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A Wheaten Bread Recipe

A Wheaten Bread Recipe

Growing up in Ireland has meant that I have a natural affinity for bread products. Just take a look at the classic Ulster Fry and you will see a plate riddled with carbs; toasted soda farl, potato bread, pancakes and a few rounds of toast. For me though the crowning glory of Irish bread has to be the humble wheaten. As a child I would always go straight for the wheaten loaf in my granny’s house where there would always be a stock kept high on the counter wrapped in a kitchen towel. I would slather it in butter followed by raspberry jam and wash it down with a mug of tea (you cannot have a toasted wheaten without tea and that’s a scientific fact).

For the unfortunate amongst you who don’t know what wheaten bread is (oh my, what you have been missing out on), it’s a bread (duh) made from wholemeal wheat. What makes it different to other breads (and therefore easier to make) is that it doesn’t contain yeast; bicarbonate of soda is used instead as the leavening agent. Buttermilk is also used instead of regular milk which reacts with the bicarbonate of soda which gives it it’s distinctive consistency (and yumminess).

To this day, wheaten bread remains one of my favourite snacks, especially at this time of year when the nights are begging for a nostalgic treat. It was the food I missed the most when I lived in Australia; so much so that I actually packed a couple of loaves in my suitcase to take back with me when I was home visiting. It was and still is the food that tastes like home to me.

Another reason why I love it is because it’s so freakin’ easy to make. No yeast means there’s no temperature controls to be monitored or waiting around for the rise. You can throw this recipe together in the space of an hour and serve it to guests who will think you are a culinary goddess (as well as creating a smell that will make your house smell divine).

I’ve included the standard recipe that I tend to use though of course there are a few local twists you can make to it according to where you’re from. It’s a recipe that’s as old as the hills and every family likes to garnish it their own way. Toast it and slather with butter and jam or eat it with some slices of mature cheddar or add some salmon and dill and serve as a festive amuse-bouche if you don’t mind or serve it as a side to some hearty chowder or soup on a winter’s evening.

It can be sliced gracefully or it can be ripped apart while you stand in the kitchen holding a jar of jam. What it will always be though is a recipe that will make you feel like you’re at home, even when you aren’t.


Irish Wheaten Bread

Ingredients

  • 300g wholewheat flour
  • 100 grams plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 300mls buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon rolled oats

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.
  2. Place the flours, salt and bicarb in a bowl, stirring to combine.
  3. Using your fingertips, rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the sugar and stir to combine.
  5. Gradually stir in the buttermilk until you get a soft, but not sticky, dough. You won’t need to use all of it. Don’t worry too much if it is sticky -just dust with some extra flour!
  6. Turn out onto a floured surface, and briefly knead the dough (with your knuckles). Pop the dough into a lightly floured 20 cm cake tin or bread loaf tin, and shape into a round.
  7. Using a sharp knife, mark the dough into four farls or slice if using bread tin. Brush the surface with a little extra buttermilk, then sprinkle over the oats (or some additional flour).
  8. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. A cake tester should come out pretty much clean when it is ready.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack for as long as you can bear. Enjoy!

 

If you liked this post you might also like this or this.

10 Festive Activities To Do This Christmas (or not do)

10 Festive Activities To Do This Christmas (or not do)

Happy Monday friends! Has your week started off the way you had hoped? Tired already? ‘Tis the season for constant tail-chasing after all which can often lead to us forgetting to just be and enjoy everything wonderful the festive seasons brings along with it. There is a lot of pressure, especially on parents I think, to have the most-absolutely-amazingly-fun-Christmas-ever turning moments that are supposed to be fun and light-hearted in to this mess of forced memories we are intent on making for ourselves.

How about instead of rushing around trying to tick off a crazy festive bucket list, we make time for the wee moments and not berate ourselves for missing out something that would have stressed us out? Don’t feel guilty if you don’t make it to the big Christmas light switch-on (crowds of people gathered in the freezing cold ain’t for everyone) or feel like standing in queue for another freakin’ grotto (for a photo that will probably scar your child). How about doing something that won’t stress you out or your family?

I’ve created a list of things I know will personally bring me a wee bit of happiness in between all the shopping and innumerable social gatherings (I am even socialising midweek now!). Feel free to take a few ideas for yourself but remember, don’t put the pressure on to do it all. Think about why you’re doing it and if you’re not doing it for the pure joy of it then strike it off the list.

Go Ice Skating

It’s not for everyone but I love the adrenaline of trying to stay vertical while giving my thighs the biggest workout they’ve seen all year. It’s fun (to me anyway) and is a real winter novelty that I have no shame in indulging in. For those local to Belfast there is always the trusty Dundonald rink that I’ve been going to since I was a youngster but there’s also a rink opening for a few days over the winter break at the SSE Arena OR if you want to go really crazy, grab some tickets for the Winter Wonderland at the Clandeboyne Estate which would be a real festive treat.

