When kids take advantage of Instagram.

Happy Pancake Tuesday.

‘Great news, Mum,’ announced Middle Daughter late last week.
‘Hmmmn?’ I might have had my head stuck in Instagram.
‘It’s Pancake Tuesday next week.’
‘Oh, great.’
‘And we’re off school so we can have pancakes All DAY LONG!’
‘OK.’ Like I said, Instagram.

The seed was sown. I got up on Tuesday morning and I made pancakes. I made pancakes ALL DAY LONG!

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A workman was painting the wall at the front of our house and, feeling proud of my copious crêpe creation, I brought him a pancake with his three O’Clock cuppa.

‘It’s not Shrove Tuesday, is it?’ he enquired with a concerned frown, as if he should have been at mass or something.
‘It is!’ I replied wondering if he would judge me for not being at mass or something.

I got straight back to the cooker to stack up more pancakes for dinner.

Three crêpes later (time having become meaningless, my day portioned into piles of pancakes) my workman returned his tea tray with a smirk.

‘Your kids are having you on, Missus.’
‘Excuse me?’ Mother Lion, ready to leap.
‘I’ve asked five different people walking by and they all said Pancake Tuesday is next week.’

So, not only had my children fooled me, maintaining straight faces all day while they debated the virtues of chocolate/cream over jam/yogurt or lemon/sugar, I was pilloried across the neighbourhood as the woman who doesn’t even know what day of the year it is.

Happy Pancake Tuesday.

I clearly need to leave the house more often.

I repaid my children by layering up the dinner pancakes with salmon, steamed broccoli, béchamel sauce and a sprinkle of cheddar (half an hour at 180ºC). They were less than pleased but Husband and I agreed that the dish was a triumph. I’ll take my wins where I find them.

pancake lasagne with salmon and broccoli

While the kids have been a-lazing (and a-scheming) in front of the TV, I have been hard at work (ahem) reading books.

The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser is a superb book, the sort that stays with you and changes the way you see the world. I wish I could make it required reading for schools, for parents, for politicians…for everyone who eats. Read my full review here.

The Rituals of Dinner, Margaret Visser, book review

I’ve read most of Robert Harris‘s books and always look forward to a new release but Conclave was a big disappointment. I had heard Harris interviewed and loved the idea of a novel based on the election of a new pope. He writes with great style but the plot went completely awry. The full review is here.

review: Robert Harris, Conclave.

Storm Doris  is still swirling around the garden in a most menacing fashion so I’m about make a massive cup of coffee and retire to bed with Kate Atkinson‘s Life After Life. It’s shockingly good.

(PS. The pantry is done but it’s been so dark, I can’t get any photos that do it justice. Next week, I promise!)

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Green Shoots.

Nigella seed head. Irish garden.

This was the best my garden had to offer: a Nigella seed head, love in a mist turned dried up rattle bag. I had to admire her resilience and take comfort in her aged elegance.

Nigella seed head. Irish garden.

Ah, but that was last week when the days were still so grey and gloomy and it seemed difficult to believe the winter might be almost over.

Blueberry shoots.

The plants have better faith than I. They must have been poised on their marks, primed to lurch forward at the first blast of sunshine.

apple tree shoots

Ready, set and they’re off. Everything racing skyward.

blackcurrant shoots

There is undeniable beauty in youth and incomparable pleasure in watching small things grow.

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And even those of us who have been around a while get a new lease on life.

perennial wallflowers in febuary, cork, Ireland

I’ve been out in the garden, weeding, pruning, transplanting stray seedlings of Aquilegia and robbing my own rhubarb.There was a smell of green in the air and the sounds of life, worms, bugs, slugs moving, minuscule insects flitting and a massive bee floundering, half asleep, around the artichoke. It was the greatest balm imaginable to feel the sun on my face.

Anenome coronaria.

I came indoors with rosy cheeks, achy upper thighs (by which I really mean arse), enough rhubarb to make Nigella’s rhubarb cornmeal cake (from Domestic Goddess), enough flowers to fill two small jugs and enough joy in my heart to get me through the forecast week of rain coming this way.

spring bouquet from an Irish garden

The most certain thing you can say about Spring in Ireland is that it is predictably unpredictable.

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Off My Trolley.

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Hands up, who remembers The Looting of Doon? Well, that little tea trolley that I got for a fiver at the convent auction has turned out to be a stellar investment. I wheel it around to whichever window is getting the best light, take my snaps and trundle it back again to home position. Usually, it lives here, against the kitchen window which has turned out to be the busiest part of the whole house.

