Salted Caramels – The Book Eats 2 and a very well received gift.

I’m not going to lie. These are my new pride and joy. Well, they may be neck in neck with the brownies. And the devils food cake. And the cookies. Hmmm. I see what’s happening here. Oh dear. Well I do like cooking. Anywho, so as you all know, my blog is much neglected in the last few months. I *have* been cooking the odd time, but I had camera issues first, and then I got into a run of call and was basically completely wrecked and airheaded for the last 8 weeks, as Lisa could tell you (Lisa is a mad GAA fan and dochtúir I work{ed:(} with, and the best craic ever. She has also been chief sampler of all treats brought to work. Hi Lisa!). Actually we both had our days. I have also discovered that my talents do not extend to working out people’s ages based on their date of birth. I just cannot do it. Mental block. Or just plain thick. On the other hand Lisa did repeatedly attempt to exit a door by pressing a light switch… Heh.

But back to the main point. I have been working 3 months. THREE! It honestly seems like 3 weeks. But every 3 months we are forced out of our current job that we have just settled into and thrown into a new job where we have to learn everything new. SIGH. Well at least I don’t have to move county- there are a few jobs where you have to up and move house every 3 months. That would drive me completely mad. I’ve been exceptionally lucky though, I’ve had the nicest team ever to work with, I’ve learned LOADS, and I’ve had a really nice time! So on my last day I had to bring in something extra special, and as I’ve said I’ve been thinking of doing more of my ‘Book Eats‘ series. My love for Enid Blyton’s Faraway tree stories is well documented on this blog. It may have had a large part to play in my infatuation with toffee, although there is most certainly some genetic influence there, given that my mother has a tendency to physically attack anybody that comes within an arse’s roar of her toffee supply. But it seemed that the children were quite adept at making toffee in the book, which they then gifted to Moonface and Silky. Well, I thought that it would be rather lovely to bring in to all of my co-workers on my last day as a wee thank you, and so I set to work to find a recipe I hadn’t already tried and failed miserably at. Spurred on by that fact that children were apparently able to whip up a batch at a moments notice, I threw myself into the task. The recipe I based this on was from my most beloved of cookbooks- Darina Allen’s Forgotten skills of cooking, but I’ve edited it quite a bit to make it a tad more to my liking. WIthout further ado, I give you my newest favourite sweet treat:

The sun was setting when I was taking pictures and all of a sudden the light just changed and it was so pretty!

Salted Caramels
You will need:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tin of condensed milk (14oz)
  • 1/2 tsp Maldon salt
  • 300g chocolate (55% but go 70% if that’s what you prefer!)
  • 1 tbsp maldon salt for sprinkling
  • What to do:
    1. Grease and line a tin with silicone paper or another non stick substance. I used a large swiss roll tin which fills about perfectly.
    2. Melt the butter over medium heat.
    3. Add the sugar, 1/2 tsp of maldon salt, and golden syrup and stir well until mixed.
    4. Add the tin of condensed milk and stir.
    5. Continue stirring over a medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn a glorious browny caramel colour. Don’t stop stirring until you are pouring it into your tin!
    6. Now. When is it done. In the book it says when it reaches a hard crack stage. However, my trusty thermometer has been put back on the shelf for this particular recipe. I’ve been using colour and the ice water test as a guide. The ice water test- fill a bowl with ice cold water and when you think your caramel/toffee is getting near the done stage, drop a spoonful into the water. Give it a second and test it for consistency. For this recipe I went with a semi soft type of consistency- chewy but squishy, if you get me. It’s not quite toffee like, but if it got much longer it would be!
    7. Pour into your prepared tin and leave to set.
    TIP: To clean saucepan you need hot water. I usually fill it up with warm soapy water and pop it back on the hob for a few mins until the caramel scrapings soften up and are easily wiped off. Saves a lot of elbow grease.
    8. When your toffee is set (could take a few hours), turn it out onto a chopping board, cut it up as you wish- I use a ruler and pizza cutter (oiled) to do the lenthwise cuts, and a scissors to cut each length into little bits of lovely caramel heaven.

