Monthly Archives: November 2010

Not my kind of weather.

Bitterly cold.

The ground was like an ice rink.  I went out to test the ground and purchase a loaf of bread.

Had Dr Who called when I was not looking?  Suddenly I had lost a year and was back at the nervous stage of taking first steps.  Four times on my journey I lost my footing.  Thankfully I had a ski/hiking pole and without the rubber ferrule it at least dug into the ice.  For once I will admit to feeling nervous on my pins.  I know the second hip has signs of wear, but if I must have it replaced, I would rather it be by choice and not because of a break.

This getting old lark is no fun! 🙁

Stay warm my friends.  Stay safe.

Food Monday ~ Portobello Mushrooms with Pine Nuts

Portobello Mushrooms with Pine Nuts

Preheat the oven to 200°C
Serves 4

4 Large Portobello Mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
275g jar or canned red pimentos, finely chopped
75g fresh wholewheat breadcrumbs
25g pine kernals, toasted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons low fat soft cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper
15g parmesan cheese, grated

Wipe the mushrooms with damp kitchen towel.  Remove the stalks and scrape out the flesh leaving the cap intact.  Chop the stalks and flesh and place in a mixing bowl.  Brush the caps with a little oil and place in a roasting tin.
In a frying pan, heat the remainder of the oil and the vinegar, fry the garlic and pimentos until tender.  Stir in the mushroom flesh, breadcrumbs, pine kernels, soft cheese, parsley and seasoning.
Divide the mixture between the four mushroom caps and sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until tender.

A Tour of Ireland – Episode 12



The limerick packs laughs anatomical
In space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical. ~Anon

Wait now, wait now a minute… that is not the ‘Limerick’ I wish to talk about!  All this cold and snowy air is dizzying my mind.  It is the County Limerick at the mouth of the River Shannon, and County Clare over on the other bank, that we are concentrating on this week. 😀

Limerick City is only a 15-minute drive from Shannon Airport.   It is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland, and the principal city in the County.  Tourist attractions in the city centre include King John’s Castle (1212) at Thomond Bridge, it houses a visitors’ centre with exhibits on the past and present.  St Mary’s Cathedral was founded in 1168 and is the oldest building in Limerick which is in daily use.

The Hunt Museum, situated in the old custom house, an historic 18th century building in Rutland Street. The collection includes the Antrim Cross (a 9th century bronze and enamel cross), a small sketch by Picasso and a bronze horse from a design by Leonardo da Vinci for a large monument.

There are several walking tours available Angela’s Ashes walking tour of Limerick City, an historical walking tour and boat tours along the River Shannonthe University of Limerick,  and the Treaty Stone.

The Sheelin antique lace museum is where you can see the  two varieties of Limerick Lace. Tambour Lace which is worked with a hook and Needlerun Lace which is worked with a needle.

About 18kms west of the city you will see a signpost for Currahchase National Park.  This was the estate of poet Aubrey de Vere.  The grounds contain fine landscaped gardens and an arboretum as well as a tombstone that marks his pet cemetery.

The southern banks of the Shannon estuary between Askeaton and Aughinish are the most important areas of the water system for wildfowel and waders.  Watch out for curlews, bar-tailed godwits, wigeon, teal and scaup, which are best in autumn and winter.

Foynes is a small town and major port in County Limerick.  It is noteworthy for having been, in the early years of aviation, the last port of call on the eastern shore of the Atlantic for flying boats.  Surveying flights for flying boat operations were made by Charles Lindbergh in 1933 and a terminal was begun in 1935.  The first transatlantic proving flights were operated in July 1937.  Services to New York, Southampton, Montreal, Poole and Lisbon followed, the first non-stop New York service operating on 1942 in 25 hours 40 minutes.  The advent of Shannon Airport made Foynes redundant as a stopping point and the airport closed in 1946.  A museum, The Flying Boat Museum, charting the brief but important history of aviation in Foynes is located in the port buildings.

Glin Castle stands proudly in the middle of its 500 acre wooded demesne the toy-fortress like quality is echoed by its three sets of battlemented Gothic folly lodges, one of which is a tea and craft shop.  The present Glin Castle, which succeeds the medieval ruin in the village of Glin, was built in the late 18th century with entertaining in mind.

The poet Edmund Spencer and Sir Walter Raleigh first met in Rathkeale at Castle Matrix, built in 1440 and so called after an ancient Celtic sanctuary that once occupied the site.

