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It’s been a long time. I am fairly rusty at the aul blogging to be fair. I mean, I know I can write – I can ‘create content’, I can edit the shit out of stuff – because I do it all day at work, whether they like it or not, ha!

I guess, one needs to reflect on why one stopped blogging to begin with. We went through a life-changing trauma years ago (2015) and it has taken me years to find my voice again.

A lot of it coincided with some serious health struggles I have been having, which miraculously are now, only 5 years later and after a total Thyroidectomy, are starting to subside.

I started working at GMIT, almost immediately out of college (August 2015) and am still there. They say once you get your foot in the door, you are there for life and now I know why.

This is one of the best places to work. There is an incredible incredible sense of family in the college and I do feel very fortunate to have been adopted by them.

What a strange time to be alive though?

We are living in a global pandemic. Covid19 has ravaged so many lives .. I have lost count.

Like all 3rd level institutions, we are going through a massive shift from traditional studies to online learning. And today, I heard them chatting on the radio today about ‘blended learning’ for 2nd level schools too.

My heart breaks for the parents of young kids. At least ours are old enough to work away via their iPads and tablets. I can’t imagine what would happen if we had to work from home and home-school a few smallies at the same time.

Someone would be carted away to the looney bin.

ME! I would be carried off in a straight-jacket… not cut out for that at all, at all, at all.

So there you have it

I have decided to write a little … when the whim and fancy takes me. Not sure if I will do recipes again or anecdotes about parenting .. we have two bona-fide fully fledged teens now and every single thing I thought I knew about parenting is gone down the proverbial shitter and we are back to square one.

This phase of parenting is by far, the hardest … send more wine please.

Summer Salsa

A quiet place to ponder ones innermost thoughts - or - the perfect place to dodge the frequent summer showers we get!

It is no secret. The sun makes little effort to shine during the summer months here on the island. Because of this, when it does shine, one might feel like taking a day off. Today began nicely.  We are back to just having the four kids — instead of 6, 8, or 10 — and I have an easy start to my days. Silent coffee with the Chef before he departs for a day of baking and then at least 2 hours before the little rotters drag their lazy bums out of bed.

Feeling in a rather generous mood this morning, I decided to go out and do a bit of weeding in the poly tunnel for the Chef.

Ha ha ha – had ya going there didn’t I. This is soooo not true. I hate weeding. I was really just having a good nose about to see what all his efforts are producing. He is a rockstar in the garden.

Summer Squash is all a bloom right now.

But once I got out there, I was sucked in to the heady heat wave that was going on in their so I raced back inside, grabbed a book, sunglasses and a deck chair, and just chilled in the poly tunnel until one of the kids came racing out with the phone. Surprise social worker visit! They were on their way and would be there in an hour. Ha! Come on over, I said, but do not expect me to mop my floor!

A little sun might encourage these puppies to turn RED!

I raced inside and mopped the floor and this is when I got flustered. They were arriving bang on 12 noon and that would have been the kids lunch time. So, I had to make something in advance that looked healthy and made the young’uns happy otherwise I would appear to be insensitive to the needs of my children, and my guise would ruined.

My daily ducky distraction

After a mini-distraction of daily play time with my pals, I turned on the oven and threw in a few cherry tomatoes with strips of bacon on top of them. A little sprinkle of salt and a good bit of fresh and coarsely ground black pepper.

Sometimes tomatoes need a little love. So just add bacon.

Making your own salsa is easy and if you can get your kids to eat it, one of the healthiest salads you can choose.

Ingredients

5 cloves raw garlic

1 Jalapeño

1 small onion

30 cherry tomatoes (roasted)

1/2 tin of plum tomatoes

1 lime

1 cup cilantro/fresh corriander

1/2 tsp of mexican oregano (dried)

Whole coriander

Whole cumin

Salt & Pepper to taste

All lined up with no where to go

  • Finely dice the garlic and onions and the jalapeño.
  • Chop up the roasted and tinned tomatoes and add to the mix.
  • Sprinkle with Mexican oregano. If you do not have any of this, I suggest you ask an American friend to post you some. No. You should not use ordinary dried oregano. Burn it. That is horrible stuff.
  • Squeeze in the lime juice.
  • With your mortar and pestle smash up the coriander seeds and the cumin seeds and add this powder to the salsa.
  • Roughly chop the cilantro/fresh coriander and loosely lift it into the salsa. Do not over mix it.

  

Ah.....good friends carry things in their luggage for you.

This is a sticky mess to make. There was quite a bit of finger licking going on whilst I was making it. Use the left over juices from the roasting pan that has tomato bacon fat in it. Pour it into the salsa. Give to the kids for lunch with a toasted cheese sandwich and leave the rest of it in a very pretty bowl atop your kitchen table with some warm and salted tortilla chips. The unsuspecting social workers will never know what hit them. They arrived for an inspection and left with a recipe!

It tasted so much better than it looks. Trust me.

It is easy to bribe people, especially when you surround them with lovely food and fragrant kitchen smells. Really. And on that (almost) finishing note my friends. I got word from a reliable source today that I have two of the cutest mini Mauviel copper pots to add to my great big giveaway.

