Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chocolate, again!

So, this morning, I was having a lovely time at the computer, catching up on my favourite blogs, and out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something flicker. My imagination?

Went on reading, then something again caught the corner of my eye, as I saw a tail disappear around the corner. Yes, a mouse.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! I hate them! Not in my house!

I screamed, which made elder daughter scream, which brought other daughter running to see what all the commotion was about. We then ran into the garden, with phone in hand. Rang hubby, who exploded laughing, and told us he'd be home later, and would deal with it then.

I actually managed to calm myself enough to set 2 traps (sorry anyone humane or squeamish), complete with chocolate. We then beat a hasty retreat to the shops.

We got home just before hubby, so sat in the car in the driveway, too scared to go in ourselves. We need not have worried, both traps empty.

Hubby then began pulling out couches, next thing he's sweeping behind it with dustpan and brush. A little bar of chocolate emerges, well nibbled. I have a faint recollection of throwing it to daughter about 3 weeks ago, she missed, and we forgot all about it amidst a flurry of re-decoration. Obviously, I haven't hoovered under the couch in 3 weeks, and now I'm paying the price.

Now, why would a mouse bother going into a trap for a little piece of chocolate when there's a full bar elsewhere? What a clever fellow. I hope he hasn't made a stash under the floor. And I hope he hasn't sent out invitations "Hey guys, party at Mimi's, tons of chocolate, come on over". Because, if he has, he's in big trouble.

Will you miss us?

Had an interesting conversation with my two girls today.

Them: "You know the way you miss M while he's at his camp?"
Them: "It doesn't fit in with your plans to kick up your heels, have lots of fun and travel when we all leave home.We think that in reality you'll be really lonely and miss us like crazy. We also think that you'll be driving us crazy looking for grand-children."

Then tonight, I picked up Sunday's newspaper, and there was an article on precisely that topic! The writer said, in relation to her 18 year-old "I adore every molecule in her body, and while I will always be there for her, after 18 years hard labour (gladly given) I am also happy that my life will soon be my own again."

I agree. With the Boy being only 13, I've a bit to go yet, but I am looking forward to that freedom when it comes.
I don't think I'll be at all short of ideas on what to do with my time, places to go, things to far as I'm concerned, the world is my oyster. I don't intend to be sitting at home missing them, I intend to be all over the world! Yes, I will miss their views, their energy, their fresh non-cynical outlook on things.
I won't miss the endless piles of washing!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Here at last.

Well, Ikea Dublin opened today. Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

We have, over the years, like thousands of Irish people, travelled to Manchester, Bristol, London, Brussels and Belfast, all in search of that wonderful Swedish stuff. We were bitterly disappointed when Belfast was chosen over Dublin a couple of years ago, and we thought then that we had missed our chance.
But today, all our birthdays came together!
Sounds trite? Well it's not, because as far as our household is concerned, Ikea products just do the biz. Here are 5 things I like about Ikea stuff:
1. They're cheap.
2. They're well designed.
3. They last.
4. They have more than one function where possible.
5. They're easy to assemble (even for non-diy'ers like us).
So, of course, we had to head out there today, myself and the girls. We thought we'd escape the initial rush, so went out for 3pm.
In true Ikea style, traffic was well-managed, you were directed to the next available parking spot, they were giving out Chokladflarn in the (short) queue, all the tills were open. I could just go on and on.
At one point, I looked out the window (though Ikea was described in one of our newspapers as a "windowless box") and I could see the Dublin mountains in the distance- I simply couldn't believe that at last I was in Ikea in my own city!
We got some shelves for daughter's bedroom, now we have to get hold of the carpenter to put them up. In contrast to our best efforts, his shelves don't fall down.
We didn't buy very much, knowing that we can come back tomorrow, and the next day if we want. All our other visits, mainly to kit out bedrooms for start of secondary-school, were time-managed to the last. We either had a ferry or a flight to catch, and we had a specific list, with measurements of each item and of our car. Then, as closing time would approach, we'd make a last-minute dash to grab a few extra things, knowing that the next visit was probably a year away.
You know, I think I will go back over tomorrow, just for the sheer hell of it!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Healing Garden

Some years ago, our local Flower Show had a childrens' category.
The entries had to be on a dinner plate, which was a bit of a challenge for little ones.
However, my daughter decided she wanted to make a "Healing Garden", so I helped her a little, by explaining which plants from our limited collection had healing properties.

