Christmas jam

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Maybe a few months too early, but yesterday my home smelt of Christmas. Cinnamon and other spices mixed in with red wine and plums wafted around the house as I finally got around to cooking jam.

I didn’t have quite enough jam-sugar so I experimented. Through online research I  found out that the main ingredients that makes jam, well, ‘jammy’, is pectin and since plums are high in pectin (like apples, citrus rinds and cranberries) I decided that plain sugar would suffice. Being in  the experimenting mood I even added some Carrageen or Irish Moss (a tasteless but really healthy seaweed) into the mix. Not just based on any old whim, but based on the fact that it is know for its gelling properties – an added benefit is that it is known for its anti-viral properties and that it is believed to be an aphrodisiac can’t be a bad thing either!

The plums I had bought at the fruit & veg market were still a little bit hard, so I cut them up, pitted them and let them sit over night in sugar. When I went to make the jam and lifted the lid a wonderful fruity smell seduced my nose with its sweet plumy goodness.

A short while later, as I stood in the kitchen, while adding some red wine and spices and pureeing the fruit, I was enveloped by the scent of Christmas. And I have to admit it took some will power to not just put on ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and give in to the feeling of Christmas.

Now I have thirteen glasses, of all different shapes and sizes, filled with a dark ruby red jam that will hopefully tastes as good as it smells – my morning toast will just have to surrender to some testing!

jam toast

trip to the fruit-market

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Today, my Swiss neigbour/friend and I decided that we would go down to Dublin’s fruit & veg market and get some yummy produce to make jam from.

We left this morning, perhaps a little late (my neighbour that they open at 5am and I though she knew something I don’t) but we were still in time to get a tray of plums, some blueberries, lemons and beans.

So, while my friend gets first pick of the crop I have been trying to find some good recipes online. And since my funds will be very low this year (my masters will be taking all of my euros) I have been thinking of turning the wholesale fruit into edible Christmas gifts.

Now my evening is planned and I am excited to get cooking. But for now I will tackle my to-do list and hurry the day along. And who knows, maybe it’s even time to pull out my knitting needles too – after all the temperatures are low and it feels like the perfect time to start creating socks.

 

 

a trip to the Irish countryside

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Yesterday I drove a friend down  to the Irish countryside – to County Carlow to be exact, Borris to be precise. As a photographer she was called down to take some property photos and since she doesn’t have a car – nor does she drive – I helped her out.

As we drove around and found our way down lane-ways and up hills, the ever changing sky painted the fields in all shades of green. In between her shoots we picked wild berries and were shown around a farm-yard ‘opera-house’. We met a mum, a teacher, an artist, a film maker and “the girls” – some free range chickens.

And while the weather wasn’t always on it’s best behavior it was good to get out of Dublin and be reminded of how lovely Ireland can be. But as the evening approached I was happy to turn back towards home, a culchi girl for a day, a city girl in my heart.

a cloudy view

a cloudy view

some knots lying around

some knots lying around

coulourful pegs

colourful pegs

sun peaking out

sun peaking out

lots of black berries

lots of black berries

berries

a tumbledown lodge

a tumbledown lodge

fenced in

fenced in

luck lying around

luck lying around

ready to burst

ready to burst

the sun arrived

the sun arrived

cute chicken house

cute chicken house

artichoke in bloom

artichoke in bloom

re-purposed bed

re-purposed bed

take a seat

take a seat

ginger ale in Grogans

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grogans17As many know pub-life is a big part of Irish culture – some believe it is all about the drink, but really it is all about the talk. And one of the best places in Dublin to find just that is Grogans on South Williams Street.

Like the good old fashioned pub that Grogans is, there are no TV screens or music to distract you from communicating with friends and strangers alike. Shyness is something you just have to leave at the door, since you’re probably going to end up sitting (or standing) next to someone you don’t know, but in no time you will definitely have made a new friend.

So, even though I am not drinking alcohol at the moment (an upcoming blood test requires my abstinence) what better place to go on a Thursday evening, when you have no other plans? Once in Grogans I met a friend and sat next to a couple of tourists and some “Bog Babes” from Kerry just back from a photo-shoot.

Later more friends arrived and a lively mother/daughter duo from Wisconsin and their Irish tour-guide joined us. As stories where told and memories made – some even captured on camera- I sipped my ginger ale, a little envious of those who indulged in a pint, and couldn’t help but think how wonderful a place like Grogans is. So, while some may enjoy a gastropub or a craft beer, Grogans and a proper chat is my pick any day of the week – even when I’m only drinking ginger ale!