A very little copper sauté pot. Of course you want one.

Yes. They are small. But, oh they are mighty. If you do not have a copper pot, then it is high time you added one to the mix. In order to make sure you are in with a chance to win, make sure you subscribe to WiseWords (for free) via email over on the TOP RIGHT hand side of the blog.

A lovely little copper cocotte. I am sure, that your life will be so much happier and your food will taste better once you use this pot.

Of course, if your life is full enough, and you already have a wonderful collection of said copper pots, then by all means, look away and let another lucky reader take all the prizes.

Stay tuned….this is the 298th blog post so when we hit 300 then the gifts will start flying out the door!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.

WiseMóna

There are A LOT of books out there that can teach you parenting tips and tricks. There are (free or costly) websites out there offering more advice. Then, there are your own partners and parents – a wealth of information on hand and ready to dispel all the ‘right way to do things’ at all times. And then there is also the ‘learn by doing’ approach which seems to be where I am stuck mostly. Our parenting challenges are a little trickier than others, as we deal with a (sometimes) revolving door of foster kids, so when we try to make an impression on a child, it usually has to be fast and it always has to be effective.

A few weeks ago I blogged all about ‘me yelling at the kids‘. And this is a little update on that story.

A trailing tantrum-throwing-toddler. Look closely.

I got in a bit of a muddle over the whole thing. I started to really question my whole approach to being a foster parent and honest-to-god gave a huge amount of thought to the fact that maybe this is not for me. Maybe, I have made a huge mistake in taking on the two extra foster kids? Perhaps I should not be offering respite to foster kids if I cannot keep from roaring and shouting at them in order to keep them all in line.

Always. Even in the pouring rain, Coole Park pathways stay dry.

So, I did what I always do when I get in a jam. I went for a very long walk. A bag packed full of tayto and treats, I headed off to Coole Park with the kids who were all belting out John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’. Do not judge me for liking a bit of country music.

 

Ah. Evidence of Autumn already.

Not all the kids were happy about the walk. Five out of six were elated to experience the freedom Coole Park offers, with its lengthy wandering walkways. The littlest of the group decided to rant and scream and throw the worst and most almighty tantrum I have ever witnessed. And I have witnessed quite a few tantrums in my time.

Run rabbit run!

Keeping a healthy pace, we spent two lovely hours hiking though the woods and conjuring up trolls to keep every one on their toes. The toddler, who lagged behind us the whole time, eventually stopped crying and even tried smiling towards the end of the hike.

Should I be a bit scared of the woods? No dear. Not until dusk falls.

The behaviour of these kids is far from exceptional. Sometimes, they are downright bold. But, when taken out in public — with the kid to parent ratio being 6:1 —  not only did I not have the need to raise my voice, I found myself just enjoying being their playmate for a few hours instead of having to be the boss of all of them. They were just that good.

 

I am the Queen of cuteness...and want to work for 'The Gap' when I grow up. Purely for the employee discount!

I asked my eight year old daughter Rory (above) what makes me a better parent and without hesitation she said ‘fostering’  followed with ‘I am going to be a foster Mom when I grow up’.

Grown ups are strange. A partner might argue with you over the silliest of things, a parent might take offense if you do not live your life according to their plan for you, and friends, not grasping just how complicated your world really is, might judge you unfairly.

Children, on the other hand, see you for who you really are. They see your faults and failings, your weakness’s and wrongdoings, your slip ups and short comings. And because they are kids, not afraid to just be who they are and are encouraged to be true to themselves, they honour you in the most treasured way.

By wanting to be ‘you’.

I suppose at this point I am starting to feel less like Joan Crawford in ‘Mommy Dearest‘ and more like Florence Henderson in ‘The Brady Bunch‘.

Ok. Down to business. Very very soon I will hit my 300th post. WordPress (with whom I host my blog) keeps reminding me that this is a HUGE-BIG-DEAL so there will be a few presents and prizes for those of you that have been commenting and reading over the last few years.

As a little teaser here is a partial list of goodies and giveaways that I have accumulated so far. There are a few more to be added to the pile before the end of the month. All you have to do is make sure you are subscribed via the email link on the RIGHT side of the blog.

Gift Certificates, Books and a few more goodies

€100 gift certificate to Garrendenny Lane

€100 gift certificate to Burren Smoke House

 

 

€50 gift certificate to Kai Restaurant (in Galway)

Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns

And there are a few more goodies like a (small but deadly) digital camera and some gift certificates to some of the favourite culinary stores like Dean & DeLuca, Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table and good old Anthony Ryans here in Ireland.

I know that this seems like a lot of stuff to be giving away but 300 blog posts is a big deal to me really. A lot of bloggers I know (and love) go back and delete old posts or edit and re-write them to make sure their work always look ‘book ready’. If you ever do manage to troll back all the way to 2007 you will see that I still can’t spell for shit but have made a small improvement in my storytelling skills and my grasp on capturing the essence of our food and family life from behind the lens is getting a little more, ah, focused.

