Thursday, 5 December 2013

Irish Porter Cake

Oh ladies, what am I like!?!  I promised you this post weeks ago and I'm only getting around to it now.   All the Christmas crafting is keeping me very busy and is taking up every spare minute that I have.
Fortunately the best thing about baking a Porter Cake instead of a full Christmas cake is that it can be made at the very last minute and doesn't need to be plied with booze every week for three months.  It is also much lighter than a Christmas cake.  It can be iced and decorated just like a regular Christmas cake but we don't have many fans of heavy icing in our house so we just leave it plain and sometimes serve it with a scraping of butter.  Yumm


  • 283ml / 1/2pt Guinness
  • 226g / 8oz Butter
  • 226g / 8oz Sugar
  • 226g / 8oz Raisins
  • 226g / 8oz Sultanas
  • 113g / 4oz Mixed Peel
  • Grated Rind of 1 Lemon
  • 453g / 1lb Flour
  • 2tsp Mixed Spice
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2tsp Bread Soda

  • Preheat oven to 150°C and line and grease a 20" round tin. (Above we just used a square one  because we couldn't find the right one on the day...typical!!)
  • Heat the Guinness gently with the butter and sugar.
  • Stir in the cleaned fruit and lemon rind.
  • Stir until the butter and sugar are melted and then leave aside to cool.
  • mix all the dry ingredients together, except the bread soda.
  • Beat the eggs and add the bread soda and then stir into the cooled fruit mixture.
  • Make a hollow in the middle of the dry ingredients and stir in the fruit mixture.
  • Mix well before transferring to the prepared baking tin.
  • Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours covering with a piece of cardboard if you think it is browning too much on the top.
  • When a skewer comes out clean from the cake, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10mins before removing from the tin.
This is yet another old family recipe that myself and my mother have made every single Christmas.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as we do.

Rosie xx

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Irish (Suet Free) Christmas Pudding

Well just as I promised this is my Mum's Christmas Pudding Recipe which she has used for donkey's years and has always proved a massive success in your house on Christmas morning and as presents for friends and family.

6oz/175g self raising flour
1 level tsp mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
8oz/225g fresh white breadcrumbs
12oz/350g dark brown sugar
375g currants
375g sultanas
4oz/125g mixed cut peel
4oz/125g cherries, washed, dried and halved
2oz/50g chopped almonds
finely grated rind of 1 orange
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
8oz/225g margarine, melted and cooled a little
3 large eggs
2tbsp brandy
1/2pt/275ml Guinness or stout

  • Sieve the flour and spices into a large bowl
  • Add the breadcrumbs, sugar, fruit, nuts, orange and lemon rind and mix thoroughly.
  • Beat together the eggs, brandy and guinness.
  • Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted margarine and the egg mixture. mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
  • Cover and leave overnight in a cool room.
  • Next morning prepare 2 x 2 1/2 pt pudding bowls by greasing well with butter.
  • Grease two large pieces of greaseproof paper and make a large pleat crossways in it.
  • Give the pudding mixture a good stir once more.
  • Divide the mixture between the two pudding bowls, weighing each to make sure that they are the exact same size and weight so that they both have the same cooking time.
  • Push down the mixture well down in the bowls and bang them on the table so that there are no air gaps. 
  • Make a little dip in the centre of the mixture in the bowl before covering so that the puddings don't push the lid off the pot when they start rising.

  • Cover the bowl with the well buttered greaseproof paper, making sure that the crease runs down the middle of the bowl.
  • Tie a long piece of strong around the bowl very tightly as close to the rim as possible.

  • Place the plastic lid over the bowl and wrap the paper up and over the lid.
  • Fill two large pots to about a half way up the pudding bowls and bring to a strong simmer. 
  • Place an old saucer at the bottom of the pot to lift the pudding from the base of the pot and allow it to cook all the way around.  Make sure that there is no air bubbles caught under the saucer.
  • Cook the puddings for 7 hours with the water simmering all the time.  You will need to top up the water on a regular basis.
  • On Christmas Day cook the puddings for one hour more.
Because there is so much alcohol in these puddings if one is left uneaten it can be kept for the following year so long as it is kept in a clean airtight bowl.  We have done this many times and it has been perfect always and even improves over the year!!