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Just take this picture. You can see my sweet geranium cuttings which have taken beautifully over the winter.They must be the easiest cuttings in the world to take which is a good thing as the recent frost wiped out the few I abandoned outside. There are three in that tomato tin so I probably need to pot them on soon but I’m running short of windowsills.

Next up are some of my chitting first early seed potatoes. I think I need to plant those soon. Beyond the potatoes you can make out the Verbena and fennel seed heads which successfully lured goldfinches all winter. They’ve been stripped bare now and need tidying up. Jeanie Mac, this post is starting to make me all too aware of how much work I have to do.

Moving our gaze swiftly past the extremely dusty vase, you see the massive bunch of daffs Husband brought home on Valentine’s Day. He knows what I like. They were all closed on Tuesday too, which is the way I love to get them, and I have been taking great pleasure in watching them open into a blaze of yellow glory. They smell warm and sweet and garden-y. That urge to get out in the garden is rising.

The little jam jar holds a ‘science experiment’ that Small Girl and I are monitoring together. We filled the jar with toilet paper, dampened it, and ‘planted’ two broad beans. One is planted the right way up and the other is upside down.

broad bean geotropism experiment. science for kids.

The one that’s planted the right way up does exactly what you imagine…the root emerges and grows downwards.

broad bean geotropism, science for kidsbroad bean, geotropism, science for kids,

The upside-down root pops out its little head and then turns around and heads down. Geotropism in action, my friends. I know you know all this but it really is fun to watch!

broad bean, geotropism, science for kids.

My brain has been very busy lately and I felt the symptoms of a crash creeping upon me. There is nothing at all wrong, just too many projects on the go and a nasty virus trying its best to floor me. When I saw this tiny embroidery project on the front of a magazine I knew it was exactly the therapy I needed.

Mollie Makes embroidery hoop

I’m actually quite proud of myself for having spotted the signs rather than folding under the wave as occasionally happens. That, I think, counts as progress. Sometimes I just need a tiny boost to keep my head above water.

Mollie Makes embroidery hoop

Small Girl sat beside me with her pencils and colouring book while I did ‘colouring in with thread’ as she called it. Bliss.

Mollie Makes, #molliemakers, embroidery hoop

People always tell you to look at the big picture. I find the whole big picture overwhelming. Making plans for the future, trying to raise decent people, letting them loose, surviving school exams, Trump, Brexit, our faltering government…it’s too much. I do better when I focus in on the best bits, the small things that give me a momentary spark of joy. If I continue to train my eye on one small spark after another…before I know it, there will be a blaze. That’s the plan.img_4203-2

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To the one I love…

nigella Lawson, tessellating hearts.

There are days when I am convinced that Nigella Lawson was put on Earth to make me fat.

Negella Lawson, custard cream hearts.

Or happy. Let’s face it: the woman is a genius.

nigella Lawson, tessellating hearts.

Hearts tessellate, who knew?

Nigella Lawson, custard cream hearts.

Feast is one of my favourite cookbooks. It reads like a lesson in loving life, revelling in it.

Nigella Lawson, custard cream

Feast lives on my eye-level shelf for ease of access when an occasion needs to be celebrated, a success savoured, a sorrow consoled, a date marked.

Nigella Lawson Custard Cream Hearts

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to you all and, most especially, to the one I love.

Truly. Madly, deeply. To my Valentine.

The recipe for Nigella’s  Custard Cream Hearts is here.

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Jammy Out!

Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I’ve been fairly up to my eyeballs in books lately and, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t be happier. Husband’s phrase of the week has been,‘you are SO jammy!’ which roughly translates from Corkonian to English as, ‘how did you get so lucky, getting paid to read the books you love!’

He’s right, of course, and I can hardly believe it myself. The latest development has been the delivery of some Advance Reading Copies from Penguin and Vintage which had me dancing reels around the kitchen table with excitement. You never saw anybody get so excited about a book lacking its proper cover!

My balancing act now will be to keep up with the list of classics I am determined to read, which won’t necessarily bring any income but will surely feed my soul, while producing timely reviews of new releases. On top of that, I have a tiny seed of an idea germinating in my head which is, I think, a good idea but would involve a mountain of reading….waahhhh… I need an extra brain.

I am loving it though, every second!

