Stories of Friendship, Family, Fun and Food.
All the way from the Emerald Isle!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

These are a few of our favourite things!

When pondering exactly how to ring in the inevitable New Year we always refer back to what we like to call the old standbys. You know what I am talking about, that favourite pub that pours the best pint, a favourite restaurant that always serves your favourite dish or in my case a few bottles of memories to let go of the 'noughties and welcome in the 'TwentyTens'. That being said, time to uncrate a few of our keepers to share with some friends this evening.

Although many moons ago, we fell in love with Kistler Chardonnay ( during our dating days in the early nineties. The Chef and I had been out to Sonoma for a WineTradeShow (aka - drink as much as you can flying visit) and were introduced to this wine. We stopped into a restaurant in Healdsburg, California called Zin ( One of the employees from Kistler Winery was eating dinner at a table near ours. We got to chatting and he pulled a bottle of their finest Chardonnay out of his wine bag (as you do when you live or work in the wine country) and the rest is history.

Although many moons have passed since that evening, we have always managed to have a bottle on hand for special occasions thanks to our wine buyer buddies in the states. What makes this wine so desirable is very simple. We LOVE it! Without getting too highfalouting as they say around here, I stole a little bit from their website to describe how this Chardonnay is different to others. "Kistler Chardonnay is made using traditional French techniques, with the winemaker himself performing the cellar work on the wines. Kistler Chardonnay has a distinct character. It is completely barrel-fermented using indigenous and cultured yeasts, is aged in 50% new French oak barrels unracked and in contact with all its fermentation lees, has undergone a malolactic fermentation, receives minimal handling and processing, and is bottled unfiltered and, generally, unfined after 11-18 months of barrel age."

Ironically, one of our other old standbys and certainly one of my top five favourite 'big reds' was introduced to us again in California. This time, we were honeymooning and my brand new husband had secured a reservation at 'The French Laundry' ( ) and the sommellier about died when we asked him his thoughts on this wine. It was he that had written it onto their hefty wine menu and we were one of the first to inquire after it. Granted, t'was hefty in price but still the most memorable grape juice to ever pass these lips. Henschke Winery ( ) does not produce a very high quantity of wine each year - but every single drop is worth searching for.

Times like these I certainly am glad that the Chef works in a Wine Shop and gets a nice discount! Although there are a few different vineyards and 'big reds' to choose from, our favourite remains the Cyrill Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon. Put it on your wish list guys n'dolls. 'Tis worth every cent!

So knowing there is but a few short hours to go and our friends are knocking on the door wondering 'what's for dinner' what better way to kick of the festivities than with a few drops of the bubbly stuff. I could ramble on for hours about the endless choices we all have when searching for something festive to celebrate the New Year but what is the point?

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin ( is hands down, the best Champagne on the market. So what are you waiting for?? Ice it down and pop it open!

Happy New Year to all our friends, families and stalkers out there!

That is all the WiseWords I have for this year!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Wise Food Alert!

Anyone feel like some Welsh Rarebit for lunch today?

If you are still in Christmas-food-Coma like this household here, then it might be time to dabble in something way less complicated for some lunchtime nibbles. There is still quite a bit of leftovers laying around, but lets face it - can you really face turkey one more time?

Cheese is one of most loved food items in our house. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or any grab and go time - we are spoiled for choice in Ireland with the quality and selection of cheese at our fingertips.

When I was at the market on Christmas Eve doing some last minute gathering for our festive feasting my cheese monger friend gave me a little Christmas present. It was a wheel of some 'old goat' as he called it. Turned out to be an amazing dry aged goats cheese that was fought over for the last crumb, with Rory winning the battle!
Before I get into the details - you should whip up a little chili jam. If you want to make from scratch email me for the recipe and I will send it on.
Wise Cheat: In a heated saucepan with some olive oil throw in 3 cloves of crushed garlic and a finely diced shallot and one tablespoon of crushed red chili flakes (or 2 fresh red chili's diced finely).Let this cook for a few minutes (do not burn it!) then get a jar of your favourite jam (Like Marian Hughes' Blackberry YUM!) and dump it into the saucepan and let it cook slowly for about ten minutes. This will become your favourite favourite jam and you can use it for every meal..............imagine with some cheese and toast for breakfast - good morning!