    This is the colour you should get to. You can see a few wee bits where I didn’t stir well enough, oops. No harm!



    9. Melt your chocolate (I use a bowl over simmering water).
    10. The tedious part. Dip each of your sweets in chocolate and leave on a non stick mat or wire tray to set. It takes me 3 trays to fit them all! Before any of them set – I do this in batches, crush up your maldon salt flakes and sprinkle a little on each chocolate. This is really important as you can barely taste the salt we added to the actual caramel, and this way, I feel, works much better for taste!

    Leave to set (If you can), and pack them into little gift bags or boxes. This is a really nice Christmas present idea for those of you that tend to give the homemade variety of gifts, and is very cost effective too!

    Hello you…


    Try not to eat them all. It is difficult. SO difficult. So good. I’m off to.. eh.. test a few now, see how well they hold up after a day. Seeing as my first batch didn’t last for the day at all!

    Enjoy these ones, they’re a wee bit special I think!

    Advertisements

    The wheels on the bus…

    Long ago, I attended a gem of a place called school. I realise I’m only out of education three months, but I’m talking about a while back. And whilst most mornings we would (all 6 of us) fit into the back of my childminder’s tiny car (we were who sardines in a tin got their inspiration from), there was a time when I had to get the school bus. Whilst this was probably a repressed memory for good reason, the lovely Hannah has reminded me of this daily journey, and I thought I’d share it with you all, because I’m on the train and felt the need to write a blog post.

    I would head off to school in the morning, complete with teenage mutant hero turtles lunchbox, catching the bus at the end of the driveway. Mary and Hannah, the chubby cheeked cherub, would frequently accompany me, for fear I would get lost in the thirty metres it took to happily skip (or more likely, grumpily trudge) down to the end. This was significantly more trouble than it was worth, given that Hannah was (and is) the slowest human being on the planet unless she smells out food or money, in which case we see only the dust settling as she sprints towards it in a style roughly akin to roadrunner. Indeed if you put the food at one end and money at the other end of a room and lead her to the middle, it’s a real life tasmanian devil situation. There is, thus far, a lack of anvils dropping and dynamite going off, but I give it 3 days at Christmas before someone reaches that stage. But back to my original story. Well Hannah and Mary would escort me to the end of the drive, where the bus would (never promptly) be heard before we would see it, rickety and defying all laws of physics as it stayed in one piece. The neighbours would have already claimed the seats that were down the back and not broken, and so I would sigh, choose the least broken one with the least amount of rubbish or stains floating about on it, and sit myself down gingerly. Now the journey into school was significantly less boisterous than the way back, the entire population having spent a day making teachers contemplate murder and deciding, on the whole it probably wasn’t worth it (having been in the classroom throughout the day, I’m inclined to think they may be mistaken).

    The way home was what the general public could only describe as ‘bloody mayhem’. I believe people wear seatbelts on buses these days. I doubt there was a seatbelt on that bus, never mind the fact that you couldn’t get a child to sit still long enough to buckle them in. Whilst leftover lunch got thrown slap bang into one child’s face, ruler fights broke out (shatter resistant my derrière) amongst the more cultured of our school going crowd, with screeches of ‘hon guard’ from one party, causing a general panic as everyone scrambled to their seats and anxiously gawked about for the aforementioned garda. Crisis averted and no gardai in sight, with the ‘hon guard’ offender red cheeked in his seat, the bus was still for 20 seconds, until a pencil parer hit him square in the back of the head with a distinct ‘Thunk’. He whipped around, drew his ruler, and normal order of chaos was restored. Shortly after, the chorus broke out with a sparkling rendition of ‘bang bang susie’ (don’t ask), and other such gems that 10 year old boys are massive fans of. Things quieted significantly as the crowds descended from the bus as we progressed down the lane, or got thrown off in some places (by the other children or by the bus driver, a man whose general temperament and appearance made the bad giants from the BFG look like Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster), and the screams, curses and not so empty threats settled to the odd scream and a general background babble.

