Monthly Archives: February 2011

Food Monday ~ Sweetcorn Fritters

Sweetcorn Fritters

75g all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
330g can sweetcorn, drained
3 spring onions, trimmed & finely sliced
oil for frying
grilled bacon & tomato chutney, to serve.

In a bowl, mix flour and baking powder with a pince of salt.  Make a well in the centre and whisk in egg, oil, and 75ml cold water.  It is best to make this batter just before you want to cook the fritters.

Stir in the sweetcorn and spring onions,  Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry spoonfuls of batter until golden on each side.  Do this in batches, keeping the cooked fritters warm in the oven.  Serve with grilled bacon and tomato chutney.

A Tour of Ireland ~ Episode 22

This week we move over that invisible border to a different country, yet we keep our little footsies dry by staying on the same Island.

NORTHERN IRELAND (UK) HAS 6 COUNTIES.

They include (in an anti-clockwise direction): Down, Antrim, Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh.
Once you visit, you’ll want to return. It is compact and accessible and a land of immense variety, from wave swept coastal drives, hazy mountains, vast open moorland, Loughs and glassy lakes that are heavy with fish. There are an abundance of parks, gardens, historic homes and you can trace back the footsteps along St Patrick’s Trail back to the Jaus Figures in Caldragh Cemetery on Boa Island.

BELFAST Part 1

Today we begin in Belfast City,  where old and new go hand in hand. The city is rich in buildings from the prosperous Victorian age. Belfast City Hall,  built in Portland stone and completed in 1906, to mark the award of city status by Queen Victoria. It took eight years to build and cost nearly twice its original budget. Designed by Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas and built in the classical Renaissance style. Marble from Greece and Italy was used for the halls and staircase. The dome is 53m high. Figures above the door are ‘Hibernia encouraging and promoting the Commerce and Arts of the City’.

The Linen Hall Library at 17 Donegall Square North is a truly unique institution. Founded in 1788, it is the oldest library in Belfast and the last subscribing library in Ireland. It is renowned for its unparalleled Irish and Local Studies Collection, ranging from comprehensive holdings of Early Belfast and Ulster printed books to the 250,000 items in the Northern Ireland Political Collection, the definitive archive of the recent troubles.

There has been a Friday market on the St. George’s site since 1604. The present St. George’s Market, built 1890-1896, is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions. As well as being home to some of the finest fresh produce, with customers travelling near and far to sample the delights of Friday and Saturday markets, it has become one of the City’s most popular places to visit. Since its £4.5m refurbishment in 1997, this charming Victorian building offers one of the most vibrant and colourful destinations that Belfast has to offer.

The restored Grand Opera House, in Great Victoria Street, is a masterpiece of Victorian theatre architecture and is just along from the Europa Hotel, once known as The “Worlds Most Bombed Hotel” after being bombed by the IRA Several Times during the troubles. It has hosted presidents, prime ministers and celebrities, including President Bill Clinton during his visits to Belfast in 1995 and 1998.

On the opposite sides of the Street is one of the finest remaining examples of a Victorian gin palace, the Crown Liquor Saloon.  It is famous for its gas lamps, cosy snugs, fine ales and lunchtime cuisine. Built around 1895 by Michael Flanagan on the site of a former Railway Tavern.

St Anne’s Cathedral is built on the site of St Anne’s church. The church existed from 1776 until 1903, when it was demolished. The foundation stone for the Cathedral was laid by the Countess of Shaftsbury in 1899. The work was completed in 2007, when its Spire of Hope was installed. Enter the Great West Door and a black and white marble maze is at your feet. Choose the black path (sin) and follow it to a dead end, or take the white path (virtue) to the sanctuary, the heart of the church. Services are held on Sundays.

The Thompson Titanic Trail takes in the Thompson Dock and Pump House where the celebrated HMS Titanic had its final fitting out.  It is also possible to take a self guided multimedia walking tour starting from the Welcome centre.

Queen’s University is a public research university in Belfast.  Queen’s Visitor Centre is located in the heart of the university in the red-brick Lanyon building, named after its architect, Sir Charles Lanyon. It serves as an information point for visitors and tourist.