Whatcha Need

A nice crusty loaf of bread
Creme fraiche or sour cream
2 egg yolks
Good quality aged cheese grated
Coleman's Mustard powder
Salt and Pepper
Worcestershire sauce or Franks Red Hot
1/2 bottle of beer


Mix raw egg yolks and creme fraiche in a saucepan on a very low heat. Add in the mustard, the hot sauce (or Worcestershire) and cheese. Add the beer slowly and keep stirring making sure you do not BURN the sauce, or you will have to throw it out. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You will have tasted it by now anyway.................right??). The sauce should have thickened up by now because of the egg yolks, BUT if it is too runny add a teeny tiny bit of cornstarch/cornflour to thicken it.
Warm the bread in the oven. Or toast the bread if it is sliced pan.
Slather a bit of your chili jam onto the bread then smother it with the cheese sauce.
Place it under the grill for a minute if you need to serve it piping hot.
Top with a little bit of crunchy fried bacon bits and serve immediately.

We ate ours thrown on top of a big plate of arugula/rocket and put a poached egg on top of the bread/jam slice right before we smothered it with the cheese sauce and drank two ice cold Chimay Blue's with it.......................... 'tis the holidays folks - a plain grilled cheese just would not cut it!
Shortly after that we hooked up our Lipitor IV's and have kept a running vigil on the treadmill ever since!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wise Movie Review - Avatar

It is not very often that I am stuck for WiseWords to share with y'all - OK, I am never really stuck for words. Being Irish I was blessed with the 'the gift of the gab' as they say around here and that is my cross to bear. After watching the brand new movie AVATAR (that I was dying to see) I was left kind of speechless and even a little breathless.

Opening day in the US raked in a cool $73 million but trust me when I tell you folks for James Cameron that is not even the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg - yeah, pun intended. Cameron could afford a twelve year hiatus after 'Titanic' due to the fact that it raked in $1,835,300,000 (that is more than one billion) at the box office and it is still the worlds biggest movie earner.

So what does a brilliant director and writer do for twelve years whilst on his little mini-break? He invents and creates life on another planet named Pandora. He breeds a tribe of long lean lithe brilliant blue bodied natives and names them the Na'vi clan.

Cameron develops two worlds for us to live in for almost three (of the fastest) hours. He keeps it real in the real world we live in, where the army and the government are plundering greedy MEN (sorry guys) trying to rape the land for its very plentiful and expensive natural resources.

At the beginning of the movie there is a Wizard of Oz quote from Col. Quaritch "You are not in Kansas anymore. This is Pandora, Ladies and Gentlemen. If there is such a place called Hell, you may want to plan a trip there for some R & R after your tour here on Pandora".

This got me a little tense and annoyed because I got the impression that this was going to be heavily laden with a ravaging war and not the love story I was hoping for. Brilliantly Cameron gives us both!

I want to go into waaaaaay toooooooo much detail here to tell you what went down with the two main characters Jake Sully and Neytiri but I am really hoping that sporting your 3-D shades you will run to the Cinema nearest you TODAY and watch this movie.

A few months ago I blogged about the effects of watching Slumdog Millionaire. I found it visually electrifying. Avatar has created a world of its own when it comes to the visual graphics Cameron has offered to us on a silver platter.

It is a classic love story - with more beautiful nude blue bodies than clothed white ones. There is way to much war and bloodshed for it to be a stand alone chick flick - so you can bring the guys along.

There is so much erotic visual stimulation with the lights and the graphics you will certainly feel like you live in a shoe box and can only wonder in awe 'how' a man can conjure up these images in his head and manage to transfer them on to the screen.

(think of what life underwater looks like - and you will see how he creates a lot of the scenes).

Taking a risk this might give a few of you good reason to loose interest in this movie I will now stand on my soap box to wrap this up. "Look into her memories and see the world we have come from. There is no green there, they have killed their Mother."

This is a 'Treehuggers delight' as far as sending a powerful political message. The essence and well being of the Na'vi clan revolves around their nurturing of Mother Earth and the devastation and destruction that unfolds when the greedy men decide to rape the land is debilitating.

Go see the movie, then 'do your share' and make 2010 the year that you decide to help clean up your little part of the planet.

That is all the WiseWords I have for this rainy St. Stephen's Day in Ireland!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

The three 'R's ... Reading, Relaxation, Revitalisation!

Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another ... Anatole France (1844 - 1924), The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard

I am kind of highly strung. It is just part and parcel of who I am. In work mode - I work. In baby mode - I baby. In school mode - I study. So why is it, if in all those modes I comply.................that when in relax mode, I cannot relax??

When I opened my University email last night (only five hours after finishing the final exam of 1st semester) I squealed with delight when I found a long and lengthy list of "Christmas Reading" to prepare me for what lies ahead in Semester two.

Reading for the course will include works by: Edgar Allan Poe, Stevie Smith, Arthur Conan Doyle, Samuel Beckett, Flannery O’Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, Eleanor Brown, W. B. Yeats. In addition to these fine Authors we will also be delving into the works of John McGahern and the Art of the Short Story.

NUI Galway has a special association with the Irish writer John McGahern (1934-2006). He taught here for many years and the library now holds his complete literary archive.

The Chef is winding down quite nicely. He only has a couple of days left at work this week and then he is off for a few weeks too, and if nothing else but by sheer association, I have a feeling that there will be quite a bit of relaxing going on around our place.

Looking forward to Christmas with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The devils in the detail!

“The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat.” ... Albert Einstein

It is that time of year isn't it! Every single morsel that crosses your path stops you in your tracks for a moment knowing it is going from 'lips to hips' and then some! One of our favourite party platters sure to please is Deviled Eggs. The name 'deviled' was first recorded back in the 1700's and used to refer to dishes that were highly spiced. Although deviled eggs have been around for quite some time it seems that every household tweaks their own recipes to perfection and may even be unwilling to share!

Not the case here of course. My handsome chef is a master at recipe development and this is just one of those things he has been making for so long he really could 'do it in his sleep'.

I will not bore you with a big long explanation on how to make these but am going to offer up a few tips to make it a little easier.

Whatcha need

1 dozen eggs (hard boiled and cold)


Bacon (streaky is best)

Mango chutney/Coleman's English Mustard/Franks Hot sauce




1. Hack the bacon into tiny pieces and cook. We cook it in the oven until it is really dry and crunchy, the drain off the fat and keep it for other great uses!

2. Crack the shell of the eggs so it feels soft and broken all around when holding in the palm of your hands. Cover all eggs in ice cold water and let soak for 10 - 15 mins. This really helps in the shelling process and the result is usually a perfect egg!

3. Slice eggs (lengthwise) in half and put all the yolks into a bowl.

4. Add mayonnaise, bacon and whatever flavour you are hankering for. Ron is partial to the mango chutney ones - taking him back to his days at Chateau Pomijie where he created this recipe. (just add as much or as little as you like with these items - taste as you go!)

5. Fill the yolk mixture back into the eggs and arrange nicely on a bed of cabbage leaves. (You can use lettuce leaves too, but cabbage will not wilt).

6. Sprinkle with a little paprika and some chopped chives for colour!

Once you start making (and eating these) they will become one of your favourites!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Móna's Ham

Tasty Ham comes from Happy Pigs!

It was the end of our first summer together and we were nearing our first ‘anniversary’. Men hate that term especially when it refers to a dating relationship not marriage. It was too soon to think ‘diamonds’ but I could not help but wonder what in store to celebrate our first year of togetherness and as usual he did not fail to surprise me.

Ron, a well known (and loved) Chef in the area was invited to an Annual Harvest Party hosted by the farmers he bought most of his vegetables from. He and a few other Chefs in town belonged to a group called the Chefs Collaborative and they worked with several local farmers in the area. Twice a year they would get together to come up with a growing plan and discuss what was new on the restaurant and farming scene.

The year in question we were invited to go to the home of Robert Howard in Crittenden, Kentucky. Robert was a log cabin kind of bachelor and let’s just say with his exterior composting toilet he was way before his time.

The deal was all the chef’s got to bring their partners/wives/mistresses’ etc. and a covered dish.
It was their way of thanking the farmers for all their hard work during the growing season.

There was never a shortage of good food at an event like this. It was here we discovered Clifty Farms Country Ham ( and a few other goodies that we have added to our repertoire and have been sharing and serving ever since.

The secret to making a great ham is to start with a great piece of meat. We have always purchased the whole ham – bone in. Clifty Farms is a company based in Paris, Tennesee and when we went to pick up our first ham, one of the managers gave us a tour of the facility and told us that ‘happy hogs makes fer gudd eatin’.

Homeward bound with our heavy ham we talked a little about how we should prepare the ham. Oddly enough I had a little more experience with ham than the Chef because it is quite the tradition in Ireland to have a nice ham for Christmas (at least it is in our house!)

Although not entirely comfortable with the fact that I was more in the know than he (say it ain’t so) and needing to one up me, he came up with a pre-treatment plan for our ham. As with many of the dishes we have made and shared over the years, it is our combined efforts that give the desired result!