Adare is a delightful village of thatched cottages situated on the River Maigue.
Within the grounds of the Adare Manor lie the ruins of many medieval sites including the castle, a Franciscan friary and two chapels. Adare Manor has been the family home of the Earls of Dunraven since the 17th century. Nowadays it is open as a fine hotel with a championship golf course on it’s grounds. In the village a fine 14 arch bridge spans the River Maigue. Close to the village of Adare the ruins of the 15th century Garraunboy Castle can be seen, once a stronghold of the Faltagh family.

Lough Gur is between the towns of Herbertstown and Bruff. The lake forms a horseshoe shape at the base of Knockadoon Hill and some rugged elevated countryside.  Humans have lived near Lough Gur since about 3000 BC and there are numerous megalithic remains there.

The name of Ardagh is inextricably linked to the Ardagh Chalice


County Clare

We begin with a unique feature of Sixmilebridge is the highly decorated but functional “duck inn” on the O’Garney River, occupied by a thriving population of ducks. The duck inn is a floating raft with glass windows and painted walls. It houses the ducks during winter and is also where their locally consumed eggs are hatched and collected. It forms part of the tourist trail of Sixmilebridge.

Each January, the village plays host to a colourful selection of singers, instrumentalists, dancers and yarn spinners for the Sixmilebridge Winter Music Weekend. This festival was established in 2000 by the Sixmilebridge Folk Club. The event lasts one weekend and has wide-ranging acts and events including French street groups, Irish, American and English singer-songwriters, oldtime bands, stand up comedians, singing and dancing workshops, blues singers and bluegrass bands.

Knappogue near Quin, was built in 1467 it is an example of a medieval tower house. It has a long and varied history ~ from a battle field to a dwelling place.  In the 1920’s Knappogue passed into the hands of a local farmer and fell into disrepair. Luckily, it was purchased in 1966 by the Hon. Mark Edwin Andrews of Houston Texas. He and his wife (a prominent American architect), in collaboration with Shannon Development, carried out an extensive and sensitive restoration returning the Castle to its former 15th Century glory while encompassing and retaining later additions.  The Andrews were the last occupants of the Castle. Shannon Development purchased the Castle in 1996 with the intention of preserving this important building for future generations.

Also near Quin at Craggaunowen, Ireland’s Celtic heritage is brought to life with the complete re-construction of a bronze age settlement or Crannog. A Crannog is a settlement built on an artificial lake island for defence and here at Craggaunowen, “actors” completely re-enlive Bronze Age life as it was. Also to be seen is the “Brendan” boat, a leather hulled boat called a currach in which the famous explorer Tim Sevrin sailed from Ireland to America, re-enacting the Voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator which took place hundreds of years before America was re-discovered by Christopher Columbus.

Ennis is a thriving market town and the principal town of Co. Clare. Its famous narrow streets are dotted with a host of unusual shops and lively bars and restaurants.  Ennis is regarded as the heartland of Irish music; look out for superb nightly sessions, as well as some very lively annual festivals.  Ennis is an ideal centre for touring around Co. Clare and is conveniently located close to Shannon Airport. Whether you’d like to banquet at 15th century Bunratty Castle or explore the wonderful Atlantic coastline and Cliffs of Moher, everything is a short drive from Ennis.

Alongside Bunratty Castle is an extensive folk park, particularly popular with families & tourist. The park reconstructions of historical cottages and buildings, recreating the general feel of the 19th century with a period style village main street. Old tools, furniture and artefacts are displayed, with the village kept alive by some inhabited shops, an old home bakery and peat fires in cottages. Today it is a major tourist attraction along with the castle as it sees thousands of people pass through its gates every year.  Then it might be time to stop off at Durty Nellies to kill a thirst! 😉

The dramatic Cliffs of Moher are Europe’s bastion against the Atlantic Ocean. Over 185 metres of vertical cliffs face the might of the sea. Standing on the edge one becomes very aware of the power and vastness of nature. For those who enjoy bird watching, hundreds can be seen circling the cliffs.

If you continue inland again, you will enter the Burren, a large 260 sq. Km plateau of limestone “pavements” which is widely known for its potholes and caves but only experienced potholers can attempt to explore most of them. The area in Summer is full of rare, fragile and beautifully coloured flowers hidden in the cracks between the slabs of rock. Everywhere there are traces of ancient civilisations, with dolmens, round towers, ancient churches and holy wells to name just a few. The Burren display centre in Kilfenora, details the 350 millions years that has made the Burren one of the worlds more important natural attractions.

24Km from the Cliffs of Moher – just off the N67 are the Aillwee Caves.   Here you can take a 30 minute stroll through beautiful caverns, cross over bridged chasms and pass alongside both a thunderous waterfall and a frozen waterfall. Hibernation chambers of the long extinct Irish brown bear can also be seen.