Linking for the first time (hoping this will work) to Cosmos and Cottton.

Hope you enjoy.  There is still plenty of time left to cook yours.
Rosie xx

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Where's The Pause Button??

I've got to be honest and tell you that I've missed you all quite a lot.  I've missed reading all about what you've been up to and only having the odd chance here and there to pop in when I have a second.  I've felt so guilty too for going AWOL once more.  It was not at all intended!!  Life has been so seriously hectic that I just haven't had any time to even look at my laptop, let alone actually turn it on and sit down and write a post.  Here's some of the things that's been going on....

The week before Halloween was exceptionally busy too with making costumes for the kids.  They decided that they wanted to dress up as Batman and Robin from the original tv series.  So I set about stitching and piecing and measuring and hoping for the best that all would work out in the end.  I was very nervous about it all because I was not working from any type of pattern but only from a picture that we printed out from the internet.

I breathed a great sigh of relief when they tried on their suits and absolutely loved them.  They were as proud as punch going to school for their dress up party in the outfits.  And even though Patrick was called Fatman at school, he came home saying that he didn't care because his Mammy made it for him.  Ahhh so sweet.  That made me feel so good.

First up I Michael asked me to go with him for the weekend to see The Boomtown Rats in Dublin and since I figured that this would a great deal of shopping too, it didn't take me long to agree.  I'll be honest and say that I was not really looking forward to the concert, not being a great fan and only knowing two of their songs.  These guys are golden oldies after all and I was expecting songs to be only crooned out.  How wrong was I!!!!  It was their first concert in 29 years and they sounded no different at all.  There was a lot of Dad dancing and some very bad clothes that really should have been left in the 70's but these guys had still got what it takes to put on a fantastic show.

The next day after breakfast we took a walk into the city centre.  There is so much beautiful architecture to be seen in Dublin that I was kicking myself for not remembering my camera.  I plan on soon taking a day trip up to take a long walk around the city with camera in hand and try to capture the best that the city has to offer.  My Husband refuses to accompany me on this trip.....spoilsport!

I just love these old shop fronts and the arched windows .  There still remains a lot of Georgian architecture that can be seen all over the city.  I promise that some in the new year i will give you a full tour of Dublin and all it's fantastic sights.

While walking back late night from the concert to the hotel we came across a small chemist shop that my mother went to when she was a child and also brought me to when I was young. I walked straight passed it at first and it took a second to register with me what I had actually seen. At first it felt like I may have been sleep walking and dreaming of times past but thankfully not. I was so delighted to see it still there and that it was not changed at in all this time.  Just look at this window display.

There has also been a lot of baking of Christmas cakes and puddings.  As soon as I get the chance I will post the recipes for these wonderful failproof Christmas necessities.  they are recipes that my mother has used for years and had taught me well from a young age how to get the best results.  Now we were joined in the kitchen by my two kids.  We had so much fun and I would say that our laughter would have been heard on the road outside.  These are the things that make this time of the year so special to me.  Things that make memories that I clutch close to my heart.

I did take many more pictures over these busy weeks but being the total plonker that I am, when I changed my phone a few weeks ago, I hadn't checked to see if they had uploaded to the iCloud and had lost all of them.  Some very precious pictures of my mother and myself baking together that my son had taken when we weren't watching.  I must organise another baking session soon and pass the camera over to Patrick once more, so long as he only gets my best side!!!!

Anyway, I hope to be back as soon as possible to share those recipes with you.
Rosie xx

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Little Dreams

Sorry I seem to be so behind in the blogging world these days and I've missed all your blogs so much.  To be honest apart from being very busy, I'm lucky if I get anywhere near my laptop as the kids have discovered a maths game site and of course the Moshi Monster craze has taken over here too.
I would love to promise that I'll be popping over to you all in the next few weeks but I know that I'm going to be so hectic that there is no chance that it will happen!!  Work is finally progressing at quite a fast pace with the new floor down, the electrics sorted and a new ceiling going up at the start of next week.  Then the real fun will start........the decorating!  Oh I so can't wait.  I have all the paint colours picked and wallpapers chosen to spruce up some of the furniture.  And I've got some little things like cushion covers made for the chairs and sofa but no curtains yet.  I'm still unsure about what curtains to make as all the windows are a very strange size so I've decided to wait and see what it the whole studio looks like when it's all decorated.