I am so grateful to you, all my readers, and especially those of you that comment and keep sending me emails with words of encouragement. This is just my way of saying thanks.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,

WiseMóna

Apricots in a raspberry mint bath………..happy hour will be interesting. 

We have had so many little foster kids coming and going over the course of the summer thus far that I have had to make a list of all their names and ages to keep track of who they all are.

Typically, when a child comes to the house for a day, a weekend or a few weeks, I steal a few minutes of time with the social workers (or foster mum if I am offering another foster family respite care) to ask the usual questions you would ask if any child was coming to spend a bit of time at your house.

Sample questions might include:

1.     Can they wipe their own butt?

2.     Do they have a snookie or blankie that they cannot live without and should this item         be lost, burned or misplaced is there a replacement or an in-case-of-emergency                     object that will suffice?

3.     Do they have any food allergies?

You get the drift. Just basic need-to-know kind of stuff for any Mum.

A few weeks ago, two cuties were dropped of for a little over two-week stay at Chez Wise and their foster mum and I had a nice long chat. She and I share the same parenting ethos so it was refreshing to chat with another Mum (of 6 kids!) about trying to keep harmony in the home with foster kids abound.

She gave me all the necessary details about her little kiddies and right before she left she shared with me that one of the kids might present as a little slow or mentally disabled. I took this on board, but have to tell you that when I hear people say this about kids-in-care my first reaction is to always NOT believe them.

Kids in care present in many different ways and yes, of course it is possible that there are kids with disabilities. Based on our experience most of the kids just need a sold diet of routine, healthy food, exercise and a whole lot of love and some extra cuddles thrown in.

They, are not the ones with problems. They are the ones that have to carry the weight of their parents problems. They come with ‘baggage’.

So, here I was with this little fella (age 5) and I paid closer attention to him the first few days just to see if her observations might be right.

This is an excerpt of a conversation I had with the little guy a few days ago. I was handing him a pair of pants and a shirt and instructing him to get dressed. Keep in mind he is five and sometimes giving instructions to any child with more than one or two ‘steps’ to carry out can be a challenge.

Me:    Hey buddy. Can you go upstairs, put your jammies back under your pillow so you                can find them tonight, and get dressed please?

Him:  Yes.

He ran off. Most kids under the age of ‘tween’ run everywhere.

A few nano-seconds later he arrived back down to the kitchen where I was drinking tea and eating bon-bons, as you do when you are an average  under achieving parent like me.

He was still wearing his jammies and his nice and freshly ironed clothes were no where to be found.

Me:     Hey buddy.  How come you did not get dressed? Where are your clothes?

Him:  I don’t know?

Me:    (thinking – ah, god help us, he is a little slow) Oh. Ok. Well. Let’s try again shall        we?

I knelt down in front of him and explained it all over again.

Me:     Ok. You go get your clothes that you put under the pillow and wear them. Then     just leave your jammies on your bed. Alright?

Him:    Ok.

A few nano-seconds later after a run up and back down the stairs, he is standing  in front of me again, still wearing the jammies.

Now, ordinarily, I would get frustrated at this point, because a child of five should be able to at least get dressed by themselves. But, God love him, he was obviously struggling with comprehending my instructions.

So I sidelined the bon-bons and coffee for later and walked with him hand-in-hand up the stairs so we could attempt it together.

As we were walking up, I reiterated what the task was and how we would accomplish this together. The dream team.

When we get up to his room, and I start to undress him and start looking for his ‘clothes’ which I found neatly folded under his pillow (bless the little guy) he looks up at me all perplexed and asked ‘why he had to wear jammies‘?

I, now feeling a little worried about the por wee fella, explained that we were putting his jammies away under the pillow and he was getting dressed in his ‘clothes’ for a day of fun.

Him:  ‘Yes. But mammy – those are my jammies’ says he pointing the nice neatly ironed clothes I had given him.

Here is a little hint for all you foster mum’s out there. When kids come to your house for a day or a weekend or a month – instead of asking all the questions just rifle through the bags and sort out jammies from day clothes. This will help you avoid rushing to the assumption that a child might be slow – because someone else said so.

Epic fail on my part.

Feeling not so ‘Wise’ Móna today………..

 

 

 

Oh. I know. Who the hell is Willy, right? Well, if you go back to March of 2010 (when I was just a baby first year in University – says she, now a more seasoned and wiser third year) I wrote a blog post about a surprise visiting writer we had the pleasure of spending seven minutes in heaven 72 minutes of class with.

His name was Willy Vlautin. I was dreaming and drooling over him for weeks after. Major major crush. Good thing I married a guy just like him or I’d still be dreaming of the day when Willie would come back to Galway and ask me to run away with him.

Well, back in Galway he is for the Galway Arts Festival and thanks to one of my friends from college, who phoned last week to say ‘keep Tuesday night free, I already bought the tickets’, I got to swoon sigh drool see him again tonight at the Hotel Meyrick where he did a reading and participated in a Q & A chat with none other than Roddy Doyle himself. Can you say dream team or what?