Christmas Crafting

For me, making a homemade wreath or crafting presents to hand out to my loved ones is something that can bring the most happiness at this time of year than anything else. It’s a quiet time for just me amongst all the noise which is imperative for me to keep my sanity (while making a complete mess).

Sing Carols

I am no singer and not a church-goer and yet there is something hauntingly beautiful about attending a carolling service. If you’re not part of a church like me then try something different like attending a night at the orchestra at the Ulster Hall? My favourite is ‘Fall On Your Knees’ all because of Home Alone, of course.

Local Christmas Markets

The Belfast markets can be complete madness and can actually be more stressful than fun. However smaller local markets can be just as enjoyable and filled with tasty treats that you don’t have to queue an hour for. Have a wee nosy at the Discover NI website to see when your local market is next on.

See a Pantomime/Play/Musical

Local theatres are packed with festive productions which we should make the most of getting off our couches to see. I have the best memories of sitting on the floor watching a pantomime at my local leisure centre as a kid (while losing all feeling in my ass). I’m trying to find children to borrow so I can see this musical otherwise I’ll be the eccentric lady on her own who brought her own snacks!

Watch old Christmas movies

You can do this at home of course with the fire lit and the family cocooned in a mass of duvets but some cinemas play the classics which can be a fun way to see the old favourites. I love watching It’s A Wonderful Life in the Queen’s Film Theatre each year. The theatre is a Belfast institution and has these old vintage cinema seats that feel about a hundred years old (probably because they are). They also cater for people with disabilities (dementia, autism) so everyone can delve in to a bit of nostalgia on the screen.

Celebrate the Solstice

Step back in time and celebrate the arrival of the Winter Solstice at the Navan Fort centre in Armagh. My hometown is steeped in ancient Celtic history and the Navan Fort are mirroring the customs of our ancestors through a morning of traditional celebrations followed by a lantern-lit walk up the fort were re-enactors will welcome the breaking of the dawn. The whole event is free unless you want to nibble on a bit of breakfast afterwards which you can enjoy for 4 quid – bargain!

Make homemade mulled wine

Or cider! Here’s an easy recipe for mulled wine that will scent your house like a friggin’ Christmas perfumery. Make a batch and keep some for the visitors that stream through the house. Not too much though or they’ll never leave.

Look out for others

Without sounding like a TV ad, this time of year can be tougher on those who live alongside us, especially the elderly who can be a tad more vulnerable in the colder months. We’re lucky to have Maureen as our neighbour and while she’s fully capable of looking after herself (she looked at me like I was mad when I asked if I could help her with the 10kg box of washing powder she was lugging in to her house the other day), it’s still good to check in once in a while. I would hate to think of my Granny on her own with no one looking out for her so it’s nice to treat those around us with a little more care.

Forage for decorations

We can all go a little crazy with the decorations this time of year which is the last thing our wallets need. To try and save pennies I’ve been bringing a few things back from my winter walks. A wee bit of holly, some ivy or even pine cones to roast in the oven (an idea I stole from my friend Caoimhe, you can find a way to do it here). I’ve been decorating the fireplace, the dining table and coffee table with these foraged finds which feels a bit more special than wasting money on another garland from a chain store.

 

Oh writing this list got me a little bit excited! What about you? What festive activities are you hoping to do this year??

 

What Not To Worry About #41

What Not To Worry About #41

Hello friends! How are we feeling this Monday? There is a definite nip in the air in the mornings isn’t there? I’m finding myself getting out of bed a little slower, with one foot out first, tentatively testing the floor to check it’s not too cold before retreating back under the covers for just a few more minutes. The clocks are due to go forward this Saturday so the mornings will be even darker and the bed will feel even toastier I am sure. I might just have to start treating myself to a warm porridge to lure me out, with lots and lots of honey of course.

I hope your weekend was a good one despite Brian trying to out-do Ophelia with more wind and rain! Shannon (my little sister) and I had trotted down to Dublin for the weekend but the weather made it pretty difficult to see where we were going never mind actually seeing the pretty buildings. Fortunately Dublin isn’t short of cosy pubs to dry off in so we spent a few hours warming up between dodging puddles so we can’t complain too much.

In spite of the weather we still had a ball exploring Dublin and most of all, enjoying the wee luxuries that came with staying in the Merrion Hotel, a pretty swish hotel in the centre of town. The stay was a birthday gift from Shannon and my Dad and it was so exciting to feel like an aristocrat for 24 hours; the doorman welcoming us in, the concierge delivering our suitcases to our room, a little birthday tart waiting for us by our bed (the dessert you filthy minx!). Of course this is not the life we are used to so we lapped up every second and took a million photos of it all because if you don’t Instagram it, it hasn’t actually happened right?!

The most stylish elderly couple walking arm in arm (I had to take a photo!)

