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Unresting Castles in May

The Trees 
The trees are coming into leaf  Like something almost being said;  The recent buds relax and spread,  Their greenness is a kind of grief. 
Is it that they are born again  And we grow old? No, they die too.  Their yearly trick of looking new  Is written down in rings of grain. 
Yet still the unresting castles thresh  In fullgrown thickness every May.  Last year is dead, they seem to say,  Begin afresh, afresh, afresh. 
Philip Larkin

Last month (May 2020) trickled in, cool and grey, and gushed out in glorious sunshine. Perhaps that is what has helped to make the last few weeks of lockdown bearable. I picked one of our poetry anthologies (The Ring of Words edited by Roger McGough, 1998, Faber & Faber) off the bookshelves and selected poems that I considered to be positive, soothing or uplifting. The poem above was surprisingly optimistic for Philip Larkin. 
So many people are writing either professionally or as amateurs about the current public health, economic and social crisis and are …
Recent posts

Absent Place - an April Day

Absent Place — an April Day —
Daffodils a-blow
Homesick curiosity
To the Souls that snow —
Emily Dickinson
I don't usually start with poems but the lines from this one by Emily Dickinson struck a chord with me. We all know what happened at the end of March and that for five weeks we have been living with so many restrictions. 
I have to say I have enjoyed working from home and not having to sit in traffic. Nearly every day I have gone for a walk or two within the 2km radius and have explored nearly every road in my area. There's so much to see and so many changes to note. 
Over the last five weeks I must have photographed nearly every paused construction site in this part of Dublin. It will be interesting to revisit them in a year's time to see what happened to them. 
Apart from walks my main activities have been cooking and knitting. But I have continued to cook and bake too, trying out new recipes, repeating older ones. The spouse and I have also been recreating paintings. So fa…

Much ado in March

How things have changed since the beginning of the month. I started by keeping notes of my activities but those are already something of a blur.

March got off to a busy start, building on February's baking (stored in the freezer). I hosted a coffee morning on 7th March in aid of Merchants Quay in order to mark International Women's Day. I asked my guests to bring donations of toiletries and hygiene products for "comfort kits".



My friend Fifi gave me a hand: she borrowed a boiler and mugs and was happy to work quietly in the background, making tea and coffee while I paraded around. The spouse was on standby too, wearing his dinner suit to open the door, receive the donations and direct the guests down to the kitchen.
I was so impressed by the generosity of all the participants, whether they came in to chat and eat cake or whether they dropped their donations at the door and hurried away.

Fifi and I wore matching "artisan" aprons. One of the guests had been …

Full on in February

What a month it's been! The spouse celebrated a milestone birthday and had surgery five days later. I've continued to bake at a frenetic pace in preparation for an event I'm hosting to mark International Women's Day. I wrote a poem about reading an anthology of diary extracts (The Assassin's Cloak, edited by Irene and Alan Taylor). I re-joined the gym (but haven't been exercising there). I completed two panels of a throw I'm knitting. Oh, what a busy woman I am. Just as well there was an extra day in the month. 

On the savoury front, I made:
a sausage, bacon and onion casserole using venison sausages from our local butcher (recipe from Fiona Beckett's Sausage and Mash). Delicious. 
toad in the hole using sausages with black pudding from the nearby German store (recipe from Bridget Jones' Complete Comfort Food). I love toad in the hole and the batter recipe was glorious! 
vegetable moussaka (also from Complete Comfort Food). Not bad. 
roast pesto …

Jetting about in January

January started off at its usual crawl then got a wiggle on. I didn't do too much out of the culinary ordinary for the first half of the month.  I found a recipe for a marmalade fruit cake that I remembered making years ago. The recipe turned out to be in our old M&S cookery book, bought in 1983. Not an exciting recipe but it was a good way of using up some rather dull shop-bought marmalade. (As an aside, I thought my handful of readers might be interested in the spouse's marmalade venture. He even designed his own jar labels.) 



Later in the month I travelled to North-East England to look after my youngest sibling (I can't remember my earlier pseudonym for her so I'll call her "T Rex" for now). She broke her leg before Christmas and is enduring enforced rest at home. Anyway, my other sister J'Zo gallantly took care of T Rex for ten days then I jetted over for five days. It gave me a great opportunity to try out various recipes: Rick Stein's egg mol…

Making Sure the Days Are Full Enough

It's 5th January and I have been busy in the kitchen. We started the new year with a favourite old recipe - cinnamon duck with redcurrant sauce - from Good Housekeeping (April 1992).  Basically, you sear duck breasts in a pan with a stick of cinnamon, then transfer the breasts to an oven (skin side up) to roast while you make a sauce with onions, thyme, stock, red wine and red currant jelly. A delicious start to the year. 




Yesterday I decided to make soup from one of our cookery books other than The Soup Book. I selected River Cottage Veg Everyday! (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2011, Bloomsbury) but didn't go for a straightforward recipe. In order to make Hugh's Mexican tomato and bean soup, I first had to make roast tomato sauce (1.5kg of tomatoes yielded about 550ml of sauce) and go on the hunt for a tin of black beans. Finding black beans was the hard part. Once I found them, there was no holding me back. The spouse said of the home-made tomato sauce: "Very good. Th…

2019: Another year over ...

I was very busy last month as I prepared for Christmas. My cooking ventures included making three soups from The Soup Book: zuppa di verdure, Brussels sprout soup and kichidi, which I first made in January 2013, December 2010 and November 2011 respectively. I'm not sure what happened to the kichidi when I made it two days ago, but pouring out the water in which I simmered the lentils, rice and ginger was probably not a good idea. 


I spread the Christmas love by making Nigella's and Jamie Oliver's Christmas rocky road. Nigella uses amaretti biscuits, Brazil nuts and glace cherries while Jamie uses popcorn, coconut and stem ginger syrup. Cut and put into bags left over from the older offspring's wedding, both types of rocky road were well received as gifts. A large cake tin full of Nigella's was put to good use at my sister T's house over Christmas. 


One of my colleagues put in a request for a trifle for the office Christmas dinner. I obliged by making Nigella'…