What you need:

  • A nice size ham
    (bone in for best results, but boned and rolled is ok too)
  • 1 very large pot (to boil the ham in)
  • Cleaver style knife (may need this to hack off a piece of the bone in order to make the ham fit in the pot!)
  • 4 - 6 litres of cloudy apple juice (non alcoholic)
  • Whole Cloves
  • Mustard (Coleman’s English is best)
  • Dark Brown Sugar
  • Honey/Maple Syrup/BBQ Sauce

In order to time this properly, you should soak for two days, boil the ham on the 3rd day and leave to cool overnight in the juice. On the 4th day you should be scoring, studding, glazing and baking the ham having it ready for an evening affair.

1. Soak the ham for two days in 2 litres of apple juice and enough water to cover the meat completely. This draws out the salt from the ham and helps prepare the meat for cooking. Leave covered in a cold room in your house. (Or in the fridge if you have room)

2. On the 3rd day, place ham in large pot and cover with 2 or 3 litres of apple juice and water. Bring to the boil then reduce to a soft boil for as long as it takes. Usually for a large ham this could take three or four hours. You want it cooked but not falling off the bone, so keep an eye on it after 2 hours depending on size. (Low and slow).

3. After it is done turn heat off and leave in the juice overnight to cool down slowly. This is crucial as it helps the meat retain moisture and not dry out.

4. On the 4th day remove the ham from the juice. (Keep this juice for cooking vegetables and stock for soup. It is invaluable for its flavour!)

5. With a sharp knife, remove the outer layer of skin from the ham. Do not remove the layer of fat. According to our good friend Eric Dauer "fat is the magic carpet upon which flavour rides" and I believe he (and his lovely wife Jen) sampled our very first ham! Now would be a good time to pre-heat your oven. (240 °C)

6. Score the fat in a criss-cross pattern and stud it with cloves – pushing the cloves through the layer of fat into the ham.

7. Smother the ham in your favourite mustard using a rubber/silicone spatula. We use Coleman’s English for the flavour and the heat!

8. Cover the mustard with the dark brown sugar. This is the messy part because you need to use your hands to pat it on to the ham and make sure it sticks.

9. Here is where you can decide if you want to drizzle the ham with honey/maple syrup or BBQ sauce. We have used a variety of glazes over the last fifteen years and keep going back to the honey for mass appeal. This is a personal taste thing!

10. Put the ham in the (now hot) oven and watch it closely for ten – fifteen minutes. Once you notice it starting to get a little colour turn the heat down to 180°C for a further half hour. Remember, the ham is cooked. You are just doing this to make the outer layer reach its full flavour potential and texture. Once you are happy with the overall look of the ham allow the ham to rest for at least an hour before you slice into it. This part is utterly impossible to accomplish. Once that hog comes out of the oven you will be dying to slice of a piece to taste your work of art – go ahead, you deserve it!

11. We like to serve the ham at room temperature. It is best that way. Once you start trying to re-heat it, or have it served hot for dinner, it just dries out and all your hard work is gone down the drain! I know this sounds like a lot of work, but after your first one, you will realise it is totally worth it and you will fine tune this recipe to your liking.

Fast food sucks. Be patient. It is worth it!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Monday, December 07, 2009

Imaginative Storm

Lonesome Pine Special, Charles Wright wrote:

What is it inside the imagination that keeps surprising us
At odd moments when something is given back
We didn’t know we had had, In solitude, spontaneously, and with great joy?

One of the many wonderful things about being a student is that you get to participate in very cool workshops. We were invited to attend an evening workshop last week at NUIG with none other than Allegra Huston and her business partner James Navé. or

Navé, the creator of what they call Imaginative Storm paced up and down the aisles of our seminar room chanting "What is it inside the imagination that keeps surprising us at odd moments when something is given back we didn’t know we had had. In solitude, spontaneously, and with great joy? We were in a bit of a trance for a while and played along with his word games and then got down to work - opening our imaginations!

One of the exercises we had to do that evening was the one I have described below. Navé recommends everyone tries this whether you are a student or not. It opens up the door to some far off memory of something you may have forgotten about entirely - you will surprise yourself at how much you remember. This is grrrrrrreeeeeaaaaaaattttttttt for Writers Block!


Think back as far as you can to your childhood.
Do you remember something poignant or very sad that happened during that time.
Choose a memory that you struggle to recall.
Something you barely recollect.

Now, (and quickly) on a blank sheet of paper write for ten minutes everything you do not remember about this incident beginning your piece like this "I do not remember......"