She produced a very nice display, with Lavender, Rose, Rosemary, Hypericum and Thyme, spending ages arranging them on the plate.

I was so proud and delighted when she got 2nd prize! She was delighted with the prize- namely an envelope with €10 in it! To a 5-year old, this was a lot of money!

Sitting in the garden today, I was reminded of that time. The Hypericum and Thyme have, unfortunately died, but the other plants are still thriving.

As to the healing properties- well, Lavender is calming and very good for insomnia.However, if you overuse it, especially in the oil form, it can actually have the opposite effect. I wonder does the bee in this picture sleep well? He/she was certainly busy today.

Rose is one of the most wonderful oils for healing a grieving heart. True Rose oil is expensive, but when you consider that it takes the petals from over 40 roses to make just one drop of essential oil, you appreciate how powerful just one drop is. I always think that it's impossible not to be uplifted by the look, feel and scent of a rose.

Hypericum (St. John's Wort) is usually macerated in olive oil, and is used as a carrier oil. It is excellent for inflammatory conditions, especially when used together with calendula.
Thyme has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and is also a good circulatory stimulant.
I'm not the world's greatest photographer, but these photos were taken today in the garden. The last one shows Lavender, Rose (peeping through) and one yellow blossom of Hypericum. A branch of the apple tree insisted in getting in the photo too. I was tempted to clip its wings, but in the end relented!
The rose bush actually belongs to my son, who's still away at his writing camp. I need to see that flower- I miss him like crazy. He decided not to come home this weekend, instead opting to go on some outings. The novel they were writing is finished-165,000 words in 4 days! Apparently their group wrote more words in less time with fewer members than last year's group. That's one way of measuring success!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I meant to give details about those dairy-free chocolates.

Pig in the Kitchen blogspot is where the recipe is from, and they are called "Chocolate Orange Truffles for the Girls". Her recipes are delicious, I've made a few of them, and her stories are very entertaining. I left out the orange (see below) and the recipe still worked fine. Or you could try the Apricot Running Truffles..I haven't tried them yet, maybe tomorrow.

Incidentally, I never eat chocolate and orange together, it makes me nauseous because of something that happened when I was 7 yrs old! We were doing a "tour" of our relatives around my father's native Monaghan and Armagh (Northern Ireland). At the time, N.I was distinctly separated from the South, with different currency and lots of things that were unavailable in the South.

One of these things was Jaffa Cakes. So, with the money I got from my grand-aunt, I indulged in the delicacies of Armagh shopping. A full packet of Jaffa Cakes, all to myself!

The 3-hour car journey home combined with my gluttony was not a good combination. And to this day, I do not eat chocolate and orange together. Even the sight of a Terrys Chocolate Orange is revolting to me, and the smell would definitely set me off. As far as I'm concerned, Terry can have it all to himself.

Funny how, all these years on, my brain and my nose still remember!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Music in the rain"

My daughter's band were playing a short little concert today, again in Marlay Park. This time, however, the setting was a beautiful walled garden. I didn't even know this garden existed- it's actually 2 gardens- a Victorian one that then leads to a Regency one.

The range of plants was of great interest to me, in particular the herbs, from an aromatherapy point of view. One example- Hyssop Officinalis is a very useful oil in aromatherapy, for asthma among other things. I hadn't seen the plant growing before, but in the Regency garden it was thriving. Also, they had several pear trees trained against a wall, and I thought "I could do that at home".

The band were just about to start playing when the rain started, so chairs were turned upside down and we all decamped to the pavilion, where there was a flower show. About 15 minutes later, the sun was out, so the concert took place. About a further 20 mins later, the rain started all over again!

All photos were taken by hubby, in between the drops!

He came home!

So, I got a text from the Boy on Thursday night, short and to the point- "I'm coming home sat at 12". I couldn't wait to see him! And to hear all his news.