Luckily the weather cleared up on Sunday and we went for a mosey around St. Stephen’s Green, admiring elegant couples and ivy clad walls. After making a final stop in O’Donoghue’s (the birthplace of The Dubliners whose portraits you can find hanging on the walls), we drove down to the Powerscourt Hotel to admire the estate and the hills, bracing the chilly winds for a few seconds to snap a few photos before running back to the car. It’s a beautiful part of Ireland, so rugged and wild it’s hard to believe you’re only a half hour’s drive from the city. We promised ourselves that the next time we pretend to be fancy we will do it in this hotel and run about the heather like we’re in a Brontë novel.

Our doorman

Alas, we are back to porridge today and with that in mind, I have another weekly roundup of the unnecessary worries that I am letting go of for good. Feel free to borrow some of mine or even better, tell me some of yours? Would love to know!!

Choosing ethical clothing – in last week’s post I mentioned taking a few photos with my pal Mel Wiggins who is an inspiration to anyone who is wanting to make more ethical purchases when buying clothes. Sometimes we can really stress ourselves out when we go shopping, worrying if we’re contributing in any way to an industry that exploits the vulnerable & impoverished. This is where Mel steps in and introduces businesses that are doing it the right way and who are producing beautiful clothing that will save our conscience. Have a look at her latest post for more information including the photos we took while dandering around the Argory 🙂

Providing Hallowe’en treats – I LOVE Hallowe’en so it’s no surprise that I thoroughly enjoy decorating the house a little in preparation for the little visitors that descend upon the house searching for treats. Last year Andrew put a sheet up on the front window and had a scary projector show which amused the adults way more than the kids so we’ll be keeping that tradition up this year. Also, I’m going to be trying my hand at these bad boys to try and shake up the usual habit of buying a multipack of sweets that I just end up eating myself anyway!

Repetitive breakfasts – I am so boring when it comes to breakfasts! I have the same thing almost every day; granola, almond milk and chopped berries. Now that we’re approaching the dark and cold mornings I have decided I am going to start making porridge although I haven’t made it in years. Is there a good receipt to use that you’d recommend? Who does the best oats?? It’s the type of thing I should be ringing my Granny for!

Lack of documentaries – I have loved watching Louis Theroux’s new ‘Dark States’ series which has provided an incredible insight in to working class poverty in America. The series has finished now but the new series of Blue Planet will be starting this week and I am so so so excited to hear David Attenborough’s grandfatherly voice coming out of my TV, sharing the most amazing footage of the deep blue. Hans Zimmer has provided the score for the series too so no doubt I’ll be an emotional wreck after each episode!

Having a poor bedtime routine – my bedtime routine is something along the lines of: take off make up (un)properly, brush teeth, take a book to bed in the hope that I’ll actually read it (and then end up scrolling through social media for a half hour) and try to have a normal conversation with Andrew before passing out. Not too impressive is it? Reading this article gave me new inspiration – and a good laugh too!!

 

Have a great week folks!! x

What Not To Worry About #40

What Not To Worry About #40

Happy Monday friends! As I write this, I am curled up on my couch, watching hurricane Ophelia whirl herself around my wee house making it creak like it’s about to take off ‘Wizard of Oz’-style in a matter of minutes. It’s a beautiful name for a storm that could potentially wreak havoc on an island that isn’t quite used to dealing with anything remotely tropical but we are used to rain, lots of rain, so despite meteorologists urging us to take the warnings seriously there is little chance that a few drops of rain and wind will spook us too much. I hope.

Before Ophelia greeted us she pushed some weird weather our way over the weekend; lots of mizzly rain with temperatures warmer than they had been for months. I had planned to meet an Instagram pal on Saturday to take some photos and was hoping the weather might clear a little. Alas we were forced to brave the drizzle and skipped around the Argory getting our toes thoroughly soaked in the process but in the end we came away with some very pretty snaps that I think made the trench foot worth it.

Mel and I became friendly over Instagram after I immediately fell in love with her writing. She writes a wonderful blog that is full of content that lifts you up and pushes you forward, championing women and their wide range of ambitions and dreams. Mel believes that if you are passionate about something then you should let nothing stop you from pursuing it and has proven that herself in what she has accomplished. She was recently awarded an MBE for her work in anti-human trafficking, she organises seasonal gatherings to bring together local creatives hoping to make connections, she is raising two kids and on top of that she writes for her blog among other publications. Freakin’ wonder woman, right?

Online relationships are commonplace in our modern society but what is becoming even more common are the friendships that are formed through social media. Little communities are created among people who have a united passion, who want to encourage creativity in others and receive support for the work they produce which is predominantly shared online. Some of these friendships can be more fruitful and rewarding that those we have in real life and although we may never even get to meet the person behind the screen, it doesn’t make them any less valid.

