Thursday, August 28, 2014

Never As Planned

It's been a while -again. History repeating and all that but I'm not going to go into detail, suffice to say it's been a busy six months on this side of the screen.

Work has kept me busy, for the main part. But fear not, It hasn't been all work and no play as the photo stream on my phone would put it. There's been some good and some excellent nights and days spent in the best possible company. Laughing until you're crying is by far my favoured form of ab exercise and there has been plenty of that.

The trip to Dublin in February was a hoot. All really quite well behaved, involving Disney Princess Mirror, an embassy that reminded us of a sauna and some camels in the roof of the hotel. Not to mention the tower room and some Finnish sweets. Also #TrainTales on the way up and down. Check Twitter for details.

Spring came and went in a blur of sunshine, increasingly busy times at work and some more than welcome visitors. Doing the tourist-y thing around where you live is always fun, this really is a beautiful corner of the world and showing people around serves as a perfect reminder of how lucky I really am to wake up to this every morning.

My long-awaited summer holiday came around very quickly at the end of June. Two glorious weeks to spend in Finland with My People. I got to snoop around my old haunts and catch up with people I really wish I could see more of. Those that remain in your life, not matter how long it's been since you've seen them last, who welcome you with open arms and in one hug the years that should've gotten in between suddenly disappear. Pardon my nostalgia here but I cannot stress enough how good it felt to see those who saw me through my teenage years. I love you and will be forever grateful that you are in my life.

I blogged little ode to Twitter over on my Finnish blog The people I've gotten to know through Twitter are, in a word, amazing. I got to meet one of the lovely ladies of Twitter in the flesh during my holiday. As with my namesake who accompanied me to Dublin in February, this lovely lady by the name of Marjo is one of those people who I feel I've known for years.

It seems like I was only back to work a few weeks ago rather than nearly two months. July and August are what we like to call Silly Season. So many people. So very many people. Work becomes all-consuming, and there seems to be very little time for anything else. For two months of the year I seem to be living, breathing, walking and talking work. It's good but tiring and while I love being busy, come the end of August I'm actually looking forward to the quieter days.

It's not all good new, I'm afraid. Our old, distinguished kitty gentleman Tom passed away last week. There is a kitty-shaped hole in the house and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still very sad about it. His final resting place is out in the garden, beside the rock he sat on to survey his lands. To quote a tweeting friend: "May his fields be full of mice".

On a more positive note, my free time seems to be actually free in the coming weeks. I'm itching to get back into the kitchen with time to spend over new recipes. Perhaps I'll even manage to squeeze in a blog post or two.

That's all for now. See you soon!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fooled ya!

So, it turns out six months wasn't quite enough. I'm finding it very hard to get back into regular blogging despite having three days off per week at the moment. I'm spending very little time at my laptop and the Blogger mobile app just doesn't cut it for me. I need an actual keyboard to produce anything coherent.

However, all is not lost. I shall make an another attempt, just to see how I get on. It may not be every week but by gods if I can't manage a post every fortnight, I may as well toss this battered old laptop and all its contents into the raging Atlantic across the road.

I've spent my extra time off mainly by getting familiar with my walking/jogging route of choice. And obviously counteracting all that bouncing about by spending more time in the kitchen. Life is all about the balance, after all. There's nothing quite as nice as two normally busy creatures finding a cosy nook on the sofa by the fire and spending some quality time together doing nothing in particular. Come summertime all that will change as work commitments on both sides mean very little time spent at home at all.

In other news, my passport is up for renewal which is the perfect excuse for a trip up to Dublin for a night, accompanied by my namesake from Sligo. Being foreign we need to present our good selves at the Finnish embassy in Dublin in order to get our passports, I'm assuming this is just to verify that we are still sufficiently finnish-looking and sounding for us to be allowed back into Finland. I've had no less than three sets of passport photos taken as I'm not 100% certain of the requirements they need to meet but I can assure you, I look equally dreadful in each set of photos.

I booked a room in the Trinity Capital Hotel (it's one of our sister hotels) through work and I'm very much looking forward to having a good old nosey around. Few of my colleagues stayed there before Christmas and had nothing but nice things to say. I'll be sure to write up a detailed report and submit it to the appropriate authorities.

Now, I'm sure there are other things I should mention but having put my brain on the spot, it simply cannot come up with anything noteworthy. I'm sure it will all trickle down onto this keyboard sooner rather than later.