As you can see, I've been doing a little bit of stitching again.  I decided that I needed a bag to carry around my knitting in.  Like I really don't already have enough of those!!  But this is a very lovely kntting project in gorgeous squishy Debbie Bliss yarn that I am absolutely loving at the moment.  I so needed to take a break from all the crochet for a while because it was causing tremendous pain in my hand and arm.  The weight and size of my Granny stripe blanket not helping matters at all. Anyhow I'm babbling now so back to my bag.

 The second that I saw this thick cotton fabric in newspaper print, I knew just what I wanted it to be.  It was a delight to work with and it's so strong it's just perfect for bag making.  I wanted a real wow contrast for the lining and I had some of this black floral material left over from a skirt that I started (and yet to finish) during the summer.  Maybe it's just my taste but I think that it works well.  When I started I hadn't intended to mix the fabrics for the pockets, it just seemed to develop that way.  When it was all finished, I realised that the bag is just as good turned inside out.  So now I have two looks in just one bag.  Yippee.

This is the reason for all my excitement about my sewing of late.  Meet Cissy, my new sewing machine.  My gorgeous hubby decided that he would buy me an early Christmas present.  As I was in dire need of a sewing machine, it was ordered online and it was delivered just two days later.  I love her enormously.  I have always wanted one of these machines after trying out some others belonging to friends.  They are so user friendly even for a sewing twit like me.

I was like a child opening up the parcel and the first thing that I did when I got her out of the box was to give her a great big hug.   I called her Cissy as this was my Mum's nickname as a child.  It's something that I've always dreamt of owning but because of the cost never thought that I would. My Hubby said to me, "you see it's the little dreams that matter because they can sometimes come true!"

And you know what for once he's right!!  The sewing machine and the progress on my studio be simple little things to other people but all these things matter a whole lot to me.  To see an end in sight with Studio Benny has me bubbling up inside with excitement.  I can just see myself sitting at my workbench with Cissy stitching happily away while the dog sleeps in her bed next to a small fire in the stove and the kids playing with their toys at the other end.

What are you dreaming of right now??

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


I went AWOL lately from blogland due to an ickey uckey virus that absolutely knocked the wind out of me. All that I seemed to be able to do was sleep.  I felt like I should have gotten down on all fours, drawn whiskers on my face and pinned a tail to my bum because I was living just like the cats in our house.  On my better days I managed to get a bit of stitching and sewing done.  I was feeling very low through all of this time because it was taking so long to pass but now in a strange kind of way I've realised that it has helped me a great deal.  I've been having a bad pain flare up since May due to my severe insomnia but all the sleep that I've been getting lately has broken that fatigue-pain cycle for me.  Slowly I feel like I'm getting a little more energy every day and my pain levels are beginning to drop at last.  Granted I am now writing this post at 2 am in the morning but I'm just a little giddy over something exciting that's happening tomorrow.  Well it is for me anyway!!
Yippeeee  I just can't wait!!

I've got a few crafty pieces finished in the last while but i never got around to showing them to you, so here goes.
After working for so long on the granny stripe blanket, I needed a break to something different.  I wanted a quick project so that I could at last see something done and totally complete.  The blanket at the mo feels like its taking forever to finish.  I found this little beauty of a pattern in Inside Crochet and it just hit the spot.  I just don't know what it is about me and doilies right now but I want to make lots of them and in lovely bright colours too.  Maybe it's because I'm just not quite ready for the winter that's knocking on the door!!

