Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
-Oxfam Fair Trade shop (also online at www.oxfamireland.org/fairtrade-shop/)
The Oxfaf Fair Trade shop in South King Street (Dublin) - also in Galway, Belfast and Cork- is always a good source of original gift ideas with the fair trade stamp. It is particularly useful when buying for home (decoration items and all sorts of nice things, such as tea sets, photo frames, cushions...) and also friends with new babies (fairly priced organic cotton clothes and toys), but they also have music, bags and some selection of edible treats.
Good source of knitwear, jewellery and other general gift ideas such as purses and bags for the ladies. A few items made of recycled materials too (tick the green credentials box too!)
Go to the Gift Guide section and click By Department. Select Best sellers and you'll find a pretty interesting mix of green trinkets and gadgets (the solar powered ipod dock is a pretty cool one). The option to search by price is very handy. There is also a clothes section and fair trade.
The Science Gallery in Pearse Street has some cool eco gadgets for sale at their gallery shop (online store at www.sciencegallery.com/shop) , including the super useful sports bottle with water filter. The solar powered disco ball could make some people very happy this Christmas...
The Cultivate Centre in Temple Bar usually has a good selection of gift ideas, although its site http://www.cultivate.ie/ only has a very limited online store which is not representative of the fantastic stuff you might find at the actual shop.
So charity shops used to be in but after years of struggling to find decent clothes suitable to my age! I have almost given up (at least on the small town ones)- swap shops and vintage specialists are a much better alternative.
For brand new stuff, here are some links to ethical fashion shops and brands (thanks Claire for most of the names!).
A very comprehensive list of retailers selling some ethical ranges or focusing entirely on sustainable fashion can be found at http://www.re-dress.ie/retail.html.
http://www.harvestmoonglobal.ie/ Irish alternative clothing online shop.
http://www.seasaltcornwall.co.uk/ has nice organic cotton clothing and facilities to buy online (it is also stocked by Contra Clothing in Gorey, Co. Wexford, if you are ever around this neck of the woods).
www.peopletree.co.uk/ (stocked at Arnotts in Dublin)
www.kuyichi.com/ (they have a store at Opera lane in Cork city)
Monday, November 15, 2010
They are very simple tips we can all keep in mind to reduce the amount of useless waste we generate at Christmas to a minimum and go easy on the planet. Most of them could actually be easily followed the rest of the year.
Top 10 tips:
1-The Christmas Tree.
Make the eco-friendly choice this Christmas and go for a real Christmas Tree. Although artificial trees will last longer they are made from plastic, transported huge distances to market and are not recyclable. Real trees absorb CO2 emissions during their life time and can also be recycled. Go to your local council’s website after Christmas for details on tree recycling and collection.
These lights consume only one sixtieth of the energy required by conventional lights and you can use them year after year. There is no filament in the bulbs of these lights to burn out saving all the hassle of figuring out which bulb to replace when the whole set goes out!
The amount of Christmas cards sent every year places a huge demand on natural resources not to mention the transport emissions from moving these cards through the post! Alternatives: send an e-card instead of a paper card; send cards made from recycled material or charity cards. If you receive cards this year, don’t forget to recycle them or better yet, cut them up to make gift tags for next year!
Use recycled paper wrapping and tie them up with string. Avoid using foil or plastic wrapping, plastic ribbons and sellotape. And again, remember to recycle the wrapping paper from any presents you receive or try to reuse it!
5-Energy efficient gifts.
If you’re buying electrical equipment this Christmas be sure to check the energy label and only buy A rated appliances. Also be sure to recycle any old electrical appliances. Visit http://www.weeeireland.ie/ to find out how…
6-Avoid battery-operated toys or go for rechargeable batteries.
Batteries contain toxic chemicals and are very hard to recycle so this Christmas chose rechargeable batteries; these will save on waste and also save you money in the long run.
7-Food: local or organic - or both!
Source vegetables from your local farm or market and visit the local butcher for a locally sourced and organic turkey. Buying local reduces the emissions from transporting food and will boost the local economy….don’t forget your re-usable shopping bags!
This will save on fuel, CO2 emissions and also means you can enjoy a mulled wine after a hard day’s shopping!
9-Christmas is a time of excess and we often find ourselves clearing out old clothes and toys at this time of year. Make sure to donate any unwanted clothes and toys to your local charity.
10-Finally, when all the celebrations are over and it comes to doing the clear up remember to recycle! Compost food waste and bring empty bottles to the bottle bank!
To estimate your carbon footprint, Emission Zero has a Carbon Calculator on their site: http://www.emissionzero.ie/index.php?p=calculator and lots of tips on how to lead a low carbon life, both at home, abroad, on the road and at work at: http://www.emissionzero.ie/index.php?p=carbonlife
Friday, November 5, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Marmelo was one of those childhood staples, usually given to you in your sandwich with some cheese. At some stage, there was some shop-bought ones in the 80s that were a funky '3-flavour/colour' magnet to all the kids in my neighbourhood. Home-made marmelo was so not-cool...
It is a very Autumny treat as well and some people used to keep them in their closet to keep their clothes perfumed (some people do that with apples too).
So, after a visit to the Gorey Farmers Market yesterday, I decided to buy a few quinces from the Organic shop and today I'm making some marmelo. Here's the process (flexible!):
-1kg of quinces
First I wash the quinces, chop them in quarters and get rid of the cores.
Boil them in water (or steam them) until they are very soft.
Pass them through the sieve.
Cook the paste with the sugar
you'll have to keep stirring with the wooden spoon until it feels like it has become a bit solid.
Pour onto a deep tray. Let it set for a few days (covered) and then keep cool (fridge is good) in a container with a lid.
Slice to eat - excellent with cheese.
I have been suffering from gardening 'overdrive' in the past few days, maybe because I just joined Grow It Yourself the other week. So this is the first year we are actually going to plant some winter vegetables - it will be interesting to see what happens. Nothing too risky though, so far we've just bought (on the way back from our seaweed mission) purple broccoli, all year round cauliflower, winter lettuce and some garlic and onion bulbs.
As for the seaweed, we've laid it out on the backyard and watered it to get rid of the salt (I read that on a Canadian site earlier this year). Mr M thinks we should chop the long ones but I'm just far too lazy for that. As soon as all the veggies are out, the seaweed goes in... to make it nice and tasty for the winter veg...
The seaweed trip got me thinking about that Welsh bread made with seaweed and some type of bread also made in Co. Galway. The problem is how do I recognise the right type of seaweed??
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Since our friend Gillian is staying with us for a few weeks and her family has a dairy farm in Co. Waterford, she brings some unpasteurised milk every week with her. Most of the weeks we don't manage to drink it all so I decided to give fromage frais a shot for two reasons: there is not much you can do with milk that's starting to go off! and it has been years since I last ate proper homemade curd cheese.
If you don't have unpasteurised milk, I hear it's possible to make as well, by getting some gelling agents at the chemist - but I have never tried.
Anyway, making curd cheese from unpasteurised milk is just so easy. First you let the milk sit in a bowl out of the fridge so it curdles. Leaving it overnight should do, specially in the summer months. In the morning, the milk will be completely set and will look like gelatine.
Traditionally, the next step consists in hanging the curdled milk in a cloth in a cool corner and let the whey drip. For a quick fix, I just put a cloth on a colander and let it drip on to a big bowl or even the sink. After a few hours, the whey will be all in the bowl and the cheese will be ready to eat. Spoon it out of the cloth on to a small bowl. I like eating it just as it is, with some sugar or honey but if you are a bit squeamish, mix in with a bit of milk and blend for a smooth result. Yummy! Mr M and Gillian don't seem so impressed so I'm eating it all on my own.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
There is such a thing as a free lunch, at least for the seals that hang out by Howth's pier. If you thought you were the only one heading to Howth for a good seafood meal, you were very wrong. The seals get the best deal around though. Here's a video of a recent Sunday trip to Howth with friends Iria and Clara.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
-Close windows at home and in the car
All very well but isolation is hardly a long-term solution. What about in between car-home-office? or the weekends? Maybe it's just worth locking us all up until the summer is over, house arrest (remember to feed us a couple of times a week, please!). That will definitely eliminate the sneezing, itching, puffy-eyes, headache problem... or even better, maybe we should get under work arrest and work 24/7 from May til August: no outdoors allowed. That would actually increase Ireland's productivity and help us get out of the recession as well... This is certainly worth taking into consideration... I wonder why I didn't think of it and submitted it to the Your Country, Your Call competition...
Check. Maybe they meant gogles? plus people will think you are a tosser if you wear sunglasses at night...
-Wear a mask
Tried that a while back. It wasn't particularly practical, since my nose was running most of the day. Unless they patent a special mask with a drainage system in place it is highly unlikely will make it as a main hayfever relief method. Other downsides: you could get mistaken for a loopy Michael Jackson fan or a swine flu freak.
-Eat local honey all year around
This must be my fifth year on the 'local honey' diet and either: A- it hasn't affected my suffering in the slightlest or B-I would have been much worse if I hadn't taken it. In any case, it is difficult to assess results so we'll add it to the category of tasty tips, while not very clear effects.
-Don't dry your clothes outdoors
Not much of an option here, I'm afraid.
having tried many, I can't really say they solve my problem, although I'm sure other cases will be sorted with some anti-histamine. I keep taking them in the hope one day they'll will...
so this leaves us with one option:
-stop breathing altogether, which is not very practical at all either, for obvious reasons...
However, some website http://www.hayfever.ie/ is claiming since the main problem is reducing the amount of pollen we ingest, hayfever symptoms will be reduced by reducing breathing...
I rest my case
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The book turned out to be a great read - if not much of a culinary experience (I can't say I didn't see that one coming... )
The story focuses on the childhood memories of the main character and her little sister in a rural area of colonial Rodhesia (now Zimbabwe). The backdrop: the dramatic social changes affecting the country in the late 70s. It reminded me a little of the God of Small Things, partly because of the delicate writing and the exotic location, and partly because of the childhood memory story line mixed with tragedy and loss of inocence tale. I truly recommend it.
Following the food theme (at least in the title!) I finally got hold of Mark Kurlansky's 'Cod: the biography of the fish that changed the world'. This is a different kettle of fish (easy joke).
The book has some recipes (with Cod of course) rescued from publications from different countries at various times in history (did you know bechamel sauce was originally invented to go with salted cod?) but mainly it is a history book - a very good one though. It was originally published in 1999 but it feels pretty current still.
A bit like Bill Bryson, Kurlansky turns historic events into something enjoyable and readable - this is not your average history essay or text book. This history of many peoples around the globe are interlinked because of one single thing: cod fishing. From the Basque and Viking fishermen crossing the Atlantic to the Cod Wars and modern-day fish quotas, building riches but also taking them back. Who would think one single fish could have such power over so many nations?? No wonder Cod deserved a biography of its own. Next time I have cod on my plate, I'll have to think twice before munching it...
Plenty of interesting facts about the fish itself make it an unusual breed of book: part cookbook, part nature science, part historic tale.
Kurlansky is also the author of The Basque History of the World. (another superb book) and Salt, which might come next in my list of tasty sounding titles...
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Is it some 30s nuptial virus? it is worth looking into it more scientifically, for sure.
You better forget about choosing a destination to go on holidays or for a short break. Sorry pals, the truth is the destination will choose YOU, or more like it: your soon-to-be-married friends will do it!
It also has its pros, of course. Since 2005, I have visited great places from Slovakia to Iowa, from Poland to Cork. Knots being tied all over the place. We had to leave out a couple of wedding invitations to Galicia and the Pyrenees that we couldn't attend (probably clashing with another wedding??) but it has been the perfect excuse to travel around and check out the local nuptial customs.
This year's invitations have come from Ireland (for a wedding in South Scotland), Swizterland, Wales and Slovakia again (not the same people though!).
So off we went a couple of weekends ago on our first wedding of the season. Destination: Scotland. The volcanic ash troubles were over, not that it affected us anyway: we were taking the ferry from Larne. Mark likes taking the mickey out of ferry travellers, mainly time-rich 'fuddy duddies' (and this is not my terminology) apparently.
The wedding location was Cromlongon Castle just outside Dumfries which is stunning, specially if you are lucky enough to have a sunny day, and more importantly: it celebrates civil ceremonies. I love civil ceremonies. I'll rephrase that: I loathe religious ceremonies.
It is bad enough this whole tradition of fathers giving away daugthers (talk to the Swedes about that!), whithout having to endure some patronising moral tale about sinners, judgement day and all the rest on top of things. So I was delighted to attend a civil ceremony in a castle. I was delighted as well for the bride and groom, of course, because I really like them, they have been together for years and they deserve their day as much as the next. Everything was so relaxed and easy going, you could almost get used to it: on holidays, being fed in a fantastic looking castle and drinking Pimms.
At 12, like Cinderella, we were packed on the bus back to the hotel (a golf hotel overlooking the bay) to get our beauty sleep and Saturday morning was back to normal and off to the Maldives for the happy couple.
Little Green Polo took us all the way up to Edimburgh, despite some issues with a flat battery (pure Murphy's law) where we met with another friend, Chris, who isn't getting married as far as I know, but lives there - so it was kind of handy to go up and say hello for a night or two.
He took us up to Arthur's seat, which is the dead volcano landmark of the city, with great views of Edimburgh all the way to the port. And to the port area he took us too, Leith, for a top notch lunch at a seafood restaurant called Skippers. If you are ever in Edimburgh .... you must go and try their crab and smoked salmon caneloni.
Another sign of being 30 is when you go to visit friends and, instead of going out clubbing and drinking , you go sightseeing during the day, go for fancy lunch and stay at home with wine and telly at night (Saturday night!). And this is exactly what happened in Edimburgh. But then, who would like to miss Eurovision??? it might be tackiest show in the continent but boy is it fun? Chris' German housemate was having a ball and, happiness, as we all know, can be very contagious in these sort of situations.
If you think that was bad, Sunday evening plans (on a Bank Holiday weekend) included some pseudo-golfing at the Meadows and a game of Scrabble. And they were both fun, I must admit.
Monday was back to Cairnryan ferry port and home to Ireland.
I wonder if all this ferry travelling is turning us into fuddy duddies at the tender age of 30...
next wedding in two weeks' time.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
The farm specialises in organic farming, including artisan lamb and beef.
Debbie is also very actively involved with the Irish Horse Welfare Trust and for every box of meat purchased at the farm, Sweetbank donates €10 to the horse charity, helping them develop their horse rescue and re-training programmes.
The point is that this artisan organic lamb from the hills of Co. Wicklow is now available directly from them. Since there is now middle-man, and you can buy it from the producers (Debbie and her husband) it tursn out to be much better value than your average supermarket/butcher meat (something like 35% cheaper). It is certified organic, from a local business focusing on sustainability and you even get to meet Debbie in person!
Half boxes are €95 and a whole box costs €195 - cut to customers specifications. For more information check out the farm's website http://www.sweetbankfarm.com/ or give them a call on 0868184162
I completely agree: if every straight person knew a gay friend or colleague, there'd be no discrimination. The world would definitely be a much better place if we applied that principle a bit more freely in our every day lives ... MarriagEquality is launching a new campaign to put pressure on the Irish government to give equal rights to gay couples. Give them a hand. No one should have to fight to be equal, surely:
Forty years after the death of Harvey Milk and we’re still following his idea that, if every straight person knew an out LGBT person, there would be no discrimination. Most straight people have no idea that there is discrimination in Ireland; they go about their business oblivious. It’s campaigns like We Are Family, that will, hopefully, show the unfairness within their midst.gaelick.com, We Are Family gaelick, Jun 2010
Read the whole article on their site
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Since the weather conditions in Ireland have been almost tropical ;-) in the past few days the plants are thriving, especially the strawberries in Mark's green house, in only a month they have more than doubled in size, which makes for a promising strawberry season... if we manage to get the greedy birds away... the runner beans are out (after lots of TLC) and seem to be creeping up the trellis quite nicely. And the slug population seems to be ignoring them, which is unusual but a very welcome development...
Detractors might say there are many hotels left out of the list that treat their employees fairly but the hospitality sector is probably one of the industries, in Ireland and many other countries, where workers get some of the poorest working conditions. It was probably about time a 'quality' stamp was introduced to reward - or at least give some recognition - to those hoteliers treating their staff respectfully and complying with work legislation and workers rights.
To encourage customers, the site will also offer special deals in Fair Hotels.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
While it is quite worrying that one out four times the customer isn't getting the fish he/she is paying for, the survey also comes to show the public actually DOES eat (and seems to like) other (cheaper and more sustainable) types of fish besides cod and haddock... even if we are being tricked into eating it labelled as something else.
Guidelines on fish to avoid (from a sustainable point of view) can be found on: www.fishonline.org/advice/avoid/ and fish good to eat: www.fishonline.org/advice/eat/
Friday, April 16, 2010
Every second Friday, the Wicklow Mobile Library comes to Shillelagh, which could be considered one of the highlights of the week in the village. Certainly of my week, anyway.
Today was library day.
I brought back a couple of books I've finished but I wasn't feeling very inspired in the what to read next department, so Karen (who runs the mobile library) suggested I take The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam, purely because of the title.
Here's the thing: you might think The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam, let's call it VDPBJ from now on, is a cook book or a full on essay on the culinary refinement of the peanut butter and jam combination - but no, my dear friends - VDPBJ is a fiction book. And judging by the cover, is 'set against the backdrop of civil war and the death of a colony' and her author, a young lady named Lauren Liebenberg, is a very talented author.
I probably took it purely because it was just before lunch time and I was starving - Peanut Butter and Jam didn't sound like too bad an idea - at all.
And then I remembered this wasn't the first time I took a fiction book with a food title from the library. A few months ago, I took something titled We need to talk about Custard, errr, sorry, no that was Kevin... well some little book with Custard in its title and a cover that looked like a print of the yellow, red and blue tin of Birds custard powder. The title will come back to me one of these days...
So there you go, a repetitive pattern in my library book selection modus operandi.
The story with the custard book was that I took it home, I kept it and forgot it for a few weeks, read something like 10 pages max and brought it back to the library. It is not fair to judge a book by its covers, I know, but surely by choosing to compare your book to custard, you are asking for trouble.
In one hand, you have the custard freaks, who love custard - for them the book is never be good enough, the bar is just too high. Expectations can't be met.
In in the other hand you have the custard loathers, who wouldn't touch custard, creme anglaise or any remotely similar, with a stick. So they probably won't even bring your book home for starters...
It's a tough gamble, this naming-your-fiction-after-food business. I suppose Laura Esquivel did a jolly good job with Como agua para Chocolate (Like water to chocolate) but if I remember well, there were some recipes included mingling with the story, which made it a sort of hybrid between cookbook, magical realism and chickflick- a whole new and very successful genre I suppose.
Whatever happens, I'm decided to give VDPBJ a fair go - after I finish with what I'm reading at the moment - to see if the story is anything vaguely similar to the jam/peanut butter combo. I'll let you know what happens.
Now that I think about it, I probably should read the custard one, if I ever come across it again.
The whole thing just got me thinking about why people would choose to name fiction titles after food. It is an emotionally charged weapon, I think. A cruel marketing trick to hijack your brain with yummy sounding titles, even if they have nothing to do with what happens in the story - purely trying to get to the readers' heart through their stomach, as they say.
Or maybe - like with food shopping - I just shouldn't go to the library before eating!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, we went to check them out. Of the three options (from shorter to longer), we chose the middle one since we were only armed with a banana each and not that much time. It took us 3 hours in total - walking from the centre of the village up to the starting point, around the loop and back.
On the village's website http://www.tinahely.ie/, you can download the brochure for the festival activities and information about the new walks.
Here's a video to show you the views and the creatures we encountered. Next time, we'll try the long one and take a big fat picnic.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Around the globe travel, testing luxury venues, savouring exotic delicacies, + 20K on top of it.
It certainly could...
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Firstly they remind me of how crap I am at skiing, ice skating and anything else involving snow, ice and -ing at the end.
Secondly, I'm definitely too old to fix it
AND more importantly: wouldn't it be nice to get up in the morning to catch a lift up the mountain, as opposed to a lift into work??
This time around, they also remind me of how much I enjoyed the time I spent in Whistler a few years ago.
Whistler, despite the hipster image (which is actually quite accurate), is a very lovable place.
First of all lovable placenames. We used to live in Marmot Place, Creekside. Just how cool is that as a name? 'Nice to meet you, I live in Marmot place.. you know? those funky animals? they like their good night's sleep?'
No John Street or Railway Road or any other boring name. The place of the Marmots...
The problem with lovely-sounding Marmot place was that it happened to be at the top of a bitch of a hill (these things tend to hapen in ski resorts... I know) which wasn't too handy when Mr. M broke his femur and had to conquer it every day with his crutches...
I suppose sometimes a friendly local would give him a lift up (usually leaving me carrying shopping and any other equipment up the fecking hill).
At the very bottom of Creekside there was a lake (you could walk - pre-femur busting - all the way to Whistler village along the lake) which was a great chilling out spot in the balmy late-spring weeks, when temperatures got well into their 20s and girls snowboarded in their bikini tops (seriously).
Posers and broken limbs aside, life in Whistler was like living in a bubble - relaxed and mobile-free. In fact, when I first left Whistler for Vancouver (briefly - to see Mr M in hospital) I felt like a wild animal out of its nature reserve - longing to get back to the mountain. Ok, a very shiny and decadent mountain but a mountain nonetheless...
From a skiing point of view, I was only a confused beginner (I correct myself: I AM still only a confused beginner) but ski-lovers and connoseurs will tell you resorts across the pond are much bigger and queue-free than crammed European ones. The runs... I couldn't tell but I'm sure they are greater as well. The pure hugeness of the whole landscape is a give away there...
-What I miss: the relaxed four months of easy going existence, maple syrup and Oreo biscuits ice-cream.
-What you probably won't miss: the overpriced groceries and the very irritating fact that taxes are never included in the prices (not very useful if you are strapped for cash).