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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where were you five years ago today?

I know where I was five years ago, almost exactly to the minute as I write this blog posting. Jack came flying into this world at 9:08am, a healthy screaming little bundle of joy. Plump and perfect at 8 1/2 pounds, I was the first one to hold him and even got to cut his umbilical cord. An uncommon experience for an adoptive parent - I was just lucky I guess.

The first 3 days of his little life were broken up into 18 feedings. Greedy little bugger was a four-hour-feeder, so I had to (very willingly) race back and forth from the restaurant to the hospital to feed him, as I did not want to miss a minute of this little man's life.

By day three, he had gained a full pound (little porker) and had a full clean bill of health. Not a thing wrong with him and a birthmark on his butt cheek to match his sisters! Fastening his heavy car seat to the back seat of the truck and heading to the hospital to take him home was both nerve wrecking and exciting. Ron stayed at the restaurant with Rory - just as eager to 'get him home' but someone had to do the cooking and I am, after all, the dish bitch!

Of course, no matter how hard one tries, sometimes life does not go according to plan. That day, we lost Jack. We were dragged through a really difficult time and for all we knew, we had lost him - forever.

For the sake of our (barely in-tact) little family unit, for Rory, and for the restaurant, we had to deal with losing a baby that I had never actually carried. I remember opening the heavy doors of the restaurant to see our staff, before we opened for dinner that evening. There was only one or two of them, that I could actually make eye cotact with. I had to explain that our baby was not coming home and as hard as it might be, we had to continue, business as usual. I instructed the staff (my wonderful wonderful staff) to let our customers know that little Jack was not coming home. And that I would be back to work in a few days. Ron, sheltered by the kitchen walls, had to work through this hell, and then come home to a worse hell. Looking back, I suppose we gained strength from each other’s pain.

People say that 'good GOODS come in small packages'. Rory, only 20 months old, but very worldly for her tender age, was instructed by Ron to 'take care of Mama'. Her typical nature is to be fairly bossy (she gets that from me!) so fire lit, and movies loaded I laid on the couch crying my heart out wanting to die. And, she wiping my nose when needed. Every minute or two she would ask 'Mama ok?' and I would reply 'no, Mama very sad'.

After ten minutes she came in with a baby wipe and wiped away all the tears and said 'are you done yet?' ... That was as much time as I was afforded to grieve the loss of my little man, because she needed me. Ron needed me. My staff needed me. My friends and family were gutted by this loss too, and they needed me. And, even though I did not know it or feel it at the time - I needed all of them, in order to get through the hell of it all.

In steps Catherine. SuperGranny, WonderWoman, my Mum. She was already on the next flight, as she had planned to be with us for Jacks welcoming home. Shortly after she got here, my eldest sister Tracy came to pick up a few more pieces and glue me all back together. I gave her my twin jogging stroller that I had purchased for my little bundles. I could not stand looking at it. She (almost reluctantly) took it back home to France and within a few months filled it with two of her own babies! My friends (although not knowing what to say, or how to help) were just 'there'. They came to the restaurant, they met me at the gym, they drank wine at the bar, they cried, they laughed, they got mad. They helped me get through the hell of it all.

As summer approached, and a few months had passed, breathing was less laboured and life seemed to have a few possibilities again. We were invited up north to our friends home in Wisconsin to 'get away from it all' for a few weeks. We jumped at the chance. We ate, we drank, we swam, we boated, we slept, we cried some more, ate some more, drank some more. We sat around a lot of outdoor fires, and killed a lot of mosquitoes. Rory blossomed. She was so happy and content. Therefore, we let go of the pain. We knew we had to move on. We made the decision to 'try again' and would get in touch with the adoption agency as soon as we got home. We wanted more children.


On August 7th, 2005 as we headed south, home to Cincinnati, I turned on my mobile phone to call the restaurant staff to alert them to the fact that we were en-route. There was a message from Rory's biological grandmother. Her Kentuckian cigarette raspy voice, letting me know 'I got this baby boy - if y'all still want him'...

And the rest, my friends, is Hisstory!