I love the variety of books I’m reading. I must credit my Middle Girl, a voracious reader, for recommending some excellent children’s books. She is a great fan of Jacqueline Wilson and it’s easy to see why. Clover Moon is a historical drama suitable for children of around 9-12 years old. You can read the full review here.

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

I bought The One Memory of Flora Banks for Teenage Daughter but, such was the hype, I read it myself first. Like all YA fiction, it’s an easy read. I was a little disappointed but I suppose that’s the danger of believing the hype. My full review is here.The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes was a Christmas gift to myself. This type of book is a real guilty pleasure for me. I know it’s not making me a better person but it’s so nice to sink into a really comfortable, unchallenging and entertaining book. I have found that it can be almost impossible to find easy books that are also well written. This is a good one. The full review is here.Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Both Husband and I read Alain de Botton‘s The Course of Love. It cut uncomfortably close to the bone and came close to causing a riot (not the good kind)in our bedroom. I would recommend it wholeheartedly for anyone searching for a deeper understanding of marital relationships. Full review is here.The Course of Love by Alain de Botton.

One final reminder: if you are looking for a bookish Valentine’s gift or a seductive Valentine’s dessert, look no further than Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Review plus recipe here.

Coeurs a la Creme and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

I get a kick out of putting the photos together. I wish I had a little more skill but I’m learning on the job. The light levels have been abysmal lately which doesn’t help.

I’m not a great fan of yellow/orange but these colours seem to be popping up all around me. I ordered some yarn online (I never learn) which I thought would be cream (it was labelled buttermilk) but it is quite definitely yellow.

I’m reading The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser, an absolutely fascinating book, and reading By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder to the Small Girl at bedtime. Bizarrely, both Clover Moon and Silver Lake feature the dire effects of Scarlet Fever reminding me again how grateful I am to Alexander Fleming!

Our telly went on the blink last week and we spent several hours playing Bananagrams…if you haven’t tried it, you should!Laura Ingalls Wilder.

That’s all for now. I’ll be painting pantry shelves all weekend so stand by for the big reveal!

Yep, life these days is pretty jammy, or, to give it the strictly correct Cork phraseology: Jammy Out!

Have a great weekend.

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18th Birthday Fireworks.

first daffodils

Adulthood did not kick off to a great start for Grown-up Son. He tumbled in the back door after school, hot and bothered, with the news that he had crashed his bike. Again.

first daffodils

‘Is your bike alright?’ As the words came out of my mouth and travelled through the air to his appalled ears, I knew I should have inquired after my first born’s welfare before that of his bicycle. The thing is…I could SEE that he was in one piece and this flipping bike of his has cost a fortune because we’ve had to replace the gears twice already after previous calamities. But yes, it was his birthday and I should have been nicer.

‘Do you want a cup of coffee?’ I suggested, by way of amends.

He changed his clothes and came back to the kitchen, leaning comfortably against the cooker and giving me a run-down on his day.

daffodils

Now, I love nothing better than when he spills his day out over a cup of, but…did you notice what I said in the previous sentence? The bit that went ‘against the cooker’?

‘Ow,’ he murmered, quite calmly. And then less calmly.
‘Ow, Ow, Owwwwww!’

Yes. He was on fire. Flames shot up from the bottom of his t-shirt to the back of his head.

I didn’t think. Not a single thought. I balled up the back of his t-shirt in my hands, he wriggled out of it and I tossed it in the sink. Ten seconds and it was all over. His back and my hands were a little bit sore but nothing serious. Mind you, I was shaking like a leaf for half an hour and I don’t think we ever got the coffee.daffodils

Life. You can’t rely on it, can you? He got a neat hair cut a few days ago because he was asked to form a guard of honour at a funeral. If he’d still had his curly mop, it probably would have caught fire.

Daffodils, mind you, daffodils you can rely on.

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Made it to 18.

Sultanabun and son, 1999.

I am the mother of a grown-up child. I am relieved to have made it this far, apprehensive about letting go, nostalgic for the saturated joy of his babyhood and, above all else, bowled over with pride. My son, in my totally biased opinion, is smart, opinionated,witty, kind, interested and interesting. In short, leaving aside a most irritating habit of taking off his shirts without first opening the buttons, a fine young man.

His future belongs to him, his for the taking and his for the making.

But this memory, of a shuttered bedroom on a snowy morning in Padova, is mine.

Sultanabun and son, 1999.
SultanaBun and Son, 1999.

Happy Birthday, Grown-Up Son.

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