Sorry for the poor photo here but the light was not too good the afternoon that I took this picture....I know, I know that doesn't excuse the creases in my cloth, what can I say only sorry again.  I've been wanting to try making notebook covers for a while now and this was my first attempt.  I must say that I really enjoyed it and I learned a hell of a lot in the process.  I know that I'm certainly going to be making more of them.  Look out in your Christmas stockings everyone!!

I went to a patch work class the other day and one of the first projects was a rag cushion.  I'm so loving how it turned out.  It's a simple but very effective design and such a great starting point for a learner like me.  My biggest fault is that I'm not very good at cutting things precisely the right size and this class is perfect for me to learn this.  I'm really looking forward to the rest of the classes to see what will be coming next!

This little baby I made quite a while ago but forgot to show it to you.  It's one of my favourite things that I've ever made.  I love how it's not in any way perfect, nor did I worry if it wasn't.  I love the mix of colours.

I love that I finally managed to do buttonholes on a sewing machine.  I love the unexpected bright colours of the back.  And I love that it's the first cushion that everyone goes for when they sit on the couch....even the dog!!

So that's all from me now.  I hope to catch up on some blogs in the next few days.
Rosie xx

PS  Thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post called Like Minded People.  They were so lovely to read.  Sadly though I had to delete the post due to spam that kept popping up in the comment box.  But thanks again, I so enjoy reading all your lovely thoughts and comments.  They really help me to get to know you better.

Monday, 2 September 2013

I Love.........

I Love the sight of my Avoca blankets stacked on the table, after being taken out for airing, ready for the winter.  The colours vibrant and cheerful to brighten the darker months ahead.  We bought the blankets when on a family holiday and the kids picked out the colours that they loved the most, Lucy the yellow and green chevron and Patrick the blue and white.  They remind me of one of the best family holidays that we have had and so I treasure them all the more for that.

I Love the label on these blankets and that it says "Weaving a Hug".  These were handwoven in Avoca in County Wicklow and even though they are pure wool, they are still so soft and are perfect for the sensitive skin of the smaller people in the family.

Starry Night by Van Gogh

I Love to watch the stars at night, lying in the grass with my kids at my sides wearing only our pyjamas and fluffy slippers.  We may shiver or end up with soggy bottoms but it is worth it for the fun and laughs that form everlasting memories.

I Love to laugh and laugh heartily.  The type of laugh that shakes you to your very core.  I'm not ashamed to laugh while sitting alone on a train and reading a funny book.  Or to laugh along with the kids while we walk along the street singing silly songs or making up daft stories.  I love to laugh until my eyes water and my face hurts and I have to hold my stomach muscles together.  Laughter is truly the best medicine.  Worries ease.  My pain seams a little bit more manageable and all with a little giggle whenever my funny bone is tickled.  People are too reserved to let themselves go like this and they really don't know what they are missing in life.

I Love that my children tell my mother that I am a big kid just like them and that they prefer me that way because it makes me so much more fun!! 

I Love jazz music with a passion.  This is Dinah Washington and I first discovered her at the age of 14 and I've never looked back since.  I remember buying a collection of her songs on an old second hand cassette and listening to it on a battered old walkman.  Remember them??  So while my classmates were listening to Blur and Oasis, I was listening to the jazz greats  like Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Nina Simone.
I also love opera and classic music to calm or inspire me and I listen to it at times like writing this blog or sitting sewing or knitting at quiet moments.  My parents loved classical music and it was always playing in our house.  Actually there was normally different music playing in every room of the house.  I was great introduction to music from an early age.  I will always associate Maria Callas with baking with my mother on rainy Saturday afternoons.  Wonderful memories.

I Love to dance.  I will dance anywhere that I hear music that I like.  I don't care where it is or who is looking, which can embarrass my friends and family at times.  But who doesn't love a great dance?  When my body allows, I will put on some music on in my house and turn it up really loud and totally loose myself in the rhythm and tune.  And it is infectious, you know.  After a few minutes, I will be surrounded by my kids and sometimes their friends too.  It never fails to put me in a good mood!