It put me thinking of how it was for my Mum when I was at boarding school. I went when I was 11, and loved it from day one. I clearly remember how thrilled she would be to see me and how she'd have saved up all the news to tell me. I would have zero interest in most of what she was telling me, news of neighbours and relatives, but of course I would listen politely while she recounted these tales (sometimes more than once, at which point I would intervene with "Ma, you already told me that!", wondering how on earth she couldn't remember that she had ).

What goes around comes around, and today at 12 noon was my turn! I was so excited going to collect him, but in my case I wanted to hear all his stuff. However, you have to be careful with teenagers not to crowd them in, so I held back and let him lead the conversation.

3 useful snippets that I got were:
1. Thursday is dressing gown day, when they wear dressing gowns over their clothes.
2. They played a game that involved throwing a sock filled with peanuts up in the air and seeing who could catch it.
3. They did a mock of the Late Late Toy Show last night that involved making a toy from cardboard and tinfoil, standing on stage and dramatising the toy's attractions to the audience. Most of them did robots.
Sounds like fun!

Hubby brought them to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (which, incidentally, seems to be the main reason why he came home!). He (the Boy, not the Hubby) was not impressed with a boy in the row in front of him, who talked loudly to his mother during the film. He said "ssh"- no response, then "SSSSH"- still no response, so he then gave the seat a little kick.
That worked!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Confessions of a chocaholic!

A few things recently have conspired to make me think a lot about chocolate..A recent blog read re giving up alcohol for a few weeks and sleeping better made me think about the time I gave up chocolate (milk chocolate,that is!).

I have 4 magnets on my fridge that basically sum up how I feel about chocolate:

1. " Everything else is just food, but chocolate's chocolate".

2. "Chocolate is proof that God wants us to be happy".

3. "I'd give up chocolate but I'm no quitter".

and , my favourite, given to me by my friend on a visit from Brussels, with a big box of Belgian chocolates (she does know me well!)

"l n'y a rien de mieux qu'un bon ami, excepté un bon ami qui amene des chocolats".

So, to the time I gave it up..

I was following my own version of the Atkins diet i.e. I cut down on carbs big time. I had his book and there were some good recipes in it, including chocolate truffles. They were delicious! I lost 4 kilos in a couple of weeks, but the biggest difference I noticed was my sleep. Now I normally sleep very well, head hits pillow and out like a light. Sometimes if I've a lot gong on, I might think "I won't be able to sleep tonight", and next thing I know it's morning. Well, the difference in the quality of my sleep was phenomenal! It was as though I had been anaesthesised! I didn't miss the milk chocolate nearly as much as I would have thought. But of course in the end, I just drifted back to the chocolate, and that's where I've been up to now.

Just writing about it is making me think though that I might give the chocolate-free way of life another try. Also, I've a cholesterol test coming up and if it's high, as I don't eat cheese,the focus will be on chocolate.

To quit or not?? I have to think about it first!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Missing him like crazy.

My boy has gone off to a 3-week residential summer camp. He headed off on Sunday, all excited, with two bags.He doesn't know anyone else doing this particular camp- it's on novel writing, not football, so I suppose that explains that.

I dropped him off, and got him settled into his room- his room-mate's stuff was on the bed but the roomie was nowhere to be found. Looking around, most of the kids there seemed to be much older than him, and it was a bit daunting. He's just turned 13. Before I left, he realised that he hadn't charged his Sony Reader, so nothing available on that, and he hadn't brought any books because of the Sony. Also, he had only packed 3 pairs of socks!

So, as it's only a short drive away, and I'm not doing too much these days, I agreed to bring over his stuff. Went over today and dropped it off at the office for him. I got the following text tonight "Just had fire drill. Where's the office?", to which I replied "Hard to describe. Ask someone or ring me and I'll tell you". The reply "K". I take it that he's enjoying himself.