Chat to you soon!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Breathing Space

I was just wondering whether or not six months was long enough a break from blogging. I decided that it was. I've been busy in a good way, enjoying good company and making memories. My parents spent a week with us in April, my brother with my sister-in-law, niece and his friend's family were here earlier this month. One of them has stayed to experience the Irish summer. *insert rain here*

There's too much to put down in words, so here's some photos instead:

I've been walking here:

I've enjoyed the summery weather:

I've had a few lazy mornings:

I've had a few nights out featuring this:

And a few nights in featuring this:

I've had fun with these:

I've been reading these:

I've seen some amazing sunsets from our front porch:

And I've spent some quality time with these:

See you soon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eye Of The Storm

Hi there! Going to give this blogging lark another go after a few months of jotting down little ideas for posts, waiting for them to turn into bigger ideas and pour themselves onto the screen. We'll see how it goes.

In my absence I've done a little of everything and not much anything. Living a life, I suppose. Spent Christmas, New Year and my birthday in between home and work, in good company enjoying good food, some drinks and lots of laughs. Just what the doctor ordered.

I'm only working for four days a week now to use up my holidays from last year. The last few weeks I would've enjoyed my extra time off a bit more had it not been for the endless rain and gale force winds. Seems like the same rain I mentioned in the last post in October is still here.

Yesterday was meant to be spent in Galway, but after the city being hit by floods the day before, tackling road closures and even more torrential rain didn't sound too appealing. Opted for a quick run to the shops in Clifden and then curling up on the sofa by the fire with my Kindle and cat on my lap, sipping a cup of coffee. An infinitely better choice, if you ask me.

There isn't all that much to report, I basically just poked my head in here to say that I'm still here and planning on slowly increasing my blogging activity. Promise.

Hang in there.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Duvet Days

It's been raining heavy for what feel like weeks now. I'm sure it's not actually weeks but nonetheless, that's what it feels like. Outside everything is saturated, soggy, sopping wet. The rain is like a relentless morse code tapping on the roof, pausing every so often to catch its breath, showing a glimpse of a blue sky and a ray of sunlight coming through before picking up where it left off. It's the perfect weather for a duvet day.

I managed a solid eleven hours of sleep on Monday night. I woke up on Tuesday my body sore from spending too much time horizontally, but my head fantastically clear compared to my state of mind over the few days preceding that. I blame the full moon, I never sleep right for about a week and find myself wondering what the hell is wrong with me until I realise it's out lunar companion in the sky messing with my sleep pattern.

Lily having a duvet day

I didn't venture far yesterday. Only as far as the shops to pick up a few bits I needed to make butternut squash soup. That was after I had chased one of the cats around the house to give her a tablet. For the first few days I was able to stick the tablet in her mouth and wait for her to swallow it. She soon copped onto this and somehow developed an ability to hold onto the tablet until I let her go, after which she spat the tablet onto the floor by my feet and ran off. My next tactic was to wrap the tablet in some salami. his worked a treat until she realised what was going on, and ate the salami around the tablet and proceeded to bat the tablet around the kitchen floor until it ended up under the fridge out of reach to both human and feline paws. Currently I'm wrapping the tablets in ham. When she sniffs out this ruse, I'm at a loss. What next?

Soon-to-be soup

This weather is perfect for duvet days, lazy days, days spent on the sofa by the fire with a good book. I love cooking on days like this, too. The warmth in the kitchen wards off the rain, and cooking with no deadlines and no time limitations can be very therapeutic. It's proper me-time. Just me and my ingredients, hands in the mixing bowl, measuring ingredients, binding them together, feeding more than just hungry bellies. Yesterday it was meat loaf with hidden boiled eggs inside (I think I got that one from Nigella). Blueberry pie with custard for dessert. All gobbled up by the fire, under a blanket big enough for two. Bliss.

Blueberry pie

I haven't set foot outside today, still waiting for it to stop raining for long enough to put the bin down. The road outside looks more like a river right now, so I have no immediate plans to venture outside any time soon. I have a loaf of bread in the oven, the whole house smells beautiful. I'll make myself a cup of strawberry tea and curl up on the couch beside the cat and read another few chapters of The Fry Chronicles.

Happy, rainy days.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Dublin

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I was heading up to Dublin for Hotel And Catering Review Gold Medal awards. The awards were on Tuesday night, so we headed up bright and early at 6am(!!) to catch the early train from Westport to Heuston. The time it takes to drive to Dublin from out here in the schticks, you're better off catching the train and sitting back and relaxing for three and something hours rather than booting it down the motorway.