Parenting is the hardest job I have ever had. I am always plagued with the burdens of feeding them the right food, or cleaning the dirty fingernails, or wiping someone’s butt, or combing someone’s curls. I am always stressed over how good or polite they are when I am not with them, or how much of a burden they are to my mother every day as she 'raises' them whilst I study and Ron works.

I (being the great martyr that I am) bring all this upon myself, and know that none of it matters. The children are the happiest they have ever been. I am the happiest I have ever been, and although he is not visible on Facebook/email/blog (because he still thinks the internet is a passing phase) my handsome Chef is the happiest he has ever been. Isn't that all that really matters?

That is all the WiseWords I have for today,


And yes Mum, that is all thanks to you :o)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coole Park Nature Reserve

Gort, County Galway


Telephone +353 (0) 91 631804

One thousand acres of Coole Park Nature Preserve beckoned me, on a recent spring morning. Loading a few fellow mature students and their off spring into the car, we did not let the foggy hue nor low looming clouds halt our plans. After all, there is no such thing as bad weather here in Ireland (as long as you remember to dress appropriately). We headed south on the N-18 towards the small heritage town of Gort, County Galway. It took only half an hour to reach our stately destination (less than 20 miles from Galway City).

A few brusque steps through the semi-filled car park brought us right into the walled garden. Children and dogs unleashed, the momentum of a relaxed saunter took hold and talk of literature, lovers and poetics flooded the damp and earthen paths before us. Stopped in our tracks by the Autograph tree (the copper beech in the walled garden) time stood still as we studied the autographs, imagining the lives of incredible poets as they meandered through the grounds of Coole Park, pondering their next poem.

Coole became a haven in which renowned literary figures sought refuge from time to time, drawn by the hospitality and enthusiasm of Lady Gregory, whom George Bernard Shaw once described as the 'greatest living Irishwoman'. The names of many of those who contributed to the Gaelic Literary Revival are engraved on Lady Gregory's Autograph Tree. The first name to be carved on it was that of W. B. Yeats himself, whom was asked to cut his initials in the summer of 1898.

The autographs of John Millington Synge, WB Yeats and his artist brother Jack, George Moore, Seán O’ Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Katharine Tynan and Violet Martin are just some of the autographs on this tree at Coole Park.

A brief history about Coole Park, Lady Gregory and her famous friends.

Purchased in 1768 by Robert Gregory, Coole Park remained in this family until 1927 when it was sold to the state. Lady Augusta Gregory was in residence at Coole Park at this time. She herself was a legend as a dramatist and folklorist. She was also co-founder of the Abbey Theatre with W.B. Yeats and Edward Martyn. Lady Gregory's love of Coole and its 'Seven Woods', eternalised by Yeats, is evident in her writings and those of her literary guests.

"These woods have been well loved, well tended by some who came before me, and my affection has been no less than theirs. The generations of trees have been my care, my comforters. Their companionship has often brought me peace."

                                                                                                                  Lady Gregory, Coole, 1931

"At sudden thunder of the mounting swan

I turned about and looked

where branches break

The glittering reaches of the flooded lake."

                                                                                       W.B.Yeats 'Coole Park & Ballylee', 1931

A little damp but none the worse for wear, we approached a clearing in the woods that led down to Coole Lough. As if on cue, like they had been waiting patiently for their audience, a flock of Swans took flight off the Lough, pedalling furiously into the foggy backdrop.

Our work here was done. The younger ones in the group are still gobsmacked from that vision which will no doubt; survive a life time of memories.

No matter where one roams around this island, it would be unheard of to while away an afternoon without stopping somewhere for a cup of tea. The original Coole Park house that fell to disarray, was demolished in the 1940’s. It has been reconstructed, and a memory museum paying tribute to the poets of Coole Park is worth a few moments of your time.

This structure also houses a pleasant café that is typically filled to the brim with locals and tourists all hungry for the home-style cooking of Mrs. Concepta Quinn and her family. In keeping with the current theme of ‘A Gourmet Lovers Guide to Galway’, it is with great pleasure, that I share this little secret with you. I have been nourished here plenty of times over the years, and I am one of those people that believes in ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Purchasing from local farms and growing a mountain of their own vegetables and fruit, the output of their efforts is evident with every blissful bite.

