Friday, November 27, 2015

Fabulous Gifts for Frequent Flyers

I'll be honest with you, I'm dotty about The Dotty Lemon.  It's a small Irish online business selling the cutest gifts you never knew you needed until you saw them.  Established by Cork native Aisling Power, it sells a range of jewellery, stationery, storage and gifts to suit all price points.  It's also the perfect store to find a Secret Santa gift for a colleague or friend.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Review : Home: Recipes from Ireland by Trish Deseine

Trish Deseine, an Irishwoman living in France, has come home.  After many years writing about food in French including her sublime book “Je Veux du Chocolat”, having children and immersing herself in all things French, it was time for a change.  Trish has written a tribute to the often unappreciated and underrated food of Ireland.

Upon opening her new book “Home: Recipes from Ireland”, I was immediately struck by its simplicity and elegance.  No hipster food styled glossy cover, just a serene austere green with simple white typography.  It’s an indication of what lies ahead as you open the book.  Great care has been taken by Trish and her photographer Deirdre Rooney to focus on the food and landscapes of Ireland.  You won’t find any images of curly red haired children in Aran jumpers with donkeys carrying panniers of turf in Home.  What you will find is a collection of recipes which celebrate the wonderful bounty that is Irish food.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Stuffed Courgettes à la Francaise

A few weeks ago I was in Cannes, not as the rumour in work would have it, for the Film Festival, but for work.  I was brought out for dinner in a lovely family restaurant in the old town where our starter was an assortment of stuffed vegetables filled with a delicious minced meat.  I asked the waitress if I could have the recipe and after much humming and hawing, it was revealed at breakneck speed in French.  Luckily I grasped enough of it to scribble it down.  Deirdre Barlow's stuffed marrow, this is most definitely not!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Carving with Confidence

There's a long running joke in our house that my Mum could make a whole chicken feed two people, possibly three at a push,  because of her less than stellar carving skills.  I digress.  Poulet Bonne Femme owners Gavin & Sara have realised that there's loads of people who couldn't carve a roast to save their life so they've launched a programme of carving masterclasses at Salt Cafe, Avoca, Monkstown, Co. Dublin.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chocolatey Courgette Cake

I can hear you now: Courgette, eewwwww.  Look, if it tasted horrible, do you really think I'd bake it, never mind share the recipe with you?  My first taste of courgette was as a kid tasting very exotic Zucchini Bread from an American friend of my parents.  I'll be honest, I ate it before I knew what it contained because it smelled of sugar and spice and all things nice.  Also, we didn't have a clue what a zucchini was, never mind a courgette because vegetables in my day either came in a tin or from the back garden (peas, spuds & carrots).  As time has progressed along with my taste buds, courgettes are one of my favourite vegetables.  So far I've written recipes for soup, cake, spaghetti (before spiralisers were trendy), fritters, and a really tasty vegetable gratin.  Last week I was gifted a beautiful, homegrown, impressive looking courgette as a birthday gift and I wanted to create something unexpected from it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Stuck in a Moment

Last week we did some spring cleaning.  Actually, it's October so technically it should be autumn, but you know what I mean.  As part of the giant tidy up, I moved all the photos in the living room to one place along where the two CD storage units are.  Remember, the ones that you clubbed together to buy us as a wedding gift?  And there you were.  In a carousel frame with other great pictures of our wedding, arm in arm with Ru, beaming with happiness.  I've looked at this photo more often this week than I have in the eleven years since it was taken because you're not here any more, and we miss you.

I honestly thought it was a typo or that somebody had hacked her phone when I got the text on Wednesday.  Your wife, my friend, had to break the shocking news that you weren't here any more.  I really believed it was a bad joke and that I'd get a text in another second telling me that it was wrong and not to worry.  The second text removed all hope and time stood still.  I sat at my desk in work completely immobile while my mind raced ahead.  She's a widow.  How will she cope?  How will I tell Ru?  Then it was my turn to shatter somebody else's day as I hit redial on my phone to my husband, not knowing how to tell him that our friend, a man we loved and cherished, was gone forever.  I heard his heart break with every word I spoke and mine broke too.  That was just the start of the heartbreak.

I saw you on Friday but you weren't there.  You had gone, as your gorgeously funny son with a dry wit just like yours told me, to heaven with a huge flatscreen TV and a remote to hog all to yourself.  I kissed and hugged your wife, trying to make it better but failing miserably.  I held my friend's hand at your removal as we cried, treasuring memories of your love of black and white movies.  Yesterday, I did it all again, holding onto Ru like a lifebelt while the priest spoke about love and compassion and the Lourdes choir sang so beautifully.  You had no idea how much you were loved, my gentle friend.  The church was packed with family, colleagues, friends and people who truly appreciated your wisdom and kindness. The priest reminded us all how devastating depression is, and how it can overshadow even the purest love.  The darkness won.

We found two white feathers at home yesterday.  I'm not a superstitious person but I believe that these are gifts from somebody in heaven.  From you.  And when we head to the 3Arena next month to see your favourite band, we'll be thinking of you and wishing you were sitting beside us again to tell us once again the story of how you met Bono in the loo of the Shelbourne Hotel (and didn't sneak a downward look).  I can't promise that I'll hold it together, especially when they play Stuck in a Moment because that song has been in my head since Wednesday morning.

Sleep tight, our gentle friend.  We love you.

A&R x

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Review : Five Worth Reading

I've had a stack of books on my desk at home to read for months.  Yes, I'm a lazy mare and I apologise but I've been up to my eyes and I can barely get the Sunday papers read by the following Friday at this stage.  These five are definitely worth a read though - see what you think.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Am I Penny Wise or Pound Foolish

Ok, so it should be cent wise or euro foolish, but it doesn't sound as good.  I was interviewed by Conor Pope of the Irish Times last week about our disposable income, commonly known as "too much month at the end of the money".  Our finances have changed over the years, from spending everything I earned, and a little bit more in my 20's when I lived from loan to loan.  Then we moved into saving as much as humanly possible for a house deposit (and to clear off the credit card debt and bank loans). That was the time of working two jobs to pay off the debt, resulting in a very grumpy and exhausted me.

When I started writing as Babaduck, it was at a time when I had just lost my job and work was very scarce and we entered a very rocky financial phase for almost a year - more about it here.  This basically changed how I saw money and turned me into a bit of a penny pincher.  I do love a good bargain and have no shame in rooting through reduced to clear bins.

Photograph by Alan Betson

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

We've been looking after the little fluffy dog for the past week and it's been great fun - she definitely owns the house and we're just the lodgers.  We even had visitors today who just came to see her for cuddles.  Nice to know your place in the pecking order...  You can't have guests and not offer them a few biscuits or a slice of cake so I decided to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies, completely forgetting that one of the visitors isn't a chocolate lover.  Whoops.  It all turned out ok - Kate actually likes a little bit of chocolate and there were just enough chocolate chips in the cookies to make her happy.  And she went home with a bag of cookie dough so she could bake some whenever she wants - a bit of a successful day for everybody.  Especially the dog, who pounced on the cookie crumbs.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

*WINNER* of a Renshaw Baking Hamper

And we have a winner - chosen by Lucy.  Congratulations to Jacinta Geraghty who is the winner of the Renshaw Hamper!

This week, I've mostly been eating cake. Well, it was my birthday and my friends and family really went to town - chocolate ganache layer cake, raspberry brownie cheesecake and chocolate lime tarts. I was well and truly spoiled, let me tell you. Now it's my turn to give one of you a little gift. The baking experts at Renshaw have given me a hamper stuffed full of their fabulous baking products and you could be the one to get your bake on.

Win Me!