We were staying in the Hilton, which is a short walk from Heuston. We only fired our bags into the rooms and headed out again to lunch at the Avoca in Monkstown. The food was beautiful and they have their interior design and product displays thought out down to a T. The very friendly maître d' showing us to our seats had an outrageously fantastic, twirly, Poirot-like moustache. We had between us crab meat salad, caesar salad with a half a rotisserie chicken and Spanish meatballs with couscous and pita bread. The food was bloody gorgeous. We had a quick snoop around the food market, as we do a lot of same kind of things for takeaway as they do, and came back home with plenty of ideas.

After a few more stops in foodie places, we headed back to the hotel to get ready. Our timing was perfect to allow a nice bath and time to put our faces on. It was a black tie event, so we did have to look the part. Moving from one four star location to another, the awards night was at the Burlington Hotel. Pulling up in the taxi, all you could see were people dressed to impress, huddled under the awning for a quick smoke.

We were ushered into the function room, which was set up to accommodate all 360 of us there for the awards. A few familiar faces in the crowd, quick hellos this way and that and then seated for dinner. I was positively surprised by the fact that there weren't a stream of speeches before dinner, or indeed, after it. The menu was as follows:

Cornets of Smoked Salmon with Red Onion Cream Cheese, Mini Blinis, drizzled with a Lemon Oil

Fillet of Beef, Dauphinoise Potatoes with Green Beans, Sauteéd Wild Mushrooms & Pearl Onions, Brandy Peppercorn Sauce

Strawberry Sorbet, Passion Fruit Bavarois, Strawberry Tart

I loved the smoked salmon, but the blinis were very bland. I wonder whether they had bought them in ready made or maybe used the wrong kind of flour to make them. I understand I am biased as my father makes amazing blinis, so maybe my expectations were too high. But then again, it was a Hotel and Catering event. My beef fillet was beautifully pink in the middle, and the wild mushrooms were presented in a filo pastry cup, but my colleague sitting beside me got her beef completely overcooked. 

The desserts were a platter of minis of all three listed above, and while they were perfectly tasty, they weren't anything out of the ordinary. Our pastry chef who was there with us, dissected each bite and came to the conclusion that the tart base and pastry case for the sorbet weren't proper pastry, rather than a ready mix you pour into pastry moulds and bake. 

The service ran like clockwork, I do find myself often paying attention to things like that, and I must say that for all of us to get our food more or less at the same time was down to great organisation. We were told at the start that they had fed hundreds of people on the Sunday before the awards after the Mayo-Donegal match. 

The wine, however was beautiful and it was the prefect lubricant to get the proceedings started. There were in total 17 categories and between three and nine finalists in each category. Each of the tables had a plaque for each of the finalists to take home, it was a honour to even be nominated, according to someone's maths we were in the top 3% in our field by just being up for an award. Not too shabby for a first time entry, I thought. 

Sadly, we didn't win out category, which was won by last year's winner in Co. Clare. I smell a road trip south in the horizon sometime soon, I want to know what they're doing to scoop up the award two years running. We'll try again next year, for sure. 

After a long day I was delighted to engage in my best impersonation of a starfish in the middle of my massive hotel bed. I think I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Coming Soon...

Wow. That summer came and swept me away with it like a tornado took Dorothy. It was a busy one, at work and otherwise. Main memories are of laughter, friends, great food and even better company. I will dig out some photos and tell you about some of it soon, I promise.

I'm just back from my brother's wedding. It was beautiful, the happy couple made the day their own and I can honestly say everyone enjoyed themselves. We cried, we laughed, we danced, we caught up with relatives and enjoyed the fabulous food. More on that later, too.

Our three kitties are still around, and even our poorly patient Molly, is getting slowly better. She has food allergies and after a lengthy stay at the vet's for tests and tlc, she is on the mend, noticeably so. Perseverance and lots of pets.

It's starting to feel like autumn now, dark evenings, movie nights, candle light and lit fires. Woolly socks and glasses of red wine in good company. I do quite like this time of the year.

Work is still keeping me busy. We've been shortlisted for a Gold Medal award and are heading to Dublin for the awards ceremony on Tuesday. I'll report back about that sometime next week.

So, all of this to come. Stick around, folks!