    Coming off the bus I would often be greeted again by a smiling Hannah and Mary, the out of character smile from Hannah being a response to the learned association between the homecoming of Sarah and immediate dinner. Hannah, at that age, eating a diet almost exclusively of butter with some pasta thrown in, and sugar with a sup of tea poured on top was a sturdy young lassie who enjoyed the finer things in life- watching Barney nestled in a beanbag in front of the telly, dressing up in mum’s best clothes before she figured out where Hannah had disappeared to, and, of course, an artisan tayto sandwich, brought to her on a silver platter (or a chipped plate,or even just a piece of second hand tinfoil). She did, however, eat everything in her path, but those were her preferred foodstuffs at the time. My father used to refer to her as ‘The skip’, (used in a sentence- don’t throw that out, sure it can go to the skip’). Bless her cotton (in fact 100% cotton only) socks. Here’s Hannah doing her dressing up thing.

    20120929-164314.jpg

    20120929-164404.jpg

    Despite the smile that made me think that if I didn’t walk back in quick enough she may just eat me, it did come as a welcome sign, for it meant that the bus journey had thankfully come to an end, and that I had managed to make it through in one piece, not that I could say the same for the poor child being dangled out the window by his schoolbag. Anybody else remember the school trips?

    Homemade Peanut Butter Cups – Especially for Jennifer!

    Jennifer is my cousin. She was born that way, she couldn’t help it, poor girl. We spent a lot of time together growing up, whether we liked it or not, for my mother’s family are all quite close. Quite a lot of our time was spent running like mad eejits through homemade obstacle courses- when Mammy CITC discovered that she could buy medals in town, these became the high end, low budgt community games. Mainly because I couldn’t win anything at the actual community games. Well, I did win bronze (I use that term lightly) once in swimming. I came third. Out of three. Still, I got a medal which sits proudly in the back of a press somewhere. But I digress.

    Well the whole point was, really, that we all grew up together- Jennifer, Jason, Hannah and I, all being of similar ages. We tended to be thrown together every time one of our respective families had had enough of us and ran off on a holiday without us. These trips mostly involved mandatory shows held in Granny’s house which would of course be unavoidable for parents, and tickets for which would cost a minimum of 2 pounds per person. Except for Granny, whose wardrobes and house were raided for props and costumes, and so earned herself a VIP seat and a personal assistant should she want a drink throughout the performance. The show would begin promptly at 2pm, starting of course with the youngest- Hannah, who would silence the audience with an emotional rendition of ‘Cats sleep anywhere’. Not a dry eye in the house as she held herself together long enough to utter the last line of the well known poem.. ‘Cats.. sleep… anywhere’. This would be followed by Jason, sometimes with Jennifer’s help, as he recited something about football, played football, or produced a football from a top hat- you get the gist here. Jennifer would then captivate the audience with another of the poems learned in drama, and I would follow in the same thread. After this would come the matinee, at which homemade foodstuffs could be purchased at exorbitant prices from a vendor (me). Foodstuffs available would largely consist of Granny’s collection of sweets, an attempt at home baking which would have taken place without the aid of a weighing scales (written on the programme was clear warning that consumption was at the risk of the purchaser), but with some help from the weighing scales in Granny’s post office. This was one of those old affairs with a balance and weights that would dictate the cost of a parcel. And yes, my Granny had a post office in her house, and worked there until her 80’s or so, but now has retired! Well using this weighing balance apparatus we managed to put together some kind of recipe that made something akin to marla (plasticine to non irish) and with a healthy dose of bits of red wax that got mixed up in the flour during the weighing process, with the odd stamp floating around in the mixture. It was like a lucky dip really, when you think about it.

    But then the masterpiece. Three days and hours of practice would have resulted in the formulation, direction and eventually production of an original and highly secret script. For the life of me, I can’t remember what even one of these were about, but I assume something akin to a Tony award winning performance, the likes of which could never again be matched, thus the need to completely block it out of our memories, so as to have a chance at enjoying life, and so forth. But regardless, when we took our bow at the end of the production, the parents would promptly wake back up, cheer and clap with some fervour and in an emotional state (probably something to do with the fact they had lost 2 hours and the guts of five pounds each) give us a standing ovation. It was probably cheap realistically, I assume one has to produce at least an iPad or laptop, or a minimum of a 32″ 3D TV as payment for contemporary shows that one’s children put on.