Luckily Mel is only down the road from me but it really got me thinking of all the amazing people I have been able to meet through Instagram and the blog. By creating connections with people who inspire me and attending events like Mel’s gatherings or Emma’s retreat, I have opened up a whole new world for myself and forged friendships that maybe wouldn’t have happened if not for the online world. It’s a new age we’re living in and I feel damn lucky to be a part of it.

Now, on to the worries I am letting go of this week. Here’s the weekly list for today, I hope you are reading it from a safe wee spot, preferably wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea warming your mittens…

Speaking the same love language as my partner – when I drove down to Kerry a couple of weeks ago with my pal Rebecca, we got in to a very deep chat about the different love languages that exist between partners and how couples should figure out their respective language in order to make the relationship work (deep I know but a road trip will do that to ya). Since then I came across this article and I found it fascinating and so eye-opening – definitely worth a read.

Making light of sexual harassment – I have been engrossed in articles relating to the Harvey Weinstein scandal since it emerged and what surprised me most was how unsurprised I was at the ability of a successful man to continually harass and abuse women for decades. Women are victims of this kind of harassment from such a young age it’s like we become immune and stop feeling shocked which in turn, only allows for this kind of behaviour to be acceptable. I read this piece on my favourite website and the comments moved and enraged me so much. Maybe the actions of this horrific man has started an important movement – who knows?

Confusing comparison with inspiration – sometimes when I read someone’s work, look at their beautiful photos or watch them talk I am filled with this feeling of despondence. I wonder to myself if I could ever achieve success like theirs and hate myself for comparing myself to them when in actually fact I should be relishing in being inspired. I should be taking notes or thinking how their work might better my own because being inspired by someone usually ignites the passion you needed to succeed in the first place. Lesson ongoing!

Wearing pumps – I think that ship has sailed now as I got my feet soaked at the weekend. Winter boots at the ready!

Dark mornings – I got up in the dark for the first time this morning which wasn’t too fun but what I have started doing is meditating right after my breakfast. I’ve been using the Headspace app and using a few minutes in the morning to relax and regroup before work. I’m hoping it’ll make the dark mornings a little easier to bear – worth a go for a few weeks!

 

Have a great week folks!

 

 

 

Autumn Yumminess: Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Autumn Yumminess: Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Autumn is a season of sounds. Leaves crunching underfoot, the cooler winds howling at night, the first fire crackling in the hearth. Nature puts on the finest display for us before the famine of winter when we are robbed of foliage and fruit and the sun barely makes it over the horizon to warm our ruddy faces. There is nothing more autumnally glorious to me than the sensation of bitterly cold air nipping at my nose and ears, threatening to take away all sensation before escaping in to the warmth of the house where a hot bath awaits me.

But before we retreat indoors we must absorb every little bit of the harvest season by foraging for the treasures we miss so much in those long winter months. Being from Armagh, the orchard county of Ireland, I’m a cute hoor and have many opportunities to gather the last of the season’s produce whether it be plums, damsons and as always, the faithful Bramley apple. The bramley is something of an icon in Armagh and it’s been the principal variety to be grown here for almost a century. It’s blossom decorates the Armagh countryside in May and it’s green skin turns red in the heat of the late summer; even the apples get sunburned in Ireland!

 

I popped down to my friend’s orchard about a fortnight ago to gather some apples before the end of the season and as usual I came away with too many to use. Last year I made an apple tart but this year I wanted to use the blackberries I had picked from the roadside at home a few weeks before and thought an apple and blackberry crumble would be just friggin’ lovely as a midweek treat for two. Of course this recipe can be used for a rustic dinner party or to cheer up a mate or to just eat in one big bowl by yourself when you’ve had a shitty day. Your choice my friend, no judgement here.

I hope you can give it a whirl but more than that I hope you are embracing Autumn and all of its amazingness because this is the time to start doing things for you. Summer can be a hurricane of plans and commitments but as the colder months unfurl we are treated with weekends to ourselves, moments when we can actually revisit the things we cast aside in the summer haze. Let the briskness and sharpness of the change in seasons wake you up to what truly makes you happy and get out and do it.


Apple & Blackberry Crumble 

Ingredients

For the crumble topping:

  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces

For the fruit compote:

  • 300g Bramley apples
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 30g demerara sugar
  • 115g blackberries
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • big dollop of ice cream

Method

  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, then rub into the flour using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture – try not to overwork it! Sprinkle the mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 mins or until lightly coloured.
  2. Meanwhile, for the compote, peel, core and cut the apples into 2cm dice. Put the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel. Stir in the apples and cook for 3 mins. Add the blackberries and cinnamon, and cook for 3 mins more. Cover, remove from the heat, then leave for 2-3 mins to continue cooking in the warmth of the pan.
  3. To serve, spoon the warm fruit into an ovenproof gratin dish, top with the crumble mix, then reheat in the oven for 5-10 mins. Serve with a big scoop of ice cream or a dollop of fresh cream – yum!