Willie must have gotten wind that I was well and happily married, hence the fact that he has not asked me to run away with him, and I am reluctantly coming to terms with that. Although the Chef does not read the blog, he is well aware of my Willy crush and thankfully indulges my fixations. He is a good husband.

 

Now, I am sure you have read Roddy Doyles work and seen plenty of Roddy Doyles movies, but how many times have you heard him read a piece of his own work or heard him offer advice to a room full of budding writers?

This blog post started out as another huge droolfest over my crush-on-Willy but truth be told, Irish man Roddy swooped in and stole the show. Of course he did.

Both read from their work with such ease and eloquence that you were transported into the lives of their characters within seconds. Roddy, reading a short story called ‘Animals’ laughed at his own work whilst reading to us. We laughed too. He injects humor into his work so stylistically and never misses the opportunity to send a poignant message in the last gasp of the story that hits you in the gut. A craftsman for sure. Hats off Roddy Doyle. This was my first time seeing him ‘live’ and I am sure it will not be my last.

Willy read a few pages of his newest book ‘Lean on Pete‘ and although I had heard him read before, I was probably too caught up in having a crush on him to have really listened to what he was really saying. Willy writes about ordinary people, living ordinary working class lives, in America. There is such a lovely familiarity to his soft voice. I could listen to him all day long talking about pick up trucks and road trips across America. But, and I think I mentioned this last time I wrote about him, it is the humbleness of this author that I am drawn to. He is great. He can write. Roddy Doyle likes his writings and loves his music. Yet Willy just sits back in his armchair and never for one moment expects a rousing round of applause. The audience loved him. My hands hurt from clapping and my sides hurt from laughing and my face aches with the strain of smiling all night.

The last question of the Q & A part of the evening came from a young school teacher who posed the question to the duo about how to encourage the youth of today (esp. young teens) to become voracious readers with the hopes that we will breed another generation of great writers.

I thought this was an excellent question and even grasped from her tone that she was (perhaps rightly so) very concerned about the fact that kids today are not reading enough and playing computer games and messing about with all the social media tools and games too much. I was dying to hear the response.

‘Bring back corporal punishment’ said Roddy Doyle. The crowd went wild in response to this one!

After the laughter had subsided ‘Nothing to worry about at all’ said Roddy. Imagine that! He reckons that kids are reading, maybe not with book in hand, but they are reading on the internet, and keeping abreast of the happenings of the world without ever reading a newspaper.

New generations bring new ways of learning.

Willy could not match Roddy’s response and just shyly said ‘I’m moving in’ to Roddy and the audience gave them a rousing round of applause which brought the evening to a close.

Have you bought tickets for any of the events at the Galway Arts Festival? It is not too late! Have a look at their website and get out there and support the Arts!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,

WiseMóna

P.S. This is my 295th post.

WordPress keeps telling me that hitting the 300th post is a big thing so I plan on celebrating a little with a bunch of giveaways. A few things shiny, a few things pretty and a few nice surprises. So, if you are not already signed up to receive WiseWords via email (enter your email address in the little box on the top RIGHT hand side of the page) you might want to do so now to be in with a chance to win something! AND if you want to double your chances then ‘like’ the Facebook page for WiseWords.

 

 

Lobster Bisque

Local Lobster and Crab

The problem with having a lot of kids that are encouraged to ‘eat what Mum & Dad prepare for them because there will be nothing else‘ is that your kids develop great (and sometimes expensive) taste in food at a very young age.

It has gotten to the point where I very rarely take the kids shopping with me because something will catch their eye at the market and before you know it you end up back at the house with a bucket full of shellfish when I only went out to buy a few litres of milk.

Very selective in her dining choices...

To say we are spoiled for choice when it comes to having access to local and very seasonal fish on this island is an understatement. AND, although I did not know this, Lobster is in season and at its cheapest right now! So get out there and take advantage of it.

Can't decide.......so I'll just have both!

We still have a few extra kids lingering here at Chez Wise bringing our total from ten under the age of ten (last week) to only six kids for the next week. Notice how I said only six kids. Clearly a piece of my brain has been sponged away with the gin. Notice I said only gin, this is because I am no longer using tonic.

Might be my favourite photo of my niece Keira to date.

My niece and nephew also fall into the category of ‘kids that eat everything’ mostly because that is how they are raised. And also because they play outside all day long with our kids and when they get to the table they are so famished they would eat your hand! I love hungry children!

And this might be my favourite photo of my nephew Raemonn. The Lobster started flapping!

Friday night came and went with a promise of me cooking dinner for the Chef et al, but I forgot that he would have to do all the work cracking open all the shells and helping the kids get the meat out of the claws. He he he – I had to give him an extra beer to muffle all the harumpfing he did.

Cooked and ready for a bath of melted butter.

The easiest way to eat the lobster and crab is to lightly boil them (alive when you drop them in) in salted water for up to ten minutes. Get the meat out of the shells and drizzle with warm melted butter. Serve with a fresh summer salad and a loaf of warm bread. No need for anything fancy here. That comes for lunch tomorrow!

Dinner was a large garden salad with Lobster and Crab meat

Lobster Bisque

Shells, claws etc. from lobster, crab

4 tablespoons of tomato paste

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon of paprika

4 cloves garlic (chopped finely)

2 shallots (chopped finely)

1/2 cup of Hennessy cognac (or your fav. brandy will do)

1 cup heavy pouring cream

Salt & Black pepper to taste

Smash the shells with a mortar and pestle to help release more flavour.

Method

Break up the shells as best you can. We put all our shells into a plastic bag and smashed them roughly with a hammer.

Sauté the garlic and shallots in a little olive oil. Add the shells and the paprika, cayenne pepper and tomato paste. It should look really red in colour and the house should smell like Lobster bisque! Mix it well with a wooden spoon and once it has cooked a bit, deglaze with the cognac.

Cover the shells with water and bring to the oil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and leave for 2 hours. Remove from the heat and leave to cool overnight.

The next day strain off the liquid stock from the shells into a nice large pot and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer.

Make a roux and add to the stock to help thicken your bisque. Add the cream and the bisque is ready.

Egg salad on toast makes for a nice kid-friendly lunchtime snack

This Lobster Bisque is in-your-face packed full of flavour. We threw in a bit of salvaged crab claw meat and a half bag of small shrimp just to give it a bit of texture but it needs nothing else. One of my all time favourites and perfect for lunch!

Lobster Bisque with a dollop of Creme Fraiche

Those are all the WiseWords I have for this afternoon as one of my friends has just popped in a for a visit and the kettle is on!

WiseMóna

It is true.

The following line is best read if you use the voice of Sophia from Golden Girls.

Picture it. Cincinnati, Ohio. 2003; A few weeks before we were ready to open our restaurant.

You can go back to your own reading voice now.

I had finished and signed the last piece of paperwork to sign up to adopt a baby in Ohio. They gave us a nod of approval and a nice window of three to five years of a wait. This was all going according to my plan. At the time I had been a Wedding Planner for ten years. I had a lot of plans and was organised and a control freak. Things usually went according to my plan.

That same day, only a few hours after dropping off the paperwork, I got a call from the social workers telling me there was a five-day old baby girl they were ear marking for our ‘family’ and they felt sure the birth mother would think we were the right choice. I politely said ‘no thanks’ because we were getting ready to open the restaurant and there was no-way-no-how I could be a Mom (to someone else’s baby) and a wife to a demanding Chef and a bartender/hostess with the mostest at our lovely restaurant.

You might wonder, how is it that we ended up with a baby and a restaurant all at the same time? Well, that my friends is His story and I am certain that at some point he will take the finger out and tell it like it really happened.

Anyway, the reason for the title is telling, no doubt. I am sitting in a bowl of the doldrums these days with something that is weighing heavily on my mind. And unlike most people who like to keep all their problems private, I feel that sometimes the only way  I can get this figured out is if I air my dirty laundry and get it of my chest.

I am a yeller. It is how I get all these kids attention. For the most part it works.

My kind of yelling is the ‘Jack, get of the roof of the shed’ kind of yelling. Except it is usually more like ‘JACK! Get of the ROOF of the ^&*%($@ shed, NOW!)

Ok, and now you know, I am a swearer.

I do not yell hurtful comments or say hateful things to the kids. That would just be mean and I am not that mean. I am a bit of a softie actually. And after I yell at them, I feel rotten. Like my guts slither onto the floor and I am wrecked with guilt for hours or until I have to yell at them again.

The thing is, and this is a doozey folks, one of my oldest and bestest friends does not like being around me anymore because I yell when she (and her child) are visiting.

Usually things like ‘stay out of the house, we are having grown up chat’ or ‘Jack, stop hitting your sister with a tennis racket’ …ha ha, no, ‘with a hurley‘ – we so do not play tennis. Jack is getting a bad rap here, I know, but that is just because he is my only boy and it would not be fair the pick on the Foster kids and let’s face it, Rory is just so darn good and obedient you would never have to as much as raise your eyebrow to keep her in line. (This is the biggest lie I have ever written. The part about Rory being good, that is).

Do not be fooled by this innocent look folks. He is all boy!

So, I am in a bit of a quandary folks. We don’t spank. It is not all that fashionable these days and the Chef came from a belt wielding parental unit so it suits neither of us to use that method. I do most of (but not all) of the yelling. When I queried the Chef about my yelling habits, as I am genuinely concerned now that I might be causing serious psychological damage to that all these amazing kids in our lives, he insisted that the yelling is not extreme at all, it is just the high pitch at which it is delivered at. Well, I know I am loud and am willing to offer a lower pitched tone, no problem. He also noted, that he does a lot of the yelling and will make a more concerted effort to relieve me of my parenting duties next time we have company. What a love, isn’t he though?

Having just spent a week with siblings (my sister and her four kids and my brother and his two kids) I came to the conclusion that we all parent exactly the same. So, what this all boils down to is simple. It is all my Mother’s fault. Clearly.

