Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Wild joys of Living

I am lucky that my job allows me a wonderfully long summer holiday and I put aside four weeks where I luxuriate in doing nothing work related and in the space that is left there is the joy of simply

I am finding it hard to give that space up this summer.

 For the past two weeks I have been dipping into work with results, data and meetings plus working on next year's strategies and how I can lead my lovely department into something awesome. Already I can feel work cares pulling at me, sleeplessness at 2am is creeping back in. I need to get back to the routine, remember my need for balance and never forget to make the time for those 'wild joys of living'. Don't you love these lines from Browning? I am putting them up in my classroom to remind me every day.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Hot Housed in Belfast

Seeing saltwatered feet all over instagram/blogs has made me smile so much this summer.

When I first visited Belfast way back in 1989 it was a city under siege; at least that it is what it seemed to me. Mark seemed oblivious to the road blocks, the guns, the feeling of tension in the air but he had grown up with it; I had had a much more sheltered upbringing in the leafier parts of England. Although this was not my first return visit I was so struck by what a cool brilliant city Belfast has become. Great caf├ęs, shopping, places to eat and just be. The university is beautiful and the botanic gardens inthe centre are an oasis of calm.

I love palm houses don't you? I love their warmth and verdant beauty. Those Victorians knew what they were about when it comes to building places like this. Just looking at these photos makes me feel the calm I felt whilst there. Heaven.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Apples - Grow::Forage::Cook

Since coming back from holiday I have been catching up, washing, and dealing with the bumper apple crop. A wonderful catch up has been with the two brilliant blogs, Circle of Pines and Wolves in London. I instantly loved their idea of posting about the food we have grown, foraged and cooked and have been playing along on instagram adding #growforagecook to the relevant posts.

Mostly I have been making apple based desserts and fruit compotes to freeze for our winter porridge but a couple of days Finn begged for toffee apples, a wonderful late summer treat. We had toffee to spare which we spread and scattered with fruit and nuts to eat with ice-cream this weekend. A teeth sticking, sweet treat!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A Perfect Day

There are some days that are so special that they acquire the glow of glamour in your memory. Do you know what I mean? We had just such a day on the 7th of this month; the day of Mark's 50th birthday.

We had been planning the day for a while - Mark knew he wanted to be in Ireland and he had invited some of our closest friends to join us for a few days. It is a sign of how greatly he is loved that they did just that.

With anxious eyes we watched the weather because what he really wanted to do was picnic on the beach. We had no need to worry - Ireland put on her best frock and the day dawned bright and clear.

Our day started in the harbour town of Baltimore, West Cork. We gathered together to get the ferry across to Sherkin Island, one of our favourite places in the entire world. Our bags were loaded with wet suits, balls, books, picnic food, champagne and blankets. All the essentials!

We put together a delicious lunch of fish, veggie kebabs, asparagus spears and rice salad all washed down with champagne and the fresh air that always makes a beach barbecue taste extra delicious.

The rest of the time was spent swimming, playing beach games and building stone monuments, just perfect. The amazing one on the right was not our work - there is a mysterious beach artist at work on Sherkin!

All too soon it was time to come off the island. All we could all talk about was how perfect the day had been whilst we waited for the ferry. What we didn't know was that it was about to get even more amazing. Just as the ferry left dock a dolphin appeared and followed the boat, leaping from side to side as we journeyed towards the main land. How perfect was that?

To round it all of we sat in a harbour-side bar eating pizza and watching an amazing sun set. It was a truly perfect day.


Mid August sees us celebrate the birthday of our beautiful Fergus. God how I love this young man - he is a delight to spend time with.I have sung his praises before - here and here - but it remains true. He really is simply lovely. Plus he really rocks my old wayfarers - ray-bans bought in the 80's - soooo cool.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Top of the Rock - I love glamping!