The piece I wrote (below) was about a stay in hospital I had as a very young child and for some strange reason I am quite attached to this piece even though I remember nothing about the duration of time in hospital.

What I remember most................

I do not remember a lot of things regarding a stay I had in hospital as a very young child. There are so many things about this story I do not remember I reckon I could write a book about it. Assuming I am able to 'not remember' half of what I need to write, it should make for an interesting read.

If only I could remember a few details about Irene. The pretty girl in the bed next to mine with the jet back hair, startling ice blue eyes and snowwhite skin. Or did I make this up? I do not remember how cute Colin really was as he hopped up on my hospital bed trying to get me in trouble by hiding things from the stern nurses. It would help if I could remember what age we all were because somewhere between four and eight seems a little vague don't you think? No, nothing. I am drawing a blank!

I do not remember why Irene could not walk or why Colin was a longterm patient. I do not remember if I was in hospital for six days, or six weeks or six months. I do not remember if we played together every single day like the inseperable BestFriendsForever I imagine we were, or if we just played together only one time. I do not remember if the priest came to say mass or if he just needed to bless us because we were sick.

I do not remember if the flowers were red or white on the day I discovered Irene's empty bed. I do not want to remember that. I do not remember if Colin came in to my hospital room every night to kiss me goodnight, or if was only just that one time - but boy, do I remember that!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Only in Ireland........................

I do not need to beat around the bush with this one. I am not very religious. I am not sure why exactly as I was raised Catholic, but my lack of faith is sometimes all consuming.

Some very close friends of our lost a full term baby a week ago. They have immense faith and I suppose because of this they have the strength to carry on and deal with this tragic event.

Although it is an unimaginable pain to have to deliver a dead baby into this world, they were permitted to be with their little angel for a little over a week - to grieve.

Yesterday, they returned to the hospital to bring their baby home where we all gathered to have a little 'Wake' and say our brief hello and tearful goodbyes.

(An Irish WAKE: A very old tradition of celebrating the life of the deceased with the body in their own home. Typically lots of food, storytelling, laughter, tears and a little drinkies too).

I was sick to my stomach all morning and tried to conjure up every reason in the world not to go, because I just did not feel strong enough to get through the afternoon. I was certain that I would not attend the Bedtime Funeral Mass for this little baby. (unimaginably selfish of me, I know).

After giving myself a good talking to, I went to their home a little early armed with some food and 'take charge' skills. For me, taking care of people comes easy. Maybe it was my training as a wedding planner, or owning our own restaurant. Something so small brought comfort to my friends. I would feed them and wash dishes for them from here to eternity if I thought it would ease their pain. Later and tearfully I managed to say my little poem at the church for my friends.

This is no time to be selfish.


Little Baby Sophie
Sleeping and at peace.
Blessed little daughter
And most adoring niece.

We lit most every candle
In Ireland that we found,
To light your way to heaven
Now that you are homeward bound.

Little Baby Sophie
You’ve never been so cherished.
Mum and Dad, are so very sad
Hearts heavy, bereft with anguish.

Little Baby Sophie
Sleeping and at peace
Loving little daughter
Treasured little niece.

26th November 2009
May she rest in peace

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Baby you can drive my car or write in it?

A Galway resident and Mayo native, Geraldine Mills stopped by our classroom this week to give us her advice on living the life of a writer in Ireland today.

Geraldine became an observer at a young age. Collecting voices,words and speech patterns as a child has resulted in a plethora of material for her to pull from now that she is growing increasingly famous in the Irish (and American) writing field. She has just returned from a weeks teaching at the University of Connecticut.
Geraldine was educated in the field of Science and although she carried a passion for reading and writing, she made a very conscious decision to put her family first whilst her children were young and they were living in Dublin.

It was during this time that Geraldine enrolled in a few creative writing courses with Pat McCabe (former writer in residence at NUIG) and she was hooked. As she still ahd children to taxi to and from school, horse riding lessons etc. she began writing in her car. The fact that she spent so much time in her car driving her children to and from their activities ensured that she would write every day and boy did it pay off. She is quite credited in Ireland with a long list of competition prizes and publications under her belt!

Although not entirely surviving on the income generated from her publications, she works two days a week with Aids West and this keeps her feet on the ground and the bills paid.

Geraldine invited us to the launch of her third book of poetry, launched at the Galway Library but wouldn't you know I had a lot of homework to do!

What I liked most about the message Geraldine delivered to our class was the following:
'If it is the most important thing to do - then KEEP DOING it!'
That is all the WiseWords I have for today,

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