She yelled at us. To be honest, she just yelled at me the other day. I am sure, actually, if she were ever to be so unfortunate as to be struck with some rotten disease, it would be a disgusting throat infection that has been festering for a very long time from all the roaring and shouting she did when we were growing up.

She also broke A LOT of wooden spoons chasing after us. Why is it then, that I am not psychologically damaged by it.

OR AM I?

Do I need to get in to therapy and delve back 20 + years to figure out that really, the root of all my problems stems from having a Mum that shouted at me till she was blue in the face? Ah, no. I do not think so. AND, hello? Who the heck said I had problems anyway?

What has spurred me to spill the beans was something that happened earlier this morning. I was outside playing the the kids. Ok, maybe I was not playing ‘with’ them, but we were all golfing on the lawn or in the sand pit or hanging laundry. My youngest (foster kiddie, age 5) was flying around the house on her bike and I told her to slow down because the postman usually passes through around 11am ish and I wanted her no where near his truck. She kept going, and I kept telling her to get into the grass. She did what she was told eventually and hopped on the swings. Yeah! No shouting. I am an AWESOME parent! Woo hoo!

I carried in the laundry basket and heard the postman’s truck drive in the driveway and just because I am, let’s say ‘tuned in’ I glanced over at the swing only to see swinging empty………laundry basket dropped, tripped over patiently-waiting-for-snack duck, I bolted around the corner and yelled for all my life was worth to get her attention SECONDS before the postman’s truck all but reversed right over her.

Yes. I yelled at her. I know. I am no longer an awesome mother. I suck at this. I also hugged her and cried and told her that I would die if anything ever happend to her and then I asked her WHY (and this was in a high-pitched tone folks) the heck did she run out after the post truck when I had just told her not to. Why? ‘because I was bold’….that was all she gave me then she trotted off back to the sand box to play with the others and I went inside and made lunch.

Something with salad perhaps?

I am hoping that all the yummy mummy’s and dapper dads will bombard me with comments and tell me how horrible and insensitive I am, that I need to revisit my decision to be a parent, that I am a perfect example of what ‘not to do’ and then (because you are the experts) share with me all the more effective ways you can parent FOUR (or more) kids without hitting the high notes. I am not to old to learn new tricks, but am not willing to let them run circles around me either.

Leftover homemade buttermilk fried chicken with salad

 

We are, after all, outnumbered.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.  I am going to bury my head in the sand and hope for a quieter tomorrow.

WiseMóna

 

Caramel Popcorn Balls

How do you keep ten kids — under the age of ten — occupied for a weekend. Ah, you don’t. They keep you occupied for the weekend!

Air popped corn

The house started to fill up close to lunchtime. Littler ones weaved in and out of larger ones leg space and larger ones wrangled their ways out of littler ones ways.

Ferocious appetites of all ten children silenced the house for all of ten seconds. No time for seconds. Outside. Play. Squeal. Run. Bikes. Animals. Fun. With the understanding that the only reason they could come back in was to use the toilet or ‘if there was blood’.

Tuna Salad makes for a vanishing lunch

Some of the (smarter) grown ups took of to visit friends and babies, others needed to have a little rest before we started getting into dinner mode and the remaining hard core units decided to crack open a few beers and come up with a cracking dessert for the children, who let’s face it, just do not have enough sugar in their lives.

The Chef is addicted to Poppycock. Now, you cannot get Poppycock on the island so I have managed to break him of this habit because he just cannot buy it anymore.

One would like to think that would be enough to stop him, but of course, it is not. He always finds a way to get what he wants.

I do not remember where this recipe came from. The internet somewhere? Maybe even a compilation of three or four recipes. All I remember about it is that it is (a) excellent (b) very messy and (c) addictive. Good luck. Our support group meets weekly on Wednesdays to discuss our addictions.

Wise Cracking Candied Corn

  • 10 cups of freshly popped popcorn (Kelkin natural)
  • 1 cup of sugar in the raw
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup of golden syrup (corn syrup)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups of mixed nuts, toasted. We used cashews, almonds and pecans.
  • A few Tbsp water

Before you get started, it is best to not make this a kid-friendly project. The caramel gets too hot (dangerously so) for the kids to be involved. It is so much better if you make them some regular popcorn and let them snack on it outside and they will be none the wiser of your your efforts till after dinner and the squeals of glee will be worth all the secrecy.

Method madness

Toast the nuts in the oven on a high heat. This will not take long. Do not forget about them as they (esp. the pecans) burn easily.

Cashews, Pecans, Almonds. Use whatever you like.

Assemble all your ingredients. This moves along at a wicked fast pace once you get cracking so be ready!

My brother. Carefully assembling the ingredients.

You will need a large pot for making the caramel. You can also use this to mix the popcorn in later. Caramel is a bitch to clean up. You will thank me for this tip.

Place the brown sugar, golden syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water in the large pot and whisk all ingredients together until simmering on a medium heat.

A mountain of popped corn

Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 4 minutes.

All toasted and smashed up a bit with a rolling pin.