    Hannah, Jason, Jennifer and me at the back, rehearsing for a masterpiece! Hannah just burst a balloon

    Anyway, what started off this whole thing was the fact that Jennifer’s birthday is coming up, and while she is stuck at the airport for most of it, booo, I had to make her something nice. And given that the girl is slightly obsessed with all things peanut butter, what better way than to produce her very own supply of peanut butter sweeties. I made two kinds and trialled them at work, and both went down a treat. The first I made were the homemade version of peanut butter cups- which were actually quite doable really, and which look fabulous. I used a mold I got for about 1.99 in homestore and more (be still my beating heart), and some sweet cases, but really you could just use anything- bun cases etc. This would easily make about 30-40 small cups/sweets

    How to make peanut butter cups

    Yummy yummy Peanut butter cups

    Peanut butter cups
    100-200g chocolate – I use 55%, and used about 200g.
    1 tsp unsalted butter

    150g peanut butter
    50g unsalted butter
    80g icing sugar

    What to do
    1. Melt your chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water.
    2. Stir in your butter when melted.
    3. Using a pastry brush, brush your melted chocolate into your mold or cases. You may want to let each coat set and give another coat so that the chocolate is of a good thickness. Use about half of your chocolate.
    4. Leave to set. Keep your leftover chocolate warm

    5. Put your peanut butter, butter and icing sugar together in a bowl. You can either microwave this for about a minute on med high, or set it over your water (which is what I did) and give it a good whisk together when everything is softening up. That’s basically it!

    6. So when your chocolate is set, you’re going to drop spoonfuls of your peanut butter mix in your pre-chocolatised cases. This is usually warmish so having a good chocolate base is a good idea. Again, leave this to set in a cool place. leave a bit of space for your covering of chocolate if you’re using a mold or cup.

    7. When the mixture is cool and somewhat set, you can use the rest of your chocolate to cover your cups. Then we leave them to set for the last time before tucking in!

    I kept these in the fridge – It’s not the best for the chocolate but I wanted to be on the safe side with the butter. They last at least a week (but only if you hide them from your family).

    VARIATION- I also did some with half peanut butter and half nutella. YUM. Melt about 2 tablespoons nutella in a bowl, and drop in on top of the peanut butter and voila! Be still my beating heart.

    Did you know you can make marshmallows?

    Yummy marshmallows you can make yourself

    Since about two years ago I’ve been making my own marshmallows. I love them. They melt in your mouth (or your hot chocolate) beautifully. They also make amazing presents, people always seem so shocked that you made them. I brought these into work this week for my lovely co-workers. (On that note, I am finally getting the hang of things but it’s mainly thanks to lots and lots of help from really nice people!). They certainly went down well, everyone loved them and again, seemed amazed that I actually made them. In fact, as my team will confirm, I had to explain to a lot of people how you actually make marshmallows. And how easy it was! Now I shall impart said recipe to you. I suspect that once you make these you may never go back to buying shop bought. I know I wouldn’t! Oh and what most of the people I gave presents to this year received- these are especially good if you put them on a skewer, dip them in dark chocolate, let set, and re-dip a few times to build it up – the perfect hot chocolate stirrer. People loved them!

    This recipe is a River Cottage Recipe, and is also the same as the one from Forgotten skills of Cooking by Darina Allen. It’s pretty simple. I would recommend getting a hold of a sugar thermometer to assess when your syrup is ready though.

