Saturday, 31 October 2015

goodbye october

October, you have been very good to us and today, the last day, especially so. The sun was warm and we sat out with the cawing rooks and drank tea soaking it up. Right now the light is fading and the house smells of onions sizzling in butter as it's mushroom and sage risotto for supper. We had a Halloween birthday party for William yesterday complete with masks and sparklers and chocolate cake and 'vampire blood' (Ribena) and games and screaming nine year olds... tonight will be calmer with a glass or two of wine, candles to keep away the ghouls and maybe a DVD. Wishing you a very happy Halloween!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

wash day

painting by Anji Allen
Oh my goodness the rain has been something shocking - it was dark and grey when we woke up and it rained solidly all day. This would normally be absolutely fine (it is Ireland after all) but my tumble drier has broken and drying anything outdoors is really a non-runner at this time of year. So the stoves were lit and the house ended up swathed in laundry in various stages of drying. I think Anji Allen's painting of sheets and towels and kettles and teacups sums up 'wash day' here very nicely!

Friday, 23 October 2015

rainy day biscuits

Just as I was lifting the last tray of biscuits out of the oven, the rain started. The kitchen was warm and spice scented, thanks to the extra shake of nutmeg I'd added to the biscuit dough. William was keen to help - rolling and cutting the dough and putting the biscuits carefully on the baking tray. He floured the table and re-rolled the dough, pressing down on the cutters (gingerbread men were his favourite, hence the army of them) and chatting, chatting the whole time and how nice it was to spend those few minutes listening to him, guiding him when the dough stuck or when a head fell off and watching those as yet little hands deftly working and wondering would he remember the damp autumn afternoon with the grey skies and twirling leaves when we baked together.


Spice biscuits

125g softened butter
85g soft brown sugar
160g golden syrup
310g self raising flour, sifted
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg/ cinnamon or both

Preheat the oven to 160C fan oven/ gas mark 4. Cream the soft butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the golden syrup, flour and spices and mix to form a smooth dough. It will take a bit of mixing to bring it together into a ball. Then refrigerate the dough to firm up. Flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 4mm thick and cut with your preferred cutters. Place onto baking trays lined with greaseproof paper and bake for about 8 minutes. Watch like a hawk - I got distracted and lit the fire, and some of mine were a little 'extra done' as a result!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

october days

Today we have grey skies and a blustery scattering of rain. The weather so far this month has been amazing and so this more wintry offering has been something of a surprise. We are getting into the rhythm of slower days and darker evenings. This week we're trying something new - each day after school we do something fun together. Our list of things to try out includes:

* making Hallowe'en party invitations

* baking biscuits - ginger ones, perfect for autumn

* walking in our local forest

* planting bulbs - I'm thinking of paperwhites and I'm hoping it's not too late

* making papier-mache masks 

* going to the library

* watching a movie, with treats!

It's sometimes all too easy to fall into the school/homework/screen time trap and not actually spend some proper time together. I deliberately chose things that were not going to cost any or much money, ones that could be done within an hour, ones that involve some hands-on activity and some mess and ones that get us out of the house and into the air. We made the Hallowe'en invitations yesterday and it was great to open up the art box and dig out coloured card for bats and pumpkins and googly eyes and stickers and to see the boys' concentration and effort at making the cards for their friends. Today it's watching a movie (later, by the fire with popcorn!) and papier mache masks.... happy autumn!

Monday, 19 October 2015


Of course it's got to be pumpkins! These ones are at Strandfield where we enjoyed a sneaky (delicious) lunch while the boys were at school. We also had a quick potter in the shop/florists and then dashed home in time for collection from school. Sometimes these un-planned for but still very enjoyable trips are just what's needed.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

October reading

These October days are pretty packed but I have to admit I truly love settling down in the evenings to read and I suppose one of the (many) good things about not having a TV is that there is no distraction and, as a result, I read far more than I used to. This month it's all about mystery and disappearances and possibly murder. The Hog's Back Mystery is 1930s detective fiction, written by Freeman Wills Crofts whose Inspector French is called in to solve the unusual disappearance of a retired doctor... It's well crafted with enough suspense to keep you reading and guessing and page turning and it's just right for a cold evening or two by the fire.

***Joining in with Circle of Pine Trees and The Year in Books***

Monday, 12 October 2015

Hill of Tara

For some the Hill of Tara might be a place of pilgrimage, a must-see tourist destination and, as an important seat for the High Kings of Ireland, it has its place in Celtic history, pre-history in fact. It's hard to reconcile mounds of grass covered earth and the good view with pageant and glory and banqueting and in fact for us Tara is less about the swirling mists of Celtic Ireland and more about the fact that it's dear to us as the place where two week old Hugo had his first outing and where we used to walk our first dog Lou. In fact when we lived nearby we walked here so often, including on Christmas mornings, that it became a special place to us and so it slightly surprised me when I realised that we hadn't been there in years and that a visit was long over-due. Needless to say an autumnal walk with the boys running free is a treat anywhere but seemed especially so as we re-lived a little of our past.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

forest walk

Yesterday after school the boys and I went for a walk in the forest. The day was bright and sunny but with that tinge of freshness that lets you know it's autumn and not summer. Within minutes we were deep among the trees with the river rushing past and, armed with sticks, Will and Mide played happily at a game of dinosaurs and Star Wars. As they poked their sticks into the mud, moss and tree crevices they chattered about their day. We spotted mushrooms and picked leaves and conkers. We stopped by the river for a snack and perched on a handily toppled~over tree. There are wooden animals in this forest ~ foxes, stoats, a huge hare, badgers and frogs ~ perfectly placed for climbing and imagining. And finally we made our slow way back. It's good for the human spirit to be outdoors, to feel small among the trees, to find pleasure in sticks and mud and water, to be free.