Film Review:The Irish Pub

shadow and light

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29_meTrying to find the perfect words and some good ideas proved to be more than a little tricky this morning. As I sat at my desk my mind kept wandering and my eyes drifted towards the window.

There was not much to see, except for the ever changing shadow of the birdhouse. As the sun traveled across the cloud speckled sky the play of light and shadow, on my whitewashed wall, tugged at my mind.

I couldn’t help but wonder about how without light there is no shadow, two opposites that exist in harmony. A bit like emotions that we have polarised: happy and sad, brave and fearful, relaxed and stressed. Without one we don’t really understand the other – true courage comes from battling your fears, relaxation fully appreciated in the knowledge of what stress feels like and pure joy felt in the realization that unhappiness is inevitable.

Now, that clouds have stolen the shadows away, my view has become less interesting, making me wonder what life would be like in a bland concoction of even-temperedness. No highs, or lows, to make us laugh and cry – memories created from emotion filled moments no longer an option in life.

So, while ideas still elude me today, I think I will go out and see what shadows I can find and what feelings my memories of today will be made up of.

thoughts on Tuesday

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One more week and it will be September and the summer  truly over, autumn at our doors- 21 days if the calendar is to believed. I have no idea where the time went and with with only a few sunny days between May and now I seem to be still waiting on the summer sun.

But since no one can stop time I suppose I will just have to cut my loses and get on with it. After all autumn can be so beautiful – the leaves turning gold, the winds playing with the leaves and the last of the warm summer days  saying their goodbyes.

And, like spring, autumn brings new beginnings: the semester restarts, my Masters begins, my birthday is approaching and another year is on the horizon. So maybe instead of mourning the lack of a summer I should be looking forward to all that is new to come.

However as the rain beats down on my windows it is hard not to long for a bit of warmth. But since weather is as unchangeable as time I think I will just decide to stay in and enjoy the pattering of the drops at it creates a soundtrack for my Tuesday thoughts.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

Albert Camus

wet Sunday and warm socks

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The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It has been raining since last night, big, heavy drops creating soggy puddles discouraging any desire to leave the house. And since the temperature has dropped to a slightly frostier level I felt the need o pull on some socks for the first time in months.

With mt feet all snugly warm, cups of hot tea and a book to keep me company I have decided that staying in may not be a bad thing at all – the sound of rain a wonderful  soundtrack for a Sunday afternoon.

leaf puddle in my backyard

leaf puddle in my backyard


pink drops

pink drops


wet leaf

wet leaf

Weekly Photo Challenge: Today Was a Good Day

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bench feetYesterday was a very good day – the sun came out and I was able to sit for a while on my blue bench and enjoy the sun – a cup of tea, a book and wiggling my toes in flip-flops just made it perfect

While I turned the pages on my book, my sunglasses propped on my nose in a rare outing this year, the neighborhoods children cycled  up and down the road and an inventive dad even set up a portable sandpit (a large plastic box filled with sand and toys).

And when the sun crept behind the railroad bridge I joined my neighbours on a small bike trip down the coast and savoured a cup of coffee as the blue  sky turned golden, dipping the few clouds in pink, turning them into pastel coloured candy-floss.

All in all – a very good day!

breaking with routine

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my little mobile office

Yesterday I had a few appointments in town so I decided to attempt a break in my routine. I packed my computer into my bag, added my lovely green earphones and was ready to try some writing away from my desk.

As I left my first appointment I decided to sit out on the terrace of The Woolen Mills, even if the sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds, and enjoy some coffee on the quays. 

To my surprise, and joy, for the first in a few weeks I was able to really write. As the words mounted and the story unfolded I couldn’t help but feel excited about what was happening. The only problem was that my next appointment was approaching quickly and I had to leave my inspiration behind.

And while I wasn’t able to recapture the flow in the afternoon I believe that a lesson was lernt – a break in your routine is like unlocking a door – you never know what you’ll find but if nothing else it is  a change of surroundings.

The less routine the more life.

Philosopher Amos Bronson Alcott

baking coconut macaroons

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I woke up this morning with the unusual urge to bake some macaroons – no reason why and I haven’t a clue where the idea came from. Over breakfast I pondered my sweet desire and decided to give in to it.

With the radio entertaining me with some old hits I whipped the egg-white into frenzy and sieved the powder-sugar in, a hint of lemon and lots of coconut later I was left with a sugary, white batter – like a cloud in a bowl.

As I spooned little fluffy pillows onto the  baking tray I decided to pop to a friend for a cup of tea and share my morning munchies. And the rest – well I will offer them to the lovely mechanic around the corner – my boot won’t unlock so maybe we can exchange some goodies!

macaroons

a little darker then I like - but yummy none the less

a little darker then I like – but yummy none the less

 

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