The Kilfenora Ceili Band has been on the go for ninety-six years.  The band had their humble beginnings in rural community gatherings way back in the 1900s. Their present worldwide success keeps growing.

‘Matchmaking’ has long been synonymous with Lisdoonvarna.* It now hosts an annual Festival during the month of September and it draws singles from all over the world.
Hormones run high during Lisdoonvarna’s Festival, if you wish to attend, do make your plans early because accommodations in the village of Lisdoonvarna fill up quickly.

Some believe any decent match with a real Irish person is better made in the pubs of Ennis or strolling along the beach in Lahinch. In a way, with modern speed- dating and online dating, the Matchmaker Festival resembles a Brigadoon gone terribly terribly wrong. At one time there were 26 pubs, most of them with traditional Irish music.  Lisdoonvarna also has the only natural spa water in Ireland, so visiting it at other times is a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, most of the pubs exact a king’s ransom for the Guinness, but the craic is good.”  So, if you’re wanting to settle for a smile with no teeth or you’d like to meet lots of other lonely travellers, by all means, head on over in September and beat yourselves into a frenzy at the Festival.  There is dancing and horse racing and dancing and dancing. It is a great opportunity for you to mingle with singles from all over the world.

* Did I hear you singing and tapping your toes with Christy Moore?

Now I am off to clear the snow from the road to Galway Bay!

Mind pictures

Yesterday I had an email from Todd & Stephanie, a young couple from Arizona and was reminded of the time that Todd came to stay with me for a few days.  I took him around all the usual tourist spots in Northern Ireland.

One Sunday morning I drove him into Belfast, to Queen’s Island, the abandoned headquarters of Harland & Wolff shipbuilders and the birthplace of RMS Olympic, Titanic and Britannic.  It was before the recent redevelopment work in the area.  I stopped the car near the base of  the enormous Samson & Goliath gantry cranes.  It gave him the opportunity to take some photos.  There were shells of dilapidated warehouses and workshops standing like ghosts on the sides of the silent cobbled street.

When He returned to the car. I sat silent for a few minutes, then when he was settled I tried to paint a picture in words…..

Opening the windows to listen to the silence only broken by the occasional bird call, I quietly talked of the sounds of the shipyard:-

In the 1930s, passenger travel across the Atlantic was conducted almost exclusively by sea. All large ships were being built with steam turbine engines.  A journey by sea from these shores to America would take a couple of weeks.

I reminded Todd that in the heydays of the Shipyard, computers were unheard of and all jobs were manually executed.  The offices had high, heavy wooden desks where draughtsmen (and women  in wartime), sat on tall stools drawing the plans for great liners and workhorses,  The shipyard was busy during WW11, building 6 aircraft carriers 2 cruisers and 131 other naval ships; and repairing over 22,000 vessels. It also manufactured  tanks and artillery components. During this period the workforce peaked at around 35,000 people.

During the working day, shipbuilding was a noisy physical industry.  I suggested he  imagine the screeching of saws cutting metal into shape.   Sheets of steel being dragged and scraped into place, metal girders being cut and riveted or soldered together to form the shaping of the watertight hull shell.  Banging and hammering, banging and hammering was the order of the day.

As evening fell, a siren blared out drowning all the noise declaring the end of the working day.  As the shift ended, the steady throb lessened and stopped, only to be replaced by the sound of human traffic.  Shoes with steel toe and heel tips, to extend the life of the footwear, formed a dance as the heavy swell of men tapped the steady journey home in the gloom of dusk or darkness over the cobbles to the adjoining streets.  In winter, weary workers in long overcoats and flat caps chatted while their exhaled breath seemed to carry the words from one to his neighbour.  Some lit up cigarettes that formed tiny smoke plumes in imitation of the welcoming chimney smoke spirals from row upon row and street upon street of tiny terraced houses.

Nowadays so many work alone, at home with the hushed whirring noise of computers for company.  The day is now punctuated by the pinging of emails and text messages, while Twitter provides the instant ‘office banter’ with colleagues or other isolated fellow workers many miles, continents or time-scale  away.

I wonder what working life will be like for our grandchildren?

Under the stairs

Magpie 11, still ‘under the Doctor’ as they say here in Northern Ireland, was the culprit who chose the topic for today.  He is doing well and we look forward to his contributions in the very near future.  Ramana on the other hand, will be resting, like all the best Actors for a few more weeks.  Come on Guys, hurry up and get well soon or we will have to let Mayo loose with a Blog!!.  Know that you are both very much missed

Wacky Ideas: Places

“Elly!  Please bring me a fresh roll of kitchen paper!”  I called as I removed the last sheet of paper from the current one.