I Love to read and have done since I was a child.  I loose myself totally in the story and get carried off into different worlds.  Reality eases into the background and becomes irrelevant at that moment.  The words become my reality to the point where I no longer feel like I am reading at all and the words just seam to pass effortlessly into my mind. Whether it is a detective story, a comedy or a biography, it makes no difference to me. I get sucked in every time.  My all time favourite authors would have to be Daphne Du Maurier and Oscar Wilde.

I Love sitting on the couch on a Saturday morning with my kids and watching children's telly.  All three of us, four if you include Molly, in our pjs wrapped up in a big woolly blanket with only three pairs of stocking feet popping out from under it.

I love the dark, intense aroma of my first cup of coffee in the morning.  It is an instant wake up and reminds me that there is a fresh new day ahead of me.
I Love how smells can instantly trigger warm memories.  The smell of a roast chicken brings me right back to my childhood and of Sunday roast dinners.  The smell greeting us at the door as we arrive back from the family walk in the forest.

I Love my little kitchen dresser.  Like the old woman of the roads in the poem, I have always dreamt of owning one with delf speckled white and blue.  I may not have the delf but a few years after moving into this house, we finally bought the dresser and I started about filling it with teapots, cake plates, flour crocks amongst an array of other things.

I Love Germany.  I love the people and the lifestyle that they live. I cherish my winter visits to my brother in Munich.  My brother makes it feel like a home from home for me.  I just wish that I was able to spend more time with him there.

I Love my stack of pretty fabrics that sit in the box in the corner of the kitchen.  I often take them out just to look at them on days that I need cheering up.  Their colour and patterns filling my head with inspiration and fresh ideas for new projects.

I Love to sit on the river bank and watch my husband when he is fly fishing.  The grace of the rod and line sweeping through the air as he casts the fly on the waters surface and whips it off once more.  It is a mesmerising talent to witness.

I Love how my husband supports me in my illness without any whimpering or complaining.  He just gets on with it and makes family life run smoothly.

I Love to see fresh flowers on my kitchen table.  Whether they are from the supermarket or from the garden, it makes no difference to me.  I just want to bring a little of the outside in to our little home.  Brightening and cheering in one simple placement of a vase of a few graceful stems.

I Love the sea.  I love it more than I could ever put into words.

I Love the vibrant ever growing Granny Stripe blanket.  I love feeling the weight of it on my knees as I add row after row of colour, dreaming of how it will look when it will be finished.

I Love that my 9 year old son comes to me when he can't sleep and asks me to lie beside him in the bed and hum to him.  Only one tune will do and that is the one that I've hummed to him since he was a baby cradled in my arms.

I Love Molly the dog and her ever so gentle nature.  I Love how she waits for a space to sit beside me on the couch and as soon as one of the kids make a move, she jumps up like a shot.  She pushes herself up against my legs getting as close as she can and rests her little head on my knees.

Most importantly of all, I Love my little family and all the fun that we have and the memories that we create together.  We laugh, we cry, we may even fight at times but all that matters is that we have each other and that we are happy.

Whenever I am sad or down or feeling upset about my pain, I'm going to look at this list to remind me that I have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a lot of special people in my life that make me very happy.  We have only one life and it is too precious to get caught up in all it's stresses.  It is important to take the time to cherish the ordinary and make it extraordinary. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Warning! Bogger Alert!!

  This is Studio Benny as her now stands.  Sad and abandoned.

All the internal walls have been removed to make one big open space.

Unfortunately we found some of the dreaded rot in the floor so some timbers will need to be replaced.

And this is the cause of the halt to all work............Turf!!!!  Bloody Turf!!!!!

When I was a kid I used to tease my friends because they had to go to the bog and work on the turf with their sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper and their little bottles of tea.  Now I'm stuck in the middle of the bog and married to a man that's absolutely obsessed with the stuff.

When we were on holidays he missed it so much and talked about it most days, to the point where he was actually getting into a bad mood towards the end of our time away. Needless to say, the bog was the first place that he visited on our return!!

After 12 years with my sod obsessed husband I've gotten to know a little of the process and the passion that is put into this stuff. This year, after many summers begging from my husband, I finally agreed to venture into the bog to help with the work. All in the hope that work resume on Benny quicker, you understand. I'm not turning into a bogger at all. I'm too much of a townie for that!!