I miss him like crazy. It's as though a part of me is missing. The house has a totally different vibe with just the girls- quiet, very quiet, and too predictable. This morning I opened the spare fridge to find a bowl of pancake dough that he'd made on Sunday- I nearly cried! He loves cooking (well, baking mostly) and it's something that we do a good bit together. I realised that he is much more interactive with us than the girls are, but I'm not sure if that's a boy thing, his personality, or his age. Maybe a bit of all those. In the meantime, I find myself wandering round like a lost soul. What'll it be like when he moves out for good? I hope I won't be one of those "clingy" mothers!

He has the option to come home for the weekend, but hasn't yet decided if he will. I hope he decides to, but not out of not liking the that too much to ask for?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Return journey,and a funny link

On our return journey, as on the outward one, we had several hours (10 to be precise) in Toronto between flights, so this time we decided to rent a car and, armed with a Sat Nav, drive to Niagara Falls.

I've always wanted to see Niagara, and this was going to be the highlight of the holiday for me. It did not disappoint, as any of you who've been will know. I'm not into theme parks and have voluntarily sworn myself off clothes shopping for a year (recession and all that!) so Florida didn't have a particular interest for me. I hope I'm not doing a disservice to Florida, and did enjoy the sun, and I confess, a tiny bit of clothes shopping (J Crew to be precise, if it's good enough for Michelle Obama, it's good enough for me, go to and scroll down a little bit to "Sunny Delight") .

So we had a really lovely day at Niagara, between flights, and saw some wonderful sights en route. I was very skeptical of sat navs up to that point, dismissing them as just more techie gadgets, but now I'm a total convert. We would never have attempted that journey in that timeframe without it! We didn't go on the boat, partly because we were all tired after a 4.30am start, and partly because we wanted to savour the sights from a height and save something for next time.

Now to the funny link (not the M. Obama one!)- while we were in Canada, exploring that wonderful country, a fellow blogger, Stephanie from Vancouver, was in Ireland exploring the sights of my country! She has posted some wonderful photos on her blog, which you can reach by clicking on her comments on this blog, or on her little pic at the top here "followers". I met up with herself and Anne in Dublin last night for dinner, and we had good craic, of the Irish variety.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Titanic Exhibition

One of the things we did while in Orlando was visit a Titanic "experience". It was billed as having lots of genuine items from Titanic, and you could also "experience" an iceberg so it sounded interesting, and it certainly lived up to expectations.

Queensland, now called Cobh (pronounce cove) in Cork, Ireland was the last port of call of the Titanic, and one of my ancestors was supposed to go on her, but something happened at the last minute, and she, fortunately, didn't go. So I have a personal interest in all things Titanic. Also, she hit the iceberg on 14th April, my eldest daughter's birthdate.

The exhibition was very good, actors brought the group around part of it, as though we were passengers on the ship. We got a real feel of the luxury in which these people lived -the 1st and 2nd classes. We were not, thankfully, treated to the steerage class experience.

They also had an iceberg that we could touch to "experience" just how cold that is, and the water was even colder. It must have been terrifying for everybody on board, but 2 things stay with me from the exhibition- only 1 lifeboat came back to look for survivors, and one person who survived did so by consuming large amounts of alcohol as soon as he realised that the ship would sink; this acted as anti-freeze in his body. I'd like to think that if I had been on a lifeboat, I would have persuaded the other occupants to turn back, but which of us knows what we'd do ?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Arrived in Orlando at 11pm, expecting another grilling and possibly more rudeness, but nothing, we just walk straight out! We had booked into a hotel for the night, cheap and cheerful as we thought. The plan was to put our heads down for a few hours, wake refreshed and collect the car in the morning, then drive to the house we had rented. The big plus was the hotel had a courtesy coach from the airport, so no rummaging in the dark trying to find it.

The room was nothing short of amazing for the price ($60, I think, for the 5 of us!). We had a huge bedroom with 2 king size beds, a big bathroom and a big sitting room with pull-out couch and rollaway bed. I began to regret that we were only staying one night. Oh, the hotel also had a swimming pool, but we didn’t have time to use it.

Next, car to house, all fine. The house was bigger than we expected(though not quite as fancy as the one below!)- we had been upgraded from 5-bed to 6-bed! Everything was just lovely, much better than we expected, it even had a games room. Made me wish we could afford to do this all the time, but let’s not moan.