“Where are they?”  Came the reply from the One with her face stuck in a book.

“Under the stairs. I said.

Giving me a rather funny look, she headed to the cupboard in the hall, and retrieved a new roll for me.

Exchanging the paper roll for a warm freshly baked peanut biscuit, I said “Thank You.”

Sending Elly to the cupboard under the stairs was a regular occurrence.  It was the storage space for all the spares – Boxes of tissues, kitchen rolls and loo rolls, soap powder, bottles of vinegar, conditioners, disinfectants and the box of shoe polishes.  It also had space for the brooms, vacuum cleaner, ironing board, iron and my sewing machine.

I suppose in a way, I was following on my mother’s tradition, since that was where she hoarded the many extra bits and pieces.  Back then we had to keep the entrance way clear as the gas meter was housed in there on the back wall.  The gas man needed to be able to bend down and shine his torch on the meter in order to read it.

Now we had no gas meter, so that was a problem less.

My PROBLEM was we had no stairs either!  We lived in a bungalow, so the cupboard ‘under the stairs’ was not!  It was a full height cupboard in the hall.

Is it any wonder Elly grew up like she did!!!!! 😆  😆

Thursday Special ~ Holy Mary!

Sister Mary Ann, who worked for a home health agency, was out making her rounds visiting home-bound patients when she ran out of gas. As luck would have it, a Gasoline station was just a block away.

She walked to the station to borrow a gas can and buy some gas. The attendant told her that the only gas can he owned had been loaned out, but she could wait until it was returned. Since Sister Mary Ann was on the way to see a patient, she decided not to wait and walked back to her car.

She looked for something in her car that she could fill with gas and spotted the bedpan she was taking to the patient.

Always resourceful, Sister Mary Ann carried the bedpan to the station, filled it with gasoline, and carried the full bedpan back to her car.

As she was pouring the gas into her tank, two Baptists watched from across the street.

One of them turned to the other and said… ‘If it starts, I’m turning Catholic.




Would you believe – it was a girlfriend called Mary Ann who sent me that one! 🙂


I love taking a toddler for a walk.  It really opens your eyes to the things we take for granted.  Everything for them is so fresh and new.

In Springtime as the ground slowly wakens and comes to life.  Watching for the first snowdrops and crocuses to appear.  Stopping with deep concentration to listen to and follow the flight of a bird from tree to tree.

In Summer, picking wild flowers and making daisy chains.  Feeding ducks from the edge of a pond or riverbank.  Blowing bubbles and trying to catch them.  Gathering shells on a beach or paddling and splashing at the waters edge.  Searching for ladybirds and bugs.

The rustle of crisp dry leaves as they dance along the ground to the song of a light autumn breeze, or the crunch of a footfall on a carpet of dry leaves as you walk along a tree lined Avenue in early autumn.  Collecting conkers  and stringing them.

Watching a tiny hand stretching out to catch a snowflake, or eyes dancing with delight at the sight of fairy lights at Christmas.

I am a little confused…

Well the state of the world and Ireland in particular right now is enough to confuse a Saint!

To clear my head I went out for a walk yesterday.

I did need to check out some bus times.  No!  Don’t tell me to check the website it is pure unadulterated C**p!  I think so. Other would-be customers think so.  The bus drivers think so and the bus Inspectors think so.  I have been told on good authority that the guys in the Complaints department of the bus company don’t even know how the website is supposed to work!!  They have bus times in there for buses that do not exist!

I spoke to a group of drivers and they told me not to phone in for advice either as the folk on the phones make up the times as they go along.  Added to that, buses for my area leaving Belfast, can begin their journeys from four different places!!!

I may have reason to go to Belfast on several occasions in the next few weeks.  Early starts will be in order.  To be sure of arriving at my destination for 9.30am I will need to be on the 7.45am bus!  Are you listening body??

Once armed with the bus times I decided to venture further.  I saw a Christmas tree all lit up inside the window of a small house….  let me check… it is still November, right?  No wonder people in Northern Ireland take down decorations and trees on Boxing day!

Then I found this:

Which is it?  A €uro car wash or a GB£ car wash?

Food Monday ~ Sweet Mince Squares

Sweet Mince Squares

What about this for an easy quick morsel to have with a warm cuppa.
Preheat the oven to 190°C

8ozs Margarine, melted
12ozs SR Flour
4ozs caster Sugar plus some to dust
2ozs Semolina
1 Jar Sweet Mincemeat

Melt Margarine.  Combine dry ingredients and mincemeat.  Add margarine and mix well.  Press into prepared tray-bake tin and bake for 20 minutes.   Sprinkle with caster sugar and cool in tin, then cut into squares.