I have been a camper for years; as a child, a girl guide, as part of a young couple and as a family. I love dragging the tent out and getting everything ready. I love the smell of the tent and waking up in the morning to the sounds of the camp site.  However in all our camping years we have never camped in Ireland. It is a beautiful place but the weather is too unstable and I simply don't do two weeks of being damp...

Way back in the start of spring we were starting to plan our trip; we had a middle and an end but there were a few days at the start to fill. Neither Mark nor I really remember how we stumbled across Top of the Rock Pod Pairc, it was one of those wanders around the internet that starts in one place and leads to another, but we are both so glad that we did. 

The pods are based on the ancient architecture of Gallurus Oratory. The setting is beautiful, on a hill farm with mountain views. The surroundings were full of wildlife as well as the animals you expect to find on a farm. The pods are a very simple structure and I think rather beautiful. Ours had a double bed, toilet, sink and kettle and a pull out bed for the boys. We just had Finn and Fergus with us at this time. There is room for an extra mattress if needed. 

I have to say that one of my favourite things about our stay was the wonderful welcome given to us by the owners David and Elizabeth Ross. They were happy to spend time chatting and telling us about the wonderful walks in the area. Elizabeth also made the most wonderful scones which we ordered every morning for breakfast. They came with yogurt and butter from a local farm and Elizabeth's homemade raspberry jam. Delicious. In the evenings a fire was lit and us happy campers gathered to chat and enjoy the warmth of the flames as well as the warmth of companionship.

What ever led us to Top of the Rock it was a lucky find; we loved our time there and will certainly go back.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Homeward Bound

In this picture there is Guinness, pink lemonade and Tayto crisps. That sort of sums up the holiday nicely. Today we are packing to head home early tomorrow. I had ideas that I would post little and often but the holiday got in the way - hooray.  There are a couple of special days and places to share so see you when feet have touched the ground! 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

A walk

After a day of packing and travelling there is little better than a walk to clear your head. It was wonderful to inhale the clean air of the Irish mountains and to wander by a clear stream along the valley. Although I am not Irish myself we have been coming here so long that there is a bit of me that feels like it has come home. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Summer - week 1

Week one of the summer has flown by. What glorious weather we are having - has anyone said it is too hot yet? Not me, even during the hot sticky nights I refuse to say it, better hot that wet.
Last week hasn't been about doing anything exciting, it has been about relaxing and getting my balance back. Oh how that word keeps coming up this year! There have been afternoon sleeps, reading and plain sitting this week. Just to be able to sit and think, put things into perspective is so wonderful.
 I have also been imposing some order onto the house. I know that some people will think I am mad spending my first week cleaning but I can't tell you how great I feel when I am sitting in a clean room. It is part of being balanced for me, the process of cleaning brings with it peace. I use products that smell lovely as well as do the job and with Radio 4 on in the background I happily wipe, scrub and tidy. *
There has also been time with my family, meals outside, salad picked from the garden and time to plan and create. Perhaps more of that another day...

This week there is packing and journeying on the menu - there is a pint of Guinness  with my name on it!

*Please don't be fooled - this desire to clean will go away and the house will return to its usual chaos very soon. I have a very on-off relationship with housework - we fall out quite quickly!

The Graduate

Monday was such a special day for us - we watched Erin graduate from university. It was such a beautiful day. There was lots of ceremony (in Latin) and bowing and then with a quick robe change she was officially a graduate! 

Bowing and doffing, bowing and doffing. Then exiting newly gowned.

Always at times like these (when they leave primary, when they start secondary school and then GCSEs, then A level) you feel that this is a stage and that your children are on the edge of something. I have written about this before and recently but it is strong in my head at the minute. I am so excited for Erin and the life she has ahead. I feel blessed to have been part of the making of her. Not the messy part though, that bit can belong to some one else...
Back at her college we posed for photos with friends, as a family and then had an excellent lunch with too much wine. All the while the sun shone and as the graduates said their farewells there was such a sense that these were her lifelong friends and although this was the end of something it was also the beginning of something wonderful.