Not one to be tempted by the sweet-side of dining, I rarely grow hungry for dessert. In saying that, the one thing I keep coming back for at this little café, is Mrs. Quinn’s Blackberry and Apple Crumble. With all desserts priced under five euro’s and the delicious smell of baked goods lingering, making a decision was no easy feat, for those that were hungry.

Mrs. Quinn cautioned us that each dessert would come smothered in her home-made vanilla butter ice-cream, in case Lenten promises should be broken. The decision was hastily made and the price would later be paid in penance.

A walk in foggy woodlands, leads to the Swan filled Lough of Coole.

A pause in hectic living, a break from work or school.

Nourishing the Mind, the Body and the Soul,

A glimpse of Irish living, the park in which we stroll.

                                                                                                                        Móna Wise, 2010

Another one of my very favourite places.
It is local, It is Galway, It is home!
That is all the WiseWords I have for today,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Gourmet Lovers Guide to Galway and the surround!

Cases Wine Warehouse
Riverside Commercial Estate,
Tuam Road
Galway City

00 353 91-764 701

I have started, therefore I will finish. That is usually the way things go once a bottle of wine gets opened around here. There are a few very simple rules I live by when it comes to guzzling great grape juice. First of all, I do not drink shwag wine. Life is too short. I would rather do without than drink or dabble in the enormous amount of crap that is out there. Secondly (and this is where you should take note), I have always had a wine expert in my circle of friends. Go to your nearest (nice) wine shop and get friendly with the wine expert. They will teach you everything you want to know about wine! Lastly, I like a nice wine glass. Not a little teeny tiny one from the eighties, but a nice big, two-fister bowl of a glass. Something that I can swish n' swirl my wine around in, breathing in the body and aromas before I allow myself that first sumptuous sip. Call me a wine snob. I am - what I am.

After returning home to roost in gorgeous Galway, an old friend of the family that liked to grapple with the grape juice told me to check out the wine warehouse close to my home. He was certain that the owner would not steer me astray in my ever increasing thirst for wine knowledge regarding the glorious grape and its divine wine.

Enter the pleasant and proud Peter Boland of Cases Wine Warehouse. Peter, originally from Dundalk, County Louth, has been living in Clarinbridge for over thirteen years. Several years of experience under his belt working for Bulmer’s (yum!) and Beamish, gave him time to recognise the fact that there was something missing in Galway. In August 2007, Peter took that giant entrepreneurial leap into the world of self employment and what a leap it was!

How did he know that Galway was ready to wander down the lane into the wonderful world of wine when really, most everyone was still buying Tesco's finest flabby sauvignon blanc on a Friday night?

... "Galwegians (home grown and blow-ins) are ‘early adapters’ to use a marketing term. They are experienced, experimental and hungry for new experiences when it comes to food and wine. I knew that long before moving to Galway!"... Well stated Peter and I could not agree with you more, being a proud Galwegian myself.

Cases Wine Warehouse is filled to the brim with wines from all over the world, and neatly organised too. You can wander around (by country) reading the interesting facts he has printed up about the grape variety or the wine itself. There is always a chance he will have several bottles open for you to sample if you are not quite sure what it is you are looking for.

I asked Peter what his advice would be to the nervous wine novice...

"Ask a specialist retailer (like himself, no doubt) and be prepared to have fun and experiment! You will have successes (and disappointments) and you will be constantly learning what you like, and do not like! Supermarkets have their place, but all you’ll ever learn from their shelves is what’s at half price. (Ever notice that the tasting notes on the bottle labels don’t always ring true?) Finally, don’t tolerate patronising or evasive staff. They’re usually covering up for their own knowledge gaps".

Molecular Structure of Fullers ESB

It is not just great wine from fruits of the vine that Peter is flogging but better beers from hearty hops too!

When asked if Galwegians surprised him with their educated palates when it comes to wanting more from beer, Peter responded with a resounding NO! What did surprise him, was how quickly us Irish have abandoned that ‘Burn anything English but their coal’ mentality and have warmed to their ales. Too right! So many great beers, so little time.

Seeing as I drive by twice a day, I try to stop in at least once a week to see what's hot (right now it is summer Albariños from Spain and Argentina). Cases is one of the few Reidel Stemware stockists in town and has the best price (by a long shot) for these essential guzzling gems. Trust me when I tell you, you cannot go wrong in picking up a party tube for your next gift giving occasion. It will go down a huge treat!

A plethora of knowledge and a world of wine awaits you. Although the flood gates of recognition and awards from the powers at be have opened, Peter remains humble and credits his success to the fact that he has a dedicated, knowledgeable and hardworking crew by his side.

Winner, Bridgestone Irish Food Guide Award 2010
Best Wine Warehouse in Ireland, Sunday Business Post Annual Wine Awards Jan 2010
Top-10 Wine Websites, Sunday Business Post Annual Wine Awards Jan 2010

Supporting local business is a way of life for me and mine. I urge you to shop locally next time you step out on a spending spree. As a consumer you have the power to ‘thank’ those smaller city gems that provide us with tasty treats from here in our own back yard and abroad.

It is local, it is Galway. It is home!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today!


Monday, February 08, 2010

A Gourmet Lovers Guide to Galway and the surround!

Date night - divine............

Bar No. 8

On the Docks

Galway City

00 353 91 565 111

I cannot say enough good things about this little gem. I have frequented this pub once or twice a month over the last two years because they stock all my favourite beers. I know that seems like a fairly mundane reason considering I live in the land where milk and honey flows Beer and Whisky flows, but they always have my favourites; In stock and ICE cold.

Sporting a seriously stark concrete interior, softened with some (retro and comfy) Queen Anne’s and a few little love-seats for two, it is not unusual to see starry eyed lovers gazing silently out the wall-sized windows that spill out onto the beautiful Galway boat docks.
Imagine if you will when all the lights are low in Bar No. 8 and you have time to sit wordlessly next to your lover, sipping on Chimay Bleu watching a large fishing trawler slink in across the glassy luminous water. You may have to pinch yourself back to the real world once your food arrives because you sure as hell will not want to miss one bite of this scrumptious fare!

And that is just the tapas! They have recently introduced a new menu, taking into consideration today's economic climate. As this is one of my favourite places and I have been known to give my honest opinion, I have hesitated popping in for food because I was afraid that the food would be - about average, OR be so over-priced and tasteless I may have not wanted to return! (Not even for the beer). So, I had made a firm decision to just stick to drinking the beers! A few nights ago I caved and am still reeling from the shock of how fantastic the dining experience was! What a delicious treat I have been denying myself!

As I was with a friend, we decided to choose a few different menu items to get a good feel for what the kitchen could produce. The menu we chose from, as did the rest of the seriously hopping bar on a Sunday night, was simply titled 'Eat at 8'. Grabbing my immediate attention (being a student this should not surprise you) was the fact that not one of the menu items scraped above twenty Euros. Fair play Bar No. 8!

A few seconds later my dining companion had selected Homemade lamb sausages with caramelised onion gravy and old fashioned mashed potatoes. I could feel the 'glare' burning through the restaurant readers as my hungry friend leaned a little closer than necessary hoping to hurry aid my decision.

''The menu is so simple" I stated trying to stall, "and by simple I do not mean the food items, I mean the uncluttered typography of the words on the page". The heat from the glare began to make me feel rather hot and bothered so I swiftly settled on the Salt and Pepper Squid and a shared bowl of Nev's hand-cut chips. Then I started to silently curse myself knowing that there was a very good chance the squid could come out chewy as rubber bands.

What was I thinking!!! Well - I was hoping that the squid (caught earlier that day) had lived a happy life in Irish waters (be they frigid), AND that they would have been lightly dredged in breadcrumbs, and fried for ultra seconds before being plopped into a cutesy little cabbage, arriving at my table with a sprinkling of some Maldon sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. I know - I am asking for too much! Imagine my surprise when I got all that I was asking for and then some! The garlic mayonnaise which had not entered my food fantasy almost put me over the edge. Everything in moderation folks. Yummy!

Whilst waiting for the rest of our eats, the hot and happening 'A Band Called Wanda' started to set up! (no cover charge either!). They sat down and played a few tunes. Very Counting Crows and Christy Moore like. I loved them! They are getting ready to release an EP this week - so I see a birthday present in my future! (A Band Called Wanda – their website is and the have a Facebook page too with some tunes uploaded).

My hungry dining companion spied what others were chowing down on whilst we waited (15 mins), but between the music and the overly attentive crew they have enlisted to take care of the punters, we were well entertained. Although we shared each blissful bite, there were a few fleeting moments when I wished I was companion-less at the bar with my tasty treats.

The food. The Drinks. The AMAZING Crew. The Ambiance. The View.

The fact that it is in-town, and that everything on the menu is priced for less than twenty Euros, is down-right FANTASTIC! The owner, Tom Sheridan, gave all the credit to his very hard working staff. After hearing those words it is only fair to declare that Bar No. 8 - is my favourite place to eat in Galway (aside from ChezWise of course).

It is local, it is Galway. It is home!

That is all the WiseWords I have for today!


Monday, February 01, 2010

Blissful Birthday Boy!

I can't say I enjoy it when a family members birthday falls on a 'school night' but c'est la vie! Given the fact that February is birthday month in this household (with the exception of one) it is severely impractical for us to all expect or demand a birthday party so we usually allow the little ones to have their moment when the day arises.

The first day of Spring has finally sprung here on our green island and lucky husband of mine wanted to celebrate by gardening.......I know what you are thinking It is his thing. I arrived home a wee bit late today to find him and the crumb catchers up to their elbows in shite muck out in the poly tunnel and all of them grinning ear to ear. The garlic is almost knee high (the little ones knees) and all the salad greens are starting to thrive. What gardener could ask for anything more on his birthday!

As I was appointed 'head chef and dish bitch' for the evening I thought it only wise (pun intended) that I get hubby's evening off  to a smooth start, just in case I made a total mess of dinner.  That way he'd be happy enough not to give a crap! I grabbed my two favourite glasses and loaded them with ice. This is one of the most important steps you need to adhere to if you decide to treat you someone special to a Wonderful Wise Martini. Now, before you reach for your favourite tipple be it Gin or Vodka you need to contemplate just what exactly it is you are longing for? Will it be sweet or will it be dirty? 

Considering our first date and drink together was a good old fashioned Dirty Martini made with Bombay Sapphire I thought (seeing as I was also self appointed bartender) Why Not! Rummaging through the far depths of the kitchen cupboards I found my last jar of scrummy Tipsy Olives.
I grabbed the Cashel Blue from the cheese board (better when it is a little soft) and got to stuffing the olives. WiseTip: These keep nicely in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week assuming no one finds them and eats them.

It only takes a few minutes to do this yourself. Do not buy the pre stuffed ones - the olives are inferior and the bleu is not Cashel Blue. Enough said. The best kind of martini olives are actually Spanish Gordal Olives which are not easy to find. If you find them, buy them, pit them and soak them in vodka. Then send me a jar!

Now as we approach tasting perfection, measure out a healthy pour of gin into your cocktail shaker (already packed with ice). Add a splash of Noilly Prat dry vermouth (do not chintz out on the schwag here, get the good stuff) and add a nice splash of the olive juice from the jar. Not too much or your drink will taste like salt. Shake until your fingers are burning from ice burn and sticking to the outside of the cocktail shaker. I am serious. No pain, no gain.

Dump out the ice out of your martini glass and pour yourself one hell of a perfect martini. Throw in a few of those olives and sip your way to heaven! The awesome thing about this drink is you can make it as strong or as weak as you desire. It will always taste delicious!
(enjoy drinking responsibly - especially if there are any young wans out there reading this!)

That is all the WiseWords I have for tonight!


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