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Twinkle

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree,
You know not how you’ve aged me.

As a child I always loved putting up the Christmas Tree. We had one of those fake, glittery ones popular in the 70s and a beautiful collection of colourful, sparkly ornaments built up over a number of years. Mam would put up the lights, ensuring they were perfectly symmetrical with one light at the top to reflect off the star. My sister and I would then add the decorations. When it was finally complete we would enjoy our first slice of Christmas cake and perhaps our first movie of the season. Read more

10 Tips for a Stress-free Christmas Dinner

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yet most of us are in a flap. There are presents to be bought, cakes to be baked and a sense of impending dread at the thought of having to cook a fabulous Christmas dinner. TV chefs are wooing us with mini tartlets and smoked salmon blini that can be prepared “in minutes” and add “a touch of sophistication” to your festive cooking. Every supermarket has their own glossy magazine full of cooking and decorating ideas and can provide mini tartlets and blini pre-prepared (but with a hefty price tag) that you only need to “pop in the oven”. The options are endless and dizzying. Somewhere along the way, the concept of a tasty home cooked meal shared with the people you love gets lost and is replaced by panic and over-complication. If this all sounds familiar, then maybe my 10 Tips for a Stress-free Christmas Dinner can help get you back on track. Read more

Gone…

But certainly not forgotten. This photo was taken on our epic road trip round Europe last summer. We set out with a plan and a map, but got so sucked in by the beauty of Spain that we ended up spending most of our time there. We were enjoying the road so much we always left it quite late to find somewhere to park for the night. This had its advantages – no one really minds if you park in a forest or supermarket car park for just a few hours after dark. It also meant we saw numerous glorious sunsets, such as this one near the town of Jerez in southern Spain. I had spent a few happy hours earlier in the day sampling sherry at Tio Pepe (to ease the pain of the 22 mosquito bites I got the night before, you understand). This sky was so captivating we pulled over to take photos and ended up staying for the night. The memories from this trip will stay with us for a long time. Read more

Lithuanian Christmas Eve Biscuits | Kūčiukai [Recipe]

Christmas is a time for tradition. What’s fascinating to me is how much those traditions vary from country to country and even from family to family. Some children post their letter to Santa up the chimney, some through the regular mail. Some leave out milk and cookies for Santa, but in our house it was a bottle of Guinness and a few mince pies. (Clever ole Dad!) Some traditions don’t believe in Santa at all. Read more

Angular

For those not accustomed to it, it’s hard to imagine Christmas in the sun. Growing up in Ireland, December was a dark and dreary month, made cheery only by the festive lights that decorated streets and homes, twinkling in the frosty air. Since my sister moved to Australia, however, we have spent a number of Christmases in the sun. Although it’s definitely a little strange, it’s hard to complain about good company, warm sunshine and wonderful food. Read more

Achievement

Finally – got that damn itch. Read more

Minimalist

To share or not to share – that is the question. What if I decide to run for President one day? What if my dad sees them? What if people raise their eyebrows and ask “Who does she think she is? And at her age?” Well, the chances of me running for President are slim, my dad has seen me naked and, as for any naysayers or begrudgers, I think I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I just don’t care what other people think of me – I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. Read more

Descent

We’re off on our travels again. The car is packed with sleeping bags, food for the journey and a month’s worth of clothes, books and DVDs. We’re making what is becoming an annual trip to Denmark where we will work for a family that grows Christmas trees and runs a Christmas shop. Arūnas will be working in the fields, cutting and collecting the trees, while I will be working in the shop and hopefully doing some cooking for the family. It’s an intensive month but one we’re very much looking forward to. A change is as good as a rest, as they say. This photo was taken from our bedroom window during last year’s trip. We were both tired from a day’s work and watching the sun’s slow descent over the horizon was very soporific. We both slept well. Read more

Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Soup

Now that Halloween is over many shops and farmers’ markets have pumpkins available at reduced cost. Despite our penchant for turning them into jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkins actually make for very good eating. This simple soup, ready in about 30 minutes, uses peanut butter to enhance the flavour and texture of the soup. Pumpkins are a little sweet and contain very little protein. The additional of the peanut butter, rich in protein and good fats, makes this a well-balanced and hearty winter meal. Read more

Cover Art

We all have one good book in us. Or so they say. I’m convinced I have at least one in me but have yet to figure out what it will be. I don’t read much fiction and can’t imagine myself writing anything in that space. That said, I do have a vivid imagination and would love to write something that brings the reader into a completely new world – something akin to “Alice in Wonderland”. More likely it will be my food memoirs – my passions, my challenges, my philosophies, my journey – told around a lifelong love of food. Read more

A taste of home | Barnbrack [Recipe]

I longed for a taste of home. Something simple, wholesome, comforting – something my mother used to make. Halloween was coming and I longed for a bowl of colcannon, that dreamy combination of creamy mashed potato and deep green curly kale. Mam always made colcannon for Halloween and always took the trouble to hide a coin, a ring and a rag for us to find. We always knew what was coming but there was something safe and soothing about the familiarity. I longed for that feeling.* Read more

Refraction

The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;

Not loath to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.

(From “Going for water” by Robert Frost)

Travelling round Europe in our camper van, much of our time was spent in search of clean drinking water. Sometimes our quest brought us to the most beautiful places – mountains, woods, fountains, streams. We found so much more than water. Read more

A bit about writing

“It’s all a bit beige”, Mrs Weaver concluded as she surveyed my plate. “We eat with our eyes”, she said over her shoulder as she walked on to the next student having barely tasted a bite. It was our end-of-term exam and I had been practising each element of this dish for weeks. I had proudly served a crisp vol-au-vent (made from scratch) filled with chunky morsels of monkfish and prawn smothered in a creamy velouté sauce, gently spiced roasted cauliflower and duchess potatoes, impeccably piped and toasted to perfection. Every element looked and tasted as it should but, now that I reviewed it as a whole, I had to agree with Mrs Weaver that the colours were all a bit similar and, well, beige. We eat with our eyes and this dish looked distinctly unappetising, despite the expensive ingredients and the care that had gone into the making. Mrs Weaver had 18 plates to get through and if I wanted her to stop and pay attention to mine I needed to make it beautiful as well as delicious. Lesson learned. Read more

Dreamy

The evenings are getting shorter, there is a distinct chill in the air and golden trees are rapidly giving way to bare branches. After a mild and sunny September winter is suddenly closing in here in Lithuania. Much as I love warmth and sunshine I am very much looking forward to winter. We have a warm and cosy home. We have a wonderful new kitchen where I will make comforting stews and slow roasts. We have a stock of homemade wine and beer which we will sip curled up in our panoramic conservatory, looking out at the dreamy winter landscape. We will read, write, savour, enjoy. We are ready. Bring it on. Read more

Help! My chickens are sick!

My poor girls. They’re just not well. A few weeks back we noticed that one of our grey marans had started to develop a bit of a cough. None of the other birds seemed to be affected so I wasn’t overly worried. Not wanting to rush to the vet with every little sneeze I googled to see if there was a natural remedy I could administer. Read more

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