What Not To Worry about #38

What Not To Worry about #38

And so it was October. A month that feels a little bittersweet as nature puts on a final show of colour and magic before the sedentary months of winter roll in. Despite it being a month that sees the temperatures fall and the trees baring themselves to the world, October is when I find myself reawakening and finding the motivation that disappeared in the haze of summer.

It’s as if a light switch goes off as the world outside darkens, I suddenly remember the tasks and creative projects I had set aside months ago and immerse myself in books and articles that I know will inspire me. I spoke of the blogging event I attended in last week’s post which is one of the ways in which I am trying to push myself back to where I want to be again, surrounded by people who lift me up and encourage me to create.

I am also attending the TBEX conference in Kerry next week which I am so so excited about (and a wee bit nervous if I’m completely honest). My friend Rebecca had asked me to go with her earlier this year and I jumped at the opportunity to speak and listen to photographers and bloggers who have travelled the world while making a living. I have had to use up the rest of my annual leave (it’s going to feel like a long time until the Christmas break!) but I reckon it will all be worth it, even just to have the opportunity to leap about the fields of Kerry.

I hope you’re feeling just as motivated these few weeks as we say goodbye to the summer that never was but if you are lacking a little and are in need of a gentle push, have a gander at the worries I am letting go of this week. I have linked some articles which have inspired me too so please read them to enlighten you or even just made you chuckle because a wee giggle can be enough to lift us 🙂

Here goes…

Listening to bullshit – we don’t have to put up with it and we’re actually doing ourselves a disservice by participating in even listening to it. Read this article which is an excerpt from Brené Brown’s new book to help convince you!

Not being able to write – working a full time job and then coming home to write a post from scratch can feel almost impossible which is why I need to have a wee space at home to wind down. I loved reading this piece where writers spoke of how they get their creative juices flowing, where they can create best and even what they choose to wear!

Getting major wedding envy – I trawled through the photos from Sara Tasker’s wedding (who is the genius behind Me & Orla) and heard a little whimper escape because it was all so beautiful. If I ever get married it will be in a barn I am almost certain with ferns in my hair OR I might just wear ferns in my hair at the weekend for kicks.

Being a very lazy baker – I have hardly baked all summer and feel guilty that my cake mixer has been sitting in the corner abandoned and unused. With the apple season rounding out I decided to pop down to Armagh to bake some apples and either re-try this recipe or give Rebecca’s mum-in-law’s recipe a go.

Missing someone – Autumn brings with it moments of contemplation and this can sometimes lead to pangs for the people we wish were by our side. Read this poem if you’re feeling the same. It made me ache in the most beautiful way.

 

Have a lovely week folks and if you have any tips for Kerry, help a sister out and leave a comment!

What Not To Worry About #37

What Not To Worry About #37

Happy Tuesday friends, the last Tuesday in September… How did this happen?! Despite writing this from a hospital bed, I am feeling more invigorated than ever after a weekend full of creativity and inspiration. It is truly amazing how things land in our lap in abundance when we need it most and what I needed more than ever was to feel inspired in this little moment of vulnerability.

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I was admitted to hospital on Wednesday evening and although it’s never a nice experience being hooked up to an IV drip or to sleep on a squeaky plastic mattress, it has been a restorative week and I am feeling more like myself again. Thankfully I am not chained to the bed and I’m allowed to ‘escape’ for a few hours during the day to inhale real fresh air (man, hospital air can drain the very moisture from your bones) which has saved me from going a bit mad.

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And so I took myself off on Friday evening to the streets of Belfast and decided to explore everything Culture Night had to offer. For those of you who maybe aren’t local to the city, Culture Night is a one-night-only event that happens every September and sees Belfast come to life with over 250 free events taking place in venues scattered across the city. The organisers were expecting up to 100,000 people to attend this year and I think they might have been about right as I squidged myself between hoards of people carrying maps in their hands, hunting down the next event they wanted to get to.

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The night was a real success and walking through the streets reminded me of the reasons why I love Belfast. It is a city that is at it’s best when celebrating diversity and rejoicing in the unique. Over the space of a few hours I roamed from a cathedral hosting a youth jazz orchestra to watching a swing dance competition, to listening to psychedelic rock in a hairdressers bathed in red light, to an Afro-Caribbean festival, to a drag queen street concert.

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I went on my own as a last minute decision which was possibly the best way to experience the night since I could wiggle my way between the crowds and pick and choose what I wanted to see while stumbling upon events I had no idea were happening. It was a fantastic night and could possibly be the most positive and happy event the city has each year.

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Keeping in tune with my new love affair with Belfast, I visited the Tesco Taste Festival at Custom House Square with my cousins on Saturday. A love of food is in our genes and we fully encouraged one another to eat as many samples as we could fit in our bellies – not an ounce of shame between us! The scale of the festival was a real surprise, I hadn’t expected such variety and there were Michelin chefs cooking for an audience live – not something you see every day!

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And then Sunday happened, a cherry on the top of a weekend that made my soul happy. Emma who writes the Life at Littlewood blog (beautiful writer – go read her work!) had organised an event for other bloggers called the ‘Country Blog Retreat’ which was aimed at bringing a group of creatives together who are perhaps needing a little inspiration with their blog or in any part of their lives. We can all struggle with believing that our voice has the right to be heard and the event was full of like-minded people who had this common desire to create something of meaning to themselves.

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As we found our seats (and practiced some self-control with the gift bags) there was a collective murmur that descended within the room. People began exchanging advice on where they were at with their Instagram account, how they were struggling with photography, how disillusioned they sometimes felt with writing blog posts and whether they should be writing at all. There was an immediate atmosphere of support and it felt like a community had just been created within that room that only strengthened as the afternoon wore on.

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The knowledge the speakers had was invaluable and I know that it definitely shook me out of the ‘creative coma’ I’ve been feeling for a number of months. I had been struggling massively with writing good content and feeling a little adrift in terms of what I wanted to be writing about so when Mel Wiggins spoke about writing for ourselves, writing content that we would want to read, it felt like a switch went off in my head!

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So here I am, feeling rested, inspired, invigorated and ready to write more than ever. As well as that I have a few more worries that I will be leaving behind this week. Here they are:

Knowing how to cool down a cup of tea – I am one of those people that leaves their tea for a few minutes so it’s just warm and then I drink it all in one go. The danger in this is that I often forget I have the tea to drink and when I go to drink it I’ve left it too long and it’s like dishwater – the horror! I recently read this article about lessons readers had learned and I found that adding 2 ice cubes is perfect for cooling down tea quickly – who would’ve thunk it?! Read the article for more ingenious insights and lessons.

On having regrets – We all have them don’t we? One of my biggest regrets is missing all those lectures in University because I would give anything to immerse myself in knowledge like that again. The lesson is to learn from these regrets and here are some amazing women who have their own thoughts on how to do that.

Attractive physiotherapists – I had a not-too-shabby physiotherapist pop in to my hospital room on Sunday to perform some physio on my chest which would have involved him actually laying hands on my chest. Eh, don’t think so pal! I kindly told him to come back in a while and then promptly did my own physio to avoid any embarrassment and humiliation. Crisis averted.

Having a purpose – turning 29 has made me very contemplative and wondering where I fit in the grand scheme of things. I think this is fairly normal the older we get and it’s nice to know I am not alone in this. I’ll probably write something of my own regarding this communal symptom of age but for now, read this if you fancy delving in to something uplifting.

Hospital food – Because no one wants to have to slice their mashed potato like it’s a cake.

 

Have a great week folks! 

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What Not To Worry About #34

What Not To Worry About #34

Happy Tuesday! A little late with the post this week as my mind is consumed with the prospect of feeling the sun on my skin and the sand in between my toes. I have never felt more ready for a holiday especially since it felt like I woke up in a misty cloud this morning, the air thick with moisture even though it wasn’t even raining. And last night was the first time we had the heating on in months. Yes, I think Autumn might have arrived a little early.

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Despite the sad, sad weather we were determined to make the most of the weekend and finally get that afternoon of hiking that I’ve been talking about all summer. We arranged an afternoon climb up Cavehill with friends along with their 10 month old baby who they carried in a very impressive and very professional looking backpack thingy that I was supremely jealous of because he looked so darn cosy in it. Although I have been jabbering on about going hiking for ages and even included it in my summer bucket list,  I actually don’t own a pair of hiking boots (the pair I had from my uni days have scarpered during one of my million moves). I thought I would be grand in my gym trainers but I was oh so WRONG. After a few rain showers the grass was thoroughly muddy and so on our descent I was a victim of a perfect comedy slip (legs waaay up in the air) that left me covered in muck and a little bit of shame. I’ll be buying hiking boots for next summer for sure.

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Luckily, the rest of the weekend was a little less testing with a mountain of good things to celebrate. The first being my best friend Caoimhe getting engaged to her ‘boyfriend of a million years’ Simon which was just about the best news to hear. Caoimhe and I have been best buds since we were young cubs when we were borrowing each other’s Tammy Girl clothes and Collection 2000 make-up for the teenage disco. She has been there to listen to my worries and fears around the world, namely:

  • When I cried over my first love in the Gaeltacht (where we were supposed to be improving our Gaelic in Donegal but mostly ran after boys)
  • When we worried if we’ll actually pass our AS Levels while on our first girls holiday in Santa Ponsa
  • Holding my hand while I panicked on our first long-haul flight to San Francisco
  • When I was sick in SE Asia and made me eat food
  • When she reminded me of home while we lived in Australia
  • When she would let me talk for hours on walks around the Lagan river in Belfast

What memories we’ve made over the years and to see your friend beaming with happiness is all you can ask for, right?

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The second bit of celebrating happened on Sunday when I stood as godmother for Dara, the son of my friends Catherine and Phily. This is their third child and I find it amazing that I am even friends with people who have three children let alone being thought of as responsible enough to be a guardian in any shape or form. But it turns out I can actually pull this whole godmother thing off and I felt very grown up as I held him, proud as punch. It is on afternoons like that when I feel so glad to live close to home and be a part of such a happy event. Seeing families rallying together to welcome in their new little person, taking far too many photos and passing him around for cuddles while eating plenty of cake. It really was a good weekend.

Carrying on with this positivity, I have a few worries that I am letting go of this week…

People getting judge-y about how people should enjoy their engagement

I have never been engaged before but I’ve watched a few friends go through the experience and wondered how the hell they deal with all the pressure. All the questions and opinions even within the first few days must be a little overwhelming and it was no surprise to read this article which talks about the bucket-loads of anxiety some people might feel at first. People should just chill out and understand that everyone is different whether the couple stay engaged forever or book their wedding an hour after they get engaged. Just do what makes you happy!

My make-up bag

Ugh you do not want to go in there. I have brushes in there that haven’t been washed since I bought them (Lord knows when) and mascara so old it’s like cement. I recently read this post which taught me when I should be throwing things away instead of hoarding all of this crap that I know I will probably never use.

Worrying that I am a millennial or too old

Does a millennial have to born after 2000? Or do I belong to the most hated subset of the population? Either way I major LOL’d at this bit of internet gold.

An invisible hair on my face

Probably the most annoying thing to have on one’s face when one is trying to remain in a serious conversation with a coworker. No I don’t have a tick I just have a hair on my face which is driving me INSANE!!

Living ethically

I often worry about my impact on the environment and if I am truly doing everything I can do live as mindfully as possible which is why Mel Wiggins is my go-to gal for ideas on how to live a more ethical life. She has just started an e-course for families who are looking to improve the way they live socially and environmentally which you can find here. I think it’s amazing what she’s doing and if you’re looking for a way to begin a change but are unsure how then I couldn’t recommend this course more.

 

Have a lovely week and here’s to turning the heating on and closing the curtains the moment we get home!!

Local Favourites: Dunluce Castle & Mussenden Temple

Local Favourites: Dunluce Castle & Mussenden Temple

I think there are a few things that come to mind when foreigners think of Ireland (according to Hollywood anyway):

  1. Rain. Lots of rain.
  2. Green fields as far as the eye can see.
  3. Old men drinking Guinness
  4. A random person playing the fiddle in the pub
  5. Castle ruins dotted everywhere

We Irish might roll our eyes at this glamourisation of our wee isle especially when a plastic poncho-covered American tourist insists on defining themselves as Irish or asks where the best pint of Guinness is (I usually direct them to the Harp Bar or The Duke of York). But the fact is that most of the expectations of Ireland are usually about right. It does rain here. A lot. And most aul fellas in a pub probably will be propped up by a pint of the black stuff. And we really are lucky enough to have hundreds of castle ruins scattered across our hills and rugged coastlines.

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But having so much history close to home can be a hindrance here because we can overlook these beautiful castles on our doorstep just because they are familiar. I grew up in Armagh, the ancient capital of Ireland and my childhood home was about a mile or two away from a burial ground that dates back thousands of years. I only just visited this site again for the first time since primary school and felt so ashamed that I’d forgotten about such an important piece of my history.

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I lived abroad for about 6 years and I think coming back to live in Ireland awoke me to just how many fascinating sites there are here that I haven’t even been to. I have been determined to rectify this since and so on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago I set off with a begrudging boyfriend to explore the ruins of Dunluce Castle and Mussenden Temple.

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You might not know the names of these coastal monuments but you will recognise them especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan. It’s difficult to find a place along this part of the Irish coastline that hasn’t been filmed for the series yet which is evident by the throngs of tour buses that descend on these shores in the summer hoping to catch a glimpse of a set now famous around the world.

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Our first stop was Dunluce Castle, probably one of the most famous ruins in the North. The castle hangs precariously off the cliffs of Antrim as if carved out of the cliffs themselves but even in its decay it still casts a foreboding figure on the jagged coastline. The castle was first built just over 500 years ago by the McQuillan clan but was seized by the MacDonnell’s from Scotland in the 1550’s who later swore loyalty to Elizabeth I and became the Earls of Antrim. Today its ruins bear a reminder of a time when every piece of land was a prize to be won with consequences more violent than any Game of Thrones episode (GOT fans might recognise the castle as the home of the Greyjoy’s). But who needs TV eh?

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When we arrived at the castle the sun was uncharacteristically beaming down which meant there were even more tourists than usual. To avoid competing for a good shot of the ruins amongst the crowds, I wandered down the road to a nearby field and clambered over the gate. I might have been trespassing (I looked for signs, I swear) but the field was empty of animals and I was able to get uninterrupted views of the castle with the waves crashing against the cliffs beneath.

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After the castle we drove a few miles along the coast to Whitepark Bay to Bothy, a wee timber gem that looks like a homestead plucked from the American Midwest. I had heard a few things about this joint before but I had no idea just how charmed I would be by the food and the people there. There is a real warm welcome upon entering mixed in with a laid-back atmosphere that feels border-line Californian. We were there on a summer’s day so the doors were thrown open to allow the sea breeze to cool the place down while the back was opened up for the sun worshipper’s to eat outside.

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Andrew and I both ordered chicken melts with tobacco onions which we devoured within a few minutes and we spent the next half hour bathing in the afternoon heat not wanting to move at all. We noticed a pizza oven outside too so I would imagine this would be a great spot for a summer’s evening and a few drinks if you didn’t have far to travel. As well as that there’s also a wee stove inside too so it would be super cosy for a winter’s day – they’ve got it all covered here!!

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After being suitably fed and feeling super relaxed we hopped back in the car and headed towards Mussenden Temple which was about a half hour away. The temple forms part of the Downhill Demesne and although it has aged much better than the manor, it is perhaps built at an even more precipitous position than Dunluce – we Irish love our dramatics don’t we?! It was built in 1785 and was to be used as a summer library in memory of the Earl’s cousin Frideswide Mussenden. Imagine cosying up to a book with almost 360 views of the ferocious Atlantic – you wouldn’t leave! These days you can actually hire the temple out as a wedding venue which would be an absolute dream location for anyone – booklover or not.

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On our way to the temple we actually picked up a hitchhiker – Robin from Toulouse – who was hitchhiking his way along the Irish coast with a tent and not much else. We brought him as far as Limavady but took him along to Mussenden which he wasn’t aware even existed. It was so lovely to discover the temple alongside a foreigner because I felt like I was experiencing it as a tourist on holiday. With the sun warming my back and standing on the cliff edge admiring the views out towards Scotland, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. How lucky we are to have all of this on our doorstep.

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What Not To Worry About #29

What Not To Worry About #29

How are we midway through July?! The summer is escaping me and I’m starting to panic that I haven’t ticked off any of my summer bucket list plans that I was so sure I would stick to this year! I have used the excuse that there have been too many grey weekends recently but on Saturday there were no excuses. The clouds had miraculously decided to part and the sun bore down for the first time in what felt like forever. We woke up to a bright room and I dragged Andrew out of the house as quick as I could!

 

The North Coast of Ireland is a spectacular place no matter the weather but during the summer when the sun is shining and the blue sky melts in to even bluer waters, there really is no better place to be. We packed up the car with beach supplies (I naively packed a bikini in case I decided to brave the sea which I ended up chickening out of, of course) and spent the day following the coastline, blasting music in the car and watching the afternoon sun dance across the sea. It is on days like this that remind me how lucky I am to call this island home, returning to the house with tired legs and salty skin.

 

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I will be writing a separate post about my favourite parts of the North Coast that I want to share with you, mainly because I was so snap-happy that there are too many photos to include in this one! I have been putting in a little more effort in to photography recently which is a bit scary because I feel more vulnerable when I begin to care about something, are you the same? There is just too much beauty at our feet here that I feel that the whole world should know what we have and yet I want to keep it from becoming to just another Insta-worthy destination.

 

Whatever way you spent it, I hope your day in the sun was exactly what you needed. Whether you were in your back garden weeding or on the beach with your toes in the sand, just as long as you were able to let go of your cares for just a few hours.

And here are a few of the worries I decided to cast in to the Irish sea last weekend…

 

Unexcitable Dogs

I get so excited when I see a dog. I put on this weird voice that is for dogs only and become embarrassingly unaware of myself. What hurts the most though is when the dog I am so excited to meet doesn’t give a crap that I’m there hopping on the spot like a complete eejit. They just look at me with this feline-like nonchalance and I am left incredibly hurt. I know I should really get a grip.

Getting Chilli Underneath my Fingernails

It burrrrrrns!! Especially when you go and forget about it every 5 minutes and spread the burn in to your eyes burning off a good layer of your cornea.

The Food Bin

I went to throw out our food in to our big compost bin a few days and and ran for my friggin’ life. I know this is a little rank and I really hope you’re not eating as you read this but OH MY GOD there were approximately one trillion maggots decorating the inside and of the bin. A whole ecosystem had grown in there and so naturally I have abandoned going out there since.

People Who Make Weak Tea

No thank you. Just leave the tea bag in.

Skin-tight Ripped Jeans. On Men. 

One of the most difficult part of watching Love Island (my new favourite thing in the world) is having to endure men in white jeans that look like they have been sprayed on. How is this a thing??? Lads there is no call for it so peel them off and slip in to a pair of bootcuts like any good Irish fella.

 

Have a great week!!

 

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