If you are like us, and do not have a candy thermometer, then get familiar with the term ‘hard crack’ and ‘soft crack’. I know some of you readers out there are letting your mind be trawled through the gutter. This is food porn people. Keep it clean!

As the caramel is simmering, get a cup of cold water. Allow a few drops of the caramel to drip lazily from the stirring spoon into the cup of water and give it a few seconds to sink to the bottom of the cup. Try to fish it out with your fingers. If it is soft and slimy it is not ready. If it is hard to touch, eat it, and if it sticks to your teeth – voila, caramel is ready. This is how old the Chef is. He was around before candy thermometers were invented. Fact.

What is 'hard crack'?

In order to get through the rest of the steps you need to move fast. Put down the beer and use both hands.

Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the cayenne, vanilla and baking soda. Immediately pour popcorn (in batches) into pot with the caramel sauce and start to mix. We used a silicone spatula. Try to spread it out as evenly as possible.

 

A gooey mess......finger-licking good.

Now, add all the nuts and then pour out on to a parchment lined baking sheet. You can leave it to cool now and eat it once it has hardened. If you are lazy that is.

What you should really do is make an extra effort for a better (longer lasting) batch.

Bake the whole mess for an hour. Every 15 minutes open the oven and give it a stir. This helps coat the popcorn better.

When you remove it from the oven, you need to let it cool for at least a half hour and then you can break it up and start eating it. OR before it has had a chance to cool, you can grease your palms with butter and make cute little (controlled sugar for kids) popcorn balls that everyone is going to want to eat.

 

A very tasty treat....

This keeps well in cute mason jars or old biscuit tins for a few weeks.

That is a big fat lie. There usually is none left by the end of the evening.

The most beautiful loaves for our supper.......French Dip Divine.

I know that this photo of bread does not belong in this blog post, but it was just so gorgeous and got almost no attention yesterday when it popped out of the oven because the popcorn stole all the attention. So, I am just giving it a few minutes of fame right here on the blog. It might have been his best loaf ever.

Right now there are ten hungry kids crazy for coco-pops and a gracious granny waiting at the ready to take them all to mass so I must run, but you seriously need to give this a try!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.

WiseMóna

 

Mexican Mole

It has been a while. I think the last time we made a mexican moh-lay was more than 4 years ago. We were watching a show on BBC called ‘Feasts‘ and the presenter spent some time in Oaxaca, Mexico to experience first hand the food culture that circled around the annual feast titled ‘Day of the Dead’ which occurs in November (all souls day here in Ireland). Anyway, they were making the mole and the Chef got a hankering for it.

Before you get started on creating your own mole — or mexican feast for that matter — you should make yourself a huge pot of stock. The recipe we used for almond mole came from a book called ‘Food from my heart‘ by Zarela Martinez. She used chicken stock in her recipe but we had some lamb belly in the freezer waiting to be used up, so Lamb stock it was.

Thanks to our American traveling buddies we have been kept in ample supply of a large variety of dehydrated chilis so it was easy to launch into this one. Except, we needed lard. And for some strange reason there is not a bit of lard to be found in Galway. And if there is, they are hiding it really well and no one is owning up to stashing it!

 

A few hydrated chilis and a few dehydrated ones

Now, on to the business end:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup/5 oz of  ground almonds
  • 6 whole dried chiles. (we used Ancho and Anaheim chiles)
  • 2 large egg yolks (hard-boiled)
  • 1 tsp aniseed
  • 1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon (freshly ground)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Lots of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 cups of chicken stock (we used lamb)
  • 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of lard or vegetable oil

Method

Toast the ground almonds in a shallow pan. About ten minutes and take care not to burn!

Wash the dried chiles and remove the tops and seeds. Heat a medium-sized pan over a high heat. Place the chiles on the pan and let them ‘cook’ for about 30 seconds on each side. Be careful not to scorch them. Then place the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water and let soak for about ten minutes or until they soften then drain them.

 

Beautiful beautiful chiles

Place the chiles in a blender with the toasted ground almonds, egg yolks, aniseed, cinnamon, salt, pepper, sugar and 2 cups of the stock. Process until fully pureed and add the extra cup of stock as you go. You will need it. The mixture should be about the consistency of whipped cream.

 

 

Yes. We used duck eggs. Lovely, large and very yellow.

If you have lard, and this is where I might hate you, then heat up the lard in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the mole mixture and the vinegar. Bring to a spitting simmer and allow to cook for 15 – 20 minutes on a low heat. Keep stirring and make sure it does not burn.

 

 

Be lazy. Use the kitchen toys.

This can be frozen in little batches or you can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

 

Needs to cook (in LARD) after you blend it all together.

We were roasting a bird for supper this evening, so we half-cooked the rooster, pulled him out of the oven and drained of the juice, mixed it into the mole and poured it all over the bird for the last half hour of cooking. Next time, we would put the raw chicken in pieces right into the mole and let it cook low and slow.

 

Very brown, I know. But also very tasty. If you make it, it will look the same because I do not know how to use Photoshop!

This might seem like a bit of an effort but let me tell you it is worth every minute of your time. The kids deee-voured every bit and wanted seconds and thirds!

 

The rice blend we use is a whole grain basmati with french green lentils and pearl barley. I know this does not look great. You cannot make ‘brown’ food look too enticing and this dish is very, eh, brown.

Let me know if you give this a whirl, if you have lard in your larder and where you get your chiles?

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,

WiseMóna

 

A pile of raw pork ribs

I have been silenced. The Chef is home this week and has taken away my communication devices and has insisted that I ‘talk’ instead of ‘tweet’ and I ‘speak’ instead of ‘blog’ and that I actually sit down to ‘eat’ instead of ‘shoot’ every meal we share together as a family. I used to think he was the hard one to live with, him being a bat-shit-crazy-egotistical-chef and all, and now I am seeing a whole other side of me.

The 4th of July came and went without a big bang here on the island because, well, it is not an Irish holiday, y’all. The funny (or even sad) thing about this years all American holiday is that it almost slipped by without any celebrations at all. I was the one that had to remind the Chef that the holiday was almost upon us before he decided to start prepping one of our favourite celebratory dinners.

A few slabs of good ole fashioned BBQ Ribs.

If you are looking for the ribs in Galway, the only butcher that has these lovelies in stock all the time (in the freezer) is Finnerty’s (091 565657) in the Galway shopping center.

A Rib-rub-down with spices

The first thing you need to do is make up a batch of spice rub for your ribs. We make up a fairly large batch of dry spice rub and use it frequently during the summer when grilling out. As you do, with all the rain. Do not get me started on the rain.

This is what you need and I suggest you do 1/4 cup measure of each item with the exception of the chili powder. We like things spicy around here so use more. Before you use this on the ribs, you need to salt & pepper the slabs generously.

  • cumin
  • coriander
  • garlic powder
  • turmeric
  • chili powder (as hot as you can handle)
  • Paprika (spanish smoked is fab)

No slacking......do both sides!

Once you have the ribs coated heavily in the spice rub then it is time to put the on the grill for a few minutes. The length of time will all depend on how hot your coals are, or if you are using a gas grill, how low or high the flame is.

White coals and indirect heat is best.

Place seasoned ribs on charcoal......no need for a fancy grill here folks.

We left ours about 3 minutes each side, just long enough to get a bit of colour on the ribs. Once done, take them off and put them into a large roasting pan. Like the size of the Turkey roasting pan at Christmas. Pour in equal parts vinegar and beer. (2 cans of Guinness and large bottle of vinegar for 10 slabs of ribs). Cover with tinfoil and allow 3 hours to cook on 170 degrees celsius. Yes. This takes time. No. Do not try to microwave them.

Just to get a bit of colour.

Rory (8) kept herself busy building her own little American ‘flag’ for the table. It was a very cute show of Americana.

Rory-Belle (our 8yr old daughter) makes us a little present from the garden to celebrate her Americanness

In our never ending quest to keep the kids eating a healthful diet we try to pack in raw veggies at least once or twice a week.

Broccoli & Carrot slaw with homemade buttermilk ranch dressing is a great way to do that.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup Glenisk Greek Yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Coleman’s mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (more if you like)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

 

Carrot & Broccoli Slaw with a yoghurt ranch dressing

Beans are an easy — and even popular — choice for kids too. However, the cans of good ole Bachelors or Heinz beans do not pack enough punch for us so …we jazz it up a little!

The beans.....this is where the magic happens

Adzuki, Cannellini and Kidney beans are jam packed full of proteins and the kids never feel like they are eating all that fiber! We always start with and overnight soak of the beans and the next day cook them for at least a couple of hours on a low boiling heat. We start by sautéing some bacon (of course) then adding the beans and some tomato puree to the mix. From here you can jazz the up how you like. Cumin, Chili, Franks Red Hot Sauce, brown sugar……..what ever floats your boat. Put them in a large casserole dish and top with garlic breadcrumbs and bake for twenty minutes. There will be no leftovers.

And for the spicy BBQ sauce

BBQ sauce

Make a decent batch of this and freeze it, or just leave it in a jar in the fridge with a spoon at the ready. Very very addictive.

2 Sautéed onions

1 bottle of ketchup

1 bottle of BBQ sauce (if you could buy liquid smoke instead you would not ned to use the bbq sauce)

1 cup vinegar (cider vinegar is best)

Spicy (pickled) peppers

A half jar mayo (??)

Do not judge me. This is the Chef’s recipe. It works.

When in doubt, just add BACON!

There is not much else to this meal. I would set the table with a paper tablecloth and lots of paper napkins (as opposed to your finest linen whites) because this is one of the messiest meals out there.

Slabs of love I call them

Life can get messy. All we can do is muddle our way though the mess in the hopes that we will, at some point, be able to do a decent job when it comes time to clean it up.

So make things a little easier on yourself and do like I do.

Use PAPER PLATES!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today and if you are heading West for the weekend, wear your galoshes!

WiseMóna

 

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