    Marshmallow recipe

    I made these 🙂

    So here is what you need:
    1tbsp icing sugar
    2 tbsp cornflour
    Some vegetable oil
    Food colouring IF you want. I leave mine white and pretty with sprinkles. Who doesn’t love sprinkles?!
    25g gelatine powder- this is about 2 sachets of the gelatine I get.
    500g granulated sugar
    2 egg whites

    1. Mix up your icing sugar and cornflour, and lightly oil and then use the mix to dust your dish (sieve comes in handy) that you’re using to set your marshmallows. I use a brownie tin, but anything would do- even a lasagne dish.
    2. Bring kettle almost to the boil, then measure out 125mls of water in a bowl. Sprinkle your gelatine on top and stir with a wooden spoon until it has dissolved. This is what you add your food colouring to if your choose to use it.
    3. Put sugar in a saucepan with 250mls of water. Warm on a low heat and stir a bit until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn up your heat and boil until the temperature reaches 122 degrees celcius.
    4. Remove from heat and add your gelatine to the sugar syrup. Be careful as it will bubble up.
    5. Beat your two egg whites (making sure there isn’t even a trace of yolk in them or they won’t beat) until stiff.
    6. Add your sugar syrup in a very slow stream to the egg whites while you continue to beat them (Or in my case let your Kitchen Aid do all the hard work. Be careful, don’t forget it’s very hot!
    7. Continue beating until the mixture becomes thick, glossy and white, leaving a trail when you lift the mixer out of it. Note- when them mixer is up in the air, don’t accidentally turn it on. Yes. Yes I did do this.
    8. Pour into your tin and leave to set. Voila, you have made marshmallows!
    9. Once set, dust the top with your icing sugar mix. This stuff is mighty stick. Using a lightly oiled knife or pizza cutter in my case, cut to your desired size. I tend to do a mixture of little ones and big ones to keep everyone happy!
    10. Hide from your mother or the whole lot will disappear (True story).

    Marshmallow recipe

    Marshmanomnomnomnomnom

    You see, it is actually quite simple- and stuff you can have in your store cupboard any time. I also suggest that the spare egg yolks would be well used in some ice cream. In fact you could swirl some pre-set marshmallow into the ice cream if you wanted (Why have I not done this yet?!).

    And as always, enjoy!

    The Book Eats: 1. Harry Potter and Treacle Tart

    Hi there. Say, it’s been a while since I’ve had a recipe up here. While I was slaving away over books and not a hot stove, I missed out on this whole cooking and blogging shebang. Now as some of you know, with my brain working overtime during study season, I have serious issues with trying to get to sleep at night- so what I will tend to do is read for at least an hour before I even try to lull myself into the land of nod. And as less of you know- I have a few ‘go to’ books that I tend to read over and over again. To a ridiculous degree. One series being Harry Potter. I am a Harry Potter nerd. My cousin Jennifer introduced me to them many a year ago and I was hooked. Not so much a fan of the movies I’m afraid (sorry Carol), but the books are being read in this house at least 6-12 times a year. I tend to read a book a night if I can for first three, and then each of the last over 2-3 nights. I can’t help it, they’re just excellent.

    Now, moving on from my undying love for the Harry Potter books- well, in the middle of one book, I had a thought. The food in there sounds absolutely delicious. I can tell you that reading these books late at night when slightly on the ravenous side I’ve developed an automatic craving for Pumpkin Pasties, Treacle Tart, and even the odd curiosity for Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. So I put a plan in place- When I had time- I was going to make a number of items from my favourite books! And what better thing to start with than the favourite ‘pudding’ of Harry Potter himself- the mouthwatering ‘Treacle Tart’.

    Ta da:

    Harry Potter Treacle Tart. Or pie as it were

    Harry Potter Treacle Tart. Or pie as it were

    Aside- I think that everything about the word treacle is just lovely. I can’t even describe it- I just spent five minutes attempting to and failed, but isn’t it just lovely! Treacle…treacle….

    Moving on- I have never actually had treacle tart until today, but have marked it in a number of cookbooks. The name is somewhat misleading- given that there is no treacle in it (but a rather shocking amount of golden syrup instead). I used the recipe from the lovely Lorraine Pascale’s ‘Baking made easy’, a book I absolutely love and recommend getting! This is lovely

    Without further ado, here is what you need

    For the pastry- a sweet shortcrust
    250g cream flour
    125g unsalted butter
    2 tbsp sugar
    2 egg yolks
    1 pinch sea salt

    For the filling
    250g breadcrumbs (I know, strange!)
    450g golden syrup (handy tip- one of the squeezy bottles of lyles golden syrup is 454g)
    1 tsp ground ginger
    80g butter
    Grated zest and juice from 1 unwaxed lemon (Confession- forgot the zest. Still tasted lovely!)

