 needles, 4 pins & small needlework scissors.

The design is drawn on the tissue paper and this provides the bottom layer of the sandwich, a layer of machine net is laid as a filling and topped with a layer of organdie.  This needs to be tacked carefully keeping the fabrics bubble free and flat.  Make sure not to cross the lines of the pattern.  The brown paper above is only to hold the sample and to show the layers more clearly.

Bring the couching thread (a thick thread) through to the back of the work secure it with two of the pins, these will be removed later and the end of the thread secured into the work.  This thick couching thread will be used to follow the line of the pattern.  Thread  a hand sewing needle with a fine sewing thread and secure it at the back of the work.  Bring it through to the front of the work and use to make small stitches securing the couching thread along the line of pattern, making sure the couching thread is lying flat and smooth.

Front side of the work

When the pattern is completely worked the edge is worked by making tiny even loops all the way around the piece of work.  Each loop is double stitched to hold it in place.  The centre diamond above is finishes with a selection of hand embroidery stitches.  Then the surplus organdie is cut away close to the couching thread being careful not to cut the stitches.

Back of the work

This is a piece of my work made a few years ago as a wedding gift. I had it framed and carried it all the way to The US.

I hear it is now very much at home in a kitchen in California.


It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

~ Leonardo da Vinci

I Think it is time I ‘went out’ and made things happen! 🙄   I’ll be back when things are sparkling and I am glowing!

Now who will make the coffee?

Food Monday ~ 2 Quick Desserts

We all need a little sweetness in our lives now and then.  I seldom eat a dessert these days, but there is no reason why I should not share some with you.  Today I offer two.

Chocolate coffee pots

Serves 2

  • 65 g dark chocolate broken into pieces
  • 1tablespoon freshly made expresso-style coffee
  • 125 mls crème fraîche

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the coffee.  Place over a small pan of gently simmering water and melt slowly.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Once cool, stir in the crème fraîche and spoon into small dishes or ramakins.


Moroccan Pudding

Serves 2

  • 425mls skimmed milk
  • 1tablespoon caster sugar
  • zest of an orange
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 65g couscous
  • 65g ready to eat dried apricots, roughly chopped.

Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan and add sugar, orange zest, vanilla pod, cinnamon, couscous and a pinch of salt.  heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent sticking.  Add apricots and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes, until the pudding has thickened.  Remove the vanilla pod, chill and serve with orange slices and low-fat Greek yogurt