Botanic Gardens was first established in 1828.  With its unique glasshouses, collections of tropical plants, outdoor planting and mature trees the gardens have been enjoyed as a public park since 1895. There is an extensive rose garden and long herbaceous borders and the tree enthusiast can seek out the rare oaks planted in the 1880s, including the hornbeam-leafed oak. It is now venue for a wide range of events from band performances, pop concerts, and opera to enchanted illuminated evenings and the annual Garden Gourmet.

In 1998, the Ulster Museum, which includes Armagh County Museum, merged with the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the Ulster American Folk Park to form the National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Museum is located in the Botanical Gardens and has around 8,000 square metres of pblic display space, featuring material from collections of Fine Art and Applied Art, Archaeology, Ethnography, Local History, Industrial Archaeology, Botany, Zoology and Geology.

The Parliament Buildings, known as Stormont because of its location in the Stormont area, about 6 miles from Belfast, is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive. It previously housed the old Parliament of Northern Ireland, It is a very impressive building designed in the neo-classical style, with an exterior clad in Portland stone on a plinth of granite from the Mourne Mountains in County Down. The building is 365 feet wide and 90 feet high (to the top of the Britannia statue). The interior is based on the House of Commons in Westminster with a grand central meeting hall linking the two debating chambers. Tours are available by invitation of elected Members of the Assembly.

Belfast Castle towers 400 feet above sea level. Designed by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon in Scottish Baronial style and built with sandstone for the third Marquis of Donegall in 1870. Situated high up on the slopes of Cave Hill in North Belfast the castle and grounds were presented to the City of Belfast in 1934.

If time is limited I suggest a tour by open-top bus, black taxi, walking or boat.

Famous People

  • Sir James Galway grew up in a small house in North Belfast. It was a very musical household. His father James, a riveter with Harland and Wolff, was a talented piano-accordion player and he had learned the flute from his own father also called James.
  • Born Clive Staples Lewis on November 29 1898 in Belfast, his fictional work included The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy.
  • Mary McAleese President of Ireland is not the only state president to have been born in Belfast.
  • Chaim Herzog, 6th President of Israel from 1983 to 1993 was born at Clifton Park Avenue the son of a Belfast Rabbi.
  • Sir James Martin invented the aircraft ejector seat at Shorts Aircraft Factory it pioneered Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircrafts in the 50’s.
  • George Best lived in Cregagh, he spent every waking moment kicking a ball. The rest is history.

Believe it or not

Good King Conrad had the joy of selecting the subject to test and tease the Loose Blogging members today.

Skepticism vs. Disbelief

On the first occasion that I ventured out of doors on foot, during our post Christmas mini ice age, I called into the pharmacy.  It was merely an excuse to walk on a dry surface for a few minutes without the dread of losing my footing.

As I rounded a tall display stand I almost stood on a tiny pink baby carrier.  I think it was one section of a multi-part baby transporter.

On second glance I noticed the navy all in one suit with hood.  The outfit was lightly padded and held the shape in the seat.  My heart paused for a second in disbelief as the outfit seemed empty.  Looking about for the mother I noticed a young woman was talking to an assistant while keeping a close eye on the carrier.  Looking back at the bundle I realised that a tiny sleeping baby was almost lost inside the suit.

Fascinated at how tiny the baby was I stood watching until the mother was free.  We spoke for a few minutes and I discovered it was a little girl about 15 days old.

“A wonderful Christmas gift!” I said.

“More than a gift” said the mother, “She is a miracle!  Six months ago, I was told I had cancer. You are looking at what they thought was cancer!”

That young lady felt Sceptical at the original diagnosis and asked for a second opinion.  I know she will never regret that request.

Thursday Special ~ Old Butch

John was in the fertilized egg business.

He had several hundred young layers (hens), called ‘pullets,’ and ten roosters to fertilize the eggs.

He kept records, and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced.

This took a lot of time, so he bought some tiny bells and attached them to his roosters.

Each bell had a different tone, so he could tell from a distance, which rooster was performing.

Now, he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells.

John’s favourite rooster, old Butch, was a very fine specimen, but this morning he noticed old Butch’s bell hadn’t rung at all!

When he went to investigate, he saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing, but the pullets, hearing the roosters coming, would run for cover.

To John’s amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so it couldn’t ring.

He’d sneak up on a pullet, do his job and walk on to the next one.

John was so proud of old Butch, he entered him in the local County Fair and he became an overnight sensation among the judges.

The result was the judges not only awarded old Butch the “No Bell Piece Prize,” but they also awarded him the “Pulletsurprise” as well.

Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making. Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the unsuspecting populace and screwing them when they weren’t paying attention.

So when you next enter a Polling Station:

Vote carefully, the bells are not always audible.

X

X

X

Thank you Daphne, a timely tale!

Night Moods

It was one of those nights.

Let’s Make Love was the tune we were listening to.

Baby I’ve been drifting away
Dreaming all day
Of holding you
Touching you
The only thing I want to do
Is be with you
As close to you
As I can be……

Our chat was simple and calm as we began to relax.  We were both tired after a day that started early with plans being interrupted or changed time after time for each of us.  The music was our era and it only took three or four minutes of that first number for the stresses of the day to fade to oblivion.  We were as comfortable together as an old pair of gloves.

The tempo changed with the next song Island In The Stream sung by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton

Baby, when I met you
There was peace unknown
I set out to get you
With a fine tooth comb
I was soft inside
There was something going on…………..

Toes began tapping, well it is one of those numbers where it is impossible to stay still.  Without a word we were dancing across the floor.  Islands in the stream is what we were, no one in between, yet not touching.  Not touching in the flesh, but locked together in an invisible chemistry or animal magnetism…

Islands in the stream
That is what we are
No one in between
How can we be wrong
Sail away with me
To another world
And we rely on each other, ah-ha
From one lover to another, ah-ha……..

As the song faded we embraced.  Locked in our own world we hardly notice the music and artists change.

This was a special favourite: I Finally Found Someone – a duet with Bryan Adams and Barbra Streisand.

I finally found someone, who knocks me off my feet
I finally found the one, who makes me feel complete
We started over coffee, we started out as friends
It’s funny how from simple things, the best things begin

This time we moved as one, living every nuance and word.

This time it’s different (dah dah dah dah)
It’s all because of you (dah dah dah dah)
It’s better than it’s ever been
Cause we can talk it through
My favorite line was “Can I call you sometime?”
It’s all you had to say to take my breath away……..

Suddenly I felt him freeze on the spot.  Over my shoulder he had a full view through the picture window, that ran from ceiling to floor and wall to wall, of what went on outside.   Living in a cul-de-sac it was difficult not to be aware of the normal comings and goings of the other residents.

Today a hearse had just driven up slowly and stopped right outside the window!!!  The undertaker approached the door…

Thankfully he was at the wrong address and he was not coming for either of us, but it kinda killed the moment.

We stood there.

We looked deeply into each others soul and realised how fortunate we were.  The next piece began and with it, two great big tears rolled slowly down my face.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond

You don’t bring me flowers
You don’t sing me love songs

You hardly talk to me anymore
When I come through the door at the end of the day…

I remember when you couldn’t wait to love me
Used to hate to leave me
Now after loving me late at night

When it’s good for you, babe
And you’re feeling all right

When you just roll over and turn out the light…
And you don’t bring me flowers anymore…………
.
.

But used-to-bes don’t count anymore
They just lay on the floor
Till we sweep them away……..
.
.
.
So you think I could learn how to tell you goodbye

So you think I could learn how to tell you goodbye
You don’t bring me flowers any more…

I hope you never need to learn how to tell someone goodbye!

First Boyfriend

Aphrodite over at beaut.ie wrote about her first boyfriend.  Well….. it got me thinking!

Stephen was tall, slim and had a head of bright carroty red hair.

He worked during the week so I only saw him in the evenings or at weekends.  When he was paid on a Friday night – with real money counted into his hand – he bought me a present. It was always the same, a quarter pound (4 ozs) of Kimberly biscuits, they were my favourites.

He would take me to the pictures on the cross bar of his bike, or up Knocknarea (thats in Sligo) to collect mushrooms.

Now don’t be daft, he did not cycle all the way from Dublin to Sligo with me on the crossbar, to collect those mushrooms.  I was on holidays for the long summer and staying with my uncle and aunt. 😀

So my first fella had transport and money!

Now Toyboys, don’t be getting your whotsits in a twist.

I was all of six years of age!

Food Monday ~ Coconut Lemon Bars

Coconut Lemon Bars
Preheat the oven to 170°C

Base:
6 ozs plain flour
4 ozs soft butter
1½ ozs icing sugar

Topping:
2 ozs desiccated coconut
5 ozs granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
Grated rind & juice of 1 lemon

Mix the flour, butter and icing sugar and press into a greased Swiss roll tin.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile beat remaining ingredients together.  Pour over the base and continue to bake until the top is set and a light golden brown.
Cool and slice into bars.

A Tour of Ireland ~ Episode 21

Meath & Louth

Meath

The ‘Royal County’ of Meath boasts a dramatic history and proud heritage that no other country can match. Man has settled here for over 8,000 years and everywhere one turns one can see surviving monuments and relics scattered profusely beside the rolling rivers and on the lush plains. Formerly one of the five historic provinces of Ireland, it was from here that the ancient roads of Ireland radiated, spreading Royal Meath’s influence and affluence to all the corners of Ireland.

Louth

County Louth is a maritime county in the province of Leinster it has the major towns of Drogheda and Dundalk near both its northern and southern extremities.  These two towns together account for just over half the county’s population. The most strikingly beautiful part of the county is the Cooley Peninsula, which looks across the border with Northern Ireland to the majestic Mourne Mountains in County Down.  On the peninsula are the active port of Greenore, a small whiskey distillery, and the historic town of Carlingford (renowned for its oysters).

Drogheda straddles both Counties Meath and Louth, so that is where I will begin today.

Drogheda was an important walled town situated in an area with an abundance of archaeological monuments dating from the Neolithic period onwards, of which the large Passage Tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth are probably the best known.  A new pedestrian bridge has been recently opened called DeLacey Bridge. Many of the old town features still stand such as St Laurences Gate, Magdalenes tower, The Viaduct across the river dating from 1850, St Peters Church which houses the head of St Oliver Plunkett, Ireland’s only canonized martyr,  Martello Tower – Millmount, plus lots more to see.  Many old buildings have been refurbished such as The Tholsel, The Old Grammar School and a beautiful row of Stone houses opposite the bus station

The earliest monument in the town is the motte-and-bailey castle, now known as Millmount Fort, which overlooks the town from a bluff on the south bank of the Boyne, and which was probably erected by the Norman Lord of Meath, Hugh de Lacy sometime before 1186. The earliest known town charter is that granted to Drogheda-in-Meath by Walter de lacy in 1194.
Parts of the town walls dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries still survive. Most notable of the remains is St. Laurence’s Gate, regarded as the finest example of a barbican or fortress gate still to be seen in the country. Consisting of twin pillars four stories high, its imposing edifice dominates the western approaches to the town.

Donore is a small village near Drogheda. It is situated on the Meath–Louth border in the Boyne Valley on the route between Drogheda and the Bru na Boinne interpretive centre which is the point of access to Newgrange.  The Bronze Age tomb at Newgrange,is the focus for attention at the winter solstice, the sun’s rays shine down the passageway inside, illuminating the burial chamber.

During the late 17th Century, the village of Donore was used as a defensive position by the Jacobite army of King James II against King William III during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, some 6 km west of the town, on the banks of the River Boyne, at Oldbridge.

Two miles from Drogheda on the Ballymakenny Road, Listoke Gardens – 6 acre Edwardian garden with walled garden, herbaceous borders and woodland walks.  Over 25 years landscape gardener Patricia Barrow has worked to put the Edwardian garden back to its original state.

Slane occupies an attractive curve on the River Boyne and is overlooked by the Hill of Slane,  where tradition has it, St Patrick lit his paschal fire in AD433 in defiance of the orders of King Laoghaire.  In his persuasive speech to the king, Patrick used the shamrock as his illustration of the Trinity.  He won his argument and permission to preach Christianity throughout the land.

Slane Castle was bought by the Coyninghams after the Battle of the Boyne when the estate was confiscated by the victorious King of England. This family has held it ever since, presently represented by Henry Lord Mountcharles.  His stewardship of the castle is marked by the rock concerts he has promoted on the castle lawn.  The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and David Bowie have attracted hundred of thousands to the narrow valley over the years.  Kings of Leon will headline the 2011 Slane Castle concert.
The Book of Kells. The book is a “rare illuminated manuscript”, as the experts call it, now housed in Trinity College Dublin, but created in a County Meath monastery in the early ninth century. However, the book’s purported origins are doubted by some, and it may well have originated on the Scottish isle of Iona.  The people of Kells certainly have every reason to believe that the book was manufactured in the area, however, rich in early Christian architecture as it is.

Loughcrew, just east of Oldcastle, County Meath, features a Megalithic Cemetery series of burial mounds, or Cairns, and tombs that experts believe pre-date the Egyptian pyramids by up to 2000 years. Located in three hills, the largest known as Cairn T provides an experience similar to Newgrange with an Autumn Equinox which lights up the main chamber. Loughcrew Cairns are a much under-rated treasure that deserves much more worldwide exposure.  Nearby are the famous Loughcrew Gardens, inside which stand the Family Church of St. Oliver Plunkett, who was born there in 1625.  Charles and Emily Naper run a fantastic school of gilding at Loughcrew Gardens and the entire experience of the a trip to the Gardens is a very fulfilling one.
Navan is the county town of County Meath. It is one of the few places in the world to have a palindromic name.  Navan was the childhood home of Pierce Brosnan, who appeared in the television series Remington Steele and was the fifth film actor to play James Bond.
Sir Francis Beaufort famous for his wind scale.

The Hill of Tara, located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath. It contains a number of ancient monuments, and, according to tradition, was the seat of Árd Rí na hÉireann, or the High King of Ireland.
Travelling back to Drogheda we move north to The fishing village of Clogherhead is located on the east coast of Ireland in County Louth, approximately 70km north of Dublin. The village developed around the fishing industry with the waters of Clogherhead being reputed as being the best fishing waters in the country. The harbour known as Port Oriel was built in 1885. Clogherhead peninsula located just north of the village is designated a Natural Heritage Area under the 1997 Louth County Development Plan.

In Mellifont Abbey, the Cistercians founded their first Irish Monastery in the twelfth century.  It was one of many Irish Cistercian abbeys that rebelled not only against Anglo-Norman rule, but eventually against the Cistercian Order itself. Mellifont is an intersection chapter in medieval history.

Monasterboice is one of Ireland’s best-known and earliest religious sites. Here stand the remains of two churches, a Round Tower, three High Crosses and a pre Gothic sundial. Founded in the 6th century by St. Buite, or St. Boyce, the monastery became a renowned seat of learning and art.  The 95ft Round Tower dates from the 10th century and was used by monks for refuge from the marauding Viking hoards which ransacked many of the wealthy Irish monasteries during the 10th and 11th centuries. Amongst the finest remains on the site are surly the awe inspiring High Crosses, the most impressive of which is The Cross of Muiredach, standing a massive 17ft 8in, the cross clearly depicts scenes from the Bible, carved in the stone over one thousand years ago. Nearby is the West Cross, standing at over 12ft in height, it is the tallest High Cross in the country.

The Jumping Church of Kildemock, near Ardee, is a mystery that has few plausible explanations.  A plaque on the site reads: This wall by its pitch, tilt and position can be seen to have moved three feet from its foundation.  Contemporary accounts mention a severe storm in 1715 when the wall was lifted and deposited as it now stands but local tradition states that the wall jumped inwards to exclude the grave of an excommunicated person.  It is very doubtful if a storm could have moved the wall in such whole way and deposited it symmetrically as it now lies.

Dundalk town is close to the border with Northern Ireland and equi-distant from Dublin and Belfast.
The Proleek Dolmen is located behind the Ballymascanlon Hotel on the beautiful Cooley Pensinula, in County Louth.  The location is about 6 kilometres from the town of Dundalk and is actually part of the Ballymacsanlon Golf Course which winds its way north of the hotel. The dolmen is highlighted along the way as you walk through the golf course.  Legend says that if you throw a stone onto the top of the capstone and it stays there, make a wish and it will come true!

The Cooley Peninsula is most famous for the legendary epic Tan Bo Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), which chronicles Queen Maeve of Connacht’s attempts to carry off a prized bull from Cooley so that her herd could equal that of her husband’s.

Carlingford is a listed Medieval Heritage Town nestled between Carlingford Lough and Slieve Foy Mountain with magnificent views of the Mourne Mountains. It has boundless opportunities for sailing, hiking, fishing and horse riding.  A walk through the narrow streets is the best way to enjoy antique and craft shops alongside a range of eateries from sandwich shops and coffee bars to pubs and fine dining.  It was raided by the Vikings in the 8th and 9th centuries and the Normans in the 12th century.

King Johns Castle – the western part of the Castle was commissioned by Hugh de Lacy c. 1190, but the castle owes its name to King John (Richard the Lionhearts brother) who visited Carlingford in 1210.  The eastern part was constructed in the mid 13th century with alterations and editions occurring in the 15th and 16th centuries.  In the 1950s, the Office of Public Works (OPW) undertook conservation work to stabilize the structure.  An excellent view of the north pier and Carlingford Lough can be had from the viewing area on the western side of the castle, though the castle itself tends to remain locked to the general public for their safety.

Another castle to visit is Taff’s Castle from 15th century with its crenellated battlements, murder holes, slit windows for archers and barrel vaulted basement.

The ruins of Carlingford Abbey, a Dominican Friory, was founded by Richard de Burgo, earl of Ulster in 1305.

The Heritage Centre is situated just behind Ghan House in the tower of the original town wall, now part of the old Carlingford church.

Ghan House is very well kept secret, so much so that if you want to eat or stay here, you need to book well in advance! Built in 1727, it is an historic house in the Medieval Heritage town it is steeped in character and history, full of luxury and comfort, this family run house is known for fabulous food and a Cookery School.

Famous people:

  • Bagatelle Irish Rock Band.
  • Brendan O’Dowda (1925–2002), Irish tenor who popularised the songs of Percy French.
  • Francis Leopold McClintock, arctic explorer, discoverer of the fate of Franklin.
  • John Moore, film director, producer, and writer.
  • John Phillip Holland, Inventor of the submarine, worked as a teacher in Colaiste Ris, Dundalk.
  • Nicholas Callan, scientist who made the first induction coil went to primary school here.
  • Peter Rice (1935-1992). Noted engineer, worked on the Sydney Opera House, Louvre Pyramid and Centre Pompidou as well as numerous other world famous buildings.
  • The Corrs, Celtic folk rock group and family, born and raised in Dundalk.
  • Thomas Coulter, (1793-1843) botanist and doctor.
  • Henry McShane, Emigrated to the United States founded the McShane Bell Foundry and named the rail depot and subsequently the town Dundalk, Maryland after his home town in the 19th Century.

Procrastination

Procrastination is the thief of time

How many times did you bite your tongue with the sentence above while practising joined up writing in copy-books that were used in school to improve children’s handwriting.

At the head of each page a short proverb or quotation was printed in large script. The rest of the page consisted of horizontal lines on which you (the child) were required to copy the heading over and over again.

Today it was not procrastination, but that well known and used search engine that stole my time.

I got lost in a library, and wanted to stay there until the cows came home.  As my father would say “There’s eating and drinking in it”!

Excuse me, I need to finish read……