    What to do:
    1. Ok. First up- make your pastry. Blitz the cold flour and the butter in a food processor until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. If you do it by hand, rub the butter in until it resembles breadcrumbs.
    2. Add in your sugar, salt, and 2 egg yolks, and give it a quick pulse in the processor until it starts to clump together. If by hand, mix it in and bring it together with your hands.
    3. Empty the whole lot out onto a floured surface and bring it together. Wrap in clingfilm and refridgerate for about 30 mins.
    4. Preheat your oven to 180. Take out your pastry for a few minutes before you roll it to let it warm up. (I skipped the fridge part for the sake of time). Roll out gently until about 3mm thick and place it in your tart dish (I am missing mine so i used a pie dish and some mini tart tins- did I lend it to anyone that’s reading this or has the cooking equipment anti fairy stolen it? Along with my lemon juicing thingy?). Press it around the sides and make sure it’s even, and then trim the excess with the back of a knife and pop it in the fridge for about 20 mins.
    5. Time to blind bake your pastry. I cannot remember where I saw this- it was on tv somewhere- Heston? Nigella? Not sure BUT they recommended using coins instead of beans for blind baking- they keep the heat and cook it from both sides. Now I use them too! (I washed the coins before use but they shouldn’t be touching the pastry anyway). Now take a fork and score your pastry in the tin, then take some greaseproof paper and scrunch it up in a ball, then descrunch it and give it a quick spritz of oil or non stick spray. Place it on your pastry and then fill it with the coins/beans. Bake in your preheated oven for about 15-20 mins.

    As it is baking you can make your filling, which couldn’t be easier.
    A. Add all your ingredients to a saucepan.
    B. Melt over a low heat until all combined.
    C. You are a baking god/goddess clearly. Set aside.

    When your blind baking is done, take your beans/coins out and set aside. Note- don’t put back in plastic bag when hot. Ahem. Moving swiftly on-

    Fill your semicooked pastry with your filling and smooth out. Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 mins or until golden brown and set on top. Let cool just a tad and serve with cream, clotted cream, ice cream etc. Enjoy!

    Mini Treacle Tart from Harry Potter

    A mini Treacle Tart a la Harry Potter!

    3 minutes later…

    Harry Potter Treacle Tart

    Ahem, no idea what happened here

    Those lazy hazy days of summer..

    I’m not a fan of funerals, as things go. But I was at one today that was different from any funeral I’ve ever attended. I won’t say much about it, except to acknowledge that I have never seen quite such a high percentage of the community with a great story to tell about somebody. I’ve also never heard so many laughs and so much applause at what was really a celebration of a life lived to the fullest. A gas man. RIP. But as always, these things make you think. My memories of this man are all tied up with a certain lane where my ‘second family’ live.

    Both my parents worked when we were growing up. We had a second mammy who would mind us- Kitty. Every day we would dutifully get up at 7.30 (all in training for the next 50 years of my life), and get dropped at Kitty’s house by 8.30. Theoretically we should have been there by 8.10, but Hannah had a little bit of a ‘thing’ about socks that would inevitably lead to a screech that would rise the hairs on the back of the neighbours neck (rumours of a banshee were thrown around for years), and a mumblejumble of insisting through clenched teeth that ‘they. are not. the. right. SOCKS-eh’, and her all time favourite ‘NO-eh’. The ‘-eh’ followed the last word of each sentence whenever she was throwing a strop, which, let’s face it, was most of the waking hours. I, of course, was an angel.

