Thursday, 31 May 2012

Sewing Lessons for Lucy

 I have not been to my blog for over a week now.  The incredible weather here has kept me busy in the garden and spending time with the kids.  And as you know, in Ireland we learn to make the most of every single ray of sunshine that we get because it may just be another year before it shows itself again.
What I have been doing though is some sewing lessons with my little girl.  I was amazed to watch her as she took to the stitches with ease.  Each different type of stitch that she practised getting neater and neater in a short time. I had bought her a sewing book called Sewing School for Christmas and it was one of the best kids books on the subject that I've found.  It contains lots of easy ideas for little hands and full size paper patterns to cut out.  It was from this that she made her little teddy Daisy! With very little help from me, she picked out and sewed on the buttons and carefully stitched the seams and finally stuffed it last thing before bed. She was so pleased with the result that she even bought it in for her Show And Tell the next day.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Being Busy

My most favourite colours in the world have always been green and yellow and what else would produce a more perfect way of showing them off at their best than mother nature in this simple native cowslip. Beauty in simplicity.  Having two young kids is mad and very hectic at times but when I see something like this I'm often stopped in my tracks and I just have to take a moment to admire it.

In the last couple of days I've taken to my sewing machine and tried my hand at patchwork for the first time.  I picked a small project for myself and decided on a pot holder in some of my favourite fabric remnants.  A few short hours later I was finished totally.  And it may not have been perfect but I was quite delighted and pleased with myself.  But within a few short seconds of using it, I let it slip from my hand and it burned to a cinder on the stove top.  What a wally!!

I also made this cushion cover this week from a feather and fan shawl that I had knit but was too short even after it was blocked.  And as I hated to see all my hard work go to waste at the bottom of a drawer I decided to make it into something that I would see every day.  There is nothing better than having a piece of knitting with old fashioned stitches in your kitchen even if it's only for under your bum.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fibromyalgia and Medication

It is very hard for me to describe the relationship that I've had with my medication and the feelings that I've had towards it.  It began with a longing to be free from the agonising pain that is associated with Fibromyalgia (fibro) and the need to finally bring to an end years of insomnia.  I was willing to try anything that the doctors would give to me, if there was even the slightest chance at all that it might help.  But this too brought with it, its own problems for me.
Firstly when taking new drugs, it would take weeks, sometimes months, for my body to become accustomed to the chemicals involved.  The side effects of many of the tablets were extensive.  Some caused me to gain 3st in weight.  My hair thinned out so much that I looked like I was trying to grow a bald patch.  My short-term memory became so bad that I found myself incapable of following a conversation.  And my eyesight was so severely affected that I had twice as many children as I should have had, I could no longer follow the words of a book to read and driving was definitely out of the question.  My house was no longer a home but a jail.  I was too anxious to leave and too self conscious to meet people outside of the family.
Oxycontin is a certain example of this.  For the past two years I have been on a high level of this drug but in January of this year I said that I had enough of the ever increasing side effects of this medication.  It may have given me the best pain relief that I ever had and a break in the pain is what is required for fibro in order that the pain pathways may be changed but it caused stunted speech and worsened my already poor memory.  It has taken me over four months to slowly come off this drug and it was very hard going at times.  But it was worth it as for the first time in years I now feel like I have the possibility to get out there and start living my life even if I still have some residual pain.
Watch out world here I come.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Beef Stew


700g Stewing Steak
2 Large Onions
5 Carrots
3 Parsnips
2tbs Balsamic Vinegar
1 Bouquet Garni
2pt Beef Stock
2tbs Flour or Cornflour to thicken
Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 160/170C.
  • Brown the stewing steak on a high heat in a large casserole pot.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add onions and carrots and fry for 5mins until softened and browned slightly.
  • Add in the balsamic vinegar and continue to cook until the sharp smell has gone from the vinegar.
  • Increase the heat slightly and pour the stock into the pot and bring to a rolling simmer.
  • Mix the flour with a little water to a paste and add to the pot.  Do not add to much flour because the stew will reduce down in the oven.
  • Take a piece of greaseproof paper that would be big enough to cover the top of the pot and wet it until it is soft and flexible. Cover the stew with this and then put the lid on top.  This will reduce the cooking time by half and intensify the flavour.

  • Check the stew regularly and when the meat is tender remove the pot from the oven.  Reduce the stew a little more if desired on the cooker top.
  • Season to taste and serve with steamed or mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Garden, Moe the Cat and Dog Poo

The Bank Holiday weekend saw us working very hard on the jungle that once was.  The improvement is immense.  I started to potter away at it but being such a weakling I was getting nowhere fast.  The Hubbie stepped in and with brute force and a lot of sweat he had it cleared in a few hours.  It was amazing to see the top layer come out like a layer of deep pile carpet.  Unfortunately the roots of more wicked weeds lay beneath which had to be cleared out also.  And if you have ever seen your hard work suffer from the abominable and loathsome Horsetail weed, then you will understand what I mean.

Our cat Moe was quite annoyed that we were digging in her toilet.  Now she has nowhere to hide her furry little bottom when she does her business.  She cried continuously and when I wasn't paying any attention to her she climbed onto my shoulders when I was bending down and proceeded to yell in her piercing cat tones directly in my ear. Even though I hate to make an animal unhappy, I would prefer to have my garden back and so she will just have to find a bush to hide behind.

The dog Molly prefers the open lawn where she poo's to her hearts content.  She's not at all shy and looks directly at you when she's messing up our grass, like a child proud of what she can do on the potty.
Believe me when I say that Molly's follies aren't always that easy to clear up. I know,  I learned this the hard way, when I was trying to discreetly fling a not too solid one over our hedge and into the field beside our house.  But instead of it taking to the air as expected, it slid right off the shovel and landed onto my freshly washed hair and down the back of my brand new, and now favourite, ladylike blouse.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this.
The smell followed me for days after!!

Friday, 4 May 2012

My Poor Neglected Garden

Believe it or not there was flowers here in these beds once!

The part of the hose that has been neglected the most over the past few years while I've been ill is my garden.  Now instead of flowers there is scutch grass and instead of roses there is bindweed. I used to say that it wasn't overgrown but just an intentional display of native Irish wildflowers.  But this year, we have decided to tackle it as a family.  My kids miss having a pretty garden to look at and they have vowed to help me regularly with it.  The hubbie will probably be doing all the heavy clearing, while I get the joy of replanting it again.

Wish me luck with this one!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

My Mums Best Nut And Chocolate Cake

This was a favourite of ours as we were growing up.  It was the cake that my mother made most regularly, apart from her delicious apple tart of course.  Oh I'm getting hungry already.  Must head to the kitchen and see what's in the pantry!

Nut and Chocolate Ring Recipe

150g butter, softened
250g sugar
3 large eggs or 4 medium eggs
300g self raising flour, or plain flour with 1tsp of baking powder
a pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp. of milk 
150g mixed nuts, roughly chopped
150g chocolate, roughly chopped

Place all the ingredients except nuts and chocolate into mixing bowl and beat with a handmixer for 2-3 mins until well blended. Fold nuts and chocolate into the mixture. Grease and flour a 25cm ring mould. Transfer the mixture to the tin.

Temperature:  160C
Time:  60 - 75 mins until a metal skewer comes out clean

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

1 Butternut squash
4 Carrots
1 Onion
2 Clove of Garlic
1 1/2" of Ginger Grated
1 Big potato
2 Bay Leaves
A Good Pinch of Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp of Paprika
1Pt of Veg Stock
1 Pt of Water

1.  Peel and cube all the vegetables.

2.  In a little butter and oil sweat the veg slowly until caramelised and softened. This should take about 15             mins.

3.  Add in the stock , herbs, paprika, ginger and garlic.

4.  Cook for about 30 mins or until the vegetables are soft.

5.  Puree the soup with a hand blender and serve with a nice slice of buttered brown bread or crusty rolls.

My Favourite Place in the World

In November I travelled to Germany to get some help with my fight between pain and pain relief. Thanks to my brother, the little guy in the picture, I was able to do a month long course of EFT with the brilliant Karin.  On the weekends we drove around the Alps and saw some of the most beautiful sights imaginable.
It was a life-changing experience for me and I'll be ever grateful to my brother for giving me the chance to see what life still has to offer and to realise that I am still capable to fulfil some of my dreams.
Thanks Big Bro!
This was a small secluded lake that we found when on one of our drives.  It was the most peaceful place I've ever been and gladly sat for hours on the rocks long the lakeshore. I will return soon to Germany and my lake.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Old Magnolia Tree

The old magnolia tree was planted by my mother in the year that I was born and now each spring it is flushed with blooms indicating that the summer is on the way, the first promise of warmer weather and long sunny days.  To me it not only signifies strength and beauty but also it reminds me of my family and my childhood. And it delights me to see that my children too love to climb to its top and play under the shadow of its wide embracing branches.
I've been struggling with the chronic pain of Fibromyalgia for the past eight years now.  Even though it has stolen a lot of time away from me, with the support of my family I've somehow finally found the strength to fight back. I'm beginning to build a new life for myself and it's quite exciting. For even though I resent this horrible condition that has battered and bruised my body both physically and emotionally it has made me appreciate so much more what life has to offer and I've learned to enjoy the little things and moments in life and to treasure them.
And that is why I've called this blog after that old magnolia tree in my parents garden because now my life is blooming after a long hard winter and now I'm looking forward to the brighter summer that lies ahead.