There is so much work into getting this turf home for fuel for the winter.  It needs to be cut and let to dry.  The weather is closely watched in case rain washes the sods back into the ground.  Then it needs to be picked off the ground and stacked in order for the wind to be able to dry the turf further.  This is called footing. After a few weeks of drying the sods will shrink and the footings will probably need to be rebuilt.  Another few weeks of good weather and they will be ready to bring home.  This could take up to four evenings.  Finally the turf will then need to be clamped.  This is what you can see in the pictures.  They are stacked in such a way that the rain will run off the sides while still allow the wind to breeze through it.  After all that work it's not surprising that they call this Black Gold around here.

People are very protective of their turf and their right to cut it.  It's a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation.  But the EU have decided that this tradition should be stopped to save the bogs and I can understand that. But when you see the massive machines that the big companies use to strip the bog for commercial fuel or for compost for gardens or to burn to make electricity, then I can also understand the locals fury and refusal to accept to give up their rights.  What is cut by hand for domestic use is only 1% of the damage that is done by the big bog companies but there is no plans to stop this.  Surely a law that is passed should be applicable to all!  Go figure.

Something relaxing after all that.

As I've probably mentioned before, I'm quite often up at dawn to see the sunrise and listen to the dawn chorus.

I was delighted the other day to finally capture a stunning sunrise.  The sky looks as if it was on fire that morning.  It was a glorious start to the day.

Thank you all so much for popping in and reading all my mad ramblings.  I love your comments so much.  They really do make me smile.  And a big welcome to all my new readers too.

Rosie xx

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Peace And Tranquility

After a very stressful and difficult week, we decided that since the salmon were running, it was time that a little break from normal life was called for.  So we packed up the camper and headed to Easkey in Co. Sligo, for a final trip away before the kids return to school next week.  I have posted about Easkey before, saying that it was my most favourite place in the world and that is still the case.
When we arrived we parked in our usual place right along the coast next to the rocks.  From here the sea can be deafening at times when the tide comes in and the waves beat against the rugged rocks a mere 7m from the camper.  The picture above is what is visible from the right hand window of the camper. It is the wildness of the sea that makes here the only place where I can find true peace and tranquillity.  I can empty my mind and just let it go with the ebb and flow of the tide.

I love to sit on my favourite rock with a cup of tea in my hand and the dog leaning close against my legs, face into the sea and let be free from any stress.  I close my eyes and let the wind carry me up high into the sky like the gulls where I can soar and glide with them in the powerful Atlantic winds and watch the salmon waiting in the bay for the next high tide so that they can swim up the river and return to their birthplace to spawn.  I can hear the waves beat below me and feel the fresh salty air in my lungs.

People I know have come here with their kids and returned to tell me that it was boring with nothing to do and no proper shops in the tiny little village.  But if they just opened their eyes it is all here for the taking. Nature in it's rawest from.  The ocean on one side, the mountains towering behind, a beautiful river running down the centre and some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

The men in the family head off to the river to chase the elusive salmon and sea trout, hoping that this will be the day that they will catch the big one on the fly.  Myself and Lucy head off down the coast on our bikes with my camera in hand ready to shoot.  We walk the cliffs and rocks and search for fossils, which are in abundance in this area.  We also have started a new collection of sea glass this summer and this is proving to be a lot of fun as it is much harder to find in this around here.  We have all been very competitive to see who could find the most and who had the biggest array of colours.

To say that I find this place magical would be a major understatement.  I love being this close to nature and what I love even more is that my kids adore it too.  As soon as the summer holidays start, they begin to beg to visit here and we do come as often as we can.  Our hearts break for it when the end of the season comes in September knowing that we will not be returning until the following May.
We have been coming here for about ten years now and every time that I visit, I fall in love with it even more. Can you tell??
Rosie xx

PS  The only thing that I would say about sleeping in a camper so close to the sea means that I could literally wee for a national team!!!  The sound of all that water!!