    But back to it. When I think of Kitty’s house, an amalgam of memories- salmon sandwiches on the lawn outside, our mock ‘community games’ which were rewarded with those wee tightly wound chalky yet fizzy rolls of sweets, or the odd drumstick or packet of sherbet colas (hello childhood), emmerdale farm on whilst I got my (long and unruly) hair plaited for mum coming home, playing down by the fir trees by the shed, and on rainy days in the shed playing post office or shop. The days before ipads and ipods and phones and with a lot less tv to watch seem now like a whole different planet. (Captain planet. That’s another one. Excellent TV.)

    Well if (IF) it were a good day there’d be a number of things to do. I would begin the day by burying my head in a book- and there I was for hours of the day until I was distracted. Distraction itself involved needful use of dynamite, some practiced shouts in unison from the whole family, and Hannah jumping up and down on me until something clicked and I left the world of ‘James and the giant peach’. Then we’d happily go about playtime outside. The ‘community games’- I think Ireland must be the only place that children play ‘community games’ as well as going to them. We were bright childer, full of the imagination altogether, as they say.

    On nice days, we’d get sent on certain errands to take up the day ‘Off down the road for a walk with ye now, and drop this in to Mary for me’- we’d have to deliver ‘The messenger’ to the neighbours, and with a hop (in Hannah’s case, she couldn’t run without hopping) and a skip we’d take off down the road. There were 3 or 4 houses we’d go to regularly enough. We’d visit Mrs C, get ushered in and would sit beside the turf fire and the heater (even on the hot summer days) and would have a chat and catch up on the latest news. Emerging from the sauna like atmosphere, my glasses would desteam and we’d have races up the hill. Never fared too well in those either. Occasionally we’d bring bikes. I used an old High Nelly that was in the shed. I loved it but it was a pain to get up that hill on! We’d amble on towards the G’s house and pop into the back kitchen, full of bustle and rush after the previous quiet visitee. I don’t ever remember going in when there wasn’t something cooking. It was amazing. After that we’d pop into F’s and have a chat with Mary- who also minded children, and see what was happening in there. There was always news. For a community of a few hundred (if even), we were like an australian soap for the news. Theme tunes ought to have been piped out as we knocked on the neighbours door. We’d have needed opening credits of course- Pan shots of each of the neighbours and the children. Peter in a ghostbusters outfit, Hannah with a pair of socks and a good humoured smile on her face, shots from bonfire night (Bodhran and guitar from Padraig and Jim, keyboard from Marion) and waterfight wars on birthdays, you know the kind.

    Well we’d move on and deliver the news back up the road. A chorus of perfectly placed ‘oohs’ and ‘aaaahs’, and ‘ah now’ and ‘isn’t it well for him’, and the all time favourite ‘ah go away (+/-outta that)’ would greet our tales. And then off into the day to keep ourselves occupied. Picnics were my favourite. A blanket in the lawn, all 5/6 of us out (pre-hannah/post-hannah) and then came the job of balancing the cups and plates just right that they wouldn’t fall over on the grass. We’d have ham or salmon sandwiches, biscuits, a bag of wheelies each and a sup of red lemonade. Soon, sweets would appear as if by magic, and oftentimes a secret ice cream would pop out the living room window. Lying out in the garden, torturing Louise by resting our toes on her and arguing over who gets which colour ice pop- we were blissfully carefree. There’s no business like show business they say, but I can tell you for sure- there are no picnics like Kitty’s picnics.

    Thumbs up!

    Oh hello there..

    How are you? You haven’t seen or heard much of me in the last few months, which is mainly down to the fact I’ve been living with my nose in a mixture of books and pillows, and boy did it pay off for I am finished and graduated- hip hip hooray! Now admittedly I did finish exams a wee while ago, but since then I’ve been running all around the country (and a few others) like a headless chicken (what a picture)! I have to draft quite a few blog posts- but here’s a quick idea of what I’ve been up to in the last few months!

    Just scroll over the pictures to see an explanation

    On another note- I had to say bye for now to my loveliest flatmates who are moving back to the foreign lands of America/Canada and it made me turn into an emotional wreck. And I already miss them to bits. This is how I feel. And possibly one of the best photos ever.

    Earlier that night: