Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Cribs in Cork

I have not blogged for a few days not because I was busy gardening, quite the opposite in fact!We have had frozen roads, frost and ice and some areas have had quite heavy snowfalls.Getting out after dark is a bit of a problem,it may be OK going out but by the time you are coming home the temperatures have dropped to freezing and the roads are skating rinks.When my older children were very young (about 35-40 years ago)a tradition on St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day in England) was to visit the churches in the city and have a look at the different cribs.That of course was in the days when shops opening on that day was unheard of.Shops closed from Christmas Eve often for 3 to 4 days.Garages also closed so one of the tasks on Christmas Eve was to fill the car up with petrol.We managed fine and Christmas was a family holiday not just one day of eating and drinking and out to the sales the next day.So I will take you on a short tour of some of our cribs in Cork
The above nativity (crib) is in one of the oldest churches in the city St Peter & Pauls which is celebrating 150 years this coming year.The backdrop appears open showing a landscape of sunshine and greenery and somehow very Italian looking!Notice the candles in the foreground, it is also one of the few remaining churches which allows you to light an actual candle rather than pressing a button for an electric light!
This one is set into the centre brush of The Lough. This is a very large fresh water lake just to the edge of the city and is a very popular walk for city dwellers and visitors alike. The pathway round the Lough measures 1 mile so joggers and walkers are often seen pounding the path.Swans and ducks are numerous here as it is a bird sanctuary.A few years ago the City Council decided to put the nativity scene into the trees in the centre and it has grown very popular over the years. It is lit up at night and Christmas tunes are played over a loudspeaker (not TOO loud)
This one is in the Church of the Sacred Heart which was nearly under water a few weeks ago at the height of the floods but it is built to withstand them as the Church is accessed by going up some steps.It is a very well built nativity and not just tucked into one corner of the Church but takes up quite a bit of space.
Another view of the same one showing the care and attention to detail to make it look like an authentic stable!
This one is also in the city centre in the Church of St Francis. It was always a favourite and known as the 'real' crib because the figures were dressed in costume. I remember the crib being inside the door and somehow the figures seemed larger but the passing of years may have a lot to do with that!The figures are still dressed in costume carrying on the tradition.
I went looking for the 'Live Crib' but alas it is no more.A young priest on the Northern side of the city began a live crib some years ago in the garage attached to his house. The animals were all real and changed from year to year depending on what was available, they were all well looked after also. This young priest has now been moved and is a school chaplain so his crib has not been continued by either the new priest or the parish.
Just some of the cribs in and around Cork City this year.Each church has a crib, some larger then others there are some indoors and some out doors.Each year for about 30 years I think, secondary school students gather around 'The Share Crib' (one I did not think to take a photo of)which is in the centre of town.They do a 24 hour Fast to collect money. All of this money has gone to providing sheltered housing for the elderly poor, providing accommodation, care givers, medical help and providing the basics like laundry facilities etc.The students from the various schools take it in turn to collect and are on the street around the Crib day and night for a couple of weeks before Christmas.
With the influx of other nationalities and religions into Ireland in the last few years, there have been rumblings every year that the cribs will not be put up in hospitals or public buildings etc.I don't think the actual immigrants are complaining but rather the very PC busybodies who like to remain anonymous.I for one feel these 'cribs'are part of my heritage and I am entitled to keep that heritage intact for my children and grand children.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

May I wish all of my regular readers a very Happy and Peacefull Christmas, thank you for sharing your lives and hobbies with us over the past year as we have gotten to know one another in different parts of the world.To anyone passing through I hope you are enjoying the Christmas season with family and friends.
Christmas time always takes us back to previous times and we think of those who are no longer with us,my late father Billy celebrated his birthday on Christmas Eve. Every Christmas morning my children visit with their children ,over the years it has become a tradition that I cook breakfast (the full Irish).When everyone has left I then visit the graveyard where my parents are buried and share a few minutes with them. This year I may not be able to do that as we have had sub zero temperatures for the last few days and lots of roads are impassible with ice, the road to the cemetery is not a major road so has not been treated with salt.
Top photo is Baby Callum celebrating his first Christmas with big brother Alex.Katie and Jack are also celebrating their first Christmas!
A picture taken some years ago when we had one of our rare White Christmases. Sinead and Aiofe are about 5 and 3 years old I think!All the signs are pointing to a white Christmas for us, there have been snowfalls in other parts of the country but here in the south it has only fallen on the hills and high ground so far.Temperatures are supposed to fall to minus 8 or 9 Celsius tonight!!We don't DO sub zero in the south and are finding it hard going coping with frozen roads etc!
A Christmas long past.The baby on Santa's knee is daughter Aisling who got married 2 weeks ago and the boy standing to the right is baby Callum's Dad and Linda back right is now Mom of 3, daughter Michelle got married in August!All of them now have families of their own so they must begin their own family traditions.
Where ever you are thank you for stopping by, why not say Hi in the spirit of the season?The blessings of Christmas to everyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cranberry Muffins and Christmas

Our allotment owner Zwena organizes a Christmas get together for us each year at her house with mulled wine and finger food.It is great to see everyone because at this time of year very few of us make regular trips to the plots. My contribution were these delicious cranberry & white chocolate muffins which I read about on allotment2kitchen blog. They are moist and the cranberries add a tart taste to them.
Another person brought this beautifully dressed seasonal cheeseboard.
Zwena's home is an old farmhouse which she has lovingly preserved in its original layout...no melamine kitchen units here! I forgot to take a pic of the kitchen which boasts an range for cooking and heating.This real Christmas tree dominates this room, it is all of 11ft high!
The fireplace with the library in the background
A table centre made by Zwena.We had a lovely evening chatting under candle light,we may not see each other on the plots for quite a while so it was nice to see everyone and wish them the Blessings of the season.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas make and do

Christmas is all about tradition and I was looking at some of my decorations and remembering where or how I got them.The fat Santa I brought home from a visit to a Christmas market in Brussels about 8 years ago. It was my first visit to one and it was a fairytale experience with snow and mulled wine and a terrific atmosphere.
This hand crafted and painted glass was bought at a Christmas market in Prague about 5 years ago, I went with two of my daughters.The old town square and Charles bridge are out of a bygone age and beautiful even in freezing cold weather. We all bought some of these but only a few survived the journey home!
This angel was made for me by my grandson Ryan when he was about 4 years old he is now 12,a toilet roll holder and gold and silver pipe cleaners become a Christmas Angel.
Youngest son Barry made this when he was 4 and just started school in 1994.
Barry also made this but there is no date on it, a yogurt carton covered with tinfoil becomes a Christmas bell.
The advent tree is about 20 years old now and came from Avon cosmetics.There are 25 little drawers with a tiny ornament which is hung on the tree every day until Christmas, only one has been mislaid over the years.
I saw these two colours side by side in my wool bag and thought they would be lovely in what else but a 'tea cosy'.A hand made Christmas prezzie.
The polar bear is just gorgeous!Daughter Kathryn has just finished this for niece Katy, it is a baby blanket which is soft and furry.
Grand daughter Gemma is doing Home Economics in School and they made these candle wreath table centres.
Last but definitely not least Gemma also made her first Christmas cake!They made the cakes a few weeks ago and just iced them last week.All of the decorations are sugar icing,there are 3 plum puddings and some elves.
Christmas preparations are in full swing and I will post some more photos soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Great personalised santa video!

I got a link to this santa video where you can put in personal details and photo of a child who can then view a personal message from Santa, my grandchildren were gobsmacked when they saw theirs!
I made this spoof one for youngest son Barry to try it out!
Just click on the link to view or make your own one.

http://portablenorthpole.tv/watch/77a5c88c5fe78b668dad913243e1c8e2

Monday, December 14, 2009

Family Wedding

Youngest daughter Aisling got married to her long time partner Nigel on Friday at a beautiful civil ceremony with a family lunch afterwards.They spent the weekend in Dublin so I was babysitting for the weekend which is why I have not been on blogging for a few days.
The beautifull bride going into the registry office
Most of the wedding group. It was just both families and it was a lovely intimate ceremony and a relaxed lunch and evening afterwards.
Kevin was dressed in his 'James Bond' tuxedo for the day!He was ring bearer and wrote a speech all by himself, after the speeches he wanted to say something so wrote it out and stood up and spoke.
The Murray family all dressed up
Aisling with her brothers.
Aisling always wanted a Christmas wedding with snow, we did not have snow on the day but the Christmas decorations were up and in the evening when it got dark we went to the park nearby which had been transformed into an Enchanted Forest for the Christmas market. We have not seen the pics of that yet but they will be beautiful. There was a miniature carousel there, the attendant cleared it for a few minutes to allow the happy couple to take some photos and Aisling threw her bouquet from the carousel.
The only downer to the day was Nigel's Mom could not attend as she was at home very sick having contracted swine flu.They went up to see her after the ceremony just so she could see them dressed in their wedding finery, she could only stand at the top of the stairs as they could not come into contact with her. It was heartbreaking for Nigel and his Mom who had been so looking forward to the day.
Normal service will resume in a day or two!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Red Squirrel


I saw my first squirrel yesterday!I should qualify that by saying I have seen lots of them in parks in London and even a couple in the grounds of the little church near ground zero in New York but I had never seen a squirrel in my own country!I was visiting a friend who lives on a farm just outside the city and as I drove down the drive a red squirrel hopped across the drive in front of me and shimmied up a tree to look down at me. I said it to my friend who told me there had been two of them but one had been killed by a dog, they thought the other one had gone so were delighted to know he was back. I did not have my camera with me to take a photo so had to find one online,I also looked up some information on our native Red squirrel

Irish Red squirrel under threat
Tuesday, 9 October 2007 22:18
A new report says Ireland's native red squirrel could be wiped out by a virus carried by the grey squirrel.

The report of the Irish Squirrel Survey 2007, which was launched today, also calls for the protection of the red squirrel and for the control of grey squirrel populations.

Over the past decade the grey squirrel has spread to 26 counties throughout Ireland.

It is now found west of the Shannon, in Leitrim and Roscommon, where it had not previously been found.

The red squirrel is extinct in Meath, Westmeath, Carlow and Kilkenny.

The report warns that if the grey squirrel is left unchecked the hardwood industry and the conservation of native woodlands could suffer.

There are also concerns about a virus that could wipe out the red squirrel.

The report says action is needed to conserve red squirrel numbers, and that grey squirrel controls need to be carried out.
Six One News: Emma O Kelly, Education & Science Correspondent, reports that the grey squirrel is killing off its red cousin
Nine News: Emma O Kelly, Education & Science Correspondent, reports that the Grey Squirrel could be lethal to other squirrels & Ireland's broadleaf trees
Morning Ireland: Cian McCormack reports on the demise of the red squirrel, which is threatened with extinction by the grey squirrel
Story from RTÉ News:
The following link will show a news programme about the red Squirrel and the dangers it faces today (click on The Six One News for audio visual)

http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/1009/squirrel_av.html?2297077,null,230

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pot Cake, mince pies and sausage rolls

A wet cold Sunday afternoon so baking was one way of staying warm indoors. My d.Aisling had a hen/kitchen party recently as she is getting married next Friday to her partner Nigel,her future mother in law Ena gave her a loaf tin among other things and at the time I thought that is a waste as Aisling does not bake apart from some rice krispie cakes. Ena makes a pot cake which is a family tradition and has often passed some on to Aisling which I have sampled.Ena also gave the recipe to her, being very optimistic I thought, but a wet Sunday afternoon did the trick! Aisling made the potcake and it turned out so well the first one was eaten before she thought of taking photos....so she made a second one!

Ena's Potcake
1 mug of fruit
1 mug of water
1/3 mug of sugar
2 oz margarine
1 egg
2 mugs of self raising flour

Put the fruit, sugar, water and margarine into a pot. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for at least 30 mins, stirring often. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add the egg and flour, stir until well mixed. Add mixture to a greased loaf tin. Bake in a cool oven (gas 3) for approx 1 1/2 hrs.

The smell around the kitchen while it is cooking is divine.The cake cooling out of the tin
The finished cake is moist and tasty.We usually spread butter on it to eat it, it could be a cross between a brack or a cake, whatever it is delicious.
I had also started baking in my house and made sausage rolls and my first batch of mince pies this year.I use mince in a jar as I never think of making my own in time to have it for Christmas.I used Catherine's pastry as usual from Dispatches from the Deise
8ozs Self raising flour
4ozs butter/margarine
1oz icing sugar
1egg & enough milk to bind dough
When making savoury recipe as in sausage rolls I leave out the sugar and use a pinch of salt.It is light melt in the mouth pastry
This was all very labour saving baking. I use sausages, I skin them as I was taught in school many moons ago. Slit the skin of the sausage and put into boiling water for a couple of minutes and the skin just peels off.I also use a dried stuffing mix , made up and mixed through the sausage meat.Lay mixture out on a strip of pastry, dampen one long edge with water and roll up with the join underneath.
Cut into whatever size you like, brush with milk or beaten egg and put a couple of slits in the top
I made mince pies using the sweet version of the pastry,I was not partaking in Guinness while baking but I know this pint glass is the ideal size to cut out the pastry bases for this tray!When my late Mother was baking she always used a glass as pastry cutters would have been considered a frivolous waste of money!
The days baking,cooling on the rack.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom

I was out one evening recently and admired a necklace a lady had on,she told me it was a genuine Pearl necklace and she had bought it online for a fraction of the price charged in town.I am not 'into' buying online apart from Ebay and Amazon. I was at a bit of a loose end today and thought of it while on the computer so I went window shopping!
I did a search for pearl necklace and of course all sorts came up but I did find this site and was impressed first of all by the Prices!!The prices are in American dollars but with the exchange rate at the moment they are fantastic value.Bracelets are priced from $24.99 to $74.99 and necklaces from $45.00 earrings $39.00 and there is FREE shipping.
They are Japanese fresh and saltwater pearls 100% genuine,hand knotted and fully appraised.Pearls have a bit of an old fashioned press but I was amazed at the colours, from traditional white to black
Silver grey look nice too, oh decisions! They have a choice of gold or silver clasps and a range of bracelets and earrings too.
I went into the small print also, orders are dispatched within 7-10 days and an email will be sent to notify you. They have a one year guarantee which is good for a buyer living a couple of thousand miles away.
When browsing online shops I find they have a huge range of things just to get people to stay on the site and hopefully something will catch your eye and you will buy.The pearlnecklace center specialises only in Pearl jewellery and have a nice range of each item in the different colours.
I am always loath to upload my credit card details online and only use paypal and this site has the magic paypal button so I would regard that as safe online shopping.Lots of readers must shop online and if anyone else finds genuine bargains I would love to hear of them.
I am off now to do some more window shopping or treat myself to a Pearl necklace but then I have to decide on a colour....decisions....decisions!!
Visit the site at http://www.pearlnecklacecenter.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Allotment after the Storm

A quick visit to the plot to assess any damage done by the recent storms, not all bad but our poor scarecrow did not fare too well even though he is still standing.The cross piece for his arms has come loose and is only held up by the coat sleeves for now. He is standing on a plot we used for onions and since harvesting we have been covering with waste leaves and weeds plus a sowing of a green manure called Phacaelia. He is now nearly knee deep in a nice organic mixture which will be covered (soon) to rest for next year.
The bed behind him has been covered with plastic and we have put on horse manure ,weeds,grass etc and when the cover blew off in the storm I was delighted to see we have a lovely dark organic bed with everything well rotted down.The plastic was pulled back over it to continue its good work.
The Brussel Sprouts also took a battering and the netting blew completely off but there was no bird damage to the stalks.Some of them nearly blew over but the sprouts are growing nicely and we will have some for Christmas dinner. We have harvested quite a lot of them which is why there are hardly any visible on the lower stalks.
The French garlic is doing fine I hope the recent spell of wet weather does not do them too much harm as they hate getting their feet wet!The raised bed may help in that respect.
The organic Irish garlic has finally begun to grow too
Our leeks were shaded from the atrocious wind by the brussel sprouts and are doing OK also
I had cut this parsley right back to ground level when I dried the parsley some time ago. The head has sprouted again and it looks like we will be using fresh not dried parsley for the Christmas stuffing.
I did not do any work on the day as the ground is absolutely soaking and I nearly sunk to my ankles a couple of times so I think leaving the ground recuperate and dry out a bit is the best course of action to take.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mousetrapped!


My niece Catherine has always wanted to write and is now in the process of publishing her first Book!
Catherine spent a year and a half working in Disneyworld in Florida and the book is an Irish girls sometimes hilarious and quirky view of working in this big organization.
Catherine has also had a piece included in a book 'Working your way around the World' a handbook for anyone contemplating doing just that which is published every few years with updates.
Catherine has already self published a book through Blurb 'Catherine and Sheelagh's Central American Adventure' It is a printed account of the blog she wrote while backpacking after working in Disneyworld.That blog has a link on my blog list on the sidebar.
Lots of people would like to write and self publication is one road to take, Catherine is self publishing Mousetrapped to raise funds for another book she is in the process of writing, her first fiction novel which has been accepted by a publishing house!
For anyone interested in the self publishing process and the pitfalls Catherine has started an honest, warts and all blog The Scribbler as she goes through the writing, publishing process.
The book will be available early next year and we are all looking forward to seeing her name in print at last.