Most of the time in Florida was spent, as predicted, either lazing by the pool, eating or shopping. I did, however, go to the gym several days as I was determined not to put on weight. Heofinfinitepatience and son went to Universal almost every day for a few hours, middle daughter went with them a few times. We got 14day tickets in Ireland, which were a real bargain.

I’ll finish with my list of 5 things I loved about Florida and 5 that drove me mad.

1.The service attitude. Exceptional customer service all the way. And I don’t care whether or not it’s genuine. I’ll take a false smile and attitude with my food any day before grumpiness. Here in Ireland, we could learn a lot from them.
2.The “take-away box” for food you didn’t eat in restaurants.
3.The roads- well signposted and traffic moving.
4.The selection of fruit and veg, all at reasonable prices. Actually, make that reasonable prices all round.
5.Cracker Barrel– nostalgia at its best.

1.Lack of recycling facilities and will to recycle. We have gotten used to paying 26c tax on plastic bags in Ireland - this money is used for environmental projects. So most people bring their load of bags or “bag for life” with them when shopping. We thought we’d re-use our Walmart bags, but they were having none of it. Their best offer was a box at the door to recycle them. Not the same.
2.Rubbish facilities- this is much the same as no 1, but we went to lots of trouble separating rubbish, only to see the bin men throw the lot into one truck- waste food, glass, plastic, paper. Now, is someone going to separate that for recycling?
3.The fact that people don’t walk short distances to places. I know it’s hot, but even on cooler days, nobody seemed to walk anywhere.
4.Discovering the reality of the health system. Brother-in-law had a small cyst on his hand. It cost $45,000 to have it removed, including all sorts of experts and a general anaesthetic and overnight stay! He had a similar one removed a few years ago in the UK in a matter of a few minutes.
5.Portion sizes. It’s no wonder there’s an obesity problem.

I hope I don’t sound all lecturing about my dislikes, but the environment thing is a big one with me. What are your likes and dislikes about a country? Any country.

Return journey tomorrow!

Concert Pictures,at last!

Magnificent backdrop of Marlay Park, last May.
This is the Tuba section, including my daughter, that would be she with the long hair!

Here's the French Horn section. I'm third in, between the girl with the white hairband and the girl with the blue bobbin.

This one is of the band, with a little of the audience and backdrop of Marlay Park.

All pictures were taken by my hubbie,Heofinfinitepatience.
Just posting them has brought back happy memories of a wonderful day, hope you enjoy them.
I'll hold the second instalment of the holiday till tomorrow, was too excited about learning to add pictures to hold them off.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The holiday!

Well, we're back from our holidays. It was great.

We did get to leave Toronto airport, which was a very good start. We checked our bags in only as far as Toronto as that gave us a better chance of being allowed to leave the airport, so that slightly reduced our available time to see the city, as we had to allow time for checking in again. So we decided to get the bus tour. I'm a total convert to city bus tours, having in the beginning dismissed them as a waste of fuel and a congestion to traffic. However, as a visitor to a city, it's a great way to get your bearings and see some sights. I then like, on day 2 and subsequent days, to walk around and do a closer inspection. I could walk around cities forever; I much prefer walking the streets to visiting art galleries or shopping(well, most of the time!). The bus tour was lovely, sunshine all the way. I particularly liked Casa Loma and Yorkville, and the port area. There was a lovely energy about Toronto, vibrant and young. I'd love to live there for a year or so.

Afterwards, we had a bite to eat and then took a taxi back to Pearson for our flight to Orlando. The US immigration procedure is, I found, very daunting. My daughter got separated from us in the queue, and they wouldn't let her in without the documentation (understandable),but I had real trouble getting back out to her. They just kept barking at me to "move here", "NO! HERE,NOW!" They wouldn't listen to me or allow me to show them that the details they were looking for were on our form. However, I also felt that I had to stay calm, as they could just decide they weren't letting me in the country.

From the point where we got to be interviewed by an official, all was